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Once more unto the bray

Filed under: — gavin @ 23 July 2008

We are a little late to the party, but it is worth adding a few words now that our favourite amateur contrarian is at it again. As many already know, the Forum on Physics and Society (an un-peer-reviewed newsletter published by the otherwise quite sensible American Physical Society), rather surprisingly published a new paper by Monckton that tries again to show using rigorous arithmetic that IPCC is all wrong and that climate sensitivity is negligible. His latest sally, like his previous attempt, is full of the usual obfuscating sleight of hand, but to save people the time in working it out themselves, here are a few highlights.

As Deltoid quickly noticed the most egregious error is a completely arbitrary reduction (by 66%) of the radiative forcing due to CO2. He amusingly justifies this with reference to tropical troposphere temperatures – neglecting of course that temperatures change in response to forcing and are not the forcing itself. And of course, he ignores the evidence that the temperature changes are in fact rather uncertain, and may well be much more in accord with the models than he thinks.

But back to his main error: Forcing due to CO2 can be calculated very accurately using line-by-line radiative transfer codes (see Myhre et al 2001; Collins et al 2006). It is normally done for a few standard atmospheric profiles and those results weighted to produce a global mean estimate of 3.7 W/m2 – given the variations in atmospheric composition (clouds, water vapour etc.) uncertainties are about 10% (or 0.4 W/m2) (the spatial pattern can be seen here). There is no way that it is appropriate to arbitrarily divide it by three.

There is a good analogy to gas mileage. The gallon of gasoline is equivalent to the forcing, the miles you can go on a gallon is the response (i.e. temperature), and thus the miles per gallon is analogous to the climate sensitivity. Thinking that forcing should be changed because of your perception of the temperature change is equivalent to deciding after the fact that you only put in third of a gallon because you ran out of gas earlier than you expected. The appropriate response would be to think about the miles per gallon – but you’d need to be sure that you measured the miles travelled accurately (a very big issue for the tropical troposphere).

But Monckton is not satisfied with just a factor of three reduction in sensitivity. So he makes another dodgy claim. Note that Monckton starts off using the IPCC definition of climate sensitivity as the forcing associated with a concentration of 2xCO2 – this is the classical “Charney Sensitivity” and does not include feedbacks associated with carbon cycle, vegetation or ice-sheet change. Think of it this way – if humans raise CO2 levels to 560 ppm from 280 ppm through our emissions, and then as the climate warms the carbon cycle starts adding even more CO2 to the atmosphere, then the final CO2 will be higher and the temperature will end up higher than standard sensitivity would predict, but you are no longer dealing with the sensitivity to 2xCO2. Thus the classical climate sensitivity does not include any carbon cycle feedback term. But Monckton puts one in anyway.

You might ask why he would do this. Why add another positive feedback to the mix when he is aiming to minimise the climate sensitivity? The answer lies in the backwards calculations he makes to derive the feedbacks. At this point, I was going to do a full analysis of that particular calculation – but I was scooped. So instead of repeating the work, I’ll refer you there. The short answer is that by increasing the feedbacks incorrectly, he makes the ‘no-feedback’ temperature smaller (since he is deriving it from the reported climate sensitivities divided by the feedbacks). This reverses the causality since the ‘no-feedback’ value is actually independent of the feedbacks, and is much better constrained.

There are many more errors in his piece – for instance he accuses the IPCC of not defining radiative forcing in the Summary for Policy Makers and not fixing this despite requests. Umm… except that the definition is on the bottom of page 2. He bizarrely compares the net anthropogenic forcing to date with the value due to CO2 alone and then extrapolates that difference to come up with a meaningless ‘total anthropogenic forcings Del F_2xCO2’. His derivations and discussions of the no-feedback sensitivity and feedbacks is extremely opaque (a much better description is given on the first couple of pages of Hansen et al, 1984)). His discussion of the forcings in that paper are wrong (it’s 4.0 W/m2 for 2xCO2 (p135), not 4.8 W/m2), and the no-feedback temperature change is 1.2 (Hansen et al, 1988, p9360), giving k=0.30 C/(W/m2) (not his incorrect 0.260 C/(W/m2) value). Etc… Needless to say, the multiple errors completely undermine the conclusions regarding climate sensitivity.

Generally speaking, these are the kinds of issues that get spotted by peer-reviewers: are the citations correctly interpreted? is the mathematics correct? is the reasoning sound? do the conclusions follow? etc. In this case, there really wouldn’t have been much left, and so it is fair to conclude that Monckton’s piece only saw the light of day because it wasn’t peer-reviewed, not because it was. Claims that the suggested edits from the editor of the newsletter constitute ‘peer-review’ are belied by the editor’s obvious unfamiliarity with the key concepts of forcing and feedback – and the multitude of basic errors still remaining. The even more egregious claims that this paper provides “Mathematical proof that there is no ‘climate crisis’ ” or is “a major, peer-reviewed paper in Physics and Society, a learned journal of the 10,000-strong American Physical Society” are just bunk (though amusing in their chutzpah).

