Anyone interested in viewing a succinct statement of the skeptic case with regard to global warming/climate change can find three short videos outlining the case here. This was presented to a film crew from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation making a documentary on climate skepticism but completely edited out in making the final version aired on ABC television recently.
On November 8 I made a presentation on climate change causation and its implications for geoengineering at a conference sponsored by the Russian Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet) in Moscow and supported by various United Nations organizations including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was attended by the Panel’s Chairman and Deputy and roughly 800 other presenters and attendees.
My presentation, which can be found under Section 3 here, has since been supplemented by a list of sources and notes attached at the end of it. Some of the major points made in my presentation were the following:
Amazingly similar cycles. There is an amazing similarity between solar system, sunspot, oceanic, and global climate cycles. These similarities are so striking that they suggest possible cause and effect relationships, perhaps in the general order shown. In other words it may be that solar system cycles influence solar sunspot and oceanic cycles, which influence global temperature cycles.
Most major cycles appear to be entering their downward phase. Some important common cycles appear to be 20, 60, 200-210, and 1,000 years in length. Although there is some uncertainty with regard to the length of the 200 year cycle and the current phase of the 1,000 year cycle, evidence is presented that all except the 20 and possibly the 1,000 year cycles have passed the peaks of their current cycles. This means that most of the cycles may be starting on their downward phase after recent peaks.
Explains observed climate changes. This provides a natural, non-anthropogenic explanation for most if not all the observations concerning global temperatures over the last two millenia and possibly during the Holocene as a whole, including the upward movement of global temperatures over the last few centuries, the apparent end of the recent upward phase of a 60 year cycle of oceanic and global termperatures, why we now appear to be in a negative PDO, and the current plateau in global temperatures, and suggests that the next major change may be towards lower global temperatures.
Possible mechanism established. As a result of research by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Henrik Svensmark, and others there is now known to be a mechanism by which solar variations can significantly influence Earth’s climate, namely, by changing the intensity of cosmic rays impacting the Earth and thereby cloud cover and thereby the reflection of solar energy back into space and thereby global temperatures. There may be other mechanisms that we do not yet understand.
Implications for Climate Stabilization. This astronomical hypothesis has substantial implications for the optimal approaches to promote climate stabilization. In particular, the proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions appears to have even less promise than under the AGW hypothesis; geoengineering approaches that allow control of both adverse global warming and cooling, on the other hand, look even more attractive. Particular attention is devoted to a geoengineering approach called Solar Radiation Management using the insertion of particles into the stratosphere and to the possible use of geoengeering to prevent the next ice age, which also appears to be governed by astronomical cycles.
Murry Salby Presents Simple Analysis Showing that Variations in Atmospheric CO2 Are Primarily Due to Natural Temperature Changes, Not HumansAlan Carlin | August 8, 2011
On August 2, 2011 Professor Murry Salby, Chair of Climate Science at Macquarie University in Australia with visiting professorships at Paris, Stockholm, Jerusalem, and Kyoto, made a presentation entitled Global Emission of Carbon Dioxide: The Contribution from Natural Sources showing that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels appear to be primarily related to natural temperature changes, not human CO2 emissions. A summary by Jo Nova can be found here. As she puts it, “It’s not just that man-made emissions don’t control the climate, they don’t even control global CO2 levels.” Salby analyzed the annual variations in atmospheric CO2 levels as measured at Mauna Loa with temperatures and found a strong correlation. The largest increases year-to-year occurred when the world warmed fastest due to El Nino conditions. The smallest increases correlated with volcanoes which pump dust up into the atmosphere and keep the world cooler for a while. In other words, temperature controls CO2 levels on a yearly time-scale, and according to Salby, man-made emissions have little effect. These findings appear to further support the conclusions reached in Section 2.2 of my recent paper summarizing climate change science and economics and the idea that natural global temperature changes such as those due to ENSO and volcanoes are the main drivers of global atmospheric CO2 levels, not human emissions.
