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To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is Threadbare in 5 Minutes

Jeremy Grantham has put out a report claiming to be "everything you need to know about global warming in five minutes". Thank you Jeremy for summarising the global warming case so succinctly. It should make it much easier for readers to see where the truth lies. Here are my comments on your case, please feel free to post any response you wish.

1) The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, after at least several hundred thousand years of remaining within a constant range, started to rise with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It has increased by almost 40% and is rising each year. This is certain and straightforward.

True. It is also a fact, proved by literally hundreds of careful scientific experiments, and also by every operator of a commercial greenhouse, that almost every plant on Earth grows better—30% better for a 300ppm increase is a conservative average—with more CO2. There are six billion people on Earth, and the increase in CO2 you mention has fed about a billion of them with the same cropland under cultivation. I think you had something else in mind when you mentioned the CO2 increase, but it had better be really important if  you intend us to put it ahead of the lives of billions.

2) One of the properties of CO2 is that it creates a greenhouse effect and, all other things being equal, an increase in its concentration in the atmosphere causes the Earth’s temperature to rise. This is just physics. (The amount of other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as methane, has also risen steeply since industrialization, which has added to the impact of higher CO2 levels.)

My apologies, but you don't seem to know much physics. I do. CO2 is completely saturated in its absorption band within ten meters, meaning that, if our eyes operated on the CO2 absorption frequency instead of at visible light frequencies, everything would be pitch black ten meters, or about ten yards, away. Change that ten meters to five or two or even one meter (a tenfold CO2 increase!) and you change very little because of another well-known feature of our planet: air movement.

The CO2 heats the air, the air rises due to convection, cooling as it does. As Steve Goddard points out, this necessarily means that the thermal gradient in the atmosphere must closely match the dry lapse rate which comes from the thermodynamic equations of gaseous adiabatic expansion. Even alarmists agree that the temperature increase with increasing greenhouse gas is logarithmic (meaning very, very little!). The necessity for convection to produce a dry lapse rate temperature profile makes me suspect that this logarithmic increase is itself a big overestimate.

You mention other greenhouse gasses. You forget plain old water—you know, that stuff that covers 70% of the planet and gets evaporated in vast quantities every second, completely swamping the effects of every other greenhouse gas combined. The only argument there is in favour of the alarmist predictions is the outputs of their models. But the models don't predict a big positive feedback from a tiny amount of CO2, they have that assumption put in at the start—to use plain talking, it is somebody's guess, and nothing more. But we now have solid satellite measurements that prove the real feedback to be negative, not positive. That trashes the entire theory right there. Add to that the missing hotspot, and the theory is yesterday's big mistake, suitable only as an object lesson in how not to do science.

3) Several other factors, like changes in solar output, have major influences on climate over millennia, but these effects have been observed and measured. They alone cannot explain the rise in the global temperature over the past 50 years.

This is the argument from ignorance. We don't know what caused it, so it must be CO2. That is a logical fallacy. It would be nice to know what the explanation is, but we don't have to know it to know that this reasoning is wrong:

  • In the first place the current temperatures are not exceptional, nor is the rate of warming. The medieval warm period was hotter, as was the Roman warm period. From grapes in north England to Viking settlements in Greenland in what is now permafrost, to Roman mines being found today under melting glaciers, to hundreds of proxy studies worldwide showing a warm period, we know today's climate is not the warmest. And temperatures even hotter than that were experienced in the Holocene climatic optimum - yes, when people were still sane, they called it an optimum, they recognised the warm time as a good time for life on Earth. So what caused those warm periods? Something sure did, they didn't happen by magic, so the "we can't think of any other explanation" argument merely proves you don't know what drives the weather, period.
  • We now know that the actual temperature records are not merely wrong but fraudulent (for example see Darwin). Pick any place you like, for the same pattern seems to recur everywhere, and you find that artificial 'adjustments' have been made to the records that are as big or bigger than the temperature increase. Yes, it is true that the world is warmer than it was in the Little Ice Age which ended in about 1850, but beyond that the fudging has made the truth unknowable. So one can't argue that we even know of some warming that needs explaining, let alone that the Sun can't explain it.
  • And yet the Sun might be able to explain it! The Sun has just completed a grand maximum of sunspot activity, some say the greatest in 10,000 years. A theory exists explaining how solar magnetic activity makes big changes in cosmic rays reaching the lower atmosphere and thereby changing cloud cover. (A 1% change in clouds explains all the (probably imaginary) warming of the 20th century, so there doesn't have to be much of an effect.) This theory is still untested, which means, by definition, that claims that we know for sure we cannot explain it are incorrect.

