Why CAGW theory is not “settled science”

In Andi Cockroft’s story yesterday Climate Science and Special Relativity he asked a prescient question:

For the general public that does not have an objective scientific bent, how do you tell virtual reality from the real thing?

Dr. Brown responded in comments, which was so well thought out, it benefits everyone by elevating it to full post status, and thus is presented below. Like The Skeptics Case, I highly recommend this one as a “must read”. – Anthony

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Guest post by Dr. Robert Brown, Duke University Physics Department

For the general public that does not have an objective scientific bent, how do you tell virtual reality from the real thing?

That’s a serious problem, actually. Hell, I have an objective scientific bent and I have plenty of trouble with it.

Ultimately, the stock answer is: We should believe the most what we can doubt the least, when we try to doubt very hard, using a mix of experience and consistent reason based on a network of experience-supported best (so far) beliefs.

That’s not very hopeful, but it is accurate. We believe Classical Non-Relativistic Mechanics after Newton invents it, not because it is true but because it works fairly consistently to describe Kepler’s purely observational laws, and (as it is tested) works damn well to describe a lot of quotidian experience as well on a scale less grand than planetary orbits. We encounter trouble with classical mechanics a few hundred years later when it fails to consistently describe blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect (the one thing Einstein actually got the Nobel Prize for), the spectra of atoms, given Maxwell’s enormously successful addition to the equations of electricity and magnetism and the realization that light is an electromagnetic wave.

Planck, Lorentz, Einstein, Bohr, de Broglie, Schrodinger, Heisenberg and many others successively invent modifications that make space-time far more complex and interesting on the one hand — relativity theory — and mechanics itself far, far more complex than Newton could ever have dreamed. The changes were motivated, not by trying to be cool or win prizes, but by failures of the classical Euclidean theory to explain the data! Basically, Classical flat-space mechanics was doomed the day Maxwell first wrote out the correct-er equations of electrodynamics for the first time. We suddenly had the most amazing unified field theory, one that checked out empirically to phenomenal accuracy, and yet when we applied to cases where it almost had to work certain of its predictions failed spectacularly.

In fact, if Maxwell’s Equations and Newton’s Law were both true, the Universe itself should have existed for something far, far less than a second before collapsing in a massive heat death as stable atoms based on any sort of orbital model were impossible. Also, if Maxwell’s equations and flat spacetime with time an independent variable was correct, the laws of nature would not have had the invariance with respect to reference frame that Newtonian physics had up to that time enjoyed. In particular, moving a charged particle into a different inertial reference frame caused magnetic fields to appear, making it clear that the electric and magnetic fields were not actually vector forms! The entire geometry and tensor nature of space and time in Newtonian physics was all wrong.

This process continues today. Astronomer’s observe the rotational properties of distant galaxies to very high precision using the red shift and blue shift of the stars as they orbit the galactic center. The results don’t seem to agree with Newton’s Law of Gravitation (or for that matter, with Einstein’s equivalent theory of general relativity that views gravitation as curvature of spacetime. Careful studies of neutrinos lead to anomalies, places where theory isn’t consistent with observation. Precise measurements of the rates at which the Universe is expanding at very large length scales (and hence very long times ago, in succession as one looks farther away and back in time at distant galaxies) don’t quite add up to what the simplest theories predict and we expect. Quantum theory and general relativity are fundamentally inconsistent, but nobody knows quite how to make a theory that is “both” in the appropriate limits.

People then try to come up with bigger better theories, ones that explain everything that is well-explained with the old theories but that embrace the new observations and explain them as well. Ideally, the new theories predict new phenomena entirely and a careful search reveals it there where the theory predicts. And all along there are experiments — some of them fabulous and amazing — discovering high temperature superconductors, inventing lasers and masers, determining the properties of neutrinos (so elusive they are almost impossible to measure at all, yet a rather huge fraction of what is going on in the Universe). Some experiments yield results that are verified; others yield results — such as the several times that magnetic monopoles have been “observed” in experiments — that have not been reproducible and are probably spurious and incorrect. Neutrinos that might — even now — have gone faster than light, but again — probably not. A Higgs particle that seems to appear for a moment as a promising bump in an experimental curve and then fades away again, too elusive to be pinned down — so far. Dark matter and dark energy that might explain some of the unusual cosmological observations but a) are only one of several competing explanations; and b) that have yet to be directly observed. The “dark” bit basically means that they don’t interact at all with the electromagnetic field, making them nearly impossible to see — so far.

Physicists therefore usually know better than to believe the very stuff that they peddle. When I teach students introductory physics, I tell them up front — “Everything I’m going to teach you over the next two semesters is basically wrong — but it works, and works amazingly well, right up to where it doesn’t work and we have to find a better, broader explanation.” I also tell them not to believe anything I tell them because I’m telling them, and I’m the professor and therefore I know and its up to them to parrot me and believe it or else. I tell them quite the opposite. Believe me because what I teach you makes sense (is consistent), corresponds at least roughly with your own everyday experience, and because when you check it in the labs and by doing computations that can be compared to e.g. planetary observations, they seem to work. And believe me only with a grain of salt then — because further experiments and observations will eventually prove it all wrong.

That isn’t to say that we don’t believe some things very strongly. I’m a pretty firm believer in gravity, for example. Sure, it isn’t exactly right, or consistent with quantum theory at the smallest and perhaps largest of scales, but it works so very, very well in between and it is almost certainly at least approximately true, true enough in the right milieu. I’m very fond of Maxwell’s Equations and both classical and, in context, quantum theory, as they lead to this amazing description of things like atoms and molecules that is consistent and that works — up to a point — to describe nearly everything we see every day. And so on.

But if somebody were to argue that gravitation isn’t really a perfect 1/r^2 force, and deviations at very long length scales are responsible for the observed anomalies in galactic rotation, I’d certainly listen. If the new theory still predicts the old results, explains the anomaly, I’d judge it to be quite possibly true. If it predicted something new and startling, something that was then observed (variations in near-Earth gravitation in the vicinity of Uranium mines, anomalies in the orbits of planets near black holes, unique dynamics in the galactic cores) then I might even promote it to more probably true than Newton’s Law of Gravitation, no matter how successful, simple, and appealing it is. In the end, it isn’t esthetics, it isn’t theoretic consistency, it isn’t empirical support, it is a sort of a blend of all three, something that relies heavily on common sense and human judgement and not so much on a formal rule that tells us truth.

Where does that leave one in the Great Climate Debate? Well, it damn well should leave you skeptical as all hell. I believe in the theory of relativity. Let me explain that — I really, really believe in the theory of relativity. I believe because it works; it explains all sorts of experimental stuff. I can run down a list of experimental observations that are explained by relativity that could scarcely be explained by anything else — factors of two in spin-orbit coupling constants, the tensor forms and invariants of electromagnetism, the observation of \mu-mesons produced from cosmic ray collisions in the upper atmosphere far down near the surface of the Earth where they have no business being found given a lifetime of \sim 2 microseconds — and observation I personally have made — and of course all the particle accelerators in the known Universe would fail miserably in their engineering if relativity weren’t at least approximately correct. Once you believe in relativity (because it works) it makes some very profound statements about causality, time ordering, and so on — things that might well make all the physics I think that I know inconsistent if it were found to be untrue.

Yet I was — and continue to be — at least willing to entertain the possibility that I might have to chuck the whole damn thing, wrong from top to bottom — all because a silly neutrino in Europe seems to be moving faster than it should ever be aver to move. Violations of causality, messages from the future, who knows what carnage such an observation (verified) might wreak! I’m properly skeptical because what we have observed — so far — works so very consistently, and the result itself seems to be solidly excluded by supernova data already in hand, but you know, my beliefs don’t dictate reality — it is rather the other way around.

The sad thing about the Great Climate Debate is that so far, there hasn’t really been a debate. The result is presented, but no one ever takes questions from the podium and is capable of defending their answers against a knowledgeable and skeptical questioner.

I can do that for all of my beliefs in physics — or at least, most of them — explain particular experiments that seem to verify my beliefs (as I do above). I’m quite capable of demonstrating their consistency both theoretically (with other physical laws and beliefs) and with experiment. I’m up front about where those beliefs fail, where they break down, where we do not know how things really work. Good science admits its limits, and never claims to be “settled” even as it does lead to defensible practice and engineering where it seems to work — for now.

Good science accepts limits on experimental precision. Hell, in physics we have to accept a completely non-classical limitation on experimental precision, one so profound that it sounds like a violation of simple logic to the uninitiated when they first try to understand it. But quite aside from Heisenberg, all experimental apparatus and all measurements are of limited precision, and the most honest answer for many things we might try to measure is “damfino” (damned if I know).

The Great Climate Debate, however, is predicated from the beginning on one things. We know what the global average temperature has been like for the past N years, where N is nearly anything you like. A century. A thousand years. A hundred thousand years. A hundred million years. Four billion years.

We don’t, of course. Not even close. Thermometers have only been around in even moderately reliable form for a bit over 300 years — 250 would be a fairer number — and records of global temperatures measured with even the first, highly inaccurate devices are sparse indeed until maybe 200 years ago. Most of the records from over sixty or seventy years ago are accurate to no more than a degree or two F (a degree C), and some of them are far less accurate than that. As Anthony has explicitly demonstrated, one can confound even a digital electronic automatic recording weather station thermometer capable of at least 0.01 degree resolution by the simple act of setting it up in a stupid place, such as the southwest side of a house right above a concrete driveway where the afternoon sun turns its location into a large reflector oven. Or in the case of early sea temperatures, by virtue of measuring pails of water pulled up from over the side with crude instruments in a driving wind cooling the still wet bulb pulled out of the pail.

In truth, we have moderately accurate thermal records that aren’t really global, but are at least sample a lot of the globe’s surface exclusive of the bulk of the ocean for less than one century. We have accurate records — really accurate records — of the Earth’s surface temperatures on a truly global basis for less than forty years. We have accurate records that include for the first time a glimpse of the thermal profile, in depth, of the ocean, that is less than a decade old and counting, and is (as Willis is pointing out) still highly uncertain no matter what silly precision is being claimed by the early analysts of the data. Even the satellite data — precise as it is, global as it is — is far from free from controversy, as the instrumentation itself in the several satellites that are making the measurements do not agree on the measured temperatures terribly precisely.

In the end, nobody really knows the global average temperature of the Earth’s surface in 2011 within less than around 1K. If anybody claims to, they are full of shit. Perhaps — and a big perhaps it is — they know it more precisely than this relative to a scheme that is used to compute it from global data that is at least consistent and not crazy — but it isn’t even clear that we can define the global average temperature in a way that really makes sense and that different instruments will measure the same way. It is also absolutely incredibly unlikely that our current measurements would in any meaningful way correspond to what the instrumentation of the 18th and 19th century measured and that is turned into global average temperatures, not within more than a degree or two.

This complicates things, given that a degree or two (K) appears to be very close to the natural range of variation of the global average temperature when one does one’s best to compute it from proxy records. Things get more complicated still when all of the best proxy reconstructions in the world get turned over and turned out in favor of “tree ring reconstructions” based upon — if not biased by — a few species of tree from a tiny handful of sites around the world.

The argument there is that tree rings are accurate thermometers. Of course they aren’t — even people in the business have confessed (in climategate letters, IIRC) that if they go into their own back yards and cut down trees and try to reconstruct the temperature of their own back yard based on the rings, it doesn’t work. Trees grow one year because your dog fertilizes them, fail to grow another not because it is cold but because it is dry, grow poorly in a perfect year because a fungus attacks the leaves. If one actually plots tree ring thicknesses over hundreds of years, although there is a very weak signal that might be thermal in nature, there is a hell of a lot of noise — and many, many parts of the world simply don’t have trees that survived to be sampled. Such as the 70% of the Earth’s surface that is covered by the ocean…

But the complication isn’t done yet — the twentieth century perhaps was a period of global warming — at least the period from roughly 1975 to the present where we have reasonably accurate records appears to have warmed a bit — but there were lots of things that made the 20th century, especially the latter half, unique. Two world wars, the invention and widespread use and testing of nuclear bombs that scattered radioactive aerosols throughout the stratosphere, unprecedented deforestation and last but far from least a stretch where the sun appeared to be far more active than it had been at any point in the direct observational record, and (via various radiometric proxies) quite possibly for over 10,000 years. It isn’t clear what normal conditions are for the climate — something that historically appears to be nearly perpetually in a state of at least slow change, warming gradually or cooling gradually, punctuated with periods where the heating or cooling is more abrupt (to the extent the various proxy reconstructions can be trusted as representative of truly global temperature averages) — but it is very clear indeed that the latter 19th through the 20th centuries were far from normal by the standards of the previous ten or twenty centuries.

Yet on top of all of this confounding phenomena — with inaccurate and imprecise thermal records in the era of measurements, far less accurate extrapolations of the measurement era using proxies, with at most 30-40 years of actually accurate and somewhat reproducible global thermal measurements, most of it drawn from the period of a Grand Solar Maximum — climatologists have claimed to find a clear signal of anthropogenic global warming caused strictly by human-produced carbon dioxide. They are — it is claimed — certain that no other phenomena could be the proximate cause of the warming. They are certain when they predict that this warming will continue until a global catastrophe occurs that will kill billions of people unless we act in certain ways now to prevent it.

I’m not certain relativity is correct, but they are certain that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a true hypothesis with precise predictions and conclusions. I have learned to doubt numerical simulations that I myself have written that are doing simple, easily understandable things that directly capture certain parts of physics. They are doing far, far more complex numerical simulations — the correct theoretical answer, recall, is a solution to a set of coupled non-Markovian Navier-Stokes equation with a variable external driver and still unknown feedbacks in a chaotic regime with known important variability on multiple decadal or longer timescales — and yet they are certain that their results are correct, given the thirty plus years of accurate global thermal data (plus all of the longer timescale reconstructions or estimates they can produce from the common pool of old data, with all of its uncertainties).

Look, here’s how you can tell — to get back to your question. You compare the predictions of their “catastrophic” theory five, ten, twenty years back to the actual data. If there is good agreement, it is at least possible that they are correct. The greater the deviation between observed reality and their predictions, the more likely it is that their result is at least incorrect if not actual bullshit. That’s all. Accurately predicting the future isn’t proof that they are right, but failing to predict it is pretty strong evidence that they are wrong.

Such a comparison fails. It actually fails way back in the twentieth century, where it fails to predict or explain the cooling from 1945 to roughly 1965-1970. It fails to predict the little ice age. It fails to predict the medieval climate optimum, or the other periods in the last 10,000 years where the proxy record seems to indicate that the world was as warm or warmer than it is today. But even ignoring that — which we can, because those proxy reconstructions are just as doubtful in their own way as the tree-ring reconstructions, with or without a side-serving of confirmation bias to go with your fries — even ignoring that, it fails to explain the 33 or so years of the satellite record, the only arguably reliable measure of actual global temperatures humans have ever made. For the last third of that period, there has been no statistically significant increase in temperature, and it may even be that the temperature has decreased a bit from a 1998 peak. January of 2012 was nearly 0.1C below the 33 year baseline.

This behavior is explainable and understandable, but not in terms of their models, which predicted that the temperature would be considerably warmer, on average, than it appears to be, back when they were predicting the future we are now living. This is evidence that those models are probably wrong, that some of the variables that they have ignored in their theories are important, that some of the equations they have used have incorrect parameters, incorrect feedbacks. How wrong remains to be seen — if global temperatures actually decline for a few years (and stretch out the period with no increase still further in the process) — it could be that their entire model is fundamentally wrong, badly wrong. Or it could be that their models are partially right but had some of the parameters or physics wrong. Or it could even be that the models are completely correct, but neglected confounding things are temporarily masking the ongoing warming that will soon come roaring back with a catastrophic vengeance.

The latter is the story that is being widely told, to keep people from losing faith in a theory that isn’t working — so far — the way that it should. And I have only one objection to that. Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!

Well, I have other objections as well — open up the debate, acknowledge the uncertainties, welcome contradictory theories, stop believing in a set of theoretical results as if climate science is some sort of religion… but we can start with shit-canning the IPCC and the entire complex arrangement of “remedies” to a problem that may well be completely ignorable and utterly destined to take care of itself long before it ever becomes a real problem.

No matter what, we will be producing far less CO_2 in 30 years than we are today. Sheer economics and the advance of physics and technology and engineering will make fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains. Long before we reach any sort of catastrophe — assuming that CAGW is correct — the supposed proximate cause of the catastrophe will be reversing itself without anyone doing anything special to bring it about but make sensible economic choices.

In the meantime, it would be so lovely if we could lose one single phrase in the “debate”. The CAGW theory is not “settled science”. I’m not even sure there is any such thing.

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221 Responses to Why CAGW theory is not “settled science”

  1. Rudebaeger says:

    If the science is settled, then why don’t we cut all of the funding to the climate scientists ?

    They aren’t needed anymore, because the science is settled.

    Otherwise, we are just keeping them around to scare us with another over-hyped horrer story.

  2. Johnnythelowery says:

    A ‘friend’ of mine wrote the following: Thought you might find it interesting:

    ‘………………………………………………Research in fundamental particle physics has culminated in our current Standard Model of elementary particles. Using ever larger machines, we have been able to identify and determine the properties of a whole zoo of elementary particles. These properties present many interesting patterns. All the matter we see around us is composed of electrons and up and down quarks, interacting differently with photons of electromagnetism, W and Z bosons of the weak force, gluons of the strong force, and gravity, according to their different values and kinds of charges. Additionally, an interaction between a W and an electron produces an electron neutrino, and these neutrinos are now known to permeate space — flying through us in great quantities, interacting only weakly. A neutrino passing through the earth probably wouldn’t even notice it was there. Together, the electron, electron neutrino, and up and down quarks constitute what is called the first generation of fermions. Using high energy particle colliders, physicists have been able to see even more particles. It turns out the first generation fermions have second and third generation partners, with identical charges as the first but larger masses. And nobody knows why. The second generation partner to the electron is called the muon, and the third generation partner is called the tau. Similarly, the down quark is partnered with the strange and bottom quarks, and the up quark has partners called the charm and top — with the top discovered in 1995. Last and least, the electron neutrinos are partnered with muon and tau neutrinos. All of these fermions have different masses, arising from their interaction with a theorized background Higgs field. Once again, nobody knows why there are three generations, or why these particles have the masses they do. The Standard Model, our best current description of fundamental physics, lacks a good explanation.

    The dominant research program in high energy theoretical physics, string theory, has effectively given up on finding an explanation for why the particle masses are what they are. The current non-explanation is that they arise by accident, from the infinite landscape of theoretical possibilities. This is a cop out. If a theory can’t provide a satisfying explanation of an important pattern in nature, it’s time to consider a different theory. Of course, it is possible that the pattern of particle masses arose by chance, or some complicated evolution, as did the orbital distances of our solar system’s planets. But, as experimental data accumulates patterns either fade or sharpen, and in the newest data on particle masses an intriguing pattern is sharpening. The answer may come from the shy neutrino.

    The masses of the three generations of fermions are described by their interaction with the Higgs field. In more detail, this is described by “mixing matrices,” involving a collection of angles and phases. There is no clear, a priori reason why these angles and phases should take particular values, but they are of great consequence. In fact, a small difference in these phases determines the prevalence of matter over antimatter in our universe. Now, in the mixing matrix for the quarks, the three angles and one phase are all quite small, with no discernible pattern. But for neutrinos this is not the case. Before the turn of the 21st century it was not even clear that neutrinos mixed. Too few electron neutrinos seemed to be coming from the sun, but people weren’t sure why. In the past few years our knowledge has improved immensely. We now know, from the combined effort of many experimental teams, that, to a remarkable degree of precision, the three angles for neutrinos have sin squared equal to 1/2, 1/3, and 0. We do need to consider the possibility of coincidence, but as random numbers go, these do not seem very random. In fact, this mixing corresponds to a “tribimaximal” matrix, related to the geometric symmetry group of a tetrahedron.

    What is tetrahedral symmetry doing in the masses of neutrinos?!? Nobody knows. But you can bet there will be a good explanation. It is likely this explanation will come from mathematicians and physicists working closely with Lie groups. The most important lesson from the great success of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is that our universe is fundamentally geometric, and this idea has extended to the geometric description of known forces and particles using group theory. It seems natural that a complete explanation of the standard model, including why there are three generations of fermions and why they have the masses they do, will come from the geometry of group theory. This explanation does not yet exist, but when it does it will be deep, elegant, and beautiful — and it will be my favorite…………….’
    ————————————————-
    Any guesses who wrote it???????????????//

    ..’
    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Ft.co%2F7PJtfIiq&h=rAQGGSZ_CAQF2vvXl4lbCPv2zZg4VV9scI08smavarmc70A

  3. Doug S says:

    Very well done professor. One of the saddest things to me is the lost opportunity in the climate media campaign to educate people on basic science. So much advocacy has been presented to people, falsely under the name of “science”, that I fear we have set back the general populations true understanding of what science is all about. You have presented an honest description of the true nature of science and I’m hopeful that your efforts along will so many other people of good faith will help us recover from this very damaging period of alarmism. Thank you.

  4. NetDr says:

    I like the use of the term CAGW because it is the certainty of catastrophe that I disagree with, not that humans have affected climate somewhat.

  5. dalyplanet says:

    An excellent essay, well deserving of this stand alone posting.

  6. Pull My Finger says:

    Do you ever get the feeling that god just loves to mess with Physicists? You struggle for decades to comprehend and test all these esoteric thories, and just when you think you’ve got… blammo!

    Everyone with an opinion on AGW should read this.
    Like I stated before, Global Warming is a rounding error.

  7. Patrick says:

    NetDr – agreed it is important not to let them confuse people by changing the terminology. They are a predicting climate catastrophe due to man made global warming – without MMGW there is no catastrophe. CAGW is good too

  8. elftone says:

    Beautifully put, Doctor, thank you. It’s heartening to see such a clear, unequivocal description of the scientific method, and to see it applied to the dogma as it’s presented every day by scaremongers. I shall be pointing people to this…

  9. Greg Locke says:

    Heretic. Stone him, I say.

  10. Dave in Canmore says:

    Hear! Hear! This is the essence of science.

  11. What a demolition job!

    “… the correct theoretical answer, recall, is a solution to a set of coupled non-Markovian Navier-Stokes equation with a variable external driver and still unknown feedbacks in a chaotic regime with known important variability on multiple decadal or longer timescales —”

    F.T.W!

    Thank you, thank you.

    And now I must away, for I need to get in much wood for the looming, long, cold, southern hemisphere winter.

  12. LongCat says:

    Amen.

  13. More Soylent Green! says:

    While there are many useful computer models of various systems, that does not mean that the models are correct. They may work well within certain parameters and when the processes being modeled are well-understood.

    However, computer models do not output data. Computer models do not output facts. Computer models do not qualify as “experiments,” but may qualify as “computer experiments.”

    Computer models are software and work as programmed. In other words, computer models show various effects of increased CO2 because that’s how the models are programmed and not necessarily because that’s the way the real climate works.

  14. Garry Stotel says:

    Dear Dr Brown,

    Heart felt thank you for the article.

    I am REALLY tired of this CAGW bullshit. My question is how on God’s green Earth, in open and supposedly democratic societies, globally, such daring lies can exist for so bloody long, and cause so much damage? When CAGW crashes and burns, as it inevitably will, will the world be immunized against such nonsense for a good long while? I have no confidence in that, and I bet that the world will find itself another delusion, scare, religion or pagan belief to be afraid of and to which sacrifices are to be made…

  15. John Shade says:

    An informal comment on a blog puts to shame the sorry stream of shallow-science, special pleading, and policy-led evidence-making that has marked the past 30 years or so, the troubled infancy of ‘climate science’. It has not been a healthy, vigorous child of a subject. It has been abused by its keepers who have pushed it beyond anything they have a right to claim. Their social science and political collaborators and funders have displayed even more irresponsible behaviour, extending their harm beyond the abstract world of a science, and into the real one in which real children have been deliberately frightened by horrible visions of the future, and real people have faced starvation because bio-fuel destroyed so much food, the price of it went up appreciably. They have also harmed our landscapes and seascapes with absurdly inefficient and extravagant methods for generating electricity, and weakened our economies by diversion of resources from more productive areas in order to provide subsidies for silliness and self-indulgence on a grand scale. They have also poisoned international relations by inventing a new grievance as a source of bitterness and hatred amongst nations – an off-the-shelf we-know-who-to-blame for each and every weather-related catastrophe. We may yet be some way from Peak Loss due to this period of inflated claims for the insights and knowledge of climate science. Mediocre science and superb political manipulation brought us to this. First-class science could help speed up our escape from it. Well done Dr Brown for giving us a glimpse of what might have been, and what might yet take place by way of deeper examination of whether and what substance might be found behind the miasma of rhetoric and moral and intellectual shoddiness we have had to endure for so long.

  16. Excellent. Not only am I going to bookmark it in my “Gold” folder, I’m going to print this out and stick it in my well used copy of Asimov’s “The Relativity of Wrong”

    Accurately predicting the future isn’t proof that they are right, but failing to predict it is pretty strong evidence that they are wrong.

    [i]t would be so lovely if we could lose one single phrase in the “debate”. The CAGW theory is not “settled science”. I’m not even sure there is any such thing.

