RealClimate logo

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. 1
    Beaker says:

    According to the APS (here) it is not correct to say that Physics and Society is un-peer reviewed:

    “It presents letters, commentary, book reviews, and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.”

    That doesn’t mean that the Monckton article WAS peer-reviewed, but strongly suggests it should have been if it wasn’t.

  2. 2
    bikesaddle says:

    It’s worth noting that the Science and Society page where Monckton’s abstract appears states very explicitly that the paper was NOT peer reviewed….. It may have been edited but that’s not the same thing.

    And anyway, peer review is a bit of a red herring. There’s plenty of papers out there that have been peer reviewed and are full of holes. It’s whether or not you can build on the papers over time which determined their ultimate worth. So peer review, done properly, is a crucial filter, but it isn’t an ironclad guarantee.

    And getting lots of citations isn’t an indication of fidelity either – just look at Jacques Benveniste’s Nature paper on the memory of water.

    What I don’t understand is why the APS would publish this, together with a statement to disown it? It’s not a ploy to attract readers by being “controversial, is it?

  3. 3
    bikesaddle says:

    ooops. I’ve now realized that that the statement disowning the article was put in place AFTER they published it.


    But my question still stands. Why publish it in the first place?

  4. 4
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Unfortunately, even ==more== than all the submarines cruising in 1987 through balmy waters at the N. Pole with decks full of happy sailors sipping drinks w/little umbrellas in ’em that “skeptics” are encouraged to perceive despite what’s in plain view, Monckton’s paper will provide all the superficial falsework and pancake cosmetics needed to keep “The Debate” alive. See “The Register” for how greedily Monckton’s travesty is being gobbled up.

  5. 5
    Interested Observer says:

    “Once More Unto The Bray”. Most apposite.

  6. 6
    El Cid says:

    We must all express our greatest appreciation for the Fourth and Final Discount Monk of the Bench at Tiffany’s for raising these important point, points too important to be censored by some “scientists” and their “peer reviewing” squelching out revolutionary views just because of “math” and “facts” and “good arguments”.

    Yours, sincerely, the 5th Annual Viceroy Sir El Whoop Whoop En Buenora P’tang P’tang.

  7. 7

    I was pointing out that Monckton is a crackpot long before it was fashionable:

    Note my one major error in the essay; I conflate the Wegman report with the NAS report.

  8. 8
    counters says:


    Thanks for the analysis of Monckton’s paper. Unfortunately, despite the errors in it being so glaring, many skeptics are asserting its veracity based on the testimony of Spencer before Congress two days ago; they claim (using logic that is stunningly flawed) that because Spencer and Monckton both claim a reduced climate sensitivity to CO2, both of them must be correct – despite one claim being patently incorrect. I can’t even think of the name this logical fallacy!

    Is there any chance in the future that we may hear a comment on Spencer’s testimony?

  9. 9
    dhogaza says:

    According to the APS (here) it is not correct to say that Physics and Society is un-peer reviewed:

    “It presents letters, commentary, book reviews, and reviewed articles on the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society.”

    Articles, reviewed or not, on “the relations of physics and the physics community to government and society”, aren’t peer-reviewed articles on science, and it’ s not a journal, it’s a newsletter.

    I think the APS probably has a reasonably clear view as to what their publications are, and are not.

  10. 10
    Lowell says:

    What is the accurate figure for the change in C per W/m2 increase?

    I have now heard figures from 0.260C / W/m2 from Moncton to as high as 1.0C / W/m2.

    [Response: You are confusing different numbers with the same units. What are you looking for? Overall climate sensitivity is around 0.7 C/W/m2 (range from 0.5 to 1); the no-feedback change (which is just a theoretical estimate) is around 0.3 C/W/m2. Different things. – gavin]

  11. 11
    Joel Shore says:

    Here is another vote that you you respond to Spencer’s most recent stuff…as this is a bit harder for us non-climate-scientists to spot the errors in than Monckton.

