How Lord Monckton’s Conundrum can be used to calculate maximum climate sensitivity to CO2

Thought Experiment;

Guest post by Bob Irvine

How Lord Monckton’s Conundrum can be used to calculate maximum climate sensitivity to CO2. What follows is a discussion only.


The IPCC defines Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) “…as the global average surface warming following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. It is likely to be in the range 2.0C to 4.5C with a best estimate of about 3.0C and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5C.” (Page 12, IPCC AR4 WG1, Summary for Policy Makers)

This implies that positive feedbacks to warming in the earth system enhance an initial ECS, or no feedback response, of about 1.0C to a likely catastrophic ECS of 3.0C.

Every political movement needs a narrative. The catastrophist global warming (CAGW) narrative is outlined by Gavin Schmidt below.

Most readers of this site will be aware of these arguments, but they are worth restating for people trying to feel their way in this debate. 5 of the 6 steps above are reasonable while the alarmists are trying to change our society based solely on step 5. This step 5 is quoted below.

“…the last glacial period is a good example of a large forcing (~7 W/m2 from ice sheets, greenhouse gases, dust and vegetation) giving a large temperature response (~5 ºC) and implying a sensitivity of about 3ºC (with substantial error bars). More formally, you can combine this estimate with others taken from the 20th century, the response to volcanoes, the last millennium, remote sensing etc. to get pretty good constraints on what the number should be. This was done by Annan and Hargreaves (2006), and they come up with, you guessed it, 3ºC.”

The “Real Climate” position above is that a likely ECS of 3.0C can be calculated from the Last Glacial Maxima”, a period when the earth was an ice world with very different albedo and feedbacks. None of the support estimates (i.e. 20th century estimates, volcanoes, the last millennium, remote sensing) quoted stack up. This is particularly true of the now debunked hockey stick shaped temperature history of the last millennium and the failed climate models for the 20th/21st century.

The words, “…you guessed it, …”, show a confected arrogance, and indicate that Gavin knows that he is vulnerable in this area. He is trying to deflect the uninformed reader by implying that the science is settled in this complex area. It is not. Disingenuously, he also forgets to mention that the 3.0C quoted is overwhelmingly made up of extremely uncertain positive feedbacks, as mentioned.

Common sense would tell most people that a massive positive feedback to warming of this magnitude, based on very little evidence, is very unlikely in a relatively stable system such as the earth’s modern climate. Yet, this is the crux of the global warming debate that has been going on now for nearly thirty years. The sceptics generally believe ECS is somewhere between 0.5C and 1.5C while the alarmists believe massive positive feedbacks multiply a mild initial warming by a factor of three.

Positive feedback to warming should not be confused with physical changes that result in changes in the Earth’s albedo. These are normally cyclical and can conceivably result in significant temperature change. They include any cosmic ray or magnetic effect, possible solar cycle effect on clouds and Milankovitch cycles etc.

This discussion addresses this issue and will require some imagination. The reader will be asked to imagine that the sun can be turned on and off at will and that we have access to two planets that can be placed in any orbit we wish and made to rotate on their own axis once every 24 hours.

One, Planet A, an imaginary planet, has no water or ocean and no atmosphere. It is made of hypothetical material and colour such that its emissivity and albedo are exactly the same as the real preindustrial earth at the top of its atmosphere as seen from space approximately as we know it today.

The other planet, Planet B, is the real pre-industrial earth with atmosphere and ocean approximately as we find it today.

The reader will also be asked to imagine that the planet in question attains its equilibrium temperature relatively quickly after the sun has been turned on. This has the advantage of being true relative to the age of the universe.


Equation 1;

Solar (1365w/m2)/4 x (1-Albedo [30 to 35%]) = Emissivity (0.96) x SB Constant x Temperature4 (K4)

From equation 1; Earth’s Temperature as seen from space = 255K

Note; Any preindustrial solar or GHG effect on albedo is included in equation 1.

Equation 2;

Professor Happer calculates equilibrium climate sensitivity to the equivalent of a doubling of CO2 without feedbacks as about 1K. Other estimates for this have been as high as 1.16K. I will use an approximation of 1.1K for this discussion.

This equates with about 10K for all GHG warming without feedbacks in the Earth’s preindustrial atmosphere. The direct radiative effect.

Assumption 1;

That the efficacy a GHG forcing is approximately equal to the Efficacy of the same Solar forcing as stated in the IPCCs AR5 report.

The Experiment;

There are two distinct types of feedback.

1. The first is a feedback that is generic to all types of forcing, and is a reaction to warming of the system, only. This is the only type of feedback generally considered as significant by the IPCC when calculating climate sensitivity. This discussion attempts to put a maximum value on climate sensitivity based solely on this type of feedback. Note; Clouds as a feedback to general warming are included here.

2. The second type of feedback does not depend on warming but is related to the intrinsic nature of the individual forcing. For example, an initial small change in solar forcing may cause physical changes that can amplify any initial warming by changing the earth’s albedo in some way (e.g. Clouds). Similarly greening of the planet by CO2 fertilisation may affect planetary albedo. These possible dampings or amplifications are not a reaction to temperature change but are related to, and unique to the physical nature of each particular forcing.

If we assume that feedbacks of type 2 are unlikely to raise climate sensitivity to CO2 in any significant way, then a maximum climate sensitivity to CO2 can be calculated with reference to type 1 feedbacks only.

We switch the sun off and place Planet “A” in earths current orbit and make it rotate once every 24 hours. We turn the sun on again and the temperature on the surface of this imaginary planet relatively quickly reaches an equilibrium temperature of 255K (-18C) according to Equation 1.

We then turn off the sun and replace Planet “A” with Planet “B”, the real earth with the earth’s atmosphere and the same albedo and emissivity as Planet “A”. Planet “B” is placed in earth’s orbit and is made to rotate on its axis once every 24 hours as was Planet “A”. The sun is turned on and Planet “B”, with all ingredients in place, relatively quickly reaches an equilibrium temperature 288K (15C) as measured at its surface.

The atmosphere, water vapour and oceans have added approximately 33K (288 – 255). This 33K includes all feedbacks except feedbacks that effect albedo as they have been included on the left-hand side of equation 1 and, therefore are included in the planet “A” calculation. Importantly, this 33K includes the large feedback attributed to the radiative GHG effects of any extra water vapour, which must be shared between the original GHG and solar forcing.

Note that if this extra water vapour forms more clouds, it will increase albedo and reduce climate sensitivity, not increase it.

The important thing here is that the warming effect of the GHG and solar inputs are applied concurrently and instantaneously and are indistinguishable from each other. They produce a temperature without feedbacks (other than albedo changes) of 265K (255K + 10K) on planet “B” according to equations 1 & 2.

With the real atmosphere in place the surface temperature is measured at 288K. The preindustrial type 1 and type 2 feedback factors for solar and GHGs combined cannot be more than 1.09 (288/265).

From equation 2, maximum equilibrium climate sensitivity to CO2 x 2 is approximately 1.2K (1.1 x 1.09).

There are a couple of unlikely but possible reasons why GHG equilibrium sensitivity could be higher than 1.2C.

1. CO2 ECS can be higher if GHGs produce a type 2 feedback that warms the planet more than any similar sized type 2 solar feedback. All type 1 feedbacks apply equally to GHG and solar forcing, by definition. Global greening is a possible type 2 candidate here, but I doubt if this could be significant or swamp any likely cloud changes due to solar activity.

The logic here is that if, GHGs contributed comparatively less per unit than solar, to the cooling effect of the 30% albedo that is included for both planet “A” and “B”, then it is possible CO2 ECS is greater than the 1.2K. This is unlikely.

2. CO2 ECS can, also be higher than 1.2K if the efficacy of GHG forcing is a lot larger than the efficacy of solar forcing. The IPCC does not believe this to be the case.


These large swings in temperature can only be explained by cyclical phenomena. The 33K (288 – 255) atmospheric affect is actually a range from, say 31K to 35K or more.

This range in atmospheric affect over the last few millennia must be driven by natural cycles that affect albedo, as well as ocean cycles that drive internal variability, there is no alternative explanation. Solar cycles, Milankovitch cycles and any other cycle, that change the albedo on the left of equation 1, can have a large effect on temperature and since they are cyclical, these large swings do not affect the overall, long term ECS and it remains low at less than 1.2C.

The cycles mentioned drive both type 1 and type 2 feedbacks, while warming due to CO2 is dominated by type 1 feedbacks. CO2, therefore, has a maximum ECS of about 1.2K.


Sensitivity to CO2 x 2 can be lower than 1.2C if the efficacy of CO2 forcing is significantly lower than the efficacy of a similar sized solar forcing.

The IPCC finds that a forcing that acts on higher latitudes will have higher efficacy possibly because energy flow from the tropics would be slowed. They also found that a forcing acting at a higher altitude will have a lower efficacy, essentially because energy from these areas is returned to space relatively quickly. There are some exceptions related to the various feedbacks.

