Why a compelling theory is not enough

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Consider the following descriptions of three scientific theories. Which is the odd one out?

1. The buildup of anthropogenic carbon dioxide may lead to dangerous climate change, not because CO2 is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas, but because the slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

2. We have already been visited by aliens, who most likely continue to monitor us. The alternative is to believe the preposterous proposition that we are the only intelligent life inhabiting any of the planets circling our galaxy’s 100 billion stars. The reason this must be true – all we have to do is look in the mirror. In a few decades, or at most a few centuries, humans will have the technology to build nanotech space probes the size of a grain of sand or smaller. Probes which can visit other stars, and transmit information back to us. Such probes are already on the drawing board.

See: http://www.space.com/612-nanotechnology-scientists-pin-big-hopes-small-scale.html

Since the probes we shall build will be incredibly small, it will be possible to launch them at near light speed, for trivial economic cost. Scientists have even discovered ways such probes could be steered and decelerated as they approach their destination, using the Galactic magnetic field. If just one group of intelligent aliens in our galaxy of 100 billion stars reached our level of technology, at least half a million years ago, and made the decision to send out such space probes, then there has already been enough time for their high speed probes to reach our star system, and report back what they found.

3. Human lives are in danger right now, from asteroids and comets flying through space. As the shock advent of the Chelyabinsk meteor demonstrated, Earth can be struck unexpectedly at any time by meteors and other space bodies, many of which have the potential to cause widespread devastation. The Chelyabinsk meteor detonated with a force of 500 kilotons of TNT – it is only due to good fortune that the explosion, which caused some buildings to collapse and widespread damage and injuries from breaking glass, did not cause serious loss of life.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chelyabinsk_meteor

So which theory is the odd one out?

The answer is theory three of course. Unlike the other two theories, theory three is supported by observational evidence. The other two theories, however compelling they seem, are just speculation.


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112 Responses to Why a compelling theory is not enough

  1. bushbunny says:

    Gud one. I had a giggle. Maybe the story should read, ‘Look to the skies, our future is foretold’

  2. Susie says:

    Although the first two are only speculation, number two seemed more credible.

  3. cnxtim says:

    I had a teacher (who was the Dux of Fort Street High) in primary school who foretold that by the time i left school, we would all be getting around in flying cars… i left school in 1961. wonderful what idiotic nonsense academics can spout.

  4. Bair Polaire says:

    Wow. Mr. Hansen seems to be really alarmed.

    He strongly believes a run away green house effect has made Venus inhospitable. Given the limited understanding we have of the climate developments on our own planet, it is astonishing that he grounds his fear on the hypothesized developments of another planet that we have hardly studied.

    On the other hand: In the video Mr. Hansen is holding his head tilted all the time as if he wasn‘t sure about his claims. Awkward.

  5. urederra says:

    Be careful, If Lewandowsky reads this, he may conclude that we believe the first episode of South Park is a documentary based on real facts.

  6. Joel O'Bryan says:

    Theory #1 is two half-truth “facts”, presented in such a way as to intentionally mislead by supporting the concluding proposition that a runaway greenhouse will occur if additonal water is allowed to evaporate due to increasing CO2. (The absurdity is revealed by then makng the statement: OK, everyone, stop breathing. Your next breath could be the one that triggers the tipping point to a Venusian atmosphere.)

    Using half-truths to build an unsupported conclusion is a “Fallacy of Composition” logic error.

    The environmentalists, the Progressives, and especially the CAGW alarmists love to use use half-truths, in ever more dubious ways, as they make outwardly true statements, but then omit the other facts that won’t support their desired conclusion.

  7. Richards in Vancouver says:

    Here’s the full story.

    The Chelyabinsk “meteor” was actually a probe from another star system. It was programmed to seek out planets with increasing levels of CO2, and when it found one it was to explode as a message to its home planet.

    The evidence is right there at Chelyabinsk. The science is settled. The debate is over.

  8. alanpurus says:

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/04/10/why-a-compelling-theory-is-not-enough/#comment-1609630

    Richards in Vancouver – a perfect analysis to illustrate the point!

    Bravo.

  9. ConfusedPhoton says:

    Given Lewandowsky’s lack of intellectual prowess, it would not surprise me if he thought that the people in control of the fossil fuel industry were alien lizard men who plan to kill off mankind for the water.

    After all that would not be inconsistent with CAGW.

  10. artwest says:

    And how do you stop the next generation of scientists from letting real world evidence get in the way of wild theorizing?
    Well here’s a start:

    “Science community dismayed at decision to axe lab work from A-levels
    Plan to end coursework in science A-levels described as ‘death knell for UK science education’ by Physiological Society”

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/09/science-community-dismay-axe-lab-work-alevel

  11. Peter Miller says:

    Theory Number 1 – look at the geological record. It never happened there, so why should it suddenly start happening now?

    Not surprisingly, natural climate cycles and the geological record are both subject the alarmists consider to be taboo.

  12. Steven Devijver says:

    Don’t forget rogue planets.

  13. jauntycyclist says:

    It seems exploring the christian connection to climate science is a gift that keeps giving

    from
    “Are scientists the prophets of today when it comes to climate change ?”
    http://www.christiantoday.com/article/are.scientists.the.prophets.of.today.when.it.comes.to.climate.change/36527.htm

    “Christian Today spoke to Dr Isabel Carter, chair of church environmental group Operation Noah, and Christian Aid’s Joe Ware to find out what they make of the report.

    JW: ….The IPCC is the gold standard of climate science, hundreds of the world’s leading scientists have reviewed the thousands of studies from across the globe. Like the prophets in the Bible their warnings need to be heeded.

    IC: The report does move rather rapidly from general acceptance of climate change. Much of their findings are now recorded as virtually certain – 99 to 100 per cent probability – or extremely likely – 95 to 100 per cent probability – to adaptation.

    ….climate sceptics have delayed such acceptance by decades

    JW:….Christians are becoming an increasingly important voice in this process because at its heart climate change is about injustice.

    There are millions of Christians and people of other faiths suffering on the front line of climate change.”
    ————-
    clearly all what they say is such a deep darkness its hard to know where to begin. Its based on parroting sound bite maxims that fit their own agenda. which is dishonest and bearing false witness. Maybe like another famous christian Tony Blair they feel the ‘hand of history’ as they promote a sexed up document that is a ‘noble lie’ to save us all [ego inflation].

    In the old days christians used to burn people to purify them and ‘to save their souls” thus reasoned they were doing them a favour.

  14. a jones says:

    Absolute nonsense.

    Did not the Institut in Paris, then the second most learned scientific body in the world after the Royal Society, declare in 1812 that the idea of stones falling from the sky was total nonsense.

    So bah to that.

    Except a few months later there was a fall of meteorites just outside Paris.

    Kindest Regards

  15. Alan the Brit says:

    cnxtim says:
    April 10, 2014 at 12:28 am

    I also recall seeing old newspaper or science journal articles showing illustrations of us all flying about in our “flying cars”, with the men folk suitably attired in suit, tie, trilby, & pipe! This was what the “experts” believed we would all be doing in the 1970s, from the 1930s perspective. Isn’t crystal ball gazing wonderful?

    @ Peter Miller.
    Precisely! When CO2 levels were 19 times what they are today, runaway global warming never happened, but Ice Ages did! So why, in Heavens name, is it going to happen with 600ppm CO2 now? What, if anything, has happened to cause such an event today? Bert Onestone said, “a scientific consensus can be undone by a single fact!” Well, a few facts spring to mind. The warming in NOT unprecedented, there never has been runaway global warming on Earth regardless of atmospheric CO2 content, the warming is not rapid, the last 4 Inter-glacials were as warm or warmer than today, two of those last Inter-glacials were warmer than today by at least 2-3 degrees Celsius, the Arctic Circle was warmer in the 1940s than it is today, & most likely so in the early 1900-1920s, (one large vessel managed to hit an iceberg in 1912 & sank with a tragic loss of life due to carving of the Arctic ice sheet earlier than usual). The Arctic has been ice-free several times in the geological past! How many facts do they need?

  16. Kano says:

    I explain the water vapor theory being nonsense, by showing what happen during the 1998 El Nino, the temperature shot up, so did water vapor, but came down just as fast, when the El Nino was finished, if water vapor was self perpetuating or exponential there would have been no cooling after

  17. jauntycyclist says:

    we need a ‘great demon’ theory

    Church of England vows to fight ‘great demon’ of climate change
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/12/church-climate-change-investment-great-demon-flooding

    “The Church of England has said that it will, as a last resort, pull its investments from companies that fail to do enough to fight the “great demon” of climate change and ignore the church’s theological, moral and social priorities.”

  18. son of mulder says:

    The aliens are already here. They arrived in their ships the size of a grain of sand and the only reason we haven’t seen them is because they are hiding in the oceans.