4) The uncertainties arise when it comes to the interaction between greenhouse gases and other factors in the complicated climate system. It is impossible to be sure exactly how quickly or how much the temperature will rise. But, the past can be measured. The temperature has indeed steadily risen over the past century while greenhouse gas levels have increased.

As I said before, we actually know nothing about how much the temperature rose because of the (apparently deliberate) corruption of the temperature records. And another logical blunder: correlation is not necessarily causation. If CO2 caused the temperature rise, then what caused earlier rises when CO2 did not go up? And also we know from proxy measurements that CO2 follows temperature by about 800 years. Temperature changes cause CO2 changes, not the reverse. A man-made addition to the CO2 might be a blessing to the world's poor, but it doesn't reverse the physical causation.

But the forecasts still range very widely for what will happen in the future, ranging from a small but still potentially harmful rise of 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit to a potentially disastrous level of +6 to +10 degrees Fahrenheit within this century. A warmer atmosphere melts glaciers and ice sheets, and causes global sea levels to rise. A warmer atmosphere also contains more energy and holds more water, changing the global occurrences of storms, fl oods, and other extreme weather events.

First off, the temperature predictions are fantasy based on provably wrong models reflecting the wishful thinking of the modellers, so let's just drop that part of it. Sea level is changing in exactly the same way as it has changed since the end of the last ice age: rapidly at first, but changing more and more slowly as time goes on. That's still what it's doing today. If it were going to suddenly blast off into the stratosphere, there has been ample time for human CO2 to have got the process started, and it hasn't. Lastly the weather is a chaotic system. If climate changes, then the places that get too much or too little water, storms, etc., will change, but no one knows the details. But we do know from geological records that cold times have more abrupt and damaging temperature swings and more storms overall than warmer times.

5) Skeptics argue that this wide range of uncertainty about future temperature changes lowers the need to act: “Why spend money when you’re not certain?” But since the penalties can rise at an accelerating rate at the tail, a wider range implies a greater risk (and a greater expected value of the costs.) This is logically and mathematically rigorous and yet is still argued.

Well let me argue it then. Remember that billion people who are not starving today and who would have starved to death without the blessing of more people food arising from more plant food (i.e. CO2)? What oncoming disaster are you so certain of that it is worth deliberately starving a billion people, not to count the economic damage and resulting suffering in advanced societies as you close them down to stop emissions? Given the complete lack of any evidence that the theory is correct in any way, given that its predictions are wrong, given the known clemency of previous warm times and the known harshness of cold times, in what sense is it not criminally irresponsible to try to reduce plant food emissions?

6) Pascal asks the question: What is the expected value of a very small chance of an infinite loss? And, he answers, “Infinite.”

One shudders to think what extremes of bad logic are going to come our way from such an opening gambit.

In this example, what is the cost of lowering CO2 output and having the long-term effect of increasing CO2 turn out to be nominal? The cost appears to be equal to foregoing, once in your life, six months’ to one year’s global growth – 2% to 4% or less.

