Tag Archives: Warming

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Climate Change

(yes, it has already been used: here, here, here, here, here)

Will human civilization survive the giant climate shifts that will be caused by our SUVs (or by any other cardinal sin brought about by the comforts of modern life)? And what about humanity?

Who knows?

But one thing I am now more sure of. The biosphere will do just fine. Plenty of animals and plants and bacteria and archeas and viruses will prosper if the world will get warmer, if it will get cooler, or if it will continue as before (whatever the meaning of “continue as before” is).

And it’s all written loud and clear in scientific, peer-reviewed literature. For example:

Jeffrey P. Severinghaus and Edward J. Brook, “Abrupt Climate Change at the End of the Last Glacial Period Inferred from Trapped Air in Polar Ice“, Science, 29 October 1999: Vol. 286. no. 5441, pp. 930 – 934 DOI: 10.1126/science.286.5441.930 (Abstract)

The last glacial period was terminated by an abrupt warming event in the North Atlantic ~15,000 years before the present, and warming events of similar age have been reported from low latitudes […] the Greenland Summit warmed 9 ± 3°C over a period of several decades, beginning 14,672 years ago […]

Jørgen Peder Steffensen et al., “High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years“, originally published in Science Express on 19 June 2008, Science 1 August 2008: Vol. 321. no. 5889, pp. 680 – 684 DOI: 10.1126/science.1157707 (Abstract, free Full Text)

The last two abrupt warmings at the onset of our present warm interglacial period, interrupted by the Younger Dryas cooling event, were investigated at high temporal resolution from the North Greenland Ice Core Project ice core […] A northern shift of the Intertropical Convergence Zone could be the trigger of these abrupt shifts of Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes of 2 to 4 kelvin in Greenland moisture source temperature from one year to the next.

Let’s also keep in mind that 8 ice ages and 8 warm ages have happened during the last 800,000 years.

What can we conclude?

  1. Abrupt climatic changes happen quite often
  2. There is a sizable amount of evidence of climate changes more abrupt than anything experienced in recorded human history. In other words, present-day temperature changes are neither special nor unprecedented
  3. All existing species have gone through several rounds of those abrupt climatic changes. ADDENDUM: And since there is no evidence for periodic widespread extinction episodes linked in any way to the changes in climate, we can rest assured that the overwhelming majority of species adapt to cooler and warmer environments
  4. With or without humanity, another climate change is bound to happen. And another. And another. (etc etc)

Hence, there is very little sense in all the cries about global warming being the destroyer of life on Earth, or of any species in particular.

Note that Humanity itself has survived everything that has been thrown at it. If anybody is seriously worried, rather than overcomplicated and resultless negotiations on carbon emissions, they should dedicate all their efforts to mantaining civilization (=adaptation).

And if we take the LIA into account: who can seriously think that present-day humanity has feebler defences than 1650’s?

Arctic Sea Ice: Animation of Thirty Years

Among the general boredom of reading about the latest awfully hollow “demonstration” that humans are at fault by way of exclusion (and in the process, finding the fingerprint of human-induced rise in temperature in places such as Antarctica where temperature has not risen…unless it’s the Peninsula they are referring to), here some animations of how arctic sea ice has appeared between 1979 and 2008, around October 28, according to Cryosphere Today (note: some years are missing, and for other years I had to take the nearest available image)

Animated Arctic Sea Ice - around Oct 28
Animated Arctic Sea Ice - around Oct 28

You may have to click on the images above to be able to properly see the animated GIFs.

One could be forgiven to think the following:

  • there isn’t much of a polar ice cover “shrinking trend”, but rather a lot of expansions and contractions, plus a freakish small configuration in 2007
  • the 2008 cover is very simiar to 2000’s, apart from an ice-free area East of Novaya Zemlja
  • one can almost sea the warm water flowing in through the Bering Strait, sometimes reaching East as far as Banks Island (1987, 1998)
  • the “losses” in sea ice in the Baltic and northwestern Siberia may or may not relate to a change in data processing between 2003 and 2005

Note how different the last 3 years look, as they include the snow cover exactly when, say, the ice in the White Sea suddenly goes.

October Snow in London

The BBC is forecasting a sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy day for Oct 29 in London, UK.  Guess that’ll make it very difficult for such a forecast to be wrong.

But how often has it snowed in October in relatively mild England? From the Hollinsclough website:

1762, 1783, 1784, 1785, 1825, 1829, 1836, 1838, 1880, 1885, 1888.

Those values are confirmed at Netweather.tv.

Another website indicates snow in London on Oct 29 in 1922, and other episodes in England in 1925, 1926, 1934 (as snow showers), 1950, 1964, 1974, 1992, 2000.

Taking all the above as “true”, the average wait is 12.5 years (stdev: 13.1). A snowfall in two days’ time would therefore be not exceptional, really.

Also, there is no much sign of a warming either. The ongoing average has been between 10.8 and 15.75 years since 1825.

OCT 29 UPDATE: It actually did snow in London, but not where I live so I will proceed to shrug it off as a non-event 😎 . No, really: the BBC and the Evening Standard reported it as the first London snow in October since 1934: I suspect the actual date depends on the definition of “London”.

Evidence of Climate Change in Northeastern Italy

What happens when somebody finally gets down to identify actual climatic patterns in a specific area, without the AGW/GHG credo?

This is what happens: Static and Dynamic Agroclimatology in the Veneto region – Analysis of the 1956-2004 period, PhD thesis by Alessandro Chiaudani

(Main text is in Italian, but there is a summary in English between pages 8 and 9, and most graphs should be self-explanatory).

In particular one of Chiaudani’s findings may sound truly ironic:

an important aspect of climate evolution is represented by abrupt changes with different phases separated by break-points

In other words, at regional level it is possible to identify…TIPPING POINTS…that make local climate switch from one “climatic homogeneous phase” and another.

Results show the existence of a climatic breakpoint in the ’80 with a consequent change of climatic phase. This change point is particularly evident for temperatures and evapotranspiration […] The evidence of a change of phase in the ’80 is strengthened by (i) analysis of phenological data regarding some Veneto crops (grapevine, maize and soft wheat) (ii) analysis of climatic data of other Italian regions (Emilia Romagna and Piemonte) (iii) climatic and phenological analyses referred to other European regions

So it is exactly by throwing out the fashionable all-encompassing fixation with CO2, and by looking for breakpoints in some measured climate-related variables, that Chiaudani is able to identify specific climatic changes, rather than the usual vague scenarios of increasing floods and drought episodes.


However, Chiaudani’s work is not compatible with the ever-increasing temperature trends that are part-and-parcel of the AGW crowd.

And whatever Hansens has to say about tipping points, the existence of one of them around 1980 cannot easily live together with the notion that we are slowly but steadily bringing the whole planet to ruin by emitting CO2, and a catastrophe is looming (Chiaudani finds some interesting correlation between the 1980’s climatic changes the winter-time NAO index, and the EAWR – East Atlantic West Russian index).

