Global cooling is on the way!

By Bob Foster []

A millennium ago, a sage opined “He who foretells the future, lies – even when he tells the truth”. However, with 6 billion mouths to feed, our policy-makers live in vastly different times. Now, they must address the future; and surely, they need guidance from the Geological Society of Australia – because lives depend on getting it right.

Sadly, the recent “Publicity and Media” report (The Australian Geologist of 9/2010, p.5) reveals an opportunity lost. A list of six “attention-grabbing headlines” generated by the Australian Earth Sciences Convention (AESC) lacks the crucial “Global cooling ahead!”

The 300-year warming from ‘quiet Sun’ of the Maunder Minimum to ‘hyperactive Sun’ of the Modern Grand Maximum is over. Strong solar cycles are punctual – averaging only 362 spotless days between cycles during the MGM. In 2004, NASA predicted Solar Cycle 24 would begin in early 2006, peak in 2010, and be extra strong.

I promise I am not making this up: there are now an amazing 813 days without sunspots since 2004, when Cycle 23 began to weaken - including 7-10 October 2010. Late cycles are weak; and indeed, Cycle 24 is very late. Embarrassing for NASA, I know; but will it now tell the world’s policy-makers? A big test for Dr James Hansen!

What lies ahead? As our sage so sagely said, no-one can foretell the future; but every new spot-free day makes it more likely that Earth is entering the Landscheidt Minimum – predicted at its coldest by 2030. In its Little Ice Age look-alike (the fearsome Maunder, 1645-1715) a third the population of Europe died. Planners ready?

Puzzlingly, the AESC list also reveals an opportunity misspent – “Sea levels to rise at double expected rate”. But first, I need to tell you that when Dr Rajendra Pachauri (then head of Tata Energy Research Institute, and now also head of IPCC) was President of the International Association for Energy Economics, I was among his flock.

The Report of November 2009 “The Effect of Climate Change on Extreme Sea Levels in Port Phillip Bay” is by Kathleen L. McInnes, Julian O’Grady and Ian Macadam of CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. It asserts a dramatic acceleration of sea level rise, totalling a massive 0.82 metres by 2100 - based on the “IPCC 2007 A1FI scenario”.

Unchanged from 2001, “A1” is IPCC’s high-end A1 Marker scenario for projected global economic growth. “FI” is IPCC’s most-fuel-intensive story-line for calculating global CO2 emissions - which IPCC says are the primary cause of people-driven change to a stable and benign pre-industrial climate. (A warmer climate would mean an increasing rate of sea level rise.)

In IPCC’s base-year of 1990, South Africa’s consumption of commercially-traded primary energy (in million tonnes oil-equivalent) was 90.5 MTOE – similar to the 89.0 MTOE in Australia. But a phenomenal 77% of South African primary energy was coal (because of oil-from-coal at SASOL); while in Australia, coal’s share was an unexceptional 44%.

Obviously, South Africa used a very atypical proportion of coal. In 1990, per-capita GDP in South Africa was 2.8 (all GDP numbers are 1990 US$ thousands) compared to 17 for lucky Australia. But by 2100 – according to IPCC’s A1 Marker scenario – fortunes change. South Africa will be blessed to enjoy a GDP of 470, compared to 61 in pathetic Australia. Thus, IPCC’s beneficent projections for South Africa have it going from a per-capita GDP of only x0.16 that of Australia in 1990, to a whopping x7.7 that of ours in 2100.

Put another way, South Africa’s projected real-terms per-capita GDP growth of x168 is vastly better than the utterly pedestrian growth of x3.6 projected for Australia. Might we expect Australian economic refugees sailing to South Africa by 2100?

Surely, this question must be asked – and answered – before CSIRO’s sea-level work can be taken seriously. Why did Australia’s premier scientific body embrace IPCC’s nonsensical – and self-serving - economic projections? Could it be that CSIRO put advocacy above science?


A further six days (18-22 December 2010) show no sunspots visible on the solar disc – there are now an amazing 819 spot-free days in the Cycle 23/24 interregnum. No-one can foretell the future, of course. But the longer it takes Cycle 24 to fully-develop the weaker it will be; and the more likely it becomes that Earth is entering the next - and long-predicted - Little Ice Age cold period. Will it be an in inconvenient Dalton (1800-20), or a killing Maunder, look-alike?

From: The Australian Geologist, Newsletter 157 December 2010, pp. 7, 8

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