A New Little Ice Age

Apparently people have found something new and interesting to use as evidence against global warming, albeit a bit different than a cold winter. This time it’s a potential drop in solar activity that will counteract all the warming we have seen. And will very likely, according to them, put us in a new little ice age.

It is true that during a meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society an announcement was made that the sun might enter an extended period of low activity. A period similar to the Maunder minimum, which is also known as the Little Ice Age.

During the maunder minimum temperatures were lower than normal, predominantly in the northern hemisphere and most noticeable lower during the winter. And the lower solar-activity at the time has long been suspected as one of the major causes of this. Although other factors, like strong volcanic eruptions, played a role in lowering temperatures.

Solar physicists do not yet understand how a period of low solar-activity like the Maunder Minimum arises. However they have made observations during the current solar cycle that might indicate such a period could be coming. This is what prompted the prediction that the sun might enter a period similar to the Maunder Minimum after the current solar cycle has ended. Which is somewhere after 2020.

It is unknown if this new Maunder like minimum will actually happen, and there has been some criticism towards this prediction. But this announcement never made any climate predictions. And due to all the fuss this has created in the media they added a follow-up statement where they specifically state that they are not predicting an ice age.

But these events have happened in the past, so we know they can happen again. So would such a new minimum actually cause a new little ice age?

The short answer is a flat out no. Scientists have been discussing a potential minimum in solar activity for a while now, due to the sun being quieter than normal. And as such they have studied the possible effects on global temperatures of such an event. They concluded that if it would happen the cooling effect would, at the most, only be 0.3 degrees centigrade.

That’s not even enough to offset the warming we have experienced in the past century. Let alone push global temperatures to the levels of the little ice age. And lets not forget temperatures are projected to rise between 1.5 and 4 degrees centigrade by the end of this century.

Also a Maunder-like minimum would only last a couple of decades, after that it’s again business as usual. So this slight effect would be temporary.

Fox asked Chris Horner, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, to clarify this on their section that covered this. Now lets see how he does with explaining this potential phenomenon and it’s consequences.

As you can see he did not accurately represent the press release that he used as a basis for the cooling claim. And like I explained, in relation to it’s effects on the climate it isn’t a big deal. A big deal for solar physicists and very interesting, but not a big deal on the climate front.

In this section, he was more concerned in playing up this event and its potential consequences, while down-playing the current warming and the science behind it, than with accurately depicting what is going on.

But in this interview, there’s one little remark made by Chris Horner that really is telling about how he’s more about talking points than representing the science accurately. He makes the claim that a warming of the planet is beneficial and that cooling is deadly.

Now this is a nice talking point, but has no basis in reality. In our planets history we’ve had at least 5 mass extinction events, and during such an event our planet looses much of it’s biodiversity. And one really stands out, the Permian-Triassic extinction event. In it 70% of all land species, and 96% of all marine species went extinct. The cause for this: a catastrophic increase in global temperature.

This is just one of the big ones I’ve picked as an example. There a many more smaller extinction events that I can list where an increase in the planets temperature caused havoc among the living species at the time.

But the point is, an increase in temperature can be as deadly as a decrease. And someone like Chris Horner should know this, and I would be amazed if he didn’t. Which is the reason I’m not a fan of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. As I’ve seen them misrepresent issues and research before. And seen them make ludicrous claims like this more than I care to recount.

If you need to distort research, or make wild claims to make your point, it might be time to reconsider if you are correct. But I doubt that they will do that, as according to them, alarm over the prospect of Earth’s warming is not warranted by the agreed science.

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.