Saturday, September 13, 2008

GOP Invents a New Junk Science: 'Galaxy Warming'!

by Len Hart, the Existentialist Cowboy

The GOP is prepared to embrace all kinds of junk science if it will get them off the hook for supporting industries, technologies and politicians that support disastrous but profitable policies. These deniers of 'global warming' have more than money riding on their attempts to discredit science.

They will deny 'global warming' for the threat it poses to their investments and for the psychological threat it represents to their self-esteem, their ideologies, myths, lies and shibboleths. To this end, 'deniers of global warming', primarily the GOP, have invented an entirely new phenomenon: galaxy warming. Not content to blame the victim, they will blame the universe!

My article Sarah Palin Denies Global Warming, Says Polar Bears Not Endangered drew the following comment on another forum:
I find this global warming thing a bit humorus [sic] at times. The whole galaxy is warming up, it has very little to nothing to do with our use of gasoline or coal, it has to do with changes on the sun.
This is a perfect example of how self-styled debunkers of 'junk science have succumbed to 'junk science. Even if the galaxy were heating up, it would have little if no effect on earth. Global warming is here and now. This is not the first time the GOP has tried to invent an entirely new phenomenon. Our 'junk scientist' asserts that what we call 'global warming can be attributed to two causes: 1) the Galaxy; 2) the sun.

Let's consider the 'sun' first. Certainly, the sun warms the earth and, if the sun suddenly winked out, the earth would get very, very cold very quickly.

The sun is not getting warmer, rather, it is cooling as it runs out of hydrogen. Scientists expect that in about 5 billion years, our sun will have become a red giant. As a 'red giant, it may swallow up many planets now in orbit, unless their orbits expand to accommodate a much, much bigger sun.
When the Sun becomes a red giant it will steadily lose mass and affect the orbits of the planets, making it hard to predict what will happen to them. Scientists think it is likely that Mercury and Venus will evaporate as the Sun’s surface expands outwards, but the fate of Earth is less certain., Earth could survive a red-giant Sun
Let's take the sun out of the equation. The nearest star to earth is Proxima Centauri, about 4.2 light years from earth. On a very clear night, far, far from city lights you might seek out Proxima Centauri with a good pair of 10x50 binoculars and a very steady tripod. Serious amateur astronomers will have a reflecting telescope, a steady mount and a clock drive. It is highly doubtful that the amount of 'heat' from Proxima Centauri on earth is measurable and certainly not in our life times.

Radiation causing 'heat' will dissipate rapidly with distance in accordance with the inverse square law. In other words, heat felt on earth from outer space is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source of any radiation. Consider how infinitesimal the energy reaching earth from stars about 100,000 light years or farther from earth! Even if interstellar heat arrives in our lifetimes, it may be be immeasurable.

Nothing travels faster than light. If there are any changes whatsoever in the Galaxy, it's gonna be a long, long, long time before any changes are felt whatsoever. What we know of the center of our galaxy now is really all about what it looked like some 1,400 years ago. That applies to heat, or more properly, the radiation causing heat, indeed, the entire spectrum. Portions of the galaxy could be exploding right now, releasing enormous amounts of radiation of various sorts, and we would not know about it for another 1,400 years, the distance from the sun to the center of the galaxy.
Moreover, National Geographic reports that "...Sunspots alter the amount of energy Earth gets from the sun, but not enough to impact global climate change. See: National Geographic: Don't Blame Sun for Global Warming:
Sunspot-driven changes to the sun's power are simply too small to account for the climatic changes observed in historical data from the 17th century to the present, research suggests.
The difference in brightness between the high point of a sunspot cycle and its low point is less than 0.1 percent of the sun's total output.
"If you run that back in time to the 17th century using sunspot records, you'll find that this amplitude variance is negligible for climate," Foukal said.
--National Geographic, Don't Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says
I am of the opinion that the sun has become a convenient 'fall guy' for a political mindset that seeks out 'fall guys' to cover its own inadequacies.
I think some people have suggested that increasing solar intensity over millennia. But it seems to be the consensus that the current warming can’t be explained by observed changes in the sun. I’ll quote from something I wrote on another blog:

