the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Time for a little healthy skepticism

Posted by Jeff Id on August 27, 2014

I have finally completed a huge and mathematically difficult design project that has been on my plate for the last couple of months and have a little time for blogging.   I’m thoroughly excited about the project and like so many things I do, I dug in hard and worked until I was fully burned out on it.  Seems to be my style.

Anyway, the multi-billion dollar international global warming industry is continuing on despite the major shots the science has taken in recent years.  The denial of reality by the activist scientists has already reached astounding proportions and seems to be growing with the realization that their predictions of the future are no more valid than Mrs Cleo’s prediction of bankruptcy.  Predicting the future seems a rough business.

There have been a few notable posts on the matter, Anthony Watts carried one which featured climate change advocate Richard Betts quoted as writing “Bish, as always I am slightly bemused over why you think GCMs are so central to climate policy.”.   I’m literally gobsmacked by the insanity of a claimed scientific position that climate models might not be THE central evidence for a position of climate policy.  It leaves one wondering what a lead author of the IPCC might consider in lieu of a model for prediction of future climate.

In short, the industry’s failure is in full view and nobody, scientist, advocate or homeless person can claim that the earth is warming to disaster, because there is now quite literally zero evidence to support the position.  There are plenty of scientists holding on for the “big warmup” that will somehow save the models.  There are even a couple of “scientific” publications digging very deep into the data mash to tweak parameters in line.   I won’t reference them, particularly the one by Gavin Schmidt, because they are trash and tripe and not worth reading.   What they do represent though is yet another symptom of government funded research gone awry with advocacy, a sick industry with little hope for salvation from the wrath of the god of physics.

Climate science meets engineering reality, finally.

And it is the climate models that failed.   They overpredicted warming by CO2 so dramatically that we were able to statistically detect the failure decades before anyone really expected to.   Despite Betts ridiculous and untenable position on climate models, there is no other mechanism by which we can predict climate than models.   Now before people jump on the concept that climate models can’t work, that is a flatly false position to hold.  They absolutely can work. They can even work reasonably well for predicting global temperature trends at their current sophistication level.  Unfortunately, the sensitivity to CO2 warming is incorrect and even when it is corrected we won’t know how far current models will accurately predict into the future.  Like local weather models which predict rain reasonably well two days out, observation and comparison is the only way to know if it worked.

And that comparison of observed temperature to today’s models — failed.  All dead.

I’ve got bad news for you though folks.  You cannot kill an industry that easily.   There is simply too much money at stake for these people to lose their jobs – as they well should.  There is a politically ironic comparison which seems to me fits the context.  The tobacco industry, in its heyday, tried to publish “science” showing that tobacco didn’t cause cancer.  It took years to beat the truth out of that little issue, and in the end the truth did come out.   Yet the industry still lives on.   There is simply too much money and too many people relying on that money to shut down an industry like that overnight.

It will be interesting to see how far it goes, but the quotes rolling out of climate science are consistent with a socialist left wing political agenda based on top-down control and completely inconsistent with the science.  A duck is a duck in my world.

One wonders just how far they can go with this broken message before the unthinking public recognizes that there aren’t any climate disasters to talk about.   The feedback between government funded fake science, and reality is tremendously slow.   We may actually achieve all of the expense and government regulatory control with literally zero societal benefit.   In fact, a new book has been released which highlights the clear fact that CO2 is a highly beneficial gas and its warming effects do nothing but good for life on Earth.   A position I have grown to hold over the years.  If my reasonable and previously mainstream scientific view is correct, these energy regulations and costs will create negative impacts both on the economy and the biosphere when compared to a world without them.

There is nothing inherently wrong with wind, solar and biofuel energy, when unsubsidized by government, the subsidized form is a story for another day.  However it seems clear that the highly scrubbed CO2 and water emissions from an old fashion coal plant are quite likely a net positive for life on this planet.  The mild warming and additional building blocks CO2 provides for plant life both appear to be very positive developments from everything I have studied.  The extremist left-wing political resistance to healthy economic growth and individual wealth and power stand starkly unsupported at this time.