Hence, as supreme paradox, for once that there is evidence for climate change, do not expect it to be any popular among people that blame human activities for…climate change.

Alpine Melt Reveals…There's Nothing Special About Today's Climate

An interesting piece of news from the BBC that screams out very loud “there is nothing special about today’s climate“.

Yet, it’s all to be read between the lines, as the “greenhouse gases” are taken as the current warming’s culprit as a matter of course (i.e. without thinking).

Basically, alpine archeologists are having a field day (ha! ha!) with retreating glaciers exposing very, very ancient human artifacts. It should go without saying that if humans were up there at a time when gore-tex had not been invented and mountaineering superstores were not around, it must have been considerably warm. Also, everything buried under a glacier must have been there before the glacier trundled by.

So it must have been warm around 3,300BC and 4,500BC. How about the rest of the time? I have found this graph online. Once again, it’s in Italian, but should not be difficult to decypher. It shows how temperatures have changed in the Western Alps during the last 11,000 years (Western Swiss Alps, I understand, as the graph is supposed to be from the University in Berne):

Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years
Western Alps temperatures during the last 11,000 years
Quick analysis:
  • Present temperatures are relatively high compared to the past
  • The 16C threshold has been touched, for the 5th time in 10,000 years
  • It’s the 7th time that temperatures are on the way up, even without considering the increase immediately following the last Ice Age

Furthermore: whoever put that arrow shooting skywards, must be a comedian (or an involuntary comedian). Climatechangeology is a naked science indeed.

Climate Models Are Correct (And Useless)

Climate models are correct indeed. Because, as Bill Clinton would love to say, it depends on what the definition of “correct” is.

In the real world, climate models cannot be falsified by a single observation (modelists say it’s “only weather”), or by a set of short-term observations (they call it “just a specific trajectory”).

In theory, one could wait a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check if the world has actually got warmer, but in practice models don’t include volcanoes, clouds, solar activity, etc: therefore, even if observations diverge from the models, all the modelists will do is find a “culprit” that can justify the discrepancy.

For the 1940-1970 cooling climate, they say “it was the aerosols”. Never mind that it could be a made-up story.

RealClimate’s own Gavin has said in the recent past, there is no interest in verifying if models are correct or not. Instead, the “right question” appears to be: “are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?”

It should go without saying that in such a situations, models have no predictive capability beyond chance and they are for all intents and purposes useless.

Imagine modelling a human being as a heart pump with tubes coming in and out, and then when the patient dies of tuberculosis, having the superciliousness to state “the model is correct” instead of understanding that humans have a pulmonary system too (and a lot of other systems).

About Debate-Challenged Climate Scientists

A truly awful and extremely funny remark from the recent “Trip Report” by Goddard’s Climate Supremo Jim Hansen:

My guess is that scientists may not fare very well in”…”you-tube “debates” between scientists and contrarians

Why is it funny? Because what Hansen is likely trying to do is rationalize the failure of people like Gavin Schmidt to “win” any debate they are invited to.

As I have already stated, the inherent inability of Mr Schmidt and others in putting forward a cogent argument when publicly challenged, may be the reason why the RealClimate blog’s comment policy leans so much towards censorship.

Why is that statement awful? Because as a skeptic of the Carl Sagan/James Randi/Michael Shermer/Isaac Asimov variety I have followed debating scientists for more than two decades, and have seen them not just “fare very well”, but “win” hundreds of debates against believers in all sorts of fallacies, including the fakery of the Moon landings, UFOs, astrology, the paranormal, etc etc.

Why would climate scientists, and only climate scientists, be unable to survive a public challenge, whilst scientists studying evolution for example win all their debates hands down?

What is the difference? What is special about AGW?

Could the underlying problem be that, as Hansen inadvertently admits, nothing truly important has happened in terms of climate as yet, and the evidence for AGW if not for an upcoming disaster is flimsy? Direct quote from Hansen himself:

It is extremely dangerous to wait for real-world events to be so large that they overwhelm special interests and their contrarian lawyers

In other words, “real-world events” have not been large enough to justify AGW.

ps The “danger of waiting”, by the way, is exactly what some people have been claiming for many years…those people, that is, fond of carrying “The End of the World is Nigh” plaquards.

Lynas' "Six Degrees" of (Computed) Half Blindness

I have decided to read debate-challenged Mark Lynas‘ “Six Degrees – Our Future on a Hotter Planet” on the basis of the surprisingly moderate review by Eric Steig on RealClimate.

Just as revealed by Steig, I must confess I tend to stay away from popular-science books that appear to overstate their argument. And Lynas’ book’s English cover does sport a giant wave crashing on top of a half-submerged Big Ben, with lightning out of a dark cloud and a citation from the Sunday Times defining the book as “terrifying” (on the back, the Financial Times describing it as “apocalyptic”).

Obviously, HarperCollins (the Publisher) thought it important for sales to make Lynas look like an incorregible alarmist with a penchant for “climate pornography”. Apparently, the author has lamented being “misconstrued” but I suspect the author doesn’t control much of what appears on the cover of a book, and how the contents are popular-pulverized in the Press.

In any case, the choice of quoting from Dante’s Inferno was all Lynas’.


What do I make of it? I cannot say the book is “alarmist”, in the sense of trying to pump up the evidence for impending catastrophes. Lynas has obviously tried to stick to “available science”: but that’s exactly the main shortcoming of the book, that looks like a victim of the neurological condition called “neglect” (eg see “Hemispatial Neglect”.

“Neglect” happens when a patient simply cannot be made aware of something that is in front of them. For example in the case of “visual neglect”,  the patient may be able to describe in detail a whole image apart from some area or object in it, that simply do not register at a conscious level at all.

Analogously, current “available science” in Climatology, for whatever reason, consistently and invariably depicts what could go wrong in a warmer planet, “neglecting” what could go right.

Does anybody seriously believe that the current climatic conditions are some kind of “optimum”, so that even a 1C variation upwards can mainly bring bad news?

In the book, one would rather expect a rather even situation at the beginning, for a one- or two-degree change, getting worse as the chapters go by. You can see the actual figures in my blog “Numerical Analysis of Mark Lynas’ “Six Degrees” Claims“.

It’s 4 bad news, and 2 catastrophes, for every bit of good news.

Now, if Lynas, or any scientist, truly believes that a warmer planet will mean bad news will outnumber good news by 4 to 1 (or including catastrophes, by 7 to 1), a very, very good discussion of the reasons behind that would not only be welcome, but strictly needed.

Otherwise, as with so many other things in terms of climate, it will just be yet another extraordinary claim with no extraordinary evidence backing it.


By the way…the preponderance of bad and catastrophic news makes it for a boring reading after a few pages of totally-predictable barrage. Lynas slips time and again (with no apparent awareness) in what management consultants would call a “reverse sh*t sandwich” situation: instead of hiding the bad between two goods (the classic “sh*t sandwich” of many performance feedback sections), it’s the good bits that have to survive in-between bad news.

