India should turn away from the Paris accord as latest research shows particles from space affect climate on Earth more than human activity.
Over the years this column has been supporting the theory of ‘cosmo-climatology’ propounded by Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark and his associates for climate change, over the alternative theory of anthropogenic CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and adopted by the world’s great and good on which various international accords like that signed in Paris are based. (See my “Climate vs change: Sun and the stars vs CO2”, June 19, 2007).
To recapitulate, the cosmoclimatology theory states that climate is controlled by low cloud cover, which when widespread has a cooling effect by reflecting solar energy back into space and vice versa. These low clouds, in turn, are formed when sub-atomic particles called cosmic rays, emitted by exploding stars, combine with water vapour rising from the oceans. The constant bombardment of the planet by cosmic rays is modulated by the solar wind, which when it is blowing prevents cosmic rays from reaching the earth and creating low clouds. The solar wind in turn is caused by the varying sunspot activity of the sun.
When, as recently, sunspot activity decreases we get the global ‘cooling’ observed during the recent ‘pause’ in global warming. Furthermore, as noted by the Princeton physicist William Happer (see my column “Clouds of Climate Change”, September 2011), the millennial ‘ice core’ records of the correlation between CO2 and temperature show “that changes in temperature preceded changes in CO2 levels, so that CO2 levels were an effect of temperature changes. Much of this was probably due to outgassing of CO2 from the warming oceans or the reverse in cooling” (“The truth about greenhouse gasses”). For the oceans are the primary sinks as well as emitters of CO2. Given their vastness relative to the earth’s surface, it takes a long time for the ocean to warm from rises in terrestrial temperatures (and vice versa), hence the lag between temperature and CO2 levels.
The missing piece in the cosmoclimatology theory was the physical link between cosmic rays and cloud formation. The first confirmation of the basic hypothesis that “ions [cosmic rays] are fundamental for the nucleation of aerosols [tiny liquid or solid particles that provide a nucleus around which droplets can form from water vapour in the air]” was confirmed by the CLOUD experiment at CERN — the particle physics laboratory in 2011. (See Kirby et al, Nature, (2011), 476, 429-433: and “The cosmic ray/Cloud seeding hypothesis is converging with reality”)
But there was still a problem with the hypothesis. It was that, even if as the CLOUD experiment showed ions helped aerosols to form and become stable against evaporation — a process called nucleation — these small aerosols “need to grow nearly a million times in mass in order to have an effect on cloud formation.”
The latest research by Svensmark and his associates (reported in H Svensmark et al. “Increased ionisation supports growth of aerosols into cloud condensation nuclei” Nature Communications 2017;8(1) shows“ both theoretically and empirically and experimentally, how interactions between ions and aerosols can accelerate the growth by adding material to the small aerosols and thereby help them survive to become cloud condensation nuclei” (David Whitehouse: “Cosmic Rays Climate Link Found”). This implies, Prof Svensmark argues, that the effect of the sun on climate could be “5-7 times stronger than that estimated due to changes in the radiant output of the sun alone.”
It also explains why over geological time, there have been much larger variations in climate correlated with changes in cosmic rays. He adds that “it also negates the idea that carbon dioxide has been controlling the climate on the se timescales. ”Thus, the Medieval Warm period around 1000 AD and the subsequent Little Ice Age between 1300AD and 1900AD fit with changes in solar activity.
It also explains climate change observed over the 20th century. Similarly, coolings and warmings around 2 degrees Celsius have occurred repeatedly over the last 10,000 years with variations in the Sun’s activity and cosmic ray influx. While over longer time periods there are much larger variations of up to 10 degrees Celsius as “the Sun and Earth travel through the Galaxy visiting regions with varying numbers of exploding stars”. Svensmark concludes that ‘finally we have the last piece of the puzzle explaining how particles from space affect climate on Earth. It gives an understanding of how changes caused by solar activity or by supernova activity can change climate”.
Surely with this confirmation of the cosmo-climatology theory a Nobel Prize in physics for Svensmark and his associates cannot be far off, and with that the end of the hubristic theory of anthropogenic CO2 generated climate change.
Where does this leave India’s adherence to the Paris climate change accord and its energy policy? The Narendra Modi government seems to be planning a large increase in wind and solar power to supplement coal-generated electricity to reduce India’s incremental CO2 emissions from fulfilling its electoral promise of electrifying every village by 2022.
However, as Rupert Darwall notes (“India’s problem with renewable energy”), “wind and solar energy are intermittent and there fore not reliable substitutes for dependable coal-generated power”. This means that thermal-generating capacity will still be needed. But, if the grid has increasing amounts of intermittent solar and wind energy, the thermal energy component needed as a backup will not be working to full capacity,and hence will be operating less efficiently than if it were being fully utilised instead of the solar and wind sources of energy on the grid. Moreover, as these renewables have high fixed costs and zero marginal costs,the wholesale price of the electricity they generate will tend towards zero.
This means that the electricity companies will increasingly find it unprofitable to invest in and maintain the under-utilised thermal capacity needed to compensate for the indeterminacy of renewable supply. In Germany which made a massive switch to renewables, “in the seven years from December 2007,three German utilities saw the destruction of $76.77 billion in shareholder value. Whole sale electricity prices in India are already plunging. Over the past nine years, thermal generating capacity utilisation has fallen to 60 per cent from 79 per cent.”
So over time as renewables expand on the Indian grid, its electricity companies will find costs rising and the profits they need to expand the grid falling, thereby retarding the access ofIndians to cheap and reliable power. What India needs to do is turn away from the Paris accord (based on the false CO2 theory of climate change) as the US has done, and join it in cooperating to build the clean-coal energy infrastructure that India needs.