    Also, I was wondering about your take on the Compo and Sardeshmukh paper ( ). My initial take on it was that I don’t really see why I should be surprised that if the historically-seen temperatures over 70% of the globe are essentially prescribed (by prescribing the ocean SSTs) then the rest of the 30%, the land areas, will largely come along for the ride…And, it doesn’t really reveal anything about the mechanism causing the warming. Is this a reasonable way to look at it?

    [Response: Yes. This method of running models (AMIP-style) is very common and useful for many purposes. However, all of the trend comes from the increases in SST, which have been affected by GHGs and natural variability – thus this kind of model simulation is no good for attribution studies at the global scale (you need a coupled model for that). They are quite useful at determining tele-connections – how ENSO affects rainfall for instance, but you will see errors in, for instance, land-ocean temperature contrasts or stratospheric dynamics, which are more closely tied to the physics of GHGs rather than the overall level of warming. – gavin]

  12. 12
    Arch Stanton says:

    From the Editor’s Comments:
    “With this issue of Physics & Society, we kick off a debate concerning one of the main conclusions of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…”

    I look foreword to reading the debate in future issues. Since the publication is available to the public the correspondences will not be obscured behind a pay wall they will be available to those of us that take these discussions to the internet. Because the stated points of publishing the papers was to “kick off a debate”, and the newsletter is now going to a fully electronic version (pg.2), they hopefully will print more of correspondences than is customary.

    So many skeptics’ blogs swallowed the hook, line and sinker.

  13. 13
    Lowell says:

    Re: 10 ;

    Is the forcing then

    – 3.7-4.0 W/m2 for CO2 alone; and then,

    – roughly 9.0 W/m2 including all feedbacks?

    [Response: No. The forcing is what drives the temperature changes, which drive the feedbacks. The multipliers generally apply to the temperature change. – gavin]

  14. 14
    Phil Gerst says:

    Your technical debunking of Monckton is all well and good, but what are you saying by your analysis?

    *Do you agree or disagree that the current climate models predict a specific AGW signature, specifically ‘hot spots’ as describe in Monckton’s junk science paper, that is different from the signatures of other/natural causes of GW?

    [Response: There are signatures – particularly in the stratosphere – that distinguish CO2 effects from other causes of warming. The ‘hot spot’ is not a signature of GHGs, it is the expected signature of any warming (whether solar, or natural, or black carbon or whatever) (see the first figure here). – gavin]

    *If you agree, what is your explaination for why this ‘signature’ has not been observed as yet in the real world?

    [Response: The stratosphere changes have very clearly been seen (which is one of the reasons why solar forcing of the trends doesn’t work), and the tropospheric hot spot is likely coming out of the noise too – note however that this is a test of the tropical surface warming (for which there is a lot of evidence), not increasing GHGs per se. – gavin]

    Thank you in advance for a response.

  15. 15
    Danny Bloom says:

    People will be arguing back forth for ages. And getting nowhere.
    Here’s a view of the future, maybe: [location of the US Congress in year 2500]:

  16. 16
    bigcitylib says:

    @2 ‘What I don’t understand is why the APS would publish this, together with a statement to disown it? It’s not a ploy to attract readers by being “controversial, is it?”

    The editor of the newsletter in question (Jeffrey Marque) has been publishing a number of articles on AGW in recent issues, mostly sensible but including another nutty one by a guy named Gerald E. Marsh. He probably didn’t know who Monckton was, and was I suppose you could say pranked.

    John Mashey has the best detailed explanation, which I’ve wrote about and which can also be found in comments at Deltoid and elsewhere.

    And on Gerald E Marsh:

  17. 17
    Boris says:


    It should be pointed out that the tropical tropospheric hotspot as GHG fingerprint likely originates with Monckton. He has apparently misread figure 9.1 of the IPCC report as a description of fingerprints for different forcings when it actually illustartes the 20th century warming contribution of different forcings. He’s even gone so far as to give the figure a new title (“Temperature Fingerprints of Five Forcings”) based on his misconceptions.

    Other skeptics have spread this wrong information, as happens so often.