For example, at page 37 we are told about coral bleaching, then the hope is thrown that the coral might survive after all, but the sandwich is completed with an expert stating it will be too hot for the coral to survive.


Lynas’ solution to the problem is discussed at length but appears to pivot on the concept of “making policy by invoking survival of the species”. Having been unable to see much good in warming, Lynas shows a similar degree of intellectual neglect in trying to sweep aside every other problem there is in the world. Well, perhaps…but again, if stopping global warming by 1 or 6 degrees is more important than fighting malaria or hunger, we should be told exactly why.


A final gem demonstrating my whole point, from page 278:

“people were better off and healthier in Britain under food rationing during the Second World War”

Where does that incredible statement comes from???

Either Lynas is training as a stand-up comedian, or he can truly be half-blind to the things of the world indeed.

Why Climate Change is Unbearably Naked

What do I find so impossibly sloppy to bear, about Climate Change in its contemporary definition, as the result of human activities (also known as “Anthopogenic Global Warming” or AGW, and usually associated to CO2 emissions caused by humans)?

Yesterday’s incredible (counter-)discovery by Anthony Watts on CO2 measurements getting corrected upwards after having gone downwards “for the first time in history” provides an opportunity for a non-exhaustive list (I may add links to each point next week) of all that depaupers Climate Change of actual meaning:

  • Climate models are all based on forcings, something that cannot be measured. The tool has become the cause.
  • Those same models are demonstrably “right” whatever happens, either warming or cooling (once again, as all they show is that forcings are supposed to do)
  • Proponents are fixated on negativities (not just the newsmedia and the Stern Report…I have some interesting findings about a recent book on Climate Change, and I will publish them this week or next)
  • Climate change is improbably comprehensive in its effects, and yet “Attribution”, the ability to pinpoint a particular change as having something to do with Climate Change, is still up in the air
  • The IPCC itself cannot see much evidence for change in 2/3 (two-thirds!) of the planet
  • The “truth” is that temperatures are going up but if one looks at actual measurements, they are continuously adapted and adjusted. Measurement stations are not increasing in the number, and locations are far from perfect.
  • And now of course, on-the-fly upward adjustments of CO2 data appear just as values begin to go “the wrong way”.

I personally agree with Watts when he writes: “While nefarious motives may not be there, its just damn sloppy IMHO, and given this is the crown jewel for CO2 data I expect far better“.

And please don’t get me wrong…I am perfectly aware that such generalized sloppiness is part-and-parcel of modern Science, with genetists looking for Mendelian transmission of what is not Mendelian and a whole generation of Cosmologists trained on calling 96% of the Universe as “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”, two names for the same thing (“Total Ignorance”).

“Institutionalized Science” is of course 80% rubbish, as per the famous 80/20 rule.

But the whole Climate debate is much more than Science. And for that, there is still so much it needs to be dressed with, before it can be shown as properly thought of, and ready for being a solid basis for a revolution in societal mores.

If I read about “scientists demonstrating that train travel is impossible” I may get a laugh, as people at the time surely did. But when I see all the massive propaganda machine put in place to convince people to turn carbon-free by way of guilt, there isn’t much to be amused of.

If the keys to absolute gullibility are ever found, we may as well all turn back to live up the trees.

Why Rational Skepticism is Proper Response to AGW Claims

Many thanks to Ed Darrel at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for pointing once again to the extraordinarily compelling case put together by Patrick Frank in “A Climate of Belief“, an article for the Skeptic society’s online magazine, Vol.14, no.1, May 2008, that:

the claim that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for the current warming of Earth climate is scientifically insupportable because climate models are unreliable

I had mentioned it at the time but had not had the time or memory to read it again. For those in need of a quick, heavily emphasized (by me) quote:

The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?

Here a longer extract, from the final remarks (my emphasis):

It’s not that we, “lack … full scientific certainty,” it’s that we lack any scientific certainty. We literally don’t know whether doubling atmospheric CO2 will have any discernible effect on climate at all.

If our knowledge of future climates is zero then for all we know either suppressing CO2 emissions or increasing them may make climate better, or worse, or just have a neutral effect. The alternatives are incommensurate but in our state of ignorance either choice equally has two chances in three of causing the least harm. Complete ignorance makes the Precautionary Principle completely useless. There are good reasons to reduce burning fossil fuels, but climate warming isn’t one of them.

Some may decide to believe anyway. “We can’t prove it,” they might say, “but the correlation of CO2 with temperature is there (they’re both rising, after all), and so the causality is there, too, even if we can’t prove it yet.” But correlation is not causation, and cause can’t be assigned by an insistent ignorance. The proper response to adamant certainty in the face of complete ignorance is rational skepticism. And aren’t we much better off accumulating resources to meet urgent needs than expending resources to service ignorant fears?

So, then, what about melting ice-sheets, rising sea levels, the extinction of polar bears, and more extreme weather events? What if unusually intense hurricane seasons really do cause widespread disaster? It is critical to keep a firm grip on reason and rationality, most especially when social invitations to frenzy are so pervasive. General Circulation Models are so terribly unreliable that there is no objectively falsifiable reason to suppose any of the current warming trend is due to human-produced CO2, or that this CO2 will detectably warm the climate at all. Therefore, even if extreme events do develop because of a warming climate, there is no scientifically valid reason to attribute the cause to human-produced CO2. In the chaos of Earth’s climate, there may be no discernible cause for warming. Many excellent scientists have explained all this in powerful works written to defuse the CO2 panic, but the choir sings seductively and few righteous believers seem willing to entertain disproofs

Against-AGW-Consensus Article on the FPS Before Monckton's

I can’t help but laugh at the incredible somersaults being performed by the Council of the American Physical Society (APS) to reaffirm thieir unshakeable belief in AGW, after allowing the publication in their “Forum on Physics & Society” (FPS) of an article by Christopher Monckton, “Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered“.

Note: there is one thing I agree with the APS. Monckton’s paper has not undergone any scientific peer review. You see, he’s a Lord (a Viscount, no less) whilst on the “Council of the APS”‘s side there is obviously no trace of nobility. They have been “discorteous” indeed.

Time will tell about the position (and nobility) of Jeffrey Marque, the Editor of the FPS that has seen his July 2008 comments severely rebuked by the Executive Committee of the FPS. Who’s going to choose what will be published in the October 2008 issue, is anybody’s guess.

Interestingly, the FPS and the APS did not make too much of a fuss in the past, when publishing “heretical” climate-related opinions. For an example, see Gerald E. Marsh’s “Climate Stability and Policy” in April 2008.

Mr Marsh is not exactly your average AGW proponent: he argues that current CO2 levels are too low and contributing to climate instability, suggests that even 750ppmv could still be not enough to stop an upcoming, catastrophic Ice Age. and recommends that the IPCC switch its focus towards “determining the optimal range of carbon dioxide concentrations that will stabilize the climate, and extend the current interglacial period indefinitely”.

