Guest essay by Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
Dana Nuccitelli of Unskeptical Science has written a characteristically spiteful piece in the Guardian about Professor Lindzen. The piece constitutes a grave libel.
Britain, still to some extent a free country, is one up on the U.S. in allowing anyone – even a public figure – to sue for libel, especially where, as here, he is libeled in his profession. That typically triples the damages.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, here are Nuccitelli’s allegations, in bold and in order of appearance, followed in each instance by the truth.
Lindzen “is one of the approximately 3% of climate scientists who believe the human influence on climate is relatively small”.
Yet the data file attached to a paper Nuccitelli co-authored last year marked only 64 papers out of 11,944 – or just 0.5% – as stating they believed the human influence on climate is not “relatively small”, in that they agree with the IPCC that more than half of the global warming since 1950 was manmade. Nuccitelli knew there was no consensus.
Lindzen’s iris hypothesis that changes in water vapor would dampen global warming “have been refuted”, in that measurements show water vapor increasing in the atmosphere and amplifying global warming.
Figure 1. Column water vapor, showing a decline from 1984-2012 at the crucial mid-troposphere pressure altitude.
Water vapor is not a well-mixed greenhouse gas and cannot be reliably measured. There are some measurements that purport to show column water vapor increasing in the atmosphere, and others, equally reputable (Fig. 1), that purport to show it decreasing.
In any event, Professor Lindzen’s iris hypothesis is concerned less with column water vapor and more with the occurrence and influence of a specific cloud type at altitude.
Lindzen was wrong to say climate change in the past 100 years has been minimal, in that “the current rate of warming is unprecedented over the past 11,000 years”.
The world warmed by 0.72 Cº in the past 100 years (HadCRUt4, December 1913 to November 2013). This rate of warming is far from “unprecedented over the past 11,000 years”. In Central England, warming at a rate equivalent to 4.33 Cº/century (Fig. 2) was measured over the four decades 1694-1733. That rate, six times the rate observed in the past 100 years, occurred before the Industrial Revolution even began.
Figure 2. Central England temperature anomalies and trend, January 1694 to December 1733.
The Central England record is a reasonable proxy for global temperature change because the region is at an appropriate latitude. To verify this, I compared the Central England regional temperature record and the mean of the HadCRUt4, GISS, and NCDC global temperature datasets over the 120 years December 1893 to November 2013. The 120-year period was chosen because it is a multiple of 60 years, canceling out any distorting effects of the 60-year cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
Results (Fig. 3) show that the Central England record, which began in 1659, is indeed a respectable proxy for global temperature change in the period before the global instrumental record began in 1850.
Figure 3. The global temperature anomaly record (above) shows warming at a rate equivalent to 0.74 Cº/century. The Central England record (below) shows much the same: 0.78 Cº/century equivalent.
The warming of the 20th century was not “unprecedented”. On the evidence of the warming of 1694 to 1733 in central England, it was well within natural variability.
The “15-year pause myth” is “completely debunked … surface warming over the past decade turns out to be more than double previous estimates”.
Once again, it is necessary to look at the actual data. The mean of all five principal global temperature datasets shows no global warming for almost 13 years; the RSS satellite dataset shows no global warming for 17 years 4 months; and the Central England dataset shows no warming for 25 full years (Fig. 4).
Figure 4. Zero global warming for 13, 17, and 25 years respectively.
Given the unanimity of the global temperature records demonstrating The Pause, it cannot be credibly stated that it has been “completely debunked”: and still less was it appropriate for Mr. Nuccitelli viciously to attack Professor Lindzen on this ground.
The climate “continues to accumulate heat at a rate equivalent to 4 Hiroshima bomb detonations per second”.
That statement is tendentiously political, not scientific, and it has no scientific basis. Since the outer boundary of the Earth-atmosphere system is outer space, the appropriate measure to determine whether radiant energy is in net terms accumulating in the atmosphere is the time-integral of total solar irradiance. On that basis, even if one were to believe the IPCC’s now-discredited estimates of climate sensitivity, it is possible – indeed, quite likely – that a net loss of energy from the Earth-atmosphere system is now underway. If so, global temperature may even fall, in which event the “4 Hiroshimas per second” meme is still more clearly demonstrable nonsense.
