The Forgotten Sun: Climate Catastrophe is Called Off

Failure to comprehensively examine all the drivers of climate change may produce a falsified fear of a dangerously overheated planet.



By Sebastian Lüning
Geologist, Lisbon, Portugal,,

A well-known natural cold phase shaped the climate of our planet between the 15th to 19th centuries. This so-called ‘Little Ice Age’ ended around 1850 which accidentally coincides with the beginning of the industrial age. Average global temperatures have risen by 0.8°C since then. Notably, the warming has paused for the last 16 years. When speaking about ‘global warming’, very people are aware of the fact that our reference value for the warming does not represent a neutral, longterm average temperature but the extreme cold of the Little Ice Age.

The lack of historical and geological perspective also leads to a number of other misunderstandings. For many years it was suggested that the pre-industrial temperature and extreme weather history before 1850 might have been monotonous and stable. Meanwhile, a large number of palaeoclimatological and geological studies have comprehensively demonstrated that this model can no longer be upheld. Over the past 10,000 years, temperatures and extreme weather have been continously fluctuating, following milennial, centennial and multi-decadal natural cycles. While some of these changes are driven by auto-cyclical processes originating in the climate system itself, other fluctuations are clearly linked to external drivers, namely solar activity changes.

A large number of scientific papers point to a much strong involvement of solar-driven climate change than previously assumed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Is it pure coincidence that the 20th century warming occurred at a time when the solar magnetic field more than doubled and during the second half of this period reached an activity level that has rarely been achieved over the last 10,000 years? It is further demonstrated that prominent Atlantic and Pacific ocean cycles (AMO, PDO) with periods of about 60 years modulate the longer term temperature development and between 1977-1998 have led to an amplified temperature increase which the IPCC has mistaken as a long-term warming rate.

Despite all this, the IPCC in their computer models consider the solar effects as negligible. Their stated reason is that solar activity changes alone are physically too weak and require an amplifying mechanism to account for the observed temperature variations. One promising model for exactly such an amplifying model has been proposed by the Danish physicist Henrik Svensmark, but is still in the process of being researched. Surprisingly, the IPCC chose to ignore the inconvenient solar climate driver altogether, on the basis that the physical amplification mechanism is still not fully understood and under debate. By doing this, however, the IPCC runs into the serious problem that its current climate models cannot explain the climate history of the past 10,000 years. But if these models fail so dramatically in corroborating evidence from the past, can we really expect them to be of great help for future climate predictions? Clearly, models without a proper history match have little to no predictive power – this is well known in all other fields of science and engineering.

What is little known in the public is that CO2 also requires a strong amplifier if it is to aggressively shape future climate as envisaged by the IPCC. CO2 alone without the so-called feedbacks would only generate a moderate warming of 1.1°C per CO2 doubling. The IPCC now assumes that strong amplification processes are at work, including water vapour and cloud effects, which, like the solar amplification candidates, are also still poorly understood. In the case of CO2, the limited knowledge of the physical process did not stop the IPCC from making wide use of such amplifiers in their virtual climate computer models. It is these shaky foundations on which the IPCC bases its alarming prognoses of a temperature rise of up to 4.5°C for each doubling of CO2.

Most solar physicists forecast that solar activity will decline significantly over the coming decades, a process that has already started showing in the past few years. For example, in 2010 the intensity of the solar magnetic field dropped to one of its lowest levels in the last 150 years. This means the sun will be set at its low burn mode for the decades ahead. Given the significant solar contribution to climate change in the past and the probably lower climate significance of CO2 than suggested by the IPCC, global warming may be halted for a while, until it resumes at a low pace around 2030/2040. From calculations honouring the natural climate pattern of the past, we expect that by 2100 temperatures will not rise by more than 1°C. This is drastically less than the temperature rise advocated by the IPCC It therefore becomes ever clearer that climate catastrophe is called off and the fear of a dangerously overheated planet will soon go down in the history books as a classical science error.

Once the dust of the heated climate debate has settled, it must be hoped that certain scientists will return to reason and start considering the whole set of evidence, and not just a selective part that best fits with their once-championed story. Rather than being largely settled, the debate continues and further climate questions need to be addressed in a neutral and open-minded way.

Biography  Dr. habil. Sebastian Luening, born in 1970, holds a doctorate in geology/palaeontology and has been working for 20 years on the reconstruction of natural ecological changes of the geological past. After research at the Universities of Wales, London, Manchester and Bremen, he took on a visiting professorship at the University of Vienna in 2005/2006. He has received several awards both for his university studies and academic research. Since 2007 he has been working as Africa expert in the oil and gas industry. Luening is a reviewer for several international geoscience journals and has been evaluating study proposals for a number of national science foundations. He has been a member of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) since 1991. Together with Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt he co-authored the book ‘The Neglected Sun’ which was published in 2013 and highlights the important role of natural climate cycles in past and current climate change.


  1. Keith Martin says:

    I am glad that different opinions are being expressed here. Dr Luning for example is a noted skeptic and the balance provided by different views provides perspective. It also demonstrates, that contrary to current dogma, the debate is far from over. There is no consensus on the relative weights of CO2-driven climate change and natural variability. Further, science has never progressed by following a consensus. This is true of Newton’s view on gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, or plate tectonics. In the last case, in the 1950’s the consensus view was that continents are fixed, and the fixists even had Einstein endorse their view in 1955 just before his death. Of course this was turned over by plate tectonic theory and its corroboration via global positioning system (GPS) data.

    This is intended as constructive criticism. I was disappointed by the Warren questionnaire. To me, the questions were too simplistic. Almost all skeptics as well as warmists agree that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Almost all agree that mankind is having some effect. But neither of these are the true issue. The real issue is the relative weight of CO2-driven climate change versus natural variability.

