NOTE: This article about
'skeptic' climate scientist Nir Shaviv was published and then quickly
pulled from Forbes.com. We publish it here to save the trouble of using
the Wayback Machine to read it. The Internet is Forever.
The U.S. auto industry and regulators in California and Washington
appear deadlocked over stiff Obama-era fuel-efficiency standards that
automakers oppose and the Trump administration have vowed to roll back –
an initiative that has environmental activists up in arms.
California and four automakers favor compromise, while the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports the president’s position
that the federal standards are too strict. The EPA argues that forcing
automakers to build more fuel efficient cars will make them less
affordable, causing consumers to delay trading older, less efficient
vehicles. Complicating matters is California’s authority to create its
own air quality standards, which the White House vows to end.
However the impasse is resolved, the moment looks ripe to revisit the
root of this multifactorial dustup: namely, the scientific “consensus”
that CO2 emissions from vehicles and other sources are pushing the earth
to the brink of climate catastrophe.
In a modest office on the campus of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, an
Israeli astrophysicist patiently explains why he is convinced that the
near-unanimous judgments of climatologists are misguided. Nir Shaviv,
chairman of the university’s physics department, says that his research
and that of colleagues, suggests that rising CO2 levels, while hardly
insignificant, play only a minor role compared to the influence of the
sun and cosmic radiation on the earth’s climate.
“Global warming clearly is a problem, though not in the catastrophic
terms of Al Gore’s movies or environmental alarmists,” said Shaviv.
“Climate change has existed forever and is unlikely to go away. But CO2
emissions don’t play the major role. Periodic solar activity does.”
Shaviv, 47, fully comprehends that his scientific conclusions
constitute a glaring rebuttal to the widely-quoted surveys showing that
97% of climate scientists agree that human activity – the combustion of
fossil fuels – constitutes the principle reason for climate change.
“Only people who don’t understand science take the 97% statistic
seriously,” he said. “Survey results depend on who you ask, who answers
and how the questions are worded. In any case, science is not a
democracy. Even if 100% of scientists believe something, one person with
good evidence can still be right.”
History is replete with lone voices toppling scientific orthodoxies.
Astronomers deemed Pluto the ninth planet – until they changed their
minds. Geologists once regarded tectonic plate theory, the movement of
continents, as nonsense. Medicine were 100% certain that stomach
resulted from stress and spicy food, until an Australian researcher
proved bacteria the culprit and won a Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Lest anyone dismiss Shaviv on the basis of his scientific credentials
or supposed political agenda, consider the following: He enrolled at
Israel’s Technion University – the country’s equivalent of MIT – at the
age of 13 and earned an MA while serving in the Israel Defense Force’s
celebrated 8200 Intelligence unit. He returned to Technion, where he
earned his doctorate, afterward completing post-doctoral work at
California Institute of Technology and the Canadian Institute for
Theoretical Astrophysics. He also has been an Einstein Fellow at The
Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
In other words, he knows tons more about science than Donald Trump or Al Gore.
As for politics “in American terms, I would describe myself as
liberal on most domestic issues, somewhat hawkish on security,” he said.
Nonetheless, the Trump administration’s position on global climate
change, he said, is correct insofar as it rejects the orthodoxy of the
United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The
IPCC’s findings and conclusions are updated every six years; the latest
report, released this week, noted that deforestation and agribusiness
are contributing to CO2 emissions and aggravating climate change.
In 2003, Shaviv and research partner Prof. Jan Veizer published a
paper on the subject of climate sensitivity, namely how much the earth’s
average temperature would be expected to change if the amount of CO2 in
the atmosphere is doubled. Comparing geological records and
temperature, the team came up with a projected change of 1.0 to 1.5
degrees Celsius – much less than the 1.5 to 4.5 degree change the IPCC
has used since it began issuing its reports. The reason for the much
wider variation used by the IPCC, he said, was that they relied almost
entirely on simulations and no one knew how to quantify the effect of
clouds – which affects how much radiant energy reaches the earth – and
“Since then, literally billions have been spent on climate research,”
he said. Yet “the conventional wisdom hasn’t changed. The proponents of
man-made climate change still ignore the effect of the sun on the
earth’s climate, which overturns our understanding of twentieth-century
He explained: “Solar activity varies over time. A major variation is
roughly eleven years or more, which clearly affects climate. This
principle has been generally known – but in 2008 I was able to quantify
it by using sea level data. When the sun is more active, there is a
rise in sea level here on earth. Higher temperature makes water expand.