Here is the relevant quote from the IPCCs 4AR.

“Nearly all studies that examine it find that high latitude forcings have higher efficacies than tropical forcings. Efficacy has also been shown to vary with the vertical distribution of an applied forcing (Hansen et al., 1997; Christiansen, 1999; Joshi et al., 2003; Cook and Highwood, 2004; Roberts and Jones, 2004; Forster and Joshi, 2005; Stuber et al., 2005; Sokolov, 2006). Forcings that predominately affect the upper troposphere are often found to have smaller efficacies compared to those that affect the surface. However, this is not ubiquitous as climate feedbacks (such as cloud and water vapour) will depend on the static stability of the troposphere and hence the sign of the temperature change in the upper troposphere (Govindasamy et al., 2001b; Joshi et al., 2003; Sokolov, 2006).”

Solar forcing acts mainly, anywhere up to tens of meters below the ocean surface and can remain circulating in the oceans for hundreds or even thousands of years. It seems inconceivable to me that this solar forcing can be said by the IPCC to have a similar efficacy to GHG forcing that acts almost totally on the atmosphere, this energy returning relatively quickly to space. In my opinion, the earth should be viewed as a total system, not just an atmosphere. When viewed in this way, it is possible that GHG forcing has a significantly lower efficacy than solar forcing.

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Antero Ollila
October 27, 2019 10:37 pm

IPCC summarizes the differences in AR5, p. 1110 (IPCC, 2013): “ECS determines the eventual warming in response to stabilization of atmospheric composition on multi-century time scales, while TCR determines the warming expected at a given time following any steady increase in forcing over a 50- to 100-year time scale.” IPCC has changed the TCS to TCR (Transient Climate Response). On page 1112 of AR5, IPCC (2013) states that “TCR is a more informative indicator of future climate than ECS.”

If the IPCC does not care about ECS, why should contrarians use resources on this issue? I have reproduced the radiative forcing calculations of Myhre et al. and I did not get the same result but RF = 3.12 * ln(C/280) meaning much lower sensitivity. TCS is the key figure in the climate change.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Antero Ollila
October 27, 2019 11:33 pm

TCR is the policy relevant metric. Discussed here at WUWT in the past. Acknowledged by the IPCC. Policy can and should only try to address the next 30 years.

A contrived ECS > 3ºC is used to scare (scam) people into accepting “climate action.” “Scare” because it takes a century or more to reach those higher equilibrium values, thus a high ECS is not “policy relevant”. That’s because a high ECS is utterly meaningless as long as human wealth and ingenuity increases to adapt and countervene any slowly accumulating temperature and SLR negatives from crops, SLR, to winter-cold deaths. Benefits of warmer planet greatly exceed negatives, thus a richer society is far better able to adapt and rebuild infrastructure after a disaster no matter what happens than a poorer society.

Chris Hanley
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 28, 2019 12:05 am

” Benefits of warmer planet greatly exceed negatives …”.
Particularly if it manifests through higher diurnal minimums (along with other benefits0.

Bill Wood
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 28, 2019 11:01 am

Currently human wealth is being used to rush to the ocean front (See California, Florida, Cape Cod and the Islands, and the Hamptons) in anticipation of thirty feet of sea level rise. This does not indicate ingenuity.

When there was no global warming during the last ice age, I had a mile of ice in my front yard. Good in that I didn’t have to mow it and it kept the mosquito population down. Excellent for our current sand and gravel business. I am glad though that we have had relatively constant warming since then. It has been far easier to adapt to, although I do miss the mammoths.

Reply to  Bill Wood
October 28, 2019 9:47 pm

Why did the ice sheets melt?

Reply to  Antero Ollila
October 28, 2019 2:35 am


ETH….is this a new word?

Reply to  Derg
October 28, 2019 4:14 am

Stupid spell check…d@mn you Apple

TCR ????

TCR ….is this new?

Reply to  Antero Ollila
October 28, 2019 8:38 am

The fact the IPCC considers that there’s a difference between the ECS and TCS is part of the problem. This is just another level of obfuscation designed to confound and confuse by making the steady state behavior of the system seem far more complex than it actually is. Joules are Joules and that’s all there is to it. It’s like the IPCC and its self serving ‘consensus’ doesn’t understand that 1 Watt is a rate of energy equal to 1 Joule per second. Unless the heat capacity of the Earth is changing, the ECS and TCS must be the same.

Think of how an oven works. If you set the thermostat directly to 400F, the steady state temperature will be 400F. If instead, you slowly increase the thermostat by 10F per hour until you reach 400F, the steady state temperature after the thermostat stops changing will still be 400F.

It’s disturbing that so many fundamental errors canonized by the IPCC since AR1 involve ignoring basic physics like COE and the SB Law. Equally disturbing is that many skeptics don’t question this even though it’s the Achilles heel of climate alarmism.

Reply to  Antero Ollila
October 28, 2019 10:12 am

“On page 1112 of AR5, IPCC (2013) states that “TCR is a more informative indicator of future climate than ECS.”

If the IPCC does not care about ECS,”

Totally misleading use of truncated quote. What it actually says is:
“For scenarios of increasing RF, TCR is a more informative indicator of future climate than ECS”
TCR is more informative about the effect of increasing RF. You find out sooner. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about ECS. ECS describes the eventual effect of what we are doing.

michael hart
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2019 2:45 pm

…And that TCR is a linguistic solipsism. It conveniently converts a grey-scale in to two separate things.

A bit too convenient for the climate-concerned, who find that their original calculations don’t amount to anything correct or useful. AKA, when you are wrong, change terms and definitions.

Joel O'Bryan
October 27, 2019 11:18 pm

“The sceptics generally believe ECS is somewhere between 0.5C and 1.5C…”

About 1ºC (per [2xCO2]) is what is the observational record produces.
This is an effective ECS. Feed backs are likely strongly negative feedbacks given we live on a water world.
Anyone who has tried to boil a pot of liquid water on an open flame knows the maximum temperature is governed by physical chemistry of heat of evaporation to 100ºC. Turning up the heat doesn’t increase the temp. T stays a 100ºC. Added more heat flux only increases the boiling rate and the shrill singing of the kettle on the stove.

Similarly in the tropics, ~31ºC SST is a temperature whereby evaporation-convection increases throttles/controls a convective transport of heat to the lower tropopause that prevents further T increase regardless of the amount of sw solar energy added.

It is an emergent behavior to control surface temperatures within several degrees at the tropics that prevents a runaway GH effect as long as our deep salt water oceans can contain the heat added without significant temperature rise at bottom depth. And they do.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 28, 2019 12:01 am

In the tea kettle of pure water, the heat is being added at the bottom. That is by conduction, from the burner plate upwards.
In the oceans, the heat is being added at the surface by SW solar energy to a salt water at 35 pp thousand salinity downwards.

That is critical difference to understand… how heat transport after top-down radiative absorption in the oceans only occurs by horizontally circulation due to salinity stratification, a stratification which governed by both temperature and salinity (salinity controls water density more than temperature).

Sinking of warmer water occurs after substantial evaporation has increased salinity (density) so that it sinks below cooler lower salinity layers. At depth the warmer water is surrounded by colder deep water where it finally mixes and cools (loses entropy).
So unless and until the deep waters of the Earth’s oceans warm by measurable amounts, CO2-driven CAGW is just a fantasy — a fanciful wet dream of climate alarmists.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 28, 2019 7:51 am

Boiling water is also the condition in which its vapor pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure. For that reason, that analogy isn’t very good. Prior to reaching its boiling point, turning up the heat increases both the temperature and the rate at which it rises.

Not to dispute your point on throttling/control.

David A
Reply to  Scissor
October 29, 2019 8:48 pm

Yet the energy expended and moved aloft in the hydrological cycle, or the acceleration of it, is not a linear system. In this sense evaporation functions somewhat as Joel described. It takes tremendous energy to move the water cycle. Willis has described this quite well I think.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 28, 2019 9:53 am

The approximately 1C for doubling CO2 can be readily calculated from the SB Law, E = eoT^4, where E quantifies the emissions leaving the planet, oT^4 is the equivalent BB emissions of the surface at T and e is the effective emissivity which is the ratio between the RADIANT planet emissions and the RADIANT surface emissions consequential to T.

Differentiate the SB Law to produce dE/dT, where its reciprocal, dT/dE is an exact quantification of how much T changes per change in E. Given that in the steady state, E is equal to the post albedo incident energy from the Sun, this represents an upper bound on the actual ECS.

dT/dE = (4eoT^3)^-1

Plug in 288K for the average T and 0.62 for the average e and the result is about 0.3C per W/m^2. Given the IPCC’s claim that doubling CO2 is EQUIVALENT to 3.7 W/m^2 more post albedo solar power. Multiply 3.7 by 0.3 and the result is 1.1C. To be sure, there’s good reason to suspect that the claimed 3.7 W/m^2 is about twice as large as it actually is as HITRAN based simulations tell me that 3.7 W/m^2 is the incremental absorption of surface emissions by the standard atmosphere when CO2 is doubled, in which case, only half can be considered to equivalently ‘force’ the surface while the remaining half exits into space contributing to the planets radiant balance.

