Corcoran Stumbles Onto Interesting Science; Emerges Unscathed

National Post's Terence CorcoranThanks to the National Post's Terence Corcoran for finding this story in the New Scientist magazine. It's an interesting report on new research into the role of the sun in global warming during the 20th century.

Corcoran's reportage, however, is another example of the lengths to which he will go to mislead people about the science of climate change.

Here's what Corcoran says:

“The science behind the idea of man-made global warming, always theoretical and often speculative, appears set to receive another blow. A report in New Scientist magazine yesterday chronicles the work of a crew of scientists who forecast a new wave of global cooling brought on by a decline in activity in the sun.”

Here's what New Scientist says:

'None of this means that we can stop worrying about global warming caused by emissions into the atmosphere. “The temperature of the Earth in the past few decades does not correlate with solar activity at all,” (Sami) Solanki (of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany) says. He estimates that solar activity is responsible for only 30 per cent, at most, of the warming since 1970. The rest must be the result of man-made greenhouse gases, and a crash in solar activity won't do anything to get rid of them.'

Corcoran, in his flagrantly deceptive article, uses this (nearly correct) quote from the New Scientist piece.

'Sam Solanki … says declining solar activity could drop global temperatures by 0.2 degrees Celsius. “It might not sound like much,” says New Scientist writer Stuart Clark, “but this temperature reversal would be as big as the most optimistic estimate of the results of restricting greenhouse-gas emissions until 2050 in line with the Kyoto protocol.”

But the NP Business Page Editor neglects to include this:

“Global average temperatures have risen by about 0.6 °C in the past century, and until recently almost all of this has been put down to human activity.”

To his credit, Corcoran includes this:

'The New Scientist says this gives the Earth some breathing room in the face of climate change over the next 50 years, but it warns against complacency. “If the Earth does cool during the next sunspot crash and we do nothing [about man-made global warming], when the sun's magnetic activity returns, global warming will return with a vengeance,” says Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University in California.”'

But Corcoran immediately dismisses that as “one man's view.” He also neglects the central New Scientist conclusion leading into the Svalgaard quote:

'There is a dangerous flip side to this coin. If global warming does slow down or partially reverse with a sunspot crash, industrial polluters and reluctant nations could use it as a justification for turning their backs on pollution controls altogether, making matters worse in the long run.”

Yet Corcoran uses the New Science piece precisely to justify that backward step, particularly encouraging the Canadian government to continue backing away from any Kyoto commitment. His first and last sentences read thusly:

“News that the Conservatives might be taking a more cautious approach to Kyoto and climate change could not come at a more appropriate time. … The Harper Conservatives should fear nothing as they work to set a Kyoto policy.”

I urge anyone who has ANY doubts as to the sincerity of Corcoran's position to read both pieces. His can be accessed for free (although the price in lost time may still be too high) and the New Scientist piece is available on-line for an irritating charge of $5.95 (note the fine print: they will continue charging your credit card annually unless you cancel that “subscription”).

On the obviously related angle, we at the DeSmogBlog are flattered by Corcoran's attention - although I DO wish that he would start including our blog address and stop just bashing Jim Hoggan and David Suzuki (Terry, you rotter, you). I also should say that he's wrong about Jim paying for “two full-time researchers.” If Kevin and I were both full-time, big guy, we'd be a lot more trouble.