The latest story doing the rounds of the global warming deniers (Drudge, Instapundit, Andrew Bolt, etc), is this one from the Investors Business Daily:

Kenneth Tapping, a solar researcher and project director for Canada’s National Research Council, is among those looking at the sun for evidence of an increase in sunspot activity.

Solar activity fluctuates in an 11-year cycle. But so far in this cycle, the sun has been disturbingly quiet. The lack of increased activity could signal the beginning of what is known as a Maunder Minimum, an event which occurs every couple of centuries and can last as long as a century.

Such an event occurred in the 17th century. The observation of sunspots showed extraordinarily low levels of magnetism on the sun, with little or no 11-year cycle.

This solar hibernation corresponded with a period of bitter cold that began around 1650 and lasted, with intermittent spikes of warming, until 1715. Frigid winters and cold summers during that period led to massive crop failures, famine and death in Northern Europe.

Tapping reports no change in the sun’s magnetic field so far this cycle and warns that if the sun remains quiet for another year or two, it may indicate a repeat of that period of drastic cooling of the Earth, bringing massive snowfall and severe weather to the Northern Hemisphere.

Well, as you know, the Investor’s Business Daily has as much as 100 lies on every page so when I read that, I naturally wondered what Tapping really said. Fortunately, tgirsch was on the case, and contacted Tapping to see if the IBD report was accurate. Tapping replied:

Thanks for the message. The stuff on the web came from a casual chat with someone who managed to misunderstand what I said and then put the result on the web, which is probably a big caution for me regarding the future.

It is true that the beginning of the next solar cycle is late, but not so late that we are getting worried, merely curious.

It is the opinion of scientists, including me, that global warming is a major issue, and that it might be too late to do anything about it already. If there is a cooling due to the solar activity cycle laying off for a bit, then the a period of solar cooling could be a much-needed respite giving us more time to attack the problem of greenhouse gases, with the caveat that if we do not, things will be far worse when things turn on again after a few decades. However, once again it is early days and we cannot at the moment conclude there is another minimum started.

tgirsch comments:

Wait, what? A business magazine and a mostly right-wing web site took a scientists statements and work out of context in the service of a political agenda? Stop the presses!

Given the history of the anti-AGW movement and their ever-moving target, $10 says they ignore how wrong they were on this one, and instead seize on the “might be too late to do anything about it” part as their next windmill to tilt at. …

Mental note: Don’t trust anything you read in the Investors Business Daily.

Update: Jan Dawson, who is skeptical of AGW also had the good sense to contact Tapper. He replied:

The article is rubbish.

I believe that global climate change is the biggest problem facing us today. As yet we have no idea of exactly how serious it can get or where the tipping point may be.

The lateness of the start of the solar activity cycle is not yet enough to be something to worry about. However, even if we were to go into another minimum, and the Sun dims for a few decades, as it did during the Maunder Minimum, it could reduce the problem for a while, but things will come back worse when the cycle starts again.

Dawson concludes:

Since I’m largely sympathetic towards the thrust of the article, I find this all the more frustrating. Either there really are scientists out there who hold the views cited in the article, in which case they should have been the ones quoted, or there aren’t and therefore the article should not have been written. Either way, it’s extremely dishonest journalism. And it simply provides more ammunition for the global warming enthusiasts since it fits nicely with their narrative about scientific consensus.


  1. #1 Lance
    February 15, 2008

    Oops, the “2” next to the “M” in the last equation is unneccessary since I defined “M” as the earth’s mass. I originally use “M1” and “M2” for “m” and “M”.

    Excuse the typo.

  2. #2 Hank Roberts
    February 25, 2008

    Bzzt: they’re ba-a-a-a-ck.
    Lorne Gunter, National Post
    Monday, February 25, 2008

    “… Kenneth Tapping of our own National Research Council, who oversees a giant radio telescope focused on the sun, is convinced we are in for a long period of severely cold weather if sunspot activity does not pick up soon….”

    Already being quoted around the intartubes.
    See Andy Revkin’s dotearth at the NYT for example.

  3. #3 Douglas Watts
    March 3, 2008

    Unless solar activity has the miraculous effect of sucking vast quantities of C02 out of Earth’s atmosphere and into deep space, I don’t see how it could affect the overall trend of increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

    But then again, I believe in plate tectonics.

  4. #4 skierpage
    March 6, 2008

    Another howler in the IBD editorial is this:
    For instance, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Solar Research in Germany report the sun has been burning more brightly over the last 60 years, accounting for the 1 degree Celsius increase in Earth’s temperature over the last 100 years.

    Oooh, scary, and eminent German researchers concluded this!!

    I searched and found the actual news release ( ). It indeed says “the Sun is in a state of unusually high activity, for about the last 60 years”
    But the news release starts with
    “solar activity affects the climate but plays only a minor role in the current global warming”
    and concludes
    “This means that the Sun is not the cause of the present global warming.”

    IBD just MADE UP their “accounting for” conclusion. Shame on them.

  5. #5 msn
    November 4, 2008

    solar activity cycle laying off for a bit, then the a period of solar cooling could be a much-needed respite giving us more time to msn nickleri attack the problem of greenhouse gases, with the caveat that if we do not, things will be far worse when things turn Ameritania Hotel New York on again after a few decades. However, once again it

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