There's been a lot of loose talk in the past couple days about a new Maunder Minimum that will save us from the consequences of our greenhouse gas emissions. Would that were true. Even if a new Maunder Minimum does happen, the radiative forcing by additional carbon dioxide will overwhelm the effects of a reduction in solar activity, even a prolonged and deep one.
A NASA image of the Maunder Minimum:
Andrew Rivkin writes about this latest deus ex machina here.
Dr. Doug Biesecker, the head of NOAA's sunspot team, has created a slideshow presentation here.
And Dr. Biesecker has written up a report "Predicting Solar Cycle 25" which goes into further detail.
An article about the case for a second Maunder Minimum, from The Economist, a source I generally find credible, is here.
Richard Black of the BBC also has an interesting take on the possibility of a Maunder Minimum II and its effects here.
The main issue is that even if a new Maunder Minimum does occur, it will offset only a small part of the radiative forcing of the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Estimates of the reduction of solar radiation during the Maunder Minimum are on the order of 1 watt/square meter. But the radiative absorption by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is already almost 2 watts/square meter, and will be around 9 watts/square meter by 2100. A Maunder Minimum II would slow global warming slightly, but not stop it.
I hope Maunder Minimum II does take place. It would be helpful. And give us some breathing room for enacting reforms in energy consumption and protecting the environment in ways to slow down global warming further.
Unfortunately, our political and business history shows that even if a new Maunder Minimum takes place, we will squander the opportunity and declare the problem solved. Humanity has never faced the global warming problem squarely in the past, and I hardly expect it will do so now. And when the sun resumed its normal radiative output, global warming will quickly become catastrophic.