Global Warming and the Irrelevance of Science

Guest essay by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences (Emeritus) Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This is the text of a lecture delivered on August 20, 2015 to the 48th Session: Erice International Seminars on Planetary Emergencies

In many fields, governments have a monopoly on the support of scientific research. Ideally, they support the science because they believe objective research to be valuable.

Unfortunately, as anticipated by Eisenhower in his farewell speech from January 17, 1961 (the one that also warned of the military-industrial complex), “Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity.” Under these circumstances, when the government wants a particular scientific outcome the ideal arrangement is vulnerable. However, as I hope to show, the problem is not simply bias.

Rather, the powers that be invent the narrative independently of the views of even cooperating scientists. It is, in this sense, that the science becomes irrelevant. This was certainly the case in the first half of the twentieth century, where we just have to look at Lysenkoism [1] in the former Soviet Union, Social Darwinism, and Eugenics throughout the western world [2], as well as, in the 1960s, the unfounded demonization of DDT [3]. Each phenomenon led to millions of deaths. And, in each case, the scientific community was essentially paralyzed, if not actually complicit.

Will climate catastrophism join this list? It appears so. The position of the policy world is clear. Here is President Obama’s constant refrain:

“Climate change is contributing to extreme weather, wildfires, and drought, and that rising temperatures can lead to more smog and more allergens in the air we breathe, meaning more kids are exposed to the triggers that can cause asthma attacks.”

Pope Francis, President Hollande, and virtually all state leaders have chimed in with similar proclamations.

And yet, the whole proposition is largely without basis and highly implausible. The association with asthma that is regularly made by both Obama and Hillary Clinton is a good example of nonsense driven by focus groups who find this to be an effective scare theme. The other claims are no better. In the 70’s the scientific community regularly designated warm periods as ‘climate optima’. That CO2 was essential to plants and effectively a fertilizer was also widely understood. Thus, it was not surprising that the early environmental movement chose to promote fear of global cooling which, not surprisingly, was attributed to industrial emissions (most notably sulfates) [4]. When, however, in the late 1970’s, it was recognized that sulfates could be scrubbed, that the irreducible product of industrial emissions was CO2, that CO2 emissions were likely to warm rather than cool, and that there was an hypothetical process whereby this warming could be amplified (by what came to be known as the water vapor feedback [5]), this whole narrative was turned on its head. The hitherto optimal warming was now put forth as a consequence to be feared. President Carter’s science adviser, Frank Press, had the National Research Council investigate the matter, leading to the famous Charney Report from 1979 [6]. This report summarized the results of the primitive climate models of that period, and found that they had a range of sensitivities to doubling CO2 of from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Centigrade [7]. The report regarded such results as possible but attached little credibility to the models, noting the need to better understand why the models behaved as they did. The report nonetheless provided a measure of credibility to the warming hypothesis. The whole situation was eerily reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm, when ‘four legs good, two legs bad’ became ‘four legs good, two legs better.’ Repetition was the mechanism used to convince. So was the claim, already made by 1988 in Newsweek, that ‘all scientists agreed.’ The larger public thus had no reason to actually dig into the science. Indeed, the actual science had already become irrelevant. This new narrative depended not only on the allegation of consensus, but also on lineage. It was always pointed out that the greenhouse effect had already been identified in the early 19th Century by Tyndall [8], later by Arrhenius [9], and still later by Callendar [10]. While this was true, it was also the case that the effect was generally held to be of much less importance than changes in the general circulation related to transport. For example, in an important collection of papers from 1955 (Dynamics of Climate, Richard Pfeffer, editor, Pergamon Press) with contributions from the leading climate scientists of the period (Charney, Phillips, Lorenz, Eliassen, Smagorinsky, etc.), increasing CO2 was barely mentioned, and the greenhouse effect was not mentioned at all. The model favored for global cooling alarm was the Budyko-Sellers [11] model which also focused on meridional heat transport. Only with the decision to push global warming alarm, did the greenhouse effect become central to the discussion of climate. Needless to add, consensus and lineage are not generally regarded as the backbones of science.

The implausibility or even outright silliness whereby global warming became global warming catastrophism (sometimes referred to as CAGW, catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) is so extensive that one hardly knows where to begin. It is crucial to emphasize catastrophism, because the situation is made even more incoherent by the intentional conflation of simple basic results that are widely agreed upon, but which have no catastrophic implications, with catastrophism itself.

Currently, there really is quite a lot of basic agreement within the climate science world: climate change exists; there has been warming since the Little Ice Age ended around the beginning of the 19th Century (well before emissions are regarded as contributing significantly); human emissions can contribute to climate change; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have been increasing. None of this is controversial and none of this actually implies alarm. However, in the policy world, as emerges from virtually any reading of the current political discourse and its attendant media coverage, the innocuous agreement is taken to be equivalent (with essentially no support from observations, theory or even models) to rampant catastrophism. There are numerous examples of the issuance of unalarming claims (regardless of their validity or lack thereof) that are interpreted as demanding immediate action. Perhaps the most striking example involves the iconic statement of the IPCC: Most of the warming over the past 50 years is due to man. Is this statement actually alarming? First, we are speaking of small changes. 0.25C would be about 51% of the recent warming. Given the uncertainties in both the data and its analysis, this is barely distinguishable from zero. Evidence of this uncertainty is shown by the common adjustments of this magnitude that are made to the record.

Some charts from the weather page of the Boston Globe of March 12, 2013 (any other date would serve as well) illustrate how small the changes really are. In the attached figure we see the high and low temperatures for each day in the preceding month (black), the average high and low temperature for each date (dark gray) and the record high and low temperature for each date (light gray). The width of the black horizontal line corresponds to the change in the global mean temperature anomaly over the past 150 years.

High and low temperatures result from the advection of air roughly along the path of the jet stream (and this path changes from day to day and year to year). Record breaking temperatures (regardless of the year that they occurred) correspond roughly to the warmest and coldest temperatures on the temperature map for March 11.

Second, the recent warming episode is not at all unprecedented. The almost identical episode from about 1919-1940 could not be attributed to man.

Third, the observed warming is completely consistent with low climate sensitivity. Alarm requires, for starters (and only for starters), high sensitivity. By sensitivity, we refer to how much warming we expect for each doubling of CO2. High sensitivity is generally regarded as 3˚C or more. If we were to assume that ALL warming over the past 50 years were due to added greenhouse gases, we would conclude that the sensitivity was about 1˚C. How do models with much higher sensitivity manage to replicate the past 50 years? They do so by subtracting from the greenhouse warming essentially unknown aerosols which they then include as due to human emissions. However, in a recent paper from the Max Planck Institute, Stevens (2015) [12] finds that aerosols are limited and unable to compensate for the higher sensitivities. If man accounts for only 51% of the warming, then even modest warming becomes implausible.

Although it has become commonplace to fear warming, it is worth noting that the approximately 1˚C warming since the 19th Century has been accompanied by the improvement of all indices of human welfare (including environmental quality).

Indeed, the very notion that climate is described by a single number that is forced by another single number, is itself a bit strange. For example, the force on a piston acting on a gas in a cylinder certainly does determine the pressure. However, as Budyko and Izrael [13] noted long ago, climate change is characterized by a relatively stable tropics and changes in the equator- to-pole temperature difference. This, crudely speaking, has to do with heat transport. Pursuing the analogy with the piston, would we really expect the flow through a pipe to depend on the mean pressure in the pipe rather than the gradient of pressure along the pipe?

Why then do scientists go along with this? The situation has been described by me earlier as consisting in an iron triangle [14]. At one vertex are the scientists who make meaningless or ambiguous statements. The scientific assessment of Working Group 1 of the IPCC is full of such statements. Then there is the second vertex: that of the advocates and media that ‘translate’ the statements into alarmist declarations. The advocates also include the IPCC’s WG2 and WG3 that deal with impacts and mitigation by assuming worst case scenarios from WG1. Politicians also are often part of the advocacy efforts. The third vertex consists in the politicians who respond to alarm by feeding more money to the scientists in the first vertex. As far as the scientists are concerned, what’s not to like? Should the scientist ever feel any guilt over the matter, it is assuaged by two irresistible factors: 1. The advocates define public virtue; and 2. His administrators are delighted with the grant overhead.

Of course, scientists are hardly the main beneficiaries. The current issue of global warming/climate change is extreme in terms of the number of special interests that opportunistically have strong motivations for believing in the claims of catastrophe despite the lack of evidence. In no particular order, there are the

    • Leftist economists for whom global warming represents a supreme example of market failure (as well as a wonderful opportunity to suggest correctives),
    • UN apparatchiks for whom global warming is the route to global governance,
    • Third world dictators who see guilt over global warming as providing a convenient claim on aid (ie, the transfer of wealth from the poor in rich countries to the wealthy in poor countries),
    • Environmental activists who love any issue that has the capacity to frighten the gullible into making hefty contributions to their numerous NGOs,
    • Crony capitalists who see the immense sums being made available for ‘sustainable’ energy,
    • Government regulators for whom the control of a natural product of breathing is a dream come true,
    • Newly minted billionaires who find the issue of ‘saving the planet’ appropriately suitable to their grandiose pretensions,
    • Politicians who can fasten on to CAGW as a signature issue where they can act as demagogues without fear of contradiction from reality or complaint from the purported beneficiaries of their actions. (The wildly successful London run of “Yes, Prime Minister” dealt with this.) etc., etc.

All of the above special interests, quite naturally, join the chorus of advocates. Strange as it may seem, even the fossil fuel industry is generally willing to go along. After all, they realize better than most, that there is no current replacement for fossil fuels. The closest possibilities, nuclear and hydro, are despised by the environmentalists. As long as fossil fuel companies have a level playing field, and can pass expenses to the consumers, they are satisfied. Given the nature of corporate overhead, the latter can even form a profit center.

In point of fact many of the foremost scientific supporters of alarm acknowledge the absence of a basis for catastrophism. Here are some remarks the presidents of the Royal Society (Martin Rees) and of the National Academy (Ralph Cicerone) published in the Financial Times [15].

“Straightforward physics tells us that this rise is warming the planet. Calculations demonstrate that this effect is very likely responsible for the gradual warming observed over the past 30 years and that global temperatures will continue to rise – superimposing a warming on all the other effects that make climate fluctuate. Uncertainties in the future rate of this rise, stemming largely from the ‘feedback’ effects on water vapour and clouds, are topics of current research.”

Rees and Cicerone are counting on the fact that most readers won’t notice that the so-called ‘uncertainties’ are, in fact, the main issue; the straightforward physics is trivial.

They continue “Our academies will provide the scientific backdrop for the political and business leaders who must create effective policies to steer the world toward a low-carbon economy.”

Clearly, despite the implicit fact that the need for action is uncertain, the policy is taken for granted and even endorsed.

Here is an exchange from the BBC 4 interview of Ralph Cicerone on 13/07/2012. John Humphrys is the interviewer.

