mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
The Greens Are Not Vulcans

A environmental theory that proposes a cause of global warming unrelated to greenhouse gasses is undergoing something of a renaissance at CERN, the world’s most important research facility for questions involving things that are very small and very fast. As the WSJ reports:

[There is] another possible factor in climate change: charged subatomic particles from outer space, or “cosmic rays,” whose atmospheric levels appear to rise and fall with the weakness or strength of solar winds that deflect them from the earth. These shifts might significantly impact the type and quantity of clouds covering the earth, providing a clue to one of the least-understood but most important questions about climate…

At the Franco-Swiss home of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, scientists have been shooting simulated cosmic rays into a cloud chamber to isolate and measure their contribution to cloud formation. CERN’s researchers reported last month that in the conditions they’ve observed so far, these rays appear to be enhancing the formation rates of pre-cloud seeds by up to a factor of 10. Current climate models do not consider any impact of cosmic rays on clouds.

In the politically charged atmosphere of climate change science and policy, research on cosmic rays has been attacked from many sides, including the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Bert Bolin, then the head of the IPCC, attacked the authors of the research because he thought no responsible scientists would pursue lines of research that questioned climate orthodoxy: “I find the move from this pair scientifically extremely naïve and irresponsible.”

Via Meadia, readers will be shocked to hear, does not know whether cosmic rays have anything to do with rates of cloud formation.  We know nothing about the motives of the researchers involved.  But clearly the question is of sufficient interest to get the world’s largest particle accelerator involved.

Perhaps the conclusions will bolster the position that human activity is driving the world’s temperatures higher.  Perhaps they will lead climate scientists to tweak their computer models in ways that change the debate.  Most likely, the results of this experiment will open up some new questions and generate new hypotheses requiring more tests. 

Climate science involves the study of a bafflingly complex system in which an untold number of variables interact in ways that are extremely difficult to model or predict.  The science is very young; its conclusions may change in quite significant ways.

Most greens don’t want that to be true because they want the world to adopt drastic policy changes now.  But the political reality is that those changes are both expensive and difficult (or even, realistically speaking) impossible to make given the limits of human institutions and political behavior.  Any whisper of uncertainty or debate about the conclusions of climate science undermines the case for radical action now, so the green movement paints itself into a corner: it hypes the science it likes, and fights the science that might threaten its agenda.

While there are plenty of individual greens who are cautious in their policy advice and responsible in their use of evidence, the movement as a whole is driven by emotion.  Most greens are not Vulcans, dispassionately calculating the best course of action by the dictates of reason.  They are angry, frightened, committed true believers on a mission from Gaia, and many have a deep view that capitalism itself is a kind of cancer — uncontrolled growth that will sooner or later kill us all.  (Sherri Tepper’s science fiction in which life-affirming, grounded, caring ecologically minded people frequently of the female persuasion overcome various male/science/capitalist/cancerous growth affirming death cults on planets around the galaxy portrays this core mindset pretty well.)

This is religion, not science, romanticism not reason.  Add to that significant economic interests in subsidized industries (alternative power generation, ethanol, firms hoping to benefit from carbon trading) and one sees that the green movement as a whole is driven by anything but disinterested regard for the fruit of scientific research.

Disentangling that morass of commercial profit seeking and apocalyptic hyperventilation from the core of rational inquiry and thoughtful concern that the best environmental thinkers bring to bear is what the world badly needs.  Again, I am left hoping that the press will stop colluding with the fanatics and the hustlers so that the actual results, however tentative, of this vital line of scientific research can receive the careful and considered reflection they deserve.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Kris

    I’m in substantial agreement with you, but may I propose the following edits:
    1. The WSJ article should be linked to:
    2. The IPCC quote (“extremely naïve and irresponsible”) was made regarding a precursor study in 1996.
    3. That quote was made by the then-head of the IPCC, Bert Bolin.

