- inhalers
Testimony of Professor Jan Veizer before The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources
December 15, 2011


As an introduction, please permit me to point out that the climate debate is, in reality, not about CO2 but a 1.6 watts discrepancy in the poorly known planetary energy balance.

Let me explain.

Without our atmosphere, the Earth would be a frozen ice ball. Natural greenhouse warming, due to the atmospheric blanket, raises the temperature by about 33°C. Two-thirds or more of this warming is attributed to the greenhouse effect of water vapour.

Water vapour, not carbon dioxide, is by far the most important greenhouse gas. Yet the models treat the global water cycle as just being there, relegating it to a passive agent in the climate system. The energy that is required to drive the water cycle must therefore come from somewhere else: the sun, man-made greenhouse gases, other factors or any combination of the above.

Note, however, that because of the overwhelming importance of water vapour for the greenhouse effect, existing climate models are not diagnostic. To the water cycle, energy is just energy, regardless where it comes from.

As documented by the previous speaker, the past climate record does indeed resemble the trend in solar output. However, because three decades of satellite data show only limited solar variability, the solar output would have to be somehow amplified to explain the magnitude of the centennial warming. The IPCC argues that because no amplifier is known, an invalid assertion, man-made greenhouse gases must be responsible for most of the energy imbalance.

But this is an assumption, an attribution by default, not an actual empirical or experimental proof that carbon dioxide is the driver. Yet such attribution is then taken as a fact in the subsequent complex model calibrations of climate sensitivity to CO2.

If an amplifier to solar output does exist, and empirical observations detailed in the submitted article argue for its existence, the need to attribute the energy to greenhouse gases would diminish accordingly. So how realistic is the basic model assumption that the tiny - biologically controlled - carbon cycle drives the climate via the passively responding huge water cycle?

Nature tells us that it is the other way around. Surely, the blossoming of plants in the spring is the outcome, not the cause, of the warming sun and abundant rain.

Our atmosphere contains 730 billion tons of carbon. Each year about 120 billion are cycled via plants on land and 90 billion via oceans. Human emissions account for less than 5 per cent of the annual carbon cycle.

From the point of view of interaction of the water and carbon cycles it is important to realise that for every unit of CO2 sequestered by a plant from the atmosphere almost 1000 units of water must be lifted from the roots to the leaf canopy and eventually evaporated back into the air.

The required huge energy source is the sun. Solar energy drives the water cycle, generating a warmer and wetter climate and invigorating the biological carbon cycle. The sun also warms the oceans that emit their CO2.

Atmospheric CO2 is thus the product and not the cause of the climate, as demonstrated by past records where temperature changes precede changes in atmospheric CO2: ice cores, the 1991 Mt Pinatubo volcanic eruption or seasonal oscillations are instructive examples.

But what might be the complementary source of energy that could account for the disputed 1.6W?

Clouds are a mirror that reflects solar radiation back into space. The amount of solar energy reflected by the Earth is about 77W and the difference between cloudless and cloudy skies is about 28W.

Therefore a change of just a few per cent in cloudiness can easily account for the disputed energy discrepancy.

Clouds are an integral part of the water cycle; but, formation of water droplets requires seeding. Empirical and experimental results suggest that cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere may generate such initial seeds. While the actual mechanisms are still debated, the correlations between cloudiness and cosmic rays have been published.

The amplifying connection to the sun comes via its electromagnetic envelope, called the heliosphere, and a similar envelope around the Earth, the magnetosphere. These act as shields that screen the lethal cosmic rays from reaching our planet. A less active sun is not only colder but its heliospheric envelope shrinks, allowing more cosmic rays to reach our atmosphere and seed more clouds. Cosmic rays, when hitting the atmosphere, generate also a cascade of cosmogenic nuclides such as 14C or 10Be that can be measured in ice, trees, rocks and minerals. Such records over the past 10,000 years correlate well with the highly variable climate, while the contemporary concentrations of CO2, measured in ice cores, are flat around the low pre-industrial levels of 280 ppm, with no resemblance to climate trends.

The science of climate change continues to evolve and regardless of the outcome of the climate debate, observational data suggests that we may be served well by basing our climate agenda, scientifically and economically, on a broader perspective than that in the IPCC outlined scenarios. Our pollution abatement and energy diversification goals could then be formulated, and likely implemented, with less pain.

Thank you.