By Christopher Monckton of Brenchley
It is now almost two years since we submitted our paper on the central error perpetrated by climatologists in their attempts to derive climate sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcings – namely, their failure to appreciate that such feedback processes as subsist in the climate system at any given moment must, at that moment, necessarily respond equally to each Kelvin of the entire reference temperature. Feedbacks do not, repeat not, respond solely to perturbation signals, the reference sensitivities. They also respond to the base signal, the emission temperature that would prevail even if there were no greenhouse gases in the air, because the Sun is shining. Yet one of the world’s most eminent climatologists reflected the error that is near-universal throughout his trade when after several days’ fencing, he answered a direct question from me by admitting he did not consider there was any feedback response to emission temperature.
The diagram below shows the two competing methods, as they apply to 1850. Method (a), in red, is the incomplete method that led climatologists into error. Method (b), in green, is the complete and correct method, which takes due account of the fact that the Sun is shining.
It is necessary to follow the latter method because the base signal, the 260 K emission temperature R0 (shown in sunshine yellow in the corrected diagram but omitted from the defective diagram), is about 30 times the 8 K reference sensitivity ΔR0 to (or direct warming by) the naturally-occurring, noncondensing greenhouse gases that were present in the preindustrial atmosphere of 1850. Then R1, the sum of R0 and ΔR0, is the entire input or reference signal as it stood in 1850. That year is of interest because there was then a temperature equilibrium: there would be no temperature trend for 80 years thereafter.
The feedback response to emission temperature R0 is B0. Likewise, the feedback response to ΔR0 is ΔB0. The feedback response to the entire input signal R1 in 1850 is thus B1. The differential feedback fraction or closed-loop gain factor h is the fraction of the uncorrected output signal, equilibrium sensitivity ΔE0, represented by the feedback response ΔB0. Likewise, the absolute closed-loop gain H is the fraction of the corrected output signal, equilibrium temperature E1, represented by the total feedback response B1.
Let us ask the computer to do a more sophisticated energy-budget calculation than the much-simplified version I showed earlier this month, and let it show its working:
We begin in 1850 by calculating the forcings by the principal naturally-occurring greenhouse-gas species in 1850. The data are from Meinshausen et al. (2017); the formulae are from IPCC (2007, table 6.2). The advantage of these particular formulae is that they were designed to permit calculation of forcings from zero rather than from some arbitrary concentration greater than zero. The forcings to 1850, therefore, work out at 25.3 Watts per square meter.
Next, midrange initial conditions are specified. All are standard, but for two. First, the aerosol adjustment of 0.6 Watts per square meter corrects IPCC’s excessively negative aerosol forcing to take account of a substantial body of literature on the subject. Professor Lindzen is on public record as having stated that the strongly negative aerosol forcing adopted in the models is a fudge factor calculated artificially to exaggerate climate sensitivities.
Secondly, the anthropogenic fraction M of total greenhouse-gas forcing is taken as 0.9. In reality, one might deduce by weighting the entries in table 2 in Wu et al. (2019) by reference to the relevant period lengths that, of the total period forcing of 0.96 W m–2, 0.71 W m–2 was anthropogenic and 0.25 W m–2 was natural. On that basis, some 73.5% of the forcing over the period was anthropogenic. However, we have cautiously assumed that as much as 90% of the forcing was anthropogenic.
The emission temperature is then derived via the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. Note, however, that, as is regrettably customary in climatology, no account is taken of the fact that if there were no greenhouse gases in the air there would be no clouds, so that the albedo would be half the standard value used here, and the emission temperature – even after allowing for Hoelder’s inequalities, which climatologists generally ignore – would be well above 260 K. Indeed, Professor Lindzen has estimated 271 K, in which event ECS would be a great deal less than is shown here.
It is then shown that the system-gain factor in 1850, the ratio A1 of equilibrium temperature E1 to reference temperature R1 in that year, was 1.0764, implying that – if the feedback regime has not changed since 1850 (which the le Chatellier principle and the minuscule warming since then would lead us to expect, and which climatologists implicitly assume) – equilibrium doubled-CO2 sensitivity is only 1.1 K. By the incorrect method, the system-gain factor erroneously expressed as the ratio a1 of equilibrium to reference sensitivities would be 3.712, leading us to expect 3.9 K ECS.