The rational for the FPS publication of this note was to ‘open up the debate’ on climate change. The obvious ineptitude of this contribution underlines quite effectively how little debate there is on the fundamentals if this is the best counter-argument that can be offered.

536 Responses to “Once more unto the bray”

  1. 51

    Clear Thinker posts:

    Those scientists you call names would not appreciate your irreverence. They number in the tens of thousands, so I’m sure you could find a couple of crackpots in the bunch.

    Those tens of thousands of “scientists” who oppose AGW theory include almost no climatologists. It’s a situation analogous to having tens of thousands of physicists sign statements against evolution. They are no more competent to critique that than biologists are competent to critique theories in physics.

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Clear Thinker,
    I was intentionally glib, but the point stands: there are very few experts left who dispute anthropogenic causation of the current warming epoch. In fact these experts all admit that the CO2 we’ve been spewing into the air is causing warming. They just posit that negative feedbacks will keep it within reasonable bounds or they argue for a small value for CO2 sensitivity. Nobody has yet succeeded in constructing a climate model subject to these constraints.
    As to the rest of the so-called scientists who oppose the consensus, most are not scientists at all. Some are scientists who are arguing far outside their field of expertise and who haven’t done the work of even understanding what they’re arguing against (Svensmark et al. fall into this category, as they don’t seen to comprehend that merely finding an alternative mechanism for warming does not by itself invalidate the known mechanism of CO2 greenhouse forcing.).
    At least Spencer and Lindzen comprehend that the only way out of this dilemma is to posit that somehow the physics changes at around 280 ppmv–a contention that doesn’t pass the straight-face test, but is at least in the realm of physical possibility. Where Spencer and Lindzen leave the fold of scientists is where they accuse their peers of being politically motivated ex cathedra (e.g. in the Wall Street Urinal editorial pages).

  3. 53
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Re 52. Ray, hopefully you admit at least that new findings replace old ones, e.g.

    Compo,Gilbert P., and Prashant D. Sardeshmukh, 2008. Oceanic influences on recent continental warming. Climate Dynamics, in press 2008, preprint online

    “…Perhaps the most important conclusion to be drawn from our analysis is that the recent acceleration of global warming may not be occurring in quite the manner one might have imagined…”

    [Response: Are you under the impression that running AGCMs with SST forcing is somehow new? (Try Gates, 1992). – gavin]

  4. 54
    SecularAnimist says:

    I will attempt to say this politely and respectfully. The commenter “Clear Thinker” is very obviously a “troll”, who is repetitively posting fake, phony, scripted, long-ago and many-times-over debunked, Exxon-Mobil sponsored, global warming denialist drivel. The Oregon Petition? Debate with Monckton? Please, spare me. These silly Rush Limbaugh talking points are interspersed with transparently disingenuous pretensions that he is “asking questions” in order to “learn”, and puerile rhetorical gambits (“Those scientists you call names would not appreciate your irreverence”) that were old when USENET was young.

    The patience of the moderators and knowledgeable commenters in responding politely and factually to Clear Thinker as though he were genuinely seeking to learn about the science of climate change is admirable, but there comes a time to recognize when you are being “had” by someone whose only purpose is to spread disinformation and maliciously waste your time. I call this troll “Rumplestiltskin” and wish he may disappear at the sound of his name.

  5. 55

    Re: #49

    Dear Hank,

    Thanks. I have been using these damned computers for 25 years, and yet my daughter would have picked that out in a flash, while I didn’t even notice the possibility.

  6. 56
    Al Tekhasski says:

    Gavin, regarding your comment to #42:
    First, we are trying to be accurate here, at least in numbering of cases. Your case would be #4.
    Second, your explanation does not look satisfactory. When you construct the forcing map, you use a collection of appropriate local atmospheric profiles, from MODTRAN/HITRAN database or else. One would think that the local Australia-size atmospheric profile is already defined by environment, including influence of ocean and atmospheric circulation pattern. Therefore, the factors you mention are already incorporated in the picture. Is there any better explanation of the glaring discrepancy between the theory of “radiative forcing” and experimentally observed ground effects?
    – Alexi

    [Response: Look a little deeper grasshopper. That map is calculated from the model, and the response in the model can be seen on the same set of pages. The patterns are not similar. That is in a perfectly controlled environment. So why would you expect that the real world would suddenly exhibit a similarity that is not even seen in (simpler) model? Show me one prediction made that has the spatial response pattern equal to the spatial forcing pattern. You appear to be disproving a theory that doesn’t exist. – gavin]

  7. 57
    dhogaza says:

    there comes a time to recognize when you are being “had” by someone whose only purpose is to spread disinformation and maliciously waste your time.

    Worse, even, as they’re selectively cutting-and-pasting commentary from here in an effort to make Gavin appear clueless, etc …

    There’s no real reason to feed that process.

  8. 58
    Jim Galasyn says:

    There’s no real reason to feed that process.

    I try to pitch a short and polite answer that has educational value for lurkers. Can’t be quoted out of context and might actually wring a little light from the situation.

  9. 59
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. Clear, you could be much more skeptical of the ideas people give you to bring here.

    Beware being used. There’s an old game called ‘Global Warming Bingo’ you should be aware of.