Current scrutiny of the AGW/alarmist/warmist positions quite deservedly centers primarily on the scientific integrity of the UN/IPCC reports, which in the United States may be crucial in the question of whether EPA acted in accordance with EPA regulations in determining that GHGs endanger public health and welfare. It is important, however, not to lose sight that the larger AGW/warmist view of the world makes a long series of crucial assumptions starting with the science and ending with the implementation of their proposed solution. This larger view of their assumptions suggests that some of the other assumptions are even less well grounded in reality than the ill-supported conclusions currently being discussed concerning the IPCC reports.
The publicized goal of the AGW alarmists/warmists and the European Union is to prevent more than a 2oC increase in global temperatures above preindustrial levels by reducing GHG emissions. They appear to have made a number of critical assumptions in order to arrive at this goal and their approach to achieving it, including the following:
- (1) Significant global warming is taking place and will take place in the future.
(2) This warming is primarily due to increasing levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
(3) These increasing GHG levels are primarily due to human activity in releasing GHGs.
(4) It Is Realistic to Rapidly and Drastically Reduce Emissions of GHGs.
(5) A United Nations consensus can be reached on a new global treaty to reduce GHG emissions.
(6) But to obtain a consensus it would desirable and feasible for developed countries to pay large amounts to the developing countries.
(7) If a consensus should be reached, each country would actually implement whatever it may agree to.
(8) These actually implemented reductions would reduce global warming sufficiently so as to avoid a 2oC increase in global temperatures.
Each of these assumptions appears to be essential for the overall warmist narrative if they are to make a well-rounded case that their solution might have credibility. The first three are related to the IPCC science conclusions and therefore the EPA endangerment finding. The remainder, however, are not really discussed in the EPA endangerment finding since they involve potential regulatory action. But they may be relevant to future EPA rulemaking and are very relevant to the real world viability of the warmist narrative as a whole.
(1) There Will Be Significant Warming
It appears clear that there has been significant warming since the end of the Little Ice Age and in the 1930s (well before any significant impact of fossil fuel use is likely). There also was some modest warming in 1998, which shows no apparent relation to changes in CO2 levels. Otherwise it is difficult to make the case for significant warming in the last 70 years.
There is increasing evidence that the alleged warming in the 1980s and early 1990s may be more the result of the urban heat island effect and attempts to manipulate the ground-based station data than it is of actual temperature increases. The satellite temperature data (which started in 1978) shows an increase only in 1998 leaving aside periodic oscillations probably related to ENSO. See here and here for a more detailed discussion.
Now as to the future, the principal argument advanced for higher temperatures is that a number of computer models used by the UN IPCC, which have all used similar assumptions, all show increases for the remainder of this century. But these models reflect the assumptions used in constructing them rather than having any actual predictive power (see Section 1.7 of my Comments). If this first assumption is incorrect the later assumptions should make little difference since there will be no alleged problem to solve. I give this assumption a chance of being correct a generous 2 out of 10 or 20% because of our limited understanding of climate despite the lack of any real evidence for the warmist view.
(2) Alleged Warming Primarily Due to Rising GHG Levels
There is very little empirical evidence for rising GHG levels as the primary cause for global warming. Ice core data suggests that CO2 levels follow temperatures rather than the other way around. In fact, the all-important scientific tests of this hypothesis show that increases in GHG levels are not a significant cause of warming, as discussed here. A new study suggests the same thing. There is even a theoretical hypothesis by Miskolczi that argues that the Earth simply reduces atmospheric water vapor (a more important greenhouse gas) to offset higher GHG levels. If correct (and it at least has a real world empirical basis, unlike the AGW hypothesis), this means that increases in GHG levels would have no effect on global temperatures! So it seems reasonable to give this assumption a 1 out of 10.