    [Response: I doubt it is original with him – tropospheric trends have been an ‘issue’ for at least a decade, and while they now line up easily with expectations on a global basis, the tropical changes have been more problematic (as we discussed previously). You are correct of course about the spreading of wrong information which Monckton (and Douglass, and Singer, and Evans etc.) all add to. – gavin]

  18. 18
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #14: Just to add a little more to Gavin’s response in order to address why Monckton mistakenly states that the “hot spot” only appears for GHG forcing: Basically, Monckton does not understand contour plots and their limitations. The IPCC plots that he uses to look for a “hot spot” (which can be seen in best detail by looking at the original source, which is Fig. 9.1 in Chapter 9 the IPCC 4th assessment report [Working Group 1] at ) show the structure of the temperature change for the contributions from various different forcings over the period 1890 to 1999. Since they want to preserve the relative magnitudes, the interval between contours is the same in all the graphs. However, the downside of this choice is a lack of resolution for the forcings that contribute less. Take for example the solar forcing: It may look at a glance that there is not a significant “hot spot” in the mid troposphere as there is for GHGs but this conclusion is incorrect. In fact, if you look at the scale, what you found for the solar forcing is that the warming at the surface is in the contour range of 0 to 0.2 C while that in the mid-troposphere is in the contour range of 0.2 to 0.4 C. So, in fact, this plot is not at all incompatible with Monckton’s stated amplification factor of 2 to 3 in the case of GHGs. It is also not incompatible with an amplification of barely above 1 or an amplification of 20! Basically, the plot just doesn’t give enough resolution in the contours to tell us much. However, the figure that Gavin refers you to, where the solar forcing has been hypothetically increased in the model by an amount that produces a surface temperature change similar to that for GHGs, confirms that the structure of the warming is extremely similar throughout the troposphere for both forcings. (In the stratosphere, the predictions are very different…and the observational data of cooling there agrees with the forcing being due to GHGs not solar.)

  19. 19
    Chris Colose says:

    #14, Phil

    There are various “signatures” of greenhouse changes that you do not get with other forcing mechanisms such as increased solar or cosmic rays, decreased albedo (if we can do that as its own forcing mechanism), etc. I have outlined some of these pieces of evidence here.

    There is a good amount of evidence to suggest the tropical troposphere is indeed warming, but this issue has been hindered by many problems with the instruments, as well as looking for trends in a noisy record. But as gavin mentions, enhanced tropospheric warming is not unique to GHG’s, but arises from the idea that the tropics will stay close to a moist adiabat, which requires the upper atmosphere to warm more than the surface.

    However, if it turns out that the tropical atmosphere warms less than predicted, this means a less negative lapse rate feedback effect, which means a more pronounced warming at the surface. This is not something we see in models, but it isn’t something I’d like…since it means feedbacks would be a bit more positive. What’s more, enhancing the temperature gradient between sea surface’s and the upper levels is also one way to get more intense hurricanes in models.

  20. 20
    John Mashey says:

    APS: as to how this happened, I explained some of the extra background in comment #2 at Deltoid, i.e., I conjecture a Larry Gould impetus for this and you can see the documentation there. There are lessons to be learned from all this, and the FPS editors and APS have clearly learned some of them and are thinking hard about repair. Monckton was a new kind of experience for them, and certain exposed some weaknesses.

    See discussion over at APS News Associate Editor Jennifer Ouellette’s Cocktail Party Physics. Anyone who is an APS FPS member might want to think about a Forum *really* ought to be doing in a Web / blog era, as opposed to a quarterly paper distribution.

  21. 21
    Timo Hämeranta says:

    Gavin, please not too simplified explanations about solar-statosphere-troposphere coupling, instead e.g.:

    Kuroda, Yuhji, M. Deushi, and K. Shibata, 2007. Role of solar activity in the troposphere-stratosphere coupling in the Southern Hemisphere winter. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L21704, doi:10.1029/2007GL030983, November 2, 2007


    The effect of the 11-year solar cycle on the troposphere-stratosphere (TS) coupling in the Southern Hemisphere (SH) late winter/spring is examined through the analysis of observations and simulations with a chemistry-climate model. It is found that the TS coupling in the SH late winter/spring is significantly modified according to the solar cycle; the dynamical coupling between the troposphere and stratosphere becomes stronger with the increasing solar activity. Such modulation of the strength of the TS coupling is found to be the source of the solar-cycle modulation of the annular mode in late winter/spring. A possible mechanism of the solar-cycle-TS-coupling relationship is also discussed.