    There are also from time to time blogs that try copying material out of RC and creating their own comment threads — I think as a way of trying to capture Google pagerank and get more hits from searches. This doesn’t work very long.

    People learn what’s not worth paying attention to, no matter how fresh the bait trolled through the site here. Don’t let people send you in here to be bait.

    Skepticism — it’s evenhanded, or it’s nothing. Ask a librarian the basic questions, look them up for yourself, don’t trust people who send you in here to be your friends. Come in with some knowledge you’ve developed on your own, ask useful questions showing that.

    Seriously. It doesn’t matter what you start off believing, if you develop basic research skills and evenhanded curiosity and stay focused on asking good questions for your own benefit.

    Don’t let yourself be trolled as bait. No old bait is fresh enough to hold people’s attention for long.

  10. 60
    Ray Ladbury says:

    I took some time to go over and read the commentary by the brain trust over at Newsbusters. Oh dear. Let me warn you, this is not for the faint of heart. If you think that humor cannot possibly progress beyond the fart joke, this is the site for you! Wanna see a whole other side to Clear Stinker or Pop Tart, go on over. It will be an education–proof that as Dave Barry says, “You’re only young once, but you can always be immature.”

  11. 61
    Chris Colose says:

    About those “thousands of scientists” on the oregon petition. This was a subsample of 60 names (though I specifically hunted down the phD’s on the list to help them out a bit), but I coudn’t find anyone in a climate-related field, or with a publication record relating to climate (change).

  12. 62
    kevin says:

    While it is clear to me that SecularAnimist is correct in his/her characterization of “Clear Thinker,” and while I am sympathetic to SA’s and dhogaza’s positions re: “CT,” I think it is possible that casual/occasional lurkers gain a valuable education by seeing these disinformation campaigns presented and dismantled. I realize that it is tedious for people who have been around a while to go through it again and again. But when I began lurking here (late 2005, I think) and didn’t already know about all the strawmen, red herrings, false dichotomies, cherry-picking, etc., etc., etc. used by denialists, it was tremendously informative to me to see these arguments presented and knocked down, only to resurface as though the refutation had not taken place. As I came to learn, the refutations had usually taken place initially years before, and repeatedly ever since. Seeing this process play out taught me a lot about both the science and about anti-science propaganda.

  13. 63
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, thanks for the pointer to Ziman’s article.
    That’s by far the best description I’ve ever seen.

    I grew up as a ‘faculty brat’ and heard such hard-argued science informally and sometimes at formal seminars from the back row seats, much of my childhood. There’s no sport as exciting as a hard argument in science; as one learns it, more layers are revealed of what’s actually being argued and how it’s done.

    Ziman’s article is really, really good.

    “… The contest for credibility between claimants and their critics — in practise, all members of the same community, but adopting di¶erent roles according to the circumstances ….”

  14. 64
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Ray Ladbury: They just posit that negative feedbacks will keep it within reasonable bounds or they argue for a small value for CO2 sensitivity. Nobody has yet succeeded in constructing a climate model subject to these constraints.

    Ray, you keep saying that and I keep challenging it. Where is your evidence that such a climate model does not exist?

    [Response: Surely if it existed, someone would have published results from it? Or are we supposed to just have faith that it does? – gavin]

  15. 65
    Marcus says:

    Al Tekhasski: You seem to have skipped right past some basic climate change theory (stuff I learned in high school) in your eagerness to get to complex HITRAN/MODTRAN databases (something I hadn’t even heard of until grad school).

    General knowledge: coastal areas warm more slowly than inland areas because of ocean inertia. This explains most of the warming pattern. The remainder can be explained by googling the term “polar amplification” which involves the speed of warming of the Arctic circle as ice retreats in a positive feedback loop. Of course, note that Antarctica behaves differently in the short term because of the ozone hole, the circumpolar vortex, and because the conditions are such that ice retreat won’t happen for a while.

  16. 66
    Steve Reynolds says:

    gavin: Surely if it existed, someone would have published results from it?

    But gavin, you have published sensitivity results from your own models as low as 2.4C. I’ve seen comments by knowledgeable people (James Annan for one) that cloud feedback could be negative rather than positive. Many other parameters are very uncertain. Are you saying that you could not construct a model using parameters that do not violate _well known_ limits that has a sensitivity less than 1.5C?

    You might not want to publish it, but that does not mean it could not exist.

    [Response: I publish what the models give, and you’ll find most other modellers do the same. But if you want to see how much you can tweak them and what happens read Sanderson et al, 2008. You get much worse results with models with low (or high) sensitivity.

  17. 67
    Amanda Stone says:

    When “The Register” reported Monckton’s, ahem, “article”, it understandably ignored his junk science entirely, but focused on the claim that some of the numbers you guys use in your models come from one paper only.

    Is there any truth in that – and even if so, does it matter?

    [Response: Not really. Climate sensitivity is the key number and that comes from dozens of papers. – gavin]

  18. 68
    John Mashey says:


    Via Deltoid, we find Catherine Brahic at New Scientist:

    “The editors put out a request for articles arguing “both sides of the debate.” They also asked Gerald Marsh to recommend authors who might contribute a piece arguing against the IPCC.

