A New Little Ice Age

Ventures Into Scepticism

Real Sceptic has its origins as a companion site for the videos produced by Collin Maessen. The site has progressed beyond this original purpose and now predominantly includes articles that are independent of the content released on YouTube. However this original content is still an important part of the site.

This page serves as an archive for videos produced and released on YouTube. You can find full transcripts, source listing and used media files for the videos. We are currently in the process of transcribing all the audio.

Please note that the first nine videos are of a substantial lower quality than videos that were produced after these. As these first nine videos were as much, and in some case more, about learning to edit videos and learning how to tell a story in sound and images.

A New Little Ice Age

Video description

There has been a lot of fuss in the media about a new little ice age. And the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) chimed in on this with their two cents on this.

But is this little ice age actually going to happen, and did CEI represent the science accurately?

Transcript

ASMAN: Comes a chilling report on climate change suggesting we are heading into a mini ice age. National Solar Observatory and the Air Force Research Lab confirm that three different analyses of the sun's behaviour indicate that a period of unusual low solar activity may be just about to begin. It's very similar to the so-called Little Ice Age of about 300 years ago. Now that's no guarantee of a cooling period. But it emphasises how poorly understood all these climate issues really are.

Ah it seems 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:

ASMAN: ...the implications of all this we welcome Competitive Enterprise Institute, Senior Fellow, Chris Horner. So Chris how reliable are these reports that we may be going into a mini ice age?

HORNER: These seem pretty compelling. And you have to remember since at least since 2008 this national solar observatory, their scientists have published papers saying that by 2015 we'd have such a minimum. A decades long minimum. Which hasn't been seen since that Maunder Minimum you talked about when the crops failed, babies died, so they burnt the witch next door because they knew her lifestyle did it. Only recently is this doomsday cult started burning SUVs [unintelligible] sure they caused the mild warming that ended ten years ago. So uh it... There is no guarantee, there is no one factor that drives climate. Man is probably the slightest, the sun is one of the biggest. So it's a big deal.

No, 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.

HORNER: We need to remember that. Warmings have always been beneficial, coolings have always been deadly.

Now I know this was a short snippet, so to show that I'm not quote mining him, here's Chris Horner repeating it at the end of the interview:

HORNER: Right, but remember something. Climate changes, animals, like people, adapt. Cooling has always been very deadly and warming has been beneficial.

I've heard these clips several times while reviewing the interview and during production of this video, and every single time I wince when I hear him say this.

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.

Sources

  1. Global Cooling?
  2. What's Down with the Sun? Major Drop in Solar Activity Predicted
  3. Chilly Temperatures During the Maunder Minimum
  4. A Solar Scientist Rebuts a Cool Sunspot Prediction
  5. On the effect of a new grand minimum of solar activity on the future climate on Earth
  6. Weakening Sun would hardly slow global warming
  7. The Emerald Planet by David Beerling
  8. Solar is Ready Now: 'Ferocious Cost Reductions' Make Solar PV Competitive

Media resources

  1. Global Cooling?
  2. Sunspot Numbers
  3. Striking a Solar Balance
  4. Grand Solar Minimum
  5. Temperature Composite
  6. Extinction Intensity
  7. Baumgruppe Deadvlei Sossusvlei

Ventures Into Scepticism