Science Lessons for Secretary of State John F. Kerry

 Guest post by David Middleton

Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent remarks on climate change at the Atlantic Council were so scientifically illiterate that I find it difficult to believe that he managed to barely get a D in geology at Yale University.  As a US citizen and geoscientist, I feel it is my patriotic and professional duty to provide Secretary Kerry with a few complimentary science lessons.

Let’s start with some basics

So stop for a minute and just think about the basics. When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that. Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that.

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so.

http://m.state.gov/md238829.htm

Well Mr. Secretary… The Theory of Gravity can be empirically tested with such repeatability that it has become a Law and can be expressed with a simple equation… It can even be tested and  confirmed on the Moon…

The freezing point of water (phase transition) can also be empirically tested and demonstrated with ample repeatability. However, the freezing point of water is not always 32°F. The freezing point is dependent on both temperature and pressure….

We do not accept gravity and phase transition because science tells us to. We accept these things because they can be empirically tested, repeatedly confirmed and form the bases of solid scientific theories.

Science tells us that climate has always changed and always will be changing. While the radiative forcing effect of CO2 is kind of in the same ballpark as the freezing point of water, the notion that humans are the primary cause of recent climate changes is nothing but a hypothesis which has failed almost every empirical test. This is why many scientists do not accept that this is “settled science.”

From Remote Sensing Systems [with my commentary]:

Over the past decade, we have been collaborating with Ben Santer at LLNL (along with numerous other investigators) to compare our tropospheric results with the predictions of climate models. Our results can be summarized as follows:

  • Over the past 35 years, the troposphere has warmed significantly. The global average temperature has risen at an average rate of about 0.13 degrees Kelvin per decade (0.23 degrees F per decade).[All of the warming occurred in one step-shift in the late 1990’s.]
  • Climate models cannot explain this warming if human-caused increases in greenhouse gases are not included as input to the model simulation.[Only because climate models are programmed to do so. The models are programmed with very high sensitivities to CO2. Then they are paramaterized (fudged) with assumptions about albedo effects of past anthropogenic aerosol emissions in order to retrocast past temperature changes. The climate models almost totally fail to incorporate cloud albedo effects and natural climate oscillations.This is why they lack predictive skill.
  • The spatial pattern of warming is consistent with human-induced warming. See Santer et al 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012 for more about the detection and attribution of human induced changes in atmospheric temperature using MSU/AMSU data.[Yep. Most of the warming is occurring at night and in the coldest air masses in the Northern Hemisphere.]

But….

  • The climate has not warmed as fast as almost all climate models predict.

[Because the models lack predictive skill.]

To illustrate this last problem, we show several plots below. Each of these plots has a time series of TLT temperature anomalies using a reference period of 1979-2008. In each plot, the thick black line is the measured data from RSS V3.3 MSU/AMSU Temperatures. The yellow band shows the 5% to 95% envelope for the results of 33 CMIP-5 model simulations (19 different models, many with multiple realizations) that are intended to simulate Earth’s Climate over the 20th Century.

[…]

[…]

http://www.remss.com/research/climate

RSS shows no warming since 1997…

In fairness, the models have demonstrated precision. They precisely miss the mark to the high side…

The first modern AGW model from 1988 has essentially proven that the climate is relatively insensitive to increasing atmospheric CO2. Subsequent models have confirmed that the hypothesis is wrong…

James Hansen, formerly of NASA-GISS, first proved that AGW was wrong 27 years ago. 

Back in 1988, he published a climate model that, when compared to his own temperature data, substantially disproves AGW…

GISTEMP has tracked the Hansen scenario in which a green utopia was achieved more than a decade ago.

Hansen’s model used an equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) of 4.2°C per doubling of pre-industrial CO2. The IPCC “consensus” is 3.0°C. Numerous recent papers have demonstrated that the ECS is less than 2.0°C. T

“Scenario B” might be the most relevant prediction because CH4 and CFC’s have followed closest to the “C” trajectory, while CO2 has tracked “A”.

Since CO2 tracked “A”, CH4 and CFC’s tracked “C” and temperature tracked below “C”… The atmosphere is far less sensitive to CO2 than Hansen modeled… The atmosphere was essentially insensitive to the ~50ppmv rise in CO2 over the last 24 years.

The following CMIP5 model was parameterized (fudged) to accurately retrocast HadCRUT4 from 1950-2004.

Within eight years, the observed temperature is on the verge of dropping out of the lower error band.

This model from Kaufmann et al., 2011 simulated natural and anthropogenic (primarily CO2) forcing mechanisms from 1999-2008. Natural forcing won by a score of 3-1.

A plot of the Wood for Trees Temperature Index on 12 years worth of IPCC model suites demonstrates that the AGW hypothesis has demonstrated no predictive skill in nearly 30 years of testing…

On to basic math and reading skills

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.

Well Mr. Secretary… The SkepSci bloggers who claimed the bogus 97% consensus don’t even assert that “97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

 The fact.is that less than 1% “of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

Now for a bit of history

Just look around you. Fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record in all of history have occurred since 2000, in all of recorded history. Last year was the warmest of all. And I think if you stop and think about it, it seems that almost every next year becomes one of the hottest on record.

Wrong again, Mr. Secretary. While it is possible that “fourteen of the fifteen warmest years on record (since about 1850) have occurred since 2000″… “all of recorded history” goes back a bit farther than that.  Recorded history goes back a time long before this 2,000 year climate reconstruction…

ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/paleo/contributions_by_author/ljungqvist2010/ljungqvist2010.txt

And now back to basic science

It’s not particularly complicated. I don’t mean to sound haughty, but think about it for a minute. Life on Earth would not exist without a greenhouse effect. That is what has kept the average temperature up, until recently, at 57 degrees Fahrenheit, because there is this greenhouse effect. And it was called the greenhouse effect because it does exactly what a greenhouse does. When the sun pours in and bounces off at a different angle, it goes back up at a different angle. That can’t escape, and that warms things – a very simple proposition.

Don’t worry Mr. Secretary… You don’t sound haughty. You sound like a guy who got a D in geology and would have gotten an F in physics.

Neither a greenhouse nor the greenhouse effect rely on the Law of Reflection or Snell’s Law… Nor does the greenhouse effect even behave like a greenhouse…

The greenhouse effect refers to circumstances where the short wavelengths of visible light from the sun pass through a transparent medium and are absorbed, but the longer wavelengths of the infrared re-radiation from the heated objects are unable to pass through that medium. The trapping of the long wavelength radiation leads to more heating and a higher resultant temperature.

[…]

A major part of the efficiency of the heating of an actual greenhouse is the trapping of the air so that the energy is not lost by convection. Keeping the hot air from escaping out the top is part of the practical “greenhouse effect”, but it is common usage to refer to the infrared trapping as the “greenhouse effect” in atmospheric applications where the air trapping is not applicable.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu…mo/grnhse.html

Summary

The laws and theories of gravity and phase transition are not even remotely analogous to the fatally flawed AGW hypothesis.

97% of peer-reviewed climate studies do not conclude that humans are largely to blame for recent climate changes.

There is no evidence that 14 of the last 15 years are the warmest in all of recorded history.

A greenhouse works by retarding convective cooling.  The greenhouse effect works by retarding radiative cooling.  Secretary Kerry’s lack of scientific literacy will work by retarding our economy.