Interview: Climate Change – A Different Perspective with Judith Curry

Reposted from Dr. Judith Curry’s Climate Etc.

Posted on January 30, 2021 by curryja |

by Judith Curry

My recent interview on the Strong and Free podcast.

I recently did an interview with Christopher Balkaran on his Strong and Free podcast [link]

While I wasn’t previously aware of Balkaran or his podcast, you can see why I agreed to this interview, from these excerpts from the ‘About’ page:

“I created the Strong and Free Podcast to explore news topics by gathering multiple perspectives together and allowing people and organizations to discuss their opinions with detail. This allows for a nuanced conversation. It also means putting aside my own bias to explore these to the fullest. It means making all guests feel welcomed to share their opinions safely, without fear that the host will paint them into a corner, or make them sound incoherent. I want this place to be truly safe. I believe everyone, even those I disagree with, deserve to be treated with respect and to be on the Podcast to share their perspective. It also means having a concrete discussion on issues and determining the best way forward.  As long as we restore thoughtful approaches to the biggest issues of our time our conversations will have deep, valuable meaning. And, we enrich our own opinion.”

We covered a lot of topics that I think will provide good fodder for discussion and debate here.

Here is a transcript of the interview (quicker to read than to listen to the hour long podcast).  I edited the transcript eliminate thousands of ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘okay’ (I am really a much better writer than speaker).  I also edited to increase overall coherency of what was said.


Welcome to the Strong and Free podcast where my goal is to showcase multiple perspectives on the topics and ideas of our time, regardless of your politics and views, you will find a home here because I simply have no agenda to push. My name is Christopher Balkaran and let’s start the conversation.

Christopher Balkaran: So I wanted to pose this question to you, even though I know you can’t reply because this is a podcast. But how often have you heard from scientists who are respected in their field that have openly questioned and been critical of the findings and the climate modeling put forward by the intergovernmental panel for climate change? I know I haven’t, and I know the majority of us probably haven’t. So I want to just sit down with professor Judith Curry. Professor Curry has been openly critical of the intergovernmental panel for climate change. Professor Curry openly accepts that climate change is real and it is happening, but the topic is so, so complex. And so determining what governments need to do is also complex.

But so often today we hear about these very simple slogans and solutions to climate change, you know, just to accept the science and provide a rebuttal or to meet these, these lofty targets at a global scale, which is so challenging because  every country, every region has differentt issues, but getting countries around the world to all agree on common goals, is very, very challenging. So I wanted to sit down with Professor Curry to understand a little bit more about why the climate modeling that has been put forward by the IPCC is flawed y. And also what professor Curry would do if she were in power in terms of what policies should be pursued. I hope we can continue having these conversations with multiple perspectives on climate change.

Judith Curry: My pleasure. Thanks for the invite.

Christopher Balkaran: You are so well known in the climate change and climatology space. But before we get into that, I want to know a little bit more from you about what drew you to this space .

Judith Curry: Okay. I guess it goes back to fifth grade. I was in a little academically talented group that was selected for broader exposure to things, beyond the normal curriculum. And this geologist came to talk to us and I was fascinated. So I really started liking that. When considering majors in college, in the seventies geology was really too qualitative of a field. So I wanted to combine this with physics. And then at the university where I was, there was a program in meteorology, which had the sameconnection to the natural world, but seemed more physically based at least at the time. And then I continued on for my PhD at University of Chicago in the department of geophysical sciences. And this was late seventies, early eighties. My PhD thesis was on the the role of radiative transfer in Arctic weather. I wasn’t really thinking in terms of manmade climate change at that point. But understanding the processes in the Arctic atmosphere and sea ice became a pretty important factor as global warming ramped up. And so, I still have my foot in what I would call the weather field, but I also do climate dynamics in the Arctic, but also more broadly at this point.

Christopher Balkaran: And how was the conversation on climate change in the seventies and eighties? Definitely we’ll talk a little bit more about what it is today, but what were some of the major issues that climatology and environmental sciences?

Judith Curry:  Climate change wasn’t a really big issue at that point. At the time, it was all about geophysical fluid dynamics, trying to understand the circulations of atmosphere and the ocean, tradiative transfer, cloud physics. It was, it was very physics based. I would hear in the media about people talking about, Oh, the ice age is coming , or doom and gloom from CO2 emissions, but nobody was really paying attention to all that very much in terms of what I would say the mainstream field until the late 1980s, really. There were some very rambunctious people who were talking about this publicly and painting alarming scenarios on both sides, the cold and the warm side, and most people that I knew and where I was, nobody was really paying much attention to all that.

Christopher Balkaran: It’s so fascinating that you say that because you know, me being a kid of the nineties watching Captain Planet and other cartoons at a young age, all I heard of, on a much smaller scale was how important the environment is. It’s taken over so many, so many spheres of our discourse. But in the late eighties, you start seeing this kind of discussion on climate change. What do you think are, were some of the underpinnings that guided both sides, was kind of this kind of protest towards big oil or capitalism more broadly?

Judith Curry:  Well, a lot of it comes from the UN Environmental Program. At the time, there was a push towards world government, socialistic kind of leanings, don’t like capitalism and big oil. A lot of it really comes from that kind of thinking. And the UNEP was one of the sponsoring organizations for the IPCC. And so that really engaged more climate scientists and really brought it more into the mainstream. But in the early days, a lot of scientists didn’t like this at all, they didn’t think that we should be going in this direction. And this was even the World Climate Research program and the World Meteorological Organization, they didn’t want to get involved in man-made climate change under the auspices of the IPCC.

They said, this is just a whole political thing. This is not what we do. We seek to understand all the processes and climate dynamics, we don’t want to go there. And that was really a pretty strong attitude, through, I would say the mid nineties, say 1995. We had the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at that point, they’re trying to get a big treaty going. And so defenders of the IPCC started pushing the idea that anybody who doubts us or challenges us, they are in the pay of big oil. After that, it became much more difficult to really challenge all that. And certainly by the turn of the century, anybody who was questioning the hockey stick or any of these other things were slammed as deniers and ostracized. And then after Climategate in 2010, the consensus enforcers became very militant. So it’s a combination of politics, and some mediocre scientists trying to protect their careers. And, they saw this whole thing as a way for career advancement, and it gives them a seat at the big table and political power.

All this reinforces pretty shoddy science and overconfidence in their expert judgment, which comprises the IPCC assessment reports. And then at some point you start to get second order belief. I mean, it’s such a big, complex problem. Individual scientists only look at a piece of it, and then they start accepting what the consensus says on the other topics. A scientist working on some aspect of the climate problem may know very little about carbon dioxide, the carbon budget, radiative transfer, all that fundamental science, but they will accept the climate consensus because it’s easy and good for their career. And so it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And now we have way too much confidence in some very dubious climate models and inadequate data sets. And we’re not really framing the problem broadly enough to really understand what’s going on with the climate and to make credible projections about the range of things that we could possibly see in the 21st century.

Christopher Balkaran:  Just as a student who is always looking at reports to understand a little bit more about topics, we have Statistics Canada. So always reading stats can reports on different segments of the population and how they’re dealing with certain government interventions, whatever they may be. In October, I did a series on abortion in Canada and looking at the statistics behind abortion, and I had this kind of recurring thought about climate change. And that was if I’m a scientist and I want to fully study climate change in a specific way, I’m dependent in some part, perhaps a large part on government funding. And if government is politicized in saying climate change is happening and it’s human caused or, or whatever the case is, if my research doesn’t align with that, I can see my research being defunded. And then I think, well, if the public is only seeing the research that government is funding or being a big a big contributor to the funding, It’s not really unbiased research.

Judith Curry: Well, it’s worse than that because the government funding is not that they just re reject those kinds of proposals. They make it hard for you to even submit them because their announcement of opportunity for proposals already implicitly or explicitly assume this, and they are soliciting proposals on impacts of manmade, global warming, regional impacts on whatever. So there’s already either an implicit or explicit assumptions about all this. As a result, it’s really the independent scientists, retired people, people in the private sector, independently wealthy people who are doing this work.

Christopher Balkaran:  Professor from your experience, what do you think has been some of the major causes for this shift in how we understand climate change, especially given how recent relatively it is and why do you believe it’s so politicized.

Judith Curry: Well, there is almost certainly a signal of manmade emissions the earth climate. All other things being equal, it’s warmer than it would otherwise be. The real issue is the magnitude of man-made warming relative to the whole host of other things that go on in the natural climate system. And then the bigger issue is really whether this warming is dangerous. You know, a certain amount of warming is generally regarded by people as a good thing. But a whole lot of warming, isn’t especially a good thing, especially if it’s melting ice sheets and causing sea level rise.