Of course I could be wrong and climate models are actually not needed to see the climate future, and tobacco doesn’t cause cancer.

Cathartic as always!



29 Responses to “Time for a little healthy skepticism”

  1. M Simon said

    In your condemnation of the socialists you left out the socialist right. They have a similar problem with a model that is not working out. And they refuse to face reality. The shattering of a world view is not an easy thing for a human who is past the 15 to 25 age range. The human body is not designed for it.

    Death to the rescue. But it is slow. Unless war accelerates the process.

  2. Brian H said

    The closer to 0 that sensitivity is set, the better the models perform. Hmmm….

    • Jeff Id said

      Some would say 1.1-1.5C sensitivity gives about the right result.

    • Jeff Id said

      Actually, I hope for something like that range. We likely have an ice age to stop in the next couple thousand years.

    • M Simon said

      I think zero is the correct number.

      • Jeff Id said

        It is a physical law that it is non zero positive.

        Now it could be 0.01 or something that would still get you labeled a denialist (or worse) and still be in the unproven range but it is definitely not zero. Any positive contribution results in some form of positive displacement which can be resisted through feedback but since the temp rise from the contribution is not physically discernible from the temp rise of the response, the result in a stable system is non-zero net positive.

        • 52-55% of the suns energy is in infrared. What if more CO2 stops more incoming energy than outgoing?

          • Jeff Id said

            That is a reasonable question. I like to look at extremes sometimes for answers. What if it even stopped 100% of the incoming IR radiation? Would the air get cooler or warmer with more of that sort of gas?

          • M Simon said

            What if it has no effect in the lower atmosphere and cools in the upper atmosphere? Not only could it be positive or zero. It could be negative. But zero sums it up nicely.

            The real difficulty is that there are so many causes and effects of those causes that it is quite difficult to untangle them. I have seen studies where ocean thermal oscillations and solar explains at least 95% of what is going on. CO2 added to those studies improves the explanation a minute amount. Or maybe it was noise correlation.

            I like zero. A nice round number.

          • Jeff Id said

            M Simon,

            Your comment on the possible outcomes for an absorbing gas have no physics foundation that I know of therefore the conclusion that it could be negative has no foundation. Is there some mechanism by which an absorbing material would cool the upper atmosphere while not affecting the heat transfer in the lower atmosphere? I think not.

            My question to sunshinehours1 stands. What if the gas were 100% absorbing of incoming energy such that none directly reached the surface. Would the air get warmer or cooler with higher concentrations?

            I don’t understand your resistance to the basic science. We can calculate Sunshinehours1’s question and come to some form of answer. It will be non-negative and non-zero. Other than that, if the ocean and solar explain 95% of the increase in temps, it doesn’t affect the point that CO2 warming is non-negative and non-zero. Only the magnitude is affected.

            I have considered presenting a more complete analysis of the basics of greenhouse gas absorption but my past experience in the matter was less than fruitful. Nothing I have seen negates the possibility that feedbacks hold any warming to a very low value. Nic Lewis has used observation to reasonably determine 1.3ish or 1.5C I don’t remember exactly, is a reasonable sensitivity. That is per doubling of CO2 and is only for a fairly short chunk of the record. The uncertainty of his value is still a bit wide.

            Either way, that magnitude of warming per doubling is nothing to be concerned about. Rather, it is probably quite beneficial. Unfortunately for us, the result means that mother nature will do more to global temperatures in the coming ice age than the hypothetical CO2 temperature controller can counter.

          • M Simon said

            I have seen a post/paper where the lower atmosphere is saturated so adding CO2 has no effect. And in the upper atmosphere CO2 has a cooling effect. Is that correct? Not my field of expertise. Seemed plausible the way it was explained.