Since tests of the data confirm the same ECS, why is an ECS 3-4 times larger even a remote consideration, other than as a fake excuse to redistribute wealth under the guise of climate reparations?

Reply to  co2isnotevil
October 28, 2019 10:57 am

What would be the effect on surface temperature with a doubling of Nitrogen? Clearly the temperature would rise, if for no other reason that the oceans will have evaporation suppressed. What does that say about the power of CO2?:(my answer, as far as T is concerned, its a water world, not a CO2 world)

“Plug in 288K for the average T and 0.62 for the average e and the result is about 0.3C per W/m^2. Given the IPCC’s claim that doubling CO2 is EQUIVALENT to 3.7 W/m^2 more post albedo solar power.”

Reply to  EdB
October 28, 2019 12:24 pm


Yes, Earth is more of a water world given that nearly 3/4 of the surface is covered by water. However; it’s not clear that the suppression of evaporation will have much effect on the surface temperature. While evaporation cools by removing heat from the surface via the latent heat of evaporation, this represents the reorganization of existing energy as transported throughout the planet by matter (as opposed to being transported to and from Earth as photons). Some of this latent heat is returned to the surface as liquid water (matter) that’s warmer than it would be otherwise, offsetting some or all of the surface cooling from evaporation. More of the latent heat is returned to the surface as weather, offsetting most of the rest. Since the water cycle is closed, it’s not clear that the amount of water involved will have much of an effect on the surface temperature except perhaps indirectly by not providing enough atmospheric water to support the amount of clouds required to maintain a constant equivalent emissivity from pole to pole.

Consider that an ideal water-less BB planet with a transparent, 90 ATM N2 atmosphere will have the same surface temperature as it would have without any atmosphere. The only difference is that the one with an atmosphere has a lapse rate. The 90 ATM atmosphere of Venus makes the surface so warm because it’s not transparent to solar input and the surface in direct equilibrium with the Sun is high up in the cloud tops which in the steady state, establishes a starting temperature which is applied to the temperature profile going down to the surface as dictated by the PVT profile of a compressed gas.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
October 31, 2019 9:12 am

I think I agree with you. the top of Venus’s atmosphere is near 500° before the light/heat passes through the top most clouds in Venus stratosphere where the temperature quickly drops to 200° below zero, colder than anywhere on earth, and then climbs with atmospheric pressure to 860° down at the surface of perpetual night. Hotter than the surface of mercury. But not even close to being as hot as the four gas giants which are hotter than the surface of the sun underneath their atmosphere. (9,500°F)
Just an observation; light passes right through humidity/water vapor. There is too little carbon dioxide to hold in heat. (At 400 ppm, it has less than 1/2 of 1/10 of 1% chance of capturing heat)
When you add hydrogen sulfide/acid rain with carbon dioxide to water vapor, you form clouds which blocks most of the spectrum of solar energy. Clouds cannot form without hydrogen sulfide, so only together can they create a true heat retentive/reflective substance that can actually be measured without instruments.

Discussing CO2 without it’s relative partners in our atmosphere, intermingling functioning together, is meaningless. It’s like judging the taste of salt by tasting sodium then chlorine separately. (try it for a real education)

Reply to  co2isnotevil
October 31, 2019 12:35 pm


Earth clouds are tightly coupled to the surface by the hydro cycle and the combination of the oceans, solid surface poking through, atmospheric gases and clouds comprise a single cross coupled thermodynamic system with a single, direct source of energy. On Venus, the clouds and solid surface below are independent thermodynamic systems relative to their direct source of energy. From a thermodynamic point of view, the solid surface of Venus has more in common with the solid surface of Earth buried deep beneath its oceans. Both exhibit no diurnal or seasonal variability, both are at a relatively constant temperature and the temperature of both are dictated by the pressure/density/temperature profile of the matter between it and the thermodynamic system in direct equilibrium with the Sun that provides the source of the energy heating the intervening matter.

Ian Bryce
October 27, 2019 11:45 pm

The Mawson base in the Antarctic hasn’t shown any warming trend in 65 years. Therefore is not the ECS really zero?

Reply to  Ian Bryce
October 28, 2019 11:03 am

Not really. If the planets surface temperature sensitivity to forcing was zero, then the surface temperature would be absolute zero. The physical ECS can only be relative to W/m^2 of solar input and these W/m^2 of solar forcing are continually arriving. The IPCC illogically and incorrectly restates the sensitivity as a function of doubling CO2 which is just another of the many layers of obfuscation and misdirection added by them to put conceptual distance between their biased conclusions and the scientific truth.

Only the Sun cal actually force the system with NEW energy, what the IPCC really means, although they refuse to acknowledge so, is that doubling CO2 is EQUIVALENT to some amount of incremental solar forcing which when you dig through their reports is claimed to be about 3.7 – 4 W/m^2. Incremental atmospheric absorption by CO2 represents a change to the system not a change in the actual forcing, although the effect can be considered EQUIVALENT to a change in solar forcing while keeping the system (i.e. CO2 concentrations) constant.

Applying this equivalent forcing to a system with modified CO2 levels, as they seem to do, will count the effect twice. Once as the equivalent forcing and again as all of the solar forcing, plus the equivalent forcing is applied to a system whose CO2 levels are doubled.

October 28, 2019 12:06 am

not even wrong

Richard S Courtney
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 1:42 am

Stephen Mosher,

Your comment is incorrect: you are almost always wrong.


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard S Courtney
October 28, 2019 10:08 am

Mosher’s Drive By snippets are the textual equivalent of a ‘selfie.’ Self aggrandizement with no socially redeeming value. Such a waste of an education! He is arrogant enough to think that people will seriously consider three words as having value.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
October 28, 2019 11:40 am

Mosher is just trying to deflect from how wrong he has always been. If he has any kind of scientific expertise, for example, a basic understanding of first principles physics, he must know how wrong he is, but just can’t accept it.

Mosher, since you’re no doubt lurking and don’t accept how wrong you are, why don’t you explain how the last W/m^2 of solar forcing increased surface emissions by 1.62 W/m^2 (0.3C), as confirmed by multiple sources of data, while the next W/m^2 of CO2 ‘forcing’ is claimed to increase surface emissions by between 2.2 and 6.6 W/m^2 (0.8C +/- 0.4C). While you’re at it, why don’t you take a crack at telling us how a claimed effect with +/- 50% uncertainty can be considered ‘settled’, especially when the lower bound of 2.2 W/m^2 per W/m^2 of forcing is larger than what the last W/m^2 of solar forcing was able to do. I brought this up in my review of AR6, which of course was predictably ignored and instead, they seem to have doubled down on the lies and misinformation.

John Endicott
Reply to  co2isnotevil
October 30, 2019 9:27 am

If he has any kind of scientific expertise

He’s an English major, so of course he doesn’t. /sarc

Reply to  co2isnotevil
November 2, 2019 2:50 pm

Don’t try to teach pigs to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
0.85 IMHO.

paul courtney
Reply to  Richard S Courtney
October 28, 2019 12:24 pm

Dear Richard Courtney: Good to see you posting. In pain or on meds, your mind is more clear than a sober Mosher. I like to potshot back at him when he does this, but won’t make his day any worse- he’s already been taken down by the top Courtney.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 2:09 am

not even a rebuttal.

Reply to  Greg
October 28, 2019 3:13 am

…but you got four letters correct! 😉

Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 4:51 am

“Not even wrong” describes an argument or explanation that purports to be scientific but is based on invalid reasoning or speculative premises that can neither be proven correct nor falsified and thus cannot be discussed in a rigorous and scientific sense. link

I don’t see how that applies in this case.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 6:53 am

“not even wrong” (sic)

Not even interesting.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 7:02 am

Go on, Mosh, look at the warming caused by surface pollution of the oceans by light oil. Rather than this sort of flyby, irritation-inducing post, come up with another major warming factor, make your name. Nobel Laureate Mosh has a good ring to it.

Hint: why the blip?


Steve Keohane
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 9:03 am

Not even cogent.

Hokey Schtick
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 28, 2019 10:13 am

What an inane comment.

Matthew Sykes
October 28, 2019 12:13 am

We already did the experiment. We increased CO2 by 44% and got 0.8 C. According to Lindzen we have had 80% of the forcing we will get from doubling, so at most (if we attribute all the last centuries warming to CO2) we get about 1C for a 100% increase.

And it is known that natural factors did not suddenly stop in 1880, so in fact ECS is less than 1C.

This is so low it doesnt matter if it is 0.5, 0.8 or whatever. Added to its fertilisation effect it is a net benefit to the planet and we should produce more.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
October 28, 2019 1:55 am

We *think* we’ve increased it by 44%, M.Sykes, but we really can’t tell because nobody bothers to measure it from 1m to 30,000m in an organized grid.