    Cohen, Judah, Mathew Barlow, Paul J. Kushner, and Kazuyuki Saito, 2007. Stratosphere–Troposphere Coupling and Links with Eurasian Land Surface Variability. Journal of Climate Vol. 20, No 21, pp. 5335–5343, November 2007


    A diagnostic of Northern Hemisphere winter extratropical stratosphere–troposphere interactions is presented to facilitate the study of stratosphere–troposphere coupling and to examine what might influence these interactions. The diagnostic is a multivariate EOF combining lower-stratospheric planetary wave activity flux in December with sea level pressure in January. This EOF analysis captures a strong linkage between the vertical component of lower-stratospheric wave activity over Eurasia and the subsequent development of hemisphere-wide surface circulation anomalies, which are strongly related to the Arctic Oscillation. Wintertime stratosphere–troposphere events picked out by this diagnostic often have a precursor in autumn: years with large October snow extent over Eurasia feature strong wintertime upward-propagating planetary wave pulses, a weaker wintertime polar vortex, and high geopotential heights in the wintertime polar troposphere. This provides further evidence for predictability of wintertime circulation based on autumnal snow extent over Eurasia. These results also raise the question of how the atmosphere will respond to a modified snow cover in a changing climate.

    Sigmond, Michael, John F. Scinocca, and Paul J. Kushner, 2008. Impact of the stratosphere on tropospheric climate change. Geophys. Res. Lett., 35, L12706, doi:10.1029/2008GL033573, June 24, 2008


    The atmospheric circulation response to CO2 doubling in various versions of an atmospheric general circulation model (AGCM) without a well-resolved stratosphere (“low-top” model), is compared to the response in a version of the same AGCM with a well-resolved stratosphere (“high-top” model). The doubled CO2 response of the “best-tuned” (i.e. operational) low-top model version is significantly different from that in the best-tuned high-top model version. Additional experiments show that this difference is not caused by the model lid height, but instead can be mainly attributed to differences in the settings of parameterized orographic gravity-wave drag which control the strength of the zonal wind in the mid- to high-latitude lower stratosphere and the mean sea-level pressure distribution. These findings suggest a link between the strength of the winds in the mid- to high-latitude lower stratosphere and tropospheric annular mode responses, and have implications for how to proceed with high-top low-top model intercomparisons.

    [Response: Thanks for helping complicate a very simple issue! Stratospheric cooling is predicted from increasing CO2 (and was so predicted decades ago), this is the opposite behaviour than with solar forcing. It’s basic radiative physics – and while there is a lot of interesting research on dynamical couplings between the stratosphere and troposphere, the radiative effects are completely uncontroversial. (And, in case you hadn’t noticed, the stratosphere is indeed cooling). – gavin]

  22. 22
    Milan says:

    It is good to see a thorough and comprehensible rebuttal of this piece, though I fear that the overall effect of its original emergence will be to maintain the fiction of deep scientific disagreement in the minds of many members of the public. This situation reveals, once again, how media looking for conflict and those with anti-regulation agendas are adept at conjuring the appearance of discord out of the presence of mere error.

  23. 23
    Ike Solem says:

    Deja Vu…

    …But you will never find a peer-reviewed rebuttal of such a bizarre line of reasoning as we are dealing with here – basically because such a line of reasoning is highly unlikely to make it past peer-review itself.

    Monckton seems to have leaned heavily on Douglas & Knox’s “Climate forcing by the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo”, which was refuted by Wigley et. al 2005 ( ) and Robock 2005 ( The same problem exists there:

    “In the description of their analysis, DK make a fundamental mistake in describing the problem. They claim to use “standard linear response theory,” but they confuse the response with the forcing. They say, “The LW [long- wave] effect is by definition the forcing function DF for the climate, represented by the measured surface temperature anomaly DT.” LW radiation changes, however, are produced by both the presence of a forcing agent, in this case stratospheric aerosols, and the response of the climate system. It is the instantaneous net radiation change with no response that is the forcing. The temperature anomaly is the response to forcing, and not the forcing itself, and the LW changes reflect both the true forcing and the effects of the temperature response.”

