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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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Sun & climate: moving in opposite directions

What the science says...

Select a level... Basic Intermediate Advanced

The sun's energy has decreased since the 1980s but the Earth keeps warming faster than before.

Climate Myth...

It's the sun

"Over the past few hundred years, there has been a steady increase in the numbers of sunspots, at the time when the Earth has been getting warmer. The data suggests solar activity is influencing the global climate causing the world to get warmer." (BBC)

Over the last 35 years the sun has shown a cooling trend. However global temperatures continue to increase. If the sun's energy is decreasing while the Earth is warming, then the sun can't be the main control of the temperature.

Figure 1 shows the trend in global temperature compared to changes in the amount of solar energy that hits the Earth. The sun's energy fluctuates on a cycle that's about 11 years long. The energy changes by about 0.1% on each cycle. If the Earth's temperature was controlled mainly by the sun, then it should have cooled between 2000 and 2008. 

TSI vs. T
Figure 1: Annual global temperature change (thin light red) with 11 year moving average of temperature (thick dark red). Temperature from NASA GISS. Annual Total Solar Irradiance (thin light blue) with 11 year moving average of TSI (thick dark blue). TSI from 1880 to 1978 from Krivova et al 2007. TSI from 1979 to 2015 from the World Radiation Center (see their PMOD index page for data updates). Plots of the most recent solar irradiance can be found at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics LISIRD site.


The solar fluctuations since 1870 have contributed a maximum of 0.1 °C to temperature changes. In recent times the biggest solar fluctuation happened around 1960. But the fastest global warming started in 1980.

Figure 2 shows how much different factors have contributed recent warming. It compares the contributions from the sun, volcanoes, El Niño and greenhouse gases. The sun adds 0.02 to 0.1 °C. Volcanoes cool the Earth by 0.1-0.2 °C. Natural variability (like El Niño) heats or cools by about 0.1-0.2 °C. Greenhouse gases have heated the climate by over 0.8 °C.

Contribution to T, AR5 FigFAQ5.1

Figure 2 Global surface temperature anomalies from 1870 to 2010, and the natural (solar, volcanic, and internal) and anthropogenic factors that influence them. (a) Global surface temperature record (1870–2010) relative to the average global surface temperature for 1961–1990 (black line). A model of global surface temperature change (a: red line) produced using the sum of the impacts on temperature of natural (b, c, d) and anthropogenic factors (e). (b) Estimated temperature response to solar forcing. (c) Estimated temperature response to volcanic eruptions. (d) Estimated temperature variability due to internal variability, here related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. (e) Estimated temperature response to anthropogenic forcing, consisting of a warming component from greenhouse gases, and a cooling component from most aerosols. (IPCC AR5, Chap 5)

Some people try to blame the sun for the current rise in temperatures by cherry picking the data. They only show data from periods when sun and climate data track together. They draw a false conclusion by ignoring the last few decades when the data shows the opposite result.


Basic rebuttal written by Larry M, updated by Sarah

Update July 2015:

Here is a related lecture-video from Denial101x - Making Sense of Climate Science Denial


This rebuttal was updated by Kyle Pressler in 2021 to replace broken links. The updates are a result of our call for help published in May 2021.

Last updated on 2 April 2017 by Sarah. View Archives

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Further viewing

Related video from Peter Sinclair's "Climate Denial Crock of the Week" series:

Further viewing

This video created by Andy Redwood in May 2020 is an interesting and creative interpretation of this rebuttal:

Myth Deconstruction

Related resource: Myth Deconstruction as animated GIF

MD Sun

Please check the related blog post for background information about this graphics resource.


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Comments 1051 to 1075 out of 1288:

  1. Jason B @1048, the most commented thread would have to be the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics thread, with (currently) 1424 comments.  I suspect this one comes second, although I have not done a survey.

  2. Pretty sure this is No. 2. 

    I'm also pretty sure Sabre's a drive-by.  As I recall, he/she/it drove by over the summer with another bag full of wonders.

  3. Sabretruthtiger wrote: "The high degree of correlation also suggests that solar activity is the primary driver of global temperature on every time scale studied (which is pretty much every time scale but the Milankovitch cycle)."

    As others have noted, the period since ~1960 is another time scale where solar activity is clearly not the primary driver of temperature change. However, it is interesting that you were apparently aware that your argument did not hold true for the Milankovitch cycles... yet apparently couldn't make the connection between CO2 being the primary driver of temperature changes there and the 'recent time scale' link between increasing CO2 and temperature.