The average Joe out on the planet doesn’t know that peaks of 552ppm are normal and that CO2 data is more cherry-picked than temperature data.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Prjindigo
October 29, 2019 10:06 am

We also don’t know *our* “contribution” to any “increase” because the supposed amount of CO2 increase is derived by comparing current atmospheric measurements (with the problems you’ve just described) with proxy-derived historical levels, an “apples to potatoes” scientific incompetence, AND because it is based on the assumptions that CO2 levels (based on those “proxies” which have their own issues which the British would describe with typical understatement as “gigantic”) were in “balance” prior to industrialization (and conveniently, prior to modern atmospheric measurements) and that any change has been caused by human fossil fuel emissions, despite the “inconvenient facts” that such emissions are a pittance compared with natural emissions, and those natural emissions are not being measured, just “estimated” – with MASSIVE assumptions of “net” flows and the circular logic related thereto. IOW, the smallest perturbation in “natural” emissions (which they would have no idea about, since there is no data) would swamp the effect of our relative pittance of “emissions.”

Reply to  Prjindigo
October 29, 2019 8:11 pm

“Increase” is a relative term and implies that we have a base value. The 285 ppm is of dubious substance, at least according to this review of the early literature.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
October 28, 2019 1:10 pm

The experiment is being done, but is not over. Just consider the lag time to equilibrium for global temps imposed by the heat sink effect of the oceans. If CO2 levels were stabilised exactly where they are now and all other factors (forcing) do not change, it might yet require centuries to reach equilibrium, as the heat moves about in the oceans.

But all this conversation is limited by a simple fact: The IPCC-types make an assumption that most of the warming from the 1970’s to about 2000 was due to CO2. Fine as a thought experiment, but not adequate as science. There were several independent variables moving at the same time in addition to CO2:
1. We were at a solar maximum in the latter part of the 20th century.
2. Particulates were clearing from the air as the environmental clean air laws of the 1970’s took effect.
3. Urbanization of the whole human race accelerated through this period raising the UHI at many, perhaps most, temp measurement sites.
4. Various ocean cycles (PDO, AMO, etc) were ongoing.
5. The surface stations project noted that many sites of temp measurement were compromised by everything from changing the white paint used to a different albedo paint to new runways or more frequent planes taking off nearby.

All independent variables acting in an uncertain manner on the climate.

So the equations written into the various global climate models (GCM’s) make the extreme assumption that only CO2 was really changing. Yet the equations showed that CO2 alone could not produce the rate of change observed from 1979 to about 1990, so they back-plotted into their equations positive feedbacks to get the answers that they wanted. This required that especially water vapor and cloud feedbacks be large and positive. But they had no science to back their assumptions, just equations that said that if they wanted to blame CO2, they had to blame positive H2O feedbacks as well. This is poor science, except as a most crude first try.

Then “The Pause” came. It did not warm remotely like the equations written in 1990 predicted. Instead of acknowledging that the evidence for catastrophic warming due to CO2 with strong positive feedbacks from H2O did not exist now, they collectively said that their alarmist theory was still right, just delayed a little by the missing heat being lost into the ocean.

They were getting pretty disheartened after the combination of the “climate gate” email scandal and the lengthening pause. But then a couple of El Niño’s occurred in the 2015-2019 period, the temps returned briefly to an upward trend, a few adjustments to the record “disappeared” the temp spike in 1998 and depressed pre-1950’s temps on their published records, and they were back in business. And now, with bravado, they claim “climate crisis!”, having deep-sixed the phrases “global warming” and “climate change”. They know they need a crisis mentality. They are terrified that Trump will be re-elected, and Modi and Xi will remain in power in India and China, and these big three economies will keep pumping out CO2….and the rest of the world will say, what the hell, no use in hurting ourselves by limiting to solar and wind. The great climate change project will have failed….politically…which is what it is about.

Back to the science, though: All the detailed calculations of equilibria cannot succeed in a multi-variable complex system with lag times of decades and centuries and uncertain feedbacks of a chaotic nature, like clouds and upwelling convection at the equator. Any attempt at precision is phony. The various uncertainties compound in too many unpredictable ways.

Yet we can be comforted. As pointed out by someone above, the stability of the climate over so many eon’s, in the face of many “forcings”, indicates a system dominated by negative feedback. The many chaotic elements of the system make close prediction and mechanistic description fairly useless. We may rest assured that at times it will warm and at others it will cool. The likelihood of rising CO2 causing a catastrophe makes no sense given the negative feedback system of Earth’s climate.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
October 28, 2019 4:35 pm

But if concentration is the issue, CO2 has increased 44% countless times in the past-it obviously just depends on the starting number. When CO2 went from 100ppm to 144ppm, it increased by 44%. What happened?

Richard S Courtney
Reply to  Jl
October 29, 2019 5:00 am


Logarithmic decline “happened”.

Each successive unit increase to atmospheric CO2 concentration has less effect than its predecessor. This is why an estimate of climate sensitivity is stated as being a temperature rise for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 irrespective of the starting concentration.


October 28, 2019 12:56 am

All very interesting to those who love maths, but I assume that if we did not have CO2, then none of this would be needed. It is as I understand things
still the problem in the minds of the true believers.

So lets make things a lot simpler, prove to the satisfaction of the majority of voters that CO2 is a good and much needed gas.

See the problem is now solved.


October 28, 2019 1:39 am

I struggle with positive feedback. If there is positive feedback, what prevents it simply continuing to very high temperature? I cannot see why it would be limited to 4 degrees for a doubling – unless it then hits against some sort of physical constraint?

Positive feedback simply runs away until it cannot run any more.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Phoenix44
October 28, 2019 1:14 pm

Positive feedback is supposed to have it’s own limits or point of diminishing returns, so that its output will settle down to something reasonable in terms of the physics involved. Your mileage may vary, it seems to depend on exactly what mathematical and/or physical model you are using.

Incidentally, I see in the head posting that even though the writer uses Lord Monckton as a ‘headline’ reference, there is essentially nothing about Monckton’s ideas in the body of the article! Instead, it is ‘Schmidt’ and’ Happer’ that are the substantial references, on the alarmist side of the climate debate, and on the skeptic side respectively?

Just saying ..

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Phoenix44
October 31, 2019 11:50 am

Reading Bob Irvine’s article a bit more closely, I find the connection to Lord Monckton is implied in Mr. Irvine’s distinction between ‘two types of feedback’ in the climate system. This is stated in the following quoted remarks from the head posting (i.e., the writer states what the two types of feedback are, as he sees it, in the published science papers):

“the first is a feedback that is generic to all types of forcing”

“the second type of feedback does not depend on warming but is related to the intrinsic nature of the individual forcing”

This is a worthwhile distinction, it seems to me, with Monckton having championed the first, more reasonable view of forcing.

In contrast, it is the second way that seems to describe the more usual or ‘conventional’ approach. Everything from the Clausius Clapeyron effect to cloud effects, etc. are supposed to be doing something absolutely special, or positively amplified from start to finish,and *not* by any means just effects that amalgamate in a modest way into a response that must obviously have limitations to begin with.

October 28, 2019 1:53 am

Too funny! I read the statement of Gavin from 2007 for the first time. “This was done by Annan and Hargreaves (2006), and they come up with, you guessed it, 3ºC.”
In a later paper ,Annan and Hargreaves (2013), they came up with, you guessed it, 1.76 °C. ( see, p.31)

Rod Evans
October 28, 2019 2:37 am

Yes, yes, this sciencey stuff is all very well, but what has it got to do with “facts” as defined by the religious leaders of the climate cult in this adjustocene era?
Everyone knows even uneducated children with issues know, it is dangerous to mix up science with blind faith….how dare you!
Also, when we are told 3 deg C is very bad, and then after a few years of reflection, (is that something to do with albedo) we are told, well now 1.5 deg C is very bad, we should all accept, it is very bad….
As I write, I am looking out at a sunny clear autumn day here in the central UK. Last night the temp dropped to minus 1 deg C in my garden and will rise to around 11 deg C by lunchtime. That swing or 12 deg C is most welcome. Are the climate alarmists faithful, sure they are worrying about the right direction of temperature change?

October 28, 2019 3:05 am

Hard to imagine that the biggest increase of life , ever , on the planet was during the Cambrian period lasting for 55 million years – CO2 levels nearly 20x today’s level.

What’s the worry.

Thomas P
October 28, 2019 3:31 am

” The preindustrial type 1 and type 2 feedback factors for solar and GHGs combined cannot be more than 1.09 (288/265).”

This seems wrong to me. The proper calculation would be that total warming including feedback is 33 K and without warming 10 K giving a feedback of 3,3.

Alan D. McIntire
October 28, 2019 3:40 am

Another point: Rather than

“One, Planet A, an imaginary planet, has no water or ocean and no atmosphere”, but the same albedo as Earth, drop the “same albedo as Earth requirement.