  19. Ed Zuiderwijk says:

    But there is compelling evidence *against* 1:

    1 describes a positive feedback system that by its very nature is instable. Suppose the system is (somehow) in equilibrium, then any disturbance will set the system on an exponentially growing deviation from that equilibrium, either to the “boiling ocean” state or to the “frozen ocean” state. It is imposible for a system like that to remain in the (near) equilibrium state due to natural fluctuations.

    The fact that the Earth is not in either state implies that the assumption of positive feedback is wrong.

    Now you can argue that there is a positive feedback over part of the temperature domain only. The feedback is then self-limiting. But the simple argument above tells you then that currently the
    system is in that self limiting state, where there is no positive feedback.

  20. skience says:

    skeptic science

    As this fits in very nicely with an idea I have been developing it may be a good time to introduce it.

    For many years I have tried to distinguish climate “science” by the use of quotation marks to show that I did not consider the work of most climate academics to fulfil the criteria I was taught for a science at school and university. I know many others share this view as I’ve seen similar views repeated many times, not least in this article, but also in comments regarding the failure of climate science to use “the scientific method” and for example in comments about “post-normal science”. I’ve no doubt those same views will be repeated again here.

    However there is a huge problem with skeptics trying to tell scientists what standards we think they should work to. Although the majority of skeptics are perfectly qualified to comment on science being taught at degree level in the hard sciences most of us are not university academics and whilst many are “scientists” most of us are not. So, whilst skeptics may wish science to operate at a standard that we consider to be “science”, the reality is that we are a group largely outside of what most of society considers to be “science” demanding that those inside this group called “science” should meet the standards expected of us outside.

    We may dislike the situation. But we are not in a position to demand. We might be able to demand if we were a body like government or in some other way had authority or control over those academics who self-identify as scientists. But the reality is that these days the criteria used to determine science is peer-review by other people who self-identify as scientists and have themselves been peer reviewed. This is in essence a self-perpetuating social group. I believe it is time we skeptics accepted that “science” is a social construct describing a group of people who set their own rules and as such as outsiders we have no right to dictate those rules for them. And irrespective of whether we might like those within this social group of scientists to use the “scientific method” I believe we have to leave that choice up to them. And as we have seen, that choice is that they have chosen to include within their group called science many thing like climate science which cannot be tested by the scientific method.

    As outsiders we cannot realistically demand this group match our standards.

    Instead, I believe it is time that we skeptics set out clearly what we mean by “science” and therefore I would like to develop a concept I suggest is called “Skeptic science”.

    As it is mentioned so often by us skeptics, the key requirement would be that assertions are only stated as valid if and only if they are subject to the scientific method – or as many engineers will know it “it might work in theory but let’s see if it works in practice”.

    But I would like to go further. As this could be described as a battle between the private and public-funded sectors, and the majority of skeptics work in the private sector where standards have to be much higher because real customers will take private sector scientists and engineers to court when there are problems, I suggest the ultimate test most skeptics would to the quality of sceptic science is this:

    “That the assertions must be such that even if the assertion itself is found to be untrue, that the skeptic can show that the assertion itself was valid given the evidence then available”.

    So for example if one were to say “the planet is certainly warming”, if it were later shown that the planet is not warming (almost in any period) then the assertion is not up to the standards of skeptic science. If however someone had said “based on this dataset, the temperature has warmed over the last 100 years”, that is skeptic science – because even if it were found that the dataset was a total forgery, the original assertion was that this dataset showed warming so it was not invalid. Indeed if we added to the assertion that it “… has warmed over the last 100 years and on average we expect rising CO2 to cause some additional warming”, given the hard science supporting CO2, this also would be skeptic science because it is based of substantiated evidence of the measured radiative properties of CO2 and as it includes “uncertainy” in the shape of “expect to … on average” rather than “unequivocably will”, this is a very robust statement.

    In other words, this is the standard most private sector skeptics in engineering and science have to apply to their work. This is because in real life (outside academia) where there are real customers and real life and death situations which need reliable advice, when things go wrong, skeptics have to show that their advice was reasonable in a court of law. In the real world where time and resource is finite, advice has to be given knowing more data would improve it and so knowing there is a real risk that e.g. they fail to put the drill just where the geological fault is that make the whole mine uneconomic. So private sector engineers and scientists are naturally skeptics.

    This is why scientifically trained engineers and scientists in the private sector expect a much higher standard.

    So, whilst scientists like to portray their work as some paridigm of virtue, the reality is that in terms of quality of advice skeptics have to set themselves much higher standards. This I believe is why there has been such strong feeling. Skeptics work in an environment where they expect very high standards – just look at Steve McIntyre! In contrast scientists (i.e. academics) expect to be able to “float a few ideas and see where they fall”. They want, indeed, need, the freedom to explore ideas without worrying unduly if they are wrong. This is good within an academic context as it does allow ideas to be explored, but it clearly is not appropriate within the private sector nor when giving governments advice on policy.

    So, if we skeptics stopped trying to tell scientists what they should do, and instead led by example and set out what we expected through the development of the idea of “skeptic science”, I believe much of the hostility might be reduced.

    Practical examples
    So, looking above.
    1. Can Hansen argue he was right to say it would certainly warm ending in doomsday that that it is not currently warming? I’ve never ever seen anything that would justify that. Given that, I think that if he were sued by world governments for poor advice in a court of law (like skeptics might), on the evidence I have seen, he would be found guilty as he gave advice which appears to be unsupportable now we know it to be wrong.
    So this is not skeptic science
    2. Visitation by aliens. This is more difficult because we have to create a hypothetical situation where we know aliens don’t exist. But should that occur, could the wild ideation theories be argued to have reasonably led people to believe in alien visitation. I must admit I’ve never really looked at the evidence, but judging on what other says, this does not look anything like skeptic science.
    3. Meteors expectantly hitting the earth. That there are meteors is a fact. That the earth has been hit is a fact. That we continue to be hit by small space objects is a fact. It is difficult to construct a scenario whereby this is proven as false, that the assertion “we will be hit in the future at some unexpected time, by a meteor (up to a reasonable size)” appears to be sufficiently robust to be skeptic science.

  21. skience says:

    I should have stated that many scientist, particularly in the hard sciences already work at the level of skeptic science. E.g. when CERN said that they had found evidence that might suggest the speed of light had been exceeded, this was skeptic science at its best. Indeed, there may be many within climate science who are cautious in what they say and who would be skeptic scientists.

  22. AlecM says:

    25 years after this IPCC’s incorrect science started in earnest, we have had >17 years no warming. The claim that the decade 2000-2010 was the hottest recorded is false because 1930s’ data were altered. There is no ‘missing heat’**. There has been AGW, probably from polluted clouds due to Asian industrialisation, but it saturated in the late 1990s***.

    The extended GHE is a falsification. The models exaggerate surface to atmosphere energy transfer 3x, matched with 3x increase of real GHE. Half the exaggerated heating is offset by incorrectly applying Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation at ToA, leaving 40% imaginary extra energy concentrated in the lower atmosphere. To offset the extra heating, it is mopped up in hind-casting by c. 25% increased low level cloud albedo.

    No professional having full oversight should have allowed this. Real observations show near zero CO2-AGW. It’s probably the end game. The next move is to switch to the new Little Ice Age from solar effects convolved with the cold ENSO.

    **No professional scientist or engineer would accept the claimed heat transfer physics is valid.

    ***Sagan’s aerosol optical physics is wrong.

  23. Eliza says:

    Wow This is looking extremely interesting. My bet is that this year we are going to see a massive increase in global ice as Antarctica seems to be going definitely in one direction as we enter winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

  24. SanityP says:

    The two first would be considered fringe hypotheses.

    The third suggestion has the makings of an actual theory until proven invalid.

  25. David L. says:

    Skience on April 10, 2014 2:20am:

    …”We may dislike the situation. But we are not in a position to demand. …”

    ———

    As a PhD in the hard sciences, having been once an academic and a peer reviewer as well as peer reviewed, I agree with most of what you write. Academics is a closed, self serving community.

    But I think society at large is in a position to demand, because society pays for their research through tax dollars. That is the great misdirection of academics: Academics have it both ways, they dip into the public coffer and claim a cloistered existence answerable only to the inner circle.

    So the pressure needs to be placed on the government by the people and for the people to cut funding for those things the people do not see worthy, and they have every right to do so. Then let the academics try and fund their cloistered research by peer review alone.

    Academics only need to answer to us if we are paying them. Otherwise you are right, they can have their science anyway they like it.

  26. Eric Worrall says:

    skience
    … As outsiders we cannot realistically demand this group match our standards. …

    No, but we can hope to expose the fragility of theories which are not well supported by evidence to public ridicule. I have no problem with people indulging in speculation – what I object to is when such speculation is mislabeled as settled science.