    So yes, if we ignore every time scale at which solar activity was not the primary driver of temperature changes then we would conclude that solar activity is always the primary driver of temperature changes. We would just be wrong. As your argument clearly is.

  4. I thought that both the IPCC and NASA have admitted that the Sun plays a much more major role then previously thought.


    Is this true?

  5. Kevin, while the regular commenters on this site will be more than happy to address your concerns, they do expect you to read the main articles (basic, intermediate, and advanced).  The people at NASA are among those who have contributed to the studies upon which the main articles are based.  Further, if you have a specific piece of information--a quote, for example--that is driving your questioning, please link to it so that we don't have to rely on a vague reference in a single sentence.  

  6. Kevin,

    "Admitted"?  What, as if they've been caught trying to Global Swindle people?

    I have an idea... actually read and learn, instead of throwing lame denier slogans around.

  7. Kevin:

    It seems to me that it would be hard for NASA or anyone else to admit that the Sun plays a much larger role in influencing Earth's climate than has already been known since... well probably since we had a concept of Earth-system climate.

    Close to 100% of the incoming energy flux that affects the Earth climate comes from the Sun. However, this energy flux is close to constant at decade-to-century timescales, with limited variation (the solar cycle) at annual-to-decade timescales and slow but consistent increase over millions of years. Do you have references to anyone at NASA or any IPCC documentation seriously contesting this?

    The concern with climate change has to do with greenhouse gases involves their effect on the Earth's outgoing energy flux. Which, to my knowledge, the Sun has very little to do with.

    The important thing to remember is that both the incoming and outgoing energy fluxes affect Earth climate.

  8. composer99

    I posted this link to a serious study of solar activity from evidence found in ice cores. It is relevant as it is documented data taken from the last millenia of solar activity.

    The authors concluded "In conclusion, we have presented here a new reconstruction of solar activity on the millennium time scale based upon a description of the related physical processes. It implies that the present high level of sunspot activity is unprecedented on the millennium time scale. The results will be the subject of further analysis."

    Response: [DB] Note that Tom Curtis has already responded to you on this back in December, here. Any further discussion of it should be done at the linked page.
  9. Sapa[ronia?]:

    The paper you cite does not change or rebut the most important statement in my comment:

    The concern with climate change has to do with greenhouse gases involves their effect on the Earth's outgoing energy flux. Which, to my knowledge, the Sun has very little to do with.

    As the moderator indicates, any discussion pertinent to the paper you describe is best left to the other thread.

  10. Whenever you see a chart that has unlike elements, i.e. W/m2 and temp C, on the Y axis superimposed ( -snip-)  and they are not expressed in terms of percentage of change then you are witnessing propaganda.

    Response: [DB] All-caps converted to bold, per the Comments Policy (which you need to read and internalize before commenting further). Inflammatory tone snipped.
  11. fmbatchelor @1060, really?  So when I carefully scale change in ppmv of CO2  concentration and change in temperature in degrees C such that a the predicted transient climate responce in temperature for a given change in concentration matches the temperature scale, that would constitute propoganda in your book?  Where as if I scaled them so that a change of 1 ppmv in CO2 concentration (0.25%) matches a change in temperature of 0.72 K (0.25%) that would not constitute propoganda, even though the later change in temperature is only predicted for an approx 90 ppmv change in concentration for the transient response?  Frankly, I consider your suggestion absurd, and it is not one applied (to my knowledge) in any science.  Indeed it could not be.

    As it happens, the graph I take it you are criticizing has the scale it does because that is the scale chosen by advocates of the sun being the cause of the current warming to make their case.  They now face a dilemma.  If that scale is correct, than the lack of correlation after 1980 refutes their claim.  If, on the ohter hand, the scale is incorrect, then they have established no relation between solar activity and temperature to begin with.

  12. fmbatchelor @1060:

    OK. If what you say is true, then can you tell what the percentage change in temperature is when the absolute change is:

    a) 0C to -10 C

    b) -10C to 0C?

    c) +5C to -5C?

    d) -5C to +5C?

    Or perhaps you'd like to reword your claim?

  13. ...and following up on what I asked in #1062:

    If you provide the request % changes, then can you also tell me what the % change is for the following?

    a) 32F to 14F?

    b) 14F to 32F?

    c) 41F to 23F?

    d) 23F to 41 F?

    ...and if they are not the same as the % for the examples in degrees C, can you explain why?

  14. I love that when such a graph clarifies a scientific point, it's propaganda, but when it appears to prove that all of the world's climate sceintists are engaged in a gigantic hoax-conspiracy, it's laudable citizen science.

    And these people don't recognize their irrational, internal bias.