How do we know that this is the mistake that climatologists have made? The reason is simple. Some 15 years ago I wrote to Sir John Houghton, then chairman of IPCC’s climate “science” panel, and asked him why, given that direct warming by doubled CO2 in the air was little more than 1 K, it was imagined that final warming was 3 or 4 K. Sir John replied that the total natural greenhouse effect in 1850 was 32 K, and reference sensitivity to naturally-occurring greenhouse gases was about 8 K. Therefore, he said, the system-gain factor was about 4 and, therefore, ECS would be of order 4 K. Similar sentiments are expressed in numerous IPCC documents and peer-reviewed papers on climate sensitivity.
Next, it is necessary to conduct an energy-budget experiment for the period 1850-2022. Here, the objective is to see whether, using midrange, mainstream data throughout, the system-gain factor A2 in 2022 differs significantly from the system-gain factor A1 = 1.0764 obtained from the data for 1850. In fact, on the basis of the mainstream, midrange data shown, the two turn out to be identical. The feedback regime, then, has not changed with the increase of a mere 0.35% in global mean surface temperature since 1850. Not much of a surprise there.
A note of caution. Precisely because – whether climatologists like it or not or admit it or not – the feedbacks present at any given moment respond to the entire input signal, including the enormous 260 K sunshine temperature, even a very small change in the feedback regime would potentially lead to a very large change in global mean surface temperature, since the elevated feedback strength must act on the entire reference temperature including the dominant sunshine temperature, and not merely on the paltry reference sensitivities.
A further note of caution: the data and hence the climate sensitivities can be readily tweaked in any desired direction. For instance, IPCC has changed the midrange values and bounds of the underlying data time and again (for instance, it has raised the midrange estimate of the doubled-CO2 forcing from the mean 3.52 W m–2 in the CMIP6 models to 3.93 K, an increase
breaching the long-established ±10% bounds).
Precisely because small changes in the underlying data affect the feedback strength and hence the system-gain factor, and because the system-gain factor applies not only to anthropogenic reference sensitivity but to the entire input signal, including the emission temperature, it is simply not possible to constrain ECS by diagnosis of feedback strengths from the models’ outputs. Therefore, the notion that the high ECS predicted on the basis of such diagnoses represents “settled science” signifieth even less than the twattling of crickets outside my window here in stone-age Gozo.
Even the simple energy-balance method used by our computer is prone to this defect. Why, then, can we rule out the notion of a large change in the feedback regime since 1850? The reason is a practical one. If there had indeed been a major departure from the feedback regime as it stood in 1850 the warming since 1990 would not be – as it is – two and a half times less than what IPCC had confidently but misguidedly predicted in that year.
That is why the long Pauses in global temperature at a time when anthropogenic forcings are continuing to increase in a straight line are so significant. They provide a visual indication that global warming is not, after all, happening at anything like the originally-predicted rate, and that, therefore, there has been no change to speak of in the feedback regime.
Now, critics have commented that if one were to apply the actual changes in forcing since 1850 to IPCC’s diagrams showing predicted forcings for individual greenhouse gases from 1990, IPCC’s predictions would have been proven correct. One obvious problem with that: if the outturn in forcings since 1990 has proven to be so very much less than IPCC’s business-as-usual predictions in that year, why does IPCC continue to predict two and a half times as much warming as the outturn in forcings would lead us to expect?
Another favorite objection among critics, is that we have been guilty of illegitimate “extrapolation”. However, it should be apparent from the above calculation that there is no “extrapolation” in it at all.
It is climatologists, not we, who insisted that ECS was about 3-4 K on the basis of the data for 1850 and that it is still 3-4 K today on the basis of the data since 1850. The energy-budget method we have used does not rely upon extrapolation at all. One would not expect much, if any, change in the feedback regime given a mere 0.35% increase in absolute global mean surface temperature; and the above calculation shows that, using mainstream, midrange values, there may well have been no change at all in the system-gain factor from 1850-2022, so that ECS is of order 1.1 K.