  27. DirkH says:

    Kano says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:05 am
    “I explain the water vapor theory being nonsense, by showing what happen during the 1998 El Nino, the temperature shot up, so did water vapor, but came down just as fast, when the El Nino was finished, if water vapor was self perpetuating or exponential there would have been no cooling after”

    If the theory of catastrophic positive water vapor feedback were right, we would expect it to happen in places that are already very humid and hot – Singapore for instance.
    Before Global warming of say 2.0 deg C turns the icy planes of Germany into something less icy, the hot humid climate of Singapore right at the equator should long have turned into a little Venus climate.

    I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.

  28. DirkH says:

    skience says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:31 am
    “Indeed, there may be many within climate science who are cautious in what they say and who would be skeptic scientists.”

    Only that they do it secretly while publicly they go along with the UN’s globalist control schemes. “I have only followed orders”; an excuse that is in practice not nearly as good as it sounds.

  29. Eric Worrall says:

    DirkH
    I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.

    Willis said something similar on several occasions :-) – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/02/07/emergent-climate-phenomena/

  30. Peter Champness says:

    Well Done Eric,

    I do think that is a good article.

    However some comments below.

    Clearly the CATASTROPHIC Green House Gas Theory lacks observational evidence. But what about the GHGE theory itself? Could it be that so called Green House Gases actually help COOL the Earth? IS there any observational evidence for that? Well yes there is.
    http://www.principia-scientific.org/greenhouse-effect-does-water-vapor-increase-or-decrease-the-lapse-rate.html.

    So,actually the Inverse of Theory 1 has observational evidence.

    Theory 3. Meteorites could destroy the Earth, has some backing but the recent example did not actually kill anyone!

  31. Jimbo says:

    In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

    Dr. James Hansen went off the rails and against the consensus. They used to try to frighten us with the runaway greenhouse effect until they realised it was failing.

    IPCC
    “Some thresholds that all would consider dangerous have no support in the literature as having a non-negligible chance of occurring. For instance, a “runaway greenhouse effect” —analogous to Venus–appears to have virtually no chance of being induced by anthropogenic activities…..”
    http://www.ipcc.ch/meetings/session31/inf3.pdf
    ————————–
    There is no possibility of such runaway greenhouse conditions occurring on the Earth.”
    Sir John Houghton, atmospheric physicist, lead editor of first three IPCC reports
    [Full paper paywalled]
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/0034-4885/68/6/R02

  32. DirkH says:

    Eric Worrall says:
    April 10, 2014 at 3:43 am
    “DirkH
    I think what the climate models intentionally lack is the concept of thunderstorms.

    Willis said something similar on several occasions :-) – http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/02/07/emergent-climate-phenomena/

    Very good link in this context! Yes, they cannot simulate exactly that kind of emergence due to their fixed coarse grid size.

  33. kolnai says:

    In the comedy ‘The Missionary’ Michael Palin plays the naïve Reverend Fortescue. Charging him with his mission to save Fallen Women, his bishop tells him: ‘Find out why they do what they do. And stop them doing it’.

    Whilst the last example quoted is good on the ‘what’ and the ‘stopping’, it’s weak on the ‘why’. Thus it is the least interesting theory, for its independent variable is largely missing.

    New knowledge is interesting entirely because it speculates previously unknown connections between the past and the future. So the first examples are/may be wrong, yet interesting. Note that it is the failure of Hansen to deal with the falsifications of his theory which has led to new and more complete speculating, here on WUWT as much as anywhere else. The second example is in its way even more fruitful than Hansen, because it feeds into current debates about probability theory.

    Error is not a crime; it is a spur to new knowledge. But warmists speak like the bishop when they try to ‘Stop sceptics doing it’.

  34. philjourdan says:

    After reading the comments so far, I can see a case made for number 1 being the odd man out as well. #2 is pure speculation, but there is no evidence against it. #3 is, as stated, an observed phenomenon. #1 however has evidence against it.

  35. MikeB says:

    Positive feedback does not necessarily mean that something will continue to increase exponentially. It depends on the loop gain. Many positive feedback loops are convergent. That is the feedback amplifies the input signal, but to a controlled extent. In the context of the climate system, positive feedback may amplify the heating effect of CO2 without leading to runaway global warming.
    For example, let’s say that an increase in CO2 leads to a warming of 1 degree C. That warming produces a rise in water vapour and more CO2 (released from the warming oceans) such that the temperature rises a further half degree in response. That half degree rise in turn causes a further rise of one quarter of a degree, which causes another rise of one eighth of a degree and so on. This is a positive feedback series but it is also ‘convergent’. It does not increase to infinity no matter how long it goes on for. It converges to a value of 2 degrees C.

    With no feedbacks the effect of doubling CO2 is calculated to produce a rise of about 1.1 degree C. The IPCC previously said that positive feedbacks would amplify this to 3.5 deg.C (or more). However, many recent studies have come in with much lower estimates of climate sensitivity. Consequently, the latest IPPC report now says

    No best estimate for equilibrium climate sensitivity can now be given because of a lack of agreement on values across assessed lines of evidence and studies.

  36. dccowboy says:

    “He strongly believes a run away green house effect has made Venus inhospitable. ”

    I don’t know if Dr Hansen does believe this, but many of my acquaintances on the AGW do. They constantly cite this as an example of what we face. I find the idea ludicrous. The only thing Venus and earth have in common is relatively close size. Venus has no magnetic field to shield it, it has never had oceans, it has no large satellite, the composition of its atmosphere is not only far denser, but also very dissimilar to earth’s, and finally Venus receives a good deal more solar radiation than earth. More than likely it’s atmosphere is not the result of ‘runaway’ greenhouse effect because that implies that it’s atmosphere was different than it is today and we have no evidence to support that assumption.

  37. Col Mosby says:

    Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t knw the Earth’s climatic history. The conditions about which he warns have occurred before and there was no “runaway” warming, which is prima facia evidence that Hansen doesn’t understand the Earth’s climate and how it works. His theory is thus overly simplistic.

  38. izen says:

    None of the three scenarios listed reaches the level of a scientific theory. At best they are hypothesis with some supporting evidence, except for hypothesis 2 for which there is a total lack of evidence, but absence of evidence is not of course evidence of absence.

    The danger from asteroid impacts is in fact quite closely constrained by observation. Major events are much less frequent than the timescale of the development of human civilisation.

    A runaway greenhouse effect is theoretically possible on the Earth but would take particular circumstances and is again constrained to time scales far longer than the existence of humans, never mind civilisation. However the observational evidence it is possible is obvious from the state of Venus.

    The whole article of this post is undermined by the apparent indifference to the definitions of scientific theory, hypothesis and speculation.

  39. knr says:

    skience
    I asked as a start that the professional working in this area they expect to see [from] any of their undergraduate students handing in an essay . Which although a low standard is one many of these ‘professionals’ working in climate ‘science’ cannot or do not reach.
    Try some of the ‘tricks’ the team gets up to at most universities on most courses and all you end up with is a need to rewrite your work at the least. While it some cases you be off the course altogether. PHD can also be consider to mean piled higher and deeper , never more so than climate ‘science ‘

  40. izen says:

    @-dccowboy
    Venus has no magnetic field to shield it, it has never had oceans, it has no large satellite, the composition of its atmosphere is not only far denser, but also very dissimilar to earth’s, and finally Venus receives a good deal more solar radiation than earth.

    How do you know Venus never had oceans?
    The surface of Venus actually receives LESS solar radiation than the Earth because the high cloud layer has a much greater albedo than the Earth. Although the time in the past when Venus became a runaway greenhouse was when the sun was much cooler. As the sun increases in output we get closer tot he Earth receiving the same sort of energy as Venus did in the Early stages of the solar system.

    @- Col Mosby
    Hansen’s problem is that he doesn’t knw the Earth’s climatic history. The conditions about which he warns have occurred before and there was no “runaway” warming, which is prima facia evidence that Hansen doesn’t understand the Earth’s climate and how it works.

    The conditions that are similar in the Earth’s past occurred when the solar output was much {30%} lower than at present. Perhaps Hansen knows more about the Earth’s climate history than you think?

  41. Hansen is wrong because the planet Venus has only trace amounts of water and is 96.5% CO2 with a surface pressure equivalent to 1km deep in one of Earth’s oceans. This is why Venus has such a strong greenhouse effect! As other people have said in their posts, the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere has been many times higher in the past than now, without causing a runaway greenhouse effect

  42. skience says:

    David L. says: But I think society at large is in a position to demand, because society pays for their research through tax dollars. That is the great misdirection of academics: Academics have it both ways, they dip into the public coffer and claim a cloistered existence answerable only to the inner circle.

    There are many people in academia who aspire to the standard of skeptic science. But unfortunately, there are many, and by the way so most institutions failed to take action after climategate it is a majority, who are willing to accept the status quo and accept work as “science” which does not meet the higher standards we skeptics would like.

    The problem at the moment is that whenever we criticise “science” it is taken as a criticism of both the good and the less good. We need a way to distinguish between the two.

