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Can a blanket violate the second law of thermodynamics?

Filed under: — stefan @ 20 September 2016

One of the silliest arguments of climate deniers goes like this: the atmosphere with its greenhouse gases cannot warm the Earth’s surface, because it is colder than the surface. But heat always flows from warm to cold and never vice versa, as stated in the second law of thermodynamics.

The freshly baked Australian Senator Malcolm Roberts has recently phrased it thus in his maiden speech:

It is basic. The sun warms the earth’s surface. The surface, by contact, warms the moving, circulating atmosphere. That means the atmosphere cools the surface. How then can the atmosphere warm it? It cannot. That is why their computer models are wrong.

This is of course not only questions the increasing human-caused greenhouse effect, but in general our understanding of temperatures on all planets, which goes back to Joseph Fourier, who in 1824 was the first to understand the importance of the greenhouse effect.

The atmosphere acts like a blanket which inhibits heat loss. In fact according to Roberts’ logic, a blanket could also not have a warming effect:

It’s simple. The body warms the blanket. This means that the blanket cools the body. So how can the blanket warm it? It cannot!

The answer is simple. The warm body loses heat to the cold air. The blanket inhibits and slows this heat loss. Therefore you stay warmer under a blanket.

The Earth loses heat to the cold universe. The atmosphere inhibits this heat loss. Therefore, the surface remains warmer than it would be without the atmosphere.

It is true that the surface loses heat to the atmosphere – but less than it would otherwise lose directly to space. Just as I lose less heat to the blanket than I would otherwise lose to the air, without blanket.

Of course, in neither case is the second law of thermodynamics violated. The heat always flows from warm to cold – just more or less effectively. The processes of heat transfer are quite different – for the blanket it is mainly heat conduction, for the greenhouse effect it is thermal radiation. The climate deniers claim that the colder atmosphere cannot radiate thermal radiation towards the warmer surface. This is of course nonsense. The cool Earth also sends thermal radiation towards the hot sun – how would thermal radiation leaving Earth know how warm the surface is that it’s going to hit? It’s just that the sun sends more radiation back to us  – the net flow is from hot to cold. More is not implied by the second law of thermodynamics.

Thanks to two Germans (Gerlich and Tscheuschner of the TU Braunscheig – deeply embarrassing for this university), the absurd claim that the greenhouse effect violates the second law of thermodynamics even made it into an obscure physics journal – obviously there was no peer review to speak of. The bizarre article was promptly demolished by some US physicists. Just recently I read the claim again in an article of coal lobbyist Lars Schernikau – with such fairy-tale beliefs of its representatives, one is not surprised by the decline of the coal industry.

The thermal radiation from the atmosphere toward the ground, which allegedly cannot exist, is of course routinely measured, including its increase (see e.g. Philipona et al. 2004, 2012).

And you can even feel it. Those who sometimes sit outside in the garden after dark know this. Under a dense, low cloud layer you do not nearly get cold as fast as on a clear starry night. This is due to the thermal radiation coming from the clouds. They are colder than our body, but warmer than the night sky in clear air.

Roberts said: “Like Socrates, I love asking questions to get to the truth.”  Perhaps he will ponder my answer next time he sits in his garden at night, or slips under a blanket.


Here is the energy balance diagram for our Earth, explained in IPCC FAQ 1.1. The “Back Radiation” makes the greenhouse effect. It is larger than the solar radiation reaching the ground, and measured by a global radiation measurement network.



R. Philipona, “Radiative forcing – measured at Earth’s surface – corroborate the increasing greenhouse effect”, Geophys. Res. Lett., vol. 31, 2004.

R. Philipona, A. Kräuchi, and E. Brocard, “Solar and thermal radiation profiles and radiative forcing measured through the atmosphere”, Geophys. Res. Lett., vol. 39, pp. n/a-n/a, 2012.

229 Responses to “Can a blanket violate the second law of thermodynamics?”

  1. 101
    Denis Frith says:

    The figure does not show how the flow of energy is heating up the oceans as well as the atmosphere even though this is one of the problems created by the emissions from technological systems.

  2. 102
    Silk says:

    #88 – My bad. The atmosphere isn’t generating /energy/.

    I /think/ that Mack was implying, when he said “Are you seriously telling me that radiation from the atmosphere…”, was that we were suggesting (which we aren’t) that the atmosphere somehow is generating energy itself, which is the added to the system.

  3. 103
    zebra says:

    Titus et al,

    If an analogy is perfect, is it still an analogy, or is it an analog computer?