    I do not wish to loose the phrase “settled science”; I wish to use it as a scientific marker. Use of that phrase in a statement concerning any theory can and should be used by others as a warning label on the quality of the statement.

  17. Big D in TX says:

    Excellent summary, I will be linking this post to friends.

  18. David Walton says:

    This is the single best summary I have ever read of why CAGW is not “settled science” and begs the question, “Is it even science?”

    Thank you Dr. Robert Brown.

  19. David Wells says:

    Oh joy! On the Bloomberg site they are in raptures because Spain managed to generate 4,890,000MW from their wind turbines an exultant 2% of their total electrical needs, now isnt that fantastic. Even more underwhelming was Dr Peter Musgrove – Times Letters – foaming at the mouth because Professor Michael Kelly said there were 14,000 abandoned wind turbines in America pointing out that the USA now had 46,000 MW of wind capacity which in 2010 managed to generate unprecendented 94,652,000 MW or 2% of 4,125,060,000 MW. So if wind turbines are the future of renewable energy what is the real future of electricity generation because as 2010 was the best year of wind turbine installations for America at 6810MW at that rate it will take 57 years to reach the current 20% target and by that time rising energy consumption will have risen beyond winds ability to keep up, even if you ignore the intermittance being green is not a solution, solar and wind have already failed and its time to close the door before more good money is flushed down the plughole of subservient belief.

    Coal generated 45% of Americas need in 2010 yet President Obama and the EPA are hell bent on no new coal fired generation. In the Presidents own words “even if the science is wrong, its still the right thing to do”. I am glad they dont hang people in the UK any more because I wouldnt want to be tried for a serious crime if the Judge felt the same way about evidence “young man the evidence suggests you are innocent but I believe you are guilty, hang him!”

    David Wells

  20. Dermot O'Logical says:

    A thought occurs.

    Warmists use the science of x3 feedbacks. Non-warmists use, well I’m actually not sure here, but fill in the blank for yourselves, is it x0.9? – some negative feedback component anyway.

    Isn’t this x3 coded into the GISS models somewhere? If so, why can’t we just change it (and only it) to x0.9 and re-run the models from the same point and see if the revision generates something closer to reality.

    That might help…

  21. Ian E says:

    Now, how do we get politicians to read this article and actually think about its arguments and conclusions?

  22. Rick Morcom says:

    Superb and wise article. Could be applied to many more things than climate science too – medicine for one…

  23. Greg, from Spokane says:

    CAGW has never been science, therefore there is nothing to be settled.

    I like Lindzen’s statement, “Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible…” (bold is mine.)

    From: Seminar at the House of Commons Committee Rooms
    Westminster, London
    22nd February 2012

  24. Sparks says:

    The science is settled, there appears to be a consensus that the science is not settled, therefor the science is settled. /jk

  25. Steve M. from TN says:

    I’ll admit I usually don’t read every word of every article here at WWUT. Mostly because the topics are so varied, and I’m not able to become expert enough to comprehend everything. OTH, I did read every word in this article (oh, btw, reflective over is probably reflective oven in the paragraph about thermometers). Professor, thank you for being clear and writing this for people who are not experts.

  26. Ken Hall says:

    What an outstanding article and one which absolutely hits the target. It defines exactly what my opinion is regrading the whole pseudo-science of climateology and it’s most religious and devout acolytes.

    Let’s get back to pure science until we can actually prove what is happening by collective and individual observation and falsifiable hypothesis tested by repeatable, experimentation, for that IS science.

    The IPCC is a corrupt and dishonest political propaganda machine, NOT a scientific body.

  27. Bruce Cunningham says:

    “Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!”

    Well said Dr. Brown!

  28. Jit says:

    Maybe the thing to do is fund the IPCC based on the success of its predictions.
    I wonder how likely the IPCC would have considered an anomaly below baseline in 2012? Fund them like spread-betting. All assessments by “independents” of course!
    A nice essay.

  29. BioBob says:

    Bravo. Well stated and a refreshing pail of water to be thrown on the sleepwalking warmist adherents….not that rational argument ever helped sway fanatics.

    Thanks very much for your effort !

    Steven Mosher – please take notes and refer back to this often while you play.

  30. Dr. Brown,

    You have done a beautiful job of answering my question. As some have mentioned, it should be widely distributed on the internet for the general public to read and understand. Along that line, most internet browsers (people) are not inclined to spend enough time to read and understand the full length of your comment. Maybe you could excerpt some of the eye catching points and submit them to other blogs with a URL to the full article. I think Dr. Curry would like to post it.

  31. Bennett Dawson says:

    After reading this, I realize that I’ve just been “schooled” by a man of science.

    Thank you.

  32. Jeremy says:

    It is so sad. So very sad. Witnessing someone actually speaking the balanced truth about our understanding of man-made global warming, as Dr Robert Brown has just done, is as rare as Unicorns.

    It is so sickening. My pride in the pure noble pursuit of science and my pleasure from having studied Physics and having played a very small part of how engineering has continued to transform the our way of life, bringing countless benefits to society; all of this has been utterly destroyed by a bunch of “scientific” scumbags who have hijacked my calling, and besmirched us all as no better than snake oil salesman.

    Nearing the end of my professional career, this is such a bitter pill to swallow.

    High-profile “scientists” like Gleick are doing far more damage than causing embarrassment to the CAGW camp, they have ruined the good name of my professional calling. Somehow I feel we have deserved this. Somehow, collectively we let this happen. Somehow the taxpayer funded gravy train became more important than any principles we ever held. Why are there not more Dr. Richard Lindzen’s and Dr Robert Brown’s around? Why have so few pure science Professor’s spoken up? Why have the “evil” engineers been left to defend their “dirty” machines, “dirty” industrial processes, “dirty” manufacturing, “dirty” resource extraction and “dirty” energy supply, while nearly everyone else has piled on the extremist environmental gravy-train crusade?

  33. Tim Folkerts says:

    Well said! Robert, you presented an eloquent description of what we DON’T know (which is quite a bit) and why it is critical to stay skeptical of any scientific claims.

    At the same time, I think it is important to state what we ARE pretty sure of. Using your example, Newtonian mechanics is “settled science” for describing normal-sized objects and normal-sized speeds. No one seriously questions using F=ma to explain cars and bullets and bridges.

    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:

    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.

    We understand the IR properties of CO2. We understand sunlight and earth’s thermal radiation. We understand the laws of thermodynamics. We can tweak one parameter and see pretty accurately how it affects global energy balance. One could certainly question whether the number should be 3.0 W/m^2, or that the direct effect should be 1.2 C. But no one should think that the number is exactly 0.0000 W/m^2, or exactly 0.0000 C. CO2 DOES have and effect — even if it comprises only 0.04% of the atmosphere.

    However, it is also critical to remember that “everything else being equal” is a HUGE assumption. There are changes in solar input. There are changes in land use. There are changes in earth’s orbit. There are multi-decadal ocean oscillations. There are volcanoes. There are changes in cloud cover as temperatures change. All of these are ADDITIONAL factors in the earth’s climate that ALSO affect the climate.

    Anyone who claims that only CO2 is important is, frankly, a fool. Anyone who claims that they understand the whole of the climate well enough to make specific 5-20 year forecasts is deluding themselves. There so many interconnected factors (and completely random factors), that predictions will never be ever close to 100% accurate. It reminds me of a quote from Jurassic Park by Dr Malcom: “Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.”

    Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2’s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments). The lack of humility that says “I, with my freshman physics class, am right and the rest of science is wrong” is also staggering. “Settled science” is not likely to be overturned by blog posts and garage experiments. CO2 DOES warm the earth.

  34. HorshamBren says:

    Bravo!

    Dr Brown’s essay could usefully be nailed to the front door of many scientific establishments, starting with that of the Royal Society in London

    Nullius in verba!

  35. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Dang. Well done that man!

    w.

  36. Rob Crawford says:

    “Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!”

    T’ain’t just the money — it’s the liberty. And it’s also that they’d leave the bulk of humanity in abject poverty — and push more people to that state from where they were improving their lot — on the basis of a “theory” that doesn’t hold water.

    But, then, their “solution” to CAGW is the same “solution” the same people presented for the “population bomb” and for the “coming ice age” and for dozens of other “problems” which appear to have been found by drawing a scary line projected out into the future. I long ago came to the conclusion that for this group, they’re not concerned with any of these “problems”, but entirely with their “solution” — giving them totalitarian levels of power over the lives of everyone else.

  37. Steve C says:

    As good the second time around as it was the first.

    A little more proofreading:
    Astronomer’s observe the rotational properties – Astronomers
    and observation I personally have made – an observation … (?)
    Newton’s Law of Gravitation (or for that matter … – no closing paren
    faster than it should ever be aver to move – ever be able to move

    /pedantry

  38. steveo says:

    Even models of numerous differing oscillations, will line up together for a short time. I believe you have pointed this out rather efficiently. Their models worked for a decade or two and then the natural oscillations started to deviate from their esoteric models and they have been proven failures. It is time for the CAGW community to admit their mistakes instead and modify their models to fit reality. I wonder if they already did that and they actually see an ice age coming; would they fess up to it? Are they most afraid of losing their funding or being wrong? Seems like a position between a rock and a hard place. They have already been proven wrong and are trying to keep their funding coming! This is the definition of Fraud.

  39. Allan MacRae says:

    typo:
    large reflector over
    =
    large reflector oven?

  40. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    … Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2′s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments).

    Thanks, Tim. And just where does nature show us that “CO2′s IR properties have an impact “?

    First you say Nature shows us through “theory” … but nature can’t “show us” anything through theory. That’s why it’s called a theory. It’s just a story we made up to explain something … so a theory can’t show us anything. A theory might be able to explain an observation … is that what you mean? And if so … which observation is explained by the theory that CO2 is very gradually warming the earth?

    That just leaves us what you call “experiment”. So where are these experiments by which nature “clearly shows us” that CO2 has an impact on the temperature, who did the experiments, where were they done, you know, the usual …

    I’m with Satchell Paige on this one. He famously said:

    It’s not what you don’t know that hurts you. It’s what you know that just ain’t so.

    w.

  41. Zeke says:

    “I can run down a list of experimental observations that are explained by relativity that could scarcely be explained by anything else.” ~Dr Robert Brown

    And that is today’s scientific method in a nutshell. The candor in this statement is respected and appreciated. “We can’t explain it any other way.” This is exactly how Mercury’s eccentric orbit was used to “prove” Einstein’s GR. The academics reported they had exhausted every other possible explanation. And the public dutifully took their word for it, and the nature of space, time and gravity have been settled ever since.

    And yet, just as is the case in “climate” “science,” the “anything else” that could explain the material system the science is supposed to be describing, is consistently, serially, and methodically ruled out of every scientific journal and academic institution. On WUWT, it has been called “Omitted Variable Fraud,” and the “Principle of Exclusion.”

  42. Terrific article, while reading it last night I thought it deserved to be elevated to a full post here on WUWT, and am so glad to see Anthony did promote it to a proper place to give it the exposure it requires. Well done Dr. Brown. Your comment should be mandatory reading in every science class.

    Too bad it is so long that many who need to read, contemplate and understand its contents will not be willing to invest the time necessary to do that.

    Ian E says:
    March 2, 2012 at 8:36 am

    Now, how do we get politicians to read this article and actually think about its arguments and conclusions?

    An old country saying that applies is:
    You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
    The same applies to politicians and activists with the last word changed to think.
    You can point them toward wisdom but you can’t make them think.

    Until people understand that “accepted science” is always provisional and always includes the unspoken caveat “to the best of our current understanding”, the sooner this charade will be over. All good scientists understand that their “laws” and “theories” are only practical rules of thumb that approximate reality to a useful limit, and are subject to future revision as understanding of the underlying facts increase and experimental evidence (not computer models) disagrees with their expected results.

    If a theory cannot even meet the first test of approximating reality is not a theory at all but just a guess that missed the point. As such, the climate models have been repeatedly shown to be far off the mark and should be regarded with the appropriate suspicion regarding their validity based on those failures.

    Larry

  43. Robin Hewitt says:

    I walk round Friston Forest most lunch times, I take my dogs and a physicist. As stated above, he knows nothing, as soon as he talks science everything is qualified. He can be really annoying like that especially if I am trying to explain the latest WUWT revelation.
    OTOH he is very useful when someone in the family needs someone to countersign a document, being a fellow of the Royal College he is entitled to sign himself Doctor, works like a charm.

  44. Richard M says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:

    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.

    Or, not … what about the cooling effect of GHGs? Just discussing the warming effect does not convey the full picture.

    Interestingly, even the above “fact” is probably not exactly right. Isn’t the amount of warming dependent on the surface temperature? So, even this number is a variable.

  45. AC says:

    This comparison between physics and climate science reminds me of how WW1 saved saved special realativity. Basically Einstien published his results. Some scientists went into the field to test, but one was German and WW1 had just started, so the Russian eclipse he wanted to observe was out, and the other (an American) got overcast sky. Einstien then noticed his results had an error (a factor of 2) and he published the corrected results, and a few years after the first observation attempts, the eclipses were photographed and the theory shown true. – to the degree of certianty that could be obtained with that equipment.

    That is where we are with the computer models, if they are right, then going forward and back in time, they should accurately predict tempurature, if they are wrong, then they won’t.

  46. Michael Palmer says:

    While this is an entertaining read, it is, for the most part, not very topical. It spends most of its time considering how an expert scientist deals with the inconsistencies in his own discipline. The original question was, “for the general public that does not have an objective scientific bend, how do you tell virtual reality from the real thing?”
    The final suggestion – to compare earlier climate-model predictions to current observation – is fine as far as it goes. However, even if those predictions happened to be more compatible with current observation, that still would not make the models relevant; they are just exercises in curve fitting and extrapolation.

  47. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Allan MacRae says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:28 am

    typo:
    large reflector over
    =
    large reflector oven?

    [Thanks, fixed. -willis]

  48. Another day at WUWT – I love it. Steam engines. Sand clocks. Bucket thermometers. Progress.

  49. Robert Brown says:

    solar and wind have already failed and its time to close the door before more good money is flushed down the plughole of subservient belief.

    I would respectfully differ with this, especially w.r.t. solar. Solar simply hasn’t yet come into its own, but IMO its arrival is at this point inevitable. Last time I looked, the “magic number” for solar was roughly $1/watt of full-sun capacity. On the high side of this number, the amortized consumer cost of solar vs fuel-generated power are break even to lose a bit or even a lot. On the low side of this number, one pays off the initial investment in ever reduced time and reaps longer and longer fractions of the total expected lifetime as pure profit.

    This number itself isn’t static. Obviously, break even in part reflects local energy costs — where they are high solar is already “there” as a break-even or better investment with maybe 10-12 year amortization — too long (and too much capital out of pocket) for a lot of people but still economically reasonable. Where they are low the cost of solar has to be even lower to compete. It is also not homogeneous with respect to geography. The Southwest US gets a lot of sun, water to cool conventional plants is scarce and expensive, and the delivery network is large and sparse. In parts of the Southwest it is easily worth it to install solar out on farms and remote ranches.

    Over the counter grid-tie systems (that don’t have to store power put resell surplus to the power company by running your meter backwards) are just about $2/watt unsubsidized — around $11000 for 5 kW worth of panels capable of generating anywhere from 500 to 700 kWh per month. At a dime per kWh, that’s $50-70/month return on $11000, and pays off the original investment in around 20 years, maybe a bit longer, leaving you with only 10 years (out of 30 expected years of service life) as “profit”. Not very attractive. With the government subsidy, you knock the cost down by a third, amortize in 12 or 13 years, better but not spectacular.

    At $1/watt unsubsidized — $5000 for 5 kW worth $50/month, you pay off the investment in 100 months — call it 120 to allow for the cost of the money — ten years. The next 20 years are “pure income” of $50/month. For humans even 10 year amortization is a bit daunting, although people spend more than this on high tech furnaces and AC units already for equally long payoffs — but for power companies it starts looking very attractive — $600 a year income out of a fully paid $5000 initial investment with a 30 year lifetime is actually pretty nice. Over 30 years, you make at least $2 for every $1 you originally spent, no subsidy.

    Now we have to look at another number and ask an important question: Does Moore’s Law apply to photovoltaics?

    The strictly empirical answer appears to be yes:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/03/16/smaller-cheaper-faster-does-moores-law-apply-to-solar-cells/

    Furthermore, given a conservative estimate of the extrapolated decline in pricing — one that the market is already beating, as large scale installations have economies of scale that already put the cost per watt very close to $1 — in 20 years PV electricity will cost no more than $0.50/watt in 2009 dollars.

    While the cost of PV electricity is declining, the cost of mined fuel-based electricity will almost certainly continue to rise, with or without carbon taxes. Sure, you can argue that the price we see is all manipulated, that if we all got out of the way of the eager and productive minions of the big oil barons they would drive the price way down and we could all drive anywhere we like for $0.25/gallon once again, but the strictly empirical data on the rise of the cost of oil and coal is a history of fairly steady (and complex) rise. There is certainly no Moore’s Law for mining natural resources; quite the opposite. The more of a resource one recovers, the greater the cost of recovering the rest. In both cases technology modulates things — a new technology (or higher prices) can restore an “exhausted” mine and make it worth working once again — but in the long run, the low hanging fruit are cheap, and then it gets incrementally more expensive the higher you have to climb the tree to get at it.

    That’s why I argue in the top article that there is no crisis no matter what we do about “carbon”, even if the CAGW folks are right! Moore’s Law for PV combined with the rising price of recovering oil and coal mean that we will see a ragged meeting of the cost-benefit of the competing technologies over the next 20 years where the profitability of PV-generated electricity will be greater than that of fuel generated electricity in first the Southwest (where one is really already there in many places with or without carbon taxes or subsidies) and then in increasing areas of the country and the world. In 30 years we will be using a fraction of the fuel we are currently using to generate electricity (although we may or may not still be burning gasoline) not because we are saving the planet, but because only a fool spends more than they have to for electricity. It will be pure economics.

    IMO there are a number of other co-technologies that could alter this (conservative, remember) timetable — Andrew has posted a top article not long ago on high capacity low memory zinc oxide batteries, for example. A cheap and high capacity battery would change everything enormously, very quickly. Thermonuclear fusion would change the game and make even solar power passe. One of these days we might wake up and start building thorium salt fusion plants — cheap power, no potential for making bombs. None of these generate CO_2 (although they may have other hidden costs of their own).

    There is nothing nice or “romantic” about carbon based fuels. Coal is dirty and dangerous to mine. Oil is far too valuable to burn (ask any organic chemist). Again one can look back in history to where we almost hunted whales to extinction for whale oil — it might well be that there is a whole economy based on whaling or coal mining or drilling for oil today, but in thirty years most of the coal mines will be shutting down, their product almost unused. Oil will still be drilled, but with cheap enough electricity, synthesizing gasoline may well be competitive with mining and refining it, especially if we have to look ever deeper at ever more difficult to extract sources in high risk areas where there are large costs to e.g. a spill. Gasoline is a fabulously useful material, totally granted — it is hard to pack that much energy into that small a space with anything else so controllable — but I could care less if my car runs on gas or if it runs on zinc oxide batteries or if it runs on garbage packed into its onboard Mr. Fusion.

    To conclude, by all means pick on wind power, although solar updraft and several other technologies are actually quite attractive and once again are very close — a few clever ideas away — from being more profitable than fuel based resources. But if you think PV solar is “dead” — no, my friend — it is just now coming to life, and if the Moore’s Law curve is continued for another 20-40 years, carbon based fuels will all but disappear by 2050, an easy 50 years away from the projected “disaster” that looks increasingly unlikely given the actual temperature data and probable role of the sun.

    rgb

  50. Frosty says:

    Maybe its an American thing (like aluminum vs aluminium) … but isn’t it “a scientific BENT” not “a scientific bend”? A bent refers to having an inclination towards something; a bend refers to being curved?

    [Reply: "bent" is correct usage. Article fixed. ~dbs, mod.]

  51. John W. Garrett says:

    Dr. Brown’s essay may be the single most rational piece on The Great Climate Debate that I’ve ever read ( with the possible exception of Mr. Eschenbach’s lucid thoughts ).

    It should be required reading for every member of Congress and every member of the National Academy of Sciences.

  52. Zeke says:

    Perhaps Dr. Brown would like to perform a test to empirically confirm the freedom he believes he has in the classroom to question the scientific paradigms. He can do this by using plain evidence and measurements which contradict the Big Bang and GR. In the experiment he may simply present the actual writings and data of omitted scientists, ask the following questions of his class, and of course invite other professors to sit in:

    If the sun bends light by curving spacetime by its mass, then why doesn’t the center of our galaxy bend light? (Dr. Dowdye of NASA)
    If high redshift quasars are racing away from us in an expanding universe, why do quasars appear in pairs on the axis’ of active galaxies, sometimes even attached to low redshift galaxies by material bridges? (Dr Halton Arp)

    Now that would be even more interesting than his claim that he has the lateral movement and intellectual freedom to tell his students not to believe him or to take him with a grain of salt.

  53. emelks says:

    Kudos, Dr. Brown! You remind me very much of my first physics prof, who is now one of my best friends. We followed the neutrino story closely and talked often about the implications for physics and other disciplines should their result prove out. The difference between the physics community’s reaction to an unexpected experimental result is what science is all about.

    The incestuous climate science community could learn a lot were they to abandon their “cause” and examine how real science is done.

    I’ve worked on very large mainframes processing tremendous amounts of data and when I first heard that the “solutions” are predicated on the “proof” created by computer models I immediately found the entire subject absurd. I know full well how difficult it is to program a relatively straightforward process in which all factors are documented, assigned values and in their proper sequence.

    The notion that these people are writing code that supposedly accounts for all factors in the entire planet’s climate is ridiculous on its face. No matter what the liked of Mann declared I dismissed it as the rantings of an overeducated panhandler.

    Thanks so much for the fabulous post!

  54. Mydogsgotnonose says:

    The IPCC models are based on 4 basic mistakes in physics, two of which** are elementary and should have never been made by any professional scientist with proper physics’ training. The other two*** are more subtle.

    **’Back radiation’, in reality Prevost Exchange Energy, can do no thermodynamic work and you only detect it by putting a shield behind the detector so the standing wave between the emitting/absorbing density of states is disrupted. By insisting it is an energy flow, the climate models produce imaginary positive feedback. Hansen’s claim of 33 K present GHG warming includes lapse rate warming.

    ***The assumption of 100% direct thermalisation of IR photons presupposes a mechanism that doesn’t exist. Tyndall’s experiment which supposedly proved the heating is high was constant volume so most warming was from the constrained increase of pressure. You prove this by slackening the cap of the PET bottle experiment, much less temperature rise and that is probably from absorption of scattered IR by the bottle walls. Sagan’s two stream approximation to the aerosol optical physics of clouds is wrong because it assumes one optical process when there are two.

    This farrago dominated by scientifically limited prima donnas must end.

  55. Frosty says:

    March 2, 2012 at 10:27 am

    “Maybe its an American thing (like aluminum vs aluminium) … but isn’t it “a scientific BENT” not “a scientific bend”? A bent refers to having an inclination towards something; a bend refers to being curved?”
    Sorry about that. Possibly a Fraudian slip in there could be something crooked in the virtual reality of what if climate models.

  56. Thank you, Dr Brown, for your helpful and readable article. You hit the nail on its head about the meaning of uncertainties all fields of knowledge face with that little problem of telling the difference between the real and the virtual realities. And imagine how acute these reality uncertainties can be for those of us who are challenged in the physical sciences and maths. We’re in the unenviable position.

    Yet, all is not lost! “Process learning” helps us to understand what sound methodology is and how to evaluate and asses knowledge. This is how many of us science-poor types came to the conclusion that there is something wrong with the CAGW hypothesis. The “settled science claim,” the boorish argments from authority, the involvement of political and financial elites, the crude propaganda tactics, the suspicious remedies to a manufactured crisis. Of course, it doesn’t mean process and methodology will always lead us to the right answers, but a skeptical baseline, rational thought and being comfortable with change and uncertainties will probably take us further than any other way.

  57. Barefoot boy from Brooklyn says:

    Hands down, the best thing I have read on the subject in my 20 years of reading much on both sides of this issue. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

  58. Paul Murphy says:

    Dear Dr. Brown:

    Nice discussion. You know the people who sidle into your office to offer their theories of everything? Theories they can’t write down? That’s the climate science modality at work: kooks with money and the sure and certain knowledge that what sells, works.

  59. Ah, yes, just saw your post Mr Larry Ledwick, thanks for finding and recommending Dr Brown’s article!

  60. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

    … At $1/watt unsubsidized — $5000 for 5 kW worth $50/month, you pay off the investment in 100 months — call it 120 to allow for the cost of the money — ten years. The next 20 years are “pure income” of $50/month. For humans even 10 year amortization is a bit daunting, although people spend more than this on high tech furnaces and AC units already for equally long payoffs — but for power companies it starts looking very attractive — $600 a year income out of a fully paid $5000 initial investment with a 30 year lifetime is actually pretty nice. Over 30 years, you make at least $2 for every $1 you originally spent, no subsidy.

    Dang, Robert, and you were doing so well, too. Sorry, but that makes no sense at all.