    But most importantly we need to be able to articulate what we want in a positive way instead of constantly being portrayed as attacking all “science”. Creating a positive vision of what we want may in itself cause academia to re-evaluate its standards and “pull its socks up”. But I doubt it as many academics who don’t meet the skeptic standard have been allowed to call themselves scientists, and I can’t see them willingly changing the standards of science in a way which would necessarily exclude them.

    This is why I firmly believe we need to establish a new concept of skeptic science – which is science where assertions are only made which can be substantiated by the evidence.

  43. CD (@CD153) says:

    son of mulder says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:13 am

    “The aliens are already here. They arrived in their ships the size of a grain of sand and the only reason we haven’t seen them is because they are hiding in the oceans.”

    I can’t say for sure if the aliens are here or not. What I do know though is that there is definitely intelligent alien life on other planets. How do I know? Because they have not tried to contact us.

  44. HankHenry says:

    Anyone remember Carl Sagan speculating that the burning oil wells were going to affect the climate? We all understand that when you dream up an alarming scenario you can get people to listen to you. Climate alarm has been going on for a long time. You might say it started with the story of Noah.
    http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1991-01-23/news/1991023131_1_kuwait-saddam-hussein-sagan

  45. Steve Case says:

    The slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

    He went on to say that’s basically what happened to Venus.

    Regarding increased evaporation of water during a warm-up, he ignored:

    1. The effect of clouds that primarily reflect solar radiation and only secondarily retain heat.
    2. Evaporation that transports heat out of the climate system by releasing latent heat high up in the atmosphere.

    Regarding the fact that the atmosphere on Venus is 95% CO2 and it’s hot enough on the surface to melt lead, Mars also has an atmosphere that’s 95% CO2 and it’s so cold there it snows dry ice. But they tell us that CO2 at 0.04% here on Earth is the driver of temperature.

  46. Steve Case says:

    The slight warming caused by excess CO2 will cause sea water to evaporate, filling the atmosphere with water vapour. Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. The evaporation of water vapour will trigger a chain reaction, a runaway greenhouse effect, in which global warming caused by the evaporation of ever increasing amounts of sea water forces yet more sea water to evaporate. In Dr. James Hansen’s words, “The oceans will begin to boil”.

    He went on to say that’s basically what happened to Venus.

    Regarding increased evaporation of water during a warm-up, he ignored:

    1. The effect of clouds that primarily reflect solar radiation and only secondarily retain heat.
    2. Evaporation that transports heat out of the climate system by releasing latent heat high up in the atmosphere.

    Regarding the fact that the atmosphere on Venus is 95% CO2 and it’s hot enough on the surface to melt lead, Mars also has an atmosphere that’s 95% CO2 and it’s so cold there it snows dry ice. But they tell us that CO2 at 0.04% here on Earth is the driver of temperature.

  47. TheLastDemocrat says:

    jauntycyclist says: “In the old days christians used to burn people to purify them and ‘to save their souls’ thus reasoned they were doing them a favour.”

    This is not phrased correctly. It should be, “In the old days, there was once a historical episode where some locals mis-used the mantel of Christianity to gain power over others, committing un-Christian acts such as burning certain dis-liked members of society with the excuse that the souls of the burned were being ‘saved.’ ”

    In this day and time, among educated people, Marxist-fueled demonization of Christians is no longer acceptable behavior.

  48. wws says:

    re: The C of E’s climate advocacy:

    The Church of England is dying – they know it, everyone knows it. Like all dying organizations, they are flopping around, desperately trying to find something politically popular to latch onto in the hope that those who have already rejected them may come back to the fold. It’s rather like a jilted lover thinking that a new tube of lipstick is all she needs to get her old boyfriend back – it never works.

    And of course it has never occurred to the CofE to go back to the actual core of what was once their faith – that’s so old fashioned! And so they race and race and race after whatever their pollsters and political inclinations tell them might be trendy, never comprehending that today’s trend is always tomorrow’s bad joke.

    And thus do great institutions with longstanding traditions die.

    (and please don’t misinterpret my meaning, the “climate change” advocacy isn’t a cause of this, it’s just one more small symptom of the internal cancer that has now spread throughout the entire body of that church, and will kill it soon)

  49. skience says:

    knr says: “Try some of the ‘tricks’ the team gets up to at most universities on most courses and all you end up with is a need to rewrite your work at the least.

    Skeptic science isn’t a group name but a standard. It is one I suspect many academics would willingly endorse as it is largely what most of us were taught was meant by “science” before a whole host of subjects that could not achieve those standards started demanding and being allowed to be called science.

  50. Clay Marley says:

    We have already been visited by aliens, who most likely continue to monitor us. The alternative is to believe the preposterous proposition that we are the only intelligent life inhabiting any of the planets…

    Theory 2 also presents the ever popular False Choice fallacy. You are given two choices, one must be true. Usually one is absurd, therefore the other must be true. Obama is particularly fond of a variant on this where he presents two obviously false alternatives, then proposes his third way, which must be true.

    CAGW presents its own false choice: we must choose between saving the planet and using fossil fuels free market capitalism.

    Whenever I see this fallacy I know I am being handed a nice hot steaming bowl of horse manure.

  51. fhhaynie says:

    The first two are not just speculations. Evidence more than suggests that they are wrong. First, the hydrological cycle is the regulator of the earth’s temperature, not a “force” that causes it. Venus is hot because it lost it’s water to space from being too close to the sun. Second, we have zero evidence of smart alien life forms and the probability that we will ever find any gets less as we expand our knowledge of the universe. These two “theories” are better classified as myths.

  52. john robertson says:

    Item 3 could make Item 1 plausible.
    A sufficiently large rock travelling thro our atmosphere would certainly produce Travesty Manns missing heat, especially if it impacts an ocean..
    Nice Posting, the appeal of item 1&2 is religion.
    The organized churches have been jumping on the CAGW meme as they recognize their own schtick being used.
    Parasites always disguise themselves as do-gooders.
    The louder the offer to help, using your resources, the greedier the leech.
    I say;”A Tax on all do-gooders” 150% of their gross income.

  53. hunter says:

    Of the first two, the second speculation is not demanding us to give over our money or radically transform the world to fit the vision of those who believe. Those who [believe] the first want us to give them our money, agree with them to the point of not questioning anything they want, and attack those who decline to cooperate.

  54. Leo Geiger says:

    Eric Worrall says: The other two theories, however compelling they seem, are just speculation.

    This entire ‘essay’, and most of the nearly identical one from a couple of days ago, can be reduced to this: “In my opinion there is absolutely no evidence supporting human caused climate change.” The rest is round-about illustrations of your certainty about this. Mainstream climate science is no better than a theory about aliens (again). What’s more, doubling atmospheric CO2 poses no greater threat than an alien invasion. Effectively zero risk.

    Try to appreciate the irony of climate scientists being the ones routinely accused around here of underestimating uncertainties.

  55. Robert W Turner says:

    Theory one actually has ample evidence to the contrary so you could make a case it’s the odd one out.

  56. daviditron says:

    Skience, thanks for a well-reasoned essay. I would add another observation regarding the current business of academics:

    The customers (taxpayers) do not directly recieve the products they are buying (research) and hence are not in a position to separate the good from the bad. That job is left to the service providers (universities) who have demonstrated little incentive to criticisize their own brand.

    Is it any wonder that science has been contorted under this business model? In its worst examples, we have a tribute system like the days of old.

  57. PeterinMD says:

    @ Izen 4/10/14 at 5:39 AM

    “How do you know Venus never had oceans?”

    How do you know it did? Good science says it didn’t until proven it had. Otherwise fairy’s hobbits, etc exist, since you can’t prove they don’t!

  58. Cold in Wisconsin says:

    Journals are in the business of making money, so they will publish all kinds of crap. Just because it passes peer review and gets published does not mean much as far as I am concerned. And it doesn’t make it science either, because it can still be crap or fraud. Unless you go to the researchers office and check his records, you have to take their word for it. Autism and vaccines anyone? Lewinsky should test the correlation between belief in that hypothesis and belief in CAGW.

  59. JeffC says:

    Wiki says: “In modern science, the term “theory” refers to scientific theories, a well-confirmed type of explanation of nature, made in a way consistent with scientific method, and fulfilling the criteria required by modern science.”

    #3 is a theory …

    #1 and #2 are just speculation …

  60. Berényi Péter says:

    Actually we have strong empirical evidence of alien presence.

    They must be intelligent enough to appreciate the value of not being seen and they also have the technical means to attain it.

    And sure as hell we can’t see them, which proves the point.