    So Titus, of course we can build an electric circuit that would mimic the behavior of something like a column of atmosphere with respect to radiative inputs. Or, we could engineer some sheets of material to mimic the behavior of layers of the atmosphere in a column, and shine a light mimicking solar radiation through them.

    But what would be the point? You would still have to know the physics of those experimental setups to understand what is going on. So you have built an analog computer, which is a fun exercise but impractical these days.

    This is why I object to most use of analogies in educating either students or the public. How do you know what the person understands about the analog in the first place?

    And of course, we get what is happening here—people are going through all these contortions when it isn’t necessary. The point of the blanket analogy was very narrow– to refute the absurd 2nd Law argument. It isn’t necessary that all other elements correspond, but you have to know enough to know that in the first place.

  4. 104
    Silk says:


    Let me try, one more time.

    The atmosphere DOES NOT add energy to the system. I repeat, the atmosphere DOES NOT add energy to the system. The energy is from the sun. No one is claiming the atmosphere adds energy to the system, in the same way that no one would claim a physical blanket adds energy to a human wrapped in it.

    The atmosphere makes it harder for heat to escape. A blanket makes it harder for the heat to escape. The physics of the two things are different (heat ultimately escapes from the earth by radiation since space is more or less a void, heat loss from a person occurs by convection, conduction, evaporation AND radiation) but the analogy is correct, so far as the 2nd law applies.

    As for ” the basic properties of all gases…ie gases do not add energy ,but disperse it”. Well, that’s utter nonsense. Who told you that? Where is it written down? The THERMODYNAMIC properties of gases (i.e. how they act in relationship to the 4 laws of thermodynamics) are identical to the thermodynamic properties of solids and liquids.

    If you are claiming the 2nd law applies to solids but doesn’t apply to gases the Lord Kelvin would like you to step outside.

    Do you disbelieve any of the following?

    1 – The atmosphere lets in energy from the sun
    2 – The earth, because it has a temperature, radiates energy out into space
    3 – The presence of IR absorbing gases in the atmosphere makes it harder for IR photons to escape into space compared to a situation were those gases not there
    4 – Therefore the surface of the earth, at equilibrium, is warmer than it would be were there no atmosphere

    If you /don’t/ disbelieve any of those things then there’s no disagreement. If you /do/ then please explain, using physics, why.

  5. 105
    MA Rodger says:

    Surely the idea of using a blanket as an analogy for the GHG is because it is anticipated that the vast majority of folk will be familiar with the insulating properties of blankets and that any normal person will thus have the ability to grasp the concept of a GHG effect insulating a planet’s surface. Evidently some folk down this thread are having a great deal of difficulty with this simple analogy.

    A thought raised by the comment of Jeffrey Davis @69. “If the atmosphere couldn’t keep the planet warm, neither could a blanket or coat keep a body warm.” The comment is saying that both blanket & GHGs are warming by providing insulation in their respective ways. But as stated, the comment suggests there is some requirement for ‘keeping warm’ which is either achieved or not achieved.

    So here’s a thought – would a blanket keep a planet warm?
    Firstly, contrary to some of the comment up this thread, a blanket is not an airtight barrier. According to this 1943 study, a blanket allows a 10 foot/minute (about 1 mph) airflow to pass through it with a 0.018 bar pressure drop. Compared to the vertical flow through the atmosphere, that blanket performance is pretty rubbish. It takes a packet of air about half a week to get to the top of the troposphere (& presumably a whole week for the round trip), that’s 0.15 mph.
    Secondly, the insulation provided by a blanket is rated by the stdy as something like 0.8 BTU/hr/ºF/sq ft (or 4.5 W/sq m/ºC). With the temperature drop from surface to tropopause about 70ºC, a blanket would be leaking about 300 W/sq m. This compares with the atmosphere that only leaks 24 W/sq m in sensible heat.
    So while a blanket stands as a good GHG analogy for normal people, a blanket (which somehow lets sunlight in) would be rubbish at keeping a planet warm.

  6. 106
    Titus says:

    @ 103 zebra says:”This is why I object to most use of analogies in educating either students or the public. How do you know what the person understands about the analog in the first place?”

    I couldn’t agree more and IMO the most intelligent comment on this thread. Many folk, including myself, see the term “Greenhouse Effect” as being totally against their understanding of how greenhouses work. ie. They control the atmosphere. Same with blankets.

    So all this does is to cast doubt in the minds of those that do understand greenhouses and create fear in the minds of those who do not. Perhaps that’s the intention?

  7. 107
    Thomas says:

    My observations of late (fwiw):

    Yah, RC is back to posting seriously important articles on climate science again!