Sea level rise operates on very long timescales. And the manmade warming that we’ve seen so far, I don’t think is really contributing much to the sea level rise that we’ve observed so far. I mean, that’s just a much longer term processes. And even if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide today, the sea level rise would keep rising. So, the climate system is way more complex than just something that you can tune, with a CO2 control knob. That just isn’t how it works.

Christopher Balkaran: And that’s exactly what I want to chat with you about because you’ve been quite skeptical of climate change modeling. For those on the outside, looking in, it’s extremely challenging for anyone to be that familiar or, have a good command of the science. A common theme I hear from my friends is I just accept the science when it comes to climate change. Can you explain to me why, first of all, so let’s be clear that climate change modeling is very complex. And then why are you skeptical of current climate change modeling, and why am I the only one that feels that there’s just not enough skepticism of climate change modeling and there’s just blind acceptance sometimes of what we’re being told.

Judith Curry: Okay. The climate models originated from weather forecast models, and then they added an ocean then land surface biosphere, and then chemical processes, and now ice sheets. They keep adding all these modules and increasing complexity of the models,  but the basic dynamics are driven by the same kind of models that model the weather. We’ve learned a lot from climate models, by running experiments, turning things off, turning things on adjusting parameters, taking clouds out, taking sea ice out, holding the sea surface temperature constant in the tropical central Pacific and see what happens, you know, we learn how the climate works by using climate models in that way. However, the most consequential applications of climate models are to tell us what caused the 20th century climate change, how much the climate change is going to change in the 21st century and what’s causing extreme weather events.

I mean, those are the more consequential applications and climate models aren’t fit for any of those purposes. And that’s pretty much acknowledged even in the IPCC report. Well, they, they do claim that they can attribute the global warming, but this can’t be easily separated from the natural variability associated with large-scale ocean circulations. And the way they’ve used climate models to do that involves circular reasoning, where they throw out climate simulations that really don’t match what was observed. So you, you end up, even if you’re not explicitly tuning to the climate record, you’re implicitly tuning. And then the thing with extreme events, weather events is beyond silly because these climate models can’t resolve the extreme events and they can’t simulate the ocean circulation patterns that really determine the locations of these extreme events. And then when you start talking about 21st century, the only thing they’re looking at is the manmade human emissions forcing, they’re not predicting solar variability.

They’re not not predicting volcanic eruptions. They can’t even predict the timing of these multidecadal to millennial ocean oscillation. So all they’re looking at is this one little piece. Okay. So, what are you supposed to do with all that? Not sure we know much more than the sign of the change from more CO2 in the atmosphere, which is more warming. And then there’s another thing. The most recent round of global climate model simulations, the so-called CMIP5 for the IPCC 6th assessment report. All of a sudden the sensitivity to CO2 the range has substantially increased in a lot of the models, way outside the bounds on the high side of what we thought was plausible, even five years ago. So what are we to make of that? And how did that happen? Well, it, it’s a, it’s a rather arcane issue related to how clouds cloud particles interact with aerosol particles.

By adding some extra degrees of freedom into the model related to clouds, then it becomes all of a sudden way more sensitive to increases in CO2. What are we supposed to make of that? I mean, we do not have a convergent situation with these climate models. And this is not mention that the 21st century projections from the climate models, don’t include solar variations. They don’t include volcanoes or the ocean circulation, all of these things that they don’t include. So what are we left with? And then there are these precise targets, such as we will exceed our carbon budget in 2038. This is way too much precision that is derived from these very inadequate climate models.

Christopher Balkaran: Everything that you said professor makes so much sense, and I can’t understand how results from the climate models can totally shift the politics of almost every nation in the world including Canada here. Every single major political party has an entire section in their policy platform about climate change and what their government would do to fight it. That wasn’t always the case and routinely political parties were challenged for not doing enough. We need to have a healthy level of skepticism here.

Judith Curry: Well, first off, people are looking for simple problems with simple solutions, and they thought that climate change was a simple problem, sort of like the ozone hole. Stop emitting chloroflourocarbons – stop the ozone hole; stop emitting CO2 – stop the global warming. There’s no way we’re going to make progress on CO2 emissions until we come up with alternatives that are reliable, abundant, secure, economical, et cetera, Wind and solar, aren’t the answer. All other things being equal, everybody would prefer clean over dirty energy. That’s a no brainer, maybe a few coal companies prefer dirty, but everybody would prefer clean, clean energy, but they’re not willing to sacrifice those other things like cost and reliability.

So it just doesn’t make sense. All of these targets and promises about energy are just so much hot air, if you will, sound and fury. We don’t have solutions and nobody’s meeting their targets. I mean, all they do is go to these meetings, make more and more stringent commitments that everyone knows aren’t going to be met. And at the same time, we’re not dealing with the real problems that might be addressed. For example, water is a big issue, we either have too much or too little. Independent of man-made global warming, let let’s sort out our water supply systems and our flood management strategies. How, how do we prepare for droughts? Lets focus on the current problems that we have – food, water, and energy. Those are the three big ones.

And the other thing, while we’re trying to make energy cleaner, we’re basically sacrificing grid electricity for many parts of Africa and we’re inhibiting their development. How does that help human development and human wellbeing? It makes no sense. Even if we were successful, say stopping CO2 emissions by 2050 we might see a few tenths of a degree reduction in the warming by the end of the 21st century, how does that help us now?

What we should worry more about is our vulnerability to hurricanes and floods and wildfires, and all of these kinds of hazardous events that have happened since time immemorial. Whether or not they get a tiny bit worse over the course of the century is less important than really figuring out how to deal with them now. If we are concerned about reducing our vulnerability, all the money that we spend thinking we’re reducing CO2 emissions, it could be applied to these other problems, such as better managing water resources, decreasing our vulnerability to extreme weather events and so on. So there are many more sensible things that we could be doing.

It’s an opportunity cost – all of this focus on trying to reduce emissions with 20 century technologies distracts from addressing the fact that we need new technologies.

Christopher Balkaran: When you look at ancient societies, they dealt with the immediate needs and immediate concerns. And I think what I want to emphasize too, is we’re not saying governments aren’t doing this. I’m sure they are, but to the extent in which they can be doing them and making them a priority, as much as they’re making, you know, the Paris Accords, climate change targets.

Judith Curry: Actually people are doing a lot less of that than you think, because, you know, especially in the developing world, such as South Asia where they just get hammered with hurricane after flood, after whatever. Each one of these events sets them back a generation in terms of trying to get ahead – they lose all their livestock and seeds and, it sets them back enormously. Then we spend all our money trying to clean up the mess afterwards. Why not help them develop adequate grid electricity so they can develop economically and better protect themselves. Again, the problem is over simplifying the problem and the solution, and then tying this in with some broader political agendas, such as anti-capitalistm and world government. Many people have bought all this largely because they’ve been scared.

Christopher Balkaran: You know, professor, everything that you’ve said is very reasonable and, you know, most people they, those familiar with the scientific method would think, Oh, this makes a lot of sense. And yet in January, 2017, you leave academia because of their very poisonous nature on human caused global warming. And I know for a fact that there are so many people that share that this idea of they can’t even have a conversation anymore.

Judith Curry: I regard myself as sort of a centrist. I’m politically independent. I don’t have any allegiance to one side or the other.. I understand the complexity of the problems, and I don’t really advocate for any solutions because I can’t think of any that I would want to advocate for that actually makes sense. You know, other than broadly talking about, we need to adapt no matter what, and if you want clean energy, you need to invest in better technologies. You’re not gonna get very far in preventing climate change by trying to massively deploy 20th century technologies. These are the kind of general statements that I’ve been making. But because I wasn’t actively advocating with the greens and I was critical of the behavior of some of the scientists involved in the climate gate episode. I got booted over to the denier side. And they tried to cancel me. I don’t have any allegiance to the extremes of either side of this, but the alarmists seem to be completely intolerant to disagreement and criticism.

There’s crazy people on both sides of the debate. There’s a range of credible perspectives that I try to consider. it’s a very complex problem and we don’t have the answers yet

Christopher Balkaran: And it’s fascinating to me that being in the center puts you at odds with academia and that you felt forced out almost because of the very poisonous nature. To me, it’s like the there’s an extremist view that has taken over academia and has taken over our discourse. I want to learn from you, how can we reverse this? And re-institute a healthy level of skepticism and saying, I don’t accept fully the IPCCs modeling because there are gaping holes in it and we should be able to talk and convey that message in a straightforward manner.