    That’s the same basic error with respect to forcings (for CO2, instead of for aerosols) in Monckton’s justification for the 66% reduction. He conveniently points out his sources, at least: “I am particularly grateful to Professors David Douglass and Robert Knox for having patiently answered many questions over several weeks”. Thus, this is really just regurgitation of previously refuted work, done in a non-peer reviewed journal outside the field of expertise.

    For real discussions of climate sensitivity and feedbacks, which are also good examples of explanation, unlike Monckton’s obfuscations, see


    It’s unclear why the APS would publish something like this. It’s the equivalent of opening an AMA journal and finding a debate over whether or not tobacco use was associated with lung cancer, or if the HIV virus was really responsible for clinical AIDS or not – with the “dissenting viewpoint” being provided by associates of the tobacco or medical blood product industries.

    In the case of Lord Christopher Monckton:

    His primary reputable foundation is the “Science and Public Policy Institute”( ):

    Greenpeace’s ExxonSecrets website states that “Ferguson set up the Center for Science and Public Policy in early 2003, after a $100,000 grant from ExxonMobil in 2002 – specifically tagged for the center. Exxon has continued to fund the Center each year since then, to the tune of at least $50,000 a year.”

    Exxon recently made a public claim that they were defunding climate skeptic groups, but this one (currently the most “productive” from the public relations viewpoint) is not on the list:

    Craig Idso is the chairman of SPPI, and has a long record with Exxon –

    Craig Idso (also referred to as Craig D. Idso) is the Chairman of the Board, founder and former President of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an Arizona-based global warming skeptics group that has been funded in part by Exxon.

    Some of the other “successes” of the SPPI group members include their promotion of the UK Channel 4’s Global Warming Swindle and the Kent Dimmock-Robert Durward lawsuit that was aimed at giving the film “equal time” in British schools, at which Monckton testified. ( ) As a result, they’ve produced many “media mentions”, which is how successful PR campaigns are identified.

    All that Exxon appears to have done is to have shut off funding for some think tanks, moved that funding to different think tanks, and kept their most productive denialists on the payroll – all while loudly using the opportunity to claim social responsibility and good corporate citizenship.

    What other services do groups like SPPI provide for the fossil fuel lobby? One example is provided by Kentucky’s coal Rep. Jim Gooch (when not a politician, a supplier to Peabody Coal), who recently brought Monckton to be a lead speaker before their legislature on the issue of global warming:

    Thus, if the coal industry needs experts to come speak to legislatures in order to head off regulations limiting coal use, then they turn to the SPPI, who finds a public speaker to make an appearance – but that speaker needs legitimacy, which means a publication record, scientific credentials, etc – and that’s what the APS has provided in this case.

  24. 24
    Lowell says:

    I’m still having difficulty with the 0.7C / W/m2 figure for the overall climate sensitivity.

    The total greenhouse effect is variably stated at 33C. Are we saying the total greehouse effect is only 47 W / m2.

    I understood the total greenhouse effect to be approximately 324 W/m2.

    324 W/m2 * 0.7C / W/m2 = 226C (which is obviously too high)

    I also assume that the total greenhouse effect includes all the forcings and all the feedbacks by definition.

    [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. This should indicate that it isn’t going to be linear. The climate sensitivity that we are talking about is only useful for ‘near’ present day conditions. – gavin]

  25. 25
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Beaker, there is a difference between “review” and peer review. The latter requires review by experts in the field–and the editor of the Physics and Society Forum certainly does not qualify wrt climate. While Napoleon once said, “Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity,” it absolutely strains credulity that the editor could be so mind bogglingly naive to fall for this.

  26. 26
    John Mashey says:

    The question “Why would the APS publish this” keeps coming up.

    One more time: The volunteer-staffed, non-peer-reviewed FPS newsletter is *not* isomorphic to the APS. The APS President responded very quickly when this was reported to him.

