'There is no climate crisis, but there is a crisis of climate superstition, fraud, incompetence, and censorship. And it is being used to terrify children and threaten the future of western civilization.'

Tony Heller, https://realclimatescience.com/2019/11/there-is-no-climate-crisis/

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Naive climatology: what chance have the teachers when the Government Science Advisor holds such views?

Naive climatology in high places.  Sir John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science, has produced some web pages to elaborate his position (http://www.bis.gov.uk/go-science/climatescience).  His covering letter begins thus:

'The science of climate change

'Few areas of science have such profound implications for public policy and society as the study of climate change.
As one consequence, scientists who may have begun their careers in relative backwaters of research now find themselves thrown into the limelight.
Scientific points, and occasional errors, have become the subject of emotive debate and strong media interest. Frequently this has generated more heat than light, with polarised and ill-informed debates across the blogosphere - and indeed at times in the mainstream media.
My aim in developing these web pages is to set out what I believe to be key aspects of the scientific evidence on climate change. In a field so broad the material is necessarily selective, but I hope it presents in a clear and scientific manner an overview of some of the most important areas of study.
The evidence is compelling that climate change is happening, that human activities are the major driver for this and that the future risks are substantial. This evidence includes wide-ranging, long term and robust observations of changes that are taking place, and projections of possible future changes that are based on basic physical laws.'
I want to examine the last paragraph quoted, phrase by phrase:
'The evidence is compelling that climate change is happening'   
         Agreed.  The climate has never stopped changing.  Ever.  This is a platitude, used I suspect to deploy the phrase 'the evidence is compelling' in the hope that the naive reader will assume that applies to human influence as well.  Only the artificially contrived hockey-stick temperature plot showed little change (in temperature) until the 20th century, but it has now been exposed as an artifice involving peculiar choices in a particular statistical analysis of a noisy and complex set of data (1).
'that human activities are the major driver for this'
         No.  There is no compelling evidence for this - it is a theoretical speculation, enshrined as an added effect in computer models of climate, and that is all.  Of course human activities affect both climate and weather - the debate is about how much and in which direction.  Nothing extraordinary has been seen recently in any of the climate measures such as temperatures, ice extents, storm frequencies and intensities, rainfall, sea levels, etc.  The climate remains within bounds, but within these bounds there is a great deal of variation.   Attempts to match CO2 levels with climate measurements have been particularly disappointing for those alarmed by this possibility.  The warming and cooling cycles of the past 150 years or so, superimposed on a slowly rising (beneficially so, I would add) global temperatures (as 'averaged' in various ways - none of which are immune from problems) do not link convincingly to the rising CO2 level as a cause.  The last ten years or so have seen another break in this long-term rise in global 'average' temperature, and it is quite plausible that we are now in a cooling cycle that could last at least another 20 years.  With regard to CO2, there are massive natural fluxes in and out of the air, such that the human-caused emissions (whose magnitude is only crudely guestimated) amount to a few percent (some say c. 3%).  That alone makes the qualifier 'major'  subject to doubt.  Distinguished scientists are on record with their strong reservations e.g. (2), (3).
'and that the future risks are substantial'
             Of course.  Another platitude given that we are probably near the end of a mild inter-glacial period, and if so, a return of permanent ice cover to the UK and elsewhere is inevitable.  There are substantial challenges from cooling, arguably far more challenging than from the more credible end of the range of warming projections promoted by the IPCC.  The response by some to the threat of warming has been to call for a crippling of our primary sources of reliable energy - coal, gas, oil, and even nuclear, and for a burden of new taxes to be added to other industries. This kind of self-harm does not seem a sensible thing to do when in fact more energy means more scope for dealing with climate challenges, as does more economic growth, not least in the poorer countries.

'This evidence includes wide-ranging, long term and robust observations of changes that are taking place,'
            This is presumably referring to rising CO2 levels.  Or is it another attempt to piggy-back on ordinary climate variation in order to bolster a weak case?  There is evidence that rising temperatures cause increases in atmospheric CO2 on short and on geological timescales, the very reverse of the IPCC position, e.g. (4).

'and projections of possible future changes that are based on basic physical laws.'
              Not exactly.  This would have been more accurate: 'based on deliberately set parameters in global climate models whose own developers admit are not fit for making predictions'.  Hence the term 'projections'.  

The physical laws bit deserves further elucidation.  I think the alarmists have now conceded that the optical properties of glass (specifically the ability to transmit visible light far more readily than infra-red) are not important for real greenhouses getting hot - their high temperatures are due to the dramatic reduction in mixing with outside air, and not from any 'trapping of infra-red'.  How many school textbooks recognise this?  It was established by experiment about 100 years ago.  

The idea that just adding more CO2 must mean higher temperatures is also naive.  Physicists, notably in Germany (5) (6), and from Hungary (7) and Russia (8), are arguing that if anything, it could lead to a small cooling (due to slightly increasing the density of air, and due to increasing the radiation of infrared into space higher up in the atmosphere).  There are other arguments, in particular the saturation effect, the logarithmic rather than linear response of the radiative effect of CO2 in a chamber of gas - so providing less thermal impact for each additional ppm of CO2 (9), and a broad one of negative feedback stability that is, I think, a bit more plausible than any positive feedback.  Core features of the 'greenhouse effect' modeling in the atmosphere have also been challenged (10), (11).  Here is an example of a scientifically sceptical overview of the alarmist approach to climate science: (12).

The statements and position adopted by Professor Beddington are surely going to be influential.  Any education authority or teacher wishing to take a broader, dare I say 'more inclusive', view of climate has to be ready to challenge such authority, and its ex-cathedra announcements.  What are the chances of that happening soon?  Low I guess, although I am convinced that it will happen eventually, as and when sound science, observation, and reasoning push speculative computer models back to where they belong - which is hidden away from the public gaze and from vulnerable and/or opportunistic politicians and environment campaigners.
(10) http://arxiv.org/abs/1002.0883  (link to a paper by Kramm and Dlugi)
(12) Overview of the case for human-caused warming being worthy of alarm: http://www.junkscience.com/Greenhouse/