John Humphrys: You don’t sound, if I can use this word, apocalyptic. I mean, you’re not saying “If we don’t do these things, we’re going to go to hell in a handbasket, we’re going to fry, in a few years”.

Ralph Cicerone: Well, there are people who are saying those things.

John Humphrys: But not you.

Ralph Cicerone: No. I don’t think it’s useful, I don’t think it gets us anywhere, and we don’t have that kind of evidence.

The situation may have been best summarized by Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia (a center of concern for global warming): “To state that climate change will be ‘catastrophic’ hides a cascade of value-laden assumptions which do not emerge from empirical or theoretical science.”

Even Gavin Schmidt, Jim Hansen’s successor as head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, whose website,, is a major defender of global warming, does not agree with claims of extremes:

“General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media. . . . .It’s this popular perception that global warming means all extremes have to increase all the time, even though if anyone thinks about that for 10 seconds they realize that’s nonsense.”

Interestingly, basic meteorological theory tells us that extremes depend significantly on the temperature difference between the tropics and the poles – something that is expected to diminish in a warmer world.

On the other hand, there is quite a lot of ‘science on demand’ as Eisenhower anticipated.

The well-established Medieval Warm Period is a problem for the narrative.

Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick gets rid of the Medieval Warm Period.

The physics of moist convection requires that warming maximize in the tropical upper tropospheric troposphere, and models agree, but the data doesn’t show this.

Ben Santer reworks the data to show the maximum.

Significant warming ended about 18 years ago showing that CO2 is not the major factor in climate.

Tommy Karl adjusts and rearranges the data to eliminate the pause.

Quite a few independent studies show that the outgoing radiation from the earth indicate low climate sensitivity.

Andy Dessler ignores the physical and mathematical constraints to claim the opposite (at a truly negligible significance level).

Antarctic sea ice is increasing.

Jim Hansen absurdly claims that this is what one should expect from global warming (which, however, has not been occurring for 18 years).

Basic dynamics of the atmosphere calls for reduced extremes and storminess in a warmer world.

John Holdren invents a cockamamie theory of tropospheric polar jets to claim that such an imaginary jet is destabilized with warming, leading to more and more extreme storminess.

It should be noted that the first 4 items in the above list of ‘science on demand’ represent dubious data manipulation, but represent little that is alarming. For example, Karl’s ‘elimination’ of the pause still leaves his resulting temperature series well below almost all model projections. That is to say, the models are still ‘running hot.’ The last two items, on the other hand, simply represent the pure imagination of alarmists.

As Pat Michaels showed [16], there is a remarkable bias in publications. For articles in Nature and Science during the period July 1, 2005 through July 30, 2006, he found a total of 116 publications dealing with climate data. Of these, 84 were “worse”, 10 were “better”, and 22 were “neutral” with respect to earlier claims. The relative numbers for Science and Nature, respectively, were 34,50 (worse), 5,5 (better) and 9,13 (neutral). Assuming existing studies were equally likely to be better or worse, this result would have negligible likelihood. Of course, given Michaels’ findings, it is almost certain that the existing studies were already biased – thus rendering likelihood almost infinitesimal.

In point of fact, the Climategate 1 and 2 email releases showed explicitly the breakdown in peer review [17].

We have, thus far, ignored the ‘impacts’ industry where papers are published (and research is supported) attributing hundreds of things to the minimal warming that has occurred. The website

lists some of these – ranging from acne to walrus stampedes to typhoid fever. Note that even in this extensive list, asthma is not mentioned.

Prof. Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts has reflected on the failure of his alarmist position to sway the world: “Sometimes I have this dream… I call the fire brigade. But they don’t come because some mad person keeps telling them it’s a false alarm. The situation is getting more and more desperate, but I can’t convince the firemen to get going.” Such nightmares over a few tenths of a degree seems a little exaggerated. One expects that a counsellor might be more effective than a fireman.

The take of political figures is generally misinformed, and commonly transcends the absurd. Senators McCain and Lieberman (Boston Globe, February 13, 2007) offered the standard misreading of the IPCC WG1’s iconic statement: “The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded there is a greater than 90 percent chance that greenhouse gases released by human activities like burning oil in cars and coal in power plants are causing most of the observed global warming. This report puts the final nail in denial’s coffin about the problem of global warming.

Of course, the IPCC WG1 wisely avoided making the claim that 51% of a small change in temperature constituted a ‘problem.’ This, they left to the politicians.

Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry goes much further in a lengthy speech delivered in Indonesia in February of 2015. Here are some selections:

“…. When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them. And it is a challenge that I address in nearly every single country that I visit as Secretary of State, because President Obama and I believe it is urgent that we do so. ….

…’s compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain. ….

…. I know sometimes I can remember from when I was in high school and college, some aspects of science or physics can be tough – chemistry. But this is not tough. This is simple. Kids at the earliest age can understand this. ….. (It should come as no surprise that Kerry proceeds to get literally everything wrong in his subsequent description of the science.)

….. First and foremost, we should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact. …

…. This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. And those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand. Now, President Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society. …”

As usual, political figures improperly associate science as a source of unquestionable authority rather than a successful mode of inquiry.

Secretary Kerry’s unsurprising lack of understanding as to what science is, is duplicated by Gina McCarthy (Head of US EPA — which is spearheading America’s War on Fossil Fuels — whose education consists in a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston Branch, and an M.S. in Environmental Health Engineering, Planning and Policy from Tufts University).

“By now we all know that climate change is driven in large part by carbon pollution (typically conflating carbon with carbon dioxide) and it leads to more extreme heat, cold, storms, fires and floods.”

“We are way past any further discussion or debate. Scientists are as sure that humans are causing climate change as they are that cigarette smoke causes lung cancer. So, unless you want to debate that point, don’t debate about climate change any longer because it is our moral responsibility to act. That responsibility right now is crystal clear. And that is why we have taken action.”

“… the science has spoken on this. A low-carbon future is inevitable. We’re sending exactly the right signals on what, at least EPA believes to be, a future of lower pollution that is essential for public health and the environment, that EPA’s not just authorized but responsible to acknowledge and push towards.”

Of course, some political figures skip any embarrassing pretenses concerning science and move directly to their agenda. Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change: “This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution.”

Ms. Figueres is not alone in taking this approach. Pope Francis’ closest adviser castigated conservative climate change skeptics in the United States, blaming capitalism for their views. Speaking with journalists, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga criticized certain “movements” in the United States that have preemptively come out in opposition to Francis’s planned encyclical on climate change. “The ideology surrounding environmental issues is too tied to a capitalism that doesn’t want to stop ruining the environment because they don’t want to give up their profits.”

It is difficult to know whether the statements of prominent political figures represents dishonesty, ignorance or both.

Ms. Figueres may be the most honest. No proposed measures will have any discernible impact on climate (regardless of one’s view of the physics) unless one rolls back the industrial revolution everywhere and permanently – and even then significant impact on global climate is dubious. Of course, no country outside the western world would even consider this, though they are perfectly happy to endorse the efforts of the West to do so.

A constant feature of the public presentation of the issue is the exploitation of public ignorance. A large poster appearing in the Paris Metro showed the World Wildlife Fund’s signature panda leading young people in mass demonstration (intentionally mimicking the storming of the Bastille) calling for the elimination of CO2. Presumably these young people have never heard of photosynthesis and fail to realize that advanced forms of life would largely cease for levels of CO2 less than about 150 ppmv.

So where does the issue of global warming stand? In retrospect, we are confronting three rather different narratives. The first I would call the IPCC WG1 narrative. This narrative, while broadly supportive of the proposition that increasing greenhouse gas concentrations are a serious concern, nevertheless, is relatively open about the uncertainties and even contradictions associated with this position, and its public pronouncements tend to be vague with ample room for denial, carefully avoiding catastrophist hyperbole while also avoiding outright rejection of such hyperbole. The first narrative is very much the narrative of many of the major supporters of the global warming agenda. The second narrative is that of what are referred to as ‘skeptics.’ To an extent, not generally recognized, there is considerable overlap with the first narrative. Thus, although skeptics might agree that alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th Century, they are also aware that alpine glaciers were largely absent during the medieval warm period, and that their more recent retreat preceded by well over a century the period when anthropogenic greenhouse warming became moderately significant. Moreover, skeptics generally regard the fact that virtually all models ‘run hot;’ ie, their projections for the period 1979 to the present for the most part greatly exceed observed warming, strongly supports low climate sensitivity. They generally believe in testing the physics underlying the positive feedbacks in sensitive models rather than averaging models. Skeptics also are much more open to the numerous known causes of climate change (including long period ocean circulations, solar variability, and the various impacts of ice), and do not regard CO2 as the climate’s ultimate ‘control knob.’ The main difference between these first two groups, however, is that the second group openly opposes catastrophism while the first group does not. The third narrative is that of the political promoters of climate alarm including many of the environmental NGO’s, and most of the mass media. The promoters of this narrative also include many of the contributors to WG2 (impacts) and WG3 (mitigation) of the IPCC. The latter generally emphasize alleged consequences of the worst case scenarios presented by WG1. It is this narrative for which the science is largely irrelevant. Few scientists will endorse the notion that the planet is at risk, though this is standard fare for the catastrophists. It is also this narrative that invariably claims virtually unanimous support. Such claims generally rely on bogus studies which, moreover, dishonestly conflate the points on which both the WG1 and the skeptical narratives agree, with the third catastrophic narrative. Anyone looking at any statement concerning global warming will readily identify which narrative is in play. Unfortunately, for most people, the third narrative is all they will see.

The overwhelming emphasis on the third narrative, has very serious implications for proposed policies alleged to deal with global warming such as the restriction of access to electricity for the 1.3 billion human beings currently without such access, and the increased poverty for billions more with its obvious implications for health and longevity, etc., not to mention foregoing the well-established agricultural benefits of added CO2 [18], a chemical essential to life as we know it rather than a pollutant (the US Navy regards levels of 5000 ppmv safe on nuclear submarines; ambient levels are currently 400 ppmv). It is clear that the issue of climate does constitute an emergency. However, as is so often the case, the emergency does not arise from science and technology, but rather from politics. It is worth examining whether science can play a role in the mitigation of this emergency. It is doubtful whether the answer will consist in research grants. However, science has much at stake. Its hard earned raison d’etre as our most effective tool for objective assessment is being squandered, and with it, the basis for public trust and support.

If we do nothing to stop this insanity, science will rightly be regarded as just another racket. This might just be more collateral damage than we can readily afford.


[1] Medvedev, Zh.A., 1969: The Rise and Fall of T.D. Lysenko, 304pp, Columbia University Press.

[2] Lindzen, R.S.(1996) Science and politics: global warming and eugenics. in Risks, Costs, and Lives Saved, R. Hahn, editor, Oxford University Press, New York, 267pp (Chapter 5, 85-103)


[4] Ponte, L., 1976: The Cooling, Prentice-Hall, 306pp.

