It may have been the increasingly strident voices dismissing any issues raised about the IPCC’s position – a very unscientific attitude which makes sceptical me think they have something to hide. Or it could have been hearing that the historic ice-core evidence didn’t show carbon-dioxide increase prior to warming.So I'm reviewing the science here.
My investigations have uncovered lots of uncertainties, over-hyping of hypotheses, invalid use of statistics, and incorrectly fusing microscopic mathematics (e.g. radiation physics) with larger scale mathematics (e.g. fluid dynamics & thermodynamics). So my belief is that
climate change is real, within
natural variability, and maybe partially man-made.
Even the UN target of not
more than 2 degrees increase looks to be within natural variability.
Presented by three
mathematicians - Dr Hannah Fry, Prof Norman Fenton (Statstiician) and Prof
David Spiegelhalter - it hones in on just three key numbers that clarify all
the important questions around climate change:-
·0.85 degrees (the amount of warming the planet
has undergone since 1880)
·95 per cent (the degree of certainty climate
scientists have that at least half the recent warming is man-made)
·1 trillion tonnes (the total amount of carbon we
can afford to burn - ever - in order to stay below 'dangerous levels' of
I studied Mathematical Physics very many years ago and had a
career in computer engineering. I'm well aware that statistics and numerical
computational solutions can give misleading answers, therefore require testing
in the real world (which we can't do with climate) so was very interested to
view this programme.
It covered lots of uncertainties and issues that need working
around. The history of how the differing techniques were developed illuminated
the problems well. This is good because
far too often we get told simplified analogies about the science which numerate
and educated people can be deeply suspicious of – like I am.
My review covers a few issues about the presentation for
each number, and follows with a few more numbers that I would like investigated.
·200-300% Amplification by water vapour of the carbon-dioxide
·0.2% of the total Carbon Flux in the atmosphere
·the average ammount that Minimum & Maximum
Temperatures have increased
The First Number:- 0.85 degrees Centigrade
Warming Since 1880
0.85 deg. Centigrade unusual?
The previous 170 years also warmed at about the same rate. (I applaud the
presentation in explaining that, as we go back in time, the accuracy of known
temperatures declines so that we have talk in approximations.) Unfortunately,
noone knows why the warming of 300 years ago started, and continued in fits and
starts. Thus there's no way to show that the same natural warming isn't
The Second Number – 95% Certainty that Human
Carbon-Dioxide Emissions Contribute at least Half of Recent Warming
As a statistician, Prof. Fenton
should have explained that just because 2 things happen at more or less the
same time, (i.e. in his example, winning and football club wage bill; for climatology,
carbon dioxide and temperature) doesn't mean one causes the other or even that
they have the same cause. In fact, in
the case of carbon dioxide, it's a 'confounding' variable which is expected to increase due to warmth. As the oceans get hotter, carbon-dioxide is transferred to the
atmosphere (and the sea holds correspondingly less carbon-dioxide, becoming
more acidic). Another number that would
be really interesting to look at is the % of the carbon flux that is due to humans. I understand it's tiny, ~0.04%
Prof Fenton's presentation used
a Bayesian Statistics approach which showed that the computer models depended
on human carbon dioxide emissions creating more than half of the recent
warming. The impression given was that observational data from the real world
supports this conclusion. There was no investigations into how good the models were at modelling past temperatures, nor of the methods of model 'tuning' that take place.
A Computer Model output of the
troposphere was shown indicating additional heat over the tropics is expected
from human carbon dioxide warming but not from natural variability. If observed for real, it would be decisive.
However, it's not present in the real atmosphere!
… I'm really disappointed that
it was unclear that the model results hadn't been checked against reality.
The Third Number – Total Amount of Carbon we
can burn to stay below 'dangerous levels' of climate change
First, you have to show that it
could be dangerous. A really important
number was omitted – an expected 200-300% amplification by water vapour of the
basic carbon-dioxide heating. This is unproven
and is probably the most contentious thing in climate science because, without
it there's no catastrophe.
Science moves on.
Thus Al Gore's 2006 "Inconvenient Truth" is full of unmet
·Polar Bears are not dying out – their numbers
have been increasing since the hunting ban
·Both poles are not melting – the Antarctic ice
is much the same as previously. (Ice-shelves
and sea-ice are always breaking up due to wind activity. Depth and Extent of ice, particularly
land-ice, is the important metric.)
