Saturday, April 28, 2012

An AGW alternative

What’s new Today 

Story #1 tells what really happened with the Osama bin Laden killing.  #2 tells of Obama’s problem with the economy.  Mediocre is not good enough.  #3 Is a story on a new study which puts the AGW hypothesis on its head. 

Today’s thoughts

With Obama still talking about green power and the jobs it will create has he noticed Spain which decided to take that route in Europe has an unemployment rate of 24.4%.

If the President and the Democrats are so eager to insure that the interest rate on college loans doesn’t increase, why is he threatening to veto the bill passed in the House?

1.   Obama’s Gutsy Call?

Today, Time magazine got hold of a memo written by then-CIA head Leon Panetta after he received orders from Barack Obama’s team to greenlight the bin Laden mission. Here’s the text, which summarized the situation:

Received phone call from Tom Donilon who stated that the President made a decision with regard to AC1 [Abbottabad Compound 1]. The decision is to proceed with the assault.

The timing, operational decision making and control are in Admiral McRaven’s hands. The approval is provided on the risk profile presented to the President. Any additional risks are to be brought back to the President for his consideration. The direction is to go in and get bin Laden and if he is not there, to get out. Those instructions were conveyed to Admiral McRaven at approximately 10:45 am….

Only the memo doesn’t show a gutsy call. It doesn’t show a president willing to take the blame for a mission gone wrong. It shows a CYA maneuver by the White House….

Talk about bad timing.  The DNC has just put out an ad that reiterates the “gutsy call” scenario and questions whether Romney would have made it.  It appears that the qualification of the “risk profile” was a perfect cover to blame the military if things went badly.

2.  Obama’s economic problem

Weak Growth, Weak Hiring

How weak was the economy's 2.2 percent growth rate from January through March? It depends.

Consider that a growth rate of 2.5 percent or higher is considered good when the economy is healthy.  But not at a time of high unemployment.

With 12.7 million people unemployed, today's economy needs much faster growth to boost hiring. Growth would have to be roughly 4 percent for a full year to lower the unemployment rate, now 8.2 percent, by 1 percentage point.

This is a huge problem for Obama.  Even if the growth spurted now, the unemployment rate would most likely rise as there are 5 million people missing from the employment numbers and they would come back into the unemployed numbers. 

3.  Svensmark's cosmic Jackpot--a death knell for AGW?

Nigel Calder asks us to republish this post for maximum exposure. He writes:  

Today the Royal Astronomical Society in London publishes (online) Henrik Svensmark’s latest paper entitled “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth”. After years of effort Svensmark shows how the variable frequency of stellar explosions not far from our planet has ruled over the changing fortunes of living things throughout the past half billion years. Appearing in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, it’s a giant of a paper, with 22 figures, 30 equations and about 15,000 words. See the RAS press release at

By taking me back to when I reported the victory of the pioneers of plate tectonics in their battle against the most eminent geophysicists of the day, it makes me feel 40 years younger. Shredding the textbooks, Tuzo Wilson, Dan McKenzie and Jason Morgan merrily explained earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain-building, and even the varying depth of the ocean, simply by the drift of fragments of the lithosphere in various directions around the globe.

In Svensmark’s new paper an equally concise theory, that cosmic rays from exploded stars cool the world by increasing the cloud cover, leads to amazing explanations, not least for why evolution sometimes was rampant and sometimes faltered. In both senses of the word, this is a stellar revision of the story of life.

Here are the main results:

·         The long-term diversity of life in the sea depends on the sea-level set by plate tectonics and the local supernova rate set by the astrophysics, and on virtually nothing else.

·         The long-term primary productivity of life in the sea – the net growth of photosynthetic microbes – depends on the supernova rate, and on virtually nothing else.

·         Exceptionally close supernovae account for short-lived falls in sea-level during the past 500 million years, long-known to geophysicists but never convincingly explained..

·         As the geological and astronomical records converge, the match between climate and supernova rates gets better and better, with high rates bringing icy times.

Presented with due caution as well as with consideration for the feelings of experts in several fields of research, a story unfolds in which everything meshes like well-made clockwork. Anyone who wishes to pooh-pooh any piece of it by saying “correlation is not necessarily causality” should offer some other mega-theory that says why several mutually supportive coincidences arise between events in our galactic neighbourhood and living conditions on the Earth.

An amusing point is that Svensmark stands the currently popular carbon dioxide story on its head. Some geoscientists want to blame the drastic alternations of hot and icy conditions during the past 500 million years on increases and decreases in carbon dioxide, which they explain in intricate ways. For Svensmark, the changes driven by the stars govern the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. Climate and life control CO2, not the other way around.

By implication, supernovae also determine the amount of oxygen available for animals like you and me to breathe. So the inherently simple cosmic-ray/cloud hypothesis now has far-reaching consequences, which I’ve tried to sum up in this diagram.

Cosmic rays in action. The main findings in the new Svensmark paper concern the uppermost stellar band, the green band of living things and, on the right, atmospheric chemistry. Although solar modulation of galactic cosmic rays is important to us on short timescales, its effects are smaller and briefer than the major long-term changes controlled by the rate of formation of big stars in our vicinity, and their self-destruction as supernovae. Although copyrighted, this figure may be reproduced with due acknowledgement in the context of Henrik Svensmark's work.

By way of explanation

The text of “Evidence of nearby supernovae affecting life on Earth” is available via The paper is highly technical, as befits a professional journal, so to non-expert eyes even the illustrations may be a little puzzling. So I’ve enlisted the aid of Liz Calder to explain the way one of the most striking graphs, Svensmark’s Figure 20, was put together. That graph shows how, over the past 440 million years, the changing rates of supernova explosions relatively close to the Earth have strongly influenced the biodiversity of marine invertebrate animals, from trilobites of ancient times to lobsters of today. Svensmark’s published caption ends: “Evidently marine biodiversity is largely explained by a combination of sea-level and astrophysical activity.” To follow his argument you need to see how Figure 20 draws on information in Figure 19. That tells of the total diversity of the sea creatures in the fossil record, fluctuating between times of rapid evolution and times of recession….

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