[5] Manabe, S., and R. T. Wetherald (1975). The effects of doubling the CO2 concentration on the climate of a general circulation model, J. Atmos. Sci. 32, 3. For definitions of feedback and discussions of water vapor see Lindzen, R.S. (1993) Climate dynamics and global change. Ann. Rev. Fl. Mech., 26, 353-378.

[6] Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment: Report of an Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate Woods Hole, Massachusetts July 23-27, 1979 to the Climate Research Board Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sciences National Research Council. This is commonly referred to as the Charney Report. Jule Charney was the chairman of the panel.

[7] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has not changed this range except for the fourth assessment which increased the lower bound to 2C. The fifth assessment brought it back to 1.5C while peculiarly but revealingly claiming that there was no basis for preferring one value to another.

[8] Tyndall, John (1863). “On Radiation through the Earth’s Atmosphere.” Philosophical Magazine ser. 4, 25: 200-206.

[9] Arrhenius, Svante (1896). “On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air Upon the Temperature of the Ground.” Philosophical Magazine 41: 237-76.

[10] Callendar, G.S. (1938). “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Climate.” Quarterly J. Royal Meteorological Society 64: 223-40.

[11] A critical discussion of these models can be found in Lindzen, R.S. (1990) Dynamics in Atmospheric Physics, Cambridge University Press, New York, 310pp

[12] Stevens, B.J., 2015, Rethinking the lower bound on aerosol radiative forcing, Journal of Climate, 705 doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-14-00656.1.

[13] Budyko, M. I., Izrael, Y. A. 1991. In Anthropogenic Climate Change, ed. M. I. Budyko, Y. A. Izrael, pp. 277-318. Tucson: Univ. Ariz. Press

[14] Lindzen, R.S., 2013: Science in the Public Square, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, 18, Fall issue

[15] Financial Times, 9 April, 2010

[16] Michaels, P. 2008: Evidence for “PUBLICATION BIAS” concerning global warming in SCIENCE and NATURE, Energy & Environment, 19, 287-301

[17] For example:,

[18] Goklany, I.M. (2015) Carbon Dioxide, The Good News, Global Warming Policy Foundation, GWPF Report 18, 47 pp. Available from

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93 Responses to Global Warming and the Irrelevance of Science

  1. roberthargraves says:

    Reminds me of my Dartmouth Osher course, The Death of Science.

    We’ll examine scientific facts that should be a basis for social behavior, but are in fact contravened by laws, regulations, and traditions that require people to do the opposite. Childhood vaccinations can protect people from deadly disease, but unfounded autism fears keep many children unprotected. Golden rice provides vitamin A to overcome a dietary deficiency that kills over a half million children per year, but such GMOs are decried by Greenpeace and prohibited in Europe. Fluorides in water prevent tooth decay, but 40% of US communities refuse to add them to water. Low levels of ionizing radiation can stimulate the immune system against cancer, but public opinion and government regulations declare radiation to be a carcinogen at all dose levels. Increases in atmospheric CO2 trap more heat on earth, contributing to climate change, yet many legislators deny the effect and continue policies that encourage burning ever more fossil fuels. We’ll examine the roles of celebrities, politicians, and special interest groups in developing public policies that contravene scientific evidence. Participating class members will present both sides of these debates.

  2. Gaznotprom says:

    I paraphrase a quote from someone much wiser than me, ‘when people stop believing in God, they believe in anything’
    Science is now infested with religious-like zealots of biblical proportions!
    Lindzden one of the originals to have the balls to question the orthodoxy of the ‘church’

  3. Great review, sad that the “believers” will just treat it as another sceptical viewpoint. Politicians will not be able to understand it and the media will not take it up.

    It’s a crazy world!

  4. Dave Rutledge says:


    Thank you for reprinting your thoughtful essay here.

    I have noticed that BP thinks a carbon tax is great. Natural gas and coal compete as a fuel for electricity, and BP sells natural gas. BP gets a higher tax on a competitor and they get to proclaim their virtue at the same time.

    Dave Rutledge

  5. tomwys1 says:

    Lindzen is the “Best of the Best” by any standard!!!!

    Take heed, charlatans. Stand in awe and lay witness to your ineptitude!!!

  6. oldfossil says:

    I’m a lukewarmer. I don’t believe that the end of the world is nigh. I don’t believe that everything is just hunky-dory either. My opinion isn’t based on belief. My opinion is based on evidence and so far, there’s not enough either way.

    However, the basic warmist position is to spend trillions on futile stuff while running around in small circles screaming your head off, and the basic sceptic position is to do nothing until there’s a proven need for it, and even then to do it grudgingly. So I guess that makes me more of a sceptic than a genuine fence-sitter.

    Dr. Lindzen’s post is a good State of the Climate Nation address, its bias being in the choice of words rather than in the picking of facts favourable to his argument. When they finally getting around to writing the Hitchhiker’s Guide, the one with “Don’t Panic” on the cover, I hope that Dr. Lindzen is one of the authors.

  7. edhoskins says:

    According to Greenland and other proxy Ice Core temperature data our Holocene Interglacial is now in decline.

    The current, warm Holocene interglacial has been the enabler of mankind’s civilisation for the last 10,000+ years. It’s congenial climate spans from mankind’s earliest farming to the scientific and technological advances of the last 100 years.

    • the last millennium 1000AD – 2000AD has been the coldest millennium of the Holocene interglacial.
    • each of the notable high points in the Holocene temperature record, (Holocene Climate Optimum – Minoan – Roman – Medieval – Modern), have been progressively colder than the previous high point.
    • for its first 7-8000 years the early Holocene, including its high point “climate optimum”, had virtually flat temperatures, an average drop of only ~0.007 °C per millennium.
    • but the more recent Holocene, since a “tipping point” at ~1000BC, has seen a temperature diminution at more than 20 times that earlier rate at about 0.14 °C per millennium.
    • the Holocene interglacial is already 10 – 11,000 years old and judging from the length of previous interglacials the Holocene epoch should be drawing to its close: in this century, the next century or this millennium.
    • the beneficial warming at the end of the 20th century to the Modern high point has been responsible the “Great Man-made Global Warming Scare”.
    • eventually this late 20th century temperature blip will come to be seen as just noise in the system in the longer term progress of comparatively rapid cooling over the last 3000+ years.
    • other published Greenland Ice Core records (NGRIP1, GRIP) corroborate this finding. They also exhibit the same pattern of a prolonged relatively stable early Holocene period followed by a subsequent much more rapid decline in the more recent past.

    So when considering the scale of temperature changes that catastrophists anticipate because of Man-made Global Warming and their view of the disastrous effects of additional Man-made Carbon Dioxide emissions, it is useful to look at climate change from a longer term, century by century and also from a millennial perspective.

    The much vaunted and much feared “fatal” tipping point of +2°C would only bring Global temperatures close to the level of the very congenial climate of “the Roman warm period”.
    If it were possible to reach the “horrendous” level of +4°C postulated by Warmists, that extreme level of warming would still only bring temperatures to about the level of the previous Eemian maximum, a warm and abundant epoch, when hippopotami thrived in the Rhine delta.

    Global warming protagonists should accept that our interglacial has been in long-term decline for the last 3000 years and that any action taken by man-kind will make no difference whatsoever.

    Were the actions by Man-kind able to avert warming they would eventually reinforce the catastrophic cooling that is bound to return relatively soon.


  8. Javier says:

    A lot of people just have too much faith in science, even when science has nothing to do with faith. Perhaps it will be good that science gets the same exposure on how corruptible it is as the church and the politicians have got before. It should be contemplated with the same degree of suspicion as any other human endeavor. People should know that scientists are also capable of lying to us as any other government employee.

  9. stone100 says:

    Is it true that people with in depth understanding of the data believe that we can continue to use fossil fuels willy-nilly without it leading to climate catastrophe? I really worry when the debate gets side tracked into squabbling about whether or not we have yet seen man made global warming. To me the debate needs to instead be about whether using our reserves of fossil fuels will likely cause future problems. Oil may run out before CO2 gets increased much but undersea coal gassification etc etc give scope for vast future increases in CO2. I think there needs to be some sort of independent appraisal of the consequences of future fossil fuel use by a fresh set of competent people who are not currently climate scientists. I tried to come up with an idea of how that might be done in

    • Euan Mearns says:

      With climate sensitivity close to 1, then we can burn as much as we like with little impact on climate. And like Lindzen, that is pretty much where I see it. Is it not irresponsible then to try and phase out FF perhaps causing widespread suffering and death, for no good reason? I don’t think you fully grasp how utterly dependent we are on FF for everything from food, to transport, to industry, commerce, warmth and comfort.

      But for the record, I’m not keen on the idea of in-situ gasification of tar sands or coal. If a line were to be drawn, that’s where I’d draw it.

      • Javier says:

        “I think we should leave oil before it leaves us. That should be our motto. So we should prepare for that day.”
        Fatih Birol, Chief Economist and Head of the Economic Analysis Division of the International Energy Agency. May, 2008.

      • stone100 says:

        I guess the idea that climate sensitivity is likely to be close to 1 is the sort of thing that really needs to be nailed down. The ipcc has that as being the more optimistic tail of the guesstimates I’m also not sure that business as usual doesn’t mean 3% per year acceleration of fossil fuel use as has been the case for most of the period since the 1950s. If so, then we’d be getting to multiples of current CO2 levels within a century. If we want to stop that, then we need to be going flat out now building nuclear power stations, super-insulating houses, developing energy storage systems, perhaps nuclear civilian shipping??? exploring things like kite energy and tidal stream energy etc etc.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          I guess the idea that climate sensitivity is likely to be close to 1 is the sort of thing that really needs to be nailed down.

          Well yes, but how would you explain the fact that NO PROGRESS has been made on this at the IPCC since 1979?

          President Carter’s science adviser, Frank Press, had the National Research Council investigate the matter, leading to the famous Charney Report from 1979 [6]. This report summarized the results of the primitive climate models of that period, and found that they had a range of sensitivities to doubling CO2 of from 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Centigrade [7].


          If we want to stop that, then we need to be going flat out now building nuclear power stations, super-insulating houses, developing energy storage systems, perhaps nuclear civilian shipping??? exploring things like kite energy and tidal stream energy etc etc.

          Yes, all of that is going on! Most folks on this blog will support nuclear power and insulation. The kite dreaming I’ve not followed. Energy storage is constrained by thermodynamics.

          • Leo Smith says:

            Most folks on this blog will support nuclear power and insulation.

            These make perfect economic and engineering sense.

            The kite dreaming I’ve not followed. Energy storage is constrained by thermodynamics.

            Pretty much spot on. Whilst there may be ways of storing energy that are not (so) constrained, they are all currently constrained by unsuitable positions in the cost/risk and scale axes.