Figure 5. The IPCC abandons the models’ more extreme projections.
“The accuracy of climate models” has been “much better than Lindzen claims”.
Even the IPCC no longer buys that one. For the first time in its undistinguished history, it has explicitly accepted that the models are unreliable and has substituted its “expert judgment” for the models’ output. It is worth repeating the two graphs (Fig. 5) showing the IPCC’s startling but universally-unreported climbdown.
The first graph shows, in pink, the IPCC’s 0.4-1.0 Cº projection for the next 30 years, visibly in line with the models, from the pre-final draft of the 2013 Fifth Assessment Report. The second graph shows, in green, the drastically-revised projection of 0.3-0.7 Cº, with a best estimate below the mid-range and hence in the region of 0.4 Cº. Thus, the former mid-range estimate becomes the high-end estimate, and the former low-end estimate becomes the best estimate – a drop of almost half compared with the previous mid-range estimate.
Even this new, drastically-reduced estimate may well be excessive. The monthly Global Warming Prediction Index (Fig. 6), now adjusted to show the lower IPCC projections, still shows the prediction running hot compared with observed reality.
Figure 6. The Global Warming Prediction Index, showing the IPCC’s predicted temperature change in the nine years 2005-2013 overshooting observation by an eighth of a Celsius degree, equivalent to 1.5 Cº/century.
Lindzen was wrong to say that the likelihood over the next century of greenhouse warming reaching magnitudes comparable to natural variability seemed small.
Since natural variability has yielded warming at 4.33 Cº/century within the past 350 years, Professor Lindzen is very likely to prove correct in saying that warming by 2100 will be unlikely to exceed natural variability. Here Nuccitelli is blaming Professor Lindzen for exercising his professional judgment, which is very likely to prove a great deal closer to the mark than the amateur prejudice of Nuccitelli.
There is “much more [warming] to come over the next century”.
Nuccitelli is entitled to his no-doubt profitable opinion, but on the evidence there could be as little as 1 Cº global warming between now and 2100.
Hansen’s prediction of future warming made in 1988 has proven closer to reality than a prediction based on statements by Lindzen in 1989
Mr. Nuccitelli’s chief evidence for this claim is Fig. 7, which purports to show the global temperature record compared with James Hansen’s 1988 temperature projection and with an imagined projection by Professor Lindzen.
Figure 7. Nuccitelli’s graph purporting to show that Hansen’s global warming projection of 1988 proved closer to outturn than Lindzen’s supposed projection of 1989.
However, Nuccitelli’s graph is gravely defective at the four points labeled A to D in Fig. 6:
Figure 6. The four defects A-D in Nuccitelli’s graph.
The four defects in Nuccitelli’s graph are as follows. A jury would take a dim view:
A: Before the U.S. Senate on 23 June 1988, Hansen said that his Scenario A, which predicted 0.5 Cº/decade warming to 2060, was the “business-as-usual” case; yet Nuccitelli has only shown Hansen’s less exaggerated Scenario B.
B. Nuccitelli talks of Professor Lindzen having made a prediction in 1989: yet his fictitious graph of Lindzen’s imaginary “prediction” is fully half a Celsius degree below the observed temperature in 1989.
C: Nuccitelli carefully omits to show the last few years of no global warming, concealing the fact that the observed outturn is now well below even Hansen’s Scenario B.
D: Nuccitelli assumes negligible natural variability, when it is not less than 1 Cº/century.
The major difference between Lindzen and Galileo was that Galileo was right.