  • Gary Heminger


    I just started reading your articles and blogs and you are hitting the nail precisely on the head. I received my BS in Computer Science from Berkeley and I took a bunch of physical geography classes, especially around weather and climate. A lifelong Democrat and Environmentalist, I have been appalled by the anti-capitalist, Malthusian movements that in my lifetime first started with Paul Ehrlich and now have been captured by the green movement. The science behind the AGW movement is a fraud. You and everyone on this blog should look at what Burt Rutan is saying about it. You can Google search “Burt Rutan on global warming” This guy knows data analysis. He very carefully distinguishes an engineer from a scientist. He has gone through the data and claims that the AGW proponents are using statistical scare data, rather than informed statistics to misrepresent their case. The powerpoint/PDF’s are a bit long and technical, but this guy is a someone with real authority that is questioning the data. I know you think Science isn’t the way to attack this, and I agree, but his work on this is interesting.

  • Michael

    Credible people told me if we did not change our way in 5 years we would be doomed. That was more than 5 years ago.
    If the environmentonuts are wrong about the man made aspect or not, global warming requires us to consider Homo sapiens greatest feat, adaptation. Let’s start working on adapting our world to whatever Gaia dumps on us and stop worrying about 16 vs 60 mpg.
    Evolution in action.

  • Jim.

    “Via Meadia, readers will be shocked to hear, does not know whether cosmic rays have anything to do with rates of cloud formation.”

    I *am shocked* that you didn’t know cosmic rays, even in the absence of condensation nuclei, cause cloud formation!

    Have you not seen the best series in the history of television on the critical subject of innovation — James Burke’s ‘Connections’??

    And you call yourself an historian? (Well, no, we’re American, so you call yourself *a* historian, of course.)


    Episode II: Death in the Morning: Burke, in his inimitable fashion (or lack thereof, considering those collars), traces the development of the atom bomb all the way back to the invention of the touchstone in the ancient Eastern Mediterranean, through the conquest of Constantinople, the discovery of static electricity, and, yes, the *cloud chamber*.

    The cloud chamber is one of the basic tools subatomic physicists use to tell them what they get when they split atoms — the exotic radiation you get forms wisps of cloud. We’ve known that clouds were formed by exotic radiation (such as cosmic rays) for, literally, decades.

    If we needed to seed additional clouds in the upper atmosphere to increase Earth’s albedo, we could simply send up solar-powered spacecraft that would convert visible-band sunlight to high-energy wavelengths, then send it skimming across the upper atmosphere, and that would do the trick.

    Anyway. Go out, and start watching Connections on YouTube. NOW. . DO IT.

    While you’ve got it running in the background, go to and order the series.

    The Day the Universe Changed is also well worth the price and the time.

  • Gary Hemminger

    By the way, the theory of cosmic ray’s causing cloud formations is outlined in the book “the Chilling Stars” by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder. Basically the theory is that the solar winds block some of the cosmic radiation hitting Earth.

    When the Sun is highly active (ie with lots of sunspots) the solar winds are strong, blocking more cloud causing cosmic rays. When the solar winds are weak, more clouds form and help cool Earth.

    Mankind has been tracking sunspots since 1755. Galileo discovered them in 1613 and perhaps Chinese astronomers even earlier.

    There is a high degree of correlation with warm and cold weather on Earth and sunspot activity. As you say, this isn’t the only thing that drives temperature on Earth, but the IPCC and the greens have been doing everything they can to pretend that this doesn’t exist. This is like some kind of McCarthyism where everyone that has vested interest is doing whatever they can to muzzle anyone that questions the gravy train. This is going to end very badly.

  • dearieme

    Everyone likes to point out that many of the climate hysterics are essentially crooks. Don’t, however, overlook the fact that many are, by the standards of more mature sciences, rather dim.

    My own guess is that many took up the cause without foul motives and, when they slowly realised their own incompetence, became crooks to defend their positions.

  • Doug King

    “Again, I am left hoping that the press will stop colluding with the fanatics and the hustlers so that the actual results… can receive the careful and considered reflection they deserve.”