Where did that figure come from? You have to close down every coal-fired power plant and stop driving gasoline motor vehicles to achieve that. In other words, you must replace the entire economy with a new one. As to the replacements, nuclear is unacceptable to the very people urging independence from oil and coal, wind is useless on a large scale (though it might have some uses on a small scale, say, to provide an energy boost to a single home from a small rotor) and the large commercial turbines are bird and bat murder machines. Tidal power is not renewable energy, and solar power has limited uses and, like wind, is unreliable. Nuclear fusion would solve all the world's problems, but no one seems willing to spend the relatively modest amounts necessary to perfect it.

The benefits, even with no warming, include: energy independence from the Middle East; more jobs, since wind and solar power and increased efficiency are more labor-intensive than another coal-fired power plant;

This is shockingly wrong. Being more labour-intensive for the same result is bad, not good! Automating things is what made the modern world. If you think being labour-intensive is good, please simply dispose of your western home and car, and move into a hut in Zimbabwe (but build it yourself, don't spend the last of your western money to get it). Lug your own water from the well two miles away, plough your own field walking behind a bullock, and so on. If everybody did it? Mass starvation, the death of nine tenths of humanity. Sorry, but that's a fact.

less pollution of streams and air; and an early leadership role for the U.S. in industries that will inevitably become important. Conversely, what are the costs of not acting on prevention when the results turn out to be serious: costs that may dwarf those for prevention; and probable political destabilization from droughts, famine, mass migrations, and even war. And, to Pascal’s real point, what might be the cost at the very extreme end of the distribution: definitely life changing, possibly life threatening.

Pascal's wager is very impressive to shallow thinkers, but to those who can keep their brains in good trim, not so much. All acts have consequences. We know cold is a killer, whilst all the evidence we have indicates heat is on the whole beneficial, though some downsides will inevitably occur somewhere. So the wager works both ways. And the damage isn't infinite, anyway, so the rather silly probability equation given at the start can be disregarded. I suspect you don't know what infinity is, because Pascal's calculation only works for genuine mathematical infinity, not for some informal emotional word meaning 'very big'. And even then Pascal's wager is full of holes.

7) The biggest cost of all from global warming is likely to be the accumulated loss of biodiversity. This features nowhere in economic cost-benefi t analysis because, not surprisingly, it is hard to put a price on that which is priceless.

All life thrives more in warmth than in cold. It is cold that threatens biodiversity, not warmth. And every species alive today survived the medieval warm period, the Roman warm period, and the height of the really hot Holocene climatic optimum. Studies show that cold-adapted species survive better in warming than warm-adapted species do in cooling, so warming will produce exactly the opposite result from that claimed. And remember that CO2 you mentioned that is feeding a billion extra people? It's feeding more animals too. And it's removing the need for those people who would otherwise be starving to invade wilderness areas to make more cropland.

8) A special word on the right-leaning think tanks: As libertarians, they abhor the need for government spending or even governmental leadership, which in their opinion is best left to private enterprise. In general, this may be an excellent idea. But global warming is a classic tragedy of the commons – seeking your own individual advantage, for once, does not lead to the common good, and the problem desperately needs government leadership and regulation. Sensing this, these think tanks have allowed their drive for desirable policy to trump science. Not a good idea.

As it is presented, this point doesn't really make sense, because there has been no argument presented to us showing that a tragedy of the commons exists in this case. It almost certainly doesn't. But to give it what meaning I can, let me grant that there is hidden here a valid criticism. Hayek has shown us convincingly that a free market is far better than a command economy at maximising human productivity. But from this it does not follow that deregulation leads to a free market. There need to be prices on or regulations preventing things that are actual damage, such as replacing cropland with car parking, or running a monopoly, and so on. If you are limiting this point to the statement that the right wing doesn't have everything right, I certainly agree—but not with the implied argument that government control is better than personal freedom.

9) Also, I should make a brief note to my own group – die hard contrarians. Dear fellow contrarians, I know the majority is usually wrong in the behavioral jungle of the stock market. And Heaven knows I have seen the soft scientists who lead finance theory attempt to bully their way to a uniform acceptance of the bankrupt theory of rational expectations and market efficiency. But climate warming involves hard science.

