In fact, the recent climate developments are not something unusual; they reflect a natural course of planetary events. From time immemorial, alternate warm and cold cycles have followed each other, with a periodicity ranging from tens of millions to several years. The cycles were most probably dependent on the extra-terrestrial changes occurring in the Sun and in the Sun's neighborhood.
Short term changes — those occurring in a few years — are caused by terrestrial factors such as large volcanic explosions, which inject dust into the stratosphere, and the phenomenon of El Nino, which depends on the variations in oceanic currents. Thermal energy produced by natural radionuclides that are present in the 1-kilometer-thick layer of the Earth's crust, contributed about 117 kilojoules per year per square meter of the primitive Earth. As a result of the decay of these long-lived radionuclides, their annual contribution is now only 33.4 kilojoules per square meter. (10)
This nuclear heat, however, plays a minor role among the terrestrial factors, in comparison with the "greenhouse effects" caused by absorption by some atmospheric gases of the solar radiation reflected from the surface of the Earth. Without the greenhouse effect, the average near-surface air temperature would be -18°C, and not +15°C, as it is now. The most important among these "greenhouse gases" is water vapour, which is responsible for about 96% to 99% of the greenhouse effect. Among the other greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, CFCs, N2O, and O3), the most important is CO2, which contributes only 3% to the total greenhouse effect. ( 11,12) The manmade CO2 contribution to this effect may be about 0.05% to 0.25%. (13)
Now we are near the middle of the Sun's lifetime, about 5 billion years since its formation, and about 7 billion years before its final contraction into a hot white dwarf, (14) the heat of which will smother the Earth, killing all life. At the start of Sun's career, its irradiance was about 30% lower than it is now. This probably was one of the reasons for the Precambrian cold periods. In 1989, Joseph Kirschvink found 700 million-year-old rocks, near Adelaide, Australia, holding traces of the past glaciers. However, the magnetic signal of these rocks indicates that at that time, the glaciers were located at the Equator. This means that the whole of the Earth was then covered with ice. In 1992, Kirschvink called this stage of the planet the "Snowball Earth," and found that this phenomenon occurred many times in the Precambrian period. One such Snowball Earth appeared 2.4 billion years ago.
Although large glaciations drastically decreased biological productivity, the successive melting of vast amounts of oceanic ice caused an enormous blooming of cyanobacteria, which produced vast amounts of oxygen. This was highly toxic for most of the organisms living in that time. Consequently, 2.4 billion years ago, living organisms were forced to develop defense mechanisms against the deadly effects of oxygen radicals. (15) These same mechanisms protect us against the effects of ionizing radiation. Without these mechanisms, life could not have developed in the past, and we could not live with the current flux of spontaneous DNA damages produced by the oxygen radicals which are formed in metabolism of this gas. In each mammalian cell, about 70 million spontaneous DNA damages occur during one year, but only 5 of those DNA damages are the result of the average natural radiation dose. ( 16,17)
Both the oxygen atmosphere and the incredibly efficient mechanism of DNA protection and repair, developed in this ancient epoch, were probably induced by dramatic changes of climate.
During the Phanerozoic (the past 545 million years), the Earth passed through eight great climate cycles, each lasting 50 to 90 million years. Four of them ("Icehouses") were about 4°C colder than the four warmer ones ("Greenhouses"). (18)
These long cycles were likely caused by passages of our Solar System through the spiral arms of the Milky Way. On its way, the Solar System passed through areas of intensive star creation, with frequent explosions of novas and supernovas. In these regions, the intensity of galactic cosmic radiation reaching the Earth is up to 100 times higher than average. The higher level of cosmic radiation in the Earth's troposphere causes greater formation of clouds, which reflect the incoming solar radiation back into space. This results in a cooler climate (see below). Then the Solar System travels to quieter areas where cosmic radiation is fainter, fewer clouds are formed in our troposphere, and the climate warms. (18)
Upon these enormously long climate cycles, counting tens of millions years each (see Cosmic Ray Flux And Climatic Changes), are superimposed shorter cycles, which strengthen or weaken the long ones. During the past million years, there were 8 to 10 Ice Ages, each only about 100,000 years long, interspersed with short, warm interglacial periods each of about 10,000 years' duration.
Over the past thousand years, multiple 50-year periods have been much warmer that any analogous period in the 20th Century, and the changes have been much more violent than those observed today. Such are the findings of an analysis of more than 240 publications, performed by a team of CalTech andHarvard University scientists. ( 19,20) In this study, thousands of assay results for the so-called proxy temperature indicators have been examined. They included historical records; annual growth ring thickness measurements; isotope changes in ice cores, lake sediments, wood, corals, stalagmites, biological fossils, and in cellulose preserved in peat; changes in ocean sediments; glacier ranges; geological bore-hole temperatures; microfauna variations in sediments; forest line movement, and so on.