A recent postercited four climatologists as disagreeing with us. But none of the climatologists in question has read our paper. None has any particular knowledge of control theory (any more than the poster does). Two could not even be brought to admit that there is any feedback response to emission temperature at all (Hint: there is: get used to it). The other two are not on record as having commented on our result at all. If our paper were as easy to refute as the poster suggests, it would not still be sitting before the editor of a leading climate journal, marked as “With Editor” on the editorial-management site, almost two full years after it was submitted. If it were defective, it would simply have been thrown back at us, and it has not been. Go figure.
Why does any of this matter? It matters because, if we are right, two important scientific conclusions follow. First, by the energy-budget method it is possible to demonstrate that, using mainstream, midrange data, ECS is likely to be as little as 1.1 K, and is necessarily as little as that if one adopts climatology’s own not unreasonable assumption (critics would call it an “extrapolation”) that the feedback regime has not changed since 1850.
Secondly, once the extreme sensitivity of ECS to very small changes in the feedback regime is properly understood – as it is not at present understood in climatology – it becomes immediately self-evident that models’ outputs provide no basis whatsoever for deriving ECS values any better than guesswork, because the data uncertainties exceed the very narrow interval of system-gain factors that would allow reasonable constraint of ECS.
Those conclusions matter because, as paper after paper has demonstrated, the energy-budget method suggests that ECS is a lot smaller than IPCC et hoc genus omne find it expedient to admit. Previously, climatologists have dealt with the low sensitivities found by the energy-budget method by declaring that the models’ outputs are more sophisticated and that, therefore, diagnoses of feedback strength and consequently of ECS therefrom are to be preferred. Our paper puts paid to that illusion. Just as Pat Frank has already demonstrated, the models’ predictions of future global warming are no better than rolling dice. Our results confirm his in spades, but by the distinct method of demonstrating the extreme sensitivity of all such predictions to very small perturbations in the feedback regime.
Let us end, then, by updating the estimate of just how little global warming would be abated even if the whole world went to net-zero emissions – which it won’t, since 70% of all new emissions are from so-called “developing” nations such as China and India, that are exempt from any legal obligation under the various climate treaties to reduce their emissions. Indeed, China has recently and sensibly proposed to build hundreds of new coal-fired power stations.
But let us pretend the world will actually reach net zero emissions by 2050. A first-order assessment of the “benefits” and costs of this questionable achievement is on the back of the envelope below –
In the past three decades, there has been 1 W m–2 anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing, arising in a near-straight line at 1/30 W m–2 per year –
Despite all the waffle at successive conferences of the parties to the framework convention on climate change, and despite the trillions already squandered by Western nations on emissions reduction, that straight line shows no flicker of a downturn. Thus, only half a Watt per square meter would be abated by 2050 even if the whole world moved in a straight line from here to net zero by that year – which it won’t, since 70% of the world is moving in a straight line in the opposite direction, and the remaining 30% are finding it a lot more difficult and expensive to attain net zero than they had originally pretended.
Now, let us imagine that IPCC is correct in its midrange estimate that there would be 3 K ECS in response to 4 K effective doubled-CO2 forcing and that, therefore, there should have been at least twice as much warming since 1990 as there has been in the mere real world of which the modelers have proven so contemptuous. If so, abating half a unit of forcing, which is all that would be abated by 2050 even if all the world got serious about net-zero emissions, would abate a whoppingly pathetic 3/8 K global warming by 2050. And that is little more than 0.1% of the prevailing absolute global mean surface temperature.
However, according to McKinsey Consulting, the capital cost alone of attaining global net zero would be £275,000 billion. And that estimate was made before the recent price hikes in energy, whose root cause was the West’s foolish insistence on shuttering coal-fired power stations generating power at $30 per MWh and replacing them with unreliables at many times that unit cost, to say nothing of the tenfold hike in Siberian gas prices that allows the Kremlin to profiteer handsomely for as long as it can keep its special military operation going in Ukraine, sanctions or no sanctions.
Our intelligence assessment is that if Moscow can keep the war running it will have made so much money from the order-of-magnitude price hikes in gas, oil, grain, nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium and other raw materials that have long been the chief earner of its resource-based economy that Mr Putin, who has a pathological (and legitimate) fear of national debt, will be able to pay down the entire Russian national debt in just two years. He has already reduced it to about 25% of annual GDP, one of the lowest rates in the world. He is aiming not for net-zero emissions (his academy of sciences has told him he need not worry about that) but for net-zero national debt. Despite the recent setback for his forces in Ukraine, it is not at all clear that he will fail in that legitimate ambition.