For some reason, the above did not cause any digestive pain at the FPS, either with its Editor, with its Executive Committee, or with the Council of the APS itself.

Is Monckton’s paper simply too hot to handle? Plenty of nutrients for conspiracy theorists there, no doubt.

G8 and Climate Change: the "Sad" Truth

There’s nothing like a G8 meeting to showcase what next “broken promise” might be

G8 vows to halve greenhouse gases
World leaders have agreed to set a global target of cutting carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2050 in an effort to tackle global warming…

Africa’s broken promises
Both the leaders of the industrialised world – the G8 – and the presidents of Africa are failing to keep the promises they made at Gleneagles summit in Scotland in 2005…

If I were a climate change campaigner I’d be particularly angry at the result. Richard Black at the BBC sounds particularly pessimistic

So far, then, this G8 summit has confused the issue rather than clarifying it.

The lasting impression is that unless there is something big happening that can be linked to global warming, Governments will simply and slowly drift away from it.

On Satellite Observations and Climate Change

An open letter to the Planetary “Sponsored Global Warming” Society

Dear Directors of the Planetary Society, dear Editors of the society magazine “The Planetary Report”

Your decision to dedicate a whole issue of the Planetary Report magazine to Planet Earth is commendable.

Too often one forgets that for the study of the universe there is a celestial body available to study 24/7, without the need for expensive trips to outer space. And that “body” is our own planet, the “cradle of humanity”.

All “missions to planet Earth” in the forms of orbital satellites and probes are worthwhile almost de facto, as new data can help us better understand our “motherworld”, and together with the accompanying experience may allow us to build the satellites and probes needed to explore the rest of the Solar System, and beyond.

But the July/August issue of the Planetary Report is not a celebration of past “missions to planet Earth” nor a comprehensive description of all the challenges lying ahead, and of all the questions still unanswered about our planet.

It’s just a collection of articles about global warming.

Is that what I and surely many other members await two long months for, every time? (and yes, I do follow Emily Lakdawalla’s blog).

Let’s assume “global warming” is indeed a big planetary issue, if not an emergency. Is it not talked about already in countless newspaper articles, movies, Nobel Prize wins, parliamentary sessions the world over, and now even a major topic of discussion at the G-8 “major industrialized nations” meeting?

And what purpose could it ever serve for a space-advocacy group to throw in its lot, especially since the issue has become so heavily politicized? Then one reads behind the magazine’s cover, and the “partial sponsorship” by Northrop Grumman Corporation starts explaining things.

After all, They are definitely not the first ones to jump on the “global warming bandwagon”, as demonstrated by a recent article on the International Herald Tribune. In the Planetary Report, they are the Company using the picture of a polar bear to advertise on the back cover that their “satellites above are safeguarding life below”.

Too bad though, Northrop Grumman Corporation wouldn’t survive a week by sticking to the environmental satellites market, and has to build some other pieces of hardware far less safeguarding for the lives experiencing a close encounter with their weapons.

But the problem is not with Northrop Grumman. The issue is what is the Planetary Society doing by jumping head first in the “global warming” debate, and also how it is doing it: because oversimplifications and mistakes abound. And that is definitely a no-no for something like the Planetary Society, that bases all its work of course on Science and on precision.

Here a quick list of observations:

(1) Contrary to what the Editor Charlene M. Anderson writes in the opening column, the Earth’s climate is not being recorded as undergoing a “steady warming”. There has been no warming in the past 10 years. Previous decades have seen warming and cooling episodes. If we are undergoing a warming, it’s definitely “not steady”

(2) In “Earth is, after all, a planet”, Charles F Kennel talks about “moving from knowledge to action”, because “human actions change our planet in ways that are not beneficial”. Note that certitude in those words. Does Mr Kennel realize that those words could be used to demonstrate there is no real need for more satellites to observe our planet? On the other hand: if the “global perspective” can “be found only in space” and therefore more satellites are needed indeed, what is the certitude on global warming based upon?

(3) Editor Charlene M. Anderson is then back in action with a “Venus and Mars, Earth’ s sister worlds” box making improbable connections between Venus’s clouds of sulphuric acid and acid rains on Earth (the two phenomena have little in common apart from elementary chemistry) and between Mars’s tenuous atmosphere and the Antarctic “ozone hole” (UV levels for the former are way higher than for the latter).

(4) In the same piece, we are told that Mars and Venus have shown us how “fragile, precious and unique” Earth is: I am not sure how anybody familiar with the evidence of periodical “asteroidal bombardments” on the surface of the vast majority of solar system bodies could define Earth as “fragile”, given that it has deleted almost all traces of four billion years of impact.

(5) Finally some fresh air in Michael D King’s “The Earth’s changing environment as seen from space” that actually is a list of all that can be done with satellites to monitor our planet. King’s piece is a good reminder of what it means to stick to the facts, instead of trying to “knit” one’s preferred interpretation around them. On the same tone, Editor Charlene M. Anderson’s box “Here, there and not quite everywhere” about analogies (rather than forecasts of doom) between what is seen on Earth and what happens on other planets and on natural satellites.

(6) Things turn to the worse with 6 pages given to Richard J Sommerville to explain the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We are told that it is “90% certain” that us humans have caused “Earth’s atmosphere to warm up in recent decades” by emitting “greenhouse gases” in all our activities: too bad there is no space to explain where is this 90% figure coming from, for example why not 85.6% or 92.4%. We are just told it means “very likely” (why not stick to those words then).

(7) Furthermore, in the section “Recognizing climate change” Sommerville does nothing of the sort, and instead further dwells in the IPCC statements, before listing a rather selective group of observations (he forgets to mention the expansion of Antarctic ice, for example). And then after stating that “the IPCC does not specifically forecast what the climate will do”, Sommerville nevertheless writes that “sea level will rise perhaps by 18 to 59 centimeters”, with uncertainties due to scientists being unable to “assess the potential for further sea level rise”. Perish the thought of being unable to assess the potential for lower-than-expected sea level rise…

(8 ) In section “Absolute certain truth” we are told that the IPCC is “simply an honest and competent assessment of published peer-review science”. Hopefully so. But then on what basis did the IPCC get the Nobel Peace Prize? Not to mention the fact, reported by Sommerville, that the IPCC Working Group reports are approved line-by-line by governmental representatives.

The IPCC must have performed the miracle of uniting “honest”, “competent” and “government” under the same roof for the first time in history.

(9) The pictures accompanying Sommerville’s articles seem chosen for old-style PR purposes. There is a refinery emitting gases (those are not greenhouse gases); impressive satellite pictures before and after cyclone Nargis (that had nothing to do with climate change); and another satellite picture of the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica seemingly breaking up into icebergs (there is little indication that the southernmost continent is warming at all, apart from its Peninsula).


