In the rising hysteria over the global warming issue, a kind of race against time appears to be developing. The question is: What will happen first?

Will the “global warmists” be able to stop the oilsands projects, wrecking the economy of Alberta and much of Canada in the process?

Or will the growing chorus of skeptics about global warming be able to command enough attention to put the brakes on the warmists before they do the wrecking job?

In the last week, the skeptics scored two goals.

The first was scored by a Canadian. Timothy Patterson, director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre at Carleton University in Ottawa, published an article conclusively demonstrating climate change is a permanent condition, that the Earth’s climate has never been stable.

Many times in the past the Earth’s climate has been far higher than it is today and, occasionally, temperatures were colder. As recently as 6,000 years ago, it averaged two degrees warmer than it does now.

Ten thousand years ago, mean temperatures rose as much as four degrees in a decade. That’s 100 times faster than the warming over the past century, which has so alarmed scientists who triggered the current hysteria.

What the sun does, rather than what man does with his carbon dioxide emissions, is what chiefly causes climate change, said Patterson.

He thereby ratified the theory of Russian scientists that global cooling and another ice age is a far greater threat than global warming.

Since carbon dioxide inhibits the escape of heat from the Earth, maybe the most environmentally friendly thing you could do would be to start each day by driving your SUV around the block four or five times to bolster carbon dioxide emissions and thus retard the Earth’s heat loss.

The second goal was far more devastating. It came with a book just published by Henrik Svensmark, director of the Centre for Sun Climate Research at the National Space Centre in Copenhagen. He calls it The Chilling Stars: A New Theory on Climate Change.

Like Patterson and the Russians, Svensmark contends the sun is a major factor in climate change, but he has been working for eight years to back this up with experimental proof.

He has established a laboratory in which the sun’s rays and Earth’s atmosphere have been set up in model, and the cosmic effects on the Earth thereby observed.

The results, detailed in the current issue of Discovery, the highly respected magazine of science, are startling. They show solar activity affects cloud formations on Earth, which in turn determine the Earth’s climate. Paradoxically, it seems meteorological conditions do not determine the cloud formations; rather, cloud formations determine meteorological conditions.

Since this gravely challenges the significance to the climate of man-made carbon dioxide, Svensmark found himself being assailed and deplored by his fellow-scientists, who accused him of being financed by “oil money.”

Almost all his funding, Sevnsmark retorted, comes from Denmark’s Carlsberg Foundation, which is funded by Carlsberg brewery, which sells beer, not oil.

If anything, Carlsberg would surely have a vested interest in global warming. It’s on the hot days that we drink the most beer.

The chairman of the UN’s Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, irate because Svensmark was upsetting the established scientific orthodoxy, condemned his book as “extremely naive and irresponsible.”

But the IPCC was itself under attack by then, for not being sufficiently hysterical in depicting the hideous consequences of global warming.

It seems Greenpeace released a study by a German academic who said there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2040.

The IPCC had merely said: “Unless drastic action is taken, millions of poor people will suffer from hunger, thirst, floods and disease.”

“And when everybody drowns,” scoffed the skeptical Washington Times humorist Wesley Pruden, “it is of course women, minorities and the poor who suffer most.”

One thing puzzles me.

If the skeptics should happen to win this race, what will Steve Harper do?

Having already turned one somersault converting his government from near-total skepticism on global warming to passionate belief in it, how will he perform the reverse somersault?

Will he bring Rona Ambrose back to the environment ministry and fire John Baird?

Stay tuned.