    Folks, pay absolutely no attention to the numbers in the paragraph above. Robert is a great and very smart guy, but he thinks that there are no other costs in a solar system other than the cost of the cells … no costs for the land, no costs for the racks, no costs for the tie-ins, no costs for backup, no costs for inverters, no costs for power conditioners, no costs for anything else.

    The problem is not the cost of the solar cells, Robert. At present those cells are only about a quarter of the cost of the total installation. So all of your rosy predictions about Moore’s Law and the costs of the cells are meaningless. The cost per cell could go to zero and solar still would be uneconomical in almost all locations.

    For example, using your figures above, if the solar cells themselves pay off in 120 months (ten years), then the full system (4x the cell cost) will pay off in about forty years … funny, I don’t see people rushing to do that. And even if the solar cells were free, the payoff time would be thirty years.

    Next, somehow you’ve totally overlooked the fact that building a 100-MW solar plant to cover increased demand means that you also have to build a 100-MW conventional plant for backup … what does that do to your “ten-year payout” illusion above?

    Finally, folks say “but when regular fuel costs rise, solar will be competitive”. But the costs of both the solar cells themselves as well as the costs of the racks, tie-ins, inverters, land improvements, and the like will all go up as fuel costs go up … so it’s gonna be a long, slow chase until solar is profitable.

    See my analysis of the true costs of solar, “The Dark Future of Solar Energy” and also here to see why solar is very unlikely to meet anything like your fantastic extrapolations anytime soon.

    w.

  61. More Soylent Green! says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:
    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.

    Everything else is not kept constant.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume you are correct about the radiative forcing. The earth’s climate is not a test tube or terrarium. The atmosphere is not a closed system and the climate is dynamic. The climate system is inherently stable, and other parts of the system will compensate.

  62. Mydogsgotnonose says:

    This 3.7 W/m^2 for a doubling of [CO2] assumes physics which is wrong. Thermalisation is probably indirect at aerosols and GHGs are a heat transfer medium.to and from them and the earth’s surface.

    These people failed to take account of the Law of Equipartition of Energy, quantum exclusion and the warning in 1993 by Happer that they were wrong.

    The 3-5 times higher than reality predicted warming from the models is then offset by blatantly claiming optical depth of low level clouds is twice reality and that aerosol cooling including slightly positive net AIE is numerically the same as net AGW thus explaining no measured warming.

    In the UK we have a phrase to march these cons – ‘Tell it to the marines’.

  63. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:

    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.

    Tim, that is great news, because Steve McIntyre has been asking for years for what he calls an “engineering quality” explanation of where the 3.7W/m2 figure comes from … and now you can tell him.

    Ummm … by the way, do you have a citation for just where this figure of 3.7 W/m2 for a doubling of CO2 did come from? I can’t get a number that big out of the MODTRAN calculator …

    Also, you seem to think that it is “settled science” that if there is a 3.7 W/m2 increase in TOA radiation, that perforce there will be about a 1°C rise in global surface temperature … perhaps you could show us some evidence for that as well.

    Because on my planet, that last claim is not “settled science”. That’s the subject of the whole debate, whether surface temperature slavishly and linearly follows TOA forcing …

    Finally, as soon as you say “everything else kept constant”, you are obviously no longer talking about the Earth … so exactly what planet are you discussing above?

    w.

  64. Thomas says:

    Expanding on the solar costs discussion, I think $1-2 a watt is arguably the point (at current electrical pricing) where it becomes cost effective to use solar *as a consumer* and that further reductions will actually allow it to make financial sense in a 10-year time horizon. That is, $1-2 per watt for the whole system installed and turned on — not just the cost of solar cells.

    The problem, of course, is whether solar equipment can actually be manufactured, distributed, installed and maintained for that price. A quick look at the financial well-being of large solar manufacturers would indicate that few could actually survive in a world where a 5Kw system is sold and installed for $2,500.00. (To say nothing about the systemic costs associated with making sure there is enough backup capacity in the grid to handle times when consumption is high and the sun is not shining.)

  65. polski says:

    Br. Brown
    “In the end, nobody really knows the global average temperature of the Earth’s surface in 2011 within less than around 1K. If anybody claims to, they are full of shit. ”
    I had the misfortune of reading this line as I was drinking my coffee! An excellent read filled with facts and enough to make one wonder why it is so difficult for the alarmists to even broach the idea of open debate, unless of course, they know they are pedaling snake oil.

  66. John Gf says:

    Thanks for the ammo Dr. Brown, much appreciated common sense.

  67. Wayne2 says:

    @Robert Brown: you really need to mention the apocryphal physics analysis: “First, assume a spherical cow in a vacuum.” In like manner, CAGW takes one small physics fact about CO2 and extrapolates it to the entire globe, coupled with the fervent belief that the world-wide net feedback is positive.

  68. Reed Coray says:

    Dr. Brown. The organization most in need of reading your comment is the American Physical Society (APS). In my opinion, the APS has succumbed to the lures of political correctness, money and public adulation. I recommend that you e-mail a copy of your comment to the APS.

  69. Vigilantfish says:

    I have promised not to be a pedant but I want to post this on the office door, and would like the first line (following the quote) of Robert Brown’s smashing exposition of the skeptical position corrected, please:

    “That’s a serious problem, actually. Hell, I have an objective scientific bend and I have plenty of trouble with it.”

    “bend” should read “bent”.

    [Thanks, fixed. -willis]

  70. Well said Zeke though I might word a tad less abruptly.

  71. thelastdemocrat says:

    From memory, Einstein had 3 Nobel prizes, not just 1 for photoelectric effect; I believe the first was for using Brownian motion to calculate molecule sizes. Something like that.

  72. John Meget says:

    The only thing I disagree with in Dr. Brown’s essay comes near the end. I predict we will keep using fossil fuel burning generators. If not, what will take their place?

  73. Zeke said @ March 2, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Perhaps Dr. Brown would like to perform a test to empirically confirm the freedom he believes he has in the classroom to question the scientific paradigms.
    ….
    If high redshift quasars are racing away from us in an expanding universe, why do quasars appear in pairs on the axis’ of active galaxies, sometimes even attached to low redshift galaxies by material bridges? (Dr Halton Arp)

    Now that would be even more interesting than his claim that he has the lateral movement and intellectual freedom to tell his students not to believe him or to take him with a grain of salt.

    Oddly enough, the Git received a Distinction for an essay he wrote in 2006 on anomalies in BBT while at UTas.

    Where Dr Brown states:

    “When I teach students introductory physics, I tell them up front — “Everything I’m going to teach you over the next two semesters is basically wrong — but it works, and works amazingly well, right up to where it doesn’t work and we have to find a better, broader explanation.” I also tell them not to believe anything I tell them because I’m telling them, and I’m the professor and therefore I know and its up to them to parrot me and believe it or else.”

    bears more than a passing similarity to what Dr Andrew Tunks had said in the first lecture on Geology the Git attended the previous year. Tunksy also arranged for a lunchtime extracurricular lecture on Prof Carey’s expanding earth hypothesis. Academic freedom does exist, though almost certainly not everywhere and at all times.

  74. mkelly says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
    “…We understand the IR properties of CO2. We understand sunlight and earth’s thermal radiation. We understand the laws of thermodynamics.”

    Do you include yourself in the royal “We”? If so please write a heat transfer equation showing how CO2 in the atmosphere can radiate down to the earth’s surface and cause it to increase in temperature. Please ensure the emissivity of CO2 at 1 atm and 288 K is included.

    Thanks you in advance.

  75. Steve C said @ March 2, 2012 at 9:26 am

    As good the second time around as it was the first.

    I thought it even better on second reading :-)

  76. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Zeke says:

    March 2, 2012 at 10:33 amIf the sun bends light by curving spacetime by its mass, then why doesn’t the center of our galaxy bend light? (Dr. Dowdye of NASA)

    If you sunbathe on a day when there are a few clouds occasionally drifting across the sun, You can feel the solar heat increase just before the cloud obscures the Sun. Obviously the cloud is bending space time too!

  77. “Settled science” is a contradiction in terms.

  78. Alberta Slim says:

    Dr. Brown
    I feel that your discussion of the scientific method is the best I have ever read.
    You have renewed my faith in science and scientists like yourself, after it was severely
    damaged by the likes of Jones, Mann, Hansen, et al.
    I especially liked the part at the beginning which dealt with science in general.
    Thanks for that. I intend to read it over several times.

  79. Many are familiar with the basic concept in math of limits. The classic example is a point on the real number line being approached by moving one-half the remaining distance toward that point from where you are. You can get halfway there, then three fourths of the way, than seven eighths, fifteen sixteenths, etc. After so many repeats of this step you can get, say, 999,999,999,999 trillionths. But even though you can get even closer and closer and closer – you can never get to the actual limit, which is in fact “there.”

    I like to think of the search for truth as similar. We can approximate truth with our language and our numbers, but reality, being what it is with or without words and math, is what it is. We can only get very very very close to it. Then later we can even get closer and closer and closer. But it is illusory to imagine that we can actually reach the precise point of truth. Such is the relationship between truth and humanity.

    Thus, science is never settled. Never.

    It sure is fun to try though.

  80. timg56 says:

    It was just yesterday that I was wondering why I hadn’t seen Robert Brown in the comments for some time. I naturally figured “it’s because he has real work to do, like teach”.

    Then I check in today and see this. Robert, I’m tempted to sign up for a physics course of yours, despite knowing how much I struggled with it in the past (and also despite having to acknowledge that I was a Duke student, however briefly. Something no self-respecting Maryland grad ever wants to do).

    Outstanding.

  81. Robert Brown says:

    We understand the IR properties of CO2. We understand sunlight and earth’s thermal radiation. We understand the laws of thermodynamics. We can tweak one parameter and see pretty accurately how it affects global energy balance. One could certainly question whether the number should be 3.0 W/m^2, or that the direct effect should be 1.2 C. But no one should think that the number is exactly 0.0000 W/m^2, or exactly 0.0000 C. CO2 DOES have and effect — even if it comprises only 0.04% of the atmosphere.

    As always, Tim, total agreement. Indeed, this is where the term denier ceases to be a meaningless pejorative term and indicates a real problem. As I repeatedly have pointed out and will continue to point out, while you can argue some about the magnitude and mechanism of the GHE, top of atmosphere IR spectroscopy is literally a picture of the GHE, caught in the act. What it doesn’t reveal are the derivatives, how it varies with this and that, and how the entire mechanism of thermal transport and chemistry in the atmosphere and the ocean conspires to establish its variation. What goes into the models here is basically nothing but idealizations and guesses one hopes are sufficient to represent the real world well enough to make predictions. But in the end, those predictions have to be tested not against the models themselves, but against the real world.

    Again, success at predicting this or that isn’t sufficient to prove the model right, but failure to predict nearly anything significant is sufficient to prove a model wrong. Maxwell’s equations and Newton’s Laws work wonderfully well to describe all sorts of macroscopic phenomena, but that doesn’t make them right. Its where they fail that is important.

    If you’d asked, say, Hansen in 1990 or in 1998, what the probabilities that in the spring of 2012 we would have the second month straight of a -0.1K 32-year anomaly in the lower troposphere, I’m pretty confident that he would have answered no more than one in a hundred, an 1% event according to the prevailing theory — maybe even lower. One can “ask” Hansen these questions now by examining what he did predict at those times in the past. We are clearly out there past 2 sigma, heading towards 3, compared to their various unmitigated predictions for strongly fed back climate disaster with unchecked CO_2.

    At what point do we conclude that it isn’t just that we’re lucky but that those predictions were wrong?

    But the climate scientists are fully aware of the problem. Their emails in Climategate 2 reveal it, and their rhetoric is sharply toned down except for outliers like Gleick. They’ve started to realize that they really can’t ignore the Sun, and that it is, sadly for their hypothesis, really pretty likely that we won’t see much warming at all for a decade-long while.

    That doesn’t make their hypothesis completely wrong, because the GHE is real. But it does force them to consider the probability that the late 20th century warming is only partly attributable to CO_2, so that in fact they have the overall effect of the only partly anthropogenic increase perhaps a factor of 2 or 3 too high…

    So what you see is a thawing of the freeze on science that challenges “the cause” because a lot of people are no longer as firmly convinced and really aren’t bad people, or even bad scientists, at the same time you see the unrelentingly political racing to accomplish their social agenda before the game is given away. Hence Al Gore’s trips, Gleick’s actions, and so on. They can’t just point to the rising temperatures of the 80s and 90s and say “look, we’re right” (not a proof anyway but scary) — so their only alternative is to become ever more shrill and alarmist to distract the general public from the fact that temperatures aren’t cooperating with their gloomy scenario of catastrophic doom.

    We’ve had a mild winter in NC — not the mildest ever, and we have had snow (a week ago, yet) but it is nice outside this week (70s) in March. Still, the fruit trees aren’t way ahead of their usual time. Alaska, OTOH, has gotten slammed with the cold. Other places are probably in between. If one fails to keep the perspective provided by the non-futzable UAH data sets in mind, it would be easy for me to look out and go “it’s too warm, must be CAGW at work”. Hence the danger — cherrypickers can always find a place that is too warm, can they not, in a highly variable globe? It takes the UAH lower troposphere to demonstrate that no matter that some places are too warm (and others too cold!) the Earth’s temperature is, for the most part, juuuust right.

    That’s the really silly thing. So far, in spite of the absurd WHO page tallying “deaths” attributable to CAGW, there really haven’t been any. In fact, it is difficult to point to one single “disaster” as being unambiguously caused by global warming, anthropogenic or catastrophic or not. The frequency and severity of weather disasters is more or less unchanged “forever”, as far back as one wishes to look, except that there were far greater disasters in the past back when humans were completely irrelevant to the climate by any stretch of the imagination.

    rgb

  82. Robert Brown says:

    If the sun bends light by curving spacetime by its mass, then why doesn’t the center of our galaxy bend light? (Dr. Dowdye of NASA)
    If high redshift quasars are racing away from us in an expanding universe, why do quasars appear in pairs on the axis’ of active galaxies, sometimes even attached to low redshift galaxies by material bridges? (Dr Halton Arp)

    Well, it is a bit of a non-sequitor, since I really wasn’t signing on to be the defender of every non-mainstream scientist (quack or not) in the Universe by pointing out some of the flaws in the CAGW scientific scenario, but I’d have to come back at you with — if gravity doesn’t bend spacetime (and hence the geodesics followed by light, then how do you explain gravitational lensing as photographed by the Hubble and elsewhere? Photographs e.g. here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_lens

    As for quasars, I really have no idea. I recall that quasars were very odd and difficult to explain back when I took astrophysics (that would be in 1977) and haven’t really looked at them ever since.

    That’s not to defend curved or non-curved space theories, by the way. Manifolds are tough, differential geometry is where I decided I was done and just didn’t care enough to work through it all. So I tend to stop at the SR end of GR…;-)

    One other thing I’m perfectly happy to tell my students is this: “I don’t know.” Words that should be heard a lot more often than perhaps they are…;-)

    rgb

  83. Robert Brown says:

    Nice discussion. You know the people who sidle into your office to offer their theories of everything? Theories they can’t write down? That’s the climate science modality at work: kooks with money and the sure and certain knowledge that what sells, works.

    Unfortunately, I know them all too well. I actually got a Christmas card from one this year, complete with a link to his website. In the old days they would call me long distance to try to convince me that they had a perfect theory where, for example, they began by proving that relativity couldn’t be right because everybody knows that if you turn a light on in a moving car the light has to go faster, and then moved write along to demonstrate that field theory could be explained by a bunch of triangles and objects connected with lines.

    Climate science isn’t really that bad. Passion is all well and good. It’s just that passion has to be accompanied by freedom to respectfully disagree, equally passionately, with nature standing by in the end as the impartial judge.

    When politics mixes with science, when science becomes a “cause”, it’s a bad, bad sign.

    rgb

  84. Robert Brown says:

    See my analysis of the true costs of solar, “The Dark Future of Solar Energy” and also here to see why solar is very unlikely to meet anything like your fantastic extrapolations anytime soon.

    Sounds like the grounds for a bet! I’ll bet you a case of my personal homebrew — which is very tasty indeed according to my friends — against a case of whatever beer you are proud of, that when mainstream solar costs drop below $1/Watt in 2009 dollars we start to see massive investment in large scale solar, with or without subsidy. Sooner in places with high insolation and low humidity where electricity is already expensive. We trade cases if fusion is invented first, just for grins.

    You game? Mind you, I am close to winning the bet already, given that solar plants are being built now with nothing like a 4x subsidy when 2011 costs were still well over $2/watt.

    You might look at the ways power companies are using solar, too — it illustrates why some of your argument is, IMO, incorrect. In the right mix of fuel and non-fuel generation facilities, it helps provide cheap bridge power for handling peak load, for example. And I’m happy to bet on better batteries as well, given that I read slashdot daily and am aware of three or four different possible breakthrough technologies that could mature within a decade.

    Yeah, it may be a ten-year bet, but that’s the sort of timescale I’m talking about for the real start of the transition anyway. If I die early, my apologies.

    rgb

  85. Robert Brown says:

    Expanding on the solar costs discussion, I think $1-2 a watt is arguably the point (at current electrical pricing) where it becomes cost effective to use solar *as a consumer* and that further reductions will actually allow it to make financial sense in a 10-year time horizon. That is, $1-2 per watt for the whole system installed and turned on — not just the cost of solar cells.

    The problem, of course, is whether solar equipment can actually be manufactured, distributed, installed and maintained for that price. A quick look at the financial well-being of large solar manufacturers would indicate that few could actually survive in a world where a 5Kw system is sold and installed for $2,500.00. (To say nothing about the systemic costs associated with making sure there is enough backup capacity in the grid to handle times when consumption is high and the sun is not shining.)

    I was quoting prices out of an online shop that will sell you a grid-tie system now for that. Grid tie requires and inverter and regulator and a rooftop full of cells. Batteries are where things get expensive. But with grid tie you “store” in the grid, using the power you delivered during by day back for free again at night.

    The point is that large commercial prices already are close to $1/watt for the cells, but Willis is quite correct when he notes that they have other costs that make it still a marginal investment without subsidy EXCEPT where power is expensive and insolation high, where there are companies that are doing or thinking about doing it with or without subsidy. The numbers work out.

    But by the time over the counter consumer prices are down to a dollar a watt, mass produced cells bought in quantity will already be down to $0.25/$0.50 per watt. And there is plenty of cheap, junk land out there in the world that isn’t good for much of anything BUT collecting power.

    Without batteries better than what we have, we may hit limits on how much we can convert away from fuel, granted. And there are places where solar will never work, and we’ll have to solve energy transport problems instead of energy collection problems to get it there from where it works. It doesn’t help to turn the entire Sahara into a huge energy station if you can’t get the energy from there to here, or to Europe. But industry has a habit of following the resource if the resource can’t come to industry. We’ll see.

    I’m betting that most of those smaller technical problems are solvable, given the enormous economic incentives and a lot of people looking for solutions…

    rgb

  86. Peter Kovachev says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Ah, yes, just saw your post Mr Larry Ledwick, thanks for finding and recommending Dr Brown’s article!

    I cannot take credit for finding the post you are probably thinking of another commentator on the other thread.

    Larry

  87. Kev-in-UK says:

    This kind of how I was taught – though I don’t remember quite how! As I vaguely recall, doing all the major sciences at A level, we were ‘told’ something and then had it demonstrated (or did it ourselves) by experiment or whatever. However, for example, as I went to a school that produced two nobel science prize winners – our teachers would quite often add caveats along the lines of ‘current research is showing something different,etc..’. Then, of course, by the time I had finished my ‘learning’ at post grad level, I had been essentially taught to query everything, or at least look at it openly but more importantly, critically! LOL
    I also quite fondly recall being briefly taught about ‘media’ (at that time really only print media and TV!) and how reading or seeing something didn’t necessarily mean it was right/correct! Needless to say, I have never really read a newspaper or ‘believed’ a TV production – in fact, I think the last time I read a newspaper would have been in the mid 80’s!
    Hence, I guess this is the source of my skeptical manner (?) which continues to this day, especially when it is aroused by some curiosity – which can be something really simple like seeing a so called global temperature anomaly and thinking ‘how the feck do they get that?’ – then digging deeper…hence my initial foray into climate science skepticism!!

    ‘settled science’ is a very long way off IMHO – at least in the real sense on those two ‘terrible’
    words.

    An Excellent post, Dr Brown – reminds me of why I am a scientist, albeit now mostly in an engineering aspect!

  88. Robert Brown says:

    I had the misfortune of reading this line as I was drinking my coffee!

    Your keyboard has my apologies.

    Alas, it is time for me to take my spherical cow and go home. Spring break starts today! Hooray!

    rgb

  89. Barefoot boy from Brooklyn says:

    I regard highly Dr. Brown’s essay, as per my earlier post. But I wonder why he is in “total agreement” with Tim Folkerts’s assertion the case for CO2 “forcings” has been “experimentally” tested, let alone proved. I really cannot imagine an experiment that would satisfy basic scientific procedures to control, or at least account for, the other factors which both men agree come into play. Even granting Dr. Brown’s statement that “top of atmosphere IR spectroscopy is literally a picture of the GHE,” how does that indicate anything about the effect of CO2 in the entire dynamic. Yes, it must be trivially true that anything affects everything, but something more definitive is needed, is it not, to prove that nothing but an odorless, colorless, trace gas can be leveraged so as to give us a measureable increase in watts per square meter?

  90. TonyG says:

    Robert Brown says:
    Sounds like the grounds for a bet! I’ll bet you a case of my personal homebrew — which is very tasty indeed according to my friends — against a case of whatever beer you are proud of, that when mainstream solar costs drop below $1/Watt in 2009 dollars we start to see massive investment in large scale solar, with or without subsidy. Sooner in places with high insolation and low humidity where electricity is already expensive. We trade cases if fusion is invented first, just for grins.

    And, from what I’ve read, this is a long-standing tradition among REAL scientists :)

  91. Jim Barker says:

    Thanks, Dr. Brown!

  92. Q. Daniels says:

    An excellent piece. My concurrence follows.

    Robert Brown wrote:
    I’m properly skeptical because what we have observed — so far — works so very consistently, and the result itself seems to be solidly excluded by supernova data already in hand, but you know, my beliefs don’t dictate reality — it is rather the other way around.

    That’s the ideal in Science, anyway.

    There are conflicting schools of thought that it does work the other way. (“One of them must be wrong.”) Some are explicitly theological, others not. They don’t seem to have a very good track record. “If only we believe enough” seems to repeatedly end in butchery. I could be wrong, but it seems extremely hazardous to go down that road.

    Sooner or later, positions like “I’m right, you’re wrong, accept it” tend to lead to feelings of ill will and acts of violence.

    I love debate (as you may have noticed) as long as I can walk away. Once someone reaches to compel, it is no longer a debate, but rather an entirely different matter. If I am forced to choose between fight or flight, my action becomes entirely unpredictable.

    We’ve seen this played out before, repeatedly, and yet the Hansens and Gores seem somehow surprised that there is an adverse reaction.

    One other thing I’m perfectly happy to tell my students is this: “I don’t know.” Words that should be heard a lot more often than perhaps they are…;-)

    The difficulty in admitting this seems to be a common characterstic. I take it as a red flag, indicating possible delusion and/or ‘religious’ conviction. It may indicate that the person is not being honest, either with themselves or with me.

  93. Dr. Brown,

    May I post your comment/blog post elsewhere? With attribution, of course.

  94. Dave Wendt says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:49 am
    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

    The dramatic declines in the price of PV panels in recent times have been driven, not by improved production methods and the resultant decline in production costs, but by the massive oversupply created by the Chinese. What is transpiring as a result is a huge shakeout in the PV industry as many of the producers can’t sustain through the extended period of prices not covering costs. Once that shakeout is over, there remain significant questions about the industry’s ability to bring production costs down to match the present artificially low prices

    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/008429.html
    Solar Photovoltaic Price Declines Not Sustainable

    If the Chinese are unwilling to continue to subsidize the rest of the world to maintain their market share or are unable to achieve significant declines in production costs there is every possibility that the PV market will see, not continuing price declines, but significant price increases. Given the growing trend for governmental austerity measures as a result the Damoclean world debt, those price rises will likely occur in an environment of dwindling subsidies. The market has built in a strong expectation of a downtrend in prices and it remains an open question what the response would be to a reversal of that trend.
    Here in the US, the manner in which the Obama administration has repeatedly raped and pillaged the rights of private investors in order to reward its contributing constituencies in various bailouts and bankruptcies has made it pure folly for any private investor to put their money at risk in any situation where their financial rights could conceivably come into conflict with one of those constituencies. Unless of course they are willing and able to become a significant bundler of contributions to Democratic coffers themselves. Given the fragile foothold the PV industry has on financial security at the moment, even minor reductions in the present level of subsidy could turn the whole thing into a house of cards as PI rightfully avoids throwing their money into this wishing well to fill the gap.

  95. Tim Folkerts says:

    I don’t have time to respond to all the replies to my previous comments, but
    briefly the answers are:

    * Yes, I know that not everything else can or will be kept constant. That doesn’t stop CO2 from having an effect. Its like acknowledging that eating an extra apple everyday will give me extra calories, and calories lead to weight gain. I could counter that by exercising or cutting back on other food and end up loosing weight, but the calories in the apple are still calories.