    Furthermore, the questionnaire went on to ask questions about policy for dealing with climate change. Obviously, such questions are based on the assumption that a) the scale of CO2-driven change is a problem, b) that we are capable of effecting change, and c) that even if a) and b) are true, it is economically worthwhile to attempt change now. For these reasons, this year I did not complete the questionnaire.

    The IPCC has convinced politicians and the Main Stream Media that there is a problem. Meanwhile, the IPCC in its report in October 2013 for example shows a decreasing trend in Arctic sea ice over the last 30 years but fails to show the increasing trend in Antarctica (in direct contrast to their models). Note also that this month Antarctic sea ice reached the highest level ever recorded in the satellite era. The IPCC shows decreasing Northern Hemisphere snow cover for Spring, but fail to show increasing snow cover in Autumn and Winter.
    100% of the IPCC endorsed models show increasing temperatures extending from the 1980’s through the 2010’s and 2020’s whereas reality shows global temperatures have stood still for between 12 and 17.7 years (depending on which data set is used). This implies that the so-called “97%” consensus is irrelevant given that 100% of the climate models are wrong.
    The USHN temperature data-set only shows increasing temperature trends once adjustments have been made. The raw data show a different picture. These adjustments are on-going. Surely, the real effect of time of observation (TOBS), infilling and gridding needs rigourous review.
    Tide guage data show sealevels rising at 1.6 mm / year whereas the GIA adjustment to satellite data pushes that rate of increase to 3.2 mm / year. The tide-gauge data shows no acceleration in the rate, implying that the natural rate, on-going since 1750, is continuing as normal. An acceleration would be required to imply an anthropogenic effect.
    The emphasis on recent times has taken away the perspective provided by historic and geological scale change. Isotopic and geochemical data show CO2, temperature, and sealevel have been higher in the past. Over the last 1 million years the planet has, all on its own, repeatedly switched from ice age to interglacial, a change that implies between 8 and 10 Degree C change. Meanwhile, the temperature change being discussed in terms of “global warming is less than 1 Degree C. In other words, a change that is less than 10% of the known natural variability is being ascribed to CAGW. More worryingly, changes to our energy mix and energy strategy have already been enacted on this basis.

    Regarding policy, the above shows that the case for CAGW is far from secure. On the contrary, more and more evidence (as noted above) suggests that natural variabilty trumps CAGW (otherwise there would be no standstill in global temperatures. As they say, if you can’t explain the pause, you don’t know the cause). Even then studies have shown that CAGW may cause a reduction in future GDP of 2%. Meanwhile the policy-driven cure will cost 4% of GDP. It is clearly not a good idea to spend more on the cure than the predicted negative impact.

    Links and evidence can be provided if required.
    best wishes, Keith Martin

    • Angus Warren says:

      Dear Keith – thank you for taking the trouble to comment. Your first paragraph reminds me that all scientific theories are, in fact, hypotheses. You also picked up on the question on policy, Q7, and this was the hardest to design in the survey for the reason you point out. In the end Q7 was written to probe policy responses to pollution/emissions in general, rather than global warming (or climate change) specifically. I had to ask the question though, because even those in the “No” camp (if I can call it that) will be asked to take a view on policy, if they loose the debate. Best regards. Angus

  2. Adrian Heafford says:

    For the last few hundred thousand years CO2 levels were between 180-300 ppm. Then since the industrial revolution they have jumped to 400 ppm. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. I look at the close correlation between CO2 levels and temperature in the ice cores over long periods of time. That is has an effect is not in doubt – what people are unsure of is the actual degree of warming we will experience as a result and just how bad the feed back mechanisms (melting permafrost and methane release, albedo effect) will be.
    I have seen papers on the temperature rises caused by radiative forcing which do indicate sun spots and the like have an effect (0.1C from memory) but not the same as CO2. You can see the global temperature trends have an 11 year cycle from the data and the 11 year oscillations are dwarfed by the general rise. One of the problems is the rate of change of CO2 as much as the actual amount in the atmosphere. Comparisons have been made with the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum when CO2 levels rose sharply.
    One problem is that people quote rises of 1 degree and make them sound small mainly because of our experience of weather outdoors – 14 degrees is little different to 15 degrees in our experience. However that average global rise is not equally distributed (much more in the Arctic than the tropics) and we have to take into account the expansion of the oceans, not just ice melting.

    • Adrian,
      Thanks for your comment. I agree that CO2 has a warming effect and that the exact amount (‘climate sensitivity’) is a key question in the climate debate. Nevertheless, the ice cores do not help in this question. Interestingly the temperature changes LEAD the CO2 changes by about 700 years over the past 400,000 years. That means, CO2 cannot be the driver for temperature during the glacial-interglacial cycles. Furthermore, the PETM is very poorly understood. The CO2 budget and warming does not match by far.

      1 degree C warming since 1850 is quite a lot. However, this is the normal range we have always experienced. We had the same temperatures already 1000 years back during the Medieval Warm Times. What’s new?

      The climate effect of solar activity changes does not play out over 11 years, this is too short. Climate needs longer times to react to reach equilibrium and fully implement the solar change impulse. The IPCC radiative forcing for the sun is much too low and does not match geological observations from the past 10,000 years.


  3. Roy Lord says:

    Interesting articles, I enjoyed reading them, obviously by individuals well versed in the subject matter.
    I would like to believe that our respective governments are well advised on the subject matter but fear that the Global Warming pressure groups are still winning the day and stifling reasonable and sensible scientific research.

  4. Governments appear to be listening only (probably for strategic reason) to “climate scientists”; however, they are missing input from “climate engineers” to help make society’s investment decisions which consider the risks, cost, benefits, impacts, etc.

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