Judith Curry:  Well, you know, I wish I knew. There’s a social contract between policy makers and the scientists, which sort of reinforces all this. I thought maybe that could be broken with president Trump, but a whole lot of other things got broken under president Trump, but not that one in particular. So, I don’t know what it would take. At some point we’re going to hit another slowdown in warming. And then maybe that will wake people up a little bit more. We just have to wait and see how the climate change actually plays out. We could be waiting 30 years, which is a long time during which a lot of stupid things can happen in the meantime.

Christopher Balkaran: I just want to quickly mention your blog Climate Etc, which is filled with articles. I had Andy West on, and he’s talked a lot about the cultural narrative that’s been built. But there was a really interesting quote that I found in one of your articles. You said “we’re breeding a generation of climate scientists who analyze climate model outputs, who come up with sexy conclusions and get published in Nature. Like we won’t be able to grow grapes for wine in California in 2100, that kind of stuff gets headlines. It gets grants. It feeds our reputation. It’s cheap, easy science. But t’s fundamentally not useful because it rests on inadequate climate models, especially when you’re trying to look at regional climate change. That is where the field is going. We’ve lost a generation of climate dynamism, and that’s what worries me greatly.”

Judith Curry: Okay. I call that climate model taxonomy, where you look at the outputs of climate models mostly regionally, and then over interpret them, relating the output to some really bad impact act. But it’s scientifically completely meaningless. First, the climate models don’t have any skill on regional spatial scales. And second, when climate scientists start making these linkages with wine growing or whatever, they forget a whole lot of other ancillary factors like land use and, all sorts of other things that can contribute to whatever they might be looking at. And it ends up with climate change being the dominant narrative for everything that’s going on. And that’s just simply not the case. With the over-reliance on climate models, climate dynamics is really becomes sort of a dying field.

You know, I was old school at the university of Chicago with geophysical fluid dynamics and all this really hard stuff. Okay. Now people do statistical analyses on climate model output, and we’ve lost our sense of understanding of how the atmosphere and the ocean interact to produce our climate. There’s very few universities that have good programs in climate dynamics at this point. And you don’t see a lot of students in those research groups, they rather do the sexier, easier climate model taxonomy studies. Climate dynamics is still there, but it’s far from dominant. I mean that you geophysical fluid dynamics, clmate dynamics that ruled in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and even into the nineties, but in the 21st century, we’ve seen that really become like a renascent subfield, with climate model taxonomy ruling the roost.

Christopher Balkaran: And that taxonomy captivates on the emotional level and allows us to override our ability to be rational and be able to say, let me be okay with being challenged on this. And my followup to that is if you’re president of a university, how do you make sure that climate dynamics is part of your environmental science bachelor’s degrees and master’s,

Judith Curry:  Well, it’s so low on the totem pole of what people high in higher university administration worry about. I mean, you still have like meteorology undergraduates learn about atmospheric dynamics. There aren’t too many oceanography undergraduate programs, but when you go to graduate school in oceanography, you get a lot of fluid dynamics. But there are all these new degree programs spinning up in climate, that are far away from the geo-physical roots . These new programs combine policy with a little bit of science and economics and whatever. And then the science part of it basically gets minimized. And that’s where all the students are running to these environmental science, climate policy kinds of programs, leaving a talent dearth of people with the good mathematical physical mindset and wanting to enter into the more challenging fields. So, these more difficult fields are not especially thriving.

I mean, they don’t bring in the big bucks in terms of research centers and whatever. It’s hard to maintain them. A couple of years ago, I visited University of Chicago, my old Alma mater, and they still maintained their very strong focus on the dynamics. There was nobody there running climate models and doing this silly stuff, and they didn’t have a lot of students and they didn’t have hardly any funding, but they were carrying the torch and doing fantastic work. Unfortunately, that’s not where the that’s not where the center of mass is – its in these new climate policy degree programs or environmental studies kind of programs. As a result we’ve lost a lot of our infusion from physics. There, there still is an infusion from chemistry, more on the atmospheric chemistry. Part of this seems to be thriving, relatively relating to air quality and complex chemical reactions in the atmosphere. That seems to be thriving. But I would say the more physics based side of all this is really dwindling.

Christopher Balkaran: And that’s my worry. As someone whose parents are first-generation immigrants to Canada, education is number one priority. That’s why so many people from around the world come to North America for education. And if something as important as climatology is becoming politicized and politically motivated, I worry about that. We’re training the next set of leaders that are not solidly versed in atmospheric sciences to be briefing the government . And that should worry more Americans Canadians as well.

Judith Curry: Yeah. you know, people have said Trump is anti-science. I don’t think he’s anti-science, he just doesn’t pay attention to it. What he pays attention to is energy policy. This doesn’t necessarily make you anti-science it makes you ignoring science, so it’s different. So that’s what we’ve seen in the U.S. under the Trump administration. And then we have on the other side of the aisle, politicians say “I believe in science” and they don’t understand anything about it. They say they believe in it. It’s like they they’re believing in Santa Claus. it’s really a political and cultural signifier rather than any real understanding. So it’s just become so politicized, you know, how do you get around that? How do you get past that? I don’t know.

Christopher Balkaran:  Can you talk about what the Obama administration got wrong in the eight years while they were in power? When it comes to climate change?

Judith Curry:  Okay. Well, the first four years, Obama saw that climate change was a political tar baby, and so he pretty much ignored it and went on and tried to do other things where he thought he could be more successful. I think that was a good choice. He picked up on climate change  in his second term, but he politicized it. John Holdren, his science advisor really politicized it. President Obama was tweeting about deniers and stuff like that. And on the White House web page, there was stuff about calling out the climate deniers, and it was very polarizing. I think a lot of the polarization that happened in the U S, really accelerated during Obama’s second term. Then you get whiplash with the Trump administration who, doesn’t care about climate change. He does care about energy policies, you know, he was on a completely different tangent.

Christopher Balkaran:  So that’s fascinating. What I try to do is put the guests in the driver’s seat. If you were president of the United States what would you say would lead to effective climate policy knowing what you know. I wanted to ask you what you saw as effective climate policy and what parties should pursue.

Judith Curry:  Well, first is reduced vulnerability to extreme weather events. Second is like clean up the real pollution, like air and water pollution, dirty stuff. You know, I don’t see any way to make coal clean. I mean, this whole thing about all fossil fuels are terrible. Some are much worse than others. Coal does so much damage to the environment, strip mining and coal ash and all this other kind of stuff, apart from CO2 emissions. Get rid of coal and acknowledge that we need natural gas, at least for awhile. And then focus on research and development for new energy technologies: next generation nuclear power, a 21st century transmission grid, etc.. The other thing is managing our water: too little, or too much. If you do these things, you’re going to  improve human wellbeing, regardless of what the climate is doing.

Judith Curry:  The climate is going to change independent of what we do with emissions. People think climate change equals the CO2 control knob. With that kind of thinking, we’re bound to be surprised by what happens with the 21st century climate. I won’t even hazard a guess as to whether something really crazy will happen, or whether it could be relatively benign. A lot of people are talking about a solar minimum in the mid to late 21st century that could very well happen and have a significant impact. We just don’t know. Thinking that we can control the climate is misguided hubris.

And we need to electrify Africa and we need to help people in South Asia and central America so they’re not so vulnerable to these extreme weather events, help them develop economically help them become less vulnerable to these events. These are things I would focus on. This makes much more sense than setting emissions targets and then trying to enforce them. These targets aren’t going to change the climate on a meaningful time scale. It’s just going to screw up the economy. And at the end of the day, it’s an opportunity loss when we could have spent all that effort doing these other things that would have made a real difference.

Christopher Balkaran: Yeah. just on coal, I know that there are there are places like in Canada which I’m sure it’s the same in the United States. You know, wind and solar are much easier. Hydro is much easier. But coal seems the cheapest solution. You can get energy the quickest and perhaps the fastest over large amounts of distance. And it might be harder for those regions to switch over to something more renewable or less damaging to the environment. And a lot of people talk about that switch and how costly that can be.

Judith Curry: Well, I think natural gas can do anything that coal is doing. So natural gas is a much cleaner transitional option. You need one or the other in the near term. When the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining, you can’t fire up a nuclear power plant, turn it on and off. Having wind and solar in the mix really means you do need coal or natural gas because you can switch it on or off. So the more wind and solar you add, the more reliant you’re going to be on gas. Regarding battery storage, until we get new storage technology, there isn’t enough lithium in the world for all that storage. Rethinking and re-engineering the grid could also better redistribute wind and solar generated energy.

Apart from the storage issue, wind and solar use so much land space. It’s the land use that is bad. A nuclear reactor uses tiny fraction of the land space. I mean, there’s environmental issues related to mining and storage for nuclear power, but those seem to me a lot easier to address than the  issues related to wind and solar. So I think on balance, you know, nuclear is probably the best solution based on our current on the near horizon technologies that will be available.