    And people are now talking about the “communication” aspects in “understanding” all of that and what, pray tell, it may mean to reality on Planet Earth again.

    Gosh even Jim Hansen has showed up here again a after a decade away, omg!

    Look at all these really bright intelligent science people who have suddenly leapt out from the lurking shadows to make substantial worthwhile comments about SCIENCE and the FACTS again.

    Fantastic. Keep it up. Stay REAL, crank it up even more and slam dunk the denial industry and the liars and the fools who follow them like Lemmings.

    Climate change is at a Crisis point right now – both politically and in the public domain.

    Scientists now is not the time to be complacent because you might believe or hope “there’s still time before things get really bad temp and feedback wise”

    Yes there is a lag time in CO2 increases and temps, but there is also a more critical time lag – and that is from the collective accpetance of the reality by The People – and the time it takes to for the political process and sane action to be taken.

    We are at that Tipping Point right now imo – the time for SCREAMING AT POLITICIANS and demanding they either Get Real or Get out of the Way is now – before this window of opportunity is lost forever.

    Please, Scientists, get the help you need from Marketing People and find some Public Speakers who can carry the Message of Truth to the world.

    iow stop trying to ‘reinvent the wheel’ and know your own limitations. OK?

    Time is of the essence.

    It’s time to move beyond the “echo chamber” that is RC and the commenters here.

    Mike may be right, but it’s a total waste of time him saying it – no one is listening who needs to hear it!

    You need cutting edge scieitists like George Lakoff et al with a global network of committed Pro-Bono MARKETERS and ADVERTISING dynamos on board…… NOW~!


  8. 108
    Digby Scorgie says:

    The diagram in the article is very informative. However, I see that the incoming energy (342 W/m2) is exactly balanced by the outgoing energy (107 + 235 W/m2). I thought the latter is actually 1 W/m2 lower — the reason of course that the planet is warming.

  9. 109
    Alfred Jones says:

    Titus: Many folk, including myself, see the term “Greenhouse Effect” as being totally against their understanding of how greenhouses work. ie. They control the atmosphere.

    AJ: That would be true if greenhouses didn’t have exhaust windows. Controlling the atmosphere via closed windows and non-running exhaust fans does add a second layer which acts as a thermostat, but the basic “Greenhouse Effect” is all about visible light transmission and IR blocking by glass/GHGs.

    It would be clearer if one said, “The Greenhouse with wide-open exhausts Effect”, but the analogy is solid. If it wasn’t, then all those scientists of old would have used glass instead of salt in their experiments.

  10. 110
    Titus says:

    @109 Alfred Jones: says ‘the analogy is solid’.

    IMO I totally disagree. Okay, lets compromise. Here’s a suggested fix. Call it a “GLASSHOUSE EFFECT”?

    Because it’s NOT, repeat NOT a “Greenhouse Effect” which uses many more control features and technologies. It relies on managing the atmosphere to make it operate and grow plants effectively and efficiently.

  11. 111
    Titus says:

    Please can this be added to my previous post?

    I believe we could get agreement if you stated clearly that this analogy only fits the IR flow and effect. You could also change to “Sealed Glass Box Effect” and then add that this analogy does not descibe the earths atmosphere but is one component part.

    I for one could accept that.

  12. 112
    MA Rodger says:

    Denis Frith @101,

    That particular graphic doesn’t show the imbalance within the Earth’s energy budget but there are some that do. And as you suggest, the vast majority of that imbalance is heating the oceans.

    The graphics which do show the imbalance (eg Fig 1 of Trenberth et al (2009)) present it as a simple ‘net’ value which is rather out of step with the other values being represented. (Indeed the purpose of such graphics is not about illustrating the imbalance.) The imbalance is also a very small quantity compared with the massive energy fluxes sloshing round the atmosphere and so tends to disappear within the confidence intervals of the represented flows.

    Perhaps to better illustrate the imbalance, a flow into and out of the oceans from the surface should be added to the graphic complete with the small imbalance (and with a note that this represents 90% of AGW).

  13. 113

    Mack, #100–

    “Gases in the atmosphere all dissipate heat.”

    I’m not entirely sure what you think that statement really means, Mack–but I’d be inclined to agree, in a broad-brush kind of way. But then I’d have to add that the whole point is that some do so much more effectively than others–rather as a light cotton coverlet ‘dissipates heat’ more effectively than a heavy wool blanket.

    But that then leads me to the notion that a less misleading formulation would be that “Gases in the atmosphere all modulate the dissipation of heat.”