  15. I think it is inappropiate to name this forum topic as 'It's the Sun'.  This forum shows confusion amoung a lot of smart people.  For people who have no scientific background it is hard to establish what this phrase means.  If anything it would confuse an average person.  Planet Earth's life has a timer as the sun progresses to become a red giant(the luminousity becomes greater with time).  This does not mean that we should not take into consideration that the unregulated pumping of greenhouse gases can destroy the current equilbrium we have.  Essentially scienitists are worried about the equilbrium (positive and negative feedbacks) of our system.  Our fossil fuel emissions lead to an imbalance of this equilbrium.  This imbalance can potentially lead to a positive feedback that quickly changes the state of the system.  This is where the danger is.  Climate change is a confusing topic for most and the anger towards 'deniers' is unwarrented.  The solution to climate change is easy in my eyes.  Transfer all that energy that you put into proving climate change into creating a new energy source that is more efficient than fossil fuels.  Peak oil tells us that fossil fuels are finite.  Energy gradients are not (solar, wind and many others yet to be discovered).  Stop using fear mongering on both sides, it is unnessary.  A fearful public is a public more likely to make bad decisions.  There is nothing to worry about.  Technology and science will solve this little problem called climate change.  That is my life's pursuit as a scientist.   

    Response: [DB] Note: Your comment more properly belongs on the "It's not bad" thread.
  16. kcron24 @1065, not only does the sun have a timer as it proceeds towards the red giant stage, in just over five billion years, or ten times longer than there has been vertebrate life on Earth, but it is also gradually warming over time.  Four billion years ago, it only gave of 70% of its current light, whereas in a mere 3.5 billion years it will drive the Earth into a runaway greenhouse effect.

    So how long will this warming sun take to reach an increase in luminosity equivalent to the doubling of CO2?  Approximately 300 million years!  Three hundred million years ago the first vertebrates land animals were just evolving.  That is a period more than a thousand times longer than Homo sapiens have existed.  Yet that is the time period before the increase in solar luminosity will match the threat we expect from increased CO2 in just this century.

    Given the time scales evovled, perhaps we can wait before tacking increases in solar lumnosity, and concentrate, in the mean time, on more pressing problems. 

  17. Please reread my comment.  I feel climate sciencitists have great work but a terrible way of handling climate change.  Using fear to intimidate people only makes matters worse...  Eduation is key not brainwashing.  There is where the debate is.  That is all I'm saying.  

  18. kcron24 - I would encourage you to read the IPCC WG1 scientific basis reports, you will find that the scientists presentations are generally rather moderate.  I would start with the 1990 report as this is written in rather less technical language than subsequent editions (which have become increasingly terse due to the increase in the amount of research that has been performed).  In particular they explicitly discuss the uncertainties.

    Of course many climate blogs do not present the science that way, but as a clear statement of the mainstream position is freely available on the WWW (i.e. the IPCC reports), you can always verify the truth for yourself.

    All this article is doing is explaining how it is we can be pretty sure that the warming we have seen in recent decades is not caused by solar activity.  I personally don't see how this can be described as "fear mongering".  SkS is a site for discussing the science, so if you don't want to talk about the science relating to the effect of solar activity on climate, then please find a more appropriate article for your comments.  Posting comments that are off-topic is disruptive behaviour, and is likely to result in attention from the moderators.

  19. kron24...  It would be, likewise, completely irresponsible for scientists to not warn people of an imminent crisis when evidence shows that one is present.

    The overwhelming evidence of a crisis is there.  That you refer to it as a "little problem" reveals your inadequate understanding of the full body of research.

  20. (-snip-)

     I understand that its best to prepare for the worst but its also important to hope for the best.  By the way I've read all the IPCC reports and I thought they were very good but they might want to update some of their eariler estimates of warming.   (-snip-)

    Response: [DB] Off-topic and abusive usage of html snipped.
  21. kcron, did you read the intermediate and advanced tabs of this article?  

    Further, the studies you mention are getting rather dated.  You should visit this page and its comment stream (and this one).

    Also, "deniers" are not people who present a well-reasoned, evidence-based argument for low sensitivity.  "Deniers" are people who misrepresent science and then refuse to acknowledge evidence-based correction of their misrepresentations.  They engage in baseless denial.

    What's your argument for low sensitivity (i.e. "little problem")? (respond on the appropriate thread -- not this one)


  22. kcron24 @1070:

    1)  Given that we have had debated in comments on this forum suggestions that the current warming is due to radar, that the Earth is warmed by geothermal heat, not the sun, and innumerable people arguing that the second law of thermodynamics refutes the greenhouse effect, your suggestion that people "always follow the truth" is naive at best.  More importantly, I know of no better term than denier for people so set against accepting the science for whatever reason that they can promote such absurdities.