Christopher Balkaran:

It’s fascinating. You mentioned that land use, because I have  another professor from the university of British Columbia coming on the podcast. And there’s an article recently about indigenous communities in Mexico, worried about solar farms near their traditional lands that take up the majority of the land. And the same is true with biofuels and ethanol production. The amount of agriculture that’s necessary for trucks to be powered by biofuels is, you know, the amount of land that’s needed is, is quite a bit. So if there’s negative externalities with this switch, as you just mentioned these are really fascinating thoughts, professor. You know, I love the idea of, you know, helping the developing world. I know Pakistan is going to suffer from severe water shortages over the next 20 to 30 years.

Judith Curry:  The population of Pakistan is exploding. Right after the big floods in 2010 my company got involved trying to help Pakistan with flood forecasting and, and water management and whatever. And my colleague, Peter Webster even went to Pakistan with a delegation from the World Bank, but the whole issue was so politicized as to even who would be allowed to help. And at the end of the day, I don’t think anybody helped. We have a solution, but getting it through the political process and implementing it, was a hopeless situation. So, part of the problems is governance within country. And this is apart from the issue of financial and somebody coming up with a real solution, but in country governance can be a real impediment in many of these places. So a lot of tough problems out there.

Christopher Balkaran:  And again, if there’s anywhere we can coalesce around common goals and hopefully get governments of all different stripes to commit to. I mean, that’s always the ideal. But I think about what we’re doing on climate change and the Paris accord and do that in the reverse, but on critical real issues

Judith Curry: There’s one example from today in the U.S, they’re passing the new budget and wanting to get a rider included related to clean energy. And what they agreed on was an R & D program for nuclear, carbon capture and all that kind of stuff. And the people on the left really objected to it because they don’t like nuclear just because they don’t like it. And they don’t like carbon capture and storage because  that lets the oil companies off the hook. So, so the hard core green activists don’t like either one of those. Here you have a bipartisan agreement to do something that is fundamentally pretty sensible. Then you’ve got the people on the far left objecting to it over silly biases and things that just make no sense

Christopher Balkaran: Politically, economically or for the environment. So, these, aren’t the deniers, these are our people on the other side who are putting up the road blocks. How do you break free from that? I have no idea. And that’s something that I definitely want to explore with more people. It’s how did all of a sudden, it seems to me, these groups on the extremes have so much political power dominating the conversation, determining whose research gets funded, determine what books make the New York Times Bestseller List. I mean, if you really go down the list and you look at all the ways in which media touches us, it’s largely affected by extremist views more so now than ever before. And I always wonder, where is that space for rational discourse, which is why I created this podcast, which is to get back to that we need this mind.

Christopher Balkaran :  Thank you so much Professor for your time. I know this is probably the first of many podcasts because I want to definitely talk to you more about many of the things we’ve discussed today. And thank you for, for, for being reasonable, standing up for what you believe in and, you know, trying to spark so many peoples you know, what a lot of people are thinking when it comes to climate change, which is we need more rational discussion on this.

5 31 votes
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Zig Zag Wanderer
January 30, 2021 2:04 pm

Here is a transcript of the interview (quicker to read than to listen to the hour long podcast). I edited the transcript eliminate thousands of ‘like’, ‘you know’, ‘okay’ (I am really a much better writer than speaker). I also edited to increase overall coherency of what was said.

Thank it for this. It is all too rare in today’s semi-illiterate media consumption habits.

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
January 30, 2021 2:17 pm

“there is almost certainly a signal of manmade…”

“Almost certainly” doesn’t sound very certain or very quantitative.

Richard Page
Reply to  Scissor
January 30, 2021 3:20 pm

No it doesn’t. I don’t think it can be certain or quantitative. We know so little about it atm that there is just no way to seperate a man made emissions signal from a natural one least of all determine how big either might be. The best anyone can do is say that there is something there, we just don’t know precisely what it is, how it works or what it might do in the future.

Last edited 25 days ago by Richard Page
Reply to  Richard Page
January 30, 2021 5:41 pm

”The best anyone can do is say that there is something there,”

No, we cannot even say that. Nowhere near it.

Last edited 25 days ago by Mike
Burl Henry
Reply to  Richard Page
January 30, 2021 7:17 pm

Richard Page:

“The best anyone can say is that there is something there, we just don’t know what it is”

“It” is Sulfur Dioxide aerosols, which are the actual Control Knob of Earth’s climate. Decrease them and it warms up. Increase them and it cools down.. earth-science-and-climatic-change/

Judith was less than honest in the podcast by not mentioning the effect of SO2 aerosols on Earths climate, since she is well aware of them (if she reads her own blog).

Reply to  Scissor
January 30, 2021 5:08 pm

“Almost certain” doesn’t sound very certain? How much more certain could she be?
Maybe you’d find it more acceptable if she’d said the science is 100% settled.

Reply to  Loydo
January 30, 2021 5:38 pm

100% certain or else it’s just close to meaningless.

Richard Page
Reply to  Mike
January 30, 2021 6:03 pm

No it isn’t, not really. If you’re a mathematician trying to punch numbers into an equation then it is meaningless. However as a way of expressing an uncertain property of a relatively little known process then it sets out some parameters for further study. We simply don’t know enough to have certainties – there are other factors involved and we know some of them but not all.

Reply to  Richard Page
January 30, 2021 6:18 pm

 there are other factors involved”

There are many factors but we do not know that co2 is one of them. The claim that ”there is a signal” of co2 is purely theoretical. If you claim uncertainly and than say it’s ”almost certain” is wordplay hogwash.

Reply to  Mike
January 30, 2021 8:47 pm

Meaningless? Nonsense. I’m not 100% certain I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning, but I’ll still make plans based on that probability . I’m not 100% certain that the stock market is a wise place to put my money in the next ten years, but I’ll still put some there. I’m not 100% certain that anything, but that doesn’t keep me from moving ahead.

Reply to  mcswell
January 30, 2021 11:39 pm

”Meaningless? Nonsense”

Let me post the quote again…..

”Well, there is almost certainly a signal of manmade emissions the earth climate. All other things being equal, it’s warmer than it would otherwise be”.

Where is this signal? What does ”all other things being equal” mean? It is a meaningless statement. The first half of the sentence is a caveat, the second half is expressed as a fact….”it’s warmer”

As I said, this statement is close to meaningless.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Mike
January 31, 2021 10:20 am

Completely agree, Mike. Though I’d say completely indefensible.

Reply to  Loydo
January 30, 2021 6:02 pm

I would Loydo.

!00% settled that there is no signal using accepted norms of scientific analysis.

So, what’ya gonna do Sheila – prove me wrong, showing your maths, or run away from this comment ??

Pat Frank
Reply to  Loydo
January 31, 2021 10:30 am

You only know she said “certainly,” Loydo. You don’t know Judith is in fact certain.

How do you know Judith isn’t joking. Or even lying? You don’t.

Have you yourself the ability to judge the truth of her claim? You don’t.

Faith-based scientism is evidently your forte, Loydo.

In this forum, you never go beyond talking points. You never display understanding of the claims you defend.

Let’s see: all that makes you indistinguishable from a religious naif. Who’d have guessed.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Pat Frank
January 31, 2021 6:44 pm

Or, an acolyte singing from the hymnal.

Reply to  Loydo
January 31, 2021 5:47 pm

Well, you don’t seem to understand what Dr. Curry said.
“We know so little about it atm that there is just no way to separate a man made emissions signal from a natural one least of all determine how big either might be. The best anyone can do is say that there is something there, we just don’t know precisely what it is, how it works or what it might do in the future.”.

A little about detecting signals. Even in it’s beginning radio could send out two signals at the same time on close, but different to detect, frequencies. It required specialized equipment to separate them.

The climate signal problem appears to be that we don’t even know what factor in the climate is carrying a signal that indicates CO2 causing some change to the climate such as warming. It isn’t simply temperature because nobody has managed to separate any changes in the temperature that would indicate global warming. The current “warming” is not even as noticeable as the warming in the Medieval Warm Period which definitely was not CO2 caused.

Reply to  Loydo
February 2, 2021 10:07 am

There’s Loydud word-smithing again. Neo-marxists love word-smithing, in this case to obfuscate.

Depends on what the definition of “is” is, no?

Last edited 23 days ago by beng135
Reply to  Scissor
January 30, 2021 5:59 pm

I thought Curry and Lewis came up with a conjectured ECS 0f 1.8C ?? That would be a signal wouldn’t it? …. or was that just more lukewarming mental masturbation?

Save some electrons, I know the answer.