I’ve read that the bare Earth would reflect about 15% of incoming radiation, as opposed to the 30% reflected by clouds, ice, etc. on the actual Earth. Rather than
(1365/4) times (1-.3)= 239 watts, Earth would get
(1365/4) times(1-.15) = 290 watts.

Checking Trenberth’s figures,

Earth’s surface gets about 492 watts per square meter, but only 390 in sensible heat, the rest in convection and evaporation. So all those feedbacks multiply total radiation by 492/290 =1.697, but only

390/290 = 1.345 goes into sensible heat. The ratio of increased sensible heat to increased total heat- sensible plus latent heat, is 0.495. Only about HALF of the increase goes into sensible heat- half goes into latent heat.

I presume the same would apply to any future increases in temperature. Take those IPCC alarmist figures of 3° C average warming WITH feedback, multiply by.495, and we get the underwhelming 1.49° C temperature increase with a doubling of CO2, with the additional 1.51 watts being added to the current 102 total in convection and evaporation.

Run the warmer world film backwards, and obviously on a cold Earth, there would be little water vapor and few clouds in the atmosphere. Most of the ORIGINAL increase in wattage would go to sensible heat, and only later would latent heat kick in. THAT would imply that a largeg majority of any wattage increase would go into latent heat of convection and evaporation rather than into sensible warming.

Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 4:14 am

Bob, the experiment is so badly constructed so it cannot identify a value for feedbacks. Let’s start with the IPCC.

“…defines Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) “…as the global average surface warming following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. It is likely to be in the range 2.0C to 4.5C with a best estimate of about 3.0C and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5C.” (Page 12, IPCC AR4 WG1, Summary for Policy Makers)””

This is the result of a thought experiment that fails the most basic requirements of a high school science experiment. Shame on the IPCC and whoever submitted that text.

They are claiming to find the value of the heating effect of a GHG (or all of them), which constitute only a small portion of the total atmosphere, by comparing a planet with its current atmosphere (whether in 1850 or now) to a planet that has no atmosphere at all. They claim to determine the effect of one of the atmospheric components by comparing the equilibrium temperature of the surface of the planet with no atmosphere, to that of the near surface air temperature of the planet that has everything.

This fails as an experimental design on two counts. (1) The metrics are not the same: surface temperature v.s. near surface air temperature and (2) they ignore all atmospheric heating effects which are not “radiative”, the most obvious being the direct heating of the atmosphere by the hot surface. You could fly an Atlas 5 rocket through a conceptual hole that big.

As one of the planets doesn’t have an atmosphere at all, it cannot be used to determine the heating effect of GHG’s and feedbacks on the near surface air temperature of a planet that has an atmosphere. Correcting the first conceptual error requires us to use the same metric in both cases. For a valid comparison, both planets have to have an atmosphere, only one of which has some GHG’s, and they both have to be in equilibrium before the experiment starts.

The IPCC makes no effort at all to describe a valid experiment that determines the effect of GHG’s in an atmosphere. Read the description carefully. They compare chalk to cheese.


“This implies that positive feedbacks to warming in the earth system enhance an initial ECS, or no feedback response, of about 1.0C to a likely catastrophic ECS of 3.0C.”

No it does not, because there will be some heating of the no-GHG atmosphere by the surface which will raise its near-surface air temperature by some amount from t0 to t1. One could just as easily compare the naked planet surface temperature t0 with the near surface air temperature t1 of a planet that has an atmosphere entirely composed of nitrogen. According to the IPCC (not cited) the near surface air temperature would be the same as the surface without an atmosphere, i.e. there would be no heating of the atmosphere by the surface. Convective heat transfer would not exist if there were no GHG’s – no kidding, this is what they imply. RealClimate has stated it in error more clearly.

Do you agree there would be a contribution to warming caused by the hot surface heating the air?

Next, one can compare the near surface air temperature of the no-GHG planet’s t1 with the near surface temperature of pre-industrial Earth’s “some GHG’s” t2. Any difference is caused by a drop in the direct heating and an increase in the radiative heating offered by GHG’s, and its concomitant increase in radiative cooling of the air to space. Note that this time the metrics used for planet A and B are the same: near-surface air temperature, and the only variable is the GHG content of the air.

Next we get Happer’s view:

“Professor Happer calculates equilibrium climate sensitivity to the equivalent of a doubling of CO2 without feedbacks as about 1K. Other estimates for this have been as high as 1.16K. I will use an approximation of 1.1K for this discussion.”

Happer and you have both chosen values based on a first principles calculation of the radiative effect of GHG’s. Neither of you added the heating of the atmosphere by the surface to the equation, which is required if you want to apply the theoretical value to a real atmosphere illuminated by the sun. As Monckton quipped, “They forgot the sun is shining.”

The reason convective heating is required is you are trying to determine the effect of adding GHG’s to an atmosphere, not what happens when as atmosphere is added to a naked planet. You cannot attribute the whole temperature change to only one component of the atmosphere, unless you have created a baseline (no GHG’s) and a change (with GHG’s). Did Happer comment on the heating effect of the surface? Did he determine the shading effect of the surface when GHG’s are placed above it? Trenberth did (2009), but he chose to ignore it when it came to attribution. Why? Was the answer a bit inconvenient, eh?

“This equates with about 10K for all GHG warming without feedbacks in the Earth’s preindustrial atmosphere. The direct radiative effect.”

Again, no it doesn’t. It is a theoretical exercise with a calculated value that would have that impact if there were no other confounding factors affecting the near surface temperature. Which there are. The difference between the near surface air temperature of the planet with an atmosphere without GHG’s and the pre-industrial near surface air temperature of the Earth is caused by two major contributing factors: “direct convective heating by the surface”, and “direct radiative effects”. Unless the surface heating is first quantified, no attribution can be made for the net effect of adding the GHG’s, which are three: first, shading of the surface by decreasing the surface heating energy (surface cooling), second, the radiative effects so often discussed (atmospheric warming) and third, atmospheric cooling as the atmosphere gains the ability to radiate directly into space without first having to transfer energy back to the surface at night, which is the case for the planet without GHG’s.

If you were my student and proposed to determine the effect of cream on the colour of a cup of coffee by comparing an empty cup to one containing coffee and cream, I would point out that the effect of the cream can only be determined by using a cup of coffee with no cream, and one with a measured amount, preferably three different amounts in case the effect is non-linear.

In your experiment, you compare an empty cup to one with coffee and some cream, from which you determine a (colour) feedback response. Then you take a third cup and add some more cream using the feedback response generated by the first (invalid) comparison. There is no “conundrum”, there is a badly designed experiment with improper metric selection and an invalid step. The result has no meaning.

Warning to desktop researchers: If you accept as a starting point the flawed experimental design of the IPCC, you cannot possibly determine the correct answer. For all the “modeling” we hear about, no one has argued at the IPCC what the equilibrium temperature of the Earth would be if it had its present atmosphere without any GHG (the equivalent of the cup of coffee without cream). Until that is done, all talk about sensitivity and feedbacks is wasted energy. The experiment as described by the IPCC doesn’t yield the metric claimed: ECS.

No physicist worth his salt (salarium) would claim to be determining the colouring effect of cream in coffee by comparing anything with an empty cup.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 5:33 am

How about the subsurface temperature? link

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  commieBob
October 28, 2019 7:17 am


The only people worrying about the subsurface temperature are those living and moving in the Toronto subways underground malls! It’s pretty comfy down there.

I have to admit I am repeatedly amazed that such a basic error as gone unpunished in the hallowed halls of the IPCC. If you look at Trenberths’s classic 2009 cartoon of the IR and radiative balance showing the effect of clouds and latent heat from evaporation etc, with all the values quantified, they still completely ignore the effect of the ground heating the air even though it is shown in the diagram! WUWT?

I have a physics advisor – a nuclear physicist as it happens, and the first thing he says is, “Check your units”. When checking the units, the metric “near surface air temperature” does not even occur on a planet with no atmosphere. Even before that, it is assumed that you “have a clue” and know that to get the magnitude of an influence you have to compare metrics that have the same definitions.

If you read Gavin Schmidt discussing this matter, he is a little more blunt in stating that the air temperature without any GHG’s would be the same as the surface, which is in disagreement with even the most cursory schematic of the system. Trenberth lays out the system reasonably, with the only place left to quibble being the numbers assigned.

I didn’t mention it above but the insolation striking the surface approximately doubles when the GHG’s are removed (water vapour being one of them). Their description could be improved by limiting the claims to the “radiative portion of atmospheric heating” but they don’t. They claim it is the cause of all the heating from -18 C to +15 C, even though a child knows that when walking on hot pavement there is hot air rising (proving a non-radiative contribution to the air temperature). Look at the weather station quality project of Anthony Watts. See how many mentions of putting a measuring station near a paved parking lot. Why is that a problem? The IPCC says that the air is not heated by the ground, only GHG’s. So removing the GHG’s would make the pavement as cold as the bare Moon’s surface. No kidding, that is what they say.