(3) Rising Atmospheric GHG Levels Primarily Due to Human Releases of GHGs
There is little doubt that atmospheric GHG levels are increasing, but whether human-caused emissions are the primary cause is doubtful but more uncertain than assumption (1). Rather, the increasing GHG levels may be primarily due to increasing ocean temperatures over hundreds of years since water cannot absorb as much CO2 at higher temperatures. This appears to be a major scientific uncertainty, so I propose to assign this assumption a 3 out of 10.
(4) It Is Realistic to Rapidly and Drastically Reduce Emissions of GHGs
Warmists assume that GHG emission reductions are the solution to (1), (2), and (3), but this is far from obvious. They generally propose reductions in CO2 emissions of about 80% by 2050, often compared to 1990. Taking account of population growth and increases in energy use since 1990, the reductions “needed” per person would be almost 90% (see p. 721 here). Given the rapid spread of new energy using technology such as computers, server farms, and cell phones, this appears more than unlikely.
In reality, most experience to date has been that in political jurisdictions where the most serious energy efficiency efforts have been made, the “best” that has been achieved is that GHG emissions have been held steady because the emissions reductions have been balanced out by increases brought about by demand for increased uses by increasing urban populations (for added discussion of all this see pp. 721-5 here). Finally, analysis (see, for example, here and here) suggests that various geoengineering solutions such as stratospheric solar radiation management would much more reliably achieve cooling at a small fraction of the huge costs of reducing GHG emissions. So I’ll give this assumption a generous 1 in 10 chance of being correct.
(5) A New Binding International Treaty Can Be Reached to Reduce GHG Emissions
Since even countries with large emissions could theoretically have only a small effect on global emissions and emissions reductions by one country would disadvantage it economically compared to those that do not reduce them, the only way to reduce emissions (assuming that this could actually be done) effectively would be for most large emitting countries to enter into a binding treaty to reduce emissions. This may require the intervention of a world body such as the United Nations. But the Copenhagen Conference and those leading up to it strongly suggest that a new UN consensus would be very difficult to reach, at best. The UN did earlier reach consensuses on both the UNFCCC and on the Kyoto Protocol to it, but there has been no evidence that a new consensus agreement is even possible. So I’ll give this assumption a very generous 1 out of 10.
(6) Funding Can Be Found to “Buy” Support/”Reimburse” Less Developed Countries
Assuming that a new consensus could be reached, it is very likely that it would include large payments from developed to developing countries. Many less developed countries have suggested that they would be willing to concur on a new accord only if the developed countries pay them quite large sums presumably for the expenses they might incur for reducing emissions and/or the damages they may have incurred by the higher temperatures allegedly resulting from GHG emissions from the developed countries.
The principal problem is that even if developed countries should agree philosophically with this position, they must find the funding for these payments. This may not be very popular with voters in developed countries; it is certainly not in the United States. Indications so far are that most of the money so far promised may come from existing foreign aid budgets, which means that total foreign aid would probably change very little, which is consistent with the idea that the voters in developed countries are unlikely to approve significantly higher foreign aid levels. The leading proposal considered at the Copenhagen Climate Conference was that the funds would be allocated by the UN, which may not reassure voters in developed countries who would have to foot the bill. So I’ll give this assumption a generous 1 in 10.
(7) Most Major Emitters Would Actually Carry Out Whatever GHG Reductions They Might Agree to
Voluntary international agreements do not have a very good record of actually being implemented. Witness the Kellogg-Briand Treaty renouncing war as an instrument of national policy in 1928, or more to the point, the Kyoto Protocol negotiated in 1997. Neither one was/is being implemented in any serious way (see pp. 725-6 here). But without effective implementation there will certainly be little reduction in GHG emissions, and, even if the above assumptions should be correct, in global temperatures. So give this assumption a generous 1 in 10.