          • I think if all IR was stopped high in the atmosphere, the earth would cool. I think the amount of energy that escapes to space would increase.

            “the surface radiates the net equivalent of 17 percent of incoming solar energy as thermal infrared. However, the amount that directly escapes to space is only about 12 percent of incoming solar energy. The remaining fraction—a net 5-6 percent of incoming solar energy—is transferred to the atmosphere when greenhouse gas molecules absorb thermal infrared energy radiated by the surface.”

          • Phil R said

            Is it? Not a physicist or (g*d forbid) a climate scientist, but I thought most of the sun’s energy (TSI) was in the visible and short-wave spectrum, and very little was in the (near) IR. Most of the earth’s radiation is in the FIR. (Go easy on me, late on Friday and vino is adjacent). 🙂

          • Jeff Id said


            You are only looking at inbound energy. What happens to the visible light energy which strikes the surface, is absorbed and re-emitted as long wave ir?

            Phil R,

            IR is a very wide range of wavelengths so simply saying “all ir” is not very similar to what is being absorbed. I haven’t looked at the ratio of IR to visible (a very narrow range) but it seems reasonable to me that the ratio could be as high as reported here.

          • The visible light energy incoming is less than incoming IR. If all IR stopped coming in more than half the total solar energy would not reach the surface. Net loss in energy.

          • Jeff Id said


            From your numbers, the 42-45% visible light energy absorbed by the surface is entirely shifted to IR and would be entirely absorbed by the gas and retarded from emitting to space. Net warmer than having a fraction transmitted in both directions.

            The example is a little confusing but the shift of the shorter wavelength light to long wavelength infrared in both our real situation and in the hypothetical cause the warming.

            Non zero net positive. Only the magnitude is in question.

          • Jeff Id said

            Actually, the casual use of the terms energy and power are the bane of these conversations. I need to resolve to change to a more strict terminology.

            Your statement should say:

            The visible light power incoming is less than incoming IR. If all IR stopped coming in more than half the total solar power would not reach the surface. Net loss in power.

            Power, however, is not energy but energy flow per second so it does not translate to temperature. The retarded timeframe of outbound power on exit causes a buildup of energy in the atmosphere which is temperature.

            I should have written —-

            From your numbers, the 42-45% visible light power (energy per time) absorbed by the surface is entirely shifted to IR and would be entirely absorbed by the gas and retarded from emitting to space. Net warmer than having a the power transmitted with less delay in both directions.

            The example is a little confusing but the shift of the shorter wavelength light to long wavelength infrared in both our real situation and in the hypothetical cause the warming.

            Non zero net positive. Only the magnitude is in question.

          • Jeff: “From your numbers, the 42-45% visible light power (energy per time) absorbed by the surface is entirely shifted to IR”

            42-45 is TOA. A large amount is reflected etc. I won’t quote any numbers because I don’t know which percentage applies to UV+Visible versus IR.

            NASA says: “the surface radiates the net equivalent of 17 percent of incoming solar energy. However, the amount that directly escapes to space is only about 12 percent of incoming solar energy. The remaining fraction—a net 5-6 percent of incoming solar energy—is transferred to the atmosphere when greenhouse gas molecules absorb thermal infrared energy radiated by the surface.”

            But I don’t know what those numbers are if all incoming IR is stopped.

            But I do know that if 52% of incoming (at TOA) solar is stopped by 100% CO2, that would rob the earth of a lot more than the “net 5-6 percent” .

        • Paul Linsay said

          “It is a physical law that it[sic] is non zero positive.”

          Sort of, but it’s not the only physical law in play.

          The favorite way of discussing the effect of CO2 and its back radiation is to use the example of a blackbody sphere heated by an internal power source surrounded by a thin shell. In radiative equilibrium, which means that the only means of transferring energy between the sphere and the shell is electromagnetic radiation, the sphere will be warmer with the shell in place than without it. It’s easy to show this is true with simple radiation balance equations. We are now supposed to substitute CO2 for the shell and voila, the earth’s surface is warmer than it would be without the CO2.