Reply to  philincalifornia
January 30, 2021 9:39 pm

There was a period not that long ago where the sole focus of a lot of people was calculating the ECS value. The calculators have now been put away and only time and significantly improved scientific knowledge will be provide the answer.

I am betting on a tenth of a degree cooling for January or more. (UAH)

Roger Knights
Reply to  Ozonebust
January 31, 2021 9:50 am

I am betting on a tenth of a degree cooling for January or more. (UAH)”

That would be sweet. Sweeter would be a continued decline throughout the year, and an erasure of the gains of the past five years.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Roger Knights
January 31, 2021 6:46 pm

Monckton claims the past five years show no trend.

Reply to  philincalifornia
January 30, 2021 11:48 pm

Yes it’s more lukewarming mental masturbation. Here’s more…..

”Not sure we know much more than the sign of the change from more CO2 in the atmosphere, which is more warming”

Fence sitting for reasons other than evidence obviously.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Mike
January 31, 2021 10:34 am

Judith doesn’t factually know that, either.

“the sign of the change from more CO2 in the atmosphere, might be more cloud cover. Or more precipitation. Or increased convection.

Judith doesn’t know. No one knows.

D Boss
Reply to  Scissor
January 31, 2021 6:27 am

Agreed, I stopped reading at this statement. The actual science indicates the “signal” she alludes to is well beneath the natural variation “noise” level so there is almost no certainty that any changes are man caused and not part of natural variability.

One can make a valid argument that the “signal” is most certainly too small to rule out natural variation as the cause of any changes seen in our minuscule historical record keeping. (compared to age of the earth)

Or that the temperature record delivers a false positive in the “signal” due to widespread urban heat island effects. (i.e. the earth is actually cooling a tad as we approach the next ice age, but ground based temp monitoring is biased to slight warming due to this effect, not to mention fudging the numbers by official record keepers in the last decade)

Reply to  Scissor
January 31, 2021 5:30 pm

She did speak rather extensively on the fact that the climate models failed, and have evolved away from physics and still cannot explain or forecast how the “CO2 signal” will be sorted out. They never worked properly and only got worse.

Bill Everett
Reply to  Scissor
February 1, 2021 4:11 pm

I continue to be struck by the fact that there is no mention made of the small size of the human contribution of CO2 into the atmosphere. It is only about 1/500th of one percent of atmosphere. How can that tiny amount have any noticeable effect on the recorded air temperature? How can efforts to reduce such a small contribution have any effect upon climate?

Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
January 30, 2021 9:26 pm

The current method of presenting any global or hemisphere temperature movements is by the anomaly method compared to a base average.

Scientists and other commentators do not, and have never at any time explained what caused those monthly / annual anomalies to occur with any degree of certainty. e.g. Simple saying El Nino is vague.

Further, there is virtually no real understanding at all of what caused, controlled or influenced the base line average that we compare the anomalies to.

Last edited 25 days ago by Ozonebust
Reply to  Ozonebust
January 31, 2021 12:01 am

”Further, there is virtually no real understanding at all of what caused, controlled or influenced the base line average that we compare the anomalies to”.

This is how climate works. Try to predict it!

It gets to the ”base line” eventually but…..

Last edited 25 days ago by Mike
Pat Frank
Reply to  Mike
January 31, 2021 10:38 am

What a great analogy for the climate.

The pendulum just eventually runs out of energy.

Were a continual energy source available (the sun) it would bounce around chaotically forever (the climate).

January 30, 2021 2:20 pm

I mean, it’s such a big, complex problem.

No it’s not. The actual global energy balance is so simple anyone with an open mind and a little bit of maths knowledge gets it in a few minutes.

Earth’s energy balance is automatically controlled to achieve two temperature limits at either end of the range. -2C at the sea ice interface and 30C in the tropical ocean warm pool. It is reasonable that the global average surface temperature sits around the midpoint of 14C between these two limits as the three tropical oceans all have contact with sea ice.

Most people have some idea about the -2C being the sea ice/water interface. What they may not appreciate is that sea ice insulates the water below and dramatically reduces heat loss.

The 30C is a bit harder to understand but that is the sea surface temperature where persistent cloud forms such that the heat uptake at the surface drops to zero, aided by chilled precipitate that immediately follows cloudburst. The attached data from the moored buoy at 0N, 156E demonstrates how tightly the upper limit is maintained once the cloudburst cycle is in operation. A slight overshoot to 31.5C initially but then very tight control around 30C, Earth SST upper set point.

Richard Page
Reply to  RickWill
January 30, 2021 6:05 pm

Which is one tiny part of the huge complex system, not all by any means.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Richard Page
January 30, 2021 6:58 pm

Which is one tiny part of the huge complex system, not all by any means.

Given that the oceans cover 70% of the planet surface, I can’t imagine how you think it is only a tiny part of the overall climate system and temperature regulation. It seems like a major part to me.

Living in the tropics near the sea, I actually experience this most of the time, too.

Reply to  Richard Page
January 31, 2021 12:12 am

Those two thermostats control the energy balance. It is literally that simple. Trying to make it more complex than it is is where climate modellers go awry. Their models do not even make physical sense. Integrating the difference between evaporation and precipitation in the average off all the CMIP5 models result in negative water vapour after just three years – tell me that is not a mess up.

Then they have tropical oceans warming beyond 32C – a physical impossibility on Earth as it is now and will be for the next few millennia.

mike macray
Reply to  RickWill
January 30, 2021 7:21 pm

Thank you Rick Will!
Simple succint and indisputable….30*C triggers cumulus clouds (white tops) in the tropics reducing the energy input by reflecting it back into space. Sea ice -2*C (white surface) radiates minimal heat thereby retaining heat in the Polar oceans. Reduced input in the tropics and reduced output in the polar regions serves to reduce the Temperature gradient and hence lower the heat transfer ‘potential’ so stabilizing the ‘weather’.
Hard to quantify with so many variables but nonetheless a self regulating system. Am I missing something?

Reply to  mike macray
January 30, 2021 10:39 pm

Yes -self-regulating; a few ups and down due to ocean circulations and the North Atlantic becomes fragile when the orbital eccentricity causes surface ice accumulation but the globe does not stray far from the 14C average.

Laws of Nature
Reply to  RickWill
January 31, 2021 1:58 am

To me this reasoning looks knowing the answer and coming up with some arguments to get there.
I give you that the sea/ice interface is around -2°C and the tropics about 30°C and the global average should be somewhere between these values.

Can we agree that the average temperature on this planet would be different for a different rotation speed/day length or a different amount of non water surface? (this alone disqualifies your argument)
What about climate in the past, when we had a very different average global temperature (due to a different orbit and the start of life) and yet your ice and clouds were forming pretty much the same way at the same temperature.

Reply to  Laws of Nature
January 31, 2021 2:08 pm

I have provided more detail below. I actually came up with the process by looking at the energy balance and rapid increase in cloud reflection as the SST increased rather than observing the answer first. I did not realise the SST maximum was so tightly controlled until I went looking for proof of the cloudburst mechanism.

Reply to  Laws of Nature
January 31, 2021 2:23 pm

Earth’s speed of rotation would alter the conditions to the point of altering the effective gravitation pull at the equator. It would also be altered by the surface level atmospheric pressure.

The average temperature is a function of the water distribution on Earth. Bering Strait is a choke point in heat transfer from the Pacific to Atlantic so can have a dramatic effect on the North Atlantic and eventually the south Atlantic. Up to 16M years ago Drakes Passage was a choke point at the southern end so heat transfer from Pacific to Atlantic was much lower than the present era.

Orbital eccentricity and axis tilt alter the heat accumulation in the hemispheres. The tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean still reach 30C but the Atlantic relies on heat transfer from the Pacific to reach he 30C.

None of these things have changed or are going to change in the last millennia or next so I can give you great assurance that the average surface temperature is basically stuck at 14C for a long time.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Laws of Nature
January 31, 2021 6:51 pm

You asked, “Can we agree that the average temperature on this planet would be different for a different rotation speed/day length …?”

I think it is obvious that the amplitude and period for temperature changes would be different, but I suspect that the average would be the same.

Richard Page
Reply to  RickWill
January 31, 2021 8:37 am

RickWill – so you’re saying the science is settled and there is no need for discussion or other views then?

Reply to  Richard Page
January 31, 2021 2:03 pm

Certainly with regard to surface temperature; it is clear to any observer that the three oceans spanning the tropics have temperature extremes of -2C and 30C.
comment image
There is even an exception that proves the mechanism – the Persian Gulf in July and August. Gets up to about 35C, is in the sub-tropics yet has never recorded a cyclone and cloudburst is rare.