Show us some of that hard science then! Omitted from this and similar warmist pop pieces is that one critical necessity to science: evidence.

The two most prestigious bastions of hard science are the National Academy in the U.S. and the Royal Society in the U.K., to which Isaac Newton and the rest of that huge 18th century cohort of brilliant scientists belonged. The presidents of both societies wrote a note recently, emphasizing the seriousness of the climate problem and that it was manmade. (See the attachment to last quarter’s Letter.) Both societies have also made full reports on behalf of their membership stating the same. Do we believe the whole elite of science is in a conspiracy? At some point in the development of a scientific truth, contrarians risk becoming flat earthers.

Science doesn't involve consensus, nor argument from authority. The above is simply a logic-free nonscientific appeal to emotion, and it is moreover damaging, as it attacks the basis of good science.

10) Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what?

The motives and reasons for this insanity are a bit more complex than the one-paragraph straw man you give us.

Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs, and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? Most hard scientists hate themselves or their colleagues for being in the news. Being a climate scientist spokesman has already become a hindrance to an academic career, including tenure.

Was it a hindrance to Mann, or Jones, or any of the other feted darlings of the political feeding frenzy that has arisen around 'climate change'? For sure they are having their over-reaches and their misrepresentations challenged, and so they should be, but they win awards and grants and accolades by the truckload, and it is not being a warmist that is the kiss of death in modern academe.

I have a much simpler but plausible “conspiracy theory”: that fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results.

Tell us how your theory explains the Australian Coal Association giving a billion dollars for research into 'clean coal'. Because I can explain that one: A 'clean' coal power station (meaning one that doesn't put plant food into the atmosphere where it can feed crops and thence humans and wildlife) uses 30% or more coal to power the planetary plant starvation process, and that extra coal has to be dug up and sold by, you guessed it, "Big Coal". That is why the energy companies support the hoax: it is much more lucrative to provide raw materials for something inefficient than for something efficient.

11) Why are we arguing the issue? Challenging vested interests as powerful as the oil and coal lobbies was never going to be easy.

Tell yourself any fantasy that makes you feel good.

Scientists are not naturally aggressive defenders of arguments. In short, they are conservatives by training: never, ever risk overstating your ideas.

Words fail me. Here's Schneider's famous quote:

"On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but – which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."

Not much fear of risking overstating his views there.

The skeptics are far, far more determined and expert propagandists to boot. They are also well funded.

This is such a proven falsehood that merely by repeating it, you tell me everything I need to know about your own honesty.

That smoking caused cancer was obfuscated deliberately and effectively for 20 years at a cost of hundreds of thousands of extra deaths. We know that for certain now, yet those who caused this fatal delay have never been held accountable. The profits of the oil and coal industry make tobacco’s resources look like a rounding error. In some notable cases, the obfuscators of global warming actually use the same “experts” as the tobacco industry did!

The American moon program used the same rocket scientists that Nazi Germany did. Sorry, you don't win a factual argument by attacking the people who disagree with you. And I think you know full well that the vast majority of people disagreeing with the carbon hoax have no association whatever with tobacco or oil or coal. But on the contrary, look at the conflicts of interest of the Chairman of the IPCC, or the self-interests of Al Gore. If alarmists want to throw ad hominem mud around the place, most of it will end up on them.

The obfuscators’ simple and direct motivation – making money in the near term, which anyone can relate to – combined with their resources and, as it turns out, propaganda talents, have meant that we are arguing the science long after it has been nailed down. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”

Still waiting for—you guessed it—some evidence. All I see here is the blackest of pots calling the shiniest of kettles black.

12) Almost no one wants to change. The long-established status quo is very comfortable, and we are used to its deficiencies. But for this problem we must change. This is never easy.

Yes we must change. We could spend a comparative pittance to perfect fusion, which would make energy practically free, and which would revolutionise the lives of the majority of the world's population currently condemned to the grueling, uncertain, short lives that the global warming alarmists seem to want for them (and for us!). We could make a coherent plan to limit human population, but by choice and making people's lives safe and happy, not by leaving them in poverty.

