The anthropogenic global warming agenda has had a worse month than Mitt Romney. I have considered the Peter Gleick scandal. Now consider the fact that the green energy evangelism of European governments has lost its Holy Ghost. Germany, one of the biggest promoters of solar power, seems to be about to pull the plug out of the socket. Bjørn Lomborg at Project Syndicate:
According to Der Spiegel, even members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's staff are now describing the policy as a massive money pit. Philipp Rösler, Germany's minister of economics and technology, has called the spiraling solar subsidies a "threat to the economy."
Germany's enthusiasm for solar power is understandable. We could satisfy all of the world's energy needs for an entire year if we could capture just one hour of the sun's energy. Even with the inefficiency of current PV technology, we could meet the entire globe's energy demand with solar panels by covering 250,000 square kilometers (155,342 square miles), about 2.6% of the Sahara Desert.
Unfortunately, Germany – like most of the world – is not as sunny as the Sahara. And, while sunlight is free, panels and installation are not. Solar power is at least four times more costly than energy produced by fossil fuels. It also has the distinct disadvantage of not working at night, when much electricity is consumed.
And then there are the winds. Germany has been committed to alternative energy, so if the sun doesn't shine maybe the wind will blow. Except when it doesn't. From Der Spiegel:
Germany's plans for a radical expansion in offshore wind power generation are at risk of failure because of delays in hooking the wind farms up to the power grid, German power company E.on warned on Tuesday.
Mike Winkel, head of the company's Climate & Renewables division, told the Berliner Zeitung newspaper that E.on and other power companies will stop investing in offshore power if the grid operators don't speed up their construction of power lines to transport the power generated by the wind farms.
Viable sources of power attract honest investments and honest investments encourage ruthless efficiency. Sources of power that are attractive only because they sound nice encourage, well, something other than honest investments and efficiency.
If the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine on alternative energy in Germany, well…
But for heaven's sake, at least the AGW folks could depend on the glaciers to keep melting. Apparently they cannot, according to the Guardian:
Researchers are said to be shocked by a new study published in Nature that has found the world's largest mountain chain, which stretches from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, has lost no ice over the past decade.
Scientists had previously claimed that climate change is causing a net loss of ice and water from the glaciers and ice caps that straddle the Himalayas and other mountain ranges around the world.
Of the four basic elements, air, fire, and water seem to have abandoned the global warming agenda. Dirt could not be reached for comment.
On the other hand, the ether seems to be weighing in. From the Wall Street Journal:
Scientists have been speculating on the relationship among cosmic rays, solar activity and clouds since at least the 1970s. But the notion didn't get a workout until 1995, when Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark came across a 1991 paper by Eigil Friis-Christensen and Knud Lassen, who had charted a close relationship between solar variations and changes in the earth's surface temperature since 1860.
Svensmark had an idea and physicist Jasper Kirby checked it out. From Nature:
It sounds like a conspiracy theory: 'cosmic rays' from deep space might be creating clouds in Earth's atmosphere and changing the climate. Yet an experiment at CERN, Europe's high-energy physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, is finding tentative evidence for just that.
Here's the climate change connection.
For a century, scientists have known that charged particles from space constantly bombard Earth. Known as cosmic rays, the particles are mostly protons blasted out of supernovae. As the protons crash through the planet's atmosphere, they can ionize volatile compounds, causing them to condense into airborne droplets, or aerosols. Clouds might then build up around the droplets.
The number of cosmic rays that reach Earth depends on the Sun. When the Sun is emitting lots of radiation, its magnetic field shields the planet from cosmic rays. During periods of low solar activity, more cosmic rays reach Earth.
Scientists agree on these basic facts, but there is far less agreement on whether cosmic rays can have a large role in cloud formation and climate change. Since the late 1990s, some have suggested that when high solar activity lowers levels of cosmic rays, that in turn reduces cloud cover and warms the planet. Others say that there is no statistical evidence for such an effect.
So if you find it plausible that periods of high solar activity (when the sun turns the knob up to eleven) would warm the earth, you might be right for the wrong reason. A hyperactive sun means a stronger magnetic field, which means fewer cosmic rays, which means fewer clouds, which means a warmer earth, if Svensmark is right.
Did the earth warm significantly over the last century? Almost certainly. What caused that warming? I don't know and neither do you. Will the massive investments in alternative energy in developed countries have any effect on the climate? No. Do they make sense on any other grounds? Almost certainly not. If we are going to have a realistic policy, it might be a good idea to pay some attention to reality.