Anyone can get the data from the tropical moored buoys as I have done and observed the thermostatic control system in action.

Having been shown the mechanism, I am certain paid researches can make a name for themselves by getting into more detail. I know that a level of free convection can exist once the TPW reaches 30mm and that cyclic cloudburst can occur once TPW exceeds 38mm. I know that at 32C the radiative balance goes negative but the control set point is close to 30C. That means convergence plays a role. Considerable effort could be applied to understand the role of the convergence.

The actual buoy data highlights the significance of the chilling effect of the precipitation. This is something I had not contemplated until observing its effect on the SST.

All of this is simple physics, easily understood by any curious individual.

Reply to  RickWill
January 31, 2021 5:57 pm

No climate scientist is going to take your challenge yet. The fallout from breaking with the rest of the consensus would be devastating, unless they were as hardy as Ms. Curry.

Reply to  Philo
January 31, 2021 6:16 pm

I agree – Science changes one death at a time. There are a lot of careers tied up in the current fairytale but it is becoming increasingly evident that it is a fairytale. Bright, young, smart people will want to be on the right side of history. Their career will depend on it.

The belief in Climate Change cannot be sustained when faced with reality. It is only possible to stretch the truth so far. The facts can be tested. Other religions were smart enough never to rely on provable facts; no one comes back from the after life to tell us about it. Climate Change has only been sustained by the ability of the keepers of the data to perpetuate fraud. There are now a lot of people watching and an increasing number know of the fraud.

Joseph Zorzin
January 30, 2021 2:21 pm

“As long as we restore thoughtful approaches to the biggest issues of our time our conversations will have deep, valuable meaning.” That’s OK if both sides agree to such terms. Here in Massachusetts there is a total black out of all climate thinking other than the suppossed mainstream. Skepticism here is not heard except from a very small number of people who talk on the internet but are not seen in the MSM. The state is now on the road to becomming net free by 2050- regardless of cost or disturbance to the environment.

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
January 30, 2021 7:03 pm

Skepticism here is not heard except from a very small number of people who talk on the internet but are not seen in the MSM.

I have I agree. Talking to a concerned acquaintance of mine and discussing contrary scientific viewpoints, he asked me why he did not hear any of the viewpoints in the mainstream media. I said that this is a very good question, and it’s worth researching the cause himself.

Needless to say, he didn’t, and he just thinks I’m a conspiracy theorist or selfish denier. I don’t really bother any more, it’s not worth the effort.

Pat Frank
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
January 31, 2021 11:09 am
January 30, 2021 2:31 pm

Judith Curry puts the science back into scientist.

Kevin kilty
January 30, 2021 2:34 pm

I don’t mind Dr. Curry, but she has some very biased views about coal. I could show her very attractive pastureland which she would be surprised to learn was at one time an open-pit mine. I could show her some industrial symbiosis where the captured fly-ash from a coal power plant ends up as cement — at least until the environmentalists demanded a far more strict SO2 standard which made the fly-ash unusable for cement and now has to be put in a landfill. And then there are coal companies that “prefer dirty”. Really, name them please and show that they actually prefer dirty air…

The subtext of her interview is that problems are complex and that lots of experts just rely on what they are told — then she commits the very same offense.

Richard Page
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 30, 2021 3:24 pm

You can make coal cleaner by washing it and putting filters in to get rid of unwanted particulates and compounds but I think her point was that by that point it might be easier and as cheap to use gas?

Kevin kilty
Reply to  Richard Page
January 31, 2021 8:46 am

wash and filter to remove “compounds”? This sounds like how the media would explain things.

Richard Page
Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 31, 2021 10:24 am

There are a number of power stations around the world that wash coal before burning it – usually removes contaminants and allows coal dust to be burnt seperately. Filtration has been used for over 40 years in most coal fired power stations to prevent particulate emissions as well as various hydrogen, sulphur and nitrogen compounds in the exhaust gases. Which bit didn’t you get?

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Richard Page
January 31, 2021 6:55 pm

And waste a significant source of energy.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 31, 2021 8:19 am

Sure, but what was the cost of getting that strip mine back to pastureland?

Kevin kilty
Reply to  wadesworld
January 31, 2021 8:50 am

Well, generally a lot less than was made during the mining phase, and since the clean-up is a future cost, a reasonable discount rate (or return on investment — sinking fund) should have aided in making it even more cost effective. Do you know anything about project cost estimation?

Tim Gorman
Reply to  wadesworld
January 31, 2021 9:42 am

Why should it go back to pastureland? The old coal strip mines along the KS/MO border about 90 mi south of Kansas City provided some of the best bass fishing I have ever seen! A true recreational area. Some of the larger ones even have boat ramps!

It’s the little minds of the environmentalists that can’t see the value in such a place!

Reply to  Kevin kilty
January 31, 2021 10:18 am

Some of the largest elk herds in Colorado live of reclaimed strip mined coal. Dr. Curry needs to get out more.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
February 2, 2021 10:36 am

but she has some very biased views about coal

Agree w/you Kevin (I was an engineer at a utility coal plant), but Dr Curry is an academic, so she has no experience w/it other than what was constantly blasted at her in academia. Still, that’s no real excuse — just alittle research into advanced fluidized-bed coal plants (which further development has been abandoned) might have educated her some.

January 30, 2021 3:14 pm

The solution of the emissions problem, whether you think it a great problem or not, is clearly superior energy generation technology and that is what is coming in the near future from small modular molten salt nuclear reactors, two in development in the West by Moltex Energy and Terrestrial Energy. Anything one might say negative about nuclear power, whether warranted or not, does not apply to molten salt reactors, which cannot physically melt down,or eject radioactive particles into the environment , irregardless of the situation, produce power about as cheaply as nay other technology ( 4 cents per Kilowatt hour )
are proliferation resistant, can be built and deployed rapidly and occupy a tiny footprint and require little (sometimes none) cooling water. The can burn spent nuclear fuel (so called toxic nuclear waste) , reducing its radioactive level to a mere fraction of prior levels – returning to background levels of radiation in 150 years rather than thousands of years.

Richard Page
Reply to  ColMosby
January 30, 2021 3:39 pm

Great. When?

Andre Den Tandt
Reply to  Richard Page
January 30, 2021 7:32 pm

Now. And you can add thorium to that, thus increasing the supply of fuel far beyond that of uranium.

January 30, 2021 3:21 pm

All this reinforces pretty shoddy science and overconfidence in their expert judgment, which comprises the IPCC assessment reports.

Yep. This is pervasive.

This eleven minute video talks about the thinking styles of the brain’s two hemispheres. The left hemisphere does most of the language and logic. The right hemisphere provides most of the context and is the BS filter.

If the right hemisphere is incapacitated, an individual becomes over confident, tries things that shouldn’t be tried and is almost always disappointed with the result. Iain McGilchrist, a prominent neurologist, is afraid that the same phenomenon can happen at the societal level.

We have an education system that emphasizes ‘thinking skills’ and denigrates domain specific knowledge as mere rote learning. The result is a couple of generations of people trained in advanced BS skills and lacking basic judgement.

Our institutions of higher education have done great damage to society and I’m not sure it can be undone.

Defund the universities.

Gregory Woods
January 30, 2021 3:26 pm

What does Dr. Curry mean by ‘clean energy’? And why does she say everyone wants it? Another question: How can she know that any warming of the planet is not due to natural causes? IE, not correlated or caused by Man-made CO2?

Richard Page
Reply to  Gregory Woods
January 30, 2021 3:53 pm

Clean energy – energy that releases little or no by-products into the atmosphere such as particulates, compounds (sulphur dioxide was a big bugbear in the 80’s) or other products. Although she doesn’t attribute runaway global warming to CO2, I do get the impression that she regards huge quantities of CO2 being released as not necessarily the best thing ever, despite its use as plant food. As to the natural vs man-made warming debate there is still huge debate about how much, if any, outside of alarmist circles. Until someone provides much more research on natural warming cycles, much of it is still guesswork.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Richard Page
January 31, 2021 3:16 am

“Until someone provides much more research on natural warming cycles, much of it is still guesswork.” Exactly, which is why its so annoying to hear the term “settled science”. That’s just admitting that “climate science” has turned into a religion.

Richard Page
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
January 31, 2021 5:53 am

Yes. The science isn’t settled, it never will be. There is just so much we don’t know and probably a lot more that we can’t even guess at. Even some of the things we know atm may be attributed in error and we may be missing the key processes entirely. Looking just on this one thread proves Dr Curry’s point about people just having an understanding of a small part of the system – several competing ideas on here already.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Gregory Woods
January 31, 2021 11:57 am

“Another question: How can she know that any warming of the planet is not due to natural causes? IE, not correlated or caused by Man-made CO2?”