  14. 114
    zebra says:

    @Titus 106,

    My comment was a critique of you asking about your favorite analogy. You aren’t making much sense here.

  15. 115
    MikeR says:

    Re Comment 81 from Ray Ladbury –

    “So, Mack, is your world supported by elephants on the back of a turtle?”

    This would be an advance on Mack’s understanding of basic astronomy see – .

    In particular see the comments of November 11 (near the end) where Mack generates amusing astronomical howlers. My favourite ( I am biased) is when he states with the utmost confidence that that the phases of the moon are simply due to the the blocking of sunlight by the intervening earth.
    This is a sad indication of the state of Mack’s knowledge of astronomy and I am afraid the same goes for climate science.

  16. 116
    Jim Eager says:

    Digby, the energy balance diagram in the article shows outgoing energy balancing incoming because it shows the earth-atmosphere system at ideal equilibrium. It’s not intended to show the system out of equilibrium. Also, it is from Kiehl and Trenberth (1997) (click on the IPCC FAQ 1.1 source link in the article), so there is no way it could possibly show the current imbalance as of 2016.

  17. 117
    Jim Eager says:

    I’d like to revisit my comment @97 to better address incoming solar energy at TOA. Perhaps it will help Mack to finally see the light, as it were.

    The solar constant at the top of earth’s atmosphere is on average around 1368 w/m^2. But not every square meter of atmosphere receives the full 1368 watts. The problem is TOA is not a flat disc facing the sun, it is a curved sphere, just as the surface is, so that 1368 w/m^2 has to be projected over a curved TOA.

    At local noon above the equator TOA “sees” the full 1350 w/m^2 of incoming solar energy. But move 10° north, south, east, west or diagonally off center and TOA drops a bit 1341 w/m^2. Move to 20° off center and TOA only sees 1286 w/m^2. Move to 30° and that drops to 1190 w/m^2; at 40° to 1053 w/m^2; at 50° to 876 w/m^2. At 60° off center it drops to 684 w/m^2, which means the 1350 w/m^2 of incoming sunlight is now spread over 2 actual square meters of atmosphere. At 70° it drops to 465 w/m^2; 80° to only 233 w/m^2, and at 90° to zero.

    And that’s before we have to account for earth’s rotation. At the equator the maximum incoming energy at TOE is 1350 w/m^2, but that figure rises from zero and then falls back to zero over 12 hours. At higher latitudes the above figures are also the local maximums. And we still haven’t addressed the fact that the atmosphere receives zero solar energy for 12 hours.

    That’s why we have to average 1350 w/m^2 over the entire TOA when we’re calculting earth’s energy budget, and that’s why incoming energy at TOA is 342 w/m^2 in the diagram instead of 1350 watts.

    (Note: seasonal variation caused by the tilt of earth’s axis and elliptic orbit complicates things a bit, of course, but they change the distribution of incoming energy, not the total annual amount.)

  18. 118
    Alfred Jones says:

    Mack: gases do not add energy ,but disperse it. Gases in the atmosphere all dissipate heat.

    AJ: Note that thermals in the diagram transfer a mere 24 W/m2. You seem to be taking a teensy-weensy effect and calling it “the 800 pound gorilla.” Getting scale wrong is by far the most common problem folks have with science.


    Just like “Greenhouse effect” is correct but allows for misinterpretation by those who ignore vents, the blanket analogy can be clarified either by saying, “a fiberglass blanket”, or, more Rube Goldbergesquely, (but less itchy) “a blanket above and an offset mirror below that reflects sunlight up to your body.”

    Searching for specific instances and configurations where an analogy fails, as opposed to configurations where the analogy is spot-on is counterproductive. Besides, analogies are by definition incomplete and technically inaccurate. Their point is not to provide a perfect explanation, but to give a visualization upon which one can build a fuller understanding. Pooh-poohing an analogy because it isn’t 100.000000% accurate is just throwing wrenches. Wouldn’t you rather be productive?

  19. 119
    Mal Adapted says:


    Does Trenberth, (and this “basic earth science” calculation by Fourier…and perpetuated by all the institutes of earth science)have the correct amount of solar radiation arriving at the TOA, (top of the earth’s atmosphere) ??
    Actually, I think not,

    And here I thought that by mocking AGW-deniers who think climate science is a giant conspiracy starting with Fourier and enlisting Clapeyron, Clausius, Tyndall and Arrhenius among thousand of scientists illustrious and obscure along the way, I was just being sarcastic.

  20. 120
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Jim Eager @116

    OK, I get it, thanks!


    In your fourth paragraph, you mean TOA, not TOE, don’t you? (My first thought was “top of earth”???)