    Marsh gave five names, and the editors contacted all five. Monckton was the only one to respond.”

    Anyway, my conjecture that Larry Gould was the Monckton-FPS direct connection proved wrong, although he was clearly eager to help out later.

    BigCityLib had noticed Marsh on July 21, and I’d added some notes.
    Dr Marsh appears moderately often in FPS, often on nuclear topics.

    Here’s a list of pointers to his climate-related writings that I could find. I printed some a day or two ago, but am out of bandwidth for serious study right now, so maybe others may care to look closely and post technical analyses. As far as I can tell, none of these are peer-reviewed pieces, although some may have been editorial-reviewed.

    G. E. Marsh website is here.

    April 2008:
    1. “Climate Stability and Policy, FPS Newsletter, April 2008.

    Jan 2008:
    Climate Stability and Policy: A Synthesis :

    2. 19-page PDF, longer version of what’s in FPS

    3. “The Coming of a New Ice Age” – OpEd.
    I think this appeared in Winning Green, but in any case, there are some other references:
    Google: gerald marsh coming new ice age chicago

    Jan 2008:
    4. “Goracle Gushings on Faith-Based Science”, in USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education(?) I’m not sure what that is…

    Jul 2007:

    5. “Climate Change: The Sun’s Role”, arXiv:0706.3621v1 []. [PDF.]

    As per BigCityLib, this was already discussed by Atmoz.

    Jan 2003:
    6. Climate Change 2001: A Critique. [PDF]

    June 2002:
    7. “A Global Warming Primer” PDF]

    Aug 2001:

    8. “Climate Change Science? National Academy of Sciences Global Warming Report fails to Live up to its Billing” at National Center for Public Policy Research (whose page title says “A Conservative Think Tank”).”

    There may be reviews of some of these, I just haven’t yet looked hard.

    Summary: I’m reminded of certain other physicists, of whom 3 are deceased.

  19. 69
    Lawrence Brown says:

    The Viscount of Benchley, in his latest attempt at obfuscation states in part:
    “Since the great majority of the incoming solar radiation incident upon the Earth strikes the tropics, any reduction in tropical radiative forcing has a disproportionate effect on mean global forcings. On the basis of Lindzen (2007), the anthropogenic-ear radiative forcing as established in Eqn. (3) are divided by 3 to take account of the observed failure of the tropical mid-troposphere to warm as projected by the models –
    ΔF2x≈ 3.405 / 3 ≈ 1.135 W m–2. (17)”

    Well then’ suppose all of the matter in a reaction, nuclear or otherwise, into energy isn’t converted into energy due to losses in the process then should the equation E=Mc^2 be divided by 3 to read E=Mc^2/3? Am I on to something here?

  20. 70
    GlenFergus says:

    Gavin at #24:

    [Response: You can’t linearise over the whole effect. The total greenhouse effect can be defined as the difference between the upward LW at the surface and at the top of the atmosphere and it is about 155 W/m2. If you remove all CO2 you’d get a forcing of about -28 W/m2, compared to 4 W/m2 for a doubling…]

    So 28/155 = 18% could be said to be the total CO2 contribution to the greenhouse effect (as defined)? That’s a fair way from the 9% (91% remaining) figure you had back in 2005. What’s the difference?

  21. 71

    GlenFergus #70 is merely misrepresenting what was written back in 2005. From that link:

    Water vapour: feedback or forcing?The overlaps complicate things, but it’s clear that water vapour is the single most important absorber (between 36% and 66% of the greenhouse effect), and together with clouds makes up between 66% and 85%. CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%, while the O3 and the other minor GHG absorbers consist of up to 7 and 8% of the effect, respectively.

    It is through same all the way through the article. A sensible reader couldn’t possibly miss the lesson: you cannot break up the effect into a simple sum of parts, or do simple linearizations. The 18% is right in the middle of the 9% to 26% range mentioned in 2005; and GlenFergus has cherry picked the lowest number for reasons it would be unkind to speculate upon.

    Just to underline what should be plain as a pikestaff in the original article. This range of numbers 9% to 26% is not an indication of uncertainty. It does not mean that the real number is uncertain. It means that the notion of a simple proportionate contribution is meaningless. The various parts work together and interact in reasonably well understood nonlinear ways; and that nonlinear combination works out to CO2 having about around 9% to 26% of the total greenhouse effect; depending only on how you decide to make the linear oversimplication.

  22. 72

    This may be slightly off topic, but as y’all are discussing disinformation campaigns, I am unhappy to report that Big Oil is bringing the same down here to Brazil (where I have been living the past 11 years). It feeds the Brazilian sense of natural pride that they are self-sufficient in oil via the national oil company Petrobras.

    To my utter dismay, the Brazilian weekly magazine, Veja (similar to Time), published a prominent three-page interview with Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia (and also associated with the infamous Cato Institute), wherein he proclaimed global warming would not cause any catastrophes and hauled out all the usual denialist junk science arguments that sound perfectly reasonable to the uninitiate. Worse, there were no counterarguments published.