She can’t, she is guessing. Educated guesses within that particular theory of the Earth’s climate, but guesses nonetheless.

CO2 does not explain the warming from 1910 to 1940, which was equal in magnitude to the current warming, which began about 1980, yet has not been any warmer today than in the recent past of the decade of the 1930’s, so she can’t distinguish any influence of humans between the two periods, since they are equal in magnitude and are equal in the level of warmth, and yet one period, the earlier period, is not caused by CO2, and the other period is. Not logical.

Mother Nature caused the warming from 1910 to 1940, and there is no reason to think the warming from 1980 to the present was not caused by Mother Nature also.

Sometimes people see things they want to see that are not really there.

Peter W
January 30, 2021 3:45 pm

Recently I turned up a video I had forgotten about. Title – “the Cloud Question” by Danish physicist Svensmark (hope I got the spelling right.) It is an hour long, and goes through the several years of research he has put forth on the climate change issue. In the end, his conclusion is that it all comes down to cosmic rays and their effects on earth’s cloud cover, and the effects in the end go beyond, but certainly include, Singer’s observation of solar variations. They even include the likes of explaining “snowball earth” and the opposite over the span of millions of years. He has gone over this with scientists from other specialties and drawn on their research as well

With a background in physics and having spent by now some 14 years looking at this issue myself, I find Svensmark to be very convincing. He, as well as Singer, thoroughly discount carbon dioxide as being of any concern whatsoever, and I would say that his research backs this up rather thoroughly.

Peter W
Reply to  Peter W
January 30, 2021 3:53 pm

Possible minor correction – it might also go under the name “The Cloud Mystery.”

Reply to  Peter W
January 30, 2021 5:07 pm

Agree completely.
Until we can be realistically confident about the what, where, when, how of clouds formation, solar screening, dissipation, precipitation, we are jerking our chain that we know how climate(s) behave.

Richard Page
Reply to  Peter W
January 30, 2021 5:51 pm

I think Svensmark did some work at Cerne that proved some or all of his theory. I think it was discussed on WUWT a few years ago and there was more to it. It might be useful to dig through the archives.

Richard Page
Reply to  Peter W
January 31, 2021 8:42 am

I don’t think Svensmark’s point was that it’s all down to cosmic rays – I think his theory was that during times with high cosmic ray activity (low solar wind activity) there is an increased amount of cloud cover and that increase in cloud cover can have an effect on surface climate.

Walter Sobchak
January 30, 2021 5:22 pm
January 30, 2021 5:36 pm

Well, there is almost certainly a signal of manmade emissions the earth climate. All other things being equal, it’s warmer than it would otherwise be.”

Almost certainly? Please!

Dr Burns
Reply to  Mike
January 30, 2021 5:47 pm

Mike, This is exactly the quote I was about to post.

Come on Judith. Exactly what is the evidence that man’s CO2 has caused ANY of the warming since the Little Ice Age?

Reply to  Dr Burns
January 30, 2021 8:02 pm

Some years ago there was a discussion on Dr Curry’s site about the 2nd law of thermodynamics (which basically is that heat only flows from hot to cold.). I think Prof Claes Johnson was involved and he said that the concept of CO2 warming the Earth’s surface and near atmosphere was unphysical. I thought Prof Curry eventually accepted that. Everywhere in the atmosphere due to the environmental lapse rate (6K per 1000m) is colder than the surface. Secondly, CO2 in the atmosphere only absorbs radiation heat at a wavelength of 14.8 micron this according to Wien’s distribution law corresponds to a temperature of about 200K which is very high in the atmosphere where CO2 will radiate only to space. Thus in most of the atmosphere CO2 can not absorb radiant heat from the Earth’s surface. CO2 in the atmosphere may get heated by convection but it still only radiates to space (due to 2nd law) at a wavelength of 14.8 micron. Dr Curry has I believe written something about thermodynamics so her stance (being a lukewarmer) can only be political to get some acceptance. I ask is that good or bad?

Reply to  ProEng
January 30, 2021 8:27 pm

Agree. Until someone can produce a model that can replicate the past, we can’t forecast the future — especially with respect to CO2. Remember Deep Blue? Now that was a computer model that actually did what it claimed. All the climate models are failures — otherwise one of them would be plastered on the front page of the NYT. And what about the theories about CO2’s cooling affects, which may be slowing the earth’s natural global warming trend (the Interglacial Warming cycle)? Very interesting indeed. It could be part of nature’s checks and balance system. Science is never settled, but the data will eventually reveal what we have yet to learn. Until then, we adapt, just like our ancestors.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  ProEng
January 31, 2021 6:12 am

wow. I think you must have read Planck’s 1918 paper on radiation! Good job!

I would also point out that the mean time between collisions with oxygen and nitrogen is far smaller than the mean time for CO2 to radiate. The oxygen and nitrogen that get hit thus rise in the atmosphere and cool via the lapse rate you mention. Thus looking for 14.8 micron radiation by satellite will see much less than expected. The euphemism of “CO2 traps heat” is thus very misleading. It isn’t trapped, it’s just changed!

Pat Frank
Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 31, 2021 11:28 am

Right. CO2 can only produce warming if nothing else changes. Bolded and italicized to emphasize the inherent utter nonsense of that baseline position, held by all AGW alarmists. Including their allied climate so-called scientists.

Pat Frank
Reply to  ProEng
January 31, 2021 11:25 am

CO2 does not change its electronic absorption state depending on what elevation it occupies in the atmosphere.

If the surface emits 15 micron radiation, CO2 at low elevations in the atmosphere will absorb it. The vibronically excited CO2 molecule decays to its ground state by collision with N2 or O2.

Collision transfers vibrational energy into the kinetic energy state of O2 or N2, effectively contributing to the net atmospheric black-body thermal state.

The black-body thermal state determines air temperature.

Were absolutely everything else to remain unchanged, added CO2 will raise the air temperature. But on Earth, nothing remains unchanged.

The whole CO2 causes warming is an undemonstrable assertion that lives on ignorance and hubris. And most of all, on the moral cowards administrating the scientific organizations. Never forget their culpability.

Richard Page
Reply to  Mike
January 30, 2021 5:55 pm

Given the recent article on how much can be attributed to UHI it’s not unreasonable to hedge bets. It’s certainly nowhere near the alarmists claim but, given the effect that CO2 has in the atmosphere, there might be a tiny amount of warming attributable. Trouble is nobody really knows for sure.

Stephen Philbrick
January 30, 2021 5:45 pm


I kept thinking about Lonborg when I was reading this.

January 30, 2021 9:14 pm

No. GH gasses is not what makes the world warmer. Must be something else…

Richard Page
Reply to  HenryP
January 31, 2021 8:47 am

Must be? No if’s, but’s or maybe’s? It can only be ‘something else’ and your decision is final then? sarc
There are a lot of people posting on here for whom the science appears to be settled. Am I still on WUWT or have I started reading a different site altogether?

January 31, 2021 12:43 am

For an Earth’s surface at 15.5°C (the estimated average temperature), a 100% CO2 atmosphere could absorb 0.177 of the emitted radiation. The laws of thermodynamics mandate that an object can only be increased in temperature by receiving heat from a source of greater temperature than that of the object. Hence the Earth cannot be heated by back-radiation of a fraction of its own emitted heat. For example, a household thermos flask does cause its contents to get hotter by reflecting its heat back on itself. Cylinders of CO2 do not get hot while standing in storage. The radiative properties of CO2 gas do not generate any heat so they cannot make anything hotter.

The total energy density for the four main absorption bands of CO2 in the above case would be 9.23×10^-7 Joules per cubic metre. For the Sun at 5772°K, at the Earth distance, the four main absorption bands would absorb 1.514×10^-7 Joules per cubic metre before the radiation reached the Earth’s surface. This would cause the surface to be cooler as the CO2 concentration increased, before any supposed back-radiation of the Earth’s emittance. Of the four major absorption bands, the 15 micron band is responsible for 9.174×10^-7 Joules per cubic metre and makes up 99.8% of the surface emitted photons. The 15 micron band represents a temperature of -80°C which is definitely not going to cause warming by back-radiation. It is the minimum temperature reached occasionally at the South Pole.

The other three main absorption bands create more absorption at greater temperature for the incoming Sun’s radiation than that of the outgoing Earth’s radiation being:

at the 4.3 micron band which represents a temperature of 412°C, 1.789×10^-8 Joules per cubic metre for the Sun compared to 5.618×10^-9 Joules per cubic metre from the Earth’ surface,

at the 2.7 micron band, temperature 807°C, 7.518×10^-8 Joules per cubic metre from the Sun compared to 6.447×10^-11 Joules per cubic metre from the Earth, and

at the 2 micron band, temperature 1173°C, 5.53×10^-8 Joules per cubic metre from the Sun verses 1.081×10^-13 Joules per cubic metre from the Earth.