From a 2003 Science Daily article NASA Study Finds Increasing Solar Trend That Can Change Climate:
“Although the inferred increase of solar irradiance in 24 years, about 0.1 percent, is not enough to cause notable climate change, the trend would be important if maintained for a century or more. Satellite observations of total solar irradiance have obtained a long enough record (over 24 years) to begin looking for this effect.” (emphasis mine)
Note that we are only at the beginning stages, and there is not conclusive evidence of any significant solar effect. If the observed changes had been consistent over a century, they could have contributed a small amount to global warming. Indeed, the scientist who performed the study said: “Solar forcing would provide only about one-fourth as much warming [as GHG], if the solar trend persists over the same period. Solar forcing could be significant, but not dominant.” Quoted from here.
Another science daily article, dated 1999, mentions a study that concludes that the sun does indeed affect Earth’s climate.
But: According to Shindell, the new study also confirms that changing levels of energy from the sun are not a major cause of global warming…. The GISS model agrees that the solar increases do not have the ability to cause large global temperature increases, leading Shindell to conclude that greenhouse gasses are indeed playing the dominant role.”\
If you’re still not convinced, back to the NAS report on Surface Temperature Reconstructions I quoted above: “The rising temperatures observed since 1978 are particularly noteworthy because the rate of increase is so high and because, during the same period, the energy reaching the Earth from the Sun had been measured precisely enough to conclude that Earth’s warming was not due to changes in the Sun.”
          --William Wilson, posting on: Why Nature Matters
When the sun becomes a red giant and absorbs the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, the orbit of Earth --at 1.5 AU distant --will no longer be habitable. By that time, however, space travel may have become routine. Like an old sci-fi flick of the 50s, mankind may simply migrate to a a new frontier, an 'undiscovered country' estimated to stretch 'well into the Kuiper Belt'. A very, very ancient history will repeat itself as icy worlds melt like an older earth emerged from an ice age. The new residents will not find woolly mammoths as did their ancient ancestors on earth but they may very well find water beyond the orbit of Pluto.
Back to the question. will the Earth survive? According to Schroder and Smith, the answer is no. Even though the Earth could expand to an orbit 50% larger than today's orbit, it won't get the chance. The expanding Sun will engulf the Earth just before it reaches the tip of the red giant phase. And the Sun would still have another 0.25 AU and 500,000 years to grow.
Once inside the Sun's atmosphere, the Earth will collide with particles of gas. Its orbit will decay, and it will spiral inward.
If the Earth were just a little further from the Sun, at 1.15 AU, it would be able to survive the expansion phase. Although it's science fiction, the authors suggest that future technologies could be used to speed up the Earth's spiraling outward from the Sun.
I'm not sure why, but thinking about this far future of the Earth gives an insight into human psychology. People are genuinely worried about a future billions of years away. Even though the Earth will be scorched much sooner, its oceans boiled away, and turned into a molten ball of rock, it's this early destruction by the Sun that feels so sad. 
--Universe Today, Will Earth Survive When the Sun Becomes a Red Giant?
If we are genuinely concerned about a future billions of years distant, then why are we so myopically unconcerned about what we do to earth today? If we cannot accept responsibility for what we have done to earth today, what hope is there that we might effect a futuristic salvation some billions years distant? That seems to be the idea. If the GOP mindset can convince you to believe in 'galaxy warming', they are off the hook for several billion years. As a propaganda technique, that beats even 'supply side economics' and 'no child left behind'.

An after thought --this is not the first time the GOP has tried to rewrite physics.
Scientists can finally explain why the Twin Towers collapsed on September 11, despite the temperature of the fires being well below the 1,500C melting point of the steel girders holding up the buildings.
The discovery that unusual magnetic forces within the girders made them weak at temperatures of about 500C explains away the conspiracy theories that have spread like wildfire since the disaster.
--Magnetic forces to blame for 9/11 tower collapse,
Ummmmmm 'unusual magnetic forces' eh? Nah...methinks, it ware the li'l people who live in the woods! Aaaaaaaaaarrgh! It ware the li'l people who did it!

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