    * the proof of the effect of CO2 is in this data. http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/gw-petty-6-6.jpg
    Explaining the observed bite requires an acknowledgement that CO2 is affecting the spectrum and requires the ground to be warmer than it would be without that “CO2 bite”.

    Again, the values of 3.7 W/m^2 and 1 C are open to refinement, but they are definitely not identically equal to zero.

  96. Q. Daniels says:

    For the general public that does not have an objective scientific bent, how do you tell virtual reality from the real thing?

    Trial and error.

    If you seek to extract the maximum information from errors, it should be possible to accumulate information with fewer errors. This does open the possibility of trying to extract too much information from an error (over-training), which itself would be an error.

    Accept that you will make mistakes, and try to learn as much as you can (but no more) from them. That works in general and in detail.

  97. Myrrh says:

    Barefoot boy from Brooklyn says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm
    I regard highly Dr. Brown’s essay, as per my earlier post. But I wonder why he is in “total agreement” with Tim Folkerts’s assertion the case for CO2 “forcings” has been “experimentally” tested, let alone proved. I really cannot imagine an experiment that would satisfy basic scientific procedures to control, or at least account for, the other factors which both men agree come into play. Even granting Dr. Brown’s statement that “top of atmosphere IR spectroscopy is literally a picture of the GHE,” how does that indicate anything about the effect of CO2 in the entire dynamic. Yes, it must be trivially true that anything affects everything, but something more definitive is needed, is it not, to prove that nothing but an odorless, colorless, trace gas can be leveraged so as to give us a measureable increase in watts per square meter?

    Typical faux science – no proof, just continual assertions that there is proof, but they never fetch. Tim just posts shouts and leaves.

    They take out of their comic cartoon energy budget the direct invisible thermal infrared, the actual thermal energy of the Sun on the move to us, heat, (and replace this with a through the looking glass claim that visible light and shortwave either side heats the Earth’s land and oceans), and then come back with strange claims that there’s thermal infrared coming from the top of atmosphere – can’t be the Sun, they’ve excluded that, so it must be carbon dioxide backradiating…

    Perhaps we should gather up the questions they never reply to, posts as yours and Willis and
    mkelly says:
    March 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm
    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
    “…We understand the IR properties of CO2. We understand sunlight and earth’s thermal radiation. We understand the laws of thermodynamics.”

    Do you include yourself in the royal “We”? If so please write a heat transfer equation showing how CO2 in the atmosphere can radiate down to the earth’s surface and cause it to increase in temperature. Please ensure the emissivity of CO2 at 1 atm and 288 K is included.

    Thanks you in advance.
    ========================
    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:30 am
    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

    … Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2′s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments).

    Thanks, Tim. And just where does nature show us that “CO2′s IR properties have an impact “?

    First you say Nature shows us through “theory” … but nature can’t “show us” anything through theory. That’s why it’s called a theory. It’s just a story we made up to explain something … so a theory can’t show us anything. A theory might be able to explain an observation … is that what you mean? And if so … which observation is explained by the theory that CO2 is very gradually warming the earth?

    That just leaves us what you call “experiment”. So where are these experiments by which nature “clearly shows us” that CO2 has an impact on the temperature, who did the experiments, where were they done, you know, the usual …

    ===========================

    Where’s the physics? Where are these experiments?

    Where’s the industrial application of this amazing ability of carbon dioxide to raise temps, why isn’t this incorporated into my central heating system?

  98. LazyTeenager says:

    The sad thing about the Great Climate Debate is that so far, there hasn’t really been a debate
    ———–
    No. There were debates decades ago. You just weren’t payin attention.

  99. LazyTeenager says:

    I can do that for all of my beliefs in physics — or at least, most of them — explain particular experiments that seem to verify my beliefs (as I do above).
    ————–
    No you can’t.

    If you stood up at a podium and debated against a person who absolutely refused to believe the evidence, ignored every logical argument you made, spent years concocting highly ingenious but wrong counter arguments, was a quick thinker, was a charismatic speaker and proficient at manipulating people, then you would lose the debate even if you were entirely correct.

  100. Jim G says:

    Like one poster to this site said, settled science is no longer science. I say if it is settled, it is fact , or more probably dogmatic illusion. Science is always seeking to improve knowledge or it is not science.If we could only find the Higgs Boson and the elusive graviton and understand the time/gravity relationship at its deepest levels, and, and, and….

  101. Markus Fitzhenry says:

    Reflecting on Robert Browns essay I found a highlight of it with the new study led by the Georgia Institute of Technology that provides (further) evidence of a relationship between melting ice in the Arctic regions and widespread cold outbreaks in the Northern Hemisphere. Inherent in the findings are more understandings of seasonal snow and temperature anomalies across northern continents.

    Our personal relation with physics is our immediate realisations, idolisation of man and his ability to interact globally with a planets nature bodes a poor reflection on humility.

    Why would science chase the sensitivity of a refraction of a small amount of energy back to surface that generated it with scant regard for the causation of the climate by the absorbed energy of the Earths surfaces?

    Hubris? Polliwoffles, pollicracks, polliwinkles? Misanthropic?

    I am simply flummoxed at the simplicity of the climate and the complexity of scientists in explaining it.

    Consider a steaming gaseous sphere, a malleable hydraulic surface, electro-magnetised, spinning, variation in insolation, unknown galactic parity violations, with rotating magnetic poles and the forces of pressure on its atmosphere.

    As the study ‘Arctic Sea Ice Decline May be Driving Snowy Winters Seen in Recent Years’ shows there are decade changes to heat distribution as the sphere overcomes the forces of gravity as the same forces causes a formality of heat distribution within it. Dynamics!

    How does one reconcile the relativity of the composition and volumes of Co2 and its atmospheric emissivity as a sensible cause of climate change, compared to the enormity of the Earth composition and volume?

    The study says, “Our study demonstrates that the decrease in Arctic sea ice area is linked to changes in the winter Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation, the circulation changes result in more frequent episodes of atmospheric blocking patterns, which lead to increased cold surges and snow over large parts of the northern continents.”

    Many scientific papers in this dispute, subjected to a fair analysis are just noise, adding nothing to the greater meaning of climate change. A rhetorical focus on mans use of fossil fuels as a driver of climate change was a death trap for climate science, in the process of good science, a philosophical dead end.

    I suspect the studies simulations show that diminishing Arctic sea ice induced by significant surface warming in the Arctic Oceans, is caused by a semi decadal multi latitude distribution of heat in Earth and atmospheres. And cooling effect over northern North America, Europe, Siberia and eastern Asia also as the models also showed above-normal winter snowfall in large parts of the northern United States, central Europe, and northern and central China, is further evidence of the musicale climate sensitivity forcing of global Co2 emissivity.

    A am perplexed the science community would consider a virtual model possible of organising such complex micro systems with unknown pieces, into a global atmospheric edict. The reality of how the climate works is far from known, let alone the unknown wisdom needed to manage it.

    Professor Robert Brown offers great perspective on the evolution of scientific theory and it’s the abuse by the climate science community.

    The debate that will rage this academic year is that there is scientific plausibility that climate science principles are not correct. I wouldn’t suggest all of the science needs to be ‘shitbinned’ just Co2 causation modelling as a predictor.

    Optimistically, the dispute of what is science, and what is not, will be relaxed by the year end with a definition of when scientist crosses a political tipping point. I have no prediction of what points the political debate will attract.

    As that courageous Kangaroo, Robert I Ellison alludes,

    ‘From the saintly and single-minded idealist to the fanatic is often but a step.’

  102. LazyTeenager says:

    Good science admits its limits, and never claims to be “settled” even as it does lead to defensible practice and engineering where it seems to work — for now.
    ———–
    This is called being fooled by a debating point and not paying attention to the facts.

    The climate scientists did not say the climate science is settled and then put down tools and went home. They knew very well that there is still many areas that need to be checked and they continued to work on these things.

    In fact many on WUWT relentlessly ridicule climate scientists for continuing to improve their understanding.

    The science is settled in this context means the science is sufficiently well known to take action.

    For example let’s consider the electric dynamo. It’s invention by Michael faraday led quite quickly to the action of building useful devices. No one said the science of dynamos is not settled so we refuse to build one. The understanding of dynamos was imperfect but the understanding of dynamos was sufficiently settled to take action.

    Similarly the greenhouse effect is understood like a crude dynamo. It’s settled that a crude dynamo produces electricity and it’s also settled that the green house effect warms the atmosphere and affects the climate.

    If you don’t like dynamos you can debate as much as you like about whether they really do produce electricity, whether they violate the phlogiston theory, whether they produce enough electricity to be worthwhile, whether they will destroy the coal economy, and insist for ever that you will adapt to the increasing depths of horse manure in the streets.

    Dynamos still produce electricity. Period!

  103. Rosco says:

    If the Sun can heat the Moon’s surface to ~120 degrees C during the lunar day then Earth’s atmosphere is actually cooling the surface during the day by reflection (albedo), extinction, convection and convective evaporation – both are subject to a similar solar radiation.

    Experiments show the Sun can heat the Earth’s surface to much higher temperatures than the air temperature ever reaches in a few hours. And, funnily enough, experiments have shown that there is no solar radiation at night.

    The fact that a vehicle interior heats up to ~60 + C in direct sunlight given the glass is filtering the infrared “backradiation” demonstrates the power of the Sun is paramount – the ridiculous divide by four “averaging” fallacy used to obtain deceptive results misquoted as having some relevance is easily debunked by many reproducible experiments.

    Even if you believe “greenhouses” heat up by “trapping” infrared you are acknowledging the “backradiation” cannot be providing the initial energy and using Kiehl & Trenberth’s 168 W/sq m heating the ground surface the initial temperature should be about minus 40 degrees C ????

    Oh, I forgot about the radiation trap – silly me.

    And pigs can really fly but are too shy to acknowledge this fact.

    I cannot understand why this is not perfectly obvious.

  104. sky says:

    I’ve long maintained that one cannot have anything resembling “settled” science when any science that would convincingly explain real-world observations has not ever been demonstrated. In the case of climate, in particular, over-reliance upon radiative blackbody equilibrium theory has blinded many to the fact that a) Earth’s atmosphere is heated primarily by moist convection, rather than radiative absorption, b) atmospheric back-radiation is simply part of a nearly null-net radiative exchange with the surface, and c) the surface-atmosphere system cannot be treated adequately as a gray body in space What is most egregiously overlooked, however, is the top-heavy hydrostastic instabilty that ensues from radiative equilibrium in a gravity-bound atmosphere, as rigorously derived from first principles by Robert Emden nearly a century ago. In other words, It is not the relatively well-know effects of chemical composition upon radiative transfer that is the crux of the issue, but the rate of heat transfer by evaporation and convection.

  105. LazyTeenager says:

    I’m not certain relativity is correct, but they are certain that catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is a true hypothesis with precise predictions and conclusions.
    ————
    We know that Newtons laws are incorrect.

    But the hippy who laid down in front of the crawling uranium freight train during a protest, expecting hundreds of tonnes of train to just stop was killed nevertheless.

    The whole 50 million uncertainties means we know nothing argument is just a huge logical fallacy.

  106. LazyTeenager says:

    Keep your hands off of my money while the theory is still unproven and not in terribly good agreement with reality!
    ———-
    Ahhh! heavily italicized to indicate lots of passion. So that’s what it is really about.

    We should not act because if we did it would cause pain in my personal hip pocket nerve.

    And instead of understanding how climate works we just keep on creating one quibble after another to stall any action. This is really really bad physics.

  107. LazyTeenager says:

    Sheer economics and the advance of physics and technology and engineering will make fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains.
    ————-
    Yep. But the timescales are wrong.

    The whole article reminds of someone who had bought something and it’s been delivered, but they don’t have the money to pay.

    So they come up with 50 million excuses why they can keep the article but don’t have to pay for it.

    The item has the wrong colour, it’s got a chip on it, it wasn’t delivered on time, the delivery man looked at me funny, the payment got lost in the post, for ever and ever.

    Sorry it’s not perfect but it’s settled, you still have to pay.

  108. 1DandyTroll says:

    Absent ignorance, enter reason and give voice to knowledge, that is the heart of academia is it not. So why does so few dare dislodge that bureuacratic hold of their balls to give voice to that knowledge of reason?

    There seem to be too little networking going on in the place that literally invented networking, which probably is why a bunch of nincompoop activists has been able to assert such firm grip on acdemia’s balls.

    But please don’t band together, the left-over greens’ll have a fit if their delusional nightmare actually came true. :p

  109. Smokey says:

    Lazy says:

    “The science is settled in this context means the science is sufficiently well known to take action.”

    O Really? The planet is not agreeing with you. Observations are not in agreement with AGW. Nature does not agree with you. Therefore the science is not sufficiently well known. In fact, AGW is an evidence-free conjecture [by 'evidence' I mean testable, empirical, measureable evidence, per the scientific method]. As Prof Feynman said, if it doesn’t agree with nature, or observation, it’s wrong.

    Lazy continues: “We know that Newtons laws are incorrect.” Again: O Really? I do believe engineers use Newton’s Laws of Motion every day. They are not “incorrect”. Einstein just took the concept a step farther.

  110. I have just finished reading this very good article by Dr Brown and I cannot refute anything he writes. But, and there is always a “but”, – it is what he does not write that gets to me.

    When it comes to the bits that are appertaining to “Climate science” aka CAGW, he does line up quite elegantly with nearly all “Skeptical Scientists” who say that CO2 must have “some warming effect” because it is a Greenhouse Gas (GHG).

    If IR radiation exchange between the Earth’s surface and atmospheric CO2 happens and has the effect – as prescribed, I very much doubt that “Life on Earth as we know it” (or anywhere else in the universe) would be possible.

    CO2 and the Earth’s surface are not the only 2 objects able to receive or emit IR light – nor do I see any reason why nature (even though the magazine bearing that name may do so) has made a special law for “CO2/ Surface Interaction”. – We all, you and I have the ability to absorb and emit IR radiation. Therefore we must also “Back-radiate” to each other.

    Maxwell’s theory (1865) predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves which moved through space at the speed of light – and that light itself was indeed such a wave was later verified by Heinrich Hertz (1857 – 1894). – Ever since, it seems to me, “Climate Theories” have had very little relation to the Earth and its Atmosphere or the Earth System (ES) – starting with Arrhenius’ theory in 1896.

    I am not denying the existence of IR radiation. However we cannot see radiation itself because it moves at the speed of li – – -. Heck, I don’t rightly know why we cannot see it. Anyway if you have a light bulb “burning” on a dark night you’ll have light and a bit of heat. If you turn the electric power supply off. The light vanishes so fast you don’t really get a clue as to where it has gone. But the heat does not move away at quite the same speed. As a matter of fact, it may take many minutes for the bulb to cool to the “ambient” temperature. That is because “dark heat” does not move at the speed of light, you can actually, sometimes see heat convection because it is an interaction between air pockets of different temperatures.

    I have read a few explanations of as to how a thermopile works. None of the ones I have read make any sense, at least not to me as all of them seem to say the heat content of the object which is to be “remotely measured” travels from that object to the “measuring instrument” —Now then, – to me that’s magic.
    Therefore – here is my explanation: The “measuring instrument” or Thermopile (it needs electric power) when turned on sends out an electromagnetic signal with a wavelength corresponding to its own temperature, all electromagnetic wavelengths are related to the emitting body’s temperature, therefore if the returning signal has a different wavelength the measuring instrument’s built in calculator works out what the object’s Temperature is. There is no magic.
    The same principle is used for all thermopile apparatuses. – Predetermined colors for various wavelengths = paint by numbers. Still no magic but infrared pictures in “Technicolor” are possible.
    The heat content of a man, say 1o feet away does not enter your camera if you take a picture of him in day-light. – Nor does his soul. – On such an occasion both visible and Infra-Red light must be radiated into your camera.

  111. Smokey says:

    Tim Folkerts says:

    “* the proof of the effect of CO2 is in this data…”

    Wrong conclusion. Everything has an effect on everything else. The basic questions are these: is the rise in CO2 a net benefit to the biosphere? Has the rise in CO2 caused any measurable, verifiable harm?

    All available evidence gives an unqualified “Yes” to the question of CO2 being beneficial to the biosphere. More CO2 is better. The planet is greening as a direct result. And the rise in CO2 has caused absolutely no global “harm” of any kind. Thus, CO2 is harmless. QED

    The alarmist crowd should be rejoicing in the fact that they were totally wrong in their alarming predictions. Now, we see that millions will not die due to the rise in CO2. In fact, millions will avoid starvation as a direct result of the continuing rise in CO2.

    But does anyone on that side of the debate admit that they are glad they were wrong? I challenge you to name one person who has publicly stated that they are happy that they were wrong about their catastrophic climate disruption/runaway global warming predictions. Name one. If you can. I’ll bet you can’t.

  112. Rosco says on March 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    “Experiments show the Sun can heat the Earth’s surface to much higher temperatures than the air temperature ever reaches in a few hours. And, funnily enough, experiments have shown that there is no solar radiation at night.”

    =======

    You are disappointing me now Rosco. – There is no empirical proof for the existence of any such experiment.
    Every mathematician worth his or her salts, or corn know that the Earth receives 24 hour sunshine. – That’s the only way their unified formulas can work. – They all know that 235 W/m² enter and 235 W/m² leave the Earth System (ES) constantly.

    That’s also how scientists know about AGW. – They can find no evidence to say that the energy they know has been created by CO2 ever leaves the ES.

  113. JimF says:

    Gosh, it sounds just like geology. But there’s lots of room to wave ones’s arms. Now and again the arm waves come true.

  114. JimF says:

    PS: Great article, Dr. Brown. Enjoyable read and I appreciate the honesty to say “we know this much and no more”.

  115. JimF says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm “,,,The whole 50 million uncertainties means we know nothing argument is just a huge logical fallacy….”

    We know for certain that [SNIP: Now that was just a tad unkind. -REP] You see we do know a lot. It just isn’t favorable to you.

  116. Mydogsgotnonose says:

    The alarmists base their judgement on computer models which predict 3-5 times as much warming as observed in reality, then offset it by assuming double real low level cloud optical depth and a variable aerosol cooling arranged on the basis of further incorrect optical physics exactly to offset net AGW calculated on the basis of incorrect IR physics and imaginary ‘back radiation’.

    This is a scam, pure and simple, designed to fulfil the demands of rapacious politicians and businessmen for a way to con the public.

  117. David A. Evans says:

    My biggest problem is not so much, “can we ascertain an average global temperature?” but more, “if we can, is it useful?”.

    I posit that it isn’t even useful because temperature of the atmosphere is not proportional to energy. (If you have to ask why, you’ve not been paying attention.)

    DaveE.

  118. Gary Hladik says:

    LazyTeenager says (March 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm): “If you stood up at a podium and debated against a person who absolutely refused to believe the evidence, ignored every logical argument you made, spent years concocting highly ingenious but wrong counter arguments…”

    Up to that point, Lazy perfectly described a typical CAGW alarmist.

    Add “arrogant” and “a legend in his own mind”, and you have Peter Gleick. :-)

  119. Robert in Calgary says:

    “Up to that point, Lazy perfectly described a typical CAGW alarmist.”

    Lazy does like to go on about himself…..

  120. Robert Brown says on March 2, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    “Unfortunately, I know them all too well. I actually got a Christmas card from one this year, complete with a link to his ——-“

    ======

    I cherry pick: “Christmas card from one this year” and think; “attention for detail by scientists is evident in all their writings.

  121. KevinK says:

    Dr. Brown wrote;

    “Sheer economics and the advance of physics and technology and engineering will make fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains.”

    While it is nice to note that you do in fact admit that engineers might just have little bit of an influence in the final outcome, this is NONSENSE……..

    For example, you might want to note that there is only one column in the periodic table of elements where those materials that make “good” electrical batteries reside. That would be the column that contains; Lead, Nickel and Lithium. As SOON as you physicists populate that column with that as yet undiscovered element; “EXTRA LOW DENSITY LITHIUM”, aka “UNOBTAINIUM” we engineers will turn it into a battery that will make the Chevy Volt ™ look like a cheap toy.

    Good Dr. Brown, you are missing the simple fact that ALL TECHNOLOGIES HAVE
    FUNDAMENTAL LIMITS. Engineers are in fact quite skilled at finding said limits as are some physicists.

    You might want to research the real reasons that steam trains are widely considered as obsolete; the internal combustion engine is more efficient (WRT fossil fuel usage) and requires less maintenance.

    I do not see a big swing towards solar powered trains in either your lifetime or mine, few people want to wait until the sun shines to get where they want to be.

    To quote you again;

    “fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains”

    You might note that this happened back it the mid 1940’s when the nuclear reactor was invented/discovered.

    And then everybody got their underwear in a bunch and we RAN AWAY FROM THAT SOLUTION.

    Cheers, Kevin.

  122. JimF says:

    @REP: “…[SNIP: Now that was just a tad unkind. -REP]….”

    That wasn’t an accident. ;) I meant to be unkind, but I respect your better judgement.

    [REPLY: Thank you for your understanding. -REP]

  123. Zeke says:

    “Well, it is a bit of a non-sequitor, since I really wasn’t signing on to be the defender of every non-mainstream scientist (quack or not) in the Universe by pointing out some of the flaws in the CAGW scientific scenario, but I’d have to come back at you with — ” Dr. RG Brown

    You are a busy man. And I am busy as well. So my post described a simple experiment you could perform in your physics department to test your intellectual freedom which you say you have and which is so abysmally lacking in climate science. I suggested (again as an experiment) you present clear and simple data and observations which falsify the Big Bang, or which do not support GR – but especially the work of Halton Arp. This would make a truer test of any “willingness to chuck the whole damn thing, wrong from top to bottom.” The press releases about a uber relativistic neutrino does not satisfy the question and a more effective and genuine experiment of real scientific freedom would be an attempt on your part to acknowledge the decades of observations that show the universe is not expanding, but high redshift quasars are physicallly associated with, and sometimes in front of, low redshifted galaxies.

  124. Combine Dr. Brown’s thesis We should believe the most what we can doubt the least and the later discussion of the size and complexity of the zoo of elementary particles.

    Next visit a TED video of paleontologist Jack Horner’s “Shape-Shifting Dinosaurs.” A summary is at abovetopsecret.com. Dr. Horner’s 15-minute video shows the audience 12 Primary North Am Dinosaurs at the End of the Cretaceous. The pregnant question was, “Where are the children?” How you tell the growth age of an animal is to cut open the bone and examine the ‘sponginess’ of the bone; spongy bone is young, solid bone is old. The trouble is it is hard to get big museums to let you cut open their fossils. “I have a small museum. I don’t mind cutting them open.” Some of the Dinosaurs were always of a young type, some always old. “When you want to name a new dinosaur, you look at their differences. When you want to understand them, you look at their similarities.” By combining similarities with the bone age, Horner concluded that Dracorex, Stygimoloch, and Pachycephalosaurus were the same species in young, juvenile, and adult form respectively. He sequenced two other lines. Now the 12 Primary Types have been reduced to 7.

    Is complexity in the zoo of elementary particles a symptom of a desire to name things that are different? Is the complexity real or virtual? It’s more of a rhetorical question; food for thought.

  125. Jeff Alberts says:

    Dr. Brown mentions “global temperature” several times. I’d like to know what he thinks of this.

  126. Markus Fitzhenry says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm
    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm
    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:27 pm
    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm
    ——

    You appear to be scrambling Sir, which is inappropriate and undignified behavior whilst you are amongst rational scientific sceptics.

    Your constructive input is always appreciated, however, the dogmatic approach has worn out its tracks.

  127. KevinK said @ March 2, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Dr. Brown wrote;

    “Sheer economics and the advance of physics and technology and engineering will make fossil-fuel burning electrical generators as obsolete as steam trains.”

    While it is nice to note that you do in fact admit that engineers might just have little bit of an influence in the final outcome, this is NONSENSE……..

    For example, you might want to note that there is only one column in the periodic table etc…

    Kevin, you make some reasonable points about the limitations of current technologies, but are assuming that there will not be substantial improvements to some of them and new technologies we never even thought of before.

    The Git notes that engineers are human and can be just as blind to possibilities as the next man. Some 30 years ago, the Git suggested to the Hydroelectricity Commission in Tasmania that instead of building a new dam, they should consider manufacturing solar hot water collectors and selling them to their customers. The Git was told that Tasmania was “too cold” for solar hot water systems. These days they are everywhere and making people overseas wealthy instead of Tasmanians who nevertheless save money on their electricity bills. So it goes…

    The Git wonders whatever happened to the idea of frictionless flywheel energy storage underneath houses that was posited back in the 60s.

  128. Marc77 says:

    Using supercomputers increases the resolution of a solution. Increasing the resolution is similar to increasing the number of significant digits in a calculation. If someone decided to use 1000 digits to make a calculation with classical mechanics instead of an usual 5 digits. It would be mostly useless because classical mechanics is not precise to that level, even general relativity might not be. And the empirical data you start with might not have this precision anyway. In the case of climate science, a simple trend plus an oscillation correlated with the ENSO, seems to be able to make predictions as good as the computer models evaluated with the high resolution of supercomputers. What does it tell us? It could be just as useless to run actual climate models on supercomputers as it is to use classical mechanics at 1000 digits precision.