    The same way the fact a runaway greenhouse never occurred on Earth proves the grave danger we are in. As Dr. Hansen puts it

    “We’ve never had a runaway greenhouse effect, because if we did, that would have been the end. That’s a permanent situation. In the case of a snowball Earth when the Earth becomes ice covered, then the planet can escape from that situation, because volcanoes continue to go off, but the weathering process is greatly reduced, so volcanoes put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and that builds up more and more until there is enough to melt the ice. But we can’t push the planet off of the runaway greenhouse, that’s the end for everybody if we do that.”

    In other words, had our remote ancestors not escaped that fate, we would not have to worry about a runaway greenhouse, because there would not be anyone left to worry in the first place. However, as it is now, our situation is completely different.

    Is logic not wonderful?

  61. hunter says:

    Leo,
    Your entire “post” can be summed up as “sour grapes”.

  62. hunter says:

    Calling Venus a “runaway greenhouse” is a bit odd. Venusian climate, from what we can tell, has been remarkably stable for a really long time. With no plate tectonics as we know it, current tinking is that Venus undergoes periodic curstal turnover from below over a period of several million years on a very long term periodic basis. This idea is supported by the apparent lack of old cratering. Venus, with a surface pressure of ~90X Earth’s implies that good ol’ pV=nRT plays a huge role in the temps on Venus. Getting Earth’s atmosphere to 9000% of present pressure is not a plausible outcome, unless one has taken a lot of drugs. Human industry, except to the extent that it has come up with psychotropic drugs, plays no role in making Hansen’s biazarre idea a reality.

  63. DaveF says:

    Dr Hansen says we could melt the ice-caps in a century. Now, I’m no expert, but wouldn’t it take the most fantastic amount of heat to melt the Antarctic ice?

  64. Tom J says:

    izen
    April 10, 2014 at 5:39 am

    ‘The surface of Venus actually receives LESS solar radiation than the Earth because the high cloud layer has a much greater albedo than the Earth…’

    So, why then, is Venus a good comparison?

    ‘Although the time in the past when Venus became a runaway greenhouse was when the sun was much cooler. As the sun increases in output we get closer tot he Earth receiving the same sort of energy as Venus did in the Early stages of the solar system…’

    I thought the CAGW mantra was that the sun didn’t change in energy? Are you having it both ways?

    BTW: I think a fourth scientific proposition is that James Hansen is an alien.

  65. LadyLifeGrows says:

    I learned in high school physics that the essence of science is successful prediction. Aristotle had a lot of reasonable-sounding notions about mechanics, but when we tested them out in the lab, one after another was shot down.

    1. Theory 1 is falsified by “the pause” and the 100% failure rate of climate models. It is theoretically beyond-absurd by the sheer fact that life has existed on this planet for 1/2 billion years since the Cambrian, and by the fact that temperatures have varied for the last 2500 years by considerably more than the claimed tipping point, yet have been relatively stable over that slightly larger variation. Statement One is falsified so utterly that words cannot suffice to say how strongly. This does NOT falsify the idea that increased CO2 in the atmosphere will have a blanket-like effect, raising the equilibrium temperature. That idea is far milder and Lord Monckton is one who keeps proving it on this site.

    2. I have seen a lot of evidence for the space aliens idea, but none of it was of impressive quality. For scientific purposes, there is no actual evidence. This idea is also not falsifiable, for any aliens have yet to communicate with us, and until they do, we cannot make predictions.

    3. This idea has an observation basis and can make predictions that stones will fall from the sky rarely–with very occasional disasters and catastrophes, whose timing cannot be predicted. It is thus a scientific statement.

    We have NOT two but three classes here as to science: the third statement is a scientific statement, the second is not (but not unreasonable)) and the first one–AS STATED ABOVE–is profoundly antiscientific.

  66. urederra says:

    Tom J says:
    April 10, 2014 at 11:44 am

    BTW: I think a fourth scientific proposition is that James Hansen is an alien.

    So, not only aliens cannot predict climate but also they do not know how to cure male pattern baldness.

    I am so disappointed in alien science. :P

  67. Arno Arrak says:

    Despite having been once an astronomer on the Pioneer Venus project Hansen is ignorant of the geology of Venus. Venus has no plate tectonics and that makes all the difference. On earth excess radioactive heat is continuously vented by plate boundary volcanism. Absent plate boundary volcanism, excess radioactive heat on Venus just builds up below the crust. One result is scattered in-plate volcanism. As radioactive heat continues to undermine the crust it eventually breaks up into giant slabs that sink into the interior and an entirely new crust is formed. Based on impact crater counts, one such repaving cycle is estimated to take from three hundred to six hundred million years.If Venus is the same age as the earth it is possible that it may have experienced ten such repaving cycles by now. Its atmosphere is entirely a product of these giant eructations and has nothing to do with Hansen’s runaway greenhouse fantasy.

  68. Jimbo says:

    izen says:
    April 10, 2014 at 5:02 am
    …………………….
    A runaway greenhouse effect is theoretically possible on the Earth but would take particular circumstances and is again constrained to time scales far longer than the existence of humans, never mind civilisation. However the observational evidence it is possible is obvious from the state of Venus.

    Can the burning of all the fossil fuels in the ground do this? The IPCC and Sir John Houhtton (former IPCC authore AR1,2,3) say No way. Hansen backtracked on the oceans ending up in the atmosphere, see below in his own words.

    Dr. James Hansen – 15 April 2013
    “Making Things Clearer: Exaggeration, Jumping the Gun, and The Venus Syndrome”
    …..At least one sentence in “Storms” will need to be corrected in the next edition: even with burning of all fossil fuels the tropical ocean does not “boil”. But it is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free….
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2013/20130415_Exaggerations.pdf

  69. James Rollins Jr says:

    You sound like you don’t believe….. the basic science about 1% of all atmospheric gases being responsible for every single degree of temperature rise between no atmosphere, and atmosphere conditions! Obviously you don’t understand – “thuh basick signts is sownd.”
    LoL

    And how dare you remind modern believers that – it’s impossible to get an object hotter than it is in vacuum-only conditions, by adding a cold nitrogen-oxygen coolant bath, phase change refrigerated by water.

    ConfusedPhoton says:
    April 10, 2014 at 1:25 am
    Given Lewandowsky’s lack of intellectual prowess, it would not surprise me if he thought that the people in control of the fossil fuel industry were alien lizard men who plan to kill off mankind for the water.

    After all that would not be inconsistent with CAGW.

  70. chemman says:

    izen says:
    April 10, 2014 at 5:02 am
    . However the observational evidence it is possible is obvious from the state of Venus.
    —————————————————————————————————————————

    No it is not obvious from the state of Venus. You can account for most of the temperature on Venus with the Gas Laws. Run away global warming isn’t a necessary theory for it.

  71. chemman says:

    Leo Geiger says:
    April 10, 2014 at 8:18 am
    —————————————————————————————————————————
    Why would we be under estimating uncertainty about the effects of doubling CO2 when we know from the geological record that it has been as high as 7000 ppm and no run-away global warming took place. Also when it was a 5000 ppm the earth was in the middle of an ice-age.

    Are you saying that somehow it is different now?

  72. James Rollins Jr says:

    I have been examining all this again over the last few years and the extremity of the things the people who believe and tell anybody who’ll listen -
    ‘Oh, the basic science of this, is sound!’

    The claims made by the effect itself: just the official story – is enough to make anyone trained in energy mechanics laugh out loud,

    in their face.

    1% of the gases are responsible for every degree of heating past the hottest vacuum surface conditions No atmosphere at all with 100% impingement and zero removal through other means than radiant?

    A cold bulk gas nitrogen oxygen bath refrigerated with water is responsible for making an object it is washing of heat
    hotter than it was,
    than if it weren’t there.

    And not only that but only the infrared interactive gases – the main one being the atmospheric refrigerant – are the sole ones responsible for any of that heating.

    The things, the people who will claim, “Oh, I firmly believe that’s real science,”

    Are the same people who didn’t know for 15 years James Hansen and his friends’ global climate models

    don’t represent the atmosphere behaving according to Ideal Gas Law.

    The Green House Gas Theory that couldn’t be a theory because it was too magical to falsify with actual experimental evidence.

    Wouldn’t you be happy with that as your scientific legacy? My God… LoL.

  73. george e. conant says:

    And how would we know if the IPCC chorus weren’t working for the lizard men to de-populate humans to make room for them? Looking like a real estate grab to me.

  74. Alan McIntire says:

    “dccowboy says:
    April 10, 2014 at 4:24 am
    “He strongly believes a run away green house effect has made Venus inhospitable. ”

    I don’t know if Dr Hansen does believe this, but many of my acquaintances on the AGW do. They constantly cite this as an example of what we face. I find the idea ludicrous. The only thing Venus and earth have in common is relatively close size. Venus has no magnetic field to shield it, it has never had oceans, it has no large satellite, the composition of its atmosphere is not only far denser, but also very dissimilar to earth’s, and finally Venus receives a good deal more solar radiation than earth. ”

    When the solar system formed, the sun was only about 70% as luminous as it is now.
    Since Venus is about 70% as distant from the sun as earth is, 4.5 billion years ago Venus was getting about the same amount of radiation from the sun as the earth gets now.
    Unfortunately for Venus, the sun has been heating up. When the luminosity of the sun increased by 5%, there was a runaway greenhouse effect.