·1975 to 1998 warming is not the fastest ever, …
·Temperatures are not the highest ever during
human civilisation – Mediaeval Warm Period (~11---1250 AD), Roman Warm
Period and Minoan Warm Period were all
at least as warm (within the error margins of times when people didn't have
·Extreme weather –
IPCC says no connection found with Climate Change
And, whatever they say now, the vocal scientist supporters
of the Dangerous Global Warming hypothesis were surprised by the 'pause' or
'hiatus' in warming (Quotes here)
Those scientists who'd kept their heads down and continued
researching ocean currents, cloud formations, atmospheric circulation and ice
formation /melting were now finding their research results more popular.
IPCC's AR5 report in 2013 accepted for the first time that
the 1975-1998 warming could have been 50% natural due to a series of warm El
Nino currents in the Pacific.
Supporters of the 'Climate
Change – Earth's Energy Budget is being wrecked by human emissions of
carbon-dioxide' theory (e.g. Michael Mann, Kenneth Trenberth, Naomi Oreskes)
are 'finding' all the extra heat hidden in the deep oceans where it can't be
measured reliably; & prophesying that there'll be a sudden huge release of
heat in the future.
While some recent developments include:-
(i)Arctic warming happens from time to time without
any help from human carbon-dioxide emissions
(ii)Atmospheric water vapour does not behave as
simply as depicted in NASA's Runaway Warming hypothesis:-
a.IPCC says cloud formation is very uncertain
2015 Paper discussing a stabilizing feedback between atmosphere & ocean
circulations, clouds and radiation . From the summary: "The major source
of albedo variability and the principal mode of regulation are associated with
the interannual variations of cloudiness. The small variability observed
suggests a high degree of buffering by the albedo of clouds" http://judithcurry.com/2015/03/10/the-albedo-of-earth
My analysis of climate science is to ascertain whether there is:-
(i)observational evidence that carbon-dioxide is a
major driver for Catastrophic Global Warming
(ii) other theoretical mechanisms that could contribute to
As far as carbon-dioxide is concerned, I find:-
· (a) no observational evidence for (i)
· (b) CO2 will react to the Earth's
Infra-Red energy, probably passing it on to surrounding molecules &
possibly using it as kinetic, thermal or latent energy. I haven't found any Statistical Mechanics
work that looks into this.
So, some warming is
expected from increased carbon-dioxide.
It is certainly a Greenhouse Gas answering the question of "Why
doesn't Earth lose all it's heat overnight like the other planets
do". The Greenhouse Effect also has
a contribution from the pressure of the atmosphere. It's not either /or, but
Our planet is the only one watery planet in the Solar
System, so I suspect water is heavily involved in both the Greenhouse Effect
and Climate Changes.
Nature is basically chaotic – deterministic and
unpredictable. As with animal and bird
populations I would expect to find surface temperatures abruptly swinging from
small to large. And I would also expect
the effects of more or less carbon-dioxide to vary, depending on the rest of
the climate. In other words, I don't
think it is possible to do simple calculations to say e.g. "doubling co2
will give n degrees of warming".
Also, I wonder about possible influences from the sun, or maybe gravity.
Some sceptics reject the idea of Greenhouse Gases. They are muddling up the macro
(Thermodynamics) and micro (Radiative Transfer) physics incorrectly. The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is about flows
of aggregates of molecules. Whereas radiative
transfer is about individual molecules. An
individual cold molecule has been shown to transfer infra-red radiation to a
warm one while the aggregate always goes from cold to hot.
I always think that putting physics into words is difficult.
Both Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Mechanics – along with Chaos Theory –
have an approach which allows for the fact that, at micro-levels, we can never
be certain of anything because we are unable to measure sufficiently small
enough without disturbing what we’re measuring viz,:-
(a) can’t measure both velocity and and position of a sub-atomic particle –
probability measures were added to Quantum Mechanics to compensate. This has
the side effect of losing the ability to describe what it is we’re talking
about in English – is it a billiard-ball type of thing or like a ray of light
or wave in the sea?
(b) can’t measure heat transfer of individual nano-particles – statistical
methods were created for Fluid Flow which gives Statistical Mechanics.
There doesn't seem to be way that Thermodynamics Laws and
Molecular Properties can be discussed together in English.
Anyone who believes the oil companies would spend money on protecting
their existence by "deliberately speading misinformation" is over
generalising a special case and obviously doesn't understand how businesses and
capitalism create effiencies by using their own self-interest. If you go back to Adam Smith's "Wealth
of Nations" you'll find he cautions that businesses need to be reined back
from time to time. For radio discussion with academics see
I suggest that tobacco is a special case. The manufacturers
didn't have a legal alternative to tobacco.
However, when I look at the research by anti-smoking activists, it's
just as appallingly bad as the tobacco companies research (particularly about
secondary smoke). As more and more statisticians are saying these days, by framing the
question appropriately, you can always get the statistical answer you want –
and then smooth over the fact that statistics don't prove causation.