    What makes this particularly egregious is that Veja magazine is just about the only Brazilian news outlet that is not owned by Globo, and as such one generally expects Veja to publish the real nitty-gritty, unlike the Globo news outlets. That is to say, readers usually believe in what Veja publishes.

    This is the link to the interview, in Portuguese:

    If anyone would like to see an English translation, just say so. It wouldn’t be very difficult for me to translate because I have seen these same junk science “arguments” in English, over and over again.

    The worst thing about the interview is Michaels’ tone of absolute confidence in what he says, as if what he says is irrefutable.

    It is distressing to see that Exxon’s tactics are being bought wholesale by Petrobras, and Veja fell for it. And, here in Brazil, there has really been no denialism showing up in the media before this present instance, and the Brazilian public largely agrees with the concept of global warming.

    I am sure we can expect to see more of this sort of thing down here.

    The problem of CO2 emissions by Brazil is only going to get worse. At least 4 million new cars were sold here last year, and investment in public transportation infrastructure has been minimal. Daily traffic jams in São Paulo are in the hundreds of kilometers. Huge numbers of drivers spend 3 to 4 hours going to work and the same going home because of inadequate public transportation. There has been a phenomenal growth in the middle class, and they are mostly all driving to work.

    This guy, Patrick Michaels, was asked about the fact that he receives funding from energy companies, and unbelievably he stated that this means that his work is even more reliable because it is so thoroughly scrutinized by the vast number of scientists who disagree with him.

    Do you guys have any opinions on this?

  23. 73
    Chris Colose says:

    Actually there is a recent paper in GRL that argues for a climate sensitivity at the low end (or lower) of the IPCC projections; see . This is making use of paleoclimatic data, rather than full-blown GCM’s, where authors equate the sum of greenhouse gas forcing, aerosol forcing, and surface albedo forcing…assume a fixed climate sensitivity between the LGM and 42 KYBP…and estimate the climate sensitivity. It’s an interesting technique, though it seems very dicey to me. Dust is not a globally-mixed tracer and Antarctic dust records differ from northern ones. You also need to be careful about high-frequency vs. low-frequency changes (Vostok may correlate fairly well with global temperatures for slow things, but there is a high-frequency overprint seesawed with the north that should be filtered out), and they have picked a low temperature change globally that lowers the sensitivity. Also need to correct the dust for changing dilution by accumulation rates which are not very well known, or changing source conditions.

    Perhaps someone else has further insight here.

  24. 74
    RPauli says:

    re: Monckton

    “Did Lord Monckton fabricate a claim on his Wikipedia page?”

    George Monbiot has posted his email thread with Monckton regarding this issue. Oct 2007

  25. 75
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Re 66 about climate sensitivity and models’ performance Gavin refers to

    Sanderson, Benjamin M., R. Knutti, T. Aina, C. Christensen, N. Faull, D. J. Frame, W. J. Ingram, C. Piani, D. A. Stainforth, D. A. Stone, and M. R. Allen, 2008. Constraints on Model Response to Greenhouse Gas Forcing and the Role of Subgrid-Scale Processes. Journal of Climate Vol. 21, No 11, pp. 2384-2400, June 2008, online

    The study is about which was loudly introduced but crashed. The layman readers of this blog need to know only the following extracts of this study:

    “…Rougier (2007) described the difference between
    models and the climate itself to be a sum of two parts:
    a reducible and an irreducible part. The reducible
    part may be lessened by a better choice of model
    parameters, while the irreducible part is a “systematic
    error”—a result of model imperfections that cannot be
    removed by “tuning” parameters….

    5. Conclusions

    …We have found that the perfect model state may be unattainable
    through parameter perturbations alone…”

    The list what modellers still need is well, long…

  26. 76
    Marion Delgado says:

    Let me reiterate a point I feel compelled to make a few times a year:

    There was a period when the climate denialists were bad-mouthing peer review? Remember? Saying it was overrated and didn’t function as claimed, etc. etc.

    Then they were saying the money climate researchers wanted for data was some sort of pork barrel and their motivation for pushing “mythical” AGW.

    Throughout the process they’ve attacked the idea of a consensus on what data means – “science is not done by consensus” was their battle cry.

    Throughout the process, they’ve attacked the idea of global circulation models and global climate models. “models don’t prove anything, you just tamper with parameters to make your theory look good.”

    But here’s the thing. You cannot do science without data, peer review, some sort of model, or an attempt to get other scientists to agree with you. Those are the 4 pillars of anything that can be called science.

    There really is no scientific stone left unturned. This is why I am so disrespectful of, e.g., Akasofu. Moreso, now, even than the ID/creationist people, the climate denialists are engaged in a full-out assault – not on climate science, not on scientists like Hansen or Mann – but on SCIENCE. All science.

    This is why, in a much more repressive environment than ours in the US, Britain, Australia, etc., Soviet biologists, especially geneticists, resisted Lysenkoism, in certain peril of their careers and in some cases their lives or freedom. Not because of the ill effects of neo-Lamarckianism – I think – because historical accounts overstate the problems with agriculture, etc. But because if you say in evolutionary biology someone’s connections or ideological purity trump science, science is gone. And you won’t confine it to biology, because the same rationale – play it safe, who cares about one area of the subject, just research somewhere else, and maybe a dozen or so people are going to have to drop out academically, so what? – is going to potentially repeat itself.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    Glen, are you referring to the number at the beginning of that thread?

