CO2 — but not the sun — ‘is significantly correlated’ with temperature since 1850
The lead author of a new study ($ub. req’d) says Inhofe’s office mischaracterized her work with its blaring headline, “Study: Half of warming due to Sun!” Far from supporting Inhofe’s denialist fantasies, the research, led by Anja Eichler, senior scientist at the Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer Institute, is actually one more piece of observation-driven analysis that strongly backs the reality of human-caused warming.
I pointed Eichler to the Senate website where Inhofe staffer Marc Morano not only misstated her results but also concluded:
Even if you try to stretch these numbers a little bit — but not unrealistically — you have to become sure that the participants of the Poznan conference are lunatics.
Yes, on the basis of misrepresenting the work of one study, Inhofe’s office calls the climate delegates “lunatics.” But the study showed the exact opposite of what Inhofe’s office said — and the climate delegates are working to stop humanity’s self-destruction, while Inhofe and Morano are trying to accelerate it. So who are the crazy ones here?
Eichler replied to my email:
Thank you for informing us about the controversial discussion of our paper in your country. You are totally right that our conclusions were misinterpreted and we are a bit concerned about that.
I also posed her a couple of clarifying questions:
ROMM: Am I correct that your study was not saying human-caused emissions were not the major factor driving the temperature record in the past century?
EICHLER: Yes, this is correct. We did a strong differentiation between preindustrial (1250-1850) time and the last 150 years. In the preindustrial time we found a strong correlation between the solar activity proxy and our temperature, suggesting solar forcing as a main force for temperature change in this time. However, the correlation between the solar activity proxy and Altai temperature is not significant anymore for the last 150 years. In this time the increase in the CO2 concentrations is significantly correlated with our temperature.
ROMM: Am I correct that your final sentence [in the paper] was merely saying that your results suggest the Sun was responsible for under 50 percent of the warming since 1900, but you were not saying your results shows that the Sun was in fact responsible for half the warming.
EICHLER: This is also absolutely correct.
She added that “uncertainties of our data” do not allow it to be used to give an exact percentage for how much solar activity was responsible for the warming in the past century. Other recent studies have concluded that the Sun’s contribution to recent warming is “negligible.”
The fact that Inhofe’s office would completely misstate the results of the study is nothing new or terribly interesting — obviously. But the conclusions of the study are quite intriguing in that they underscore the key point that the deniers refuse to accept: The Earth’s temperature does not change randomly — it changes when it is driven to do so by an external forcing.
Yes, deniers — some of whom comment on this website — the Earth has had brief warming and cooling periods since 1250. But those temperature changes were not random. They were largely responses to changes in the solar radiation hitting the earth (which is itself affected by volcanoes).
Now human-caused emissions are driving climate change to dangerous levels with forcings that dwarf previous natural forcings both in speed and scale. And that’s why the time to act is now.