  129. JON R. SALMI says:

    Dr Brown has hit the nail on the head. I would just like to ask some of my warmist friends what they would do if GHGs were to start heating the planet (as so very unlikely as that scenario is). If they said adapt to to changinging conditions I would ask how I could help. If they said mitigate I’d ask them how. Trying to reduce carbon has been an abject failure. Trying some hare-bain scheme to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere could back-fire, drop CO2 below 150 ppmv and kill all but the lowest forms of life on Earth. I just wish we could drive a stake through the heart of this AGW monster, so w could get to helping the poor and hungry of this planet.

  130. David A. Evans says:

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    The Git wonders whatever happened to the idea of frictionless flywheel energy storage underneath houses that was posited back in the 60s.

    Well my git friend, I’ll let “frictionless” slide even though there is not and never will be any such thing.

    How much energy would you personally be prepared to sit on? 5kwHrs released in 5 seconds?

  131. David A. Evans says:
    March 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 2, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    The Git wonders whatever happened to the idea of frictionless flywheel energy storage underneath houses that was posited back in the 60s.

    Well my git friend, I’ll let “frictionless” slide even though there is not and never will be any such thing.

    How much energy would you personally be prepared to sit on? 5kwHrs released in 5 seconds?

    Yeah, I meant to put quotes around frictionless, but magnetic bearings are as close as and IIRC the flywheel would have been in a vacuum. Yes, I know; vacuums don’t exist either ;-) When the Git cooks, he is about 1.5 metres away from at least 200kWHr of LPG. Should he be frightened?

  132. Tim Folkerts says:

    Smokey says: “Wrong conclusion. Everything has an effect on everything else. The basic questions are these: is the rise in CO2 a net benefit to the biosphere? Has the rise in CO2 caused any measurable, verifiable harm?”

    Smokey, you are welcome to make those YOUR questions, but that does not make my conclusion “wrong”. Changing the goal mid-stream is not a legitimate tactic. I was pointing to clear evidence that I believe shows that CO2 has a warming effect on the earth — no more and no less.

    If you want to address MY question, then provide your answers:
    * do you believe that GHGs like CO2 provide warming to the earth’s surface?
    * do you believe more GHGs provide more warming?

    If you want to address your question, then do it separately. You seem intent on making me defend a position that I have not claimed.

  133. JimF says:

    Stephen Rasey says:
    March 2, 2012 at 7:30 pm “,,,Is complexity in the zoo of elementary particles a symptom of a desire to name things that are different? Is the complexity real or virtual?…”

    The science (or “psuedoscience” as one friend, an outstanding geologist, calls it) of geology has always had a battle between “lumpers” and “splitters”; those who combine many effects into one great big blob of a cause; and those who take big issues and split and pigeonhole them in an extraordinary number of ways. Each approach wins one fame and fortune, and the latter approach lets you name things for yourself and friends, but neither advances science. A few see things in a way that let’s them find the true – or at least reasonable – causes for the effects they study. I suspect physics has similar characteristics.

  134. Bart says:

    Zeke says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:31 am

    And yet, just as is the case in “climate” “science,” the “anything else” that could explain the material system the science is supposed to be describing, is consistently, serially, and methodically ruled out of every scientific journal and academic institution.”

    That is just not true. The history of Relativity is exactly opposite of that of Global Warming. Relativity was viciously attacked for decades, and no stone was left unturned in attempting to discredit it or come up with alternatives. Many other theories were proposed along the way. A century later, it is accepted as the best theory we have precisely because it passed every test, and its competitors failed along the way.

  135. Bart says:

    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

    “I would respectfully differ with this, especially w.r.t. solar. Solar simply hasn’t yet come into its own, but IMO its arrival is at this point inevitable.”

    I respectfully disagree. When you calculate merely the amount of material needed to construct a solar energy infrastructure which would deliver just the amount of power we currently consume, it quickly becomes apparent that the resources required are prohibitive.

    The problem is energy density, which can be broadly defined in units of Watts per unit of effort to capture it. Nuclear is the way to go. It is the only available energy source which can compete with, indeed surpass, the energy density of fossil fuels.

  136. Brian H says:

    Marc77 says:
    March 2, 2012 at 8:08 pm

    Using supercomputers increases the resolution of a solution. Increasing the resolution is similar to increasing the number of significant digits in a calculation. If someone decided to use 1000 digits to make a calculation with classical mechanics instead of an usual 5 digits. It would be mostly useless because classical mechanics is not precise to that level, even general relativity might not be. And the empirical data you start with might not have this precision anyway. In the case of climate science, a simple trend plus an oscillation correlated with the ENSO, seems to be able to make predictions as good as the computer models evaluated with the high resolution of supercomputers. What does it tell us? It could be just as useless to run actual climate models on supercomputers as it is to use classical mechanics at 1000 digits precision.

    Good stuff. Another thing to get across about spurious precision is: once you get past the “significant digits”, the rest are insignificant (= non-significant). Not just in the sense of being ‘unimportant’, but in the sense of being indistinguishable from a random sequence of equal length. The accuracy is utterly unknowable, because there are likely (certainly) a bunch of other but unknown and unspecified digits in the same places in the string hanging on after the lowest-significant-digit factor or element that add or subtract etc. from the ones you think you know. I.e., random.

  137. Bart says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    March 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    “We know that Newtons laws are incorrect.”

    We know nothing of the sort. Newton’s standard equations hold precisely in an instantaneous rest frame. From there, Relativistic dynamics can be fundamentally constructed from Newton’s laws in much the same way that Euler’s rigid body equations are constructed from Newton’s laws, taking account of the transformations between appropriate frames of reference.

  138. Bart said @ March 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:13 am

    “I would respectfully differ with this, especially w.r.t. solar. Solar simply hasn’t yet come into its own, but IMO its arrival is at this point inevitable.”

    I respectfully disagree. When you calculate merely the amount of material needed to construct a solar energy infrastructure which would deliver just the amount of power we currently consume, it quickly becomes apparent that the resources required are prohibitive.

    The difference between solar and fossil fuel cannot be so very far apart if my friend in rural New South Wales is anything to go by. Going on the grid would have had a payback time of ~50 years. Traditionally diesel plant is used in such situations, but the cost of that was greater than solar with the added inconvenience of needing to be fired up when electricity was needed. I imagine that the carbon tax recently introduced by the Australian government will widen the gap further. Hint: we do not all live in cities.

  139. Richard G says:

    Bravo Robert!!!

  140. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    See my analysis of the true costs of solar, “The Dark Future of Solar Energy” and also here to see why solar is very unlikely to meet anything like your fantastic extrapolations anytime soon.

    Sounds like the grounds for a bet! I’ll bet you a case of my personal homebrew — which is very tasty indeed according to my friends — against a case of whatever beer you are proud of, that when mainstream solar costs drop below $1/Watt in 2009 dollars we start to see massive investment in large scale solar, with or without subsidy. Sooner in places with high insolation and low humidity where electricity is already expensive. We trade cases if fusion is invented first, just for grins.

    You game? Mind you, I am close to winning the bet already, given that solar plants are being built now with nothing like a 4x subsidy when 2011 costs were still well over $2/watt.

    Thanks, Robert. It’s unclear whether you are talking about total installed costs, or whether you are talking about the costs of the cells. Also, the bet is unquantified, you say we’ll see “massive investment”. What is “massive”? Makes it hard to bet.

    In any case, the question is always levelized cost. If you can find a problem with my analyses linked above, please point it out. In the first analysis, I show that levelized costs for natural gas are about 7¢ per kwh, and solar are about 22¢ per kwh. Of this, about 6¢ is cost of the solar cells. Even if they were free, that would still put solar at more than twice the cost of natural gas … and you still have to build the natural gas plant. I know your science-fu is very strong … but your economic claims are curious.

    In the second analysis, I show that a huge subsidy is currently necessary to make it pay. In the example, the plant would lose money hand over fist without the massive subsidies involved.

    All you have given me is your assurance that “solar plants are being built with nothing like a 4x subsidy”, and while I know it’s ungentlemanly to ask … cite? And what is a “4x subsidy”? Because I have cited just such a system. The investors put in $1.6 billion, and the government subsidized it to the tune of $1.4 billion … we should all be so lucky.

    Bear in mind that there are a variety of subsidies, often hidden, including but not limited to loans, grants, loan guarantees, tax holidays, and artificially inflated purchase prices for the electricity. I suggest that no matter what solar plant you are looking at, the total subsidy will be large. But bring on your citations.

    w.

  141. Bart says:

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    “The difference between solar and fossil fuel cannot be so very far apart if my friend in rural New South Wales is anything to go by.”

    The gap is Brobdingnagian. Sure, as a niche player, solar works. It’s when you try to scale it up to what would be needed to satisfy our current energy appetite that you start to hit hard limits.

    Ignoring for the moment the question of how to store energy through nighttime, and neglecting overcast skies and loss of efficiency with aging, to reach parity with our current fossil fuel energy production, you would need to cover tens of thousands of square miles with arrays, particularly if you do not steer them to maximize projected solar flux during the day. Try calculating how much material is required to cover such an area. You will find we could not practically construct so large a project in less than a century, probably two or three.

    And, can you even imagine the environmental impact of covering such a large area with material which is intended to absorb as much solar radiation as possible? We’re talking a UHI-like effect on mega-steroids, not to mention massive disruption of migratory patterns and an erosion catastrophe in the making as every plant beneath it dies for lack of sunlight. It makes oil drilling and production look ecologically benign.

    Can you even imagine the maintenance nightmare for such a sprawling construction? I cannot.

    It’s a pipe dream. Solar has a place in the energy mix, but it is a niche player, and it is never going make a very significant impact.

  142. Bart says:

    The name of the game is energy density. Fossil fuels have it, because they have been storing solar and internal Earth energy for eons. The is no way instantaneous solar power, which includes wind power, will ever compete with that.

    And, nuclear has it, because of E = mc^2. Those are the two practical choices for producing sufficient energy to run our modern industrial society. Everything else is a chimera.

  143. Tenuc says:

    Thanks, Robert Brown, an excellent piece on the state of the ‘climate debate’, or lack off…

    Regarding solar power generation, here is a promising possible future method for direct conversion of sunlight to electricity…

    Solar power without solar cells: A hidden magnetic effect of light could make it possible
    “A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.”

    http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-solar-power-cells-hidden-magnetic.html

    The physics behind the observed effect are very interesting and could change our understanding of how photons work.

  144. Bart says:

    Look at this. And, this. Both are remarked on here, which notes:

    In Italy last year, “they discovered that after one year in the field, over 90% of the (solar panels) from a one megawatt project began to delaminate and ended up on the ground.” The cant from the environmentalists is that solar and wind farms are practically maintenance free once built. Apparently this is as untrue as “Peak Oil” and “Man-made Global Warning”. The alternative energy schemes are working as well as socialism always works.

    Did I mention “maintenance nightmare”? I believe that I did.

    I’ve watched crap like this spring up all my life. I remember being taught in high school that solar, wind, and wave power would be providing for all our electricity by 2000, at which time the oil would have run out. Everybody wants to get something for nothing, and that makes them marks for operators who know how to prey on their cupidity. I am sick, I tell ya’, sick and tired of seeing this con job repeated on every new wet-behind-the-ears generation.

    Fossil or nuclear. Those are the two choices, folks. Deal with it.

  145. David A. Evans says:

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    When the Git cooks, he is about 1.5 metres away from at least 200kWHr of LPG. Should he be frightened?

    I would suggest that the MTBF of a gas canister will be greater than your hypothetical storage flywheel.

    DaveE.

  146. Bart says:

    Tenuc says:
    March 3, 2012 at 1:51 am

    FTA: “They predict that with improved materials they could achieve 10 percent efficiency in converting solar power to useable energy. That’s equivalent to today’s commercial-grade solar cells.”

    In other words, still need vast tracts of land and mind boggling amounts of material to reach parity with fossil fuels. It. Ain’t. Gonna’. Happen.

  147. Michel says:

    @Tim Folkerts and the chain of comments on his comments:
    _____________________
    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:

    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.
    _____________________

    The 3.7 W m/^2 for a doubling of CO2 concentration comes from a line by line analysis of the CO2 absorption spectra in the long wave range (infrared). This work was made Myhre et al.
    “New estimates of radiative forcing due to well mixed greenhouse gases.”
    Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 25, No.14, pages 2715-2718, July 15, 1998
    http://folk.uio.no/gunnarmy/paper/myhre_grl98.pdf

    In this same work the contribution of all so-called greenhouse gases (CO2, methane, nitrous oxide) since inception of the industrial era can be evaluated at 2.45 W/m^2, which would have been the cause of a 0.5 °C global surface temperature increase.
    If one takes into account the climate negative feedbacks to this forcing (overall approx. -1.3 W m^-2 K^-1), then the temperature increase should have been approx. 0.4 °C.
    To the 3.7 W m^-2 corresponds a ΔT of approx. 0.8 °C, or only 0.6 °C when taking feedbacks into account.
    see http://climate.mr-int.ch/LinkedDocuments/Two%20Layers%20Climate%20Model.pdf

    – Denier don’t want to take such known physical phenomena into account.
    – Skeptics and heretics should consider them but look for better founded evaluations.
    – Warmist and alarmist skew their assessements to achieve political goals. They claim a temperature increase for any doubling of CO2 in the 2.5 to 4 °C range (IPCC), without actually demonstrating the reasons for such a positive feedback.

  148. John Marshall says:

    Excellent Dr. Brown, thanks.

    I may have a little niggle though. Your deforestation claim. During the last ice age 10,000 years or so ago, the Amazon Basin was grassland due to the cooling. There has been deforestation to clear land for palm oil plantations, a stupid waste of land especially when the oil is used as biofuel but that is another topic. But the biggest problem these plantations have is the forest growing back trying to take back the land. A good thing as far as I am concerned. Forests are far more resilient than alarmists claim even the high latitude evergreens.

    Again thanks for another good post.

  149. mkelly says:

    O H Dahlsveen says:”…energy they know has been created by CO2…”

    Sir this is simply the most foolish thing that has been written on this site. Please explain this via the first law of thermodynamics.

  150. Jimbo says:

    Patrick says:
    March 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

    NetDr – agreed it is important not to let them confuse people by changing the terminology. They are a predicting climate catastrophe due to man made global warming – without MMGW there is no catastrophe.

    They changed terminology when they realised global warming was grinding to a halt. Just a PR exercise really.

  151. Jimbo says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
    …………………
    Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2′s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments). The lack of humility that says “I, with my freshman physics class, am right and the rest of science is wrong” is also staggering. “Settled science” is not likely to be overturned by blog posts and garage experiments. CO2 DOES warm the earth.

    I don’t think you will find many who disagree. It’s just that it has done most of the warming that it can (by itself) already. The argument is about feedbacks / sensitivity. So far the temperature projections made in the 1980s has failed to match observations.

  152. Truthseeker says:

    Robert Brown,

    You were saying that Solar Energy has a promising future – “Solar simply hasn’t yet come into its own, but IMO its arrival is at this point inevitable”. You then go on to talk about falling costs over time. Cost is not the issue with solar.

    Let us look at some numbers. Macquarie Generation is an Australian power company that has on its web site some details about its solar power generation. Australia did pioneer the use of solar power after all. The relevant web page is here;

    http://www.macgen.com.au/Generation-Portfolio/Renewable-Energy.aspx

    Now, on that page has the follow quote;

    “The original pilot mirror array has been expanded to cover an area of 18,000 square metres or approximately 3 football fields, with over 500 mirror panels, each 12 metres by 2 metres. The project can produce enough renewable energy for over 500 homes annually.”

    Let’s do some math not related to costs.

    18,000 square metres (hereafter 18 km2) to produce power for 500 homes (when the sun shines). How many households in the USA? Lets say 100 million. Now at 18 km2 per 500 homes, that means you will need 18 * (100m / 500) = 3.6m km2 of solar panels to power the US. But it does not stop there. In Australia, household power use is about one third of the total usage. Assuming the same proportions of power usage for the US, we now need 3.6m km2 x 3 = 10.8m km2 under glass. However, the US only has about 9.8m km2 to use, so I guess you will just have borrow some land from Canada, not to mention food as you won’t be able to grow any of your own.

    Hell of a glass bill when the first hail storm hits …

  153. Barefoot boy from Brooklyn says:

    I think it’s not unreasonable to continue to question the theory of radiative “forcing” by CO2 in the atmosphere. I am skeptical of papers that prove a theory because it fits a model. My understanding is that a theory has to fit the experimental facts. Yes, I realize no conceivable experiment, controlled or otherwise, can be done on the atmosphere. But that doesn’t justify us jumping to the conclusion that a model is a second best fit.

  154. Barefoot boy from Brooklyn says:

    Well, I suppose someone can claim that we are doing an UNcontrolled experiment on the atmosphere by dumping extra CO2 into it. But it will be impossible to extract a conclusion when you cannot control for the other variables, variables for which we also have no firm causative evidence of effect.

  155. Alberta Slim says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
    …………………
    “Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2′s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments). The lack of humility that says “I, with my freshman physics class, am right and the rest of science is wrong” is also staggering. “Settled science” is not likely to be overturned by blog posts and garage experiments. CO2 DOES warm the earth….. ”

    Tim, did you get 100% on all your tests? No?
    Then you COULD be wrong. Keep that in mind.
    Try this: http://drtimball.com/2012/co2-is-not-a-greenhouse-gas-that-raises-global-temperature-period/

  156. beng says:

    Thanks, Dr Brown. I agree mostly, but I’m not at all impressed w/solar power. As Bart & others said, energy-density is the major consideration & electric-generation from solar fails on that count. No getting around it. Nukes are the solution — the nuclear waste, “meltdown” & proliferation issues already have engineered solutions. Political will (& even education) is what’s lacking (China, Russia & India are exceptions).

    Like the introduction to the “Six-million dollar Man” TV show said — “We HAVE the technology….”

  157. Myrrh says:

    Jimbo says:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:19 am
    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:17 am
    …………………
    Conversely, anyone who claims that CO2 is irrelevant is also a fool and is also displaying a “lack of humility before nature”. Nature clearly shows us that CO2′s IR properties have an impact (both through theory and through experiments). The lack of humility that says “I, with my freshman physics class, am right and the rest of science is wrong” is also staggering. “Settled science” is not likely to be overturned by blog posts and garage experiments. CO2 DOES warm the earth.

    I don’t think you will find many who disagree. It’s just that it has done most of the warming that it can (by itself) already. The argument is about feedbacks / sensitivity. So far the temperature projections made in the 1980s has failed to match observations.

    ====================

    Carbon dioxide is fully part of the Water Cycle, this brings down temps from 67°C the Earth would be with our atmosphere but without water, think deserts. All pure clean rain is carbonic acid. Carbon dioxide is part of the cooling of the atmosphere, not warming.

    And even then it’s insignificant. It’s main purpose to come back into the Carbon Life Cycle.

    The “lack of humility before nature” isn’t with the real sceptics, it with the junk science fictional fisics of the warmists and warmists masquerading as sceptics.

    You’ve missed out the whole of the Water Cycle from your comic cartoon energy budget!

    Who are the real fools here?

  158. feet2thefire says:

    A really great ‘answer’ assessing the climate science of today. Dr. Brown understands what science is about, what its limitations are, and sums up the great uncertainties better than I have ever seen.

    I continually mumbled to myself, “I wish I had said that.” No single thing he said is new, but all he said was true – especially when he said, “None of us knows,” in one way or another.

    And is anything we skeptics argue more true than the acknowledgement that ,”None of us knows”?

    We are simply saying that when they say they DO know, we are agreeing with Dr. Brown when he says “In the end, nobody really knows the global average temperature of the Earth’s surface in 2011 within less than around 1K. If anybody claims to, they are full of shit.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, I give him an 11.

    Steve Garcia

  159. Dave Wendt says:

    Truthseeker says:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Although I also don’t share Dr. Brown’s enthusiasm for Solar, you need to check your work before hitting the Post button. “18,000 square metres (hereafter 18 km2)”?

  160. Zeke says:

    Lucy Skywalker says: “though I might word a tad less abruptly.”

    Thank you Lucy Skywalker, you really do spoil us with your posts and writing here. (-:

  161. Steve Keohane says:


    Robert Brown says:
    March 2, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    [...]

    I was quoting prices out of an online shop that will sell you a grid-tie system now for that. Grid tie requires and inverter and regulator and a rooftop full of cells. Batteries are where things get expensive. But with grid tie you “store” in the grid, using the power you delivered during by day back for free again at night.

    Thank you for your recent input to WUWT, I apreciate your clear expositions. Regarding your reference to grid-tie solar systems, the ‘storage’ is not free. My local electric company sells at 8¢/KWh, but buys at 4¢/KWh for what you don’t use. So, in the off-hours any extra I produce is used at 4¢/KWh. My solar system will pay for itself about 2060, assuming no increase in cloud cover, no deterioration in output, no maintenance over 50 years, and if I don’t include my backhoe work for the foundation.

  162. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Michel says:
    March 3, 2012 at 3:55 am

    @Tim Folkerts and the chain of comments on his comments:
    _____________________

    Similarly, there are a few things that are “settled science” in climatology. One idea I would put in that category is:

    . Everything else kept constant, a doubling of CO2 from recent levels will result in a radiative forcing of ~ 3.7 W/m^2, which corresponds to ~ 1 C in global temperatures.

    _____________________

    The 3.7 W m/^2 for a doubling of CO2 concentration comes from a line by line analysis of the CO2 absorption spectra in the long wave range (infrared). This work was made Myhre et al.
    “New estimates of radiative forcing due to well mixed greenhouse gases.”
    Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 25, No.14, pages 2715-2718, July 15, 1998
    http://folk.uio.no/gunnarmy/paper/myhre_grl98.pdf

    Thanks for the citation, Michel, but you are wrong about the line-by-line analysis. That paper reports results from three models, a narrow-band model (NBM), a broad-band model (BBM), and a line-by-line model (LBL). Historically, the line-by-like model was considered the gold standard. It gave an answer of 4.4W/m2 for a doubling of CO2.

    Myhre makes the claim that the LBL model is not as accurate as the NBM and the BBM. As near as I can tell this is based on nothing more than the general agreement between the narrow-band and the broad-band models, which seems like a poor basis for a choice.

    So, he uses the average of the NBM and BBM to give a value of 3.7W/m2 for a doubling … and then claims that his answer is accurate to ± 0.04W/m2 …

    For me, that’s generally a “tell”, a mark of bad science. If you say your answer is better than the old answer, unless you have good theoretical or observational reasons to make that claim, it seems like the uncertainty will be at least the difference between the new and old answers … and their claiming accuracy to within 0.04W/m2 is just a joke.

    Much appreciated,

    w.

  163. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Michel says:
    March 3, 2012 at 3:55 am (Edit)

    … see http://climate.mr-int.ch/LinkedDocuments/Two%20Layers%20Climate%20Model.pdf

    Michel, that is an interesting analysis … but a single shell model like you have used cannot represent the earth. The problem is losses, both sensible and latent heat losses. These add up to about 100 W/m2. If you include those in your model, you’ll see that the greenhouse effect in a single shell model doesn’t concentrate enough energy to both allow for losses and still represent the earth’s temperature.

    As a result, the simplest model that can represent the Earth has to have two physically separated shells … see my post on The Steel Greenhouse for the calculations.

    w.

  164. Septic Matthew/Matthew R Marler says:

    Dr. Brown, that was a good essay.

    I also appreciate your comments about solar power. Right now, solar power is good enough that many people who use air-conditioning, and many municipalities that struggle to meet peak daytime consumption, can profit from installing PV panels. However, each person (such as Steve Keohane at 8:52 on March 3) needs to do the computations with actual prices, actual electricity consumption, and so on. For myself, my electricity bill is so low that I would never come close to paying back the initial investment, but my local utility can meet peak capacity a little more cheaply with solar than with alternatives. Something like Moore’s law seems to apply, not just to the pv cells, but to every step in the manufacturing and distribution and installation process. On hot days (we get up to 100+), my wife and I ventilate the house at night, but our neighbors spend $$$/month for air conditioning. I think they are close to where they would profit from installing PV panels, unless they choose instead to cut their A/C; when the local utility gets to full demand-weighted billing for electricity, the case for them to buy a roof-mounted system will improve, again assuming that they continue to value the A/C. Global arguments for an against PV are not worth very much, only calculations specific to actual prices and actual use in particular places can be informative. Price/performance ratios are improving dramatically.

  165. David A. Evans said @ March 3, 2012 at 2:21 am

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 2, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    When the Git cooks, he is about 1.5 metres away from at least 200kWHr of LPG. Should he be frightened?

    I would suggest that the MTBF of a gas canister will be greater than your hypothetical storage flywheel.

    DaveE.

    MTBF of gas cylinders is determined by the accumulation of stress fractures in relatively thin steel that is subject to considerable variations in stress. I don’t think either of us know what material such a flywheel might be made from and it’s entirely possible that variations in stress within such an object might be less than in an LPG cylinder. In any event, prudence dictates that one replace such items before they fail, much as the Git replaces his hard disks before they fail.