Compare to the food processing companies when we were all
told by governments to stop eating saturated fats. They just upped their research into how to
make margarine taste like butter and increased production of it, while reducing
their exposure to butter and milk. They
were agnostic to the science, merely making sure that their company stayed
The fact that we're now told that the saturated fat research
was of poor quality and saturated fat is not dangerous after all makes me
appreciate that the Precautionary Principle should follow medicine and include "First
do no harm". This wasn't followed by the anti-butter activists
– harmful trans-fats were used in margarine until recently (UK) .
In Europe, all the energy companies have been spending money
on research into renewables at least since the 70s and 80s. They wanted to be
in on the latest technology. I remember working for BMW where they had BP as
their research partner on hybrid cars. I seem to remember that Shell were
working with Ford. Hydrogen fuel was perceived
as the way forwards in Europe. While in North America with it's large amount of
farming land, growing corn for ethanol was the way to go. I'm sure they're also spending on research
into alternatives for plastics /food /materials manufacturing and power-stations.
So I don't believe the conspiracy theory for anything except
tobacco. There's always been a
prediction that coal, oil, etc will become uneconomic and the company's duty is
to make sure that their company will survive - not necessarily still with oil
Like tobacco, organisations against cheap energy
(Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Club of Rome, etc) don't have any alternative
to survive apart from stoking up conspiracy theories. They've improved so much over the years …
1.Earth's Global Mean Surface Temperature has
increased at approx. 0.6 – 0.8 deg. C per century for the past 300 years in a step-wise fashion with 20-30 year periods of slight cooling interspersed between 25 to 40 years of warming. 2. The Greenhouse Effect answers the question "Why doesn't all the heat disappear into space overnight? Some gases (water vapour, methane, nitrous-oxide and carbon-dioxide) slow heat escaping to space due to their radiative properties. Gravitational effects of the whole atmosphere also help keep us warm. For detailed explanation see TAKING_GREENHOUSE_WARMING_SERIOUSLY_2007
3.Carbon-dioxide can cause warming by emitting Infra-Red energy. First
CO2 will try using the energy to move away from other molecules, occasionally colliding with them and transferring the energy to them. For latest research into this see New research on atmospheric radiative transfer by Judith Curry which discusses three new papers highlight how atmospheric radiative transfer, particularly how it is treated in climate models, is not ‘settled science.’:-
5.The number of sunspots correlates with a warming Earth e.g. the depths of the Little Ice Age were at the Maunder Minimum 1645-1715, and Dalton Minimum, 1790-1830. (Correlation does not indicate causation - it could be coincidence, there could be a 3rd driver etc.) Sunspots cause additional Ultra-Violet light, magnetic storms and an increase in cosmic rays.
6.Volcanos can also contribute some
warming. 80% of volcanos are
under-sea. The remaining 20% in the
atmosphere send so much dust and particles into the atmosphere that overall
they cool the planet. Generally,
atmospheric volcanos' cooling effect will last less than 2 years.
7.The atmospheric and oceanic weather systems move
heat from the equator to the poles over a period of time. They are mathematically chaotic i.e.
sensitive to initial conditions (hence unpredictable) and deterministic.
8.Water vapour is the most active
Greenhouse Gas accounting for approx 50% of the Greenhouse effect.
9.Clouds are the biggest uncertainty in
Climate Science. Low clouds tend to reflect sunlight back to space during the day, thus cooling. It is not understood when, why or how cloud formation takes place.
Oscillator / El Niño-Southern Oscillationmoves heat around the Earth, mainly between the equator and the poles and may subduct heat to the ocean deoths causing a lag in heat affecting the surface temperture. Monitoring by NASA
calculates an index which is positive when Earth's global surface temperature
warms (''El Nino' years) and cools with negative index ('La Nina's'). This creates a lag between the forcing agent and the realisation of heat at Earth's surface.
10. The Atlantic Meridonal Oscillation , like ENSO, affects surface temperature. It's most well-known component is the warm Gulf Stream which keeps the British Isles warmer than other land at the same latitude.
methods were developed with the assumption that each instance of a measure
(e.g. surface temperature) is independent of every other and has no natural
ordering (e.g. tossing a coin). Thus statistical
analysis is unreliable unless the data is either of:-
Note that the UK Met Office does not rely
solely on statistical models in its detection and attribution of climate change.
pdf which includes "… the complexity and
non-linearity of the holistic climate system, its internal variability and its
physical response to external forcing agents …"
models have a couple of issues to cope with:-
ii.There are too many variables to be able to run
the models within a reasonable time, so ' parametrisations' are
used for items which don't vary much.
The models are designed for physical processes to be investigated and not for prediction. Many different physical parameters are defined which can be varied and a suite of runs done to compare results.