    I am not so hopeful. It seems to me the MSM caters to the emotionalism/religion that drives the Green movement. Senior news editors dare not offend their base.

  • T

    Dr. Mead,

    You wrote, “. . . many [green proponents] have a deep view that capitalism itself is a kind of cancer. . . .”

    In 2002 I was fortunate enough to hear a lecture by the economist Lester Thurow. In speaking of globalization he espoused the same view; that its opponents were not against globalization per se, they were against capitalism.

    In the ensuing 9 years, I have become convinced that anti-capitalist views are actually the motivating force behind many, if not all, of liberal “beneficient” causes.

  • Tom Hawking

    Great article. thanks for your efforts to bring this obvious fraud to an end.

  • Lars Svendsen

    The CERN experiments are intriguing and precisely what is needed.

    What exactly, according to the greens, is it that we humans are supposed to do to stop global warming, become hunter gatherers again?

    Surely shutting down the world fossil fuel based economy sounds like a much bigger problem than warmer temperatures. And I am not sure what impact a unilateral EU and US and California reduction in CO2 will have other than to make us feel better about ourselves, probably have a terrible impact on our economies, while China builds one new coal fired plant a month and Russia and most of the world look the other way.

    Wouldn’t it be wiser to plan how we can work with warming rather than foolishly Don Quixote waving of our sword at a problem that is bigger than selling your car and buying a bicycle.

    Furthermore given a choice of a new ice age and global warming, I’m thinking the warming is the better choice. We need to learn how to live with its’ possibilities rather than setting our throne on the beach and yelling at the waves to recede,(didn’t work out well for my ancestor Canute, but he did make a point to consider)

    We have no choice but to use fossil fuels for the forseeable future, and it is obvious to anyone who takes five seconds to look at it that wind and solar are not going to replace fossil fuels anytime soon. And of course clean, efficient, and safe nuclear energy has been outlawed, at least in the US. We can’t drill, we can’t frack (its’ been used since 1908, and hundreds of thousands of times), coal clean or otherwise is the devil.

    Cap and trade is a political power grab that will have little benefit other than to make Al Gore and his look alikes rich.

  • Renaissance Nerd

    I have to agree with Mr. King that the MSM will not stop colluding with the fanatic romantics, because they are also romantics. Romanticism is the true evil religion; it lies behind everything from Jacobinism to Nazism and Communisim to present-day regressive ‘progressivism.’ It’s the de facto religion of America, even having drawn a large proportion of purported Christians into its clutches. The sooner those who have NOT partaken of this particular Kool-aid realize that this is a religious war that is already being lost, the sooner it might be possible to combat it in the appropriate way. Our endless Children’s Crusade equivalents are pointless. Appealing to the better nature of those who don’t believe in nature (paradoxically enough) is a waste of time.

  • Scott Bottens

    I too have serious misgivings about the media performing its actual duty vs. the propaganda machine it has become. The media have become cheerleaders for the politically correct fashion of the moment. They have published the hysteria as “fact” for so long, how are they to retract their position without confirming what all of us already know? Mr. Peabody’s Way-Back machine would come in handy now.

  • TheAntiProgressive

    Not only CERN but also NASA SOURCE the state of the art solar observatory that measures radiant output. The majority of the GW crowds’ “models” did not consider solar output as a contributor to global warming hence things of fallacy like hockey sticks and the like. Invented data and ergo invented politically driven science.

    AGENDA 21

  • Daryl Northrop

    As a Green Party member, I wanted to chime in on this topic. Classic use of the “create doubt and confusion” tactic when in an issue-related contest.

    While it is possible that cosmic rays have an effect on climate change, the main science departments of every major industrial nation agree that human activity is the primary driver of global warming.

    My thinking goes like this: The cost of taking action to stop human-caused global warming, and having global warming end up not occuring, is far *less* than not taking any action at all, and global warming is caused by human activity – and having to deal with the economic disruption that follows.