    The Git is reminded here of his physics lecturer at LatrobeU back in 1969. He demonstrated to us the rather lovely effects of polarised light transmitted through a liquid crystal and announced that it would never have any commercially useful purpose. The very same lecturer also told us that the upper limit for the size of a television screen was about 800mm due to the necessity to cater for the depth created by the electron gun and that in turn placed a limit determined by standard door widths. The Git’s scepticism of both these claims was met with derision by said lecturer.

  166. Bart says:

    Tim Folkerts says:
    March 2, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    “Again, the values of 3.7 W/m^2 and 1 C are open to refinement, but they are definitely not identically equal to zero.”

    I agree that there is a definite impact, which will manifest itself in some alteration of interrelated climate variables, but it is not necessarily true that the effect will be manifested in these particular variables.

    It all depends on the nature of the feedbacks. Internal model feedbacks are known to entirely cancel out the effect of disturbances in output variables. The most widespread use of internal model feedback in industrial and commercial products is with the introduction of integral feedback via the ubiquitous PID feedback controller. This type of feedback entirely cancels the effect of a constant disturbance to the output.

    Adaptive controllers can be constructed with feedback elements which converge to an appropriate internal model to zero out the effect of a wide variety of disturbances. Emergent systems can naturally evolve to such a feedback configuration.

    One should take nothing for granted in nature.

  167. Septic Matthew/Matthew R Marler said @ March 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Global arguments for an against PV are not worth very much, only calculations specific to actual prices and actual use in particular places can be informative. Price/performance ratios are improving dramatically.

    Some believe that solutions need to be tailored to the needs of the consumer. The contrary belief is that the consumer needs to be tailored to meet the needs of the solution.

  168. Septic Matthew/Matthew R Marler says:

    Willis Eschenbach: In the first analysis, I show that levelized costs for natural gas are about 7¢ per kwh, and solar are about 22¢ per kwh. Of this, about 6¢ is cost of the solar cells. Even if they were free, that would still put solar at more than twice the cost of natural gas … and you still have to build the natural gas plant.

    Based on recent announcements, which I think I posted here, I calculated the costs of electricity from current PV cells in a neighborhood like mine at $0.09/kwh for small installations, and $0.06/kwh for large installations, based on non-subsidized prices. I update these calculations from time to time. New gas-fired facilities to provide power during peak demand are closer to $0.25/kwh, so for new installations to meet peak demand in hot, dry climates with cool and breezy nights, PV cells are now cost-competitive. Also note that, for new PV installations to meet peak demand, it is not necessary to construct new backup generators, and the new PV panels can extend the life of the gas-fired generators already in place. My calculations assume the PV panels put out at least 80% of max power for at least 8 hours per day for at least 300 days per year for at least 30 years. PV power can also run a heat pump in winter, thus saving on the heating bill, but not yet enough to recoup the investment. For a new house going up in this area, it would be worth looking into a solar-powered heat pump instead of a furnace-A/C combo.

    This is for a stand-alone house with much insolation and much shade (my neighbor has much less shade.) When I lived in a condominium near Del Mar I paid for neither heating nor A/C, so even within a fairly small geographic area the economics are dramatically different. It will be a long time before PV power is reasonable for most of Del Mar. When summer comes, peak power will cost consumers here something like $0.35/kwh — I’ll update this when summer actually arrives.

  169. markx says:

    A great article by Dr Robert Brown, thank you.

    LazyTeenager March 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm Said: (brackets my comment)

    “….highly ingenious but (perhaps not necessarily?) wrong counter arguments, …a quick thinker, …a charismatic speaker and proficient at manipulating people, then you would lose the debate…”

    Lazy, you all seem to have perhaps been awfully unlucky to repeatedly run into so many of such people, perhaps it is time for you to reconsider whether or not YOU are actually correct?

  170. markx says:

    LazyTeenager: March 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Said: “The science is settled in this context means the science is sufficiently well known to take action”.

    Therein lies a problem. It is very clear the actual science of the matter is nowhere near settled (I’m sure you can’t honestly disagree).

    And it is also very clear the understanding of the economics has a long way to go. In short, it is quite clear what effect making a lot of poor people poorer, and substantially raising the cost of their energy will have on people in countries like Ukraine and Belarus if they suffer more extended cold periods like the ones they have just experienced.

    They die.

    Solar could not possible help, and in those still freezing days of minus 20 C , there is no significant wind either.

    William D. Nordhaus (Professor of Economics!) wrote a “rebuttal” of climate skeptic claims:
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/mar/22/why-global-warming-skeptics-are-wrong/

    Enough said about his qualifications re the scientific aspects: It really just ends up being an excuse for action, his main message is clearly – “we don’t know enough about the science or the economics, but we’d better do something NOW, just in case”

    Some direct quotes:

    ….One might argue that there are many uncertainties here, and we should wait until the uncertainties are resolved. Yes, there are many uncertainties. That does not imply that action should be delayed.

    Indeed, my experience in studying this subject for many years is that we have discovered more puzzles and greater uncertainties as researchers dig deeper into the field. ……..

    …… Moreover, our economic models have great difficulties incorporating these major geophysical changes and their impacts in a reliable manner. ….

    ….. Policies implemented today serve as a hedge against unsuspected future dangers

    I fear we must take great care lest the so called ‘cure’ is worse than the possible ‘disease’.

  171. LazyTeenager has been in for a bit of “Schtick” here lately – and (IMO) quite rightly so as on March 2, 2012 at 5:01 pm LazyTeenager says:

    “————. In fact many on WUWT relentlessly ridicule climate scientists for continuing to improve their understanding.

    The science is settled in this context means the science is sufficiently well known to take action.
    For example let’s consider the electric dynamo. —————-. The understanding of dynamos was imperfect but the understanding of dynamos was sufficiently settled to take action.

    Similarly the greenhouse effect is understood like a crude dynamo. It’s settled that a crude dynamo produces electricity and it’s also settled that the green house effect warms the atmosphere and affects the climate.
    If you don’t like dynamos you can debate as much as you like about whether they really do produce electricity, whether they violate the phlogiston theory, whether they produce ———.
    Dynamos still produce electricity. Period!”

    ==========

    As we are – here on WUWT – mainly discussing the science that says that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (GHG) which absorbs “Heat-energy” (HE) which is emitted as electromagnetic (EM) waves of certain frequencies from the Surface – I, for one, keep on asking questions as to why they are constantly ignoring the “Blindingly Obvious”.

    I try many different ways of formulating my questions but I hope that is not the same as ridiculing anybody.

    You cannot really compare what is – and was, “known” about a direct current (DC) electric dynamo, a knowledge that made possible a “dynamo-evolution” into AC generators possible, – with climate science.

  172. Climate Science is stuck in the wrong groove because CAGW scientists (Warmistas) and AGW scientists (lukewarmers) all “believe” IMHO in the unbelievable.

    Once upon a time – or a few years ago – I thought scientists who were “Climate Skeptics” knew darned well that heat cannot possibly be transported on EM waves as all the evidence shows that heat is only transported by conduction and convection.
    EM radiation as a transport system for energy and light and loses very little of its cargo as it moves along at the rate of light speed.

    The “Skeptics” were my “Climate Heroes” for standing up against the “Warmistas” and their “undefendable” science of Arrhenius which, by the way, was “disproved” by scientists during my elementary schooldays (1947 – 1954). – But, how wrong was I? – They believe in the same “science” – but disagree about the “Feed-backs”

    How long is that piece of string again? –

    Even if mathematically correct any models can only be as useful as their input allows them to be, and the input can only be “hoped” to be correct if the science it is based upon is correct. – Wrong assumptions do not cut it!

  173. The CAGW/AGW theory is, as far as I can understand, based upon the assumption that heat can somehow be retained or maintained by the surface at the same time as it is being emitted into the atmosphere as IR light or “heat-energy”. –

    The Sun is, of course – it is not a lie – supplying the surface with light & energy 24/7, which – if you think about it, makes the theory quite workable, i.e. the Sun raises the surface T to 255 K. – Then while long wave IR emissions OUT is going on – Solar short wave radiation IN is topping up the surface’s energy – or temperature – ?!!?

    So then, – when one half of the previously emitted surface energy returns – Hi presto! – The surface’s “Heat-energy” content is raised, thus temperature is also raised by “The Natural Greenhouse Effect” (NGHE) by a lovely 33 K, or 33 deg. Celsius (°C) making the planet suitable for life as we know it.

    Who can complain about that?

    Trouble is that if we bring the Earth out of the “mathematical models” and back into The Solar System where it belongs – we find that The Sun shines on just one half of the Earth’s surface at any one time. The Sun does not rise in the morning, nor does it “set” in the evening. Instead the Earth rotates around its own axis, below – or at the side of – the Sun in such a way that in every 24 hour period 50 % of the surface is irradiated 50 % is not.

    !00% of the surface emit IR light 100% of the time (or all the time if you like)

    If you understand the above, you will also understand that the surface presents itself to the Sun’s irradiation with an forever changing rate of absorption, i.e. land follows sea follows different colours follow ——. You think up any differences – and they will probably be there.

    That means it is impossible for us mere mortals to predict the present snippet of the climate which we call weather unless we can watch the air movements; “every second of their way”

  174. Myrrh says:

    O H Dahlsveen says:
    March 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm
    Climate Science is stuck in the wrong groove because CAGW scientists (Warmistas) and AGW scientists (lukewarmers) all “believe” IMHO in the unbelievable.

    Once upon a time – or a few years ago – I thought scientists who were “Climate Skeptics” knew darned well that heat cannot possibly be transported on EM waves as all the evidence shows that heat is only transported by conduction and convection.
    EM radiation as a transport system for energy and light and loses very little of its cargo as it moves along at the rate of light speed.

    =================
    The heat direct from the Sun is the Sun’s thermal energy on the move, that is, the Sun’s heat on the move, the Sun radiates HEAT. It reaches us us at the speed of electromagnetic waves.. It is the invisible thermal infrared.

    The comic cartoon energy budget of KT97 and tweaks, says this heat doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface!

    Wakey, wakey! The heat we feel from the Sun is the Sun’s heat, we’re at the surface!

    Heat is transferred by conduction, convection and radiation. You can create a different fisics if you want, but it won’t be real world physics which knows the difference between Heat and Light.

    The AGW comic cartoon energy budget says that shortwave, shortwave!, heats the Earth’s land and oceans.

    So, they claim the Sun’s actual heat doesn’t heat the Earth and the Sun’s light which isn’t actually capable of doing so, does. Visible light heating land and oceans! Nuts.

    All completely and utterly bonkers.

  175. Mickey Reno says:

    Thanks, Dr. Brown. A great essay.

  176. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Septic Matthew/Matthew R Marler says:
    March 3, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Willis Eschenbach:

    In the first analysis, I show that levelized costs for natural gas are about 7¢ per kwh, and solar are about 22¢ per kwh. Of this, about 6¢ is cost of the solar cells. Even if they were free, that would still put solar at more than twice the cost of natural gas … and you still have to build the natural gas plant.

    Based on recent announcements, which I think I posted here, I calculated the costs of electricity from current PV cells in a neighborhood like mine at $0.09/kwh for small installations, and $0.06/kwh for large installations, based on non-subsidized prices.

    Since the US Energy Information Agency provided the levelized figures (~22¢/kWh), and I can’t find your citation, I’m gonna go with the EIA figures for the time being. I’m sorry, but I think your numbers are based on incorrect assumptions. I don’t know which assumptions, but I doubt your numbers … hang on, let me see what I find …

    OK, here’s the latest costs from Solarbuzz:

    Residential c/kWh 29.00 (includes battery backup)
    Commercial c/kWh 19.51
    Industrial c/kWh 15.21

    Note that these figures do not include the costs for land purchase, road access, or for the transmission lines that would be necessary for a serious system for supplying power tot he grid. They also don’t contain any maintenance costs.

    Note also that they are in the same range as the figures I gave in my discussion of The Dark Future of Solar Energy … which is to say several times the cost of natural gas fired plants.

    Finally, according to Solarbuzz, the cost of the solar modules is only 15% of the total cost …

    So yeah, Matthew, I’d say your numbers are way low.

    w.

    PS—I also have been wanting to congratulate you on your decision to cease anonymity and to own your own words, so my hearty congratulations on that.

  177. Truthseeker says:

    Dave Wendt says:
    March 3, 2012 at 8:40 am
    Truthseeker says:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Although I also don’t share Dr. Brown’s enthusiasm for Solar, you need to check your work before hitting the Post button. “18,000 square metres (hereafter 18 km2)”?

    ———–

    Dave you are quite correct. (Note to self – do not do math after 11pm).

    Let me try this a different way. Wikipedia says that electricity consumption in the US is 1363 watts per person. We know that on a sunny day in the tropics the surface gets 1364 watts while the sun is shining (say 12 hours). OK, this math I should be able to do.

    From my original quote, 18000 square metres (sqm) produces enough power for 500 households (residential use). Now in Australia electricity consumption is 1127 watts per person which includes residential, commercial and industrial consumption. If a household is considered to have 4 people and to include commercial and industrial consumption you have to divide by 3, then that 18000 sqm produces power for (500 x 4)/3 = 666 people (all usage) in Australia. Now at 1364 W per sqm, 18000 sqm should receive 24.552 MW during the day which means 12.276 MW over a 24 hour period (for 24 hour power you have store half of it which doubles the amount of area required = halves the efficiency of the area you use). So for 666 people x 1127 W per person = 750.5 KW actual power produced. Efficiency is a little over 6% (750.5 KW / 12.276 MW).

    OK, back to the US. Population 310 million people consuming 1363 watts each. At an efficiency of 6% of 1364 W per sqm, you are going to need about 16.5 sqm per person which is 5,115,000,000 sqm which I believe is 5,115 km2. I guess you can do without Delaware …

  178. Dave Wendt says:

    Mods;

    I posted a comment several hours ago which hasn’t appeared could you check to see if it is lurking somewhere in one of the filters?

    REPLY: don’t see it – A

  179. M. Simon says:

    Yep. The electric/magnetic field duality is something else. Sit still near a charge and you see an electric field. Start moving with respect to the charge and a magnetic field shows up – at right angles. Where did that come from?

  180. LazyTeenager says:

    Myrrh says
    So, they claim the Sun’s actual heat doesn’t heat the Earth and the Sun’s light which isn’t actually capable of doing so, does. Visible light heating land and oceans! Nuts.

    All completely and utterly bonkers.
    ———-
    I had to smile when you said that.

    So here is an experiment for you.

    Put two black painted thermometers out in the sun. Before you start let them settle in the shade and record their temperatures.

    Now set a piece of glass, which absorbs thermal IR, a small distance in front of one thermometer and let them sit until they reach maximum temperature.

    What do you find? I predict the temperatures will be nearly identical. You predict I guess the thermometer behind the glass will not rise in temperature at all.

    Then again anyone who has sat in a windowed room on a sunny day already knows Myrrh is wrong.

    The thing is technically heat is the energy associated with the random motion of particles. But radiation is directed so it is not heat. The confusion arises because heat can be converted into radiation and vice versa.

  181. Myrrh says on March 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm:

    1) The heat direct from the Sun is the Sun’s thermal energy on the move, that is, the Sun’s heat on the move, the Sun radiates HEAT. It reaches us us at the speed of electromagnetic waves.. It is the invisible thermal infrared.

    ============

    Quite close to the truth Myrrh, but if the Sun radiates “heat” as opposed to “energy and light” then the “empty space” between the Sun and the Earth must be “The Perfect Insulator” and — furthermore – we would not be able to see anything because heat —– oh well, —- maybe you cannot see anything —-.

    2) “The comic cartoon energy budget of KT97 and tweaks, says this heat doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface!”

    Sorry Myrrh, I cannot comment on that particular comic cartoon, as to do so will take far too long, but I do like Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Elmer and many others. – But so what? It is all for amusement only!

    3) “Wakey, wakey! The heat we feel from the Sun is the Sun’s heat, we’re at the surface!”

    Very well observed Myrrh. — Do you have a “motor car, (automobile) or anything else that is “fuel – driven” i.e. an engine of any kind? – If you do – then you should be aware of the fact that the heat is not concentrated in the fuel tank —-.

    4) “Heat is transferred by conduction, convection and radiation. You can create a different fisics if you want, but it won’t be real world physics which knows the difference between Heat and Light.”

    I do not know what fisics is. – But I know I am not “trying to create anything”. – Can you separate the three – “conduction, convection and radiation”?
    – I can put thermometers in a shaded area, – one” in the air” and one in the ground just below and observe. — Lo and behold – there is not a lot of difference in the two measurements. – If I do a similar thing, i.e. leave the thermometers where they are – but wait for the Sun to “come round to my place” I find that the thermometer “monitoring air temperature” shoots up – so to speak – while the one in the ground is moving, but it is doing so very – very slowly. I have made my own conclusions. –You make yours!

    5) “The AGW comic cartoon energy budget says that shortwave, shortwave!, heats the Earth’s land and oceans.”

    Once again, AGW comic cartoons are not my source of information, but I believe that shortwave radiation from the Sun heats the Earth’s land and oceans – and – plus a very small bit of heat conducted from the Earth’s core – and – possibly – an even smaller bit from all the stars surrounding the “Solar System”

    6) “So, they claim the Sun’s actual heat doesn’t heat the Earth and the Sun’s light which isn’t actually capable of doing so, does. Visible light heating land and oceans! Nuts.”

    This I must admit is “The Difficult One” (TDO) – as once it can be clearly explained how the “Sun’s heat” can be turned into EM waves for long distance transport, but the heat from my coffee in the Thermos or Vacuum Flask can not, I think “we shall have cracked it” and CAGW and AGW enthusiasts can, at long last, go back home.

    7) “All completely and utterly bonkers.”

    Yes, maybe so – as not so very long ago – we, or us humans, did not know that molecules consisted of atoms which consisted of a nu—– .
    And the question became: “If an atom is like a tiny solar system, then is it not possible that it actually is a “tiny solar system”?

    Wun wabbit, wun wabbit – wun – wun – wun.

  182. LazyTeenager says on March 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm:

    “The thing is technically heat is the energy associated with the random motion of particles. But radiation is directed so it is not heat. The confusion arises because heat can be converted into radiation and vice versa.”

    ======
    Now I am really interested, please explain – really slow and loud, in order that a “dummy” like me can understand:

    “How exactly can heat be converted into radiation and vice versa.”?

  183. Michel says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 3, 2012 at 10:23 am
    Michel says:
    March 3, 2012 at 3:55 am (Edit)

    … see http://climate.mr-int.ch/LinkedDocuments/Two%20Layers%20Climate%20Model.pdf

    Michel, that is an interesting analysis … but a single shell model like you have used cannot represent the earth. The problem is losses, both sensible and latent heat losses. These add up to about 100 W/m2. If you include those in your model, you’ll see that the greenhouse effect in a single shell model doesn’t concentrate enough energy to both allow for losses and still represent the earth’s temperature.

    As a result, the simplest model that can represent the Earth has to have two physically separated shells … see my post on The Steel Greenhouse for the calculations.

    w.

    Willis,
    ____________________________________

    A first shell is required to grossly represent an atmosphere, whatever would be its composition. In fact there are many superposed shells, each emitting to the next one, the last one emitting to the outer space, with some direct windows to consider in an overall energy balance.
    Furthermore, convection adds a fantastic degree of complexity. In addition, a 840 mm water column is evaporated each year (average rainfalls) from the surface; this corresponds to approx. 65 W/m2. But don’t forget that this latent energy will be released back when condensing to form clouds. It is not “lost” but adds another level of complexity to any modeling.
    So, I’m clear that the two layer model is a [over-]simplification.
    But I don’t see why adding another shell (or more) will fundamentally change the approximation.
    Nevertheless, some orders of magnitude are provided that are not too far away from observed values. And is also useful to see what sensitivity it may have to changes in albedo, cloudiness, or surface emissivity, for example:
    – For each % increase of albedo α, T-Surface may decrease by 1 °C.
    – For each % increase of cloudiness c, T-Surface may increase by 0.5 °C.
    – For each % increase of surface emissivity ε, T-Surface may decrease by 0.8 °C.

    It is also useful to THEN evaluate what GHG forcing may have as an impact on temperature, including feedback factors: this is another step to this zero order model.
    The finding out of the two-layer-model-with-feedback is that anthropogenic impact on temperature is 4 to 7 times smaller than what IPCC is claiming.
    It is not zero but it is highly likely that it this not catastrophically important.
    This is the relevant heresy opposite to the gospel of GAGW.

    It may be useful to somewhere summarize those things that are actually known and commonly accepted, those things that are interpretations (such as this model question, or the IPCC conclusions), and those things about which nobody has an answer (such as stochastic interactions within non-linear systems). Not to speak about the unknown unknowns (such as the future) …

  184. pauld says:

    I am going to keep this essay handy for the next time someone suggests to me that Freeman Dyson is just a fading contrarian. From this essay one certainly can understand the deep roots of Dyson’s thinking.

  185. jonathan frodsham says:

    I liked it so much I printed it out and left it on the dining table, with instructions for the wife and kids to read and understand it. I also placed it on my facebook page.

  186. Brian H says:

    John Marshall says:
    March 3, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Excellent Dr. Brown, thanks.

    I may have a little niggle though. Your deforestation claim. During the last ice age 10,000 years or so ago, the Amazon Basin was grassland due to the cooling. There has been deforestation to clear land for palm oil plantations, a stupid waste of land especially when the oil is used as biofuel but that is another topic. But the biggest problem these plantations have is the forest growing back trying to take back the land. A good thing as far as I am concerned. Forests are far more resilient than alarmists claim even the high latitude evergreens.

    Hilariously, speaking of the Amazon, did you note the recent discovery of immense “geoglyphs” lurking under the jungle? Seems that pre-Columbus, the Amazon was substantially cleared and cultivated. All good Greenies should be pressing to return to those Halcyon Days!

  187. Brian H says:

    pauld says:
    March 4, 2012 at 2:44 am

    I am going to keep this essay handy for the next time someone suggests to me that Freeman Dyson is just a fading contrarian. From this essay one certainly can understand the deep roots of Dyson’s thinking.

    Dyson? When did he enter the room? Musta missed that.

  188. Steve Keohane says:

    Brian H says:March 4, 2012 at 4:49 am
    Hilariously, speaking of the Amazon, did you note the recent discovery of immense “geoglyphs” lurking under the jungle?

    I would be interested in reading about this, have a source? I remember Coba on the Yucatan when they had only cleared one pyramid, from the top of which you could look out over the jungle and see many structures beneath the jungle growth.

  189. Bart says:

    Steve Keohane says:
    March 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

    “I would be interested in reading about this, have a source?”

    Did a quick web search and found this.

  190. Robert Brown says:

    Dr. Brown mentions “global temperature” several times. I’d like to know what he thinks of this.

    Dr. Brown thinks that this is a very nice piece of work, and is precisely the reason that he said that anybody who claims to know the annualized average temperature of the Earth, or the Ocean, to 0.05 K is, as the saying goes, full of sh*t up to their eyebrows.

    What I think one can define is an average “Global Temperature” — noting well the quotes — by following some fixed and consistent rule that goes from a set of data to a result. For example, the scheme that is used to go from satellite data to the UAH lower troposphere temperature. This scheme almost certainly does not return “the average Global Temperature of the Earth” in degrees absolute as something that reliably represents the coarse-grain averaged temperature of (say) the lowest 5 kilometers of the air column, especially not the air column as its height varies over an irregular terrain that is itself sometimes higher than 5 kilometers. It does, however, return something that is likely to be close to what this average would be if one could sample and compute it, and one at least hopes that the two would co-vary monotonically most of the time.

    The accuracy of the measure is very likely not even 1K (IMO, others may disagree) where accuracy is |T_{LTT} - T_{TGT}| — the absolute difference between lower troposphere temperature and the “true global temperature” of the lower troposphere. The various satellites that contribute to temperature have (IIRC) a variance on this order so the data itself is probably not more accurate than that. The “precision” of the data is distinct — that’s a measure of how much variance there is in the data sources themselves, and is a quantity that can be systematically improved by more data, where accuracy, especially in a situation like this where one is indirectly inferring a quantity that is not exactly the same as what is being measured cannot be improved by more or more precise measurements, it can only be improved by figuring out the map between the data one is using and the actual quantity you are making claims about.

    Things are not better for (land) surface measurements — they are worse. There the actual data is (again, in my opinion) hopelessly corrupted by confounding phenomena and the measurement errors are profound. Worse, the measurement errors tend to have a variable monotonic bias compared to the mythical “true average surface Global Temperature” one wishes to measure.

    One is in trouble from the very beginning. The Moon has no atmosphere, so its “global average temperature” can be defined without worrying about measuring its temperature at all. When one wishes to speak of the surface temperature at a given point, what does one use as a definition? Is it the temperature an actual high precision thermometer would read (say) 1 cm below the surface at that point? 5 mm? 1 mm? 1 meter? All of these would almost certainly yield different results, results that depend on things like the albedo and emissivity of the point on the surface, the heat capacity and thermal conductivity of the surface matter, the latitude. Is it the “blackbody” temperature of the surface (the inferred temperature of the surface determined by measuring the outgoing full spectrum of radiated light)?