            Unlike – say – the development of the jet engine, where the calculations showed that it would work, as far back as IIRC 1925, where merely (sic!) being the problem of suitable materials and bearings etc, or a similar position with fusion reactors, where the problem is ‘merely’ one of containment…the problems with all forms of storage are that they either require massive and dangerous structures, at huge cost, or represent appallingly poor efficiency.

            And the thing that rules engineering (but not politics or green politics) – namely cost benefit analysis – shows that the nuclear option is cheaper a safer than renewables plus storage in every way, even down to having some plants only operating in winter, for example.

            In short if we could only take cost benefit as the ruling criterion, we would slowly build gas and nuclear plant to phase out coal, dump renewables as soon as legally possible, and as the price of gas increased, build more nuclear.

  10. John Reid says:

    What a wonderful essay. It is great to see all the arguments, excuses, reasons, lies, agendas and science brought together in one place. I have a single niggling observation to make: statistically there is no evidence that the time series of global average temperature measurements (e.g. GISS) is anything other than a random walk. In other words, there is no observational evidence with which to reject the hypothesis that climate sensitivity is zero (see: ).

  11. Sean Rush says:

    Unlike most members of the public I have tried to educate myself on this issue. This year I completed ‘SCIE 401: Climate Science and Decision Making’ a post grad course at New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington’s ‘Climate Change Research Institute led by an atmospheric professor that was a lead author in AR6. I was attending as a full fee paying professional interest student meaning I didn’t have to sit an exam nor pass/fail – this allowed me a certain flexibility to challenge some of the content.

    What I was keen to understand was where the ‘settled science’ stopped and where the less settled began. But here is the response I received to my suggestion that much was not settled:

    “The science of the links between GHG and the observed warming is about as settled as the science that links smoking and cancer. You can find doctors who dispute that link, but few cancer specialists do; neither do medical professionals with expertise in statistics. Similarly, you can find (usually retired) meteorologists and geologists who dispute the links between GHG and the observed warming, but you don’t find people with deep expertise in climate physics who do so.”

    I then took out (and still have out) Raymond Pierrehumbert’s text ” The Principles of Planetary Climate” – incidentally the only introductory text on planetary climate available at the Climate Change Research Institute – which is the course recommended introductory text. I think Pierrehumbert makes it very clear that the basic science of CO2’s heat trapping qualities I (and those of other GHGs) is very settled but that the feedbacks arising from water vapour and clouds are not. Pierrehumbert comments (p.65) that the water vapour feedback is now considered to be on’ quite secure ground’ – which is much less than ‘settled’ – and he goes on to acknowledge that the ‘behaviour of water vapour in the atmosphere offers many challenges….Clouds present an entirely different order of difficulty….Uncertainties about the behaviour of clouds are the main reason why we do not know precisely how much warmer the planet will get.’ – this could also be interpreted to mean we might not get much warmer at all.

    Here are a few other quotes that, although selected, are not subsequently qualified in any material way later in the text (~p.317):

    1. “Clouds, in their many and varied manifestations, pose one of the greatest challenges to the understanding of earth and planetary climate.’

    2. “On Earth, water clouds reflect a great deal of sunlight but also have a considerable greenhouse effect. The net cloud effect is a fairly small residual of two large and uncertain terms, and the way the two effects play out against each other plays a central role in climate change problems extending from the early Earth … to global warming, and the distant-future fate of our climate.’

    3. ‘It will turn out that the net radiative effect of clouds are highly sensitive to the size of the particles of which they are composed. This leads to the disconcerting conclusion that the climate of an object as large as an entire planet can be strongly affected by poorly understood processes happening on the scale of a few micrometers.’

    Uncertainty around how CO2 warmth manifests itself in higher surface temperatures from water vapour and clouds is at least as important, probably more, than the science around CO2 warmth. The uncertainty is acknowledged as real and significant in the IPCC’s AR6 Chapter 7 review of clouds and yet I went to a briefing hosted by New Zealand’s climate change negotiator Jo Tyndall yesterday where she led off with the ‘science is settled’ mantra as reaffirmed by AR6 ….how did it get to this?

    There is now a social engineering programme going on, at least at Vic, where students are being told this mantra, aren’t able to challenge it for fear of failing, and the detail of what science is actually saying is being overtaken by political rhetoric….with the global emissions trade set to be subject to multi billion $ irreversible investment, climate change is destined to be a runaway freight train that we are all doomed to jump on until someone points out that temperatures simply are not rising. Meanwhile the $100 billion climate fund, agreed in Paris, will be spent on island nations sea walls when they need desalination plants, and PV projects in Africa when the people are crying out for a cheap coal fired power station to pump water to their village, power an electric oven and maybe provide some light to read a book – not to mention a few jobs for the miners.

    • Sean Rush says:

      ‘AR6’ ref meant to be ‘AR5’

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Sean, thanks for sharing that with us. What appears to be settled is that climate sensitivity lies between 1.5 and 4.5 ˚C, a conclusion reached 37 years ago. No progress has been made in the interim despite all the effort. Climate science has settled on the view that no one has a clue what is going on. Its really quite extraordinary. And I believe they have even got that wrong. I’m more with Lindzen and see sensitivity between 1 and 1.5 ˚C.

      Another aspect of the integrity that is lacking is that the action you would take if you believed 4.5 as opposed to 1.5 is totally different. Anyone who had evidence for 4.5˚C would be demanding firmly that the FF industries be shut immediately and Man must simply face the consequences. But you rarely hear such extreme demands being made forcibly. It should be impossible for a scientist to believe 4.5˚C AND that Paris was a good deal. If the answer is 4.5˚C, then we’re going to fry. But I don’t think anyone seriously believes that.

      • Sean Rush says:

        Euan, a couple of points:
        1. if there was any possibility of catastrophic warming occurring the best and most immediate response would be to cull cattle and reduce/eliminate methane emissions. Atmospheric methane volumes have a near immediate effect on climate because it is so short lived in the atmosphere – stop emitting it and it falls out of the atmosphere rapidly providing a safety valve if really needed. Were we to cut CO2 emissions (e.g. by halting fossil fuel production) the CO2 will hang around for years to come and still be effective (as much as it is). We would of course have to deal with the resultant civil unrest (remember the farmers blockade of the UK’s refineries in 99/2000? it took 3 days before supermarket stocks were bare and people remembered that food doesn’t just grow outside the supermarket and walks onto the shelves in its own pre-packaging.

        2. the integrity of the political process is completely at odds with the so called seriousness of the issue. The first thing nations will try and do now the ‘deal’ is papered is figure out how to game it and get around it to secure profit for themselves and to hell with the climate. All the philanthropic, environmental conscientious rhetoric soon reduces to re-jigged accounting systems, glosses on the interpretation of the accord and clever reclassification of funds as ‘climate finance’ from ‘international aid’ for example.

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          Sean Rush:

          There are other natural sources of methane, but you are probably correct in eliminating bulls, but there will be a continuing supply of BS (with or without methane) from certain quarters (or as they put it 97% of emitters).

  12. Gaznotprom says:

    Plus has co2 (a very convenient gas to use, considering it woven into all life) has anything what-do-ever to do with global temperatures up or down?

    More so, anyone who’s celebrated the lower (supposed) co2 emissions has only praised the export of jobs (and co2) to other countries (with shitty environmental policy non co2 related) and hasn’t contributed anything to global ’emissions’ at f”””ing all – just poorer and deficit-compensated (for now)!

  13. Lady in Red says:

    Richard Lindzen…… Hank Stommel would have been proud.

    There are too few of you left. ….Lady in Red

  14. Pingback: Saturday morning links - Maggie's Farm

  15. Rob Slightam says:

    oil is much too valuble(and useful) to burn

    • Graeme No.3 says:

      Commercial production of oil started in 1859. I once tried to find the first prediction that “oil would run out real soon”. I got back to 1862 but that was a copy from someone previously.

      Yes, oil is too valuable to burn; I have felt thought that for over 40 years but no-one is listening. For starters the UK now depends on diesel oil to cover for the inadequacy of wind turbines, while closing down cheaper coal fired, gas fired CCGT and (CO2 free) nuclear.

  16. It doesn't add up... says:

    Off topic:

    I note the excellent work being done by Neil Mearns on charting the sources of UK power supply from Gridwatch/BM Reports/National Grid data. Fraunhofer, eat your heart out. A question: how are you treating periods when the interconnectors impose a net demand on the UK grid (as at end November last year for instance)?

    A couple of suggestions: BM Reports now has a year’s half hourly data – e.g. , although not quite as easy of access – in fact, on Friday I emailed them (before I was aware of this work), pointing out that it was a pain, and asking if they could improve it and/or supply data. Secondly, I think it is instructive to look at some of the price data e.g. on imbalances or market index from which we could calculate subsides compared with CFD prices for different forms of generation (remembering to index from 2012). Another idea is to look at the difference between day ahead wind forecast and outturn for wind and solar power.

    • Neil Mearns says:

      During the spells when the interconnectors impose a net demand on the UK grid the values are subtracted from neighbouring series on the graph. This is an unavoidable imposition on Excel when stacked area graphs contain negative values. I am, however, considering updating the charts to stacked bar graphs, which will better illustrate the periods of demand on the UK grid.

  17. Joris van Dorp. MSc says:

    I think readers of this essay should know that Dr. Lindzen is a long time climate science contrarian and that his many extraordinary claims about climate and climate science have been well documented and scientifically rebutted time and time again.

    Here is a listing of his claims, including their documented rebuttals:

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’ve approved this comment in interest of balance. Those are not rebuttals but simply blether.

    • Grant says:


      I think it is likely that many people visiting here may not consider Mr. Cook’s web site to be especially balanced in its content.

      Nor very important.

      I have no opinion about the quality of the cartoons.

      • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

        Mr. Cook’s website has one property that makes it useful for some people, including myself, and that is that it makes a point of accurately reflecting the broad consensus in climate science as assessed by the IPCC. This makes the site useful for policy makers and members of the public who don’t have time to determine whether website content accurately represents the state of the art in climate science, but who just want to keep up to date with it, or find a laymen’s explanation of different elements of mainstream climate science.

        That said, one thing which does bother me about Cook’s site is it’s unmistakable renewable energy boosterism and it’s generally negative tone on nuclear power. However, since the latest AR5 IPCC report in which nuclear is unequivocally stated to be an important element of solving the energy/climate challenge, the SkS site seems to be undergoing a (slow) transition toward a more pragmatic perspective on energy technology and climate.

        Of course, those who want to know about energy matters in depth already have better options than SkS, including Mr. Mearns website right here.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          and that is that it makes a point of accurately reflecting the broad consensus in climate science as assessed by the IPCC.

          And what consensus might that be? That climate sensitivity lies somewhere between 1.5 and 4.5˚C 🙂 That’s like saying the Earth might be flat, it might be a cube and the moon may just be made of cheese. Cook is very good at repeating ad nauseam Green myths and tries to pretend its science.