    The Monckton/SPPI/blogosphere tactics are fairly similar to those used in last year’s attacks on Naomi Oreskes last year, which I documented in excruciating detail here … in anticipation of the idea that it wouldn’t be the last time. The main difference is that Naomi was already quite familiar with the people and tactics, while those are new to APS and FPS. (Of course, it’s slightly weird for this to be in APS anyway. )

    Again, as to how this happened, I really suggest looking at Larry Gould, co-editor of the APS New England Section Newsletter.

  27. 27

    For those of you asking about Spencer’s recent testimony, it was mostly a rehashing of the arguments that RayPierre lambasted awhile back:

  28. 28
    bigcitylib says:

    @26 The newsletter has also published several articles on the Darwin/Creationism debate over the years, sometimes (if I am remembering correctly) entertaining the Creationist side. I imagine the editors have been as much interested in providing a “lively read” as ironclad science. In this case, it backfired.

  29. 29
    Hugh says:

    …but that speaker needs legitimacy, which means a publication record, scientific credentials, etc – and that’s what the APS has provided in this case.

    Hence, the flaming response in relation to the ‘red-inking’ of what would otherwise be a very convenient resource, to which the otherwise unsuspecting could have been ‘authoritatively’ directed!

    Lovely work Ike, thank you

  30. 30
  31. 31
    Ringo says:

    When did the stratosphere start cooling? Also, how far back do our stratospheric records go? And if there are problems with mid-tropospheric data, how do we know the stratospheric data is completely accurate?

    I would appreciate any answers to these questions.

    [Response: Signal versus noise. The trends in the stratosphere are larger and the noise smaller, so the uncertainties don’t play as much of a role. Look up ‘SSU’ data. – gavin]

  32. 32
  33. 33
    Joel Shore says:

    Re #27 (Zeke Hausfather): I agree that the particular RealClimate piece that you linked to is a good place to start. However, it only addresses one piece of what Spencer has been putting forward. So, I am looking forward to a more thorough discussion (which in the second paragraph in that piece, Ray did imply they did have on their “to do” list to undertake). Of course, I understand that the contributors here at RealClimate have other (and better!!) things to do with their time besides spending it rebutting the skeptics…But, I just wanted to let them know that we are eagerly awaiting this!

  34. 34
    Clear Thinker says:

    I have to agree with bikesaddle when they say “And anyway, peer review is a bit of a red herring. There’s plenty of papers out there that have been peer reviewed and are full of holes.”

    But it’s even worse than that. There are plenty of peer reviewed papers that were falsified by the authors, and were only caught after peer review had given them a hearty thumbs up.

    One side says they are right, the other swears the same thing. The public has reason to be confused, don’t you agree?

    [Response: No. Peer review is necessary but not sufficient – it really isn’t that complicated. – gavin]

  35. 35
    _Arthur says:

    In a sense, peer review is itself peer-reviewed. The most egregious cases of peer review failure get a journal flagged as unreliable, unless the editors endeavor to correct their mistakes.

  36. 36
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Clear Thinker, Hmm, let’s see. On one side you have NEARLY ALL the researchers who regularly contribute to the field of climate science. On the other side we have a few grumblers/cranks, a couple of [edit] freaks and various professors emeriti in fields not precisely related to climate science. On one side you have models based on accepted physics that largely reproduce the observed trends (that is, CLIMATE trends). On the other side you have maybe some half-baked ideas about cosmic rays and volcanoes and space aliens with deadly heat rays. Hmm, which to choose? Which to choose?

  37. 37
    John Mashey says:

    re: #16 BigCityLib on Marsh

    I’ve researched Marsh a little more, over at BigCityLib,

    Details over there, but I’d summarize:
    retired nuclear physicist, for last few years has been writing anti-AGW pieces for OpEds, USA Today (?), conservative thinktank newsletters, etc.

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle. the science and medical journals clearly attract writers who do make the effort to watch the publication process, work to filter it of scum, light up scum when it slips by, and clean it out.

    On point:

    Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd

    Referees and foul play With scientific fraud in the news, peer review is once again under attack for missing falsified data — Materials Today


    “… the inevitable question arises: how did the journal editors and referees miss it?