    Even inferring the temperature from the latter — probably the one that is most relevant to an airless open system’s average state — is not trivial, because the surface albedo varies, the emissivity varies, and the outgoing radiation from any given point just isn’t a perfect blackbody curve as a result.

    How much more difficult is it to measure the Earth’s comparable “surface temperature” at a single point on the surface? For one thing, we don’t do anything of the sort. We don’t place our thermometers 1 meter, 1 cm, 1 mm deep in — what, the soil? The grass or trees? What exactly is the “surface” of a planet largely covered with living plants? We place them in the air some distance above the surface. That distance varies. The surface itself is being heated directly by the sun part of the time, and is radiatively cooling directly to space (in at least some frequencies) all of the time. Its temperature varies by degrees K on a time scale of minutes to hours as clouds pass between the location and the sun, as the sun sets, as it starts to rain. It doesn’t just heat or cool from radiation — it is in tight thermal contact with a complex atmosphere that has a far greater influence on the local temperature than even local variations in insolation.

    Yesterday it was unseasonably warm in NC, not because the GHE caused the local temperature to be higher by trapping additional heat but because the air that was flowing over the state came from the warm wet waters of the ocean to the south, so we had a relatively warm rain followed by a nighttime temperature that stayed warm (low overnight of maybe 46F) because the sky was cloudy. Today it is almost perfectly seasonal — high 50’s with a few scattered clouds, winds out of the WSW still carrying warm moisture from the Gulf and warm air from the south central US, but as the day progresses the wind is going to shift to the NW and it will go down to solidly freeze (30F) tonight. Tomorrow it will be seasonal but wet, but by tomorrow night the cooler air that has moved in from the north will make it go down to 25F overnight. The variation in local temperature is determined far more by what is going on somewhere else than it is by actual insolation and radiation here.

    If a real cold front comes down from Canada (as they frequently do this time of year) we could have daytime highs in the 30’s or low 40’s and nighttime lows down in the the low 20s. OTOH, if the wind shifts to the right quarter, the temperature outside could reach the low 80s high and low 50s low. We can, and do, have both extremes within a single week.

    Clearly surface temperatures are being driven as strongly by the air and moisture flowing over or onto them as they are by the “ideal” picture of radiative energy warming the surface and radiation cooling it. The warming of the surface at any given point isn’t solely responsible for the warming or cooling of the air above it, the temperature of the surface is equally dependent on the temperature of the air as determined by the warming of the surface somewhere else, as determined by the direct warming and cooling of the air itself via radiation, as determined by phase changes of water vapor in the air and on the surface, as determined by factor of ten modulations of insolation as clouds float around over surface and the lower atmosphere alike.

    Know the true average surface Global Temperature to within 1K? I don’t even know how one would define a “true” average surface Global Temperature. It was difficult enough for the moon without an atmosphere, assuming one can agree on the particular temperature one is going to “average” and how one is going to perform the average. For the Earth with a complex, wet, atmosphere, there isn’t any possibility of agreeing on a temperature to average! One cannot even measure the air temperature in a way that is not sensitive to where the sun is and what it is doing relative to the measurement apparatus, and the air temperature can easily be in the 40s or 50s while there is snow covering the ground so that the actual surface temperature of the ground is presumably no higher than 32F — depending on the depth one is measuring.

    And then oops — we forgot the Oceans, that cover 70% of the surface of the planet.

    What do we count as the “temperature” of a piece of the ocean? There is the temperature of the air above the surface of the ocean. In general this temperature differs from the actual temperature of the water itself by order of 5-10K. The air temperature during the day is often warmer than the temperature of the water, in most places. The air temperature at night is often cooler than the temperature of the water.

    Or is it? What exactly is “the temperature of the water”? Is it the temperature of the top 1 mm of the surface, where the temperature is dominated by chemical potential as water molecules are constantly being knocked off into the air, carrying away heat? Is it the temperature 1 cm deep? 10 cm? 1 m? 10 m? 50 m? 100m? 1 km?

    Is it the average over a vertical column from the surface to the bottom (where the actual depth of the bottom varies by as much as 10 km)? This will bias the temperature way, way down for deep water and make the global average temperature of the ocean very nearly 4K very nearly everywhere, dropping the estimate of the Earth’s average Global Temperature by well over 10K. Yet if we do anything else, we introduce a completely arbitrary bias into our average. Every value we might use as a depth to average over has consequences that cause large variations in the final value of the average. As anyone who swims knows, it is quite easy for the top meter or so of water to be warm enough to be comfortable while the water underneath that is cold enough to take your breath away.

    Even if one defines — arbitrarily, as arbitrary in its own way as the definition that one uses for T_{LT} or the temperature you are going to assign to a particular point on the surface on the basis of a “corrected” or “uncorrected” thermometer with location biases that can easily exceed several degrees K compared to equally arbitrary definitions for what the thermometer “should” be reading for the unbiased temperature and how that temperature is supposed to relate to a “true” temperature for the location — a sea surface temperature SST to go with land surface temperature LST and then tries to take the actual data for both and turn them into a average global temperature, one has a final problem to overcome. One’s data is (with the possible exception of modern satellite derived data) sparse! Very sparse.

    In particular, it is sparse compared to the known and observed granularity of surface temperature variations, for both LST and SST. Furthermore, it has obvious sampling biases. We have lots and lots of measurements where people live. We have very few measurements (per square kilometer of surface area) where people do not live. Surface temperatures can easily vary by 1K over a kilometer in lateral distance (e.g. at terrain features where one goes up a few hundred meters over a kilometer of grade). They can and do vary by 1 K over order of 5-10 kilometers variations routinely.

    I can look at e.g. the Weather Underground’s weather map readings from weather stations scattered around Durham at a glance, for example. At the moment I’m typing this there is a 13 F variation from the coldest to the warmest station reading within a 15 km radius of where I’m sitting. Worse, nearly all of these weather station readings are between 50 and 55 F, but there are two outliers. One of them is 46.5 F (in a neighborhood in Chapel Hill), and the other is Durham itself, the “official” reading for Durham (probably downtown somewhere) which is 59.5 F!

    Guess which one will end up being the temperature used to compute the average surface temperature for Durham today, and assigned to an entirely disproportionate area of the surface of the planet in a global average surface temperature reconstruction?

    Incidentally, the temperature outside of my house at this particular moment is 52F. This is a digital electronic thermometer in the shade of the north side of the house, around a meter off of the ground. The air temperature on the other side of the house is almost certainly a few degrees warmer as the house sits on a southwest-facing hill with pavement and green grass absorbing the bright sunlight. The temperature back in the middle of the cypresses behind my house (dense shade all day long, but with decent airflow) would probably be no warmer than 50 F. The temperature a meter over the driveway itself (facing and angled square into the sun, and with the house itself reflecting additional heat and light like a little reflector oven) is probably close to 60 F. I’m guessing there is close to 10F variation between the air flowing over the southwest facing dark roof shingles and the northeast facing dark roof shingles, biased further by loss of heat from my (fairly well insulated) house.

    I don’t even know how to compute an average surface temperature for the 1/2 acre plot of land my own house sits on, today, right now, from any single thermometer sampling any single location. It is 50F, 52 F, 58 F, 55F, 61 F, depending on just where my thermometer is located. My house is on a long hill (over a km long) that rises to an elevation perhaps 50-100 m higher than my house at the top — we’re in the piedmont in between Durham and Chapel Hill, where Chapel Hill really is up on a hill, or rather a series of hills that stretch past our house. I’d bet a nickel that it is a few degrees different at the top of the hill than it is where my house is today. Today it is windy, so the air is well mixed and the height is probably cooler. On a still night, the colder air tends to settle down in the hollows at the bottoms of hills, so last frost comes earlier up on hilltops or hillsides; Chapel Hill typically has spring a week or so before Durham does, in contradiction of the usual rule that higher locations are cooler.

    This is why I am enormously cynical about Argo, SSTs, GISS, and so on as reliable estimates of average Global Temperature. They invariably claim impossible accuracy and impossible precision. Mere common sense suffices to reject their claim otherwise. If they disagree, they can come to my house and try to determine what the “correct” average temperature is for my humble half acre, and how it can be inferred from a single thermometer located on the actual property, let alone from a thermometer located in some weather station out in Duke Forest five kilometers away.

    That is why I think that we have precisely 33 years of reasonably reliable global temperature data, not in terms of accuracy (which is unknown and perhaps unknowable) but in terms of statistical precision and as the result of a reasonably uniform sampling of the actual globe. The UAH T_{LT} is what it is, is fairly precisely known, and is at least expected to be monotonically related to a “true average surface Global Temperature”. It is therefore good for determining actual trends in global temperature, not so good for making pronouncements about whether or not the temperature now is or is not the warmest that it has been in the Holocene.

    Hopefully the issues above make it just how absurd any such assertion truly is. We don’t know the actual temperature of the globe now, with modern instrumentation and computational methodology to an accuracy of 1 K in any way that can be compared apples-to-apples to any temperature reconstruction, instrument based or proxy based, from fifty, one hundred, one thousand, or ten thousand years ago. 1 K is the close order of all of the global warming supposedly observed since the invention of the thermometer itself (and hence the start of the direct instrumental record). We cannot compare even “anomalies” across such records — they simply don’t compare because of confounding variables, as the “Hide the Decline” and “Bristlecone Pine” problems clearly reveal in the hockey stick controversy. One cannot remove the effects of these confounding variables in any defensible way because one does not know what they are because things (e.g. annual rainfall and the details of local temperature and many other things) are not the same today as they were 100 years ago, and we lack the actual data needed to correct the proxies.

    A year with a late frost, for example, can stunt the growth of a tree for a whole year by simply damaging its new leaves or can enhance it by killing off its fruit (leaving more energy for growth that otherwise would have gone into reproduction) completely independent of the actual average temperature for the year.

    To conclude, one of many, many problems with modern climate research is that the researchers seem to take their thermal reconstructions far too seriously and assign completely absurd measures of accuracy and precision, with a very few exceptions. In my opinion it is categorically impossible to “correct” for things like the UHI effect — it presupposes a knowledge of the uncorrected temperature that one simply cannot have or reliably infer from the data. The problem becomes greater and greater the further back in time one proceeds, with big jumps (in uncertainty) 250, 200, 100 and 40 odd years ago. The proxy-derived record from more than 250 years ago is uncertain in the extreme, with the thermal record of well over 70% of the Earth’s surface completely inaccessible and with an enormously sparse sampling of highly noisy and confounded proxies elsewhere. To claim accuracy greater than 2-3 K is almost certainly sheer piffle, given that we probably don’t know current “true” global average temperatures within 1 K, and 5K is more likely.

    I’m certain that some paleoclimatologists would disagree with such a pessimistic range. Surely, they might say, if we sample Greenland or Antarctic ice cores we can obtain an accurate proxy of temperatures there 1000 or 2000 years ago. Why aren’t those comparable to the present?

    The answer is because we cannot be certain that the Earth’s primary climate drivers distributed its heat the same way then as now. We can clearly see how important e.g. the decadal oscillations are in moving heat around and causing variations in global average temperature. ENSO causes spikes and seems responsible for discrete jumps in global average temperature over the recent (decently thermometric) past that are almost certainly jumps from one poincare’ attractor to another in a complex turbulence model. We don’t even know if there was an ENSO 1000 years ago, or if there was if it was at the same location and had precisely the same dependences on e.g. solar state. As a lovely paper Anthony posted this morning clearly shows, major oceanic currents jump around on millennial timescales that appear connected to millennial scale solar variability and almost certainly modulate the major oscillations themselves in nontrivial ways. It is quite possible for temperatures in the antarctic to anticorrelate with temperatures in the tropics for hundreds of years and then switch so that they correlate again. When an ocean current is diverted, it can change the way ocean average temperatures (however one might compute them, see above) vary over macroscopic fractions of the Earth’s surface all at once.

    To some extent one can control for this by looking at lots of places, but “lots” is in practice highly restricted. Most places simply don’t have a good proxy at all, and the ones that do aren’t always easy to accurately reconstruct over very long time scales, or lose all sorts of information at shorter time scales to get the longer time scale averages one can get. I think 2-3 K is a generous statement of the probable real error in most reconstructions for global average temperature over 1000 years ago, again presuming one can define an apples-to-apples global average temperature to compare to which I doubt. Nor can one reliably compare anomalies over such time scales, because of the confounding variables and drift.

    This is a hard problem, and calling it settled science is obviously a political statement, not a scientific one. A good scientist would, I truly believe, call this unsettled science, science that is understood far less than physics, chemistry, even biology. It is a place for utter honesty, not egregious claims of impossibly accurate knowledge. In my own utterly personal opinion, informed as well or as badly as chance and a fair bit of effort on my part have thus far informed it, we have 33 years of a reasonably precise and reliable statement of global average temperature, one which is probably not the true average temperature assuming any such thing could be defined in the first place but which is as good as any for the purposes of identifying global warming or cooling trends and mechanisms.

    Prior to this we have a jump in uncertainty (in precision, not accuracy) compared to the ground-based thermometric record that is strictly apples-to-oranges compared to the satellite derived averages, with error bars that rapidly grow the further back one goes in the thermometric record. We then have a huge jump in uncertainty (in both precision and accuracy) as we necessarily mount the multiproxy train to still earlier times, where the comparison has unfortunately been between modern era apples, thermometric era oranges, and carefully picked cherries. Our knowledge of global average temperatures becomes largely anecdotal, with uncertainties that are far larger than the observed variation in the instrumental era and larger still than the reliable instrumental era (33 year baseline).

    Personally, I think that this is an interesting problem and one well worth studying. It is important to humans in lots of ways; we have only benefitted from our studies of the weather and our ability to predict it is enormously valuable as of today in cash money and avoided loss of life and property. It is, however, high time to admit the uncertainties and get the damn politics out of the science. Global climate is not a “cause”! It is the object of scientific study. For the conclusions of that science to be worth anything at all, they have to be brutally honest — honest in a way that is utterly stripped of bias and that acknowledges to a fault our own ignorance and the difficulty of the problem. Pretending that we know and can measure global average temperatures from a sparse and short instrumental record where it would be daunting to assign an accurate, local average temperature to any given piece of ground based on a dense sampling of temperatures from different locations and environments on that piece of ground does nothing to actually help out the science — any time one claims impossible accuracy for a set of experimentally derived data one is openly inviting false conclusions to be drawn from the analysis. Pretending that we can model what is literally the most difficult problem in computational fluid dynamics we have ever attempted with a handful of relatively simple parametric differential forms and use the results over centennial and greater timescales does nothing for the science, especially when the models, when tested, often fail (and are failing, badly, over the mere 33 years of reliable instrumentation and a uniform definition of at least one of the global average temperatures).

    It’s time to stop this, and just start over. And we will. Perhaps not this year, perhaps not next, but within the decade the science will finally start to catch up and put an end to the political foolishness. The problem is that no matter what one can do to proxy reconstructions, no matter how much you can adjust LSTs for UHI and other estimated corrections that somehow always leave things warmer than they arguably should be, no matter what egregious claims are initially made for SSTs based on Argo, the UAH T_{LT} will just keep on trucking, unfutzable, apples to apples to apples. The longer that record gets, the less one can bias an “interpretation” of the record.

    In the long run that record will satisfy all properly skeptical scientists, and the “warmist” and “denier” labels will end up being revealed as the pointless political cr@p that they are. In the long run we might actually start to understand some of the things that contribute to that record, not as hypotheses in models that often fail but in models that actually seem to work, that capture the essential longer time scale phenomena. But that long run might well be centennial in scale — long enough to detect and at least try to predict the millennial variations, something utterly impossible with a 33 year baseline.

    rgb

    [Language trimmed. "Futzable", however misspelled, is permitted. 8<) Robt]

  191. Robert Brown says:

    I may have a little niggle though. Your deforestation claim. During the last ice age 10,000 years or so ago, the Amazon Basin was grassland due to the cooling. There has been deforestation to clear land for palm oil plantations, a stupid waste of land especially when the oil is used as biofuel but that is another topic. But the biggest problem these plantations have is the forest growing back trying to take back the land. A good thing as far as I am concerned. Forests are far more resilient than alarmists claim even the high latitude evergreens.

    Hilariously, speaking of the Amazon, did you note the recent discovery of immense “geoglyphs” lurking under the jungle? Seems that pre-Columbus, the Amazon was substantially cleared and cultivated. All good Greenies should be pressing to return to those Halcyon Days!

    The point is that deforestation can have an impact on local temperatures of at least extended chunks of the Earth’s surface area, and that humans do have an impact on deforestation and other related land use climate drivers. So does e.g. irrigation. Global averages are out of many local averages constructed.

    Truthfully, if I were going to look for human-mediated events that probably altered global climate, introducing herds of goats into North Africa would probably top the list. Perhaps the Sahara would have self-assembled without them, but goats eating the vegetation very likely at least accelerated the process.

    Urban Heat Island (UHI) warming is also very clearly a corrupting and confounding element of the current “global average temperature” as computed from land surface records. There really isn’t any doubt that it exists, is there? So land use can indeed affect local temperatures, whether the variations in “use” are utterly natural or utterly human. To be honest, I think that land use is very likely a large chunk of the total “anthropogenic signal” in the thermal record. It could be larger than the GHE variation, especially given the UHI corruption of virtually the entire instrumental record. Not necessarily cutting down the rain forests — cutting down the forests on the East Coast of the US, building cities where the forests were, paving them, and then locating the “official” thermometers from which the thermal record was derived there, that is quite capable of producing a warming signal all by itself, is it not?

    rgb

  192. Robert Brown says:

    Truthseeker says:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Dave Wendt says:
    March 3, 2012 at 8:40 am
    Truthseeker says:
    March 3, 2012 at 5:30 am

    Although I also don’t share Dr. Brown’s enthusiasm for Solar, you need to check your work before hitting the Post button. “18,000 square metres (hereafter 18 km2)”?

    ———–

    Dave you are quite correct. (Note to self – do not do math after 11pm).

    Let me try this a different way. Wikipedia says that electricity consumption in the US is 1363 watts per person. We know that on a sunny day in the tropics the surface gets 1364 watts while the sun is shining (say 12 hours). OK, this math I should be able to do.

    Or, you could look at some places where it has all been done for you. For example, look at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_land_area.png

    and note the dots. Those dots could supply 100% of the world’s current utilization of electricity, including the effects of variable insolation and 8% conversion efficiency. It does not include transmission losses or storage. On the other hand, neither is there any point in building all of the generation facilities in side the dots. A far more likely scenario is that we will build it one rooftop at a time, with grid-linked panels, and at much higher conversion efficiencies while continuing to use fuel-based plants for ever decreasing amounts of fuel-based time.

    A place where solar is already starting to compete with fuel-based plants at the commercial scale is e.g. here:

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/02/solar-pv-becoming-cheaper-than-gas-in-california

    When one compares the construction and delivery of e.g. natural gas plants designed to switch on quickly to help buffer peak loads on top of base capacity, the relatively high cost of both construction and operation of the natural gas plants is starting to compare to the amortized costs of solar for the same purpose.

    Personally, I think it is a mistake to compare the construction costs of large and midsized solar facilities now to what they will be in ten years, even aside from the cost per watt of the PV cells themselves. Large scale PV generation has, I’m pretty sure, all sorts of economies of scale waiting to be realized, all the way down to prefabrication plug-and-play installation on undeveloped (cheap) land. We’ve been building traditional generating plants for a century at this point, but have been building solar at any sort of scale for less than a decade, with most of the projects pilots that are of course going to be ten times more expensive than they should be.

    But I expect solar to advance a rooftop at a time on one scale (really taking off when over the counter retail rooftop cells are $1/watt or less, installed, a little over a factor of 2 compared to today’s prices) and to become increasingly attractive as competition for natural gas peak generators in hot sunny places, and eventually as replacements for a lot of the daytime base load in those same places as construction costs come down.

    But we will see. There are other non-PV solar technlogies out there as well, and some of them will very likely work at least in certain places.

    One other very attractive feature of solar is predictability. You pay all of the costs up front, then get fairly predictable output. Fuel based generation facilities are at the mercy of market prices for fuel, and fuel gets more expensive almost without exception — note well that I said almost, I know natural gas has been an exception — over time.

    In the end, I expect that we’ll have a mix of fuel-based generation and solar, at least unless/until fusion works out, with a gradually increasing fraction of solar. I actually completely agree with the poster who argued that we should be going heavily nuclear for the fuel based fraction in new plant construction. Nuclear should make “everybody” happy by being CO_2 free and yet suitable for use as either base/nighttime or peak power generation, and would if it weren’t for the fact that existing nuclear is almost entirely ancient plants that lack many of the safeguards we can now engineer based on our experience with failures. Oh, and the proliferation problem. But I have a lot of hope for thorium salt generation, after the Chinese work it out and start implementing it at a commercial scale.

    Too bad we won’t get there first.

    The Chinese will also get to large scale solar first, now that we aren’t helping out companies like the infamous Solyndra.

    Personally, I think that what the US needs to do is fund Manhattan Project level development of large scale solar — really aggressive, aiming to bring down all of the scalable costs of the technology and quick-solve many of the engineering issues as well. If we had taken the public money we borrowed from the Chinese and then distributed to looters in the Gulf War and otherwise pissed away and had invested it in building solar power generation facilities only, dollar for dollar, leveraging the hell out of every public dollar, we would be generating multiple terawatts of solar power today — a couple of trillion dollars, leveraged, buys a lot of energy, especially over 20 to 40 years.

    But even without it, IMO it is still quite inevitable that we’ll be up to TW of generation capability within 20-30 years, rising fast. Solar will only get cheaper and more efficient over time. Only hydroelectric (still the cheapest for exactly the same reason — it is fuel free) can ultimately compete. Fuel costs scale linearly for the lifetime of the unit; the longer you run it the more you pay, subject to market forces that impact fuel cost in a competitive world with rapidly growing energy demand. Fixed costs for solar work exactly the other way — your profitability grows the longer you run it.

    But fusion is the real wild card. Nothing will compete with fusion. There’s an “infinite” supply of deuterium. The human species will evolve into something else before we run out of fusion based energy.

    rgb

  193. Myrrh says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    March 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm
    Myrrh says
    So, they claim the Sun’s actual heat doesn’t heat the Earth and the Sun’s light which isn’t actually capable of doing so, does. Visible light heating land and oceans! Nuts.

    All completely and utterly bonkers.
    ———-
    I had to smile when you said that.

    So here is an experiment for you. …….

    What do you find? I predict the temperatures will be nearly identical. You predict I guess the thermometer behind the glass will not rise in temperature at all.

    Then again anyone who has sat in a windowed room on a sunny day already knows Myrrh is wrong.

    Well, for a start I’m not the one claiming that thermal infrared is blocked by glass.. If you take a look around at the companies producing windows you find that they’re making money by not believing that either.. [The production of windows designed to block out as much thermal infrared as poss while trying to maximise the amount of visible light coming through, to keep out the heat that does warm up the room and let in light which doesn't].

    Besides that – we don’t have a layer of glass around our Earth! It’s totally and completely irrelevant.

    The heat we feel direct from the Sun is thermal infrared, we’re on the surface of the Earth, the claim in the energy budget y’all use is that this heat direct from the Sun doesn’t reach us! You’ve put an imaginary glass all around the Earth and now pretend that’s somehow keeping the Sun’s direct heat out!

    And then you claim that shortwave does the job of the Sun’s thermal energy! How can visible light heat land and oceans?! How?

    Bonkers.

  194. Myrrh says:

    O H Dahlsveen says:
    March 4, 2012 at 1:32 am
    Myrrh says on March 3, 2012 at 1:28 pm:

    1) The heat direct from the Sun is the Sun’s thermal energy on the move, that is, the Sun’s heat on the move, the Sun radiates HEAT. It reaches us us at the speed of electromagnetic waves.. It is the invisible thermal infrared.

    ============

    Quite close to the truth Myrrh, but if the Sun radiates “heat” as opposed to “energy and light” then the “empty space” between the Sun and the Earth must be “The Perfect Insulator” and — furthermore – we would not be able to see anything because heat —– oh well, —- maybe you cannot see anything —-.

    What’s this about “perfect insulator”? The Sun’s thermal energy leaves the Sun and reaches us at the speed of electomagnetism, 8 mins. It’s invisible. Don’t you know that thermal infrared is invisible??

    When you stand in front of a fire the heat you feel radiating out from it is the invisible thermal infrared, it’s thermal energy, heat, radiating out in straight lines from the fire to you. That’s straight lines, direct from the fire, you can feel that it isn’t warming your back.. The Sun is a huge burning star – it’s heat takes only around eight minutes to reach us even at the great distance it is from us.

    2) “The comic cartoon energy budget of KT97 and tweaks, says this heat doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface!”

    Sorry Myrrh, I cannot comment on that particular comic cartoon, as to do so will take far too long, but I do like Donald, Mickey, Goofy, Elmer and many others. – But so what? It is all for amusement only!

    Well, I certainly find it amusing, however it is the standard model of these arguments.

    3) “Wakey, wakey! The heat we feel from the Sun is the Sun’s heat, we’re at the surface!”