          And you should know that science is not democratic. It follows physical laws. In climate science we have a self selecting group, driven mainly by those who believe CO2 represents a risk to climate stability. That knowledge alone is sufficient to say that the majority opinion of that self selected group must be treated with utmost skepticism. Add to that the fact that the group is funded by government, to support government policy, and those who disagree with government policy are excluded then you will begin to understand how the OECD has grown into a Green dictatorship with Ban Ki Moon at the helm.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            I’ve not ever found Cook to deviate from the IPCC assessment of climate science, unless the IPCC assessment is what you are calling a ‘green myth’. Surely you aren’t?

            Up higher in the comments, I noticed that you don’t believe in any positive feedback at all. You believe the sensitivity is 1, which implies no positive feedback. Do you have any details of how you come to this conclusion? More specifically, do you deny for example that the increasing water vapor content of the atmosphere is a positive feedback of warming?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            That’s just plain wrong! I see a mixture of feedbacks, some positive and some negative. Can you provide a link to the data that shows atmospheric H2O has increased please.

            Physical Earth Science is empirical. You look at the warming that has occurred and work out what climate sensitivity is required to cause it and you get a number close to 1. You then go away and recognise that some of the warming may be natural.

            Some of my own work that didn’t fit the script and hence was never published that contributes to the protection of publication statistics:


          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            Atmospheric water vapor trend dataset is here:


            I rather expected you to know that data set. From your other posts on climate science on this site I gather that you assign decisive importance to the satellite data sets. Well, the satellite dataset on the atmospheric water vapor trend is not hard to find and is crystal clear about the tight coupling between atmospheric vapor and temperature. This subject should be no controversy. At all.

            I’ve briefly skimmed your articles on the UK weather. I’m sorry, but it seems like a motivated cherry-pick to me. What should concern us is global climate, not local weather in the UK. Deriving significant climate trends from global climate data is complicated enough, as I’m sure you’ll agree. So before I spend a lot of time delving into your articles on UK weather, could you first please help me understand that it is very useful to look only at that tiny speck on the earth’s surface in order to derive far-reaching conclusions about global (!) climate sensitivity?

            Thanks in advance.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Here’s the global data set and analysis.


            I’m totally confused by the fact that you seem perturbed by the notion that climate sensitivity may lie 1 to 1.5 ˚C. This is just outside the IPCC AR5 range. If this turns out to be correct the normal and rational response should be one of relief.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            Even if sensitivity is between 1 and 1.5, projected warming in the reference case will have a significant negative impact before the end of the century. So addressing co2 emissions will still be necessary. I might add that global warming is already at 1K above pre-industrial right now, while we are still a long way off from a doubling in CO2. Supposing that sensitivity is in fact only 1K seems asinine, given direct observation. Wouldn’t you agree?

            Besides, simply assuming “mainstream science might be wrong” has never been my go-to strategy for removing concern. First, I’d like to know exactly where the science is wrong, and in my opinion, the case against mainstream climate science as put forward by the prominent contrarians over the years is very, very weak indeed. Invariably, the contrarians turn out to have made one or more elementary mistakes, nullifying the value of their work. I suppose that is why all national academies of science agree that recent climate change really *is* man-made, and that there *is* an urgent need to address it, for the sake of future generations.

            (To be clear, I do not agree with popular climate policies focused on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy only. I believe that nuclear power is essential to solving the climate/energy nexus.)

            I’ve already read Clive Best’s article around the time it was published. In my opinion, it adds nothing new to what is already known (and unknown) about clouds and climate, as detailed in AR5. On the contrary, Best appears to leave relevant aspects of this subject unmentioned and he seems to be drawing rushed conclusions. Therefore, my recommendation to readers interested in the subject of cloud and climate would be to simply read the relevant chapter in AR5, and the relevant references cited.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I suppose that is why all national academies of science agree that recent climate change really *is* man-made

            I agree with that! Made by Man using XL 😉

            I’m over busy right now, will try and answer more fully later.

          • A C Osborn says:

            ” I might add that global warming is already at 1K above pre-industrial right now”

            That wouldn’t happen to be the “pre-industrial” that coincided with the Little Ice Age would it?

            You do also know that of that 1K about 80% of it is derived from the “adjustments” to the original data, made by the various Agencies that do not believe people knew how to measure the temperature 50 or 100 years ago? Also that those same adjustments do not correctly allow for UHI affects.
            You also appear concerned about a slightly warmer Atmosphere which is very benificial to mankind and a bit more CO2 and moisture that is helping to re-green the Earth’s Deserts.

            So just what is your concern based on?

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:


            Richard Tol is a well known contrarian who is known for his doubt about the dangers of a warming climate. But even Richard Tol admits that warming above 1K has a net negative impact on climate. Please read the enlightening interview with Tol, here:


            Notice in particular the following revealing part of the interview, specifically the last sentence of Richard Tol, in which he spills the beans on his real motivation for not being concerned about global warming:

            Roger Harrabin: But to … no, just stay on that for a second because we are inexorably at the moment heading for the CO2 emissions which are linked to a two Celsius rise so we’re heading …

            Richard Tol: No, no, no, no, no. We’re gonna get much warmer than that.

            RH: Tell me more about that.

            RT: I mean the two degrees target is a past station, right? We should be looking towards three, four, five degrees.

            RH: When you say we should be looking, you mean that’s what we should expect given current trends?

            RT: Yes, exactly. We’re nowhere near staying below two degrees.

            RH: So from what you were saying earlier on, that would worry you a lot.

            RT: Me personally?

            RH: You personally, yes.

            RT: no, we’re …

            RH: You personally. I mean you won’t be alive to experience but you know, you …

            RT: We just established that climate change is primarily a problem of the poor, right? I am not poor and I’ll make sure that my children aren’t poor either.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            Take your time Euan,

            By the way, I’d like to say that I have been reading your stuff for longer than most, I wager, since way back during the height of the Peak Oil debate and The Oil Drum. I’ve learned a lot from your helpful analyses over the years. But really, I honestly think you are on the wrong track concerning climate science, and I wish you would ease away from that. It leads nowhere. Rather – and I say this to all climate nay-sayers whom I respect – I would urge you to focus your attention on the very real and very serious problems in popular climate *policy* thinking. I think the climate science debate is pretty much over, but the climate *policy* debate is a different story. That story is where the real action is. I am convinced that you have a lot to contribute to the climate policy discussion, and you are already doing a lot on this weblog, but I’m afraid that your evident climate science contrarianism is going to make it easy for a lot of people reading this website (some of whom get sent here by others who also respect your work, which I can see from the many times that I run into people linking to your site) to simply dismiss your valuable insights on energy technology. Don’t give the 100% RE advocates an excuse to dismiss your insights!

            By the way, it is of course fine to be critical about climate science, but I think you are pushing it way to far, and you are getting in with the base science deniers. Don’t do it, please!

            Just my two cents.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Joris van Dorp, MSc says:
            February 24, 2016 at 3:55 pm
            LIke a politician you did not actually answer my questions.
            What is your personal concern about a warmer world?

            I am not interested in what R Toll has to say, I am just interested in the fears that people harbour over CAGW and what it is based on.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            Ocean acidification, habitat change, migration, sea level rise, weather extremes, etcetera. I suggest you study the documented risks of projected global warming in your own time, rather than ask my opinion of it. My opinion doesn’t matter. Like Richard Tol, I might say I fear nothing, because I live in a country which will be able to handle expected climate impact for this century at least. On the other hand, I might say that I fear for the those who have fewer means and who live in regions projected to get the brunt of negative climate change impacts. Or if I was a Russian, I might say I welcome global warming, because for Russia the outlook throughout this century at least is fairly good. Or if I was a lover of biodiversity for its own sake, I might be concerned about projected species extinction.

            But the point is that even contrarian economists like Richard Tol, who have studied the economic impacts of global warming for decades, agree that the aggregate global impacts will be negative and will harm people and other life. I care about that. It affects my quality of life to know that I am causing that harm by consuming fossil fuels. I don’t want that. I cannot solve this myself. There has to be an organised effort. As an engineer, I know that we can solve this problem in a timely way and noone will be worse for it. So that is my aim. And people who are defaming the science and undermining the public intelligence are badly misguided in my opinion. Let’s get real and not spend infinite time agreeing on basic facts which are settled. That is my opinion, for what it’s worth.

          • Sean Rush says:

            Hi Euan/Joris, thanks very much for the discussion. Joris invited readers to review the IPCCs AR5 re clouds which I will deal with further below but I’d perhaps first like to set out my understanding of the state of the science. In doing so I will refer to Raymond Pierrehumbert’s text ‘Principles of Planetary Climate’ (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

            An extremely, over simplified view of global warming might be a formula such as the following:

            T2 = T1 x C + (+f less -f)

            T2 = the new/predicted global temperature
            T1 = the current temperature
            C = the increased warming caused by added CO2
            +f = positive feedbacks/forcings which add warming, which can be represented in this ‘model’ by the additional water vapour created and clouds and consequential heat trapped; and
            -f = negative feedbacks/forcings which add cooling, which for present purposes can be represented by the scattering of long-wave and short-wave light caused by water droplets, dust and clouds in the atmosphere.

            the variables T1 and C are well established and would appear to be ‘settled science’. Pierrehumbert states (p.62) that ‘aspects of the increasing greenhouses gases rely on complex collective behaviour of the interacting parts of the climate system; this includes behaviour of clouds and water vapour, sea ice, snow….’ He goes on to state (p.65) that water vapour ‘feedback is now considered to be on quite secure ground’ suggesting that variable +f is pretty well understood.

            However, ‘clouds present an entirely greater order of difficulty’ (and see other quotes from previous posts above) because of the ‘scattering effect’ – where they reflect a great deal of sunlight. Whilst they also have a considerable greenhouse effect they are capable of scattering infrared radiation as well depending on the size of particle of which they are composed (small, no scattering, large scattering) – but (p.317) ‘thermal infrared scattering by clouds is a far lass developed subject than is shortwave scattering’. He acknowledges that ‘It will turn out that the net radiative effect of clouds are highly sensitive to the size of the particles of which they are composed. This leads to the disconcerting conclusion that the climate of an object as large as an entire planet can be strongly affected by poorly understood processes happening on the scale of a few micrometers.’

            He reinforces the importance of this subject to climate change theory – ‘there is no doubt that if justice were to be served…scattering should be given a treatment at least as in-depth as that which we have accorded to purely absorbing/emitting atmospheres.’

            In our equation, then, the quantification and effect of -f is still very much uncertain and not represented in the global climate models.