          Implicit in this discussion is that the shell is 100% thermally insulated from the sphere. For example if the supports were Space Shuttle tile material that would be essentially true. But if we support the shell on the sphere with good thermal conductors, say copper or silver busses, then the condition for radiative equilibrium no longer holds. In fact the sphere and shell will equilibrate to the same temperature, approximately the same one the sphere would have had without the shell. (In fact, the temperature would be slightly lower since the shell has a larger diameter than the sphere, but we’ll ignore that.)

          An intermediate version of this is to leave the perfect thermal insulators in place and fill the gap between the sphere and shell with a gas of some kind. That is, we no longer respect the implicit assumption of a vacuum in the gap. The situation now becomes complicated since heat can be transferred by conduction and convection of the gas. They are both powerful ways of transferring heat. A parcel of air that is one degree C warmer than its surroundings and rising at 1 m/s, walking speed, is equal to an energy flux of 1 kW/m^2, a flux that is almost as big as the maximum solar insolation of 1.3 kW/m^2.

          There are plenty of examples in every day life of how powerful conduction and convection are. Modern double pane windows used in office buildings and new houses are designed to use an insulating gas with low thermal conductivity and have gap that is too small to support convection. If convection starts or air seeps in, the insulating properties decrease significantly. Another example is the flame on a stove. If you hold your hand off to the side it warms by radiation but holding it above the flame warms it by convection and conduction. You have to keep your hand much further from the flame when you’re above it than when it’s off to the side.

          In the case of the atmosphere, we know that there is significant atmospheric convection since that is what creates the lapse rate. Without convection the atmosphere would be isothermal. These considerations lead me to think that the radiative heating of the earth’s surface is overwhelmed by convection and conduction bringing its net effect to essentially zero. On the other hand, increasing the concentration of CO2 in the upper atmosphere does increase radiative cooling!

          • Jeff Id said


            It is a basic fact that CO2 will capture more of the energy flow inside our atmosphere. That is what I am talking about being a net positive non-zero number.

            Talking about the also true fact that CO2 is a better emitter or convection cools are only side issues from the single basic point which so many have failed to grasp. They are actually irrelevant to the point I am making because they do not reverse the basic truth that absorbing material in the atmosphere … absorbs.

            I do find all of your examples interesting at some level though and agree with them. They just don’t reverse the single basic truth I am expressing.

          • M Simon said

            The problem with the atmosphere is that a single basic truth just confuses the issue. There is no single basic determinate that you can point to and say if you get this you have the basics. What we think we know is that ocean heat content/oscillations and solar output (well actually the sunspot proxy) explains about 95% of the temperature record.

          • Paul Linsay said


            I should have summarized what I wrote better. Assuming a constant power source, i.e., fixed solar input, all the CO2 does is change how the heat is distributed within the atmosphere. It does it by absorbing and reemitting radiation. The redistribution is a maximum when the conditions for radiative equilibrium are met and causes surface temperature to increase above what it would be with no CO2 in the air. There is no requirement that any extra heat be stored in the atmosphere by this process. In the shell model, the shell (or shells) could be made out of 1 um aluminum foil with essentially zero heat capacity and still get exactly the same effect. Adding 3 ppm of CO2 only increases the heat capacity of the air by approximately 3 ppm resulting in an immeasurable increase in the heat stored in the atmosphere.

            However, the atmosphere most definitely is not in radiative equilibrium and it’s my contention that convection/conduction pretty much wipe out the increase in surface temperature that it would cause. Wind, thermals, storms, and thunder storms all do a much better job of redistributing heat than radiation.

          • corev said

            Can someone please define for me the delay time of the energy stored/trapped/captured/input to a molecule of CO2?