(8) Proposed Actual Reductions in GHG Emissions Would Achieve the 2oC Goal
Besides the ability to predict climate decades in advance, this assumption assumes that we know the so-called climate sensitivity factor, which relates changes in temperature to a doubling of CO2 levels. Unfortunately this is one of the most controversial issues in climate science and is not known with even moderate confidence. Hence any claims that a given change in emissions will result in a particular increase in temperatures cannot be ascertained. Thus it is not possible to know what change in global temperatures might result from any given change in GHG emissions. Finally, it can be shown (pages 712-6) that if the IPCC assumptions and data were all correct that the 2oC goal could not be achieved using this approach. So I give this assumption a 1 in 10 probability.
Taken together, the odds that all eight of these crucial warmist assumptions would prove to be correct appears to be close to zero. There is no rational expectation that assumption (8), their ultimate objective, would actually be achieved if the world actually tried to implement the warmist narrative. The last five assumptions are particularly indefensible, but are receiving less attention than the first three. This post explains why each of these critical assumptions are very dubious and why the assumption that taken together they are all correct is not reasonable.
Despite the dismal prospects that all these assumptions are correct, many prominent politicians (including the Obama Administration), US mainstream media, and academics continue to pursue the warmist narrative. Even if the prospects for each assumption were magically doubled, it remains unclear why rational people would support more than one of the warmist assumptions and particularly the overall narrative.
(Updated August 11, 2010 to include added sources)
In a previous post I explained why I believe that the United Nations GHG hypothesis that significant global warming will occur as a result of increasing greenhouse gas (such as CO2) levels is implausible. In this post I will explain why I believe that the best available evidence indicates that the hypothesis is not just implausible but rather should and can be rejected on scientific grounds.
For a broader view of how science progresses see here. Clearly I am in the Popper camp in this regard. Kuhn’s view may more accurately describe how science has unfortunately sometimes been historically conducted, but certainly not how it should be.
Before going further, it is important to explain that the important word in the definition of the UN GHG hypothesis is “significant.” There is little doubt that higher levels of greenhouse gases are likely to lead to slightly higher global temperatures since that is why they are called greenhouse gases. The United Nations, however, claims that increases in the levels of these gases in the atmosphere are the predominant influence on global temperatures. Hence the qualification “significant” in order to include the UN claims while excluding the minor warming that has probably been caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
As explained in my Comments, the models relied on so heavily by the UN do not prove anything scientifically one way or the other. They simply show what the model builders believe would happen if the hypothesis and all their other assumptions were correct. The model results are interesting, perhaps even useful, but irrelevant in deciding whether their AGW hypothesis should be accepted or rejected. This is because they do not compare the implications of the hypothesis with real world data other than past temperature data which the models have been modified to emulate.
The Critical Role Played by the Scientific Method
According to the scientific method, a scientific hypothesis must be tested by comparing real world data with the implications of the hypothesis. This is how Albert Einstein was able to persuade the world that his ideas on relativity had merit. Scientists kept proposing real world tests of his hypothesis but each test confirmed its validity. After a number of these tests, the opposition conceded that his hypothesis was valid. (For a description of this extended process see, for example, Jeffrey Crelinsten’s Einstein’s Jury: The Race to Test Relativity). A similar process resulted in the acceptance of Newtonian mechanics and other hypotheses which gradually assumed the status of theories.
If the comparison with real world data does not confirm the hypothesis, the hypothesis should be rejected. There are only two alternatives from a scientific viewpoint when this happens: Discard or at least modify the hypothesis or discover an error in the data used to reject it. From a scientific viewpoint, it is totally irrelevant how many public officials or scientific organizations–or how prominent they may be–support a particular hypothesis. A hypothesis has scientific validity only by comparison with real world data. Joanne Nova has expressed this very well in her Handbook downloaded here.
There are numerous inconsistencies between the UN CO2 hypothesis and observed data. Gregory explicitly compares the explanatory power of the UN hypothesis with the competing Svensmark hypothesis and finds the UN hypothesis wanting. Idso and Singer provide extensive scientific evidence against the UN hypothesis.