    The scientific consensus is that humans are the primary driver of global warming, and that it is causing the earth to warm at a rate that far exceeds the ability of our ecosystems to adapt. In my mind, it is dangerous and profoundly irresponsible not to act on that knowledge.

    As a Vulcan Green, the only logical thing to do is to take steady step to reduce our greenhouse gas output (CO2, CH4), and increase the capacity of systems to absorb CO2 – reforestation, restoration of greenspace, etc.

    Live long, and prosper.

  • JDComments

    Once you stakeout a position, self interest causes you to harden your defense of it until it becomes dogma to you.

    That seems to be the situation with climate scientists who now must defend their beliefs as assiduously as any religious zealot or risk appearing foolish or worse.

    The myth of “objective” science is shown to be wishful thinking by this and many other cases almost on a daily basis.

  • B. Samuel Davis

    Naturally, the global warming group doesn’t want anything to interfere with their pet theory that global warming is caused by humans – so they seek to vilify anything that could put the cause as anything else. This is done for two reasons – first, it could put into the jeopardy the continued funding of climate science and the more money that could be coming if a cap and trade scheme is approved world-wide, and second, the reduction of carbon dioxide is a great goal even if carbon dioxide is harmless.

    Scientific honesty has nothing to do with any of this – science has nothing to do with it. That’s why “the science is settled” was created by a British PR firm, that’s why there is so much out and out dishonesty in the global warming community – it’s all about money. And PS I’d love to know how the energy industry is funding those who question man caused global warming – it isn’t out there.

  • Jack Davis

    Al Gore probably is VERY upset with this new theory. Say, where is Al, anyway?

    Earth to Al Gore! Come in, Al!

  • Don Dixon

    Human activity produces about 30 billion tons of CO2 annually. Termites produce not quite twice that, approximately 54 billion tons (and vastly more methane). If human industry ceased but the termite population increased 50 percent, few greens would sit up nights worrying about the icecaps melting. It is only because the purported remedies for the purported climate crisis dovetail so neatly with their political/religious agenda that so many greens have embraced the AGW hysteria.

  • Jeff

    For thousands of years, man believed that mankind – and earth – was at the center of the universe. Shortly after the time of Christ, Claudius Ptolemy developed elaborate “nested spheres” models that kept the earth at the center of the universe and still explained the complex motions of the known planets, the moon and the Sun. The Church, as the authority for hundreds of years, supported and petpetuated this model, because it kept power in their hands. Church leaders were the interpretors of the unknown. Not until Copernicus, and later Galileo, were these models questioned. Society’s leaders fought to supress the theory because it eroded their influence. 500 years later, the saying “what was old is new again” is being proven before our eyes. The priests of old are today’s scientists with grant-funded research they don’t want to disturb, the Pope is a career politician and questionable Nobel prize winner, and the heretics are those who question the theory, even though the theory needs constant adjustment and manipulation to explain the observations that just don’t fit. “Nested spheres” are now “Sulphur-laden Chinese coal is why temperatures haven’t increased in 10 years.” Man is again at the center of the universe.

  • joseph of steel

    “the main science departments of every major industrial nation agree that human activity is the primary driver of global warming”

    Who,exactly, are these ‘main science departments’.

    I live in the US, a major industrialized nation, and I work in a science field.

    I am unaware of a ‘main’ US science department. I am well aware of many science organizations that have many views on climate, however.

    “create doubt and confusion”

    And, in response you apply AlGore’s ‘the science is settled” tactic? LOL

  • Keophus

    Actually, Greens do want us to return to being hunter/gatherers. A disturbing bit of propaganda which is (I believe) required reading at a number of colleges in the US is the novel “Ishmael”, by Daniel Quinn.

    It proposes that the Bible has it backwards and the first sin was committed by Abel and not Cain. Abel’s crime was to be a farmer as opposed to Cain’s virtuous hunter role.

    Of course the fact that 95% of the world’s human population must die to accomplish this reality is left unspoken.

    Nor does it celebrate the joys of rooting under dead logs for grubs in order to find enough food to survive the winter…

  • ELF

    Greens and most Democrats are not Vulcans…just lemmings.

