The ozone hole did it

(Jan 10, 2010) Climate change is real and man-made, explains University of Waterloo professor Qin-Bin Lu, author of a new study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal, Physics Reports.

Professor Lu also explains that the climate change crisis is over. Thanks to an international environmental treaty, the planet is no longer in peril. We have, in fact, begun a long cooling period that will bring Earth’s temperatures back to normal.

The man-made cause of global warming is not CO2 and the international treaty that saved the planet is not the Kyoto Protocol. Rather, says Dr. Lu, the true cause of global warming has been CFCs, or chlorofluorocarbons, a class of chemicals that was once widely used in aerosol cans and refrigeration. As CFC use soared in the decades following World War II, he explains, the globe started warming dramatically. The world stopped warming dramatically when government regulations began to phase out CFCs, an event that culminated in the western world in 2000. Almost immediately afterward, in 2002, the world began to cool as CFCs started to diminish in our atmosphere.

The heroes in this tale are environmentalists and world leaders such as U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who got together to sign the Montreal Protocol of 1987. This protocol was designed to stop the Ozone Hole from developing above the Antarctic by ridding the planet of ozone-destroying CFCs. Little did either the environmentalists or the world leaders recognize at the time, explains Professor Lu, that their actions would also eliminate the threat to the planet of global warming.

Professor Lu, a path-breaking scientist in the field of ozone protection, made his CO2 discovery by accident — he was looking for culprits in the formation of the ozone hole over Antarctica. A chief suspect was CO2: Climate models produced by climatologists showed that CO2 would have devastating effects on the ozone layer, significantly enlarging the ozone hole over Antarctica and dramatically enlarging it over the Arctic. But when Dr. Lu compared the imagined output of the climate models with the actual measurements taken real-time by satellites and weather balloons, the models turned out to be soaring failures.

 “Warming on Earth’s surface between 1950 and 2000 is pretty much due to CFCs,” says Prof. Qin-Bin Lu. Photo credit NASA.

“I didn’t see any CO2 effect on temperature or ozone depletion over the South Pole from 1956 to 2008,” explained Dr. Lu, surprised at how totally different the real-world measurements were from those that the climate model predicted. The real-world measurements showed CO2 to be largely irrelevant – “the global warming on Earth’s surface between 1950 and 2000 is pretty much due to CFCs,” he concluded. “The models say that CO2 is a major greenhouse gas but the facts show otherwise.”

In contrast, CFCs have long been known to be a greenhouse gas that, on a molecule per molecule basis, is 10,000 times more potent than CO2. Professor Lu’s satellite and balloon measurements showed that factor of 10,000 to have been a gross underestimate!

Had CFCs never been widely used in our air conditioners and refrigerators, Dr. Lu believes, the Earth would not have warmed in the last century. And had CFCs not been banned, he would not be predicting a period of global cooling.

But with the CFC ban, and the subsequent phase-out of this ozone destroying chemical, global warming stopped and, early this decade, a period of global cooling began. This cooling will last “at least 50 years, and possibly 70 years” as the global temperatures return to their pre-CFC levels, he explains, barring the rise of an alternative to CFC, or the introduction of another greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

The cooling, he predicts, will be gentle – “after 2010 or so, the globe temperature will experience a small bounce back but a general declining tendency will not change.” Neither will the new levels be worrisome – Earth will find itself back at the levels of the 1950s, which themselves hadn’t changed much over the previous century.

Dr Lu’s study is now published and the reviews he has received to date have been favourable but he may find himself writing a postscript in three year’s time. Like hundreds of other scientists around the world, Dr. Lu may have unwittingly relied on invalid data for a portion of his study. His real-time satellite and balloon data, which shows CO2 does not cause climate change, is not in dispute. Not so for the historical temperature data, on which he based his estimates of how much global cooling we face as Earth’s temperatures return to their historic pre-CFC levels. “My temperature data comes from the UK – the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia University,” he reveals when questioned.

As a result of the Climategate Scandal, this temperature data is now in doubt. Investigations into the Climategate emails are underway at East Anglia and the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. More significantly, CRU’s data is so suspect that the UK Met Office, which partnered with the Climate Research Unit in producing datasets for researchers, is undertaking a mammoth three-year investigation during which it will re-examine 160 years of original temperature data to determine to what extent, if any, CRU cooked the books.

Because of all this uncertainty, “I cannot say how reliable their data is,” states Professor Lu, who has done his best to reassure himself that all is in order. When the Climategate scandal erupted as his study was being completed, he cross-checked the CRU data to that of NOAA, another prominent organization, and then he cross-checked his data again when CRU’s partner, the UK Met Office, released more data. “All of them look similar,” Professor Lu says.  Professor Lu’s cross-checks provide scant reassurance, however, because all these data-handling agencies had drawn their data from the same tainted pool. Although Professor Lu declines to comment on the Climategate scandal, he cannot be confident that his study will not need to be redone in three year’s time, when the UK Met Office completes its re-examination.

One calculation in his study that may change with revised CRU data: His 50-70 year estimate of the coming global cooling may change by two or three decades. One calculation that won’t change: CO2’s contribution to global warming remains approximately nil.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.

Read the sources for this column:

Study shows CFCs, cosmic rays major culprits for global warming

Cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced reactions of halogenated molecules adsorbed on ice surfaces: Implications for atmospheric ozone depletion

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, Jan. 10, 2010
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