For years I’ve been a naysayer, a skeptic, a realist, an optimist. Regardless of how you phrase it, I’ve consistently downplayed concerns that humans are causing catastrophic global warming. I based my skepticism on my understanding of the inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the climate models on which predictions of doom are based, as well as actual measured temperature data and other recorded evidence contradicting climate alarmists’ projections of the way things should be if humans were warming the planet.
My views about that have not changed, but I am coming to fear an opposite climate change could be occurring: a modest cooling.
Now I’m not talking about a new ice age as predicted in the 1970s by a previous generation of climate alarmists. Glaciers are not about to descend from the Arctic and scrape the North American continent clean, nor will the oceans fall by 400 feet.
The consequences of the upcoming cooling will nonetheless be significant. Increasing scientific evidence show the onset of a modest “little ice age” that could be similar to what the world experienced in the mid-17th century or, even worse, the more severe cooling period of the early 12th century. The former little ice age caused the Thames, the Danube River, and the Moscow River to freeze over, with the latter being covered by ice for half of every year and snow lying on some plains in Russia and Europe year-round. The earlier ice age was even more severe, with the glacier expansion in Greenland causing the Vikings to abandon their “permanent” settlements.
During both these periods, crop production and human life expectancy declined significantly. Even little ice ages are bad news, even if they are not severe enough to turn the world into a Hollywood climate disaster epic.
However, that was then; what about now? In the past few years, scientists have noted solar activity has declined precipitously. Global cooling is strongly correlated with (and arguably caused by) low solar activity. Nature Communications recently published new research led by the United Kingdom’s Met Office indicating we recently experienced the fastest decline in sunspot activity in the past 9,300 years. The report concluded the decline in solar activity could result in significantly cooler winters in Europe and North America during the next 50 years.
The authors of that paper were quick to argue the decline in solar activity would have only regional climate effects and would not overcome alleged global effects of theoretical human-caused climate change, but the human impacts they cite are based on computer model projections that do not reflect the growing gap between model temperature projections and actual temperatures. The models also cannot account for the 18-year-long pause in rising temperatures. One might fairly ask why we should expect a decrease in solar activity to have only regional effects, since the Sun affects all of Earth, not just the Northern Hemisphere.
Another recent scientific paper projects an imminent cooling without any caveats about it being regional in nature or overwhelmed by human carbon dioxide emissions. A paper published by the Royal Astronomical Society indicates the Sun will likely go silent within 15 years, leading to an extended period of colder temperatures. Lead author of the report Valentina Zharkova of Northumbria University has said, when tested against actual data and measurements, the model the researchers developed to test the relationship between fluctuating magnetic waves on the surface of the Sun and their impacts on solar activity and Earth’s climate had an accuracy rating of 97 percent.
With new research emerging nearly daily to indicate Earth is cooling because of decreased solar activity, it certainly seems wise to shift our concern about future climate to how best to respond to colder temperatures and associated climate effects.
Perhaps the current pause in rising temperatures is in part due to the decline in solar activity, with lower temperatures still to come. Maybe, in fact, human carbon dioxide emissions are staving off even worse climate cooling. Some alarmists argue that, if true, such a development would be bad for the climate and the creatures living on Earth, but they have never lived through an ice age, and a visit to the history books would do them a world of good.
This news reinforces the view that the best response to climate change, regardless of the cause or direction, is for governments to butt out. Government actions lock in technologies tailored to “fight the last war,” stifling innovation and slowing reactions to new events. Markets respond more quickly, nimbly, and efficiently to changing conditions, allowing innovation to develop crops, housing, and other products most likely to continue improving living conditions and growing the economy regardless of the weather outside.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.