            I can see why water can actually STORE the energy, but can not get my brain around the time frame for the energy impact on the molecules in the atmosphere.

  3. joshv said

    I am less sure about models. Weather is chaotic, as far as we know it may be chaotic even on climactic time scales – that is to say, the flapping of the wings of a butterfly could bring on an ice age.

    Now I doubt that the climate is quite that sensitive, but I just don’t buy the fact that if we average over a lot of weather, chaotic behavior suddenly disappears or becomes more predictable. Really? We can make predictions about well studied chaotic systems, for example the Lorenz system. We know that some states are rare, or never occupied, we know that some states are common and frequently occupied. Some states commonly follow other states – but we cannot accurately predict the time evolution of such a system beyond a certain time scale.

  4. stevefitzpatrick said

    Hi Jeff, nice to see you blogging again.

    I agree that the models are central to predictions of future warming, and that progress on accuracy of model projections has been held back by biases in the field (which are politically motivated, whether consciously so or otherwise). The political need to maintain the plausibility of extreme future warming is central to all of the recent papers offering ‘explanations’ for the recent lack of rapid warming. Main stream climate scientists will not, under any circumstances, entertain even the possibility that the recent lack of rapid warming demands lower estimates of climate sensitivity. The size of the public investment in climate science will of course diminish if sensitivity to GHG forcing is determined to be low, and that means fewer jobs for climate scientists, as well as more sensible public energy policies, which those same scientists oppose on (green) philosophical/political grounds. It is easy to understand the resistance to lowering estimates of future warming.

    I suspect that the models can make reasonable projections of warming if they have more accurate treatment of clouds, more accurate ocean models, and adopt an accurate absolute value for surface temperature as a metric of model accuracy (incredibly, not done much today!). Whether the various modeling groups are willing to make the needed model adjustments is doubtful.

    Only funding contingent on better model accuracy (How many inaccurate models should the public fund?) has the potential to properly focus the modelers’ minds. If Hillary is elected president in 2016, I think there is little chance of funding cuts until at least 2020; but if she loses, funding cuts may actually happen reasonably quickly, and the model driven madness will diminish substantially before the decade is over.

    • Jeff Id said


      I miss writing.

      I agree with your sentiments. It is still a bit surprising that nobody has adjusted the models for reduced sensitivity leaving other parameters the same. I suspect that a single adjustment to CO2 sensitivity would drop the models right in line. In reality, that reduced sensitivity may be cloud feedback but the bulk result of cloud +CO2 could be (and probably partially is) absorbed right into the sensitivity parameter of CO2.

      I think the models are more than sophisticated enough to predict a temperature differential based on CO2 if the weightings are given reasonably. I say that just based on having enough degrees of freedom to match a curve. As you wrote, whether each factor of the model is well represented requires a lot more effort.

    • Kenneth Fritsch said

      Something of the basic nature of weather and internal climate variability that is not discussed often enough for my taste is that the stochastic noise in observed and climate models makes comparisons over short periods of time difficult to accomplish with good certainty. We have one realization of this chaotic system that should correspond to our instrumental temperature record given the uncertainties of that measured series and even the uncertainties we have not yet estimated properly.

      If we have only one realization of a climate model representation of temperature and one observed realization we do not even have sufficient information about the noise to make a comparison. In order to compare we need either a reasonably good model of the observed and/or modeled output where on doing simulations we might estimate the noise. Another method is to have many runs of a given climate model and use those results to estimate noise – assuming that the noise of the models and the observed are nearly the same. Another alternative approach used most commonly is to use ensemble means and standard error for various and different model runs.

      While I have seen a number of comparisons made over the recent pause period that show significant or near significant greater model warming, I have found making the comparison over a longer time period, e.g. 1979-present gives a better comparison and with the models running significantly hotter. Degrees of freedom can be your friend.

      An aside: Jeff, I think I sense a change in writing style since you came back from your project. Or is that just me?

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