    More importantly, I have repeatedly seen leaders among the deniers such as Christopher Monckton make false assertions, they truth of which they clearly have not checked (on a generous interpretation) simply to vilify scientists and those warn the public about AGW.  They also accuse scientists of fraud either as part of a machiavalian conspiracy, or simply for monetary gain; and accuse scientists of lying simply for telling the truth.  You yourself, in the very post where you complain about abuse of "deniers", hint that scientists are committing fraud to stay on the gravy train.  And against that torrent of abuse and calumny, we apparently "abuse" those who deny the science by calling them "deniers".  We turn the verb of their actions into a noun.

    Clearly you do not know what abuse is.  Indeed, given your own little sally, you are hypocritical in your protestations about abuse.

    2) I find it amusing that you should copy and past a bibliography to back up your scientific credentials without having even noticed that the last item on the bibliography refers to a satellite mission that failed at launch.   Perhaps a bit more thought about the contents of that bibilography, and a bit less pontificating is in order.

    3)  Apart from one an oblique reference in the first paragraph of your first post, your entire commentary has been off topic for this thread.  There is a reason for the rule that you should stay on topic, and even if you disagree with that reason, as a guest here you are obliged to accept the rules of your host.  Please make the attempt to do so.

  23. kchron24 @1072:

    "Sorry I don't read articles that are not peer reveiwed by the AMS."

    What?  Articles in Nature and Science aren't good enough for you.

    More importantly, this appears to be an admission that you are commenting on the contents of this page without having read the contents of this page.  So, which is it.  Is your claim false; or should you be banned from further commentary here as your refusal to read the articles you are commenting on means you are inevitably off topic, and vacuously pontificating.

  24. (-snip-)

    Response: [DB] Multiple off-topic snipped.
  25. Sun is the dominant energy source for life on planet Earth.  According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Sun’s radiation provides around 10,000 times more energy to Earth’s climate system than any other energy source (IPCC 2007).  Due to the magnitude of the Sun’s energy, small fluctuations of Since solar radiation is not constant, due to sunspots and other solar phenomena, changes in incoming solar radiation can occur.  Collecting such data is imperative for climate research and radiative budget modeling. 

                Measurements of total solar irradiance began with the ERB satellite in 1979 and continued with ACRIM series of measurements.  Ten years ago NASA launched the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment or SORCE into orbit.  This satellite provides measurements of solar radiation from 1nm to 2000nm, encompassing 95% of the electromagnetic spectrum.  Instruments on SORCE such as the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) allow the measurement of spectrally integrated solar radiation incident at the top of the Earth's atmosphere. 


    Keeping human consumption in equilibrium with Earth’s climate system to prevent extreme positive feedbacks remains as one of today’s paramount challenges.  Anthropogenic gases such as CO2 contribute to the climate change through the greenhouse effect.  There has been an increase of about 0.8 K since preindustrial times.  However, the current climate sensitivity in climate models indicates that the forcing by greenhouse gases would have contributed to a rise of 2.1 K (range 1.5–3.2 K) (Schwartz et al. 2010).  In the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR), the IPCC recognizes that there is more work to be done to understand solar variation and its effect on climate change (Forster et al. 2007).  However the IPCC mentions that the effect of greenhouse gases plays a bigger role in recent warming than solar variation. 

    Gaining more knowledge on climate sensitivities will provide added momentum of restructuring the current dependence on fossil fuels.  Some estimate this knowledge to be in the tens of trillions of dollars (Edmonds and Smith 2006).  According to Hansen et al., uncertainties with the current knowledge of aerosol radiative forcing and solar irradiance limit the ability of current climate models to accurately predict with high confidence (Hansen et al. 2007).  Suspect data collected by SORCE and other total solar irradiance monitors show that uncorrected instrumental drifts could contribute to errors in TSI trends (Kopp and Lean 2011).  The small data set of 33 years and the imprecise measurements further contribute to unreliable trends and analysis (Kopp and Lean 2011). 

    In order to alleviate this problem more data needs to be collected with better equipment.  Unfortunately, an improved version of SORCE with an upgraded TIM called Glory, never had an opportunity to make a measurement. Glory crashed shortly after launching costing NASA 435 million dollars.  SORCE continues to be the main TSI collector.  The future TIM measurement goals of 0.01% uncertainties with stabilities


    [Sph] Corrupted comment corrected.

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