A CASE AGAINST PRECIPITOUS CLIMATE ACTION by PROFESSOR RICHARD LINDZEN


The notion of a static, unchanging climate is foreign to the history of the earth or any other planet with a fluid envelope. The fact that the developed world went into hysterics over changes in global mean temperature anomaly of a few tenths of a degree will astound future generations. Such hysteria simply represents the scientific illiteracy of much of the public, the susceptibility of the public to the substitution of repetition for truth, and the exploitation of these weaknesses by politicians, environmental promoters, and, after 20 years of media drum beating, many others as well. Climate is always changing. We have had ice ages and warmer periods when alligators were found in Spitzbergen. Ice ages have occurred in a hundred thousand year cycle for the last 700 thousand years, and there have been previous periods that appear to have been warmer than the present despite CO2 levels being lower than they are now. More recently, we have had the medieval warm period and the little ice age. During the latter, alpine glaciers advanced to the chagrin of overrun villages. Since the beginning of the 19th Century these glaciers have been retreating. Frankly, we don’t fully understand either the advance or the retreat.

For small changes in climate associated with tenths of a degree, there is no need for any external cause. The earth is never exactly in equilibrium. The motions of the massive oceans where heat is moved between deep layers and the surface provides variability on time scales from years to centuries. Recent work (Tsonis et al, 2007), suggests that this variability is enough to account for all climate change since the 19th Century.

For warming since 1979, there is a further problem. The dominant role of cumulus convection in the tropics requires that temperature approximately follow what is called a moist adiabatic profile. This requires that warming in the tropical upper troposphere be 2-3 times greater than at the surface. Indeed, all models do show this, but the data doesn’t and this means that something is wrong with the data. It is well known that above about 2 km altitude, the tropical temperatures are pretty homogeneous in the horizontal so that sampling is not a problem. Below two km (roughly the height of what is referred to as the trade wind inversion), there is much more horizontal variability, and, therefore, there is a profound sampling problem. Under the circumstances, it is reasonable to conclude that the problem resides in the surface data, and that the actual trend at the surface is about 60% too large. Even the claimed trend is larger than what models would have projected but for the inclusion of an arbitrary fudge factor due to aerosol cooling. The discrepancy was reported by Lindzen (2007) and by Douglass et al (2007). Inevitably in climate science, when data conflicts with models, a small coterie of scientists can be counted upon to modify the data. Thus, Santer, et al (2008), argue that stretching uncertainties in observations and models might marginally eliminate the inconsistency. That the data should always need correcting to agree with models is totally implausible and indicative of a certain corruption within the climate science community.

It turns out that there is a much more fundamental and unambiguous check of the role of feedbacks in enhancing greenhouse warming that also shows that all models are greatly exaggerating climate sensitivity. Here, it must be noted that the greenhouse effect operates by inhibiting the cooling of the climate by reducing net outgoing radiation. However, the contribution of increasing CO2 alone does not, in fact, lead to much warming (approximately 1 deg. C for each doubling of CO2). The larger predictions from climate models are due to the fact that, within these models, the more important greenhouse substances, water vapour and clouds, act to greatly amplify whatever CO2 does. This is referred to as a positive feedback. It means that increases in surface temperature are accompanied by reductions in the net outgoing radiation – thus enhancing the greenhouse warming. All climate models show such changes when forced by observed surface temperatures. Satellite observations of the earth’s radiation budget allow us to determine whether such a reduction does, in fact, accompany increases in surface temperature in nature. As it turns out, the satellite data from the ERBE instrument (Barkstrom, 1984, Wong et al, 2006) shows that the feedback in nature is strongly negative — strongly reducing the direct effect of CO2 (Lindzen and Choi, 2009) in profound contrast to the model behaviour. This analysis makes clear that even when all models agree, they can all be wrong, and that this is the situation for the all important question of climate sensitivity. Unfortunately, Lindzen and Choi (2009) contained a number of errors; however, as shown in a paper currently under review, these errors were not relevant to the main conclusion.

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the greenhouse forcing from man made greenhouse gases is already about 86% of what one expects from a doubling of CO2 (with about half coming from methane, nitrous oxide, freons and ozone), and alarming predictions depend on models for which the sensitivity to a doubling for CO2 is greater than 2C which implies that we should already have seen much more warming than we have seen thus far, even if all the warming we have seen so far were due to man. This contradiction is rendered more acute by the fact that there has been no statistically significant net global warming for the last fourteen years. Modellers defend this situation, as we have already noted, by arguing that aerosols have cancelled much of the warming (viz Schwartz et al, 2010), and that models adequately account for natural unforced internal variability. However, a recent paper (Ramanathan, 2007) points out that aerosols can warm as well as cool, while scientists at the UK’s Hadley Centre for Climate Research recently noted that their model did not appropriately deal with natural internal variability thus demolishing the basis for the IPCC’s iconic attribution (Smith et al, 2007). Interestingly (though not unexpectedly), the British paper did not stress this. Rather, they speculated that natural internal variability might step aside in 2009, allowing warming to resume. Resume? Thus, the fact that warming has ceased for the past fourteen years is acknowledged. It should be noted that, more recently, German modellers have moved the date for ‘resumption’ up to 2015 (Keenlyside et al, 2008).

Climate alarmists respond that some of the hottest years on record have occurred during the past decade. Given that we are in a relatively warm period, this is not surprising, but it says nothing about trends.

Given that the evidence (and I have noted only a few of many pieces of evidence) strongly implies that anthropogenic warming has been greatly exaggerated, the basis for alarm due to such warming is similarly diminished. However, a really important point is that the case for alarm would still be weak even if anthropogenic global warming were significant. Polar bears, arctic summer sea ice, regional droughts and floods, coral bleaching