When the sun is less active, temperature goes down and the sea level
falls – the correlation is as clear as day.
“Based on the increase of solar activity during the twentieth
century, it should account for between half to two-thirds of all climate
change,” he said. “That, in turn, implies that climate sensitivity to
CO2 should be about 1.0 degree when the amount of CO2 doubles.”
The link between solar activity and the heating and cooling of the
earth is indirect, he explained. Cosmic rays entering the earth’s
atmosphere from the explosive death of massive stars across the universe
play a significant role in the formation of so-called cloud
condensation nuclei needed for the formation of clouds. When the sun is
more active, solar wind reduces the rate of cosmic rays entering the
atmosphere. A more active solar wind leads to fewer cloud formation
nuclei, producing clouds that are less white and less reflective, thus
warming the earth.
“Today we can demonstrate and prove the sun’s effect on climate based
on a wide range of evidence, from fossils that are hundreds of millions
of years old to buoy readings to satellite altimetry data from the past
few decades,” he said. “We also can reproduce and mimic atmospheric
conditions in the laboratory to confirm the evidence.
"All of it shows the same thing, the bulk of climate change is caused
by the sun via its impact on atmospheric charge,” he said. “Which means
that most of the warming comes from nature, whereas a doubling of the
amount of CO2 raises temperature by only 1.0 to 1.5 degrees. A freshman
physics student can see this.”
Nevertheless, the world of climate science has “mostly ignored” his
research findings. “Of course, I’m frustrated,” he said. “Our findings
are very inconvenient for conventional wisdom” as summarized by the
IPCC. “We know that there have been very large variations of climate in
the past that have little to do with the burning of fossil fuels. A
thousand years ago the earth was as warm as it is today. During the
Little Ice Age three hundred years ago the River Thames froze more
often. In the first and second IPCC reports these events were
mentioned. In 2001 they disappeared. Suddenly no mention of natural
warming, no Little Ice Age. The climate of the last millennium was
presented as basically fixed until the twentieth century. This is a
kind of Orwellian cherry-picking to fit a pre-determined narrative.”
Shaviv says that he has accepted no financial support for his
research by the fossil fuel industry. Experiments in Denmark with Prof.
Henrik Svensmark and others to demonstrate the effect of cosmic rays on
cloud formation were supported by the Carlsberg Foundation. In the U.S.
the conservative Heartland Institute and the European Institute for
Climate and Energy have invited him to speak, covering travel expenses.
“The real problem is funding from funding agencies like the National
Science Foundation because these proposals have to undergo review by
people in a community that ostracizes us,” he said, because of his
“Global warming is not a purely scientific issue any more,” he said.
“It has repercussions for society. It has also taken on a moralistic,
almost religious quality. If you believe what everyone believes, you are
a good person. If you don’t, you are a bad person. Who wants to be a
Any scientist who rejects the UN’s IPCC report, as he does, will have
trouble finding work, receiving research grants or publishing, he said.
In Shaviv’s view, the worldwide crusade to limit and eventually ban
the use of fossil fuels isn’t just misguided “it comes with real world
social and economic consequences.” Switching to more costly energy
sources, for example, will drive industry from more industrialized
countries to poorer countries that can less afford wind turbines and
“It may be a financial sacrifice the rich are willing to make, he
said. “Even in developed countries the pressure to forego fossil fuel
puts poor people in danger of freezing during the winter for lack of
affordable home heating. The economic growth of third world countries
will be inhibited if they cannot borrow from the World Bank to develop
cheap fossil-based power plants. These are serious human problems in the
here and now, not in a theoretical future.”
For Shaviv, the rejection and closed-mindedness his minority view
provoke may contain a silver lining. Just think of the acclaim that
awaits if his research -- and scientific reconsideration of the current
orthodoxy -- one day proves persuasive.