    The Democratic press and politicians however privately accept the fact they are the Borg, purposely misleading their collective of mus-informed followers to suit their own ends!

  • Nolan

    I’m kind of green, I guess, but I am perfectly willing to entertain other scientific theories about what’s going on with respect to our planet’s climate. That’s what respecting science means to me. That said, if we formulate policy and act as though climate change is real and does have a human-affected component, what’s the great harm if it does turn out to be untrue? We’ll still have a cleaner Earth, and given that it is a finite space with finite resources, how is that a bad thing?

  • Steve

    What I find most amazing is how closely the Green movement parallels religious faith.

    Imagine if 98% of all priests agreed that there is evil on the Earth that is caused by human activity. And let’s say that a few select priests have spoken with God, recorded the conversation, and were told that God said we must change our evil ways, and donate billions of dollars to the church.

    There would of course be some smarty pants liberal out there who would actually want to hear the recorded conversation. But the priests resist disclosing it because non-believers wouldn’t understand. Then when pressed and ordered by a court to disclose the record, oops, we seem to have misplaced it.

    The left would have a field day ridiculing this if it actually happened. But if you replace ‘priest’ with ‘climate scientist’ and ‘conversation’ with ‘data’,…

  • Tim Kreber

    The same people that mock those who attend church and profess a belief in God embrace the theory of AGW with ferocious zealotry. Reference the recent article where AGW skeptics are considered racists. How that logic works, I don’t know.

    WRM hits the nail on the head with this column. AGW is a form of religion that includes all of the favorite themes of the left: psuedo-science, anti-capitalism, and societal control.

  • Mr. Ruddock

    I see Mr. Heminger’s CS at Berkeley, and I raise him an Aeronautical Engineering from Caltech. I built a career on computational fluid dynamics, including a great deal of thermodynamics. I can say with full confidence that the models the alarmists are using are wrong. They ignore, assume constant, and over simplify many factors that are clearly important (water vapor variability, the SUN, geological activity, land use changes). They have failed all attempts at validation. When the data does not match the models, the alarmists have been known to change the data in order to protect their funding. I am appalled at the sloppiness, poor quality, over reaching conclusions, and outright fraud involved.

  • Zombie Dave

    This article completely ignores the established fact that cosmic rays are the leading cause of hyper calcification, spontaneous combustion, super-stretchiness and invisibility in humans. Also, it fails to note that Vulcans thrive in a hyper-warm climate, and are, ironically, green, at least internally.
    For Gaia’s sake, man — next time read a comic book before carelessly throwing around pop culture references you know nothing about just to color your scientific theories.






  • KTnTexas

    Nolan, if what the green movement was proposing were tweaks to how we live, your cost benefit analysis would be valid. What they want however is a complete reordering of how civilization works. to get to the 350 parts per million CO2 in the next 50 years that is proposed, with a world population of 8 billion we need to emit per ca pita less carbon than we did in the 19th century, pre-industrial revolution. Soo what we are talking about is not a better safe than sorry scenario but a massive devolution of living standards world wide based on what is a young science. A science that despite al gore’s protestations is not settled.

  • JackWayne

    Whether or not there is Man-Made Global Warming is beside the point. The Greens want us to spend trillions to reduce the expected temperature increase of 3-6 degrees by less than 10%. How does this make sense?

  • K2K

    Thanks Mr. Mead. I read same article, and was really hoping Rick Perry would confound everyone last night by mentioning ‘the work being dun by Danish and Swiss particle-physicists on cosmic ray impact on solar winds’.

    Not like anyone is suggesting killing all the cows to reduce methane emissions…yet.

  • Bob

    While I enjoy biased speculation as much as the next guy, maybe you should read an actually informed response to the experiment results:

  • Holbrorp

    Well it’s not capitalism, seems we are all socialist. Who knew.