Ironically, there are other ways to advocate for more “missions to planet Earth”, rather than parroting the most trite global warming slogans.

For example, there is no mention in the Planetary Report issue of the first chapter of the IPCC’s Working Group Two report, where it is clearly shown that the overwhelming majority of data confirming the climate is changing come from Europe alone.

We are talking 96% of evidence coming from 7% of the planet’s land area.

A major Earth observation plan is definitely in order: for the most basics of reasons, in order to observe and understand what is truly happening. If the first step instead is to declare our knowledge more or less settled, a couple of satellites will suffice.


(10) As Berrien Moore III writes in the final article “As riders on the Earth together”, “to act wisely we require information and understanding”. Whoever is worried about global warming, they better concentrate on getting more environmental satellites up there, instead of declaring as a matter of principle that “we simply must take some of the pressure off Earth” as Mr Moore unfortunately states at the end of his article.


Tellingly, we Members of the Society are not provided anything else from this issue of the Planetary Report. No Society news, no items on sale, no information about upcoming events, nothing about existing projects. Perhaps those folks at Northrop Grumman didn’t want to pay for the additional couple of pages. Or perhaps if climate change is afoot, all other activities of the Society will not be of interest any longer.


maurizio morabito – london (uk)

What AGW Worry Without Catastrophism?

Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents have an intrinsic need to chase the latest gloomier-than-thou reports and projections. 

In fact: is there anything to worry about AGW, when one removes its usual catastrophist baggage?

Or to phrase the question differently: is it possible to argue for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions without espousing the rather too common doom-and-gloom ideas of those that see the planet literally in peril, and civilization as-we-know-it ready to end in a decade or two?

The answer seems to be a resounding “no”, for a simple reason argued by Alex Cull in a comment to my “Discounting the Future” blog: since a slight warming is obviously beneficial, only a lot of demonization can paint it in an unfavorable light

[…] A different point, which follows on from your earlier blog re John Groome’s gloomy assessment of the ills of global warming. This may sound obvious but the projected deaths from global warming have to be very high for the whole argument to make sense, in fact they have to be inflated by any means possible, and the benefits of warming have to be minimised. Earlier springs mean a longer growing season, meaning in turn that fewer people die from starvation, and warmer winters mean fewer cold-related deaths. Obviously these are not catastrophic consequences, so the deaths will have to come from other causes, for instance as a result of more frequent and violent storms and from rising sea levels.

Now, if there is no well-established link between frequent violent storms and global warming, and if sea levels continue to rise by a few millimetres a year, as they have for well over a century, there’s a problem – no catastrophe. Hence the importance of Greenland and, of course, stubborn, recalcitrant Antarctica. Melt these, however long it may take, and you have your catastrophe. Which is why it is crucial for anyone advocating CO2 abatement that the ice caps must be projected to melt much faster than anyone has previously thought, that the resulting sea levels must be projected to rise far higher than anyone has previously thought, and the human casualties must therefore be far greater.

Because, if the number of people dying as a consequence of global warming is not very much different to, or is lower than, the number of people who would die if there were no warming trend, the CO2 abatement argument is dead in the water. If there is still a warming trend, and if it is caused by man-made CO2 but if it is not, on balance, going to kill more people than would otherwise die, and if we could stop this warming trend by reducing CO2 emissions, what on earth would be the point of doing it?

Science a Side Issue in International Scientific Congress on Climate Change

Early birds at the University of Copenhagen, talking already about the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change scheduled for March 2009 (only 9 months to go…).

The Preliminary Programme is available and I cannot see anything to be optimistic about. First of all, the one all-science Parallel Session (#1: Exploring the Risks: Understanding Climate Change) shows little chance of understanding much apart from all that may go bad with climate change itself. Not a single topic on anything good that may come out of a warmer world, heaven forbid!!

Even more worrying, overall proper “Science” does not appear to be central to the conference. There are many topics that more properly fall under “Policy”, “Politics” and “Management”.

What are those doing in a meeting aiming “to provide a synthesis of existing and emerging scientific knowledge necessary“, is anybody’s guess: or a sign that too many AGW scientists really cannot extricate themselves from climate activism.

And that’s a way of debasing their own science.


Is It Ethical To Hold a Biased, Negative View on Climate Change?

There are at least two key omissions in John Broome’s “The Ethics of Climate Change” (Scientific American, June 2006). One is about the uncertainties of predicting the future. The other concerns the unethical stance of considering Climate Change as purely a collection of negatives.

(1) There are many things we do not know about future climate. The IPCC itself is not in the business of predicting anything, rather of working on projections of where the global climate may be heading to, for those variable that we can compute. There are other variables involved, that are not captured by climate models (for example, of course volcanoes cannot be foretold). In other words, there is no way to know what the climate of 2058 or 2108 will actually be.

There is no trace of such uncertainty in Broome’s discourse. I would go as far as to say, Prof. Broome completely disregards the concept of risk management.

And so we are told at some point that we should take a “temporally impartial” stance, that is the death of a child today is as important as the death of a child in 100 years’ time (Broome rather unethically recommends to read his books to find out why).

But a child dying today is a certainty, whilst little can be said about children decades in the future: their very lives, and their deaths are a matter of probabilities. And surely the longer we try to see in the future, the fewer the chances of getting those probabilities right.

A Victorian scientist would have had no idea of how many children would survive today into adulthood. To claim that we are better today at seeing the XXII century is truly preposterous.

(2) As many sad articles about Climate Change, Broome’s is a collection of negatives.

Now, does one have to be a philosopher to understand that, as in almost everything else, in climate matters too there are positives and negatives whatever happens? Because the alternative would be, to consider a cooling world as a collection of positives…

We are told for example of how many deaths and disasters will Climate Change bring. Is Prof Broome aware of the fact that heat waves kill the already-dying, whilst cold waves simply kill? Death rates get below average at the end of a heat wave: they only get back to normal at the end of a cold wave.

Where are the people whose lives will be saved by an increase in global temperature? Certainly nowhere to be seen or taken care of in Broome’s article. And why not? Are some deaths more equal than others?

WIll people matter if they die because of heat, and matter less or not at all if they die because of cold?


Until such huge reasoning and moral gaps are not filled up properly, I will say thank you, but no thank you, I don’t need your ethical lessons, Prof. Broome.

Warming World Affecting the Minds of Nature Editors

Much fanfare on Nature and elsewhere about a paper by Rosenzweig et al that appears to be a re-hash of chapter 1 of the IPCC AR4-WG2 report.

Now, there is one thing that is very evident: the vast majority of reported changes are about Europe.

Nature reporter Emma Marris admits “the bulk of the observations come from Europe”. That statement is somewhat incomplete. In the IPCC report, for example, there are, from Europe, 28,115 observed biological changes out of a worldwide total of 28,671.

That’s 98%. Just from Europe. And most of it, just from a single meta-analysis.

Perhaps Marris should have substituted “bulk” with “pretty much the absolute totality”.