    Google “Goldilocks and the Three Planets”

    http://www.phys.lsu.edu/faculty/cjohnson/climate.html

    “This is the complete carbon cycle: rainwater removes CO2 from the atmosphere and puts it in the crust, and volcanic action releases CO2 from the crust and puts it back in the atmosphere.

    What happens on Venus? Venus has no water! Early in its history Venus may have had water, but it is too close to the Sun to retain it. When water molecules rise high in an atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation split the water molecules into its component gases, oxygen and hydrogen, and the lighter hydrogen molecules escape into space. While Earth’s lower atmosphere is about one percent water vapor (although it seems much higher in the humid Louisiana summers), the upper atmosphere, where ultraviolet radiation can penetrate, is very dry: a cold trap, a combination of pressure and temperature, prevents water vapor from rising high in the earth’s atmosphere. Venus has a cold trap, too, but because Venus is closer to the Sun its cold trap is much higher in the atmosphere and any Venusian water molecules rise high enough to be broken apart by ultraviolet radiation. ”

    The Sun has increased in luminosity not quite 1% every hundred million years. When the luminosity increases to 1.05 current luminosity, in about 500 million years, Earth will suffer a runaway greenhouse effect and wind up as Venus’ identical twin.

    If our planetary system orbited a star only about half as luminous as the sun, say Tau Ceti, Venus’ evolution could have been similar to Earth’s. After about 7 billion years, Venus would be getting about the same radiance from the sun as the Earth gets now, and the Earth would be getting the same amount of radiation from Tau Ceti as OUR earth received 4.5 billion years ago- a system with the potential for TWO lifebearing planets!

  75. Eric Worrall says:

    izen
    None of the three scenarios listed reaches the level of a scientific theory. … The danger from asteroid impacts is in fact quite closely constrained by observation. Major events are much less frequent than the timescale of the development of human civilisation. … The whole article of this post is undermined by the apparent indifference to the definitions of scientific theory, hypothesis and speculation.

    If by major events you mean dinosaur killers, sure, they are very rare. But if by major events you mean strikes which have the potential to cause significant loss of life, they happen once per century or so. For example, the Tunguska event in 1908 had an explosive force equivalent to 10 – 15 megatons of TNT, rather than the 500 kilotons of the Chelyabinsk meteor. If the Chelyabinsk meteor had been the size of the Tunguska meteor, the explosion would have utterly flattened the city, and killed most of the inhabitants – no different to being struck by a large nuclear bomb.

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

    In the wake of the Chelyabinsk meteor, there has been some concern that estimates of the probability of meteors causing loss of life are too low. This is certainly something I would like to see researched.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/11/06/chelyabinsksized_meteors_impacts_seven_times_more_common_than_first_thought/

  76. Bart says:

    MikeB says:
    April 10, 2014 at 4:15 am

    “For example, let’s say that an increase in CO2 leads to a warming of 1 degree C. That warming produces a rise in water vapour and more CO2 (released from the warming oceans) such that the temperature rises a further half degree in response. That half degree rise in turn causes a further rise of one quarter of a degree, which causes another rise of one eighth of a degree and so on. This is a positive feedback series but it is also ‘convergent’.”

    No, that is not a positive feedback.

    The division of feedbacks into “positive” and “negative” categories is a legacy of continuous time systems theory. E.g.,

    dx/dt = a*x + u

    where a is a constant and u is an input. This differential equation has positive feedback if a is positive, and negative feedback if a is negative. If a is positive, the system is unstable, and vice versa.

    A zero-order-hold discrete time difference equation approximation to that system is

    x(k+1) = e*x(k) + ((1-e)/a)*u(k)

    where e = exp(a*T), and T is the sample period. This system is stable if e is less than unity. That is the case if a is negative. The dividing line is no longer whether e is positive or negative (as an exponential function, it is always positive), but whether it has magnitude less than unity.

    Your example is a discrete time system. It is stable because your increase is always a fraction of what it was before, i.e., your gain is less than unity. This is a negative feedback system.

    Positive feedback is inherently unstable. It can only be stable if it is enclosed within a larger negative feedback loop which overwhelms it. E.g., in the system above, we could have two effects proportional to x

    dx/dt = (a+b)*x + u

    We can have b positive iff a+b is negative.

    That, however, is not the system we have. What we do have is a hypothesized model of the form

    1) dT/dt = -a*T + b*C

    where a and b are positive constants, T is temperature anomaly, and C is CO2 concentration. Now, if C were an independent input, the system would be stable. If we had a system of the form

    C = c*T + H

    where H is human inputs, the system would become

    dT/dt = -(a-b*c)*T + b*H

    That system would be stable so long as a-b*c were greater than zero.

    However, that is NOT what we have. Empirically, we have a relationship of the form

    2) dC/dt = k*(T – To)

    where k is a positive coupling factor, and To is the equilibrium temperature. This system, composed of equations (1) and (2), is always unstable for any b greater than zero. And, that ineluctably leads us to conclude that temperature sensitivity to CO2 concentration, in the present climate state, is at best negligible.

    I went into some detail discussing this phenomenon here, if you are interested in further reading.

  77. Bart says:

    Bart says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    erratum:

    x(k+1) = e*x(k) + ((e-1)/a)*u(k)

  78. skience says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:25 am
    skeptic science

    “That the assertions must be such that even if the assertion itself is found to be untrue, that the skeptic can show that the assertion itself was valid given the evidence then available”.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Nice essay skience. I would hate to say how many times I have used the above in my career from the 60′s to the 2000′s when I “retired” to farming. The courts have (had) an expectation of use of the “standards” of the day in engineering, though that is being replaced by “Best Available Technology” which has variants relative to location, affordability and cost/benefit. Good documentation is the key. As it should be with science.
    ====================
    Enjoyed you comments.

  79. Gary Pearse says:

    son of mulder says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:13 am

    “The aliens are already here. They arrived in their ships the size of a grain of sand and the only reason we haven’t seen them is because they are hiding in the oceans.”

    Sand grain, bad choice. It could have been troweled between a course of bricks or glued onto paper to make sand paper, or melted into glass, or worse still, fracked to death in Brady Texas.

  80. WISE Math says:

    Theory #1 is the odd one out. Of the three it is the only one that is immediately disprovable through examination of the argument itself. As any mathematician, scientist or engineer familiar with feedback loops understands (heck, even many uneducated but reasonably intelligent people) if a system has positive feedback on the same scale as impetus received or larger it will be extremely unstable and be subject to runaway behavior the moment it shifts from equilibrium. This is not even controversial in the slightest.

    Add to that simply the uncontested fact that temperatures have fluctuated significantly in the past on all time scales, and the rather obvious fact that at no time has the planet pulled a mercury, lost its atmosphere and burned to a crisp, and you have clear, unanswerable refutation of the theory.

    Theory #2 may be tenuous but I doubt it can be repudiated so simply on the basis of the argument itself plus a modicum of simply factual knowledge. It is an outrageous theory, but would require either a highly sophisticated analysis or very complex factual data to refute.

    Theory #3 makes apparently outrageous statements but its claims are very close to being quantifiable, and some version of the theory rises to the level of not being in dispute at all. Every credible scientist I know grants that there is some nonzero probability that its scenario could play out. The only question is “with what probability?”

  81. Eric Worrall says:

    WISE Math
    … Theory #2 may be tenuous but I doubt it can be repudiated so simply on the basis of the argument itself plus a modicum of simply factual knowledge. It is an outrageous theory, but would require either a highly sophisticated analysis or very complex factual data to refute. …

    There are of course hidden assumptions and problems with at least the first two theories ;-).

    Interestingly though, the futurist Ray Kurzweil uses a variation of theory 2 to support his proposition that we are alone in the galaxy, possibly the universe, in his book “The Age of Spiritual Machines” – that if we weren’t alone, the solar system should be swarming with alien nanotech. Though Kurzweil gives at least one reason why we might not be able to detect such nanotech machines.

    Kurzweil currently works for Google, they hired him to help head a project to improve the ability of their systems to understand and extract meaning from natural language – so he is very credible on issues related to artificial intelligence and high technology.

    The SciFi author David Brin uses a version of the alien contact theory as the basis of his book “The Crystal Spheres”. David Brin’s most well known book is probably “The Postman”, a great book which was turned into a rather unfortunate Kevin Costner movie.

  82. Greg Cavanagh says:

    I said number 1. Because hot air can not boil water. Therefor it’s impossible.

    The other two theories are plausible.

  83. Stephen says:

    As presented, #3 stands out, but the whole question is whether the claims of evidence stand up. It’s just dishonest to say that overall, #3 is the theory that stands up without addressing every piece of claimed evidence.