Gliders stay aloft by riding thermals. Where do thermals come from? GHG’s according to the IPCC, not the hot ground. Do they think that on a planet without GHG’s there can be no gliders because the air is not heated by the ground? The heat gained would in fact create thermals so how exactly would that heat leave into space, mmm? No GHG’s…high air temperature.

I mean, this is so stupid where does one begin. I know where it ends though: the near surface air temperature without be a heck of a lot higher than 255 K if there were no GHG’s at all.

This error by the IPCC is even larger conceptually than the feedback multiplier.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 8:41 am

My logic goes like this:

The Earth’s temperature measured at the equator at a depth of 2 m is quite a bit warmer than that of the moon measured at its equator at a depth of 2 m. I attribute the difference to the Earth’s atmosphere.

I realize that the moon is tidally locked but at 2 m, its temperature is constant.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 6:41 am

Well done. Now imagine the t1 case with an ocean filled with a non evaporating water. This special ocean would absorb heat and transport heat to the poles. This special ocean would warm the atmosphere through conduction as you say, but it would especially warm the poles. What is the resulting t2 global average temperature? The next step is to add evaporation and albedo changes, with a “special” H2O which is a non GHG. What is the t3 GAT?

Now add the GHG effects of H2O, including its ability to radiate from the atmosphere in all directions, at all atmospheric heights, its “window”, and at some frequencies which overlap CO2. What is the t4 GAT?

Then add the GHG effect of 270 ppm CO2, then 2X that. Consider the latency time of excitation before emission, which 99% results in thermalization. What is the t5 GAT?

The effect is to move more heat radiation through the “window”, like water that accelerates past a rock someone puts in a stream.

One would likely not be able to measure the “warming” due to 2 X CO2 as compared to natural variations, such as in clouds due to small solar variations. It is possibly as low as 0.01 C.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 4:45 pm

There was an exchange of papers in the 1990s, including Lindzen, that debated the temperature of a no-CO2 atmosphere. I have those references at home, and will try to post the references here later today.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Pat Frank
October 29, 2019 8:49 am

Here they are , an exchange of short note

Charnock H, Shine KP. How Cold Would We Get Under CO2-Less Skies? Physics Today. 1995;48(2):78-80.

Kandel R. How Cold Would We Get Under CO2-Less Skies? Physics Today. 1995;48(2):78-80.

Lindzen RS. How Cold Would We Get Under CO2-Less Skies? Physics Today. 1995;48(2):78-80.

David A
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 30, 2019 4:40 am

Crispin says “Unless the surface heating is first quantified, no attribution can be made for the net effect of adding the GHG’s, which are three: first, shading of the surface by decreasing the surface heating energy (surface cooling), second, the radiative effects so often discussed (atmospheric warming) and third, atmospheric cooling as the atmosphere gains the ability to radiate directly into space without first having to transfer energy back to the surface at night, which is the case for the planet without GHG’s.”

Agreed. IMV it is best to initially think in simple terms; earth’s system as land oceans and atmosphere. Energy entering earth system as TSI.
Residence time of said energy in earth system before leaving. Increase the residence time of said energy and the total energy within the system increases. This becomes a simple law – ” The only way to change the energy content of a system in a radiative equilibrium is to either change the input, or change the the residence time of energy within the system.”

Additionally one can add, Assuming steady state input, then changing the materials encountered within the system is the only way to change the residence time of energy within that system.

As residence time of TSI varies from the micro seconds of albedo reflection, to centuries for S/W energy entering the oceans, then any equation that compares the effect of changing the “materials encountered” of just one item like additional CO2, by also eliminating all atmosphere and the very long residence time oceans, is hopelessly complicating the matter.

October 28, 2019 4:22 am

Could Planet A be replaced by Mars or the Moon, these would have the same albedo as a naked earth as seen from space?
Before anyone shoots me down, I know that the moon has a rotation period of 28 days approximately and that Mars has an atmosphere albeit very thin.

old white guy
October 28, 2019 4:36 am

So many words and so much silliness revolving around something over which man has no control. If mankind survives another thousand years they will be laughing at the level of stupidity exhibited by all and sundry with regards to the climate of the planet in 2021.

October 28, 2019 4:44 am

What, precisely, is Monckton’s conundrum?

I tried googling and the closest match is the Courtier’s conundrum. It poses the question of how an advisor should advise her boss on scientific matters when she, herself, is not a scientist.

Monckton talks about the use of back-of-the-envelope calculations to at least get an approximation of reality.

Simple calculations done honourably and properly can prevent large and wasteful errors. For example, the cost of abating CO2-driven warming turns out greatly to exceed that of focused adaptation to the damage the warming may cause. Mathematical simplification of complex issues is no panacea and can be abused, but some attempt at rigour is preferable to the merely qualitative, partisan approach that is customary. Uncosted ideology is costly. It is immoral too.

With regard to the present article, the moon gives some idea of what an airless, waterless Earth would look like. The problems are that it is smaller and doesn’t rotate every 24 hours because it is tidally locked to the Earth.

richard verney
October 28, 2019 5:38 am

Surely, there is a simpler way given that water vapour is a greenhouse gas?

Why not skip theoretical assessments, and carry out some real observational testing/experimentation say by measuring the temperature profile of a column of air with low hundiity, say below 20% and a column of air with high humidity, say about 75% or more. If greenhouse gases are capable of warming the atmosphere, one should see a measurable difference in the dry adiabatic lapse rate (more accurately termed the unsaturated lapse rate) when the column of air has little hunitidy (water vapour) and when it has a lot of water vapour (high humidity).

In this regard, it is interesting to note that in the dry adiabatic lapse rate calculation no account is taken of water vapour/humidity. Is this because it has no effect, or at most, a miniscule effect? If it has no effect, or only a miniscule effect, then we know that CO2 cannot have significant effect.

Further, of course, the wavelengths at which CO2 absorbs and re-radiates photons would appear to be almost completely saturated by water vapour such that increasing amounts of CO2 have little impact. Indeed, that was the position of NASA, in the 1970s. At that time, it was accepted that the critical wavelengths were almost completely saturated such that an 8 fold increase in CO2 would produce less than 2degC of warming. Nothing has changed about the physics of the CO2 molecule or radiative processes. The only thing that has changed is that this fact has become inconvenient to the global warming manta.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  richard verney
October 28, 2019 6:55 am

I don’t usually do this but…quote (Wikipedia);

“Arrhenius used infrared observations of the moon – by Frank Washington Very and Samuel Pierpont Langley at the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh — to calculate how much of infrared (heat) radiation is captured by CO2 and water (H2O) vapour in Earth’s atmosphere.”

What’s the difference between the moon and the earth?

“Knut Ångström in 1900, who published the first modern infrared absorption spectrum of CO2 with two absorption bands, and published experimental results that seemed to show that absorption of infrared radiation by the gas in the atmosphere was already “saturated” so that adding more could make no difference.”

The only scientist of the time to perform actual experiments and produce results. He was correct then and he is still correct today IMO.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 28, 2019 9:57 am

Ångström eventually forced Arrhenius to admit his calculations were in error which he partly corrected in piecemeal fashion over the subsequent decade lower the ECS by a factor of 3. I believe Mach also objected (in print) to Arrhenius’ 1895 numbers.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 10:01 am

“he partly corrected in piecemeal fashion over the subsequent decade lower the ECS by a factor of 3”
He did not do that.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2019 3:32 pm

Well, what did he do?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2019 5:42 pm

From his 1908 book:
“If the quantity of carbonic acid in the air should sink to one-half its present percentage, the temperature would fall by about 4°C; a diminution to one-quarter would reduce the temperature by 8°C. On the other hand, any doubling of the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air would raise the temperature of the earth’s surface by 4°C; and if the carbon dioxide were increased fourfold, the temperature would rise by 8°C.”

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2019 7:09 pm

So he was wrong!

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 29, 2019 7:18 am

Please see the works or Arrhenius up to the year 1915. Don’t stop at 1908.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 29, 2019 12:53 pm

“Please see the works or Arrhenius up to the year 1915”
Please give an actual citation. I don’t believe your claim.

John Endicott
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 30, 2019 9:40 am

You don’t believe he published works beyond the year 1908? You really want to make that claim?

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 28, 2019 12:51 pm

Both made errors. Errors get examined, leading to corrections, eventually.
See Callendar 1938 for the big picture.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 28, 2019 4:30 pm

Alarmists always quote Arrhenius as being the person who discovered the properties of CO2 and it’s climate warming potential. What they forget is his early work, as shown, was based on the Moon not Earth. Angstrom eventually did convince Arrhenius of the errors. That is called science, sadly lacking in “climate science” today.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 28, 2019 8:12 pm

Just nonsense. He used terrestrial observations of infrared entering our atmosphere from the moon to derive the logarithmic dependence..

Ångström was wrong. He did not convince Arrhenius of anything.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Nick Stokes
October 28, 2019 9:49 pm

Except Angstrom was right about two of the bands absorbed by CO2 were “saturated” which they are.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Patrick MJD
October 29, 2019 7:42 am

I am with Patrick on this one. Arrhenius calculated an amount of warming that would occur from an increase in CO2 concentration. He made claims for cause, effect, and magnitude.