So the years are passing by, but the question remains: what if Global warming is just European?

ps I am worried about Californian birds (the ones with plumage, that is). There’s a researcher studying them, Cagan Sekercioglu of Stanford University, but he doesn’t show much interest in the real world:

““We shouldn’t even need to publish such papers at this point,” he says. “This paper is an argument that climate change is causing the observed changes. This should be a given. Thirty years later we are still trying to convince people of this.”

Well, Mr Sekercioglu, with an attitude like this, I bet you’re going to make lots of unexpected discoveries, aren’t you?

Evidence for Warming – And Yes, It's Good News!

The “Sahara dried out slowly, not abruptly“, according to a Reuters report of a new article by Kropelin et al., published in Science. That would be good news on its own, first as it means abrupt climatic changes happen not as often as once feared; and second, because it indicates climate was changing in an area the size of the United States, between 6,000 and 2,700 years ago (the latter date, coinciding with the legendary foundation of Rome).

Obviously, with no SUVs polluting at the time of Romulus, the end result is…more evidence that if anything is happening right now, is not necessarily the fault of us environmental sinners.

But the really good news is buried at the end of the piece:

[Kropelin] said there were already greener signs in a huge area with almost no reliable weather records. “I see a clear trend to a new greening of the Sahara, a very slow one,” he said, based on visits to some of the remotest and uninhabited parts of the desert over the past two decades. “You go to unoccupied areas over a long time and you know there was pure sand there without a single snake or scorpion. Now you see tens of kilometers covered by grass,” he said.

Finally! Some actual albeit initial evidence that warming is occurring indeed, and not just in continuously-corrected temperature measurements: because a warmer world is a wetter world, for the same reason why a colder world is a drier world, with all that water locked up in ice.

And what is a warmer and wetter world, if not a greener world?

More on RealClimate's Unfalsifiable Models

This being the age of the Internet, not everybody reads after the second or third paragraph. So here’s a quick summary explaining why I write that “RealClimate Raises the Bar AGAINST Climate Models“:

(1) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a single observation (i.e. atmospheric phenomenon). That  phenomenon is called ”weather”, and “weather” for RealClimate isnoise”)

(2) In the “RealClimate World”, models cannot be falsified by a set of short-term observations. That set is just part of a “specific trajectory” towards the expected climate change / global warming. And RealClimate is “not too concerned” about a “specific trajectory“.

Example for point (1): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the year 2100, but world temperatures dip in January and February 2008, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just a momentary event, during which the “signal” of anthropogenic global warming has been “obscured” by this or that natural (or man-made) cause.

Example for point (2): If models indicate the world will get warmer by the action of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, but world temperatures don’t climb after 1998, RealClimate can still “honestly” claim the models are right, and whatever happened is just the way things are going at the moment, with a random pause in temperature increases that is just one of the hundreds of possible “trajectories” that will take us to a warmer world.

The only way to verify if the climate models are right is by waiting a sufficient number of years in order to statistically check the world has actually got warmer. How many years? More than 10, evidently (see 1998), perhaps more than 30, following the classical definition of “weather”. And by how much, the temperature increase? Pretty much any positive amount would suffice to state, once again, that the “models are right”.


This looks like some kind of “suffocating love”, with the modellers so worried about their models, they have shielded them from almost all possibilities of falsification (in the process, pretty much abandoning “science” as usually understood).

And this is not the only contradiction: if the only way to see the models at work is by waiting a number of years, how could anybody advocate to “act now to save the Planet” because “the science is settled”?


The issue of model falsifiability has already been a topic on the NYT’s “Tierney Lab”, daring to ask this past January questions such as “Are there any indicators in the next 1, 5 or 10 years that would be inconsistent with the consensus view on climate change?” and “Are there any sorts of weather trends or events that would be inconsistent [with global warming}?“.

And what did Gavin Schmidt reply on RealClimate? No, and no:

this subject appears to have been raised from the expectation that some short term weather event over the next few years will definitively prove that either anthropogenic global warming is a problem or it isn’t. As the above discussion should have made clear this is not the right question to ask. Instead, the question should be, are there analyses that will be made over the next few years that will improve the evaluation of climate models?

No “short-term weather event over the next few years” could ever disprove that “anthropogenic global warming“. And observations (events) and their analyses, in the RealClimate world, are only interesting to “improve the models“.

It’s hard to fail to spot in Schmidt’s reply that they did go back to “Hansen’s 1988” and other old projections, but whilst the bits that agree with the models are signs that those projections are “good“, those that disagree are so “for reasons that are as yet unclear“.

Instead of scientists trying to interpret the world, in RealClimate we have people subordinating the world to their models.

RealClimate Raises the Bar AGAINST Climate Models

With the death of Ed Lorenz and a world apparently taking a hiatus on the way to unstoppable anthropogenic global warming, It has taken a group effort at RealClimate to try to deal with the issue of chaotic weather vs. climate modelling: “Butterflies, tornadoes and climate modelling“.

Rather unfortunately for the authors, the conclusions contain a remarkable amount of unintended irony.

[…] But how can climate be predictable if weather is chaotic? The trick lies in the statistics. In those same models that demonstrate the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, it turns out that the long term means and other moments are stable. […] Climate change then is equivalent seeing how the structure changes, while not being too concerned about the specific trajectory you are on

In other words, “climate change” is an entity that can only become observable in the long, long term. And since there is little concern for the “specific trajectory”, there literally exists NO possible short-term sets of observations that can falsify the climate models.

Another way of saying it is that for the climate problem, the weather (or the individual trajectory) is the noise. If you are trying to find the common signal that is a signature of a particular forcing then averaging over a number of simulations with different weather works rather well […]

In other words, since each and every atmospheric event can be obviously described as “weather”, there is no single observation that can falsify the climate models.

Their work doesn’t have to deal with any single observation, no short-term sets of observations…do they realize what they are saying???

Real climate is in their own words almost perfectly insulated from the real world. Nothing that can ever happen will be able to disprove the work of the climate modellers, apart from multi-decadal averages that are so poorly defined, they can easily be used to demonstrate anything.

Is this “science”? Looks more like long-term guaranteed employment to me… No wonder Anthropogenic Climate Change has important detractors in the metereological community.

In further irony, the above pairs up perfectly well with RC’s “comments policy” that can be summarized more or less into “we will censor everything we do not like“.

RealClimate: the insulated web site, where insulated researchers post insulated content. Now I understand why poor Gavin Schmidt had such a hard time dealing with an open debate

So What has the BBC's Roger Harrabin Actually Done?

There is considerable buzz about reports that “the BBC has changed the news to accommodate an activist“.

The BBC journalist involved is environmental correspondent Roger Harrabin, with whom I must say I have privately exchanged views in the past (wrong…it was Richard Black).

And the BBC article is “Global temperatures ‘to decrease‘”, Friday April 4, 2008.

The “accusation” regards the contents (and title) of the article having been changed to please an environmental activist, allegedly called “Jo Abbess”.