  84. gbaikie says:

    –For example, let’s say that an increase in CO2 leads to a warming of 1 degree C.–
    So some decade after 2050, Global CO2 have contined to risen and it causes global temperature to rise by 1 C before the end of 21st century.

    -That warming produces a rise in water vapour and more CO2 (released from the warming oceans) such that the temperature rises a further half degree in response. –

    Even assuming a rise in average global temperature increase global water vapor. A rise in global water vapor does not have any significant effect upon ocean temperature.
    Nor does the average global temperature air temperatures of 15 C warm oceans in any significant way. There is no reason to assume it warms the surface of ocean and less reason to assume warmer air or water vapor would warm the vast majority of the ocean-
    which currently as an average temperature of about 3 C.

  85. TheLastDemocrat says:

    This is very valuable, and I was about to criticize Bart but figured out a deeper observation that nullified my observation:

    Bart says:
    MikeB says:
    “For example, let’s say that an increase in CO2 leads to a warming of 1 degree C. That warming produces a rise in water vapour and more CO2 (released from the warming oceans) such that the temperature rises a further half degree in response. That half degree rise in turn causes a further rise of one quarter of a degree, which causes another rise of one eighth of a degree and so on. This is a positive feedback series but it is also ‘convergent’.”

    No, that is not a positive feedback.

    The division of feedbacks into “positive” and “negative” categories is a legacy of continuous time systems theory. E.g.,

    dx/dt = a*x + u

    where a is a constant and u is an input. This differential equation has positive feedback if a is positive, and negative feedback if a is negative. If a is positive, the system is unstable, and vice versa.

    A zero-order-hold discrete time difference equation approximation to that system is

    x(k+1) = e*x(k) + ((1-e)/a)*u(k)

    where e = exp(a*T), and T is the sample period. This system is stable if e is less than unity. That is the case if a is negative. The dividing line is no longer whether e is positive or negative (as an exponential function, it is always positive), but whether it has magnitude less than unity.

    Your example is a discrete time system. It is stable because your increase is always a fraction of what it was before, i.e., your gain is less than unity. This is a negative feedback system.

    Positive feedback is inherently unstable. It can only be stable if it is enclosed within a larger negative feedback loop which overwhelms it. E.g., in the system above, we could have two effects proportional to x

    dx/dt = (a+b)*x + u

    We can have b positive iff a+b is negative.

    That, however, is not the system we have. What we do have is a hypothesized model of the form

    1) dT/dt = -a*T + b*C

    where a and b are positive constants, T is temperature anomaly, and C is CO2 concentration. Now, if C were an independent input, the system would be stable. If we had a system of the form

    C = c*T + H

    where H is human inputs, the system would become

    dT/dt = -(a-b*c)*T + b*H

    That system would be stable so long as a-b*c were greater than zero.

    However, that is NOT what we have. Empirically, we have a relationship of the form

    2) dC/dt = k*(T – To)

    where k is a positive coupling factor, and To is the equilibrium temperature. This system, composed of equations (1) and (2), is always unstable for any b greater than zero. And, that ineluctably leads us to conclude that temperature sensitivity to CO2 concentration, in the present climate state, is at best negligible.

    —I was going to criticize Bart for saying “That’s not what we have.” This criticism would be on the grounds of this: we don’t know what we have.
    That is true.
    However, we do know (if we trust the measurements) that CO2 can be much higher and if so the planet will not run away into unhindered warming.

    So, Bart’s observations are very valuable. you can look at an equation/model and figure out whether, in the long run, it essentially has a negative feedback for CO2 or not.

    **This MUST be specified in the model from the get-go!!!***

    If you develop a climate model with CO2 radiation/heat capture as one factor. it either is in the model in a way that ensures there will be negative feedbacks as CO2 increases, or not.

    THAT simply is a matter of the construction of the mathematical model.

    Bart, or others, can look at these models, if only someone will let them, and can figure out the assumptions, such as “CO2-promoted atmosphere temp increases are un-checked,” that are inherent in the model.

    If you model increased CO2 to lead to increased atmosph heat, and run scenarios, it is inevitable that you will get a model with catastrophic atmosph heat increases.

    In other words, I am sad to say that we cannot model future climate without making some guesses or assumptions, or treading upon terra cognita. You have to take your stance with a climate model: will I allow it in the future to run away in a positive feedback loop, or not?

  86. Marty Cornell says:

    Once again, the term “theory” is used inappropriately. The conjecture is an hypothesis. A theory must have passed falsification tests. Worrall should know better.

  87. Eric Worrall says:

    Marty Cornell
    Once again, the term “theory” is used inappropriately. The conjecture is an hypothesis. A theory must have passed falsification tests. Worrall should know better.

    If you want to split hairs, from a technical POV I probably should have used the word “conjecture” – but in the context I presented, the meaning should have been clear. The purpose of my post was to illustrate the difference between speculative conjecture and evidence based theory.

  88. gbaikie says:

    –What happens on Venus? Venus has no water! Early in its history Venus may have had water, but it is too close to the Sun to retain it. When water molecules rise high in an atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation split the water molecules into its component gases, oxygen and hydrogen, and the lighter hydrogen molecules escape into space. –
    At Earth distance sunlight has about 50 watts per square of UV light, and at Venus distance it should be about 100 watts.
    I doubt 100 watts per square meter of UV will split much water.

    –While Earth’s lower atmosphere is about one percent water vapor (although it seems much higher in the humid Louisiana summers), the upper atmosphere, where ultraviolet radiation can penetrate, is very dry: a cold trap, a combination of pressure and temperature, prevents water vapor from rising high in the earth’s atmosphere. Venus has a cold trap, too, but because Venus is closer to the Sun its cold trap is much higher in the atmosphere and any Venusian water molecules rise high enough to be broken apart by ultraviolet radiation. ”

    The Sun has increased in luminosity not quite 1% every hundred million years. When the luminosity increases to 1.05 current luminosity, in about 500 million years, Earth will suffer a runaway greenhouse effect and wind up as Venus’ identical twin.–

    I don’t know the efficiency that UV split water. But it’s easy to get the energy of combining hydrogen with oxygen and getting heat energy:
    141.86 megajoules per kg.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_density
    So combine 8 kg of oxygen and 1 kg hydrogen gets 9 kg of water
    In terms least possible energy 141.86 divide 9 equals amount energy
    to split 1 kg of water. So 15.76 MJ. Or 15.76 million watt seconds.
    At 100 watts Of UV per square meter it require 43.77 hours if all energy was used and 100% efficient, to split 1 kg water per one square meter.
    Of course there is a large area: 127 trillion square meter. So 127 trillion kg in 43.77 hours.
    Earth’s Total mass of hydrosphere: 1.4 x 10*21 kg.
    So 1.27 x 10^14 kg water, so 4.8 x 10^8 hours
    480 million hours is 54,794.5 years.
    So at Venus distance to split Earth amount water require at best 50,000 years and
    100,000 years at Earth distance.
    Of course if all UV was consumed splitting water, one could not get a sun tan on Earth, and
    there would be much more gnashing of teeth about this rather than ocean disappearing in 100,000 years. Or Earthlings could manage to deliver several earth ocean worth water from space in 10,000 year period, people might upset that they have us tanning booths to get a tan on the surface of planet Earth.

  89. Eugene WR Gallun says:

    Richards in Vancouver 12:53 pm

    Sounds reasonable to me.

    Eugene WR Gallun

  90. Eugene WR Gallun says:

    About the flying cars —

    Everyone is forgetting that they were also supposed to be atomic powered.

    Eugene WR Gallun

  91. Eugene WR Gallun says:

    OLD DEATH TRAIN HANSON –
    ALWAYS GOOD FOR A LAUGH

    More holy than thou
    He warns you of Venus
    The only thing now
    That hardens his penis

    He rants at the crowds
    A coot with the hypers
    His mind in the clouds
    A load in his diapers

    He quotes from the Greens –
    We work for the many!
    (Diversity means
    The colors of money)

    He quotes from the Reds –
    Consensus is dictum!
    (Good Socialist heads
    Are all up one rectum)

    A Fascist he cries
    This Goebbels of weather
    The truth is in lies
    The bigger the better!

    So just like a skunk
    His sight is alarming
    His science is junk
    There’s no global warming

    Eugene WR Gallun

  92. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Eric Worrall

    Theory 3 is likely as earth has been hit by big meteors (5 km diameter) every 20 million years. The last big one was 65 million years ago. The dinosaur-killing meteor.
    Theory 2 has no observational evidence but theoretically possible. SETI astronomers believe the aliens are not here but far away.
    Theory 1 is almost impossible especially the boiling of the oceans. It has not happened in the last 3.5 billion years. The last time the oceans boiled was when earth was hit by a planet. This is the Big Whack theory that many astronomers believe how the moon was formed.