    Where it says:

    “… of the greenhouse effect … CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%” in the first post of that thread?

    Where it says “One way to quantify this is to take a radiation model and remove each long-wave absorber …. This gives the minimum effect …. The complementary calculation, using only each particular absorber in turn, gives the maximum effect. … This isn’t a perfect calculation but it’s quick and easy and is close enough to the right answer for our purposes.”?

    That’s the thread you link to — same one where in the early part of the responses, you see:

    “[Response: This was intended as a very rough “back-of-envelope”…. All I wanted to say is: this quick-and-dirty estimate already shows that a 2% increase in greenhouse effect is not a negligible effect, so people who are telling the public “don’t worry, it is only 2%” are making a bogus argument. -Stefan]

    Did I miss a more precise number somewhere you’re asking about?

  28. 78
    PJ Smith says:

    You lot are SO suffering from group think whatever the deficiencies of Monckton’s rather over worked article. Has the history of science taught you nothing? The ice sheet over the UK in the last ice age reached to Finchley Road, yet hippos like animal fossils were also unearthed at Trafalgar square (that’s just a few miles away). Whatever you say about ‘triggers’ the fact is that the Earth will do this periodically anyway and that is irrefutable evidence based fact, not some model based theory. I suspect the world will find, canute like, that decreasing CO2 flattens a small hill in advance of an advancing and entirely natural mountain.

  29. 79

    Clear Thinker,

    I would be glad to debate Lord Monckton. It might be difficult to arrange physically as I have been unemployed since February and have no source of income. But if some third party will buy tickets and hall space, I’ll be there.

  30. 80
    Joe Atiyah says:

    Hi guys

    Just a simple post (hopefully). I am fairly scientifically and technically literate, but hopelessly lost in the detail of global climate models.

    I got started on this from a link in Ray Kurzweils web site. The paper by Monckton had me starting to think that maybe there was reason to doubt all the certainty on global warming (along with some brief discussions with a friend who is a prof of electrical engineering).

    Now after skimming this site, I am probably more confused, but fairly confident on the status quo – mainly because there are many people here who seem to know what they are talking about who support the ‘consensus’ view on GW.

    I then find another link

    that gives me pause for thought.

    I know many of you are too busy to spend too much time on this, but it seems to me it would be helpful for a clear and simple rebuttal of these kinds of ideas to be published both here (in a kind of ‘sticky’ post) and elsehwhere. It really needs to be on the level of a media article rather than a tech paper (maybe I’m asking the wrong people here).

    It should cover point for point some of the doubts raised, such as – ice levels decreasing?, global temp now cooling?, too many assumptions in models?, vital factors left out of models?, chaotic processes inherently upredictable? Too much uncertainty in predictions to make them useful?

    There was something like this by New Scienist a while ago, but needs updating.

    Could I (folornly) make a plea for calm rational debate. So many sites like this seem to attract vituperous and ranting comments, along with the honest and sensible ones.

    Glad to say the weather here (Gloucestershire) is now getting warm and sunny, after a miserable summer. See – global cooling :)

  31. 81
    Amanda Stone says:

    Gavin, many thanks for the reply to #67, greatly appreciated, but forgive me spelling it out in a bit more detail: while you understandably trash his attempt to rewrite the equation himself, and in delightful detail, could you also rebut those of Monckton’s statements where he tries to show weaknesses in *your* calculations? Like –

    > It is of no little significance that the IPCC’s value for the coefficient in the CO2 forcing equation depends on only one paper in the literature

    [Response: This is nonsense. All line-by-line models give the same answers, and there are dozens of descriptions of this in the literature (Collins et al, 2006 is just one (more) example). Monckton confuses citation practice (i.e. people tend to cite the first paper that described a concept) with actual practice. – gavin]

    > its values for the feedbacks that it believes account for two-thirds of humankind’s effect on global temperatures are likewise taken from only one paper

    [Response: Again, completely wrong. Any paper that has estimates climate sensitivity implies a value for the feedbacks and there have been tons of such papers (see our climate sensitivity section in the Index). – gavin]

    > The IPCC has not drawn on thousands of published, peer-reviewed papers to support its central estimates for the variables from which climate sensitivity is calculated, but on a handful.

    [Response: This demonstrates quite clearly how poor Monckton’s understanding of the process is. The IPCC does draw on thousands of papers (look at the bibliography), but in condensing down any one section to something readable, one always looks for the most typical paper to cite. This is not going to be an outlier result that no-one agrees with, but either a pioneering description or overview paper that encapsulates the concept at hand. IPCC doesn’t cite Hansen et al 1984 because that was the only paper on the subject, but because it was a defining paper, and one whose results (in this specific topic) really haven’t been superseded. An analogy would be someone citing Principia Mathematica for the derivation of Newton’s Laws, and a reader concluding that no-one has been able to duplicate his work because there is no cite from the 20th Century. – gavin]

    Apologies for copying his words in here, but what does he mean by those statements (in as layman terms as possible) and why are those statements wrong or irrelevant?