This being the internet, with Fool’s Day not that much in the past, there is not much one can be sure of. So I have compared the three available version of Mr Harrabin’s article. Versions (1) and (2) as per Jennifer Marohasy’s blog. Version (3) as currently on the BBC web site (I am sorry but I have to take (1) and (2) at face value, hoping they are not the product of fakery).

My conclusions are: Mr Harrabin’s article is clearly biased in favour of AGW but not more than other articles in the past by Harrabin and others (see here for more about BBC’s biased reporting); and the whole evolution of the article’s text is compatible with the story of “Jo Abbess” being true. Despite of that, there is still hope.


a. Differences between (1) and (2)

Version (1) starts with:

Global temperatures this year will be lower than in 2007 due to the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. […] But experts have also forecast a record high temperature within five years.

Version (2) instead:

Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. […] But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend – and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years. The WMO points out that the decade from 1998 to 2007 was the warmest on record. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the global average surface temperature has risen by 0.74C. While Nasa, the US space agency, cites 2005 as the warmest year, the UK’s Hadley Centre lists it as second to 1998. Researchers say the uncertainty in the observed value for any particular year is larger than these small temperature differences. What matters, they say, is the long-term upward trend.

There is a slight “style” change from “lower” to “drop slightly”. Not sure one can make much of a fuss about that. More important, there is a whole new section reiterating that there is a “long-term warming trend”.

This doesn’t appear much of a “scandal” to yell about, even if it clearly shows the BBC party-line of driving home the “world is warming” message no matter what, perhaps even no matter where.

b. Differences between (2) and (3)

Version (2) starts with:

Global temperatures will drop slightly this year as a result of the cooling effect of the La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. […] This would mean global temperatures have not risen since 1998, prompting some to question climate change theory. But experts say we are still clearly in a long-term warming trend – and they forecast a new record high temperature within five years.

Version (3) starts with:

Global temperatures for 2008 will be slightly cooler than last year as a result of the cold La Nina current in the Pacific, UN meteorologists have said. […] But this year’s temperatures would still be way above the average – and we would soon exceed the record year of 1998 because of global warming induced by greenhouse gases.

So we are back to “slightly cooler” instead of “drop slightly”, some sort of “middle way” as AGWers won’t like the use of “cooler” and skeptics will object to “slightly”.

Another change is that there is no more mention, at least at the beginning of the article, of those “questioning climate change theory”. AGWer Ms or Mr “Jo Abbess” will be surely happier.

Furthermore, in the latest version Mr Harrabin has added yet another mention of “greenhouse gases”, in what looks like a clarification: a clarification, that is, that Mr Harrabin’s article really does follow the aforementioned BBC “party-line”.


The BBC article is clearly biased in favour of AGW but no more than previous pieces (see here for more about BBC’s biased reporting). The whole evolution of the text is actually compatible with the story of “Jo Abbess” being true.

There is hope though: Mr Harrabin’s “initial forgetfulness” allegedly corrected after exchanging e-mails with “Jo Abbess” might be a sign that, when free to think, even BBC journalists are not fixated with accusing mankind of burning up the planet.

Former BBC science correspondent David Whitehouse, in fact…

UPDATE: The Register’s Andrew Orlowski has something to say about “blog bully” Jo Abbess

The Blackboard: On the Magnitude of Warming

(thanks to Douglas Hoyt for pointing to these interesting blogs)

From The Blackboard:

  1. Comparing IPCC Projections to Individual Measurement Systems
  2. Accounting For ENSO: Cochrane Orcutt

Note: author Lucia says “I believe AGW to be true, but since I am willing to pro-actively test projections against data during what appears to be a “stall” in warming, much of my audience consists of skeptics“.

Let me state that’s the worst indictment I have ever read of the mindset of most AGW believers…

Among the results of the first blog: “what this data indicates is that if and when warming resumes, it will likely occur at a rate that is lower than projected by the IPCC. So, while the trends will turn up they are unlikely to reach the 2C/century of warming“.

And two of the conclusions of the second: “Did the IPCC recent AR4 prediction/projections correctly estimate the magnitude of warming? (no). Did the IPCC correctly communicate the uncertainty in their estimate of the central tendency based on their hierarchy of models? (no).

In a better world, these results would be celebrated…not sure how many in the AGW world and lobbies will be happy, though…

Hello Tapuz Users

There’s some traffic coming here from the Tapuz forum in Israel. Among the topics of conversation, my “Results of HadCRUT Data Rank Analysis (V)” blog.

As my knowledge of the Hebrew language is limited to “ken” (“yes”), “lo” (“no”) and “meshuga” (“fool” – please don’t ask!!!), details on what is being said will be very appreciated…

Venus Atmosphere Still A Mystery

From Universe Today: “Although the bright haze of Venus’s atmosphere has been identified, many dark patches have also been observed. So far, there is no explanation for these patches of atmospheric chemicals absorbing solar UV“.

In the meanwhile, raypierre of RealClimate summarizes the latest info about the atmosphere of Venus, but somehow forgets to include the UV absorption mystery (it only shows up as an afterthought, comment #2).

One wonders why? Obsession with consensus and the need to demonstrate there exist such a thing as “climate science” spring to mind.

Global Warming: Solution not Problem for a Thirsty Planet

On World Water Day, the United Nations have come out with yet another dire prediction: “By 2025, fully a third of the planet’s growing population could find itself scavenging for safe drinking water“.

And just in case anybody would miss it: “even as scientists and governments look for ways to satisfy a thirsty world, another threat looms on the horizon: global warming“.

In truth, rising seas and more frequent droughts don’t seem such a particularly bad idea. Think of a cooling world: would that be a drier world too, as more and more water is locked up in glaciers and ice sheets?

Of course a warmer world is a wetter place. The equation warm=dry is mostly if not only in the minds of scientists and journalists living in Europe and North America (i.e., the Northern temperate regions: where in fact it rains less in the Summer).

Anybody worried about water availability should definitely hope for further warming…

Amazing First on The New York Times

Something absolutely unheard-of before: an entire New York Times article talking about Global Warming but… with no hint of impending doom or catastrophes:

In a Warmer Yellowstone Park, a Shifting Environmental Balance by Jim Robbins – published: March 18, 2008

Gulf Stream Myths

(originally published on 18 March 2007 as “Gulf Stream Myths“. Click here for the March 2008 update “Gulf Stream Myths (2)“.)

Myth #1: The Gulf Stream will fail if a massive outpour of freshwater will come out of Greenland glaciers due to increasing temperatures.

Answer: No, it most definitely will not. As explained by Carl Wunsch, Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physical Oceanography at the MIT in Cambridge, Mass. (USA), in a letter published on The Economist:

The Gulf Stream is a wind-driven phenomenon (as explained in a famous 1948 paper by Henry Stommel). […] Shut-off would imply repeal of the law of conservation of angular momentum […] focusing on near-impossible Gulf Stream failure is an unproductive distraction

Myth #2: The Gulf Stream is responsible for the milder weather in the United Kingdom and part of Northern Europe than North American regions at similar latitudes.

