Sunday, November 22, 2009

Global cooling?

I woke up on Saturday to see the New York Times headline Hacked E-Mail Is New Fodder for Climate Dispute. The New York Times headline editor was restrained while others were far more outraged. As an example, Mish’s blog stated the story as:

It's now official. Much of the hype about global warming is nothing but a complete scam.

Thanks to hackers (or an insider) who broke into The University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and downloaded 156 megaybytes of data including extremely damaging emails, we now know that data supporting the global warming thesis was completely fabricated.

He went on to detail some of the incriminating emails in his blog post about the alleged conspiracy to fudge the data. You can also see the emails here.

Sunspots and global cooling
Before the news of this hacker break-in, there had already been skepticism about the global warming thesis. I had previously speculated on this topic in a post:

What I am writing here may be sacrilege to some people. The popular consensus about Global Warming is that the Earth is undergoing a warming period caused by the effects of industrialization. However, there is another view that global warming is caused by solar activity – sunspots and solar winds.

Currently, the forecast for the latest solar cycle is that it’s late. Such extended cycles have been associated with cooling periods such as the Little Ice Age experienced a few hundred years ago. Indeed, there have been reports that there is more ice in the Arctic (yes – it’s only one data point) and there has been some hand wringing among the scientists about the timing of the solar cycle.

Is this theory about solar activity correct? I have no idea. I do have allow for the possibility that it is a valid one and should the Earth enter a cooling period, this would be bullish for energy demand and result in higher energy prices.

There are links between solar activity, climate and commodity prices. In 1823, William Herschel reported finding a correlation between sunspot activity and wheat prices. In June 2009, NASA announced that a Dalton Minimum is possible, which implies that world could undergo a period of cooling.

I am not investing based on global cooling as my base case, but what happens if Mr. Market decides to price in the possibility of global cooling?

What do you think that would do to energy demand if the Earth were to undergo a period of global cooling?

What are the possible effects on food production and commodity prices?

Just thinking out loud...


Patrick said...

Thats an interesting take, regarding commodity prices, I hadn't thought of that. What you should also consider is how the underlying political dimension of this debate will play out. There's a vested drive to install a global carbon credits market as a panacea for climate change, anyone who understands markets should be able to tell that a credit market cannot offset the risks of emissions destabalizing the climate, it can only distribute risk that the carbon credits will not, at the price paid, be redeemed above par when doing taxes and such. Its just another debt-based political screw job.

So, if there's a genuine debate that emerges based on leaks like this, and it was not "supposed" to emerge according to the vested interests of those who would greatly profit making markets in carbon credits, then we have some interesting chaos. If the carbon markets comes into play the economic knock-on effects would be profound and pervasive, and probably inflationary. If support cannot be rallied to bring a global carbon market to the fore, then we'll get a whole different profile for how most industries run. I can't pretend to know what will happen or even what pricing effects would play out in either case, but maybe as things proceed we'll get a better idea and be able to act on it before prices move dramatically.

keithpiccirillo said...

Apparently Canada started Europe's last ice age when a massive ice wall collapsed.

I get my limited sunspot information from Donald Coxe site, but I can't put much credence on what the information implies.

"What are the possible effects on food production and commodity prices?"

Monsanto the business oligarch seed maker, is the controversial genetically modified organism stock that has the moat and would be an invaluable holding.
Third world countries and Europe/northern hemisphere regions may have to resort to using a seed strain that gives short term results at the cost of environmental soil destruction with associated longer term detrimental health conditions of their populace.

EconomicDisconnect said...

Great point, I had not thought about it that way.