13) Almost everyone wants to hear good news.

Ever asked a newspaper proprietor what sells newspapers?

They want to believe that dangerous global warming is a hoax. They, therefore, desperately want to believe the skeptics. This is a problem for all of us.

I think this is a very shallow analysis if human psychology, falsified by evidence from throughout history. People want to believe in disasters! They invent coming armagedons, ends of the world, the end of the Mayan calendar, the second coming, the turn of the millennium; they say prayers and offer sacrifices to the sun god that he will rise tomorrow; there is no end to human hankering for disaster, and for pointless precautions against non-existent threats.

Well, that's that. All are welcome to post their disagreements and point out where I have got it wrong. But most of all, if anyone disagrees with me, I would really, really appreciate: some evidence.

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Re: To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is ...

This is a terrific response. Reasonable, well considered, and well communicated. It must have taken a lot of hours of work. I'll use this page for a reference.

Thanks for this.

[Reply: Thanks Klem, glad you liked it.]

Re: To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is ...

Excellent point-by-point rebuttle. I've given up trying to reason with the Warmists. Their hatred of capitalism and the market economy blinds them to the absolute vacuousness of the AGW theory.

Hoodwinked by psuedo-scientific "climate change" propaganda, they have embarked on a relentless fright campaign justified by manipulated climate models that have turned CO2 -- a life-sustaining plant nutrient -- into an atmospheric bogeyman.

Most of the Warmists are ideologically wedded to the AGW theory. To admit its wrongness would be like losing a close friend. And it would be a tremendous blow to their ego. Hence, we see the continued desperate and feeble attempts to defend their indefensible theory, while ignoring the facts and labeling others "deniers," a crystal-clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

The Warmists will cling to their AGW safety net as long as they can still defend it without appearing to be out of touch with reality or unreasonably confused and brainwashed. But as the Earth's climate moves inexorably towards another prolonged cool-down (perhaps another Little Ice Age) within the next decade, they will grow more muted in their doomsday predictions, eventually falling silent as the climate turns cold and the winter heating bills arrive.

We can only hope that day arrives sooner rather than later.

Re: To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is ...

About #3 and the cherry picked 50 year time frame, it makes more sense to use full oceanic cycles. They are about 60 years long. From the mid-point of a warming cycle to the mid point of the next I calculated the most recent period to be 1930 to 1990. The previous period, 1870 to 1930 was not due to us, so I call that the natural warming. For those two periods, I got the following: The 1870 to 1930 rise was 0.14 C while the 1930 to 1990 rise was 0.37 C.

Scientists have shot down the increase in total solar irradiance as being too small. They suggest that can account for only around 0.15 C of warming. Since 0.14 C is natural, and 0.15 C is due to an increase in total solar irradiance, then then that leaves ( 0.37 - 0.14 - 0.15 = ) 0.08 C of warming to be attributed to other causes like decreased volcanic activity and CO2 warming for the 1930 to 1990 period.

More Info:

John M Reynolds

Re: To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is ...

Thanks Kirk, I think you see, with me, that this is a wider issue than just global warming. I started Peace Legacy because I want to explore new ways to make life better for all of us, and I couldn't see any future in central planning and ideologically-driven agendas. The GW business was where the ideologues at the centre of the thing stuck their heads out too far, but they'll pull them back again when this all goes south, and return to social issues etc. where it is much harder to pin the errors down. But they also know that if they have to retreat from their global political objectives because when the GW theory falls through, it will be much harder for them to build up enough mass momentum a second time on some necessarily less compelling narrative.

Not sure what the next scare will be, but when it emerges, we shouldn't let it get a free ride for two decades as with GW.

Re: To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is ...

Thanks John, that's a useful calculation, and the details at your link. Ultimately then, it amounts to a value so small that it is swamped by natural variability.