Answer: No, it most definitely does not. As explained by Richard Seager, Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in an article published on American Scientist:

That the Gulf Stream is responsible for Europe’s mild winters is […] nothing more than the earth-science equivalent of an urban legend.


Seager’s comments are particularly telling on how current Climatology is self-destroying by way of catastrophism:

Pretty much everything we had found could have been concluded on the basis of results that were already available […]

All Battisti and I did was put these pieces of evidence together and add in a few more illustrative numerical experiments. Why hadn’t anyone done that before? […] The blame lies with modern-day climate scientists who either continue to promulgate the Gulf Stream-climate myth or who decline to clarify the relative roles of atmosphere and ocean in determining European climate. This abdication of responsibility leaves decades of folk wisdom unchallenged, still dominating the front pages, airwaves and Internet, ensuring that a well-worn piece of climatological nonsense will be passed down to yet another generation.

AGW and… Luminiferous Aether

Sometimes, perhaps even often, “effects” are discovered before a plausible mechanism for them is identified. Planck devised the basis of the law of black-body radiation long after black-bodies could be approximated in the lab, in the years when Einstein won a Nobel Prize for the photoelectic effect, that until then had no plausible explanation at all.

On the opposite side, more or less at the same time physics modelled the universe as filled of “luminiferous aether”: a plausible mechanism (devised to explain light propagation, among other things), argued favorably by the top scientists and institutions of the time. And something we now know it was just a fantastic self-deception, more and more convoluted as the years went by.

From Wikipedia:

Contemporary scientists were aware of the problems, but aether theory was so entrenched in physical law by this point that it was simply assumed to exist. In 1908 Oliver Lodge gave a speech in behalf of Lord Rayleigh to the Royal Institution on this topic, in which he outlined its physical properties, and then attempted to offer reasons why they were not impossible.

It must be noted than regarding black-body radiation and the photoelectric effect, a major advancement of scientific knowledge came about by investigating those “effects” without preconceptions, whilst concerning the “aether” brilliant minds wasted decades of their lives trying to prove the existence of something everybody “knew” it was there. And even when evidence started accumulating against the “aether” still they came up with even more fanciful properties for it: to the point that any observation was meant to confirm the presence of the “aether”.

Fast forward to 2008 when warm spells are ascribed to anthropogenic global warming. Cold spells too. And violent hurricane seasons. And weak hurricane seasons. Increasing global temperatures, and decreasing global temperatures. Explanations are always at hand, and if it is not the aerosols then it’s soot from coal-fueled power stations.


What happened, is called “reification”. There are all indications that the same phenomenon is surfacing also in cosmology, with dark matter, dark energy, WIMPs, gravitational waves, etc. The problem is when an observed effect without a known cause is ascribed to “something unknown” and this “something unknown” is given a name.

As it happens, sometimes scientists are lucky and do “reificate” something that shows up in reality: take P.A.M. Dirac and the neutrino…but in the case of AGW: the “something unknown” is called “radiative forcing“. Guess what? It CANNOT be measured in the real world. It’s no “neutrino” waiting to be found: it can ONLY be “estimated“: because, as it is well known, it’s a useful computational tool and NOT a “real thing”.

Yet, since it does have a name, this subtle but important distinction is getting progressively lost…”radiative forcings” are taken as physical quantities so that an increase in CO2 concentration ipso facto brings an increase in “CO2 radiative forcing“.

Despite the absence of experiments and measures, the mere fact it has a certain name is taken as “evidence”.


A reality-check is in order. The greenhouse effect has been observed only in laboratory conditions, and we still refer to experiments done decades ago by Arrhenius; there is no actual satisfactory theory on how the effect would work in an actual atmosphere, so we are restricted to numerical models with far too many parameters to fiddle with; and even the best models cannot even compute clouds, of which there is aplenty in the actual atmosphere.

That is what is known.

Everything else is a conjecture that could collapse tomorrow, when a new Michelson and/or a new Morley will attempt, for once, to verify in the field that greenhouse gases actually warm up a planetary atmosphere.

Global Warming's Incomplete Question

Michael Johnson asks an incomplete question about global warming in today’s IHT (M Johnson, “Is our planet warming up?“, IHT, March 7).

The issue is not simply “is our planet warming up?” but:

is our planet warming up in a way that would justify the curtailing of civil and economic liberties, and/or the forced upheaval of our way of life in the attempt of slowing down or reversing the warming?

I am not sure what would Mr Johnson’s answer be, to that question…

Venus and a Thicker-Atmosphere Earth

(fourth post in a series dedicated to the planet Venus as “example” of runaway greenhouse warming)
Venus post #1: Venus: Cool Greenhouse?
Venus post #2: Venus Warming Revisited
Venus post #3: Venus Missing Greenhouse Warming
Venus post #4: Venus and a Thicker-Atmosphere Earth

In reply to this comment

Ok n-g I presume we can now do assuming all niceties instead of repeating our thanks 😎 so let’s try to clarify a few points.

To my mind, they act very differently

the rest of my question was “Wouldn’t moist convection for example drastically change the consequences of an increase in atmospheric CO2?”.

And the point was: when people say, look at Venus to see what GHG warming can do, the scientific answer should be that no comparison can be done with Earth as the whole mechanism of “warming” is very different (whatever CO2 may or may not be doing…if only because we have so much water vapor).

May I dare say we agree on this point?

When you’re looking at the planetary energy balance, the single number albedo is not just the starting point, but also the ending point

But surely an atmosphere, say, with low albedo in UV and high albedo to visible and IR does not behave as an atmosphere that is the other way around?

Earth’s for example is able to keep a bit warmer by the presence of UV-absorbing ozone in the stratosphere. That would mean a lower albedo in UV than in visible light, wouldn’t it?

The dry adiabatic lapse rate depends only on gravity and heat capacity

If the greenhouse effect is so strong on Venus, why isn’t the lapse rate much larger, and much larger than Earth’s, given the fact that the amount of CO2 decreases a lot between the surface and the height of 60km?

Surely the lower one gets, the more GHG there are, the higher the ability to trap heat.

Suppose there were no greenhouse effect on Venus

As you say, this is an argument, not proof

The fact that the IR emissions from Venus come from the atmosphere and not from the surface constitutes the proof

The fact that visible light comes from the atmosphere and not from the surface only proves there’s lots (lots!) of clouds on Venus. Why would the same observation regarding IR mean something else?

If the atmosphere of Earth were 100 times more massive

Let’s imagine Earth had a 10-km deep, reasonably large crater in the middle of a continent, with no liquid water on its bottom at all. What would be the temperature at the bottom of the crater? With a lapse rate for saturated air of 5.46K/km, 288+5.46*10=342K or 70C. Right? Wrong?