    That is to confuse the purpose of peer review somewhat. Peer review cannot be expected to detect every case of fraud, particularly if it is carefully done. Its purpose is to review a paper’s originality, that an appropriate approach has been used, the conclusions are fair, and that it is worth publishing. It’s when other groups try to repeat work that fraud is more likely to become apparent.

    In my view, peer review is under pressure from very different and less publicized sources. The burden on referees is reaching breaking point, with more papers being published and increasing pressure to speed up the review process. Instead, some method of successfully recognizing the valuable contribution of referees is needed that does not jeopardize impartiality.”


    Yes, you’ll also find some people blogging pay careful attention to and correct one another’s errors. Many of those bloggers are also scientists.

    It’s a skill and a habit much to be applauded.
    How many people do you know who give time to doing it?
    Thank one today.

  39. 39
    jre says:

    OK; for the radiation-transfer-obsessed among us, that’s Myhre (not Myrhe) et al. 2001 (abstract only) and Collins et al. 2006.

    [start grumble]
    C’mon, Gavin — if you can’t give us links to the articles themselves, can you at least give us proper cites?
    [end grumble]

    [Response: My bad. Sorry. I’ll include the links (and fix the spelling) above. – gavin]

  40. 40
    Clear Thinker says:

    Mr. Ladbury,

    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. Interestingly enough they say the same about the alarmist scientists.

    Both pro and con use science, and papers, and studies, and point fingers at the other, and on and on it goes.

    Just out of curiosity, would you be willing to debate Mr. Monckton?

  41. 41
    cce says:

    Here is the most up to date series of SSU statosphere measurements that I could find. These cover altitudes most relevent to GHG cooling. Cooling has flattened since the mid ’90s when CFCs were banned. Also, the increasing concentration of CO2 in the stratosphere is beginning to affect the temperature measurements themselves, which will require a correction. For SSU47x you can see the solar cycle easily in recent years, which is more pronounced in the stratosphere.

  42. 42
    Al Tekhasski says:

    It is a very nice map of global forcings that you refer to,

    Obviously, for smaller (current level) increase in CO2 the spatial distribution should not change, only the amplitude will be smaller, right? Also, since climatic zones did not change much over the course of last century, this map pattern must be equally valid for the last 100 years, right? So, what do we have? Low forcing in central Africa, noticeable dip of forcing in Mongolia. Then, very high forcing in Middle East and India, and strong forcing in Australia and Argentina.

    Wouldn’t it be very reasonable to guess that higher radiative forcing would put higher radiative pressure on local land? Then lets go you to your site again, and pull out a map of warmings, map of temperature “anomaly” for the last 100 years.

    Make it annual, from 1908 to 2007. What do we see there? Central Africa and Mongolia both show warming. Middle East, India, and Argentina have no change, and Australia has cooled. To me it looks completely opposite to what your map of radiative forcing would cause to Earth land. So, either the temperature reconstruction is wrong, or the CO2 forcing theory is wrong. Or both. What do you think?
    Al Tekhasski

    [Response: Third possibility. Local differences in forcings don’t make automatic local differences in responses once the atmosphere and ocean have done their thing. The models don’t give you any reason to think otherwise. – gavin]

  43. 43

    Now I know why Tamino grumbled about the spamthing. My laptop has an excellent screen, and I can’t tell what I am looking at.

    But, what I wanted to say was that I just finished watching the entire 2.5 hours of the Boxer hearing, and Spencer was a strange surprise. What on earth is this Holy Grail that he was talking about?
    (The surprise was that his manner exuded petulance.)

  44. 44
    Tim McDermott says:

    Clear Thinker said:

    Just out of curiosity, would you be willing to debate Mr. Monckton?

    The real question is, can Monckton debate? Scientific debate is not a test of rhetoric for the entertainment of an audience. Scientific debate takes place though papers published in peer reviewed journals. Monckton doesn’t seem to be able to make it into Nature or Science.

    Consider the real gold standard in the scientific world is not publication, but replication. There are some two dozen GCMs in the world that all confirm that the anthropogenic greenhouse gases are heating the world, and that current warming cannot be explained without AGW.