            This is somewhat supported by the NASA ‘Earth NASA Observatory’ information (albeit somewhat dated:

            “Despite considerable advances in recent decades, estimating the direct climate impacts of aerosols remains an immature science. Of the 25 climate models considered by the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), only a handful considered the direct effects of aerosol types other than sulfates” and “The details of aerosol indirect effects are only partially understood, as most instruments cannot measure aerosols within clouds. Climatologists consider the role of clouds to be the largest single uncertainty in climate prediction. Less than a third of the models participating in the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) included indirect aerosol effects, even in a very limited way, and those considered only sulfate aerosols.”

            So, turning to the IPCC AR5 that you mention I find it confusing as to what/how it is concluding. Throughout the chapter there are repeated references to uncertainty and challenges but best attempts at modelling the effects are made nonetheless. At the risk of being accuse of ‘cherry picking, I think para summarises the current status:

            “Global climate models used in CMIP5 have improved their representation
            of cloud processes relative to CMIP3, but still face challenges
            and uncertainties, especially regarding details of small-scale variability
            that are crucial for aerosol–cloud interactions (see Section 7.4). Finerscale
            LES and CRM models are much better able to represent this variability
            and are an important research tool, but still suffer from imperfect
            representations of aerosol and cloud microphysics and known
            biases. Most CRM and LES studies do not span the large space and
            time scales needed to fully determine the interactions among different
            cloud regimes and the resulting net planetary radiative effects. Thus
            our assessments in this chapter do not regard any model type on its
            own as definitive, but weigh the implications of process model studies
            in assessing the quantitative results of the global models”

            As Pierrehumbert says, too little work has been done on the scattering effect of clouds/aerosols on infrared radiation for any of the climate models to give policy makers a definitive steer on what the net outcome might be (of course that isn’t picked up by the press or the politicians).

            So it would seem to me that we still have a (and maybe ‘the’) most significant variable in our climate model equation as ‘unsettled’ and we might, accordingly find, that C02 emissions create a negative feedback that balances the positive feedbacks. It doesn’t mean we stop trying to find fuel substitutes, but we don’t, for example, spend $3 billion on a new 500 MW solar power station ( – funded by the African Development Bank, World Bank and others, that only runs during the day and is a small amount anyway, when people are in poverty, need access to cheap electricity to simply live/cook not to mention access to running water and good infrastructure to transport food…and especially when here in New Zealand 500 MW of coal fired power was recently retired because there was not enough demand for it


          • Euan Mearns says:

            Sean, thanks very much for this contribution. It is a more detailed way of saying that with climate sensitivity estimates ranging from 1.5 to 4.5 ˚C, the IPCC “hasn’t a clue”, and appears not to have learned much over the decades. And while consensus is claimed, it is very difficult to see where that consensus lies.

            There is a vast miss match between the very good science that is done by many individuals who express a host of caveats and uncertainties and the settled consensus projected by the IPCC.

            I’ve said before that climate science is a strand of Earth Science / geology. This is empirical science. When you observe that the models are not reproducing reality you know that they are wrong. The ones that work are those with low CS. What I fail to understand is why so many people seem reluctant (even afraid) to accept this.

          • A C Osborn says:

            Joris van Dorp, MSc says:
            February 24, 2016 at 9:40 pm

            “Ocean acidification, habitat change, migration, sea level rise, weather extremes, etcetera”

            Ocean acidification isn’t happening.
            Habitat Change has always happened.
            Migration (Human, due to Climate) is not happening.
            Sea level rise is not happening anywhere near as much as during the end of the last Ice Age and is not Accelerating.
            Weather is less extreme now than in the past.
            So perhaps you could provide the rest of the Etc Etc that might be some cause for concern?
            Or just maybe you could provide some actual statistics to back up that those Parameters you mentioned are actually happening, because I can provide lots of statistics that prove that they are not, but then I do not take the word of Mr Cook, I prefer to look at Raw Data & Real Life History, something that Climate Scientists hate, hide and change.

          • Sean Rush says:

            Thanks Euan. No, what I am saying is that the scientific community claim consensus for a part of the overall equation but recognise there are large gaps. I think these gaps, and their importance to the modelled predictions, are not given sufficient weight in the IPCC analysis but are at least acknowledged. Of course they are given no prominence by the media or politicians. If we actually acted on the known science we would not be making absurd decisions such as building an uneconomic solar power station at the expense of real people in need

  18. Stuart says:

    My own position is that anthropological global warming is real.

    The way I think about it is that the atmosphere is becoming more energetic as CO2 emissions increase the earth’s ability to retain solar radiation. This “more energetic” can manifest itself in many ways.

    I think the case for this has been made, there is a theoretical mechanism for this and although it hasn’t been measured in any accurate way I think the mechanism is real.

    But I do NOT think we should do anything about it and I don’t really see it as a concern. It is one mechanism in a raging tempest of energy in / energy out mechanisms that dictate the energy balance of our planet.

    People fail to put this debate into any historical context whatsoever.

    For example,

    1). Human beings were farming (planting crops and breeding cows and sheep and pigs) in the Levant BEFORE the Great Barrier Reef existed.

    2). The Great Pyramid of Giza was 1,000 years old BEFORE Wooly Mammoths became extinct.

    3). When Stone Henge was built, the Sahara Desert had an annual monsoon season.

    There are many much more important things to spend our time and resources on ahead of anthropological climate change, disease and poverty are two far more urgent and deserving problems facing humanity today.

    Climate change is a first world problem, where rich countries are more concerned about protecting their own little bubble rather than helping the poorer countries of the world climb out of structural poverty. It is immoral to stand between 1 billion Indian people and the cheapest source of energy available to them, their own coal.

  19. Graeme No.3 says:

    If AGW is a real problem why hasn’t anybody been able to measure the effect?
    There has been hundred, possibly thousands, of the “best scientists” working on this for over 40 years. All we’ve had are guesses. For what it is worth mine is for 0.03-0.08℃ since 1850.

  20. I am waiting for someone to claim that it has been “scientifically proven” that the eggs of ostriches are getting bigger. 🙂

    • Euan Mearns says:

      The scientific approach would be to study the size of ostrich eggs with time, to document this and to then hypothesise about the underlying cause of any variations that may be observed.

      NOT to start out with an idea as to why the size of ostrich eggs was changing and to allow that to influence (even corrupt) one’s work.

  21. Euan Mearns says:

    This is one of Joris’s MSc comments from up thread that I have now found time to respond to:

    Even if sensitivity is between 1 and 1.5, projected warming in the reference case will have a significant negative impact before the end of the century. So addressing co2 emissions will still be necessary. I might add that global warming is already at 1K above pre-industrial right now, while we are still a long way off from a doubling in CO2. Supposing that sensitivity is in fact only 1K seems asinine, given direct observation. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Besides, simply assuming “mainstream science might be wrong” has never been my go-to strategy for removing concern. First, I’d like to know exactly where the science is wrong, and in my opinion, the case against mainstream climate science as put forward by the prominent contrarians over the years is very, very weak indeed. Invariably, the contrarians turn out to have made one or more elementary mistakes, nullifying the value of their work. I suppose that is why all national academies of science agree that recent climate change really *is* man-made, and that there *is* an urgent need to address it, for the sake of future generations.

    (To be clear, I do not agree with popular climate policies focused on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy only. I believe that nuclear power is essential to solving the climate/energy nexus.)

    I’ve already read Clive Best’s article around the time it was published. In my opinion, it adds nothing new to what is already known (and unknown) about clouds and climate, as detailed in AR5. On the contrary, Best appears to leave relevant aspects of this subject unmentioned and he seems to be drawing rushed conclusions. Therefore, my recommendation to readers interested in the subject of cloud and climate would be to simply read the relevant chapter in AR5, and the relevant references cited.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      (To be clear, I do not agree with popular climate policies focused on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy only. I believe that nuclear power is essential to solving the climate/energy nexus.)

      So a good starting point is to find common ground and here our views are aligned. You find yourself in the company of Lovelock, Hansen and MacKay.

      If you dig a bit deeper into my position you’ll find that I’m cautious on emissions. I see risks embarking upon non-conventional resources like shale, THAE in the tar sands and in situ gasification of coal. Pursuing these options may take us towards 1000 ppm CO2. That is 4* pre-industrial. Right now we are 1.5* pre-industrial and to be quite frank I find the hysteria trying to link storms in the UK and the Pacific to this tiny increase in CO2 to be laughable.

      But I reserve the right to revise this position. If in 40 years time it becomes clear that CO2 is harmless then accessing these FF resources would also be harmless – but I still don’t like the idea of setting the crust on fire to get at energy. The modern way is fission.

      So I think it makes more sense for the UK to pursue nuclear for power generation instead of shale gas. Shale oil is a different proposition, but I don’t believe the enviros will ever let it happen. I think you’ll find that our positions are not that far apart.

      More to follow….

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Besides, simply assuming “mainstream science might be wrong” has never been my go-to strategy for removing concern.

      For me this is not an assumption but a fact. Here is what we know for sure that we do not know about the climate system that is essential knowledge. Without this knowledge, climate predictions are bound to be wrong.

      1. How global cloud cover changes with time and what causes these changes. What are the natural drivers of these changes and how does Man impact? Dealt with rather skilfully by Sean up thread.

      2. How do ocean currents change with time. Two parts here. 1) what is the pattern of 3D variance (so that is a 4D input), and 2) what are the driving mechanisms? The ARGO floats will provide the input data for this and after about 30 to 2000 years we will have the data to begin to understand this. Coupled climate ocean models without this data input are totally meaningless.

      3. How does the Sun change with time? Can it really be the case that 30 years of data captures all of the Sun’s moods? In particular, how do spectral variations impact ozone production and how may this impact climate? Shifting from IR to UV is bound to have a significant impact.

      4. Convection is the main mechanism for removing heat from Earth’s surface, not radiation. Its 100% certain that convection rate has varied with time. Most probably linked to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns (zonal v meridional). Any model that does not understand how convection rates have changed in the past and how they will change in the future are bound to fail.

      Without the above knowledge, climate models and climate science has zero chance of being correct in predictions.

      Can you perhaps provide information on predictions made by the IPCC and climate science that have actually come to pass.

      I may add to the above that science based on the notion that climate may be described by mean global temperature and that mean global temperature is controlled only by Man is naive in the extreme.

      The minds that have come up with this brand of science that is deficient in the extreme are the same minds that have come up with the decarbonised global energy system without nuclear.

      And so we have the curious case of Joris MSc who understands that the energy plan is bonkers but does not grasp that the minds that came up with this energy plan also came up with climate science.

      Hope this helps 😉


      • A C Osborn says:

        Euan, re No 4.
        Over at WUWT Willis Eschenbach has for some time proposed that the real Climate Control Knob is not CO2 but Convection and in particular Tropical Thundrstorms.
        His latest work with the Ceres data certainly supports that viewpoint.

        They are in reverse chronological order and ther are a few more prior to these. Definitely worth a read if you can find the time.

      • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

        “And so we have the curious case of Joris MSc who understands that the energy plan is bonkers but does not grasp that the minds that came up with this energy plan also came up with climate science”

        No, they are totally different people.