  21. 121
    Chris O'Neill says:


    gases do not add energy

    Mack obviously doesn’t know that gases (and everything) generates radiation:

    “All matter with a temperature greater than absolute zero emits thermal radiation.”


    Stephan has obviously forgotten..

    Arrogance is the solution to all of Mack’s scientific problems.

  22. 122
    Alfred Jones says:


    I couldn’t believe you so I checked. Here’s the cut-and-paste so others don’t have to scroll through the goop. Mack said,

    “then you blather on further about eclipses. Aaahahahahahaha…sorry mate….Eclipses are where the Moon interposes itself between us and the Sun. When the Earth interposes itself between Sun and Moon its called, phases of the Moon. Ever heard of that phenomenon.? It occurs much more commonly than eclipses…and there are even occasions where absolutely no sun at all strikes (spelling OK) the Moon’s surface.

    You could be looking through the wrong end of your telescope MikeM…but I’ll just put it down to brain-fag on your part. No need for an apology.”

  23. 123
    Mack says:

    Jim Eager @117
    Your revisitation of comment #97 to better address incoming solar energy at the TOA…with..”Perhaps it will help Mack to finally see the light,as it were.”..seems to have got you into an even more confused state, Jim.
    Even Digby Scorgie pulls you up ..”you mean TOA, not TOE, don’t you?”
    I hope to clarify and enlighten this issue for you , if the moderators will allow my comments, here…

  24. 124
    Jim Eager says:

    Mack, is that all you’ve got, a simple typo?

    The link to your same ignorant assertion elsewhere makes it perfectly clear, thanks. Geometry and trigonometry are simply beyond your ability to comprehend, you are utterly impervious to reason and logic, and too dim to be embarrassed by it, much less do something about it.

  25. 125
    MA Rodger says:

    Mack @123.
    The substance of your comment is presented down a link to a comment you wrote in a Principia Scientific comment thread. Why the link? Why not simply cut-&-paste any content of that comment you wish to relay here? Are you in some way proud of the gob-shite you wrote in that Principia Scientific comment? Or are you worried that the appearance of such gob-shite in this thread would end up in the Borehole?
    Principia Scientific are a bunch of fantasists. It appears that that descriptor extends to the denizens of their comments’ threads.
    The substance of the gob-shite you link to @123 was that the TOA incoming solar radiation is, you say, 1360w/sq.m. Are you serious? And if it were (although it isn’t as this is globally averaged values being presented), why would that result in 342w/sq.m incoming solar radiation absorbed by the surface? Note that I ask these questions solely because I am intrigued by the constructs of the delusional mind.

  26. 126
    Marco says:

    Jim Eager @117, I think Mack’s response will show you that enlightening him is absolutely impossible. Despite numerous people from all sides (including some of his fellow cranks at PSI) trying to educate him, he still does not understand the concept of a spherical earth and its impact on incoming solar radiation.

  27. 127
    Chris O'Neill says:


    Even Digby Scorgie pulls you up ..”you mean TOA, not TOE, don’t you?”

    At least Mack can understand a spelling mistake if nothing else.

  28. 128
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Mack is another Victor. It’s time to stop feeding him. I regret that he had to make such a fuss over my pointing out your little typo, Jim.

  29. 129
    Thomas says:

    fwiw on Mack:

    “Mack September 25, 2016 at 3:20 pm #
    Apologies Bob fernley-Jones, I cannot reply to your conversations above, because I’m a layman….but can roughly understand what you’re saying, and it seems OK stuff to me.”

    and for more scary stories try:

    “The relevance of the thermosphere on the climate might be best explained to you, reading my comments…just very recently…on this posting by Stefan Ramsdorf at Real Climate. I must say I’m very delighted to finally be allowed to comment on Real Climate….Stefan must have let his guard down….or they might be loosening up a bit. My second to last comment however, went into The Borehole …obviously too much for them.”

  30. 130
    Sou says:

    @ Titus #110 – the terms greenhouse and glasshouse are almost synonymous. One could argue that a greenhouse can have polyethylene instead of glass. However these days, glasshouses as often as not don’t use glass.

    What they are called depends in part on what part of the world you live in, and in part on what it is used for (and what your occupation is – horticulture, backyard gardener, or whatever). In Australia, you can buy glasshouse tomatoes, which are produced on a large scale and grown in high tech conditions. They aren’t called “greenhouse tomatoes” even though the structures they are grown in might not (or might) have glass.