Similar evidence comes also from more direct measurements of the temperature preserved in the Greenland ice cap (See Temperature Variations For The Past 3,000 Years). These studies stand in stark contradiction to the much smaller study, (21b) which shows a "hockey stick" curve, with the outstanding high temperature in the 20th Century, and a rather flat and slightly decreasing trend during the rest of the past millennium. The study, by Mann et al., is in opposition to the multitude of publications supporting the evidence that during the past 1,000 years, the phenomena of Medieval Warming and the Little Ice Age had a global range, and that the contemporary period does not differ from the previous natural climatic changes. However, the Mann et al. study was incorporated into the IPCC's 2001 (TAR) report, as a main proof that the 20th Century warming was unprecedented, and it was enthusiastically used by aficionados of the Kyoto Protocol to promote their case.
In their meticulous study, Soon and Baliunas (19,20) criticized, in passing, the Mann et al. publications for improper calibration of the proxy data, and for statistical and other methodical errors. More in-depth and crushing criticisms of the work of Mann et al. were presented recently by McIntyre and McKitrick (22) who demonstrated that the conclusions of Mann et al. are based on flawed calculations, incorrect data, and biased selection of the climatic record. Using the original data sets supplied to them by author Michael Mann, McIntyre and McKitrick discovered many mistakes in the Mann et al. papers — for example, allocating measurements to wrong years, filling tables with identical numbers for different proxies in different years, using obsolete data that have been revised by the original researchers, and so on. Typical of these "errors" was, for example, their stopping the central England temperature series, without explanation, at 1730, even though data are available back to 1659, thus hiding a major 17th Century cold period. McIntyre and McKitrick not only criticized the work done by Mann et al., but also, after correcting all errors, analyzed their data set using Mann's own methodology. The result of this superseding study demonstrates that the 20th Century temperature has not been exceptional during the past 600 years. Further, it demonstrates the falsity of the IPCC's statement in its 2001 report, based on Mann et al., that the 1990s was "likely the warmest decade," and 1998 the "warmest year of the millennium" (Figure 3).
The McIntyre and McKitrick paper was reviewed before its submission for publication by leading experts in mathematics and statistics, geology, paleoclimatology, and physics (among them were R. Carter, R. Courtney, D. Douglas, H. Erren, C. Essex, W. Kininmonth, and T. Landscheidt), and it was then peer-reviewed by the reviewers of the prestigious British journal Energy & Environment.
Two questions arise in this respect. How could the 1998 Mann et al. paper, with all those errors, have passed peer review for Nature magazine? And how could it pass the reviewing process at the IPCC? This affair sadly reflects upon the quality of science being performed in this body.
The Mann et al. papers had a political edge: They served as a counterweight against President George W. Bush's negative stand toward the Kyoto Protocol as "fatally flawed," and his attempt to lessen the economic global catastrophe that Kyoto would induce. An unexpected contribution in this fight recently came from President Vladimir Putin, his chief economic advisor Andrei Illarionov, and from many scientists attending the World Climate Change Conference that was held in Moscow between September 29 and October 3, 2003. Opening the conference, Putin stated that the Kyoto Protocol was "scientifically flawed," and that "Even 100% compliance with the Kyoto Protocol won't reverse climate change." And in response to those calling for quick ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, Putin mentioned half jokingly:
"They often say that Russia is a northern country and if temperature get warmer by 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, it's not such a bad thing. We could spend less on warm coats, and agricultural experts say grain harvests would increase further."
Putin also stated that Moscow would
"be reluctant to make decisions on just financial considerations. Our first concern would be the lofty idea and goals we set ourselves and not short-term economic benefits. . . . The government is thoroughly considering and studying this issue, studying the entire complex and difficult problems linked with it. The decision will be made after this work has been completed. And, of course, it will take into account the national interests of the Russian Federation."
Putin's chief advisor, Andrei Illarionov, was blunt:
"The Kyoto Protocol will stymie economic growth. It will doom Russia to poverty, weakness, and backwardness."
To the experts gathered in Moscow he posed 10 thoughtful questions, all of which shake the man-made global warming hypothesis. The proponents of global warming did not provide satisfying answers. Even the basic questions posed by the chairman of the organizing committee, Professor Yuri Izrael, were not answered:
"What is really going on this planet — warming or cooling?" and "Will ratifying the Kyoto Protocol improve the climate, stabilize it, or make it worse," he asked.
At the end of the conference two things became clear:
1 The scientific world is far from any "consensus," so often vaunted by the IPCC, on man-made climatic warming. (The chairman of the conference acknowledged that the scientists who questioned the Kyoto "consensus" made up 90% of the contribution from the floor.)
2 Without ratification by Russia, the Kyoto Protocol will collapse.
From what President Putin said at the Moscow conference, it seems that Russia will succumb neither to short-term, seemingly lucrative proposals of selling spare Russian CO2 emission quotas for about $8 billion per year, nor to the sabre-rattling by the European Union Environmental Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who warned Russia during the conference that it "would lose politically and economically by not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol." It seems that now Russia may stop global restrictions in CO2 emissions, and save the world from what Sir Fred Hoyle correctly defined in 1996 as
"ruining the world's industries and returning us all to the Dark Ages."