    I feel embarrassed to ask, since if the scientific community is indeed standing behind the IPCC’s conclusions, then clearly such claims must be wrong (or irrelevant) — but as a lay believer it’d be nice to know why.

  32. 82
    san quintin says:

    Hi PJ Smith. I’m always intrigued when sceptics (I’m assuming this is what you are)start spouting nonsense about Quaternary science. How do you know that the UK was once covered by an ice sheet? I’m assuming you have never done research on contemporary or past ice sheets. You know this because Quaternary scientists (like me) did the research. Well, Quaternary scientists are now pointing out that the palaeoclimate record shows that the climate can be rather unstable….and not necessarily conducive to the maintenance of stable civilisations. So, why do you accept our arguments about past ice sheets, but not our warnings about experimenting with the climate system?

    By the way, hippos weren’t around in the UK at the time of the maximum of the Anglian ice sheet.

  33. 83

    Re #76–I’ve noticed that Roy Spencer, to take one denialist better-credentialed than the average, is also an advocate for Intelligent Design. I’ve speculated that the two ideologies may be linked, for either intrinsic or extrinsic reasons. Is there a pattern of such linkage, or is the case of Spencer a fluke?

  34. 84
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist (54) I admire the attempt. It’s pretty hard to call someone “…a “troll”, who is repetitively posting fake, phony, scripted, long-ago and many-times-over debunked, Exxon-Mobil sponsored, global warming denialist drivel. …” with respect and politeness.

  35. 85
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 78 PJ Smith:

    the fact is that the Earth will do this periodically anyway

    Every effect must have a cause- climate doesn’t just change for the sake of change,with no driving force. So, what caused the climate to change in the past? And what is causing it to change right now?

    Believe it or not, many, many scientists have put a lot of time and energy into answering those questions. And they have a pretty good understanding of the major factors that influence climate currently and in the past.

  36. 86
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Thanks gavin, for the Sanderson link in 66.

    However, I think it does support my point in challenging Ray, that it is possible to construct a model using parameters that do not violate _well known_ limits that has a sensitivity less than 1.5 K.

    Sanderson: “Each parameter is perturbed discretely and may assume one of two or three possible values, which represent estimates of the extremes of the range of current uncertainty in the value of that parameter (which were established).
    through expert solicitation).

    Figure 4 in Sanderson shows several models produced this way with sensitivity (labeled ‘Actual Climate Sensitivity’ in the figure) less than 1.5 K.

  37. 87
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re #81 Amanda Stone:

    I feel embarrassed to ask, since if the scientific community is indeed standing behind the IPCC’s conclusions, then clearly such claims must be wrong (or irrelevant) — but as a lay believer it’d be nice to know why.

    Perhaps because, as some would put it, Monckton is a ‘piece of work’?

    Perhaps the one who ought to feel embarrassed is not you?

  38. 88
    CobblyWorlds says:

    #80 Joe Atiyah,

    Re the Sceptics article by Pat Frank. I’ve not read it…

    But search for “Frank” on this page that article is addressed in the comments.

    To save my time I employ a simple rule: “If it’s not published in a reputable peer reviewed journal I don’t bother reading it.” If it is of worth it will persuade the professionals and eventually be accepted. That rule is also vital for an amateur like me who doesn’t always know enough to see why something is wrong.

  39. 89
    SecularAnimist says:

    PJ Smith wrote: “… the Earth will do this periodically anyway and that is irrefutable evidence based fact, not some model based theory …”

    It is “irrefutable evidence based fact” that (1) human activities, principally the burning of fossil fuels, are releasing large amounts of CO2 and other “greenhouse gases” into the atmosphere, that (2) the resulting increased concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is causing the Earth system to retain more of the sun’s heat, that (3) the Earth is getting hotter as a result, and that (4) this anthropogenic warming is causing rapid changes in the Earth’s climate, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. These statements are all based on direct empirical observation. None of them depend on any “model based theory”. They are facts.

    Moreover, there is nothing that the Earth system, the sun, orbital cycles, etc. are known to do “periodically anyway”, or are observed to be doing now, that can account for the observed rapid heating of the Earth system. That idea is not even a “model based theory” — it is pure speculation unsupported by any model, theory or observation.

    Really, what is it that makes you think that you have found the simple, obvious reason why anthropogenic global warming is not happening and cannot be happening — the simple and obvious reason that has somehow eluded the diligent attention of thousands of climate scientists who have studied this issue over decades?

  40. 90
    Hank Roberts says:

    Steve Reynolds, reading Sanderson — did you get to the Conclusions section? You’re noticing that it’s possible to fiddle _one_ parameter and get what you’d like to see, but read on to where they describe the limits when trying to match more than one.

  41. 91
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Welcome to RealClimate, Joe!

    One of the cool things about this site is that you can search on citations and retrieve in-depth discussions.

    For example, the Patrick Frank story in Skeptic cites Baliunas (2001) up front. You can stick “Baliunas” into the search engine at the top of this page, and you’ll see several threads that thoroughly dismantle this paper. Skeptic should know better.