        And please note that the latest IPCC report specifically states that nuclear power has an important role in addressing climate change. As such, the IPCC distances itself from the bonkers 100% RE advocacy community. That should be no surprise. The IPCC is after all populated by scientists (including contrarians).

        As for your evidence supporting the notion that the entire global scientific community is wrong, I’m afraid I have to classify it as too flimsy to embrace. I’m not about to gamble on such flimsy evidence, for the sake of my children and children everywhere. Furthermore, your statement makes clear one thing: that you have not read the IPCC report. If you had read it, you would know that all the issues you mention are addressed, and then some.

        • Sean Rush says:

          Hi Joris, my comment above takes a different approach in that it (I) quotes from the IPCC report you mentioned and (ii) acknowledges that the ‘global scientific community’ are correct in that the models are not ‘decisive’ and continue to be ‘imperfect’.

          How that morphs into ‘science is settled’ is my challenge but not to scientists but rather new media and politicians.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          As for your evidence supporting the notion that the entire global scientific community is wrong, I’m afraid I have to classify it as too flimsy to embrace.

          Joris, like Sean I’m a bit confused by your stance. My stance on climate science just about scrapes into the IPCC convention. And yet you want to claim that I set myself against the whole global scientific community which is simply not true. And you consider the very large uncertainties I raise as being “flimsy” when in fact they are probably central to the vast uncertainty embraced by the IPCC 1.5 to 4.5 ˚C range in CS.

          Central to this is your notion, perpetuated by the Climate Science community and IPCC is that this is settled when the IPCC’s own reports show a VAST range of uncertainty that has not been reduced after 30 years of work. You need to get your head around the fact that the uncertainty is VAST and there is no consensus, despite what you may have heard and want to believe. I think the only thing that I could say here to keep you happy is “Joris you and everyone else is 100% right”.

          This boils down to the Human response to understanding of CS. Should this be the same or vary according to where on the spectrum the truth lies?

          Lest imagine two doublings from 260 to 520 to 1040 ppm
          CS = 1.5 takes us to +1.5 then +3˚C
          CS = 4.5 takes us to +4.5 then + 9˚C

          The former probably takes us towards temperate Arctic margin and a nicer climate. The latter towards climate chaos. But we know that CO2 has been up to 1040 ppm before and everything was fine. That’s a fact. And we need to consider if we have enough carbon to burn to get us beyond 520.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            It is really very simple Euan. There is uncertainty and climate scientists have never said there was not. But this uncertainty does not mean we can safely assume that sensitivity is between 1-1.5. Moreover, even if the sensitivity is between 1 and 1.5 – which is basically as unlikely as it is to be 4.5 – then business as usual takes us to dangerous levels of climate change before the century is out.

            It is your personal choice to *assume* that the sensitivity *is* low, which is what sets you apart from the international scientific community. No scientist would do that: arbitrarily choose one side of an uncertainty range and then call that a rational position to take.

          • Sean says:

            Joris, judging from the GISS temperature trend (Global Land – Ocean Temperature Index) natural increases in global temperatures commenced in and around 1911 when CO2 emissions were not significant. If they tracked through to 2100 we would see an increase from natural variability of ~1C the lowest estimate you mention. So the increase from 1911 until when CO2 became a possible driver – say 1970(?), remains unexplained i.e. not settled because the observed temperature increases do not accord with incremental CO2 added to the atmosphere. We then had the 18 year ‘pause’ which also did not accord with the science. Things are back on trend with the help of El Nino but who is to say that trend (which has resulted in a great Summer I might say) will continue.

            The amount of warming from CO2 alone (i.e. no water vapour feedback) have been estimated at around 1 degree C as well – so a cumulative 2 degrees by 2100, assuming nature tracks the 1911 – 1970 increase. To go higher than that appears to need the water vapour effect but the extent of that, and in particular, how clouds might act as a negative forcing/feedback are well documented by mainstream science as uncertainties.

            The uncertainties that mainstream science accepts would, in any other walk of life, be considered as ‘unsettled’ areas that need more work. Some of these uncertainties might explain the pause and why the expected added warmth did not eventuate and could not be accounted for – such as how the scattering effect that water vapour has (rather than absorbing effect) might result in more infra red being delivered to space rather than being stored in the deep ocean (as is the current explanation offered).

            Overall I think ‘the science is settled’ mantra is designed to appeal to the general population as was Mann’s hockey stick, emotive references to polar bears becoming extinct, Himalayas being ice free. It has no place in science itself and I think it is counter-productive to any conversation about climate change.

          • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

            Sean, you seem to believe that “Mann’s hockeystick” isn’t real. Do you realise that about a dozen independent investigations into historical climate have – without exception – confirmed the ‘hockeystick’? To put it differently, are you one of the people who believes that Michael Mann is a fraud?

        • Sean says:

          Thanks Joris. The point I was making is that the media and politicians cherry pick the climate science to meet their own purposes. Mann’s hockey stick demonstrated to the general population exactly what the politicians wanted – a long period of nominal variability before humans did bad things and the temperature increased. Poor Michael Mann had honestly highlighted that his proxy data, from North American bristlecone pine trees had been spliced with instrumental data. Had the iPCC made it very clear that the on-going trend from the same data set resulted ion a decline in temperature then the analysis would have had more credibility. It remains a valid criticism of the IPCC process that a convenient study (like the ‘Himalayas being ice free’ ‘study’) that resulted in the ‘settled science’ that included the medieval warm period and little ice age, could be completely overturned, regardless of the subsequent corroborating studies (which I understand utilise the same statistical methodology and accordingly are also questionable).

          Of course, the fact that it was Michael Mann as the lead author that accepted his own study as the latest definitive statement of historic temperature records opens the IPCC process up to another line of questioning. The ‘climategate’ email release answers some of those questions in a manner that is not flattering to the scientists involved. Suffice to note that the Hockey Stick no longer features in the the IPCC analysis.

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  23. sod says:

    Satellite data is showing february 2016 as the hottest month on record. UAH has it at +0.83°C and northern hemisphere at an utterly insane +1.17°C (remember, we were planning to try to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C at the end of last year)

    Could it be that instead of being irrelevant, the science is just fine?

    • Sean says:

      If we were to utilise the settled science we would (I) identify what the global temperature was without man-made contributions (say from 1850, i.e. without fossil fuels and methane generating land use); (ii) factor in the CO2 equivalent heat trapping qualities (iii) calculate how much warmth is generated as a consequence (iv) calculate how much more water vapour the extra warmth allows the atmosphere to hold and (v) calculate how much more heat is consequently trapped resulting in the observed increase in warming; and (vi) provide a (meaningful) range between which the temperature should fall.

      I am not sure if that is what has happened and this is the real danger of relying on the ‘settled science’ – what if the warming isn’t related to CO2 emissions? (which was the settled science, and still is, for increased warmth from 1850 – 1970).

      • Joris van Dorp, MSc says:

        Sean, are you aware that this is exactly what scientists have already done? Many times? As the IPCC assessment keeps exhaustively explaining?

        Here is a set of graphics depicting the results of the kind of analysis you are describing:

        Before you comment on this, could you first spend some time reading the relevant passages in the IPCC reports and – if you want – the underlying peer reviewed publications? Thank you!

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  28. From Colin Summerhayes, Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge University.

    Dr Lindzen is right to point out, along with Ralph Cicerone, that with the average rise in temperature of 0.1 degrees C per decade since 1900 we should not be alarmed about global warming – the house is not on fire and we do not need to jump out of the window. BUT, that rise, like the rise in sea level (now at 3.2mm/year) is cumulative, and if we don’t do something about it soon we will be heading for trouble in the 50-year time frame. Anyone who owns a house knows that you can get away with not worrying about small roof leaks now, but that if you do nothing soon you may end up having to replace the whole roof.

    The problem I have with Dr Lindzen’s presentation is that he is focusing on his own narrow area of expertise, and there are things he’s not telling you. We do know a lot about climate change, and that knowledge is based on hard evidence from Earth’s history – from annual records stored in ice cores, marine sediment cores, lake cores, tree rings, stalactites, and corals. I will mention just 4 points (for more data see ‘Earth’s Climate Evolution’, Wiley, October 2015):

    (1) Can we measure the amount of CO2 in past atmospheres? Yes. We can measure it in bubbles of fossil air trapped in Antarctic ice dating back almost 1 million years. And by using half a dozen different proxies we can estimate its abundance back for several tens of millions of years. These data show that the Great Cooling from the Cretaceous period 100 million years ago, when there were no great ice sheets on land and the sea flooded the central USA and western Europe, was accompanied by a fall of around 1000 parts per million in atmospheric CO2. That fall was driven by the changing balance between CO2 emitted by volcanoes associated with the spreading apart of the continents, and the CO2 absorbed by the chemical weathering of rising mountain chains. Early on, volcanism was more abundant; later on, mountain building was more common. The planet cooled as a result, taking us into the ice age of the past 2.6 million years. The geological data from a wide range of sources suggest that the climate sensitivity is close to 3 degrees C, above the level favored by Dr Lindzen. If the geology is right, we should be concerned about how much CO2 we are adding to our climate system.

    (2) We are living in a short warm interval within a cold ice age. At its peak, 20,000 years ago an ice sheet covered Chicago, Detroit, New York and Boston. Its edge is marked by dumps of rock, some of which form Long Island and Cape Cod. So much ice was tied up on land that sea level fell by 130 metres. But, in the last brief warm interval, 120,000 years ago, temperatures were 2-3 degrees C warmer than today and sea level rose 4 to 9 metres above today’s level. Geology is telling us that if we raise our temperature that much, our coasts will be inundated, as they were then. We should be concerned about that.

    (3) These brief warm intervals, or interglacials, like the one we are now living in, are caused by regular periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit and the tilt of the Earth’s axis. Those substantially warmed Earth by 11,700 years ago, melting the great North American and European ice sheets. The warming was augmented by the natural emission of CO2 that occurred as the oceans warmed. BUT, those processes are now in decline again. They cooled the Earth’s climate over the past 10,000 years, taking us into the Little Ice Age of 1350-1850. Calculations show that we should remain in this cold condition for the next 5,000 years. Why are we not still in the Little Ice Age? Has the sun suddenly gotten hotter? No. The latest data on sunspots from Clette et al (Space Science Review, 2014) show that there were about the same peak numbers of sunspots in the 1980s-90s as there were in the 1780s or the 1840s-60s, during the Little Ice Age. Indeed, the number of sunspots has been declining since 1990, so our climate should be cooling from that cause too. Why is it not? .

