BPSDBLately we have been experiencing another rash of news from the “Dept of the Obvious Dept”, coupled with the other climate change Denier tactic of offering “New Improved Lipstick on a Dead Pig” (act now, operators are waiting!).
“New! Improved!” Lipstick on a Dead Pig
Dept of the Obvious Dept
Collected Resource Links
An actual “New Study”
The “Dept of the Obvious Dept” (hereafter DoOD) tactic is just another variation of the Red Herring Fallacy. In this case the tactic is to take some aspect of climate science that is fully accounted for in the science, well known to those even passingly familiar with the basics, and pretend that it is i) news, and ii) not accounted for in the science.
Needless to say neither is ever true, but the Deniers rely on their audience to be completely naive about climate science and gullible enough to believe the claim.
The “New Improved Lipstick on a Dead Pig” tactic involves exhuming some old discredited theory or outright fraud and pretending that it is somehow a new idea.
New Improved Lipstick on a Dead Pig
The most recent outbreak seems to have begun with a June 4th posting by Michael Andrews which introduces the “it’s all just the Sun” meme (ie climate is driven wholly or mostly by solar activity) with a year old piece of blogospam from Denier Micheal Asher in which he, in turn, is using the DoOD tactic to misrepresent a study of the impact of historical solar variation. Andrews then claims that “… a new research report from a surprising source…” blah blah.
The “new research report” he links is the then year old Science Daily article Solar Variability: Striking A Balance With Climate Change.
The Science Daily article by Rani Gran is a minor rewrite of a general interest piece from NASA’s website (Striking a Balance with Climate Change and NASA – Solar Variability: Striking a Balance with Climate Change), all based on even older research, largely the 2005 SORCE work (ie 3 yrs old at the time). Far from being announcements of new research the articles are simply summations of the “current state of the knowledge” type.
In the Denierosphere this “new” four year old study supposedly said that “Study Acknowledges Solar Cycle, Not Man, Responsible for Past Warming.” Right. Second paragraph from the source that they cite (and supposedly read):
The Deniers usual struggle with literacy, numeracy and abiltiy to judge time/space relationships.
Brian Angliss blogged on this at the time (Nuz Flash! Old story sez Sun makz climate change! Oh noes!!1!), documenting the speed and breadth of the contagion, as well as noting some other ridiculous errors that got thrown in along the way … be sure to have a look.
The point I would underscore is that all of them, including NewsBlusters and Wattsupmyass, just breathlessly reposted the claim. Either they never even bothered to look at Andrews’ link, or they knew it was false and simply didn’t care. Incompetent or dishonest? most likely healthy doses of both.
Dept of the Obvious Dept
So how long have we known that solar activity, specifically sunspot cycles, affects weather? To the best of my knowledge in the European tradition (I can’t speak about Chinese or Mayan astronomy, but the former certainly knew about sunspots) it was first hypothesized by William Stanley Jevons in the late 1800s and started to get serious attention in 1934.
By the late 20th century it was well understood that while solar variability had been one of the more significant drivers of climate on Earth, it no longer was. The 2001 IPCC report states:
“Several studies indicate that the combined effect of these influences has contributed a small component to the warming of the 20th century. Most of these studies isolate greenhouse radiative forcing as being dominant during late 20th century warming…”
These findings have been repeatedly confirmed and the knowledge is in the public domain, eg:
Collected Resource Links
Popular Climate Blogs & Sites
- Solar Forcing and Global Warming: Here We Go Again
- Global Warming Deniers Favorite “Sunspot” Theory Refuted… Again
- ‘No Sun link’ to climate change
- Misleading argument 6: ’Global warming is all to do with the sun’
- Recent warming cannot be explained by the Sun or natural factors alone
- Myth: Climate myths: Global warming is down to the Sun, not humans
- Myth: The warming is natural, the sun and cosmic rays are heating the earth.
- Debunking urban legends of climate change
- Myth: ‘It’s the sun, stupid’
- Myth: Solar activity & climate: is the sun causing global warming?
- Myth 9: The observed warming is all due to solar radiation variability, not human activity
- Innocent sun
Solar Schmolar: Debunking the “It’s the Sun” fable
Climate Science Blogs & Sites
- Sun’s contribution to recent warming is “negligible”
- What if the sun got “stuck?”
- Myth that sunspots and solar cycles driving climate change repeatedly debunked by scientists
- The trouble with sunspots
- Sun Could Cause 15% To 20% Of Effects Of Climate Change, Researcher Says
- Weather Underground
- Do solar/heliospheric changes affect the earth’s climate?
- Sunspots! It’s all about sunspots!
- The lure of solar forcing
- ‘Cosmoclimatology’ – tired old arguments in new clothes
- Another study on solar influence
So it’s not like it was a huge secret (be sure to use these during the inevitable solar myth storms).
Even so, the Denialosphere continued to obsess on the sun and sunspots as the primary, if not sole drivers of Earth’s climate. Just pick any of your favourites from the Denialosphere and search for ‘Sun OR Solar OR Sunspots’ on their sites.
Consistent throughout is the pretence that climate science has not accounted for solar variability, always failing to even mention, much less honestly discuss the science. As Eli says, “get close and feel the spittle.”
Unfortunately we can expect even more of this stupidity thanks to a recent study that confirms and refines what we already knew: Solar cycle linked to global climate. A perfectly valid and interesting work, but just ripe for the same misrepresentation as the NASA piece.
Further, I don’t think The Role of Sunspots and Solar Winds in Climate Change which Scientific American published today is going to help.