This claims were opposed on the basis of errors in thinking. His claims for magnitude have been demonstrated to have exaggerated by a factor of at least 3. The demonstration was both theoretical and practical. The ECS is not what he suggested in 1895.

Nick, I don’t know what you are defending. He made a set of claims and they were generally correct based on first principles but the sensitivity is not of the magnitude expected, in practice, for a number of reasons, including that he made basic conceptual errors which were pointed out by his peers. In my opinion he made as well at least one systematic error which was not to consider the saturation of the bands which were to create the proposed effect. It affects the calculation of absorption.

He also did not understand that on planet Earth with an atmosphere but without any GHG’s, the air temperature would not be the same as the moon’s surface without any atmosphere at all. If he had considered this, he would not have claimed such a high ECS because the air temperature without GHG’s is higher than the naked surface of the moon. See my detailed discussion above.

Like many, he considered only the fact that for radiative balance the effective emission temperature has to be sufficient to match the energy input. The big difference conceptually is that the surface of the earth with no atmosphere might be 255k. Having the atmosphere without any GHGs requires the average surface temperature to be 255K, but the near surface air, heated by the hot surface in the daytime, gives a temperature well above 255 K because 1) it cannot cool by radiation and b) there would be strong inversions at night preventing cooling to the surface so heat would accumulate in the atmosphere. So the claim that the air temperature would be the same as the ground surface temperature is incorrect, were there no GHG’s. This error is repeated in each of the IPCC’s reports which states that all warming above 255 K is cause by GHG’s. With no GHG’s the convective heat transfer is about 320 W/m^2 and with the concentration at present it is about 168 W/m^2. (Trenberth 2009)

Adding GHG’s to an atmosphere that had none permits the point of energy departure to rise from the surface into the atmosphere, though some continues to be lost directly to space from the surface through the so-called “window”. Trenberth quantified the convective heat transfer to the air, but does not admit it takes place in the absence of GHG’s which is an error.

Arrhenius was incorrect about the magnitude of warming on the basis of the band saturation, and incorrect for having omitted convective heat transfer to the atmosphere, which continues with or without GHG’s, raising the air temperature. The increase is attributed by the IPCC to GHG’s, all of it, which is an error. When the convective heating is subtracted from the +33 C of warming, the ECS is even lower than its currently suspected values.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 29, 2019 9:33 am

your statement muddled my heat transfer mindset. Shouldn’t there be less convective heat transfer when there is less temperature difference between the ground and the air ? Shouldn’t the air on absorbing a little heat due to its CO2 content have higher convective activity ? Thus, shouldn’t air with no GHG have somewhat lower convective transfer ? And how did you get that 320 ?
On another note, yes I feel Gavin missed the thermo class on adiabatic behaviour of expanding gases. The no-GHG atmosphere will still exhibit the lapse rate temperature gradient with altitude.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
October 30, 2019 1:23 am

Nick has his…errrm…”opinion” grounded in computer models and thus flawed.

Thomas Homer
Reply to  richard verney
October 28, 2019 6:57 am

richard verney: “Why not skip theoretical assessments, and carry out some real observational testing/experimentation say by measuring”


Imagine if we had been measuring all along. We could then begin to analyze data for patterns and derive tools of reason in an effort to compile enough of a set of tools to apply and extend our knowledge.

But alas …

Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 28, 2019 8:38 am

I’ve often imagined this experiment:
4, very large, clear domes
4, very accurate thermometers

Place the domes on a large, flat field. They should be completely sealed except for a small ‘airlock’ designed to insert and remove the thermometers.
Fill them all with local air. Maintain temperature measurements within each dome, rotating the thermometers consistently between the domes. Average the temperature of each dome to give you a baseline anomaly between domes.
Now adjust the composition of air in the domes: one set to 200 ppm CO2; one 400 ppm; one 800 ppm; and one unchanged, having the local air – this would be the control.

Continue rotating the thermometers so each dome is measured by each thermometer the same amount of time. The anomalies in each doom after subtracting the baseline anomaly for that dome, compared to the control dome should yield the CO2 sensitivity.

Everything an open atmosphere would experience would essentially be amplification or dampening of this sensitivity.

Is there a flaw in this? They would all experience the same external forcings – solar insolation, conductivity, etc. The only difference would be the CO2 levels. So, to me, the questions are, how big must the domes be, and how much would it cost?

Reply to  Thomas Homer
October 28, 2019 7:51 pm

For Pete’s sake, hundreds of weather balloons take these measurements every day. Tephigrams are made for airports worldwide. Or are you sarcin’ us ?

Reply to  richard verney
October 28, 2019 10:36 am

It has been done. A new analysis of radiosonde data shows there is no greenhouse effect in our atmosphere. See ( ) at 1Hr-01 Min for their conclusions. These include that the IPCC was wrong to conclude that recent climate changes were due to greenhouse gasses and current climate model projections are worthless.
This work is thorough, uses lots of data (20 million data sets over 70 year long period), and unique as far as I can tell. It negates the supposition of a climate sensitivity as it establishes that the troposphere and stratosphere are in thermodynamic equilibrium and more “greenhouse gasses” have no effect as was postulated by Einstein.

Nick Schroeder
October 28, 2019 5:47 am

By reflecting away 30% of the ISR the ‘”with it” atmosphere makes the earth cooler not warmer than the “with out it” scenario.

Greenhouse effect incorrectly postulates the exact opposite.

Zero RGHE, Zero GHGs, Zero warming, Zero CAGW.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
October 28, 2019 10:34 pm

Nick, as I understand it 50% of incoming light from the sun is IR. If so, H20 and co2 would insulate the planet thus keeping it cooler than it would be without ”GHG”. That is, adding more GHG would increase the cooling. Am I correct?
If so, how can GHG both cool and warm?

Michael Hammer
Reply to  Mike
October 29, 2019 12:44 am

Mike, no the emission spectrum of the sun is that of a black body at 5500K. At this temperature very little of the energy is in the IR depending of course where you define IR to start. For CO2 the first absorption band is between 2 and 3 micron and the second between 4 and 5 micron. There is very little energy form the sun at those wavelengths. Water does have some absorption bands starting just above 1 micron but even then there is little solar energy at those wavelengths. Most solar emission is in the visible – look up the curve of Planks law for a 5500K emitter. There is essentially no wavelength overlap between incoming solar energy and outgoing long wave emissions.

Reply to  Michael Hammer
October 29, 2019 6:25 am

Mr. Hammer the sunlight hitting the surface is in fact above 50% infrared. See link.

HD Hoese
October 28, 2019 6:39 am

“(with substantial error bars)” I wish I had some way to thank my statistics professor.

Jean Parisot
October 28, 2019 7:01 am

Why is 3deg of warming catastrophic?

Julian Flood
October 28, 2019 7:04 am

Go on, Mosh, look at the warming caused by surface pollution of the oceans by light oil. Rather than this sort of flyby, irritation-inducing post, come up with another major warming factor, make your name. Nobel Laureate Mosh has a good ring to it.

Hint: why the blip?


October 28, 2019 7:48 am

The ECS to CO2 is between +0 C to -0 C.

Matthew R Marler
October 28, 2019 8:37 am

Bob Irvine, thank you for your essay.

October 28, 2019 9:26 am

A particle in space receives energy from the sun

sun particle space

and radiates it to space. Its temperature is set by the temperature required to radiate the energy received from the sun back to space.

energy = [Boltzmann constant] times T^4

The Boltzmann constant is the same for every particle in the universe, including
a “particle” of CO2. The “color” of the particle makes very little difference. Its albedo makes none. If the particle gets too warm, its radiation to space increases and it reverts to its equilibrium, despite worrying arguments about compounding errors. If it gets too cold its radiation to space decreases and it will be warmed by the sun until its reverts to its equilibrium. This is what is called negative feedback. The earth is simply a very large particle with a finite thermal conductivity so heat cannot instantly distribute itself. Because it receives energy over half its surface but radiates from the entire surface it is never exactly in equilibrium, hence weather, which is nature’s way of maximizing entropy by distributing heat for maximum radiation efficiency. The composition of the atmosphere really can make very little difference.

Nick Schroeder
Reply to  pochas94
October 28, 2019 10:16 am

“…nature’s way of maximizing entropy…”
Another clueless amateur who sounds good, but has no idea what entropy is/isn’t.

John Adams
Reply to  pochas94
October 28, 2019 10:27 am

Makes sense to me.

Curious George
Reply to  pochas94
October 28, 2019 11:57 am

Your use of statistics for a single particle reminds me of Asimov’s story “Franchise”, where a progress in polling methods allows elections to be replaced by polling a single voter.

Reply to  Curious George
October 28, 2019 12:37 pm

I don’t know. Can you measure the temperature of a single atom? If you can and it’s in local thermal equilibrium you could at least get an idea. Sort of like exit polls during elections.