    Very well observed Myrrh. — Do you have a “motor car, (automobile) or anything else that is “fuel – driven” i.e. an engine of any kind? – If you do – then you should be aware of the fact that the heat is not concentrated in the fuel tank —-.

    Not my point, I was addressing this to those who use this standard model of the energy budget – the claim is that thermal infrared, heat, direct from the Sun does not reach the Earth’s surface and plays no part in heating the Earth’s land and oceans. That’s why I call it a comic cartoon, it’s fantasy. Characters in it can do things out of the norm – here we have the real heat from the Sun not warming the Earth, and visible light which can’t do this being given the superpowers of thermal infrared! Of course it’s a comic cartoon.

    4) “Heat is transferred by conduction, convection and radiation. You can create a different fisics if you want, but it won’t be real world physics which knows the difference between Heat and Light.”

    I do not know what fisics is. – But I know I am not “trying to create anything”. – Can you separate the three – “conduction, convection and radiation”?
    – I can put thermometers in a shaded area, – one” in the air” and one in the ground just below and observe. — Lo and behold – there is not a lot of difference in the two measurements. – If I do a similar thing, i.e. leave the thermometers where they are – but wait for the Sun to “come round to my place” I find that the thermometer “monitoring air temperature” shoots up – so to speak – while the one in the ground is moving, but it is doing so very – very slowly. I have made my own conclusions. –You make yours!

    My point is that in creating these comic characters, visible light heating the Earth’s land and oceans, you have created a different fisics.

    5) “The AGW comic cartoon energy budget says that shortwave, shortwave!, heats the Earth’s land and oceans.”

    Once again, AGW comic cartoons are not my source of information, but I believe that shortwave radiation from the Sun heats the Earth’s land and oceans – and – plus a very small bit of heat conducted from the Earth’s core – and – possibly – an even smaller bit from all the stars surrounding the “Solar System”

    See! You do use the comic cartoon energy budget! … :)

    You have superpower visible light in your cartoon world, it can’t do this in the real world, for example, water is a transparent medium for visible light in the real world.

    6) “So, they claim the Sun’s actual heat doesn’t heat the Earth and the Sun’s light which isn’t actually capable of doing so, does. Visible light heating land and oceans! Nuts.”

    This I must admit is “The Difficult One” (TDO) – as once it can be clearly explained how the “Sun’s heat” can be turned into EM waves for long distance transport, but the heat from my coffee in the Thermos or Vacuum Flask can not, I think “we shall have cracked it” and CAGW and AGW enthusiasts can, at long last, go back home.

    Again, what?

    7) “All completely and utterly bonkers.”

    Yes, maybe so – as not so very long ago – we, or us humans, did not know that molecules consisted of atoms which consisted of a nu—– .
    And the question became: “If an atom is like a tiny solar system, then is it not possible that it actually is a “tiny solar system”?

    Maybe it is maybe it isn’t – but what we do know in the real world, tried and tested and used in countless applications, that heat and light are not the same, that they have different properties and processes, act in ways specific to them on meeting matter. We know, in the real world, that the Sun’s thermal energy radiating out to us, heat, is the invisible thermal infrared, and it is distinctly different from visible light. Just as gamma rays are distinctly different from radio waves. They all travel at the speed of electromagnetism. The Sun’s heat reaches us in around 8 minutes. We can feel that because it warms us up, visible light can’t warm us up. Your cartoon world is a joke.

    Wun wabbit, wun wabbit – wun – wun – wun.

  195. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Robert Brown says:
    March 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    … A place where solar is already starting to compete with fuel-based plants at the commercial scale is e.g. here:

    http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2011/02/solar-pv-becoming-cheaper-than-gas-in-california

    I had seen that, and I think it’s total BS. They don’t provide a scrap of evidence for their claims. They say:

    Although the exact details of the 20-year contracts for the projects are kept confidential for a few years, the utility reports that all winning solar developers issued bids for contracts below the Market Price Referent, which is the estimated cost of electricity from a 500-MW combined-cycle natural gas plant.

    If you actually believe that, Robert, you lose your secret skeptic’s decoder ring for displaying excess credulity in public.

    If we are to believe them, these solar system builders are all claiming that they can produce power at a levelized cost of less than 10¢ per kilowatt hour … riiiiight, pull the other leg now.

    One thing to note? They will never, ever be asked to verify their predicted costs. They will simply go online and start selling power to SCE … and if you think that they have agreed to actually sell power for less than the MPR comparison plant sells power for, you will get a very ugly surprise. That’s not what they said, and it’s definitely not what they will do.

    I guess you truly don’t get it. They are only asked to SAY, not physically demonstrate but SAY, that their production costs will beat the MPR of 10¢ per kilowatt. So Robert … what do you think they will SAY when asked the question? (I note in passing that the California PUC is the only group that thinks that natural gas plants have a levelized cost of 10¢/kWh, everyone else puts it at about 7¢ per kWh

    In addition, Robert, you mention above that:

    When one compares the construction and delivery of e.g. natural gas plants designed to switch on quickly to help buffer peak loads on top of base capacity, the relatively high cost of both construction and operation of the natural gas plants is starting to compare to the amortized costs of solar for the same purpose.

    “Solar for the same purpose” as a natural gas peaking plant to buffer peak loads?

    Solar for peaking power???

    Hie thee to a nunnery, or go back to Google, Robert, solar is NEVER used as peaking power.

    What part of ‘when you add solar capacity you must add backup peaking power capacity’ is unclear to you? If you put in the solar plant, you also have to put in the peaking plant for when the solar is unavailable. Do you think that extra peaking power is free?

    Finally, somehow you seem to have overlooked the subsidies to the builders … no cookies. At a minimum they are all getting the renewable energy “Production Tax Credit (“PTC”) and the “Investment Tax Credit” (“ITC”). The first one is worth 2.2¢ per kWh. The second is much larger, it is 30% of the total capital costs … and since for solar the capital costs are huge, with no fuel costs, this means that they are getting a 30% advantage out of the gate.

    Next, California has something called “Trackable Renewable Energy Credits” (TRECs), which are like cap and trade for electricity. Since solar gets them, and they can be bought and sold on the open market, there’s a whole other value stream for solar.

    So if their solar is coming in at one mill under the MPR of 10¢/kWh, we have to add 2.2¢ per kWh for the subsidy and then divide that by 0.7 for the tax credit … which puts the real cost back up at the ~17¢ per kWh level … and remember, that’s just their CLAIM. They don’t have to prove it, just provide some spreadsheet that has that number in it somewhere. It also doesn’t include any other subsidies they might have gotten, nor does it include the subsidy in the TRECs …

    And of course, none of this comes for free, so there is a hidden subsidy.

    The RESIA requires that from January, 2002 to January, 2012, $135 million per year is to be collected from the ratepayers of Southern California Edison Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, and Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and transferred to the Renewable Resource Trust Fund to support renewable power.

    To collect that $135 megabucks per year from the suckers to pay for some greenie’s renewable energy wet dream, the utilities have to raise their rates … which in turn increases the amount they can pay to solar and other useless technologies. Which makes people think that they are actually competitive when they’re not. Robert, to date the RESIA has propped up inadequate technologies to the tune of $1.35 billion dollars … and you want to convince me that they are competitive? Get real, if they were they wouldn’t need billions of dollars in subsidies.

    Sometimes, I’m astounded by how much people want to believe, and how that dulls their usual skepticism … Robert, you need to learn to read the fine print, learn about the subsidies, inquire into what is actually being claimed, look deeply into what they are actually saying, and watch the pea under the thimble.

    Because right now, you are in the position of the mark from Peoria playing three-card-monte on the streets of New York … the wide boys are playing you for a fool.

    w.

  196. Myrrh says:

    Bart says:
    March 4, 2012 at 10:56 am
    Steve Keohane says:
    March 4, 2012 at 6:55 am

    “I would be interested in reading about this, have a source?”

    Did a quick web search and found this. http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/strange-geoglyphs-discovered-beneath-clearcut-amazon.html

    ============
    That is the strangest article I’ve read in a long time – they’re puzzling why these “geoglyphs” were “sculpted”? Are there really archeologists who can’t see these are buildings? They should watch a bit of Time Team…

  197. Brian H says:

    “In the long run that record will satisfy all properly skeptical scientists, and the “warmist” and “denier” labels will end up being revealed as the pointless political cr@p that they are. ”

    I think — “one casket at a time.”

  198. Brian H says:

    Excellent complement to this and your guest post here:
    http://judithcurry.com/2012/03/01/what-can-we-learn-from-climate-models-part-ii/

    Follow-up to her Oct. ’10 Part I. This one is much ‘advanced’ beyond the first.

  199. Brian H says:

    Correction: Oct ’10!! One and a third yrs. of the blog gauntlet …

  200. Brian H says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    March 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Indeed! When it comes to solar contributions to the grid, it doesn’t seem to be possible to be paranoid enough. The Poles may be getting close; they barred German solar output from entering their grid. (Even for almost free.) The costs (and damage) from accommodating the spikes and cutoffs greatly exceeded any possible “utility”. They’re actually installing circuit breakers at the border! ;)

    The Germans are panicking; what to do with all that useless randomly varying power?? I predict they’ll have to ground it.

  201. @ Robert Brown

    A

    year with a late frost, for example, can stunt the growth of a tree for a whole year by simply damaging its new leaves or can enhance it by killing off its fruit (leaving more energy for growth that otherwise would have gone into reproduction) completely independent of the actual average temperature for the year.

    Even more important is the inability of trees to respond to late moisture, Early (spring) drought is taken by the tree as a message to not respond at all to later moisture availability.

  202. Myrrh says:

    The Pompous Git says:
    March 5, 2012 at 12:45 am
    Even more important is the inability of trees to respond to late moisture, Early (spring) drought is taken by the tree as a message to not respond at all to later moisture availability.

    Aggh, a blast from my conscience. OK, I shall give the field hedge I planted last year the drink of water I thought last week I should give them..

  203. Myrrh says on March 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    “——————. Maybe it is maybe it isn’t – but what we do know in the real world, tried and tested and used in countless applications, that heat and light are not the same, that they have different properties and processes, act in ways specific to them on meeting matter. We know, in the real world, that the Sun’s thermal energy radiating out to us, heat, is the invisible thermal infrared, and it is distinctly different from visible light. Just as gamma rays are distinctly different from radio waves. They all travel at the speed of electromagnetism. The Sun’s heat reaches us in around 8 minutes. We can feel that because it warms us up, visible light can’t warm us up. Your cartoon world is a joke.”

    ===============

    Myrrh, I’ll choose to cut “straight to the chase” here – Never mind why a thermos- or vacuum-flask works, – the; “See! You do use the comic cartoon energy budget! … :)” and all the other things as we do more or less agree on most things i.e. K&T 97 is a joke etcetera.

    I do not know, so I cannot explain exactly what “energy” is. Although I use it right now and at all other times, even when I sleep, – I know what energy does, where it is stored, what it is used for etc, and also that it always causes motion of/in any mass. – Yet, I challenge anyone to explain exactly what energy is.

    You say, as reproduced above: “—–, that heat and light are not the same, that they have different properties and processes, —-“

    THAT IS MY POINT PRECISELY!! – And, furthermore, Infra-Red (IR) is light too, so why should that light be different to any other light – just because we humans cannot see it? IR is not invisible to Coco my cat. She always looks around – and then chooses to go straight for the warmest spot – for a snooze. Cats hunt at night, or in the dark – how do you think that is possible? – Heat has got no EM waveband while IR has. Cats cannot see the radiation but they can see its source!

    So, as you already know that light is not heat, and can understand that IR is also a light form, then you may understand too that it does not matter if it just so happens – that the Solar Energy which, when it interacts with the surface – causes “molecular motion” that produces “frictional heat” is stored in say, IR and Ultra Violet (UV) or any of the other forms of the sunlight.

    Once converted into two other separate forms, i.e. motion and heat, energy cannot change back. So, the basics is “Sunlight” carries energy (which cannot be “LOST”, just converted). Heat can “blow around in the wind”, radiation can not.

    I am claiming the dead opposite to be the case! – Infra-Red (IR) is light-raiation and therefore can radiate as EM waves. – All EM waves from the Sun carry some form of energy but never heat, because it is blindingly obvious that heat does not travel at light-speed.

  204. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Further to my comments above on the cost of solar, the 2011 version of the EIA levelized cost estimates for new generation systems is now available.

    SHORT VERSION:

    Combined cycle natural gas, 6.3¢ / kWh
    Solar PV, 21.1¢ / kWh

    Anyone who claims that solar is competitive with conventional sources without subsidies of a host of kinds is living in a dream world. Solar PV is THREE TIMES AS EXPENSIVE AS CONVENTIONAL POWER, and given the availability of natural gas, solar is very unlikely to EVER be as cheap as conventional power. Even if the panels were totally free, that would still put the price of solar at above 15¢ per kWh … ain’t gonna happen.

    w.

  205. Myrrh says:

    O H Dahlsveen says:
    March 5, 2012 at 5:39 am
    So, as you already know that light is not heat, and can understand that IR is also a light form,
    Light is not Heat, nr IR is light. We cannot feel it. It is not thermal energy.

    then you may understand too that it does not matter if it just so happens – that the Solar Energy which, when it interacts with the surface – causes “molecular motion” that produces “frictional heat” is stored in say, IR and Ultra Violet (UV) or any of the other forms of the sunlight.

    But it doesn’t so happen! It doesn’t so happen because Nr Infrared and Visible and UV are not capable of moving molecules into vibrational state! They are LIGHT not HEAT.

    Once converted into two other separate forms, i.e. motion and heat, energy cannot change back. So, the basics is “Sunlight” carries energy (which cannot be “LOST”, just converted). Heat can “blow around in the wind”, radiation can not.

    If you had something other than empty space for your atmosphere you could bring in convection…

    I am claiming the dead opposite to be the case! – Infra-Red (IR) is light-raiation and therefore can radiate as EM waves. – All EM waves from the Sun carry some form of energy but never heat, because it is blindingly obvious that heat does not travel at light-speed.

    Total and utter codswallop. The thermal energy of the Sun travelling to us at the speed of light direct from the Sun is the invisible thermal infrared. THAT is the Sun’s Heat travelling to us at the speed of light. We can feel it direct from the Sun, on a cold but bright late winter day a cloud passing across the Sun cuts it off, when the cloud passes it returns. Thermal infrared, heat, is what is capable of moving molecules of water into vibrational states to heat them up, it takes real heat to do this, our bodies are mostly water and as we absorb this heat direct from the Sun in thermal infrared we warm up inside. That’s real electromagnetic energy in the form of heat direct from the Sun to us.

    Visible light is NOT CAPABLE of doing this. That is why the AGWScience Fiction energy budget and its fisics you subscribe to is junk fantasy, the basics are junk science. In the real world and in not your imagine impossible things before breakfast with Alice through the looking glass world, water is a transparent medium for Visible light – it is transmitted through without being absorbed. Your energy budget fisics is a bad joke, visible light from the Sun cannot heat land and oceans.

  206. Myrrh says on March 5, 2012 at 9:49 am:

    “If you had something other than empty space for your atmosphere you could bring in convection…”

    ========

    I have got air in my atmosphere – and for that reason your heat radiation is not possible.

    Fairground fakirs and flame eaters have known for thousands of years that heat is removed from a flame by conduction and convection. –Think about it – if heat was moved by radiation it would be as hot below as it is above any flame. – just light a match and try it out. – Smokers would not die from lung cancer because they would have burnt their faces off after lighting up just a few fags. –

    Nor would you be able to light a fire in the grate. – Just admit it: “heat can only be moved by conduction and convection” and that is why the AGW and CAGW is a scam and the K&T97 is a joke.”

  207. Pierre says:

    So you’ve budged, rather far at that, from no climate change or AGW to no CAGW. We think we’re making some progress–even here at WUWT where reality is rarely faced.

  208. Pierre says:

    In response to O H Dahlsveen at March 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm, I have a question.

    Is the very real thermal energy/heat you feel on that side of you that is facing the sun due to convection or conduction? Remember, that thermal energy passes through space and the atmosphere. Answer: the heat you sense is due to radiation from the sun. Heat is “moved by radiation.” Stand well away from a campfire and you will also feel radiated heat. In fact, every object with a temperature above absolute zero, aka 0 K or about -273 ˚C, radiates thermal energy.

  209. Bart says:

    Myrrh says:
    March 5, 2012 at 9:49 am

    “They are LIGHT not HEAT.”

    What a hodgepodge of near-right and outright wrong thinking. You almost seem to get it when you say:

    “Thermal infrared, heat, is what is capable of moving molecules of water into vibrational states to heat them up, it takes real heat to do this, our bodies are mostly water and as we absorb this heat direct from the Sun in thermal infrared we warm up inside. “

    IR is not “heat”, it is electromagnetic radiation. We feel it heat us up because, as you say, “our bodies are mostly water and as we absorb this heat direct from the Sun in thermal infrared we warm up inside.”. But, other materials absorb other frequency bands not in the IR. Why does a blacktop road look black? Because it is absorbing visible wavelengths, so you see no color coming back at you. And, that makes it heat up, which is why it burns your feet on a hot summer day.

  210. I agreed entirely until the first mention of climate: “The Great Climate Debate, however, is predicated from the beginning on one things.[sic] We know what the global average temperature has been like for the past N years, where N is nearly anything you like. A century. A thousand years. A hundred thousand years. A hundred million years. Four billion years.”

    This is a straw man argument.

    I try to disbelieve “CAGW” (I’d prefer “potentially catastrophic climate disruption” or PCCD, but I’m willing to settle) every day, as you correctly suggest that any scientifically educated person with a strong interest in such a topic would. Yet I can’t manage it.

    The reasoning has relatively little to do with the paleothermometers. The Charney report in 1979 did not draw on paleoclimate or observational global change evidence at all in reaching conclusions that turned out to be remarkably robust.

    You may not choose to believe me, but I really wish you could convince me that I am surely wrong, that the climate science community is surely wrong. Though I think the chances are well above 90% that the sensitivity is greater than 1.5 C per doubling, the risk spectrum is alarming enough with only a 10% chance of it. And in the end, articles like this are not about arguing the science.

    They are about discrediting the science so as to avoid the policy implications. They like to argue that the consensus is “wrong” rather than being willing to defend a risk spectrum. But I don’t much care whether you like the science or believe in it. What I care about is that you make a realistic assessment of the risk and work toward a rational policy on that basis. If you don’t buy the consensus, you need to say what you are buying instead. That is, you must reason under uncertainty. And I’ve yet to see an argument that makes any sense that large uncertainty is a friend of emissions policy status quo.

    No, to avoid a drastic change in emissions policy, you must make a case that the sensitivity is very near zero with great certainty. That or be irrational.

  211. Brian H says:

    Tobis is nonsensical, again. There is no uncertainty whatsoever about the survival-related consequences of artificially jacking the cost of CO2-generating energy sources in order to suppress demand and use. Mass privation and consequent serious mega-mortality are among them. Some of that has already occurred. OTOH, every past civilization or period of “recorded history” that has experienced warm and cold periods boomed in the former, and struggled or even collapsed in the latter. It is thus inane and insane (contra-survival) not to take that as the Null Hypothesis for current policy.

  212. Bart says:

    Michael Tobis says:
    March 5, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    “… the risk spectrum is alarming enough with only a 10% chance of it.”

    You, then, are a sheep who is easily startled. The “risks” of modest warming (which is all anyone is really suggesting) are completely unquantifiable, but quite as likely to be beneficial as not. Actually, far more likely. Past warm ages were called “optimums” for a reason. They were good times.

    On the other side, the risks of slowing our economies, employing less efficient means of energy production, and closing off the benefits of industrial development to the world’s poor are real, palpable, quantifiable, and severe. Not to mention effectively certain to come to pass. People are dying because of poverty engendered by this obsessive compulsive disorder demanding massive dislocation over a bit player in the climate. It is not even borderline insanity. It is full blown mass psychosis.

  213. Pierre says on March 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm:

    “So you’ve budged, rather far at that, from no climate change or AGW to no CAGW. We think we’re making some progress–even here at WUWT where reality is rarely faced.”

    ========

    May I ask; Whom are you addressing?

  214. Pierre says:

    [snip. Take your juvenile insults elsewhere. ~dbs, mod.]

  215. Pierre says on March 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm
    “In response to O H Dahlsveen at March 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm, I have a question.
    Is the very real thermal energy/heat you feel on that side of you that is facing the sun due to convection or conduction? Remember, that thermal energy passes through space and the atmosphere.”

    ====-

    Then Pierre goes on to answer his own question:
    “Answer: the heat you sense is due to radiation from the sun. Heat is “moved by radiation.” Stand well away from a campfire and you will also feel radiated heat. In fact, every object with a temperature above absolute zero, aka 0 K or about -273 ˚C, radiates thermal energy.””

    ===============

    Yes Pierre, quite right; “the heat you sense is due to radiation from the sun.” – It is right because the energy contained in the “radiation from the sun” is stopped and absorbed by whichever body-part is facing it. –

    Upon absorbing this extra energy (first your skin) gets “exited” resulting in extra “molecular motion” which causes more friction which again is resulting in more heat creation (your 37 °C + Tx from solar radiation.)

    This vibrating heat is then transferred in two directions; inwards, or into your body, and outwards into the air. Now two other things happen. Your body’s Nervous System is sensing the extra heat and sets the sweat-glands into operation. – The sweat takes the heat away from the skin before you “develop a fever” – and die. The heat from your skin itself and from your sweat is then conducted into the air, which in turn takes it away by Convection.
    If we were waiting for radiation to take our extra heat away we would go the same way as your water-cooled car (automobile) engine goes if you drain the water off – before you drive off. (Air- cooled engines rely on large metal fins and good air-flow for cooling). – Once again Conduction and Convection rule.
    ———-
    “In fact”, – you say -, “every object with a temperature above absolute zero, aka 0 K or about -273 ˚C, radiates thermal energy.”

    ============

    True, that is, near enough, what the “Law” says and is probably true but remember the 19th century’s physicists who came up with this theory, in the first place, based their theories on Sunlight.
    “The electromagnetic spectrum covers an enormous range in wavelengths, from very short waves to very long ones – and they may all contain “Thermal Energy” but the only region of the electromagnetic spectrum to which our eye is sensitive is the “visible” range.

    The sun is not the only object that provides radiant energy; any object whose temperature is greater than 0 K will emit some radiant energy but the optimum word here is “some”

    You also say: “Stand well away from a campfire and you will also feel radiated heat”

    ===========

    How many miles/km constitutes “well away”? And what is the Calorific Value of the “campfire”?

    You see – I do disagree with you because the temperatures of residual Oxygen & Nitrogen in the Earth’s Thermosphere may be hard to measure but are said to be in the region of 1500 – 2500 °C. – Therefore if EM radiation has lost, say, if we are generous, only ¼ of its energy after travelling nearly 93 million miles through space – and as one of my “crude experiments” (an inverted hot-plate, thermostat controlled at 160 °C) show a complete loss of “Thermal Radiation effect” at a distance of 1220 mm (or 4 feet). – Lab. air moisture content was 42%.

    I turned the experimental heat source off after 20 minutes of “Irradiation” as there was no temperature increase at the target thermometer. – It is therefore not likely that any radiation from a surface with an average T of 15 °C is going to reach CO2 at a Tropospheric height of 6 km. – Let alone escape through “The Atmospheric Window” –

    Fourier was, most probably right when he said: “The heat of the sun, coming in the form of light, possesses the property of penetrating transparent solids or liquids, and loses this property entirely, when by communication with terres-trial bodies, it is turned into heat radiating without light.”

    In other words Water Vapor is king and collects all thermal radiation from the surface by conduction, mostly at close quarters to the surface – irrespective of wavelengths.

  216. Sorry, it should have been: — if we are generous, only ¾ of its energy after travel-ling nearly 93 million miles through space, —

  217. Bart says:

    O H Dahlsveen says:
    March 6, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    “Once again Conduction and Convection rule.”

    I really wish guys like you would stop helping us skeptics. You can’t conduct and convect heat into space. Ultimately you have to radiate it away.

    Note to alarmists: THIS is the kind of crap we are going to have to put up with in the future because you guys were so cocky, you didn’t look before you leaped. In the near future, science in general will be in utter disrepute, and pseudoscience will rule the day, because the creationists and the homeopaths and all the other zoo inmates will just smile and ask us to explain “Global Warming” again.

    Thanks a lot.

  218. Bart, I was going to answer the comment you posted on March 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm, but I have decided against it as I have found it is difficult to do so in a “rational way”

  219. Brian H says:

    OHD;
    Your ill-informed and meaningless experiments are persuasive to no one who understands the “r-squared” phenomenon (I won’t call it a law, because it’s simple geometry).

    Your concepts, the questions you pose, the experimental design, the nature and sensitivity of the apparatus, and the analyses are each and every one fatally flawed. One such lack would be too many; all together is a hopeless nonsense. There is no point in discussing them, or in debate.

    Perhaps in your next life, your neurological resources will be much improved. The odds are overwhelmingly in your favour!

  220. dickykenman says:

    while the arbiter of scientific debate is a peer reviewed literature that does not support a role for
    planets in events on sun & earth then the literature is tainted .

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