  93. izen says:

    @-PeterinMD -re:- Venus had ‘oceans’
    How do you know it did? Good science says it didn’t until proven it had. Otherwise fairy’s hobbits, etc exist, since you can’t prove they don’t!

    The deuterium isotope ratio is the evidence, proof if for liquor and maths not science.

  94. lee says:

    ‘The alternative is to believe the preposterous proposition that we are the only intelligent life inhabiting any of the planets circling our galaxy’s 100 billion stars. The reason this must be true – all we have to do is look in the mirror. ‘

    And as I peer into my mirror, I wonder where and how much is this vaunted “intelligent life on earth”? ;)

  95. philjourdan says:

    @Gary Pearse

    Sand grain, bad choice. It could have been troweled between a course of bricks

    So that is why one of my bricks keeps trying to levitate. ;-)

  96. Alan McIntire says:

    “Dr. Strangelove says:
    April 11, 2014 at 12:51 am
    Eric Worrall

    Theory 3 is likely as earth has been hit by big meteors (5 km diameter) every 20 million years. The last big one was 65 million years ago. The dinosaur-killing meteor.”

    The meteor that formed Chesapeake Bay hit only about 35 million years ago. That one wasn’t drastic enough to wipe out 70% of all living species, but such an event WOULD be drastic enough to radically reduce the human population.

  97. David Cosserat says:

    Izen says, April 10, 2014 at 5:02 am.

    A runaway greenhouse effect is theoretically possible on the Earth but would take particular circumstances and is again constrained to time scales far longer than the existence of humans, never mind civilisation.

    and

    However the observational evidence [that] it is possible is obvious from the state of Venus.

    No, you are wrong on both points. As any competent physicist should be able to confirm:

    1. The assumed positive feedback due to water vapour is subject to a law of diminishing returns so that the consequence (at the very most) is an elevated but steady temperature. It is not a runaway situation at all.

    2. The surface temperature of Venus (740K) is higher than Earth’s (288K) because:

    (a) the Sun-Venus distance is less than the Sun-Earth distance; and

    (b) the Venus atmosphere has 90 times the mass of the Earth’s atmosphere – consequently, the much higher pressure near the Venus surface causes its atmosphere to retain a much greater quantity of heat per unit volume than does the Earth’s.

    What is quite certain is that the difference in surface temperatures between the two planets is nothing to do with their relative CO2 concentrations (Venus 96.5%; Earth 0.04%).

  98. David G says:

    Skience – Good post indeed and we certainly have trouble in all our sciences. The trouble with physics for instance is that people don’t know what the trouble really is, like Peter Woit, who wrote a book with that title. Like Global warming a blind approach to Einstein’s special relativity, has incorporated errors into thephysics which is taught in standard texts like MTW. Einstein has admitted it, but typically in a way that almost everyone missed. It is thoughly discussed in EEinstein’s Resolution of the twin clock paradox by C.C. Unnikrisnan at iisc.ernet.in .
    Einstein wrote the dialogue in 1918, and was already in the midst of a complete change in his approach. he would even admit there was an ether and a preferred frame.
    The movement to make Einstein a god has blinded generations to the problems left behind his theory like the two clock problem and the twin paradox, which blows it out of the water.
    Unfortunately the villainous term Jewish Physics was twisted from being the creatures of its inventors, Poincare and Planck, Einstein and the Jews were tagged with it.Sound familiar?
    This was before Hitler so this was just the nasty state of Germany at that time. Philip Lenard a Nobel Laureate also from1905, was chief Einstein basher but there were others and they had valid reasons but now the climate of dogmatism and worship of Einstein has created problems that are seriously infecting the field with rot. Even now, like global warmers must, I say that i love Einsteinand am no basher, just a realist!:]

  99. David G says:

    Sorry for the typos. Philip Lenard later became a Nazi and Einstein was forced to emmigrate because of the poisonous atmosphere and danger to his life. If Einstein had given Poincare proper credit for his great contributions, he would not have been so easy to tar with the ‘Jewish physics’ misnomer and epithet.

  100. David G says:

    Since I am in moderation i suppose even more explication is warranted. The reasons Einstein was bashed at a famus physics conference were scientific and not anything else. Einstein was abashed by the united stand of everyone against him and he relented at Leiden. This story should be famous but it isn’t. Physics is so connected with human progress and even continued existence that it is more important than climate sciece which is a mish mash of conflicting ideas and now the battle of grant money being corrupted by the government is also twisting the science. A bad and hopefully a salutary example for everyone in the sciences.

  101. Brian H says:

    Expertise in public affairs often seems to me to consist of the ability to take some short tangent to the curve of events and evidence and extrapolate it to the point that it describes an urgent or dangerous situation. The expert then elaborates this scenario, and, a la Mencken’s hobgoblinizing, scares up some support and funding. Complex excuses and “explanations” suffice to sustain his position and income for a while when reality curves away from his linear projection, but ultimately a new tangent-flogger takes his place and profit.

    So it goes.

  102. Brian H says:

    PS;
    The entirety of current “climate science” can be viewed as a linear extrapolation of the waming burst at the very tail end of the last century, projected fore and aft (via adjustments and revisions). The jibe about Stalinist history applies: “The future is certain; only the present and past are subject to change.”

  103. Brian H says:

    typo: waming warming burst

  104. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Alan
    Yes the Chesapeake Bay meteor was probably the last big impact. It created a tsunami higher than the Empire State Building. It would make the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people tiny by comparison. We are overdue to be hit again by a big one. There is at least 10% chance of being hit since NASA has not yet determine the trajectories of 10% of the identified near earth asteroids in the asteroid belt. But they have not searched the Kuiper belt, which contain over 100,000 objects, and the Oort Cloud which has over a trillion objects.

  105. Eric Worrall says:

    David G, I’m not sure what you mean. As far as I know Einstein’s models do a very good job of predicting phenomena he attempts to explain. There are some problems reconciling Quantum Physics with Relativity, so there must be a theory beyond Einstein’s theory – but as far as I know, so far Special Relativity has passed every lab test with flying colours.

  106. MikeB says:

    Bart says:
    April 10, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    What I described was positive feedback. But I knew as I wrote it that some fool would come along and say it wasn’t. It happened to be Bart, who is prone to this sort of thing. Congratulations!

    It is positive feedback because the original input is amplified, not reduced. A positive feedback is a process in which an initial change brings about an additional change in the same direction.

  107. Uncle Gus says:

    Pete Miller – I’ve always considered the lack of evidence in the geological record for for previous CO2 driven CGW to be pretty conclusive. Not that it makes any difference to the Climate Change bulldozer.

    Kano – The 1998 event is fascinating. If we’d had access to realtime global temperature figures at that time, instead of waiting years for the data to be collated, the warmists would have KNOWN they were right. It looked exactly like the final uptick of the hockey stick. (And then it ticked down again.) One wonders what their reaction would have been, especially given that most of them own beachfront property…

    This could indeed be the endgame. Then again, over the years I’ve seen the warmists predictions become progressively less apocalyptic, but their degree of hysteria about them remains undiminished. Once we were expected to panic over total planetary meltdown. Now we are told to panic just as hard over moderate sea level rise and a bit of extreme weather. I can easily imagine them one day admitting that there is no global warming, and saying “Let’s just panic anyway!” And governments will listen to them.

  108. Uncle Gus says:

    I’d just like to say, one of the problems we face is that there is no law against scientific fraud. If proven, it could destroy someone’s career and reputation, but there are no legal repercussions. It’s even questionable whether or not a fraudster could have his academic pension denied. And if he has built a second career on highly publicised BS, he’s in clover.

    Of course, one of the reasons why there isn’t a law is because it is so difficult to prove. And if it is proven, it’s difficult to explain to a judge and jury; worse even than the situation in modern financial fraud trials!

  109. Bart says:

    MikeB says:
    April 12, 2014 at 7:04 am

    “It is positive feedback because the original input is amplified, not reduced.”

    I am really getting sick of idiots giving me a bunch of snark about things they do not understand. I tried to be nice, and explain things to you, and you spit in my face.

    No, no, no! A thousand times, NO! This is not the definition of positive feedback!

    Your system is this:

    T(k+1) = 0.5*T(k) + 1

    The sequence is

    T(1) = 1
    T(2) = 1 + 1/2
    T(3) = 1 + 1/2 + 1/4

    and so on. It is precisely what you have written in words, translated into mathematics.

    Is this a positive feedback system? NNNNOOOOOOO!!!!!!

    log(1/2) = -0.6931

    Negative feedback. Simple. Capiche?

  110. bushbunny says:

    One reason NASA and other facilities tracking asteroids or meteors is because if they are coming from the direction of the sun, they can’t see them until it is nearly too late. I remember moon bathing on night and saw a bomb burst (like a firework) in the high atmosphere. I was a very large meteor that exploded. Glad it didn’t make it to earth.

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