  • Jimmystalwart

    where is the data on the earth carbon emissions every 24 hours? The great ball of fire burning inside our earth breathes tons of carbon every second.
    Secondly where is the data on carbon eating by the atmosphere and plants.
    Thirdly where is the historical data on the two.
    Fourth, where is the earth warming proof for the last million years?
    Going green should be about economics not fear and individuals being able to create harness and manage their lives by renewables not governments controlling a central grid.

  • Eric

    Bjørn Lomborg at the Copenhagen Consensus Center has always presented a balanced approach to the anthropocentric model of Global Warming.

  • Jay

    I happened to see a clip of Al talking to a “reporter” on Current TV. As usual, he was very condescending towards his critics and dismissive of anyone who questions “settled science”.

    Where that once worked, his performances now seem very tired and shopworn, almost as even he is tiring of defending against the mounting criticism

  • Anthony Esolen

    A couple of things …

    1. No one has yet proved to me that the temperature of Europe now is warmer than it was in the blissful years 1000-1300, when the English began to grow grapes for wine, and when there was actually grain farming on the coasts of Greenland. It is not clear to me that global warming of a few degrees is a bad thing, even if it is occurring and even if man is largely responsible for it. Global cooling, by contrast, would be a terrible thing; witness what happened to European harvests in the 14th century.

    2. I wish people would stop tossing around the word “religion” as a term of insult, and as something intrinsically opposed to reason. Too many of us actually know something about the relationship, mutually beneficial, between faith and reason. What we are describing here is a kind of idolatry, a parody of religion, whereby the honor that is due to God alone is given to something else: like the State, or Sex, or, here, Earth. Naturally it then tangles the idolator in all kinds of foolishness.

    3. The idea that the earth moves around the sun was advanced by Nicholas of Cusa in the 1400’s. Cusanus was a cardinal of the Catholic Church, and a renowned philosopher. Cusanus referred back to Aristarchus and to a tricky passage in Plato (revered by people in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance alike). Copernicus, a Catholic priest, dedicated his work to the current Pope, I believe the reformer Paul III. It caused no great consternation, for several reasons. First, it was dubious in its own right. It preserved the “epicycles” of Ptolemy, though it reduced them in number — therefore it didn’t actually rid the system of its worst problem. Also it did not more accurately describe or predict the motions of the planets. It was, shall we say, an interesting hypothesis which people kicked around for a hundred years. That included the papal astronomers. Everybody began to demand some kind of evidence, one way or another, and that evidence was really impossible at the time to obtain, and some of the arguments on behalf of the heliocentric system were notably bogus (Galileo’s attribution of the tides to the motion of the earth, when most astronomers were attributing it, rightly, to the motion of the sun and the moon). Tycho Brahe, the greatest recorder of astronomical observations, had a cobbled-together compromise between the two systems. The Church did not have anything, really, invested in either system as such. The idea that the earth couldn’t be pushed from its “central” position is a modern invention. Check out Dante’s Paradise, where the “central” position is actually the place on the outermost circumference of the universe as it actually exists. It was no great shakes to be in that center. Hell, after all, was the sinkhole of the universe.

    4. If the current Greens exhibited anything close to the reasoned argumentation of a Thomas Aquinas or an Abelard or an Anselm, we’d have a lot less trouble. I wish people would cease blathering about the Middle Ages, or the Renaissance, or the Church, when they don’t know a thing about the subject.

  • Corlyss

    Expecting the media to stop colluding with their chosen political allies is like expecting Chavez to suddenly become a free-marketeer. Not a freakin’ chance!

  • Brian Astby

    They are not vulcans. They are the BORG. They want to control every aspect of your life.

  • Joseph Somsel

    One needn’t know fancy science to understand the global warming issue. You just have to know a bit about poker.

    A good player of poker certainly knows the odds but that’s not the route to winning. One has to look for the “tells” – the little signs that the other player is lying.

    From my first serious look at the movement, the “tells” told me that it was bunk.

    Take a look at the public development of the issue over the last 20 years but look for the tells. You’ll come to the same conclusion as I did.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service