    (4) What has dramatically changed to reverse the cooling trend of the past 10,000 years is that human activities caused a large increase (from 280 ppm to 400 ppm) in the abundance of CO2 in the atmosphere starting in about 1770. That’s when James Watts’ steam engines started burning coal in abundance, kicking off the industrial revolution. The rise in CO2 was exponential, starting slow and really taking off as we entered the 20th century. Not surprisingly, given what we know from geology and basic physics, temperature increased along with it. Why is there not a perfect 1:1 relationship between the subsequent rises in temperature and CO2? Small periodic natural fluctuations in the climate system, like warm El Niño events followed by cold La Niña events, temporarily disrupt the basic temperarture-CO2 link. Another such fluctuation is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which warms the Pacific slightly for 20-25 years, then cools it for as long. Since about the year 2000 we have been in the negative (cool) phase of the PDO. It has operated like a prolonged La Niña event, keeping Earth slightly cooler than it would otherwise have been. In a few years from now the PDO will revert to its positive (warm) phase, and operate like a prolonged El Niño, warming the planet once more. These relatively small natural fluctuations are superimposed on the underling trend driven by the CO2-temperature relationship that, along with orbital change, has modulated our climate for millions of years. We are now perturbing it.

    • clivebest says:

      Thanks for the stimulating comment!

      The last interglacial (Eemian) 120,000 years ago was indeed warmer then the current interglacial, but the reason lies with higher summer solar insolation in the Arctic rather than CO2 levels. In fact CO2 levels were slightly lower than recent pre-industrial levels.

      It is difficult to infer climate sensitivity from geological data because natural levels of CO2 depend on temperature and vice versa. The experiment of perturbing an otherwise stable climate by a sudden injection of CO2 has never been done before, so far as I am aware. Perhaps you can point us to an event where a sudden increase of volcanic activity led directly to a warmer climate.

      The threat of climate change depends on your timescales. If average global temperatures eventually rise by 3C and sea level by 4m over the next 1000y it would clearly have an impact on civilization, but it would not be catastrophic. However on timescales of over 10000y a far bigger threat to civilization is the onset of the next ice age. We are very lucky that the current interglacial is likely to last longer than normal because the earth’s orbital eccentricity is at a minimum of the 400,000y cycle. We need to look back 400,000y to a similar interglacial to see when it will end. The most likely date is in 15,000y time when northern summer insolation dips by over 50W/m2. That will make the Little Ice Age look like a walk in the park.

      • Clive, while the timing of the four previous interglacials was driven by change in the Earth’s orbit and axial tilt, these are not enough by themselves to generate the rises in temperatures seen at the time. The first analyses of CO2 from Vostok suggested to the French analysts (led by Petit et al, Nature 399, 1999, 429-436) that 30—50% of the rise in temperature was due to positive feedback from the rising CO2.

        As to deriving the climate sensitivity from geological records, this was done by the PALEOSENS Project Group in 2012 (in Nature 491, 683-691). They concluded it lay between 2.2 and 4.8 deg C, which is not much different from what the IPCC concluded.

        We do have a natural example of a massive emission of CO2. It lies at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary 50 million years ago and the latest report on it is that of Bowen, G.J., et al., 2015, Two massive, rapid releases of carbon during the onset of the Palaeocene-Eocene thermal maximum. Nature Geoscience 8, 44–47.

        You suggest that the effect on civilization of a rise in temperature of 3 deg C and of sea level by 4m might not be catastrophic. But there is evidence that 4m was at the low end, and the high end could be 9 m or more. That would not be good for most of the coastal cities through which we carry out our international trade. I wonder if you have asked farmers how happy they might be with an average rise of 3 degrees (which implies much more for some places, and rather less for others). Then there is a question about what such a rise in heat would do to the hydrological cycle.

        As far as the next ice age is concerned, we seem to have done enough already to postpone it to 50,000 years, and with continued emissions we may postpone it to 100,000 years – see Ganopolski et al, 2016, Nature 529, 200–203.

        • clivebest says:

          Interesting points. However, I will play devil’s advocate and propose that by increasing CO2 levels mankind will inadvertently benefit all life on earth. It is low levels of CO2 in the atmosphere that threaten life rather than high levels.

          Variations in insolation at high latitudes occur in tune with the 23Ky precession cycle, but their strength is strongly modulated by the 41Ky obliquity cycle and the 100Ky eccentricity cycle. Glaciations used to follow the 41Ky obliquity cycle, but for the last 800Ky the maximum summer insolation in the arctic has not been enough to fully terminate an ice age. Ice sheets in the Northern hemisphere have grown so large that the ice-albedo feedback suppresses solar induced melting acting alone. Something else is now needed to break the ice albedo feedback effect. A new paper by Ellis proposes an elegant solution.

          As ice sheets expand and ocean temperatures fall so CO2 levels eventually fall dangerously below 200ppm, threatening the survival of plants based on C3 photosynthesis. Boreal forests and temperate grasslands begin to die back exposing soil to weathering. Large scale desertification ensues and strong winds transport dust storms over the ice sheets. With very little annual snowfall during a glacial maximum, this dust layer builds up and thereby reduces the net ice albedo. The next ‘Grand Summer’ precession cycle at maximum eccentricity is now finally able to rapidly melt back the ice sheets, because finally a lower albedo ensures that more heat is absorbed by the ice sheets.

          The last glacial cycle is particularly interesting because the Great Summer maxima are suppressed by low values of orbital eccentricity. This results in the classic sawtooth shape showing how two insolation maxima had very little effect on ice volume growth. However, when CO2 levels fall below ~220 ppm the deposition of dust increases dramatically. The onset of the next summer maximum triggered the current interglacial. We are very lucky that human civilization developed during an era of low orbital eccentricity since the current summer minimum insolation in the arctic is very weak. Otherwise we would already be heading for the next ice age. The most similar interglacial occurred 400,000 years ago and lasted ~30,000 years ( see figure ). That too shows a large dust peak prior to rapid warming.

          The last 800k years and demonstrates why it is eccentricity that drives the long-term glacial cycle. What is also evident is that there are always peaks of dust deposition whenever CO2 levels fall below 200ppm. However, the data implies that it is only when eccentricity is small that the dust-albedo effect becomes critical. Otherwise the boost to a Great Summer Insolation caused by large eccentricity is usually sufficient to terminate a glaciation. Note that the glacial ‘cycle’ from -630Ky to -480Ky essentially consisted of three mini-cycles, each broken by an enhanced Great Summer Insolation. That is because eccentricity remained continuously much higher than current values.

          So yes CO2 does control the glacial cycle but in exactly the opposite sense. It is only when CO2 levels fall dangerously low that northern forests and tundra die back and arid conditions blow dust over the ice sheets. This breaks the negative ice-albedo feedback cycle.

          It’s Gaia that ends glacial cycles!

          • Clive, thanks for the link to the Ellis paper, which I had not seen, but have now downloaded. The idea is indeed interesting and worth following up. However, we do know that higher CO2 levels in the past have not only warmed the planet, changing ecology and hydrology, but also caused sea level to rise. All of these things can interfere with the way we manage the planet now. Adjusting to those changes would not be easy. Part of the problem concerns not only amounts of CO2, but also rates of CO2 rise (and their effects).

  29. Euan Mearns says:

    Colin, thanks for this lengthy submission. I feel there’s too much to deal with here at the end of this old thread and feel inclined to elevate your comment to a guest post that would allow us to have a proper debate about some of the claims you make. You are stating an awful lot here as fact where there are in fact doubts and uncertainties. For example you claim that post-Cretacous CO2 was pumped down by chemical weathering and this caused the climate to cool. I’ve never understood this process. I stare at mountain chains and fail to see any CO2 sinks anywhere. Id appreciate an explanation of how this chemical weathering sink is supposed to work. If you could start by explaining how this works.

    My understanding was that post-Cretaceous cooling came about as a result of three plate tectonic events 1) the closure of the Panama Isthmus that modified ocean circulation 2) the rising of Western Cordillera that modified atmospheric circulation and 3) the movement of Antarctica over the S pole, lowering sea levels and increasing albedo.

    You say “cooling of last 10,000 years – evidence please.

    And in Vostok, it is quite clear that CO2 lags temperature. See Figure 6.

    You claim multiple lines of geological evidence point to CS of 4˚C – again I’m unaware of any of this and would ask for evidence.

    Click for large version.

    • Hi Euan

      Thanks for the offer for a guest post. I suspect that many of your readers know very little indeed about the geological perspective on climate change, yet there we have millions of years of history to learn from (e.g. see ‘Earth’s Climate Evolution’, Wiley, October 2005). How do I submit it?

      Turning to your questions:

      1. Chemical weathering of silicate and carbonate minerals happens when CO2 combines with H2O vapour to form weak acid rain that attaches freshly exposed rocks in mountains. Mountains are worn down by mechanical and chemical weathering. This is basic geology 101. The sinks are in the ocean, where the CO2 from weathering is transported by rivers. There it is eaten by plankton and ends up either recycled in the water column or locked in bottom sediment (as carbonate or carbon) – which acts as a sink. This is all part of the slow carbon cycle. See Bob Berner 2004,The Phanerozoic Carbon Cycle: O2 and CO2 (Oxf Uni Press), also 1999 in GSA Today.

      2. The closure of the Central American isthmus did not happen until 3 million years ago, by which time most of the post Cretaceous cooling was over. The movement of Antarctica over the S Pole took place 90 million years ago. Abundant atmospheric CO2 kept the climate warm back then. But CO2 gradually declined and the world cooled along with it until, 34 million years ago, the climate became cold enough to form an ice sheet on Antarctica. At roughly the same time Antarctica separated from both Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego allowing formation of the Antarctic Circum Polar Current (ACC) and circum-polar winds that isolated the continent from the warmth of the north and accentuated the cooling process.

      3. The cooling of the past 10,000 years has been amply documented by many geoscientists, for a recent example see Marcott et al in Science 339 (2013). It was driven by declining insolation, as documented by Andre Berger in several papers since the late 1970s.

      4. Everybody thinks they know that CO2 follows temperature in the Vostok ice core. But the most recent work on ice cores, by Frederic Parrenin et al (Science 339, 2013), shows that the model used to determine the age of air in ice core bubbles at Vostok was wrong. We now know that during the last deglaciation CO2 and temperature moved in lockstep, as one would expect from basic physics 101. We shall now have to reanalyse all ice cores to see if this applies back through time, as we expect it should.

      5. The geological evidence suggests a CS of close to 3 deg C, not 4.

      Hope that helps.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Colin, I simply copy – paste your comment and add a little introduction. I’ll email you the piece before hand. Plan would be Wednesday or Friday this week (Friday suits better). I’ll see if I can muster Dick Lindzen and Clive Best to join in the discussion.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Eaun, you are obviously doing something right to have attracted Dr. Summerhayes attention.
          Dr. Summerhayes is a very vociferous AGW proponent, he has even appeared in TV Documenteries about his work.
          He fully endorses just about everything to do with CAGW, including Accelerated Seal Level rise, Extreme Weather and Serious Health affects.

  30. OK, I’m working on it.

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