    The term “greenhouse effect” originated before there were high tech greenhouses or glasshouses and it is pointless to change it. What would you change it to and why would you? There are lots of terms in use today that have no meaning. At least this is based on a reasonable analogy. (We even invent some changes for politically correct purposes. The silliest being common era, so as not to offend non-Christians – but marking CE/BCE swap-over with the birth of Christ! How politically insensitive is that?)

    If the greenhouse analogy doesn’t work for some people who either cannot imagine a glasshouse or greenhouse, or who use greenhouses, or learnt about them at some stage, then try another analogy. Most people probably don’t know how a greenhouse works anyway. The blanket analogy is good and probably would be the most universally understood. Most people use some sort of covering to sleep under. Home insulation should work, for people who are familiar with it. (Not every country builds homes with insulation.)

    Steve Easterbrook did some digging into the origin of the term “greenhouse effect”. It obviously originated before the Woods flawed experiment – back in the early 1900s.

  31. 131
    Hank Roberts says:

    When the Earth interposes itself between Sun and Moon its called, phases of the Moon.

    Ahahahahahahah hahahaha hahah haha ha ha.

  32. 132
    Bernard J. says:

    It’s no wonder that “Mack”* doesn’t grok the geometry of incident radiation on a sphere if he can’t understand the geometric mechanics of the phases of the moon. One might watch agog with appalled fascination at such ignorance, wondering whether it’s real or simply a ploy to maintain an ideological stance, but there’s no point in trying to cure him of his assertions – he’s been at this game for years, originally posting at Deltoid under sock variants such as ‘Sunspot’ and ‘Karen’.

    The sad thing is that this lobbying behaviour has already succeeded in its intent, in Australia at least. It’s useful idiots such as Mack, and their media shock-jock and conservative political analogues, that have deliberately and concertedly acted to successfully stymy any Australian progress on fossil carbon emissions for well over a decade. The latest manifestation of the war on science in Australia, as I have just noted at Sou’s, is a case in point…

    Last night the state of South Australia endured unprecendented storm weather* that resulted in the whole state being blacked out as a result of damage to transmission infrastructure. This morning, before the roofs had even stopped dripping, Australia’s conservative politicians were announcing high and low that there was a crisis of too much renewable energy, and that we need to dial back on the “ideology” of moving from renewable energy, and go back to fossil fueled energy. In this game of count-the-plethora-of-logical-fallacies we had commentary supporting this thesis from the prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, from the deputy prime minister, and from recalcitrant idiot Barnaby Joyce, and the eternally yapping poodle Christopher Pyne.

    There are many bad jokes to be made, but one that must take place in the forefront is that Malcolm Turnbull claims to be the “innovation” prime minister. The only innovation I can see is the new extremes to which a conservative politician capitulates to the fossil fuels interests in the country, and engages in the type of New Speak that would make Orwell blush: to wit, turning away from the need to have a modern and sustainable energy supply and instead cleave to the polluting past.

    Rest assured that the conservative government attack on renewables following the SA storms will be repeated with gusto by the Denialati in Australia and overseas.

    (*This weather is at least in part attributable to global warming. The salient point though is not that such extreme weather occurred, but that such occurences will become more frequent as global warming continues. If the right wing can’t stomach the cost of such events now, how will they digest the geometrically-increasing costs of climate change in the future?)

  33. 133
    Jim Eager says:

    Hank, at least Mack has been good for a laugh. Back in the days when I used to engage the likes of him on Huffington Post there was a fellow who went by the handle Fumes who asserted that the reason earth had temperate latitude seasons was because earth orbited around the sun. No amount of explanation that it was because earth’s axis is tilted had any effect on him.

    Yes Virginia, there really is a significant portion of the adult population that is not as smart as the average sixth grader.

  34. 134
    Chris O'Neill says:


    from the deputy prime minister, recalcitrant idiot Barnaby Joyce

    Shows you what sort of country Australia is that an ignorant redneck like Barnaby Joyce can get to be Deputy Prime Minister (although a lot of countries are probably not much better). Had the belief that a Carbon tax only worked by discouraging consumption of energy. No-one he listened to seemed to want to let him know that its main effect is to encourage a switch from Carbon-burning to non-Carbon-burning energy sources. Either that or his advisers didn’t know either. Crap politicians are very popular in Australia.

  35. 135
    Titus says:

    @130 Sou: Thanks very much for a very informative reply. The article you linked to by Steve Easterbrook should be required reading by anybody discussing this subject.

    Having started to make comments on this thread I asked some acquaintances what they understood by ‘greenhouse effect’. Out of 6 folks nobody understood. The phrase has an emotive sound which IMO gives it a false scary interpretation and a reason as to why folks get skeptical and doubt the harbingers of the science.