Let us ride with IPCC’s “mainstream” midrange estimate that each unit of forcing abated will reduce global temperature by 3/4 K. Divide the 3/8 K that would be abated up to 2050 by the half-unit abatement of forcing if the world actually went to net zero by the $275,000 billion cost of attaining net zero, and the amount of global warming abated by each $1 billion squandered on net-zero emissions would be – wait for it – less than 1/700,000 K.
Less than one seven-hundred-thousandth of a degree per $1 billion slung down the gurgler. Not exactly good value for money – indeed, it would be the worst value for money in the history of global taxation.
But now factor in the following facts. In consequence of the Ukraine war, compounded by the idiocy of governments in grossly and inefficiently interfering in the free market in energy supply by forcibly shuttering coal-fired plants and replacing them with costly unreliables, the capital cost of attaining net zero will now be many times greater than McKinseys had imagined. What is more, the current-account costs of attaining net zero, which were not included in McKinseys’ estimate, will be no less than the capital cost. Indeed, in the UK the grid authority has estimated that to achieve net zero by 2050 would cost $3,000 billion just to re-engineer the electricity grid.
One must also factor in the cost of installing enough charging-points for electric buggies, which would increase electricity demand by 70% in the UK alone. And where are the nickel, cobalt, copper and lithium for the batteries going to come from? Oh, yes, from Russia and China, whose propagandists have been undermining the West’s capacity for rational thought on this issue for decades. Putin is already laughing all the way to the Moscow Narodny Bank. Now imagine how much more he and his Communist soulmate Xi Tsin-Ping will have to laugh about when the following fact is borne in mind. If Britain alone were to replace all its real cars with electric buggies, the batteries would consume twice the world’s annual output of cobalt and almost all its output of lithium. As other Western nations idiotically follow similar lunatic policies, the price of the rare metals that make up the batteries in the buggies is bound to increase by another order of magnitude. We are looking to store some lithium carbonate in our shed and then wait five years before cashing in as billionaires.
After taking these facts into account, and after bearing in mind that ECS is not 3 K but 1.1 K at midrange, the true warming abated by each $1 billion spent on chasing the chimera of net zero emissions could be as little as one five-millionth to one ten-millionth of a degree.
Now, even if we were indeed facing the near-certainty of ECS at 3 or 4 K that the climatologists profitably imagine (and which Professor Lindzen says would be net-harmless even if it were to occur), it could not be reasonably argued that such large expenditures for such infinitesimal returns are in any degree justifiable.
Yet our result shows that official climatology’s conclusions, based as they are on the outputs of general-circulation models, are mere guesswork. They do not in any degree warrant or justify any action whatsoever to abate global warming.
On the basis of climatology’s own implicit assumption that the total feedback strength, denominated in Watts for each Kelvin of reference temperature, that obtained in 1850 also obtains today, it is proven that ECS will be only of order 1.1 K. The critics who accuse us of wrongful “extrapolation” should, therefore, address their concerns not to us but to official climatology.
Put the scientific case and the economic case together and the correct policy option is to ignore the far-Left critics, stop subsidizing unreliables, shutter the IPCC, abolish the UNFCCC, silence the costly conferences of the parties, unshutter coal-fired power stations and bring to an end the long-planned and now imminent economic hara-kiri of the West that the climate activists and those behind them have so long, and so dishonestly fostered.
NOTE FROM ANTHONY: Over the past months, there has been a running duel of back and forth postings from Joe Born vs. Christopher Monckton over this topic. Everything that could be said, has been said. Some of it has been said multiple times. I don’t agree with all the opinions expressed, but I have given both sides a fair airing of points and greivances.
This is not the Festivus channel.
Because both authors have submitted manuscripts with highly charged language, it has become a burden to edit them for publication. Therefore, this will be the very last posting on this topic from either author. Since Mr. Monckton is a long-time friend and supporter of WUWT, I’m giving him the last word on this contentious topic.