Many climate scientists agree that sunspots and solar wind could be playing a role in climate change, but the vast majority view it as very minimal and attribute Earth’s warming primarily to emissions from industrial activity—and they have thousands of peer-reviewed studies available to back up that claim.
If by “could be playing a role in climate change” he means anything other than continuing to be a factor in Earth’s climate, and the juxtaposition with the next clause suggests that is not the meaning, then who? Who are these “many climate scientists”? Names please, who are they and where is their work?
The second clause is not going to prevent this from being cited as evidence for solar variation being the principle driver of climate change. Worse, the language above and here:
“Ironically, the only way to really find out if phenomena like sunspots and solar wind are playing a larger role in climate change than most scientists now believe …”
overuses the language of “belief” as opposed to placing the emphasis where it belongs, on ” thousands of peer-reviewed studies” the facts.
The Sun has been unusually quiet with very few sunspots in the last Solar Cycle. Naturally this solar minimum has been one of the reasons that global temperatures have dropped slightly from the highs we experienced a few years ago. No one who knows anything about climate ever disputed that.
The Deniers have tried to use this to push the “it’s all just the Sun” meme by pointing to this relatively cool period and saying, in effect, “see, see; sunspots decreasing, Earth ‘cooling’.”
What is curious to me is how obviously idiotic the claim is (ok, what Denier claim isn’t?). If we compare the sunspot cycle for the last century with temperatures:
Even working at the level of ‘eyeball science’ (ie no formal statistics or analysis) which is the Denier norm, the claim makes no sense at all. (in fairness, we all do “eyeball science” to some extent – the difference is whether you follow up with checking the more formal science)
1) If anthropogenic climate change were not happening then the temperature anomalies for years of solar minima should be more or less similar +/- normal variation.
For example, 2008 should be roughly similar to 1911/1912, or perhaps 1953 ie cold; in fact given that 2008 was a La Nina year, it should have been very cold. Instead 2008 was the hottest La Nina-influenced year (with no El Nino) ever recorded (and here).
Equally if the sun were the main driver of climate, 2005 should have been quite cool, on a par with 1897 or 1942 perhaps. Instead 2005 was the “Warmest Year in Over a Century”.
That’s the solar minima, the solar maxima are even more telling. The solar maximums peaked in 1957 (above) and have been declining ever since. If the sun were still the main climate driver we should have seen global temperatures peak in mid-20th century and decling ever since, the opposite of what we actually have. See also How hot should it have really been over the last 5 years?
2) The other Denier meme is even more hysterically ridiculous, if that were possible. The extreme sluggisness of the 23-24 Solar Cycle led to claims that “we’re headed for a new ice age.” Let’s see:
a) apparently a century of increasing temperatures is rejected as too short a period to indicate any trend (a common Denier meme), but 3 to 10 years is more than enough to predict one.
b) the warmest decade ever recorded is evidence of a coming ice age?
c) Even if the sunspot activity never resumed we know that the Solar influence has become so inconsequential that it would make little difference in the long run; “What if the sun got stuck?”
Once again (and as usual) the Deniers are counting on their followers to be:
- a) naive about the most basic science (ie not even elementary school level),
- b) gullible (ie opposite of skeptical) enough not to check any of the alleged facts, and
- c) unlikely to check the arguments for simple logic.
An actual “New Study”
Or rather two. Some may have missed “Changes In The Sun Are Not Causing Global Warming, New Study Shows” in early May (and reported more recently here “Sun Nixed as Cause of Climate Change”), and now we have “Solar trends and global warming” by R. E. Benestad and G. A. Schmidt, published 21 July 2009 by in the Journal Of Geophysical Research.
“Our analysis shows that the most likely contribution from solar forcing a global warming is 7 ± 1% for the 20th century and is negligible for warming since 1980.”
Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? Not that it will change anything vis a vis the Denialosphere’s claims, but we can all add it to our responses.
Now Anthony Watts actually blogged about this in Gavin Schmidt on solar trends and global warming, so naturally I was curious as to what he would have to say. Would he acknowledge that clearly the solar fable was indeed nonsense? would he dispute the findings?
Most particularly, would he refer to that “new study” refuting human causation which he had blogged about just a few weeks ago? What he actually had to say was:
I really wish Gavin would put as much effort into getting the oddities with the GISTEMP dataset fixed rather than writing coffee table books and trying new models to show the sun has little impact.
This paper gets extra points for using the word “robust”.
His total commentary is an intellectually vacuous dismissal and a snide comment (and btw, “robust” has very particular, technical meaning in science, so the comment also betrays Watts’ ignorance).
The inconvertible [sic] fact, here is that even NASA’s own study acknowledges that solar variation has caused climate change in the past. And even the study’s members, mostly ardent supports of AGW theory, acknowledge that the sun may play a significant role in future climate changes.
You would think that having such supposedly strong support for his belief that the Sun is a significant factor that he might want to refer to it. Why no mention of this now? perhaps because he knew all along that it was bullshit?
Be that as it may, it looks like sunspot activity is about to resume
- Here comes the Sun(spot)!
- El Niño and sunspots return, sea ice doesn’t
- National Solar Observatory, NASA say no “Maunder Minimum”
Regardless of anything else that occurs, we may be certain that the Deniers will cite it as “proof” that ‘it’s all just the Sun.’
While the northern hemisphere as a whole has been in a warming trend since the mid-1970s, the Tibetan Plateau has been warming at a rate of 0.75 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since the early 1950s. Earth Gauge
We give our consent every moment that we do not resist.
Denier “Challenge” aka Deathwatch Update: Day 267 … still no evidence.
The eight different solar images are all from Solar & Heliospheric Observatory
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