  36. 136
    Thomas says:

    134 Chris O’Neill, Bernard et al, Barnaby Joyce is a long term AGW/CC denier. As a small business accountant by profession he falsely believed he knows better than climate scientists. He is no different than the majority of politicians in the LNP federal government. Though they are all less publicly outspoken these days on their denial their opinions have not changed one bit. Joyce is no better than Malcolm Roberts of One Nation.

    Barnaby Joyce was one of many who jumped on the Monckton caravan a decade ago. His #1 political benefactor and donor is his “friend” Gina Rinehart the mining magnate and richest woman in the world. Based mainly in Western Australia she controls 3 new coal mines in the Galilee basin of QLD all set to start exporting coal. Gina Rinehart is Australia’s most powerful AGW/CC denier equivalent to the Koch brothers and their Heartland Foundation, she does the same things and supports all kinds of media disinformation across Australia and speaking tours by Monckton et al.

    Crap politicians are very popular everywhere. Because they can get away with it so easily.

    EG: Psychopaths are as prevalent in the Corporate world [and POLITICS] as they are in Prisons

    Journalist Anna Patty published a story in the SMH today titled “One in five bosses is a psychopath, research reveals.”

    Denial of reality doesn’t only occur in anti-climate science circles.

  37. 137
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    133 – “Yes Virginia, there really is a significant portion of the adult population that is not as smart as the average sixth grader.”

    I remember being in grade 10 and my chemistry/physics prof telling the class that we were already superior in scientific knowledge than Jack and Jill average.

    I was disbelieving and shocked.

    Upon reflection, and compared to Adults today, especially Trump supporters, he could have make the same claim when I was in grade 7.

    I regularly talk to random people about their knowledge of physics and basic mathematics.

    Most would be quite at home living 2,000 years ago.

    It is a very rare person who remembers how to solve a basic algebra problem.

    a = (a+4)/2

    If they ever knew anything, they have forgotten everything.

    Perhaps when it comes to elections, voting strength should be a function of a person’s academic achievement in science, engineering, and history.

  38. 138
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    122 – “When the Earth interposes itself between Sun and Moon its called, phases of the Moon.”

    Just a little mistake.

    Once I was told that the earth wasn’t warming, but that it was getting hotter because the Earth was entering it’s summer season.

    A very large percentage of the population can not think rationally. They simply do not have the skills. They can’t think numerically. They simply do not have the skills. They can not think logically. They simply do not have the skills.
    They can not think critically. They simply do not have the skills.

    Most have self organized into a group that has labeled themselves Tea Baggers.

  39. 139
    Hank Roberts says:

    > “Mack” doesn’t grok geometry

    What more can ya do than show them the pictures?

  40. 140
    Titus says:

    @138 Vendicar Decarian says: “Tea Baggers”

    Actually it’s ‘Teabaggers’.

    Just a little mistake:)

  41. 141
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Vendicar Decarian @137

    I would add language to your list of subjects. An inability to convey information in straightforward language is a sign of confused thinking. To put it crudely:

    If you can’t write straight, it’s because you can’t think straight.

  42. 142
    Thomas says:

    It probably takes a lot to faze Gavin Schmidt, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, but the outlandish views of Malcolm Roberts, the newly elected One Nation senator, can do it from half a world away.

    On Monday night’s Q&A program on the ABC, Roberts was venting his now well-worn view that there was no empirical evidence of climate change.

    The empirical evidence of climate change tells us global warming is real and has increased on average globally by over 1C since the early 1800s to today.

    The empirical climate science shows that increased CO2 in the atmosphere is acidifying the oceans and causing a decades long destruction of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems today.

    The empirical data this scientific message is based upon is accurate and scientifically robust today.

    The empirical science today is telling us to immediately reduce global greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, to stop the destruction of pristine rain forests and to adjust how we manage and operate our agricultural practices, national parks and forests, and our water resources.

    The empirical science is telling us to immediately stop opening new coal mines.

    The empirical science is telling us to immediately stop opening up new oil and gas reserves.

    The empirical science is telling us to immediately stop building and instead start closing down coal and gas fired power plants.

    The empirical science is telling us to immediately take the advice provided by climate scientists very seriously.

    The empirical science of global warming and climate change is found in the empirical evidence of real world observations of higher temperatures, changes in the seasons, changes in regional climates, in extreme weather events all over the world, of land glaciers melting fast, of sea levels rising, and the long term Arctic sea ice loss now coming close to the north pole in summer.