    With this tool, you can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff. Have fun!

  42. 92
    David B. Benson says:

    Tenney Naumer (72) — Read comment #87 and apply to your instance.

  43. 93
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Joe #80,

    Could I (folornly) make a plea for calm rational debate. So many sites like this seem to attract vituperous and ranting comments, along with the honest and sensible ones.

    Mea culpa… you see, you are in a vulnerable position if you are defending something you dearly believe in.

    Sometimes denialists try do depict the awareness of the human influence on climate as a ‘religion’. That is insulting to both scientists and (presumably) religious people, but there is a grain of truth in it: we scientists do devoutly believe in some things, such as that finding out how the Universe really works is a worthwhile, even noble, endeavour that serves mankind. This belief is science, not global warming. There is a professional code of ethics, of honour, that comes with it.

    Imagine yourself black, and someone shouting “you filthy [degrading refernce to dark-skinned person]”. It hurts. Everybody has these buttons, this is our button. (Remember the French soccer player who lashed out during his goodbye match? TV showed the blow but not the insult.) You have to brace yourself before formulating a lawyerly polite answer. The opposition doesn’t have this problem — they are lawyers already, and will never be scientists.

    Your job will be fairly easy if you realise that there is a judgement-of-character element to it in addition to the science. Once you catch someone on a blatant lie in a readily checkable matter of fact, that will save you some further footwork where that person is concerned ;-)

    BTW Welcome to RC!

  44. 94
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Reynolds, If your goal is to construct a model that has no correspondence with Earth’s climate, I am willing to concede that one can construct a model with sensitivity less than 1.5 degrees per doubling. That, is after all, the takeaway from figure 7. What is particularly interesting to me is how much more forgiving the models are on the high end of sensitivity than they are on the low end. I really wouldn’t take this study as yielding any comfort to denialists.

    Gavin, thanks for this paper.

  45. 95
    Michael says:

    Secular Animist, everyobody agrees we affect our environment. The question is how much? There is still a wide range of projections within the pro-AGW community. For instance there is disagreement about feedback unknowns, some due to human behavior unknowns. Is the outlook ok, bad, or dismal? The season for skepticism is not over.

  46. 96
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Ray: “What is particularly interesting to me is how much more forgiving the models are on the high end of sensitivity than they are on the low end.”

    That is a very selective read of the results. For observations we know most accurately (such as seasonal temperature variations), I reach the opposite conclusion.

    Hank: “…it’s possible to fiddle _one_ parameter and get what you’d like to see, but read on to where they describe the limits when trying to match more than one.”

    Yes, none of the models appear to be very good. I assume the NASA model is much better. I wonder how it would look with similar perturbations.

  47. 97
    Hank Roberts says:

    GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 35, L14703, doi:10.1029/2008GL034071, 2008

    When can we expect extremely high surface temperatures?

    “… values in excess of 50°C in Australia, India, the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and equatorial and subtropical South America at the end of the century.”

  48. 98
    Steve says:

    I am so sad to continue to hear the herd mentallity of anthropogenic causes for global warming. You have so much to learn. There are so many sources that diagree, where do I start.

    First look at this webiste that show no correlation between CO2 and temperature for thae last 700m years. look at chart 2

    For those who are interested in facts, not emotion:

    Here is another fact based website that establishes man’s non-contribution to green house gases. Supporting that 95% of green house gases are from water vapor. Including CO2 (0.28%) and H2O, we contribtue no more that 5.5%. Do you know that in the other referenced website I gave that CO2 was as high as 7000ppm during the last 700M years. We are now at 380ppm or CO2. If we contribute only 0.28% of CO2 that would add only 10ppm for a total of 390, far from 8000ppm that natural forces conrtibutes. Please read.

    enjoy your education


    [Response: Education! You know, you should try it. The paleo-climate picture is a terrible cartoon of what happened. You are much better off with the more up-to-date fig 6.1 in AR4 (p441). And the nonsense at your second link has been dealt with here. Please try to do better next time (and PS. don’t submit the same comment to multiple threads). – gavin]

  49. 99
    John Hollenberg says:


    You go to an anonymous web site that makes a bunch of claims about global warming not being real–obviously must be the truth. You iggnore the IPCC and Realclimate web sites, with documents/references from climate scientists–what would they know about this subject?

    Using this reasoning, if you had cancer you would go get Laetrile instead of seeing an oncologist. Makes about as much sense.

    I note that the web site you referenced quotes an articel by Dr. Fred Singer. It may be useful to educate yourself on who Dr. Singer is:

    That really tells me all I need to know.

  50. 100
    Martin Vermeer says:

    #75 Timo writes, from the magical world of zero-residual modeling:

    The list what modellers still need is well, long…..

    Not really… infinite-power computing would do just fine for starters. Gets rid of those pesky discretization effects. And then, error free forcings. (And you wouldn’t believe zero-residual modelling results anyway… neither would I.)

    Why don’t you come up with an original fallacy next time. This is the tired old (or should I say classic) “If you don’t know everything, you know nothing”.