    It is telling that the fossil carbon industry is not able to produce an alternate hypothesis that can make it through to publication. Lord knows they have the money to support alternate research. For one day of ExMob’s profit (~75 million $) I could build the best climate model in the world. If there were another possible explanation of what is happening to the climate, I could demonstrate it. Since ExMob has not produced an alternative hypothesis (and doesn’t even appear to be working on one), I conclude that they know that AGW is real.

  45. 45
    Peter Goodman says:

    APS should have expected to take a vicious beating for opening the debate on GW and AGW, and especially for allowing Monckton to publish his paper in “the Physics & Society” newsletter. All over the blogosphere, I’m finding GW/AGW bed-wetters declaring that the APS are hypocrites and have changed their mind on GW/AGW. They nearly had me fooled until I bothered to check the APS web site. Neither the Monckton article nor the article “A Tutorial o the Basic Physics of Climate Change” by David Hafemeister and Peter Schwarz have been peer reviewed. I have no problem with the APS opening a debate on GW and they did so at some risk to their credibility; my problem is that the GW “skeptics” are overstating (lying about) what actually happened, and many people are buying into these lies. How did the debate get so vicious?

  46. 46
    John Hollenberg says:

    > 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.

    You must be referring to:

    “In an unprecedented action, representatives for more than 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists are calling on Congress to take immediate action against global warming”

    Oops! I see you were referring to the “Oregon Petition”. For debunking of this “petition”, see:

  47. 47
    pough says:

    Just out of curiosity, would you be willing to debate Mr. Monckton?

    What a bizarre question. Considering climate science is something pursued by thousands of nerds over decades in probably billions of lines of text, you think hashing it out in an hour with a wrinkled old crackpot using methods most often employed by such truth-seekers as lawyers and politicians is a good idea?

    Anyone who is excited about debating science to arrive at some final truth that can’t be solved within the field is either a liar, a fool, or both. Why not make it a double bill with Eric Hovind versus Someone Smart?

    [Response: It’s worth reading John Ziman’s “Are debatable scientific questions debatable?” on this topic. – gavin]

  48. 48
    Petro says:

    Clean Thinker stated:

    “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. Interestingly enough they say the same about the alarmist scientists.”

    Where is this your fantasy army of tens of thousands of scientists sceptical to AGW? How come they never publish is climate science journals? Why only crackpot denialists get all the attention?

    At the same time, solid studies are published in thousands each year supporting human-induced climate change.

  49. 49
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tenney, the middle of the three buttons (speaker icon):
    “click the audio button to hear a set of digits that can be entered instead of the visual challenge.”

    A “magnifying glass” function — a way to enlarge that part of the screen temporarily — would help. Or, mmhmm, a real magnifier. Hm.

    Clicking the top button usually gets a readable image eventually.

  50. 50
    Marion Delgado says:

    Okay, at some point even the sincere valid scientists clinging to the phlogiston are no longer going to be respected by their colleagues. So, no, they are not 100% people who are whores, liars, cranks, crackpots, out of their disciplines, over the hill, etc. etc.

    But it’s definitely approaching 99% of them, and since their numbers are approaching 1% of the relevant scientists, not sure why anyone should consider the 1% of the 1% that’s sincere, qualified, and actually doubts AGW to a strong degree. They’re a tiny and aging handful, and when they pass on, honest and skilled denialism on AGW will die with them.

    Moreover, science is not settled by the three-ring-circus that is a debate with glib charlatans like Monckton or Crichton. The climate denialism faithful are too lacking in education and fundamental scientific understanding to understand climate change themselves, so they turn to authorities, but unfortunately, they don’t even have the level of competence or discernment to pick real authorities, choosing science fiction writers, bored useless british royalty, and TV weathermen over atmospheric scientists; and they have fixed, obsessive delusions, for instance that (mostly “capitalist” but to a bizarre extreme) economics should determine science, or politics actually determines science. But whenever those things happen, that’s a failure of science.

    So the underlying problem is a lack of understanding of science coupled with a very bad Dunning-Kruger effect.