    The empirical evidence of climate change is everywhere, overwhelming and undeniably true.

    This is the kind of things that everyone all over the world needs to hear repeated all the time.

    Even those who already accept the validity of today’s AGW/CC science.

    A team of expert ‘Admen’ could say it much better I ever could.

  43. 143

    “Most would be quite at home living 2,000 years ago.”

    Way, way OT, but I have to call this idea out for modernist chauvinism, as it defines the past only by its ignorance, not its knowledge.

    Because modernity has progressively substituted technology for technique, it has also imposed a *loss* of knowledge, which however is much less obvious than the gains in more formal, (and more specialized) knowledge. It’s most obvious with regard to hunter-gatherer societies, whom we know exhibit even today a lot of knowledge of what various organisms in the environment can be used for, and what environmental factors need to be attended to, for one essential reason or another. But I suspect that even city dwellers of 2,000 years ago had all sorts of small practical lore without which their lives would have been much more uncomfortable, and maybe even untenable.

    It seems to me that if we do have a civilizational collapse, that that will be one of the factors that kills a lot of us–though insofar as lost ancient practical lore concerns living with the land, it will be somewhat limited in its applicability, both because ‘the land’ will be ecologically degraded (as it already is, in many places and in many ways) and because of the differential migrational ‘shearing’ of ecologies everywhere which climate change is imposing.

    Reason #579 why we don’t want to ‘go there.’

  44. 144
    Alfred Jones says:

    Jim Eager: Yes Virginia, there really is a significant portion of the adult population that is not as smart as the average sixth grader.

    AJ: Uh, by DEFINITION that portion is 49.9999999%

  45. 145
    Titus says:

    @142 Thomas says: “empirical evidence of climate change tells us global warming is real”

    Empirical science does not observe the “Tropical Hot Spot” which is a critical signature pattern to the effect of so called “greenhouse gases”.

    Interested in your comments on the following:

    This being the case, it then follows that all your other examples which are based on this collapse.

    Be good to see a post here on RealClimate on the paper.

  46. 146
    zebra says:

    Kevin McKinney #143,

    Yeah, when I read your comment I started thinking about the many things we need to know post-apocalypse. I realized, for example, that I didn’t know how to make bleach to disinfect water. But not to worry, I checked: All that stuff is on the internet…

  47. 147

    Titus: Empirical science does not observe the “Tropical Hot Spot” which is a critical signature pattern to the effect of so called “greenhouse gases”.

    BPL: No it isn’t. The critical signature is increased back-radiation in the absorption lines of greenhouse gases, which we damn well do observe.

  48. 148
    Astringent says:

    @145 Titus says “Empirical science does not observe the “Tropical Hot Spot” which is a critical signature pattern to the effect of so called “greenhouse gases”.

    It looks like the authors of that (blog post… not peer reviewed) can’t get their heads around cause and effect. They take two ‘driving’ variables; CO2 and solar change, and one ‘result’ variable; ENSO, and look at their effect on heat in the tropics. Unsurprisingly the ‘result variable almost totally explains the effect, allowing them to claim statistical insignificance for the two factors that may actually be drivers.

    It’s as if they observed a block of ice melting in bowl a warm room. A reasonable hypothesis would be that the rate of melting was related to the temperature in the room. What Wallace et al have done is suggest that the rate of melting is proportional to the temperature in the room AND the amount of water that is in the bowl. Unsurprisingly the amount of water in the bowl exactly correlates with the rate of melting, hence proving that temperature has no effect on the rate of melt.

  49. 149

    #145, Titus–

    Well, apparently Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo don’t observe it. However, there are and have been lots of folks looking at this, as this 2010 review details:

    Bottom line: the agreement between models and observations is ‘good enough’ not to be problematic for the theory, though better data are clearly needed.

    RC has written about this issue, including here:

    Turning to the report you linked, it looks like a shell game to me. The authors complain at length about the mathematical impropriety of ‘analysts’ (allegedly) ignoring the fact that atmospheric CO2 is affected by sea temperature. But then they proceed to compare temperature time series to versions of the same adjusted by subtraction of a factor from the Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI). That’s despite the fact that two of the factors in MEI are sea surface temperature and surface air temperature.

    Gee, such a shock–if you take the temperature record minus the trends in SST and SAT, you don’t see warming!

    Wait, is that ‘mathematically proper?’

  50. 150
    Chris O'Neill says:


    “empirical evidence of climate change tells us global warming is real”

    Empirical science does not observe the “Tropical Hot Spot”

    Maybe. But that doesn’t change the empirically observed fact that global warming is real.