Actually, Galileo was wrong. The Church, as well as informed scientific opinion, had long agreed that the Earth orbits the Sun and not the other way about. However, Galileo had drawn inappropriate theological conclusions from heliocentricity, perpetrating the notorious non sequitur that since the Earth was not the centre of the Universe the Incarnation and Crucifixion were of less importance than the Church maintained. It was Galileo’s theological conclusion the Church objected to, not the scientific conclusion that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. Galileo had persisted in a curmudgeonly refusal to recant his non sequitur. Seven of the ten cardinals who tried him offered him a compromise: if he would recant his assertion that the Earth went round the Sun his theological conclusion would fall away and there would be no need for him to recant it. He agreed to this: but three of the Cardinals, to their credit, refused to sign this nonsensical agreement, to which neither the majority of the Bench nor the accused ought ever to have assented.
Professor Lindzen is “an outlier whose arguments have been disproved time and time again, including about the link between smoking and lung cancer”.
Not one of Professor Lindzen’s arguments has been “disproved”, though several have not been fashionable and have been opposed, on various generally shaky grounds, in the literature. It is a serious libel to suggest that his arguments have been “disproved” when they have merely been disagreed with in some quarters.
And, as far as I know, Professor Lindzen does not dispute the well-established link between smoking and lung cancer, though he would be within his rights to dispute the imagined link between passive smoking and lung cancer. There is a 1:10 million risk that a non-smoker will contract lung cancer, and a 1:8 million risk that a passive smoker will contract lung cancer. The difference between the two risk rates is statistically insignificant.
The EPA’s decision to regulate passive smoke as though it were a class A carcinogen was vacated by a U.S. Federal District Judge in North Carolina in 1998. The judge said: “The court is faced with the ugly possibility that EPA adopted a methodology for each chapter, without explanation, based on the outcome sought in that chapter.” The court also noted an EPA internal document admitting that the evidence was insufficient to classify passively-inhaled smoke as a class A carcinogen, and that the EPA had not followed its own classification guidelines. The court found evidence that the EPA had cherry-picked its data, and used the term “cherry-picked” in its judgment. The court held that EPA’s exclusion of nearly half the available studies violated its own guidelines, which required it to review all the available evidence. EPA was also held to have fallen foul of the law by explicitly refusing to research all aspects of indoor air quality.
Interestingly, the court also found that EPA, in switching from the usual 95% to a 90% statistical confidence interval, “to increase the likelihood that its meta-analysis would appear statistically significant”. That is exactly what the IPCC did in 2007. Even then, the EPA found a relative risk of only 1.19, which is only “weakly associative”; and, if it had included the studies it had excluded, it would not have been able to demonstrate a relative risk greater than unity at all. EPA had adopted an a priori position and had then adjusted the statistical methodology and sampling in an attempt to confirm that position.
The court concluded that, “Using its own methodology and its selected studies, EPA did not demonstrate a statistically significant association between ETS and lung cancer. … EPA changed its methodology to find a statistically significant association.”
If, therefore, Professor Lindzen challenges the EPA’s self-justifying association between passive smoking and lung cancer, he is in excellent company.
Gentlemen of the jury, those are the facts. You have heard Mr. Nuccitelli’s arguments, and you have heard the response of science to them. Briefly, let us consider the law.
At many points, Nuccitelli has flagrantly misrepresented the scientific position with intent to harm Professor Lindzen’s reputation, and at some point it can be shown that he knew the truth but chose to suppress or misstate it. At many other points, he has presented the science as though it were settled when in fact Professor Lindzen’s position remains undisproved, even though some may disagree with it. And Nuccitelli’s attempt to smear him by falsely accusing him of repudiating the link between lung cancer and smoking was calculated still further to damage his reputation, at the point of his retirement, by suggesting – incorrectly – an entire disregard of the scientific method on his part.
Gentlemen of the jury, you are also entitled to take into consideration the unpleasant, malicious, spiteful tone of Mr. Nuccitelli’s article, its wide circulation on the website of a substantial national newspaper, and Mr. Nuccitelli’s failure to consult Professor Lindzen to verify the facts before what you may well regard as a malevolent and wholly unjustifiable attempt at professional and character assassination for purely partisan political reasons, and without a shred of scientific justification at any point.
What is your verdict? From my own knowledge of the Professor and his distinguished work, I find Nuccitelli’s piece misleading, offensive, and cruel. Damages will be huge.