But perhaps the most fundamental comparisons are between the major physical effects of the UN hypothesis and available real world data. There are four particularly telling physically-based basic comparisons in this regard. According to the scientific method an inconsistency even in one of these comparisons means that the hypothesis should be rejected from a scientific viewpoint. It is important to deal with the uncertainty introduced by the word “significant,” however. This uncertainty increases the likelihood that a few of the comparisons may prove positive. Hence it increases the strength of any negative finding. In fact, if a number of tests should prove negative it makes the tests very powerful evidence against the hypothesis.
Four Critical Comparisons with Real World Data
Acceptance of the hypothesis requires that each of the following four observations are present:
- There is a hot spot in the upper troposphere in the tropics as predicted by the UN. If greenhouse gases are significantly warming the Earth the first signs of it are supposed to appear about 10 kilometers above the tropics. The lack of such a hotspot is discussed in my Comments in Section 2.9 as well as by Joanne Nova downloaded here. She discusses the major objections that have been raised to this comparison and why she believes they are not credible. For a further update see here. For more detailed information see here.
- There is heating of the oceans. The added heat generated by increasing greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere must be stored somewhere. It has not been showing up in the atmosphere in the last decade, so if the hypothesis is valid it must be going into the oceans. But in the last few years this has not been the case. An extensive discussion of the evidence can be found here. The bottom line is that the AGW hypothesis fails this test as well.
- The observed outgoing radiation fluxes from the Earth decrease with increases in sea surface temperatures. Satellite data, however, shows an increase, which is inconsistent with the high climate sensitivities to increases in CO2 and positive feedback so crucial to the UN’s case. A new peer reviewed paper accepted for publication on this subject can be found here. For a video of Christopher Monckton’s presentation on this study on the Glenn Beck program see here. For a more up-to-date but considerably more technical presentation, see starting at slide 28 here or in the corresponding Richard Lidzen video found here.
- The atmospheric response times for volcanic sequences would be longer than they would be without the UN hypothesis. If climate sensitivity is as high as the UN claims, it should show up in the atmosphere’s response time from volcanic eruptions. The reason for this is that climate sensitivity is also a measure of how tightly air and sea temperatures are coupled. High sensitivity is associated with weak coupling, allowing the establishment of significant disequilibration of the sea surface temperature. A discussion of this can be found in a 1997 report from the National Academy of Sciences here. The discussion may be a little technical, but the conclusion that the data “is consistent with low [climate] sensitivity,” which is inconsistent with one of the UN’s crucial conclusions, is clear.
The conclusions are the same in each of these four cases: The UN hypothesis is not supported or even partially supported by these comparisons with real world data. As Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT has recently observed with regard to his findings on comparison 3 above, “In a normal field, these results would pretty much wrap things up, but global warming/climate change has developed so much momentum that it has a life of its own – quite removed from science.”
The data are far from perfect, of course, perhaps in part because of a lack of effort to gather it. But they all tell the same story. This means that the hypothesis should be rejected scientifically based on current information. Future testing could lead to other conclusions, of course, but for now rejection is the rational course of action.
Accordingly, using this hypothesis has no scientific basis based on current knowledge concerning these four comparisons. Attempts to argue that it is anything more than a religious or superstitious belief must show that the data used in each and every one of these tests (as well as others that may be proposed in the future) is wrong.
Accordingly, using the UN hypothesis as a basis for formulating policy is not useful or relevant from a scientific viewpoint. Attempts to do so are likely to lead to scientifically unsound policy. Given that the current proposed “solution”–radically reducing CO2 emissions–would cost many tens of trillions of dollars, it is particularly incumbent on those advocating this very large expenditure (for which there are many other uses if it should actually become available) to show that their solution should not also be rejected since it is based on a hypothesis that should be rejected.
The UN reports issued to date do not show that the data used in these four important comparisons is incorrect, and therefore the reports should not be used as a basis for policy in my view. Reports substantially based on the UN reports, such as the draft EPA Endangerment Technical Support Document reviewed in my Comments, should also not be used for policy purposes for the same reason in my view.