Thick snow in April has reinvigorated the debate about climate change and what it might mean to us. Global warming is caused by greenhouse gases and we have to cut our carbon emissions to save the planet - right? Not so, says Peter Taylor, a former Government policy adviser who is bringing his alternative environmental manifesto to Sussex this month.

You may be forgiven for thinking there was consensus on climate change - but that is not so.

The past year marks a turning point in the scientific controversy.

Behind the scenes there is major disagreement over the power of the sun's electric field to create the changes we have seen.

Parallel to carbon dioxide rising, this field has increased by over 200 per cent since 1900 and this is not factored in to computer models.

According to the carbon dioxide model, the climate will warm steadily and by the end of the century the planet could be several degrees warmer - from 2C to 7C.

If that happens, the Arctic will be ice-free and humanity will face severe problems of water and food supplies along with a huge loss of biodiversity.

This projection underlies the current policy of mitigation - through carbon taxes, carbon trading and a switch to renewable energy.

But global temperature is not rising as predicted. In fact it fell by a whopping 0.6 degrees over the last 12 months, as much as it had gained in the previous 50 years.

Last summer's cool wet weather caused by a southward shift of the jet-stream was also not predicted, neither was the loss of Arctic ice cover which reduced by 50 per cent in three years.

In January 2007, the Met Office's computerised climate centre expected the biggest El Nino and a global record high temperature as a consequence - when in actuality we have had La Nina and global cooling.

To the modellers, these are blips of random variability and normal warming will be resumed.

However, some scientists did predict the cooling in 2007 but were ignored.

They are solar scientists researching a link between the solar wind and earth's climate system.

They have known for some time that many of the apparently random fluctuations of past temperature - like when the Vikings grew crops in Greenland - correlate to variations in the solar electric field.

There is now intense research in this area, in particular on the potential for solar electrics to affect cloud cover.

This is not a theoretical issue.

Between 1983 and 2001, cloud cover, according to the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project, fell by four per cent - more than enough to heat oceans and account for global warming. So what caused the clouds to thin?

The modellers argue random variability or some kind of feedback from the greenhouse gas increase. But the climate models have no adequate means of modelling cloud cover or replicating natural cycles in the oceans such as El Nino and, more significantly, those in the North Atlantic and Arctic.

These are important for understanding peak temperatures because they remix and re-circulate the heat gained by the ocean basins.

The recent Arctic meltdown, as well as rising temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula, can only be explained by warm water moving in from more equatorial regions where satellite data shows the clouds have thinned and extra sunlight has reached the surface.

Furthermore, there is a spate of recent science that shows these oscillations are timed by solar cycles, that the jet-stream is affected by the solar wind and that past high and low points in the solar cycle correlate very well with past temperature swings.

An alternative view is forming that is compatible with the science that the main driver is solar and greenhouse gases are minor - perhaps 20 per cent.

Just one solar scientist predicted the 2007 drop - whereas thousands at the Met Office and Nasa were wrong - and he expected the cooling to continue for some decades.

But such an alternative theory, coming after 20 years of commitment to the carbon theory, is being fiercely resisted - understandably, considering the massive investment in carbon-based policy, not to mention scientific reputations.

Does it matter who is right? Isn't it a good thing to curtail carbon emissions anyway?

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. If it is the sun driving the change, then money spent on carbon emissions will have no discernible effect.

If the globe cools, we face severe and immediate problems with food supplies, made much worse by consuming crops for biofuel.

Ultimately we have to wean ourselves off fossil fuels but first we need to invest in systems that are resilient to immediate climate change, especially food. We need to consume less and share more with vulnerable people and then begin the weaning process in such a way that supports community, decentralisation and ecological as well as economic stability.

Given the current world food situation and the high cost and environmental impact of carbon interventions, we should pause, take an independent look at the science and get the policy right.

  • Peter Taylor is a former adviser on pollution and energy policy issues to various national governments, the EU and the UN as well as a lead advocate for Greenpeace.

His talk - The Truth About Climate Change - takes place at the All Saints Centre, Friars Walk, Lewes, on April 22.