Steve Z
October 28, 2019 11:43 am

The whole idea of a “climate sensitivity” to a doubling of CO2 concentration is erroneous. Most of the energy of incoming radiation from the sun is in the ultraviolet and visible part of the spectrum, where CO2 does not absorb (which is why, contrary to little Miss Greta Thunberg, human beings can’t see CO2 in the air). Atmospheric warming due to increasing CO2 is supposed to be due to partial absorption of outgoing IR radiation (re-radiation when the earth’s surface is warmer than atmosphere).

If Io is the intensity of re-radiation from the earth at a given wavelength, then the intensity transmitted through a column of air at height z (according to Beer’s Law) is given by

I = Io exp (-aCz)

where a is the absorption coefficient at the given wavelength, C is the concentration of absorbing gas, and z is the height of gas through which the radiation passes. The intensity of radiation absorbed (which warms the atmosphere) is then

Ia = Io [1 – exp(-aCz)]

Granted, the absorption coefficient a is a function of wavelength, and even the concentration C varies with altitude (decreasing pressure with increasing altitude). But for a given altitude and wavelength, a doubling of C results in a doubling of the negative argument of the exponential.

If we start with a hypothetical value of aCz of 0.25 and start doubling, we get

aCz = 0.25 Ia = 0.2212Io
aCz = 0.50 Ia = 0.3935Io increase = 0.1723Io
aCz = 1.00 Ia = 0.6321Io increase = 0.2386Io
aCz = 2.00 Ia = 0.8647Io increase = 0.2326Io
aCz = 4.00 Ia = 0.9817Io increase = 0.1170Io
aCz = 8.00 Ia = 0.99966Io increase = 0.01796Io
aCz = 16.00 Ia = 0.999999Io increase = 0.00034Io

The increase in absorbed radiation due to a doubling of CO2 concentration is not constant, but reaches a maximum between aCz = 0.5 and aCz = 2.0, and declines sharply for aCz > 4. For wavelengths at which aCz > 16, there is very little energy left to be absorbed, but these are the wavelengths at which most of the available energy is currently absorbed at current CO2 concentrations. This illustrates CO2 “saturation” at the high-absorbing wavelengths, where additional CO2 has little to no effect on air temperature.

In order to calculate a theoretical temperature rise due to an increase in CO2 concentrations, an integration over the IR spectrum would have to be performed, using the IR emission spectrum from the earth (Planck function) to calculate Io as a function of wavelength, and then varying the absorption coefficients as a function of wavelength, and subtracting out absorption by water vapor (which is not available for absorption by CO2).

Increasing the CO2 concentration has its greatest proportional effect where 0.5 < aCz 4, where little additional absorption is possible, so that the temperature increase due to additional CO2 over the entire spectrum may be much less than that for an assumed Arrhenius relationship (constant temperature increase for each doubling of CO2 concentration).

Michael Hammer
October 28, 2019 12:47 pm

It seems to me there is a far simpler argument. The theory of AGW is that
1 mans use of fossil fuels is raising atmospheric CO2
2 CO2 is a green house gas which acts like a blanket, reducing Earth’s energy loss to space
3 Reducing Earth’s energy loss to space creates an energy imbalance (input>loss) which causes earth to warm

The simplest most definitive test of this is surely, “is Earths energy loss to space falling as CO2 rises”. If not, then where is the energy imbalance causing Earth to warm? Earth’s energy loss to space is measured as outgoing long wave radiation or OLR. NASA has been measuring this via satellites since about 1980 and their data is published. It shows that OLR has been rising not falling and is now 3 watts/sqM higher than it was in 1980! Ahh I hear you cry, that’s simply a reflection of the fact (indeed proof) that the Earth has warmed. OK if Earth has warmed by 1C and its direct sensitivity is 3 watts/sqM/C then that would explain the 3 watts/sqM rise in OLR. Yep, but two problems, firstly since OLR did not fall, what caused the warming (cant very well be rising CO2 if the only action of rising CO2 is energy retention ie: reduced OLR). Secondly, if rising CO2 was reducing OLR, then the net change in OLR would be the rise due to higher surface temperature minus the reduction due to rising CO2, but the total impact matches the rise due to higher temperature meaning the reduction due to rising OC2 would be zero!

October 28, 2019 1:09 pm

“who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes” – Chico Marx

This forum has devolved into debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. California is on fire (for the 5th year in a row), people are dying the world over, we are out of fresh water, etc. Climate models (boogyman!) have been proven to have _underestimated_ the rate of warming. Yet here we quibble about trivial issues (while most of the quibblers do not own their own climate satellites or weather stations or experience outside what the carbon companies tell them).

time to figure out how our grandchildren (I have two – ages 1 and 2) are going to live to their expected lifetimes.

the crazy thing is that halting climate warming could be a money-making proposition! Yet the correspondents on this blog appear either to be (a) stooges of carbon producers, or (b) deluded anti-government trolls.

sigh. ‘nuf said. over and out …

Reply to  chrris
October 29, 2019 8:42 am

Chrris: Please consider that its the sun’s variations, not our CO2, driving the climate, via cloud cover changes.

Some due diligence on your part will put your mind at ease.

Reply to  chrris
October 29, 2019 9:12 am

chrris sez:
‘nuf said. over and out …

Thank goodness for that….

Reply to  chrris
October 29, 2019 8:46 pm

“Climate models (boogyman!) have been proven to have _underestimated_ the rate of warming. ”

Really? (Citation needed)

Bob boder
Reply to  chrris
October 30, 2019 7:01 am

Less people die today from every form of natural disaster than did in the past even with a huge increase in the worlds population. so i guess that’s proof the climate is improving.

nuff said of your nonsense.

John Endicott
Reply to  chrris
October 30, 2019 10:00 am

California is on fire (for the 5th year in a row)

California has be on fire most every year of it’s existence. I doubt you could name a year in which there were no wildfires in California.

people are dying the world over

And have been for as long as there have been people on this world.

we are out of fresh water

No, we are not. Where did you ever get the nonsense idea that we were?

Climate models (boogyman!) have been proven to have _underestimated_ the rate of warming

Again, you state something that is not true. Climate Models have consistently *OVER* estimated warming. When Models are compared to observation, the divergence between the over prediction of the models and observations gets larger the further out in time you go.

time to figure out how our grandchildren (I have two – ages 1 and 2)

I pity your grandchildren for having such an obvious idiot for a grandparent (Not an insult, it’s an observation based on the stupid stuff you wrote in your post). Hopefully they didn’t inherit your (lack of) intelligence.

sigh. ‘nuf said. over and out …

and thank god for that, we’re all just a little bit stupider for having read the drivel you posted.

Dr Deanster
October 28, 2019 2:24 pm

Simply put …. there cannot be any kind of non limited positive feedback in climate. If there were, the earth would have incinerated millions of years ago. There may be a limited positive feedback that operates within a defined limit, above which, it begins to fail and give way to negative feedback. Just look at the shapes of the Ice Age continuum. There is always a rapid warm up that comes to a relative abrupt halt, which then begins to slowly fall back down to glacial conditions. So, there may be some short lived positive feedback, but it is obvious that it is incapable of crossing an upper threshold.

I don’t get how smart people who call themselves scientist can make a statement supporting these so called run away positive feedbacks.

Reply to  Dr Deanster
October 28, 2019 10:54 pm

Well put. It seems we may be approaching one of those peaks now. Slow down in warming ( I believe satellite data confirms this?) Just like a pendulum, there is a point were it comes to an almost complete stop before accelerating back down. The trick is to observe this outside the ”noise”

Chris Thompson
October 28, 2019 6:57 pm

Z : What are the aCz values, approximately, for our current amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? Are we close to saturating the absorption limit, or nowhere near?

Robert Stevenson
Reply to  Chris Thompson
October 30, 2019 11:41 am

No we are long way from our saturation point.

Robert Stevenson October 30, 2019 at 10:49 am
Doubling CO2 in the atmosphere from 380 to 760ppmv would not absorb more infra red radiation as the wavelengths in question have already been absorbed to extinction long before 380ppmv CO2 has even been reached. All that happens is transit distances decrease before extinction, from 4000m to 2000m calculations show. This is well known from papers by Hoyt C Hottel et al – Trans. Am. Inst Chem. Engrs.

Mike in England
October 29, 2019 9:07 am

The ECS is possibly logarithmic and dependent on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. So to go from 0.04% to 0.08% would be difficult to detect but from say, 4% to 8% would not.

Robert Stevenson
October 30, 2019 10:49 am

Doubling CO2 in the atmosphere from 380 to 760ppmv would not absorb more infra red radiation as the wavelengths in question have already been absorbed to extinction long before 380ppmv CO2 has even been reached. All that happens is transit distances decrease before extinction, from 4000m to 2000m calculations show. This is well known from papers by Hoyt C Hottel et al – Trans. Am. Inst Chem. Engrs.


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