Clearly, increasing CO2 concentration should be markedly decreasing the Earth’s temperature if the Greenhouse Effect was in operation.

Finally, the photon density from the four major surface emission bands equates to one photon for every 166,772,000 CO2 molecules at the current concentration of 415.67 parts per million of CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory on 28 January 2021. Consequently all of the emitted photons will be absorbed by the CO2 molecules within a few hundred metres of the Earth’s surface and increasing the CO2 concentration will not increase the absorption of photons as they are already completely absorbed at the current concentration. Increasing CO2 concentration will not cause an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature.

Conclusion: the warming of the Earth due to the Greenhouse Effect is the greatest hoax man has imposed on mankind. There is no Greenhouse Effect outside of a common garden greenhouse house where the warming is due to reduced convection and nothing whatsoever to do with radiation.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Bevan Dockery
January 31, 2021 8:55 am

Question: If CO2 sends radiation back to the earth at 15microns, exactly what in all the soil, sand, water, buildings, plant life, etc absorbs that back radiation to provide heating?

I suspect most of that 15micron energy reaching the earth just gets reflected back, not absorbed!

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 31, 2021 6:58 pm

Any radiation absorbed by radiative gases in the atmosphere and released back in the direction of the Earth’s surface will always be a small fraction of the outgoing energy density for that absorption band so the outgoing radiation pressure for the band will always exceed the incoming radiation pressure and the latter never has any effect on the surface temperature.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 31, 2021 7:10 pm

I think of it as an infinite series of absorptions with re-emission at 14.7 u, and then reflection at the surface. Although, most minerals have strong absorption features in the thermal IR, thus low reflectance. I don’t want to take the time to look up common mineral absorptions @14.7 but I expect it to be high. The bottom line, I think the numbers need to be placed into the infinite series to see if it converges to a limit.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
February 1, 2021 6:03 am


That is what I’ve been saying for a long time. If you plot the radiation/back radiation over time it will look like a damped sine wave.

Quartz has a small absorption peak at 14.4microns, close but not equal to CO2 at 14.97microns but the largest peak is in the 2micron area. The absorption for silica looks to be below 5microns.

So I’m still not convinced that the earth can actually absorb a significant portion of the back radiation at 14.97microns. The back radiation probably does more to heat the water vapor in the atmosphere than it does the actual earth.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
February 3, 2021 4:05 am

The laws of thermodynamics tell us that heat only flows from hot to cold. Back-radiation only forms a small part of the emitted radiation so it cannot cause any heating. The radiation ‘absorption – re-emission’ process does not generate any heat, it simply changes the form of the energy between infrared radiation and kinetic energy of motion of the atmospheric molecules. The total energy in the exchange remains the same.

   A CO2 molecule may absorb a photon in one of its absorption bands. It may re-emit a photon of the same energy in any direction and return to its non-vibrational ground state. Otherwise it may collide with an atmospheric molecule causing it to emit radiation of a lower frequency (lower energy) with the balance of the incoming energy changing to kinetic energy of motion of the pair of colliding molecules.
   Any back radiation must be of far lesser energy density than the original outgoing Earth surface radiation so its radiation pressure cannot overcome the outgoing radiation pressure at the same frequency. Hence it cannot reach the Earth’s surface.

Reply to  Bevan Dockery
February 2, 2021 4:41 am

ERROR: Please note that the sentence in the middle of the first paragraph should read “For example, a household thermos flask does NOT cause its contents to get hotter by reflecting its heat back on itself. Cylinders of CO2 do not get hot while standing in storage.”

Rod Evans
January 31, 2021 1:46 am

Thank you Judith, a very sensible and balanced discussion.
The absence of some loon waving a hockey stick about in the background must have been very liberating.
There seems to be a fixation in the comments here, about the precision of language used when referring to human contribution, if any, to climate variation.
That is a sad detour to take for those involved, because you were not speaking to a hall full of academics where precision is important. You were speaking to a general audience. In that context the message is of primary concern not the minutia.
Maybe start a new movement? Perhaps call it BANG? Better Accept Gas and Nuclear.
Keep up the balance.

Nick Graves
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 31, 2021 5:11 am


You might want to run that one past the Marketing Wonks before committing, Rod.

But yeah, loose language is fine if it is more accessible to the uninformed. As long as it does not slip into misrepresentation.

Richard Page
Reply to  Rod Evans
January 31, 2021 5:44 pm


Pat Frank
January 31, 2021 10:16 am

Judith Curry: Well, there is almost certainly a signal of manmade emissions the earth climate.

I’d like to know what it is.

Judith says, “All other things being equal, it’s warmer than it would otherwise be.

How does she know that?

Prediction: Judith can’t defend her claim of a signal, and neither can anyone else.

Reply to  Pat Frank
January 31, 2021 10:43 am

Urbanisation, UHI, landuse change, windmills, at least.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Pat Frank
January 31, 2021 4:59 pm

“Prediction: Judith can’t defend her claim of a signal, and neither can anyone else.”

That is correct. Those who do claim there is a human signal are just guessing.

Have they figured in Dr. Happer’s latest research claiming that current CO2 levels in the atmosphere are “saturated” and are not capable of adding signficant additional warmth to the atmosphere at current levels or higher?

What happens to all these claims if Dr. Happer is correct? Dr. Happer is a pretty smart guy. I would bet on him, if I were a betting man. Earth’s CO2 control knob may have a hard stop on it.

Can you imagine, all those scary climate scenarios biting the dust because of one paper. It could happen. Stay tuned.

Last edited 24 days ago by Tom Abbott
Pat Frank
Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 31, 2021 5:23 pm

Agreed the Happer and Wijngaarden paper might do the job, if they manage to get it published. Political opposition has journal editors running scared, as usual, and the reviewers running hot. So don’t hold your breath.

However, alarmist climate scenarios should already have bitten the dust with the 2019 publication of Propagation of Error and the Reliability of Global Air Temperature Projections and even earlier, in 2001, with Modeling climatic effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions: unknowns and uncertainties.
The 2001 Soon, et al., paper fully documents the many gigantic errors climate models make in attempting to simulate the climate energy state. Today’s models do no better, because the physical theory of climate has virtually not advanced in 30 years.
Reading Soon, et al., one realizes immediately that the IPCC and climate modelers cannot possibly know what they claim to know. But the IPCC is politically corrupt, moral cowards run the scientific societies, and climate modelers are scientific incompetents, so nothing ever changes.

With Progressives holding the levers of power, I see little hope for improvement.

January 31, 2021 11:11 am

CO2 levels increased in 2020 despite significant reduction in human output. Is anyone talking about that?

Jackie Pratt
January 31, 2021 5:42 pm

So increasing CO2 in the atmosphere does or does not (no matter what magnitude) warm the earth?

If it does (her position) then, since CO2 has increased, then the expectation would be that the earth is warmer because of that.

However, as other poster’s comment state, the magnitude is negligible. It just seemed to me that she either does not acknowledge that (the low magnitude) ignores it or disagrees with it, but won’t touch it. Why?

January 31, 2021 6:22 pm

One very important point that did not come up in the presentation or any comments,

One person, Maurice Strong, a former Canadian oil baron, founded the UNEP, United Nations Environmental Program in 1972. UNEP was a result of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change convened in 1992. Strong became the head of UNEP.
The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meterological Organization to provide the world with objective, scientific information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of the risk of human-jnduced climate change.

The sole purpose of these organizations was to establish a scientific basis for the human causes of climate change.

As you can see, this malarkey has been going on for quite some time. Strong was specifically trying to establish an ongoing UN program to provide more leverage for UN programs to get more money for the UN to use for more influence. The developments were obviously aimed at ways to increase the influence of the UN and its funding by involving world leaders in establishing a way to get more money in play for the governments to utilize,

February 1, 2021 7:57 pm

Thank you Ms. Curry for the transcript.

Besides reading being quicker, some of us around this forum have hearing problems, some made worse by brain speech interpretation problems even with good hearing aids.

(One challenge is that English uses high frequencies whereas the language in the main part of India does not, so persons who grew up in one or the other may have difficulty understanding the other.
Voices vary, in ways not obvious.
Using a noise-cancelling headset in one workplace, to shut out chatter, I found that one colleague had more high frequencies in his voice than others. (The headset did not screen out high frequencies well, few females near me in that layout.)
OTOH some females have a husky voice.)

%d bloggers like this: