Although it has been dealt with elsewhere1, this bizarre rant from Barnaby Joyce was just too hilarious to pass up. Surprisingly, Joyce initially said he accepted that the climate crisis was making Australia hotter and drier, which is a first for him. He had previously claimed that climate change was “an indulgent and irrelevant debate because, even if climate change turns out to exist one day, we will have absolutely no impact on it whatsoever”. He has also said that he was “always sceptical [that] anybody’s going to change the environment”2,3,4.
You may have actually heard it before, but if not, then it might be wise to sit down, or if unable to do so, to hold onto something solid to support yourself. However, in this latest brain-fart, Barnaby was not wishing to cave in to reality completely, and was flailing around in the hope of finding someone else to blame for all the bushfires. In this, Barnaby Joyce has found another target: it’s the Sun. If you have recovered your composure, I’ll relate what he actually said, despite it being largely incomprehensible: “There are a range of things that affect the climate and on a global scale, you should be part of it, and acknowledge it would have an effect and I acknowledge that there are other issues as well… There’s just the oscillation of the seasons. There’s a change in the magnetic field of the sun.”1
Scientists generally are fairly circumspect about how they describe such views, because they know much more about the topic than almost all members of the general public and certainly all members of federal parliament. Thus, Associate Professor Nerilie Abram, a climate scientist at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, called Joyce’s comments “ludicrous and grossly ill-informed”. She added that she didn’t “know of any scientific study that says that”, and that variations in the sun’s magnetic field had a minute effect on the earth’s climate, and are not causing climate change. Associate Professor Pete Strutton from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, said it was difficult to analyse Joyce’s ‘claim’ “because it is so wacky”. He added: ”We know what causes climate change”1.
The sun has what is called ‘the solar cycle’ in which the polarity of the sun’s magnetic field reverses about every 11 years. This means that the north and south poles of the sun’s magnetic field swap places5. The earth’s magnetic field does the same but the timing of the change in the Earth’s polarity is irregular6. However, it is not the changes in the sun’s magnetic field, but variations in the sun’s irradiance (the amount of radiation coming from the sun) which were of interest to those scientists initially studying climate change. Since it is the Sun’s energy that drives the weather system, scientists naturally wondered whether they might connect climate change with solar irradiance. However, the Sun seemed to be stable over the timescale of human civilization. Attempts to discover cyclic variations in weather and connect them with the 11-year solar cycle, or other possible solar cycles ranging up to a few centuries long, gave results that were ambiguous at best. A 1976 study demonstrated that irregular variations in solar surface activity, a few centuries long, were connected with major climate shifts. However, the mechanism was uncertain. The next crucial question was whether a rise in the Sun’s activity could explain the global warming seen in the 20th century? By the 1990s, there was a tentative answer: minor solar variations could indeed have been partly responsible for some past fluctuations but recent continuous warming from the rise in greenhouse gases far outweighed any solar effects7. This has become clearer in recent decades as the warming of the earth has been decoupled from the solar irradiance. The radiation from the sun is decreasing, but the Earth continues warming8.
It is hilarious that halfwits like Barnaby Joyce seem to believe that they can read any garbage on the internet and in so doing can glean an insight that climate scientists have somehow missed. Climate scientists have been studying this stuff for many decades, and almost all of them would have vastly more knowledge and vastly greater intelligence than Barnaby Joyce. Unlike Abram and Strutton, who are constrained by lack of anonymity, I am not, so I can say what I like about Barnaby Joyce. His idiocy is greater than most other right wing nut jobs, and knowing what to say about him and his monumental stupidity is difficult without resorting to expletive laced abuse. He is so stupid, I suspect he could be a stupid person’s image of an even stupider person. Given the bizarre nature of this brain-fart, it is quite possible that he has lost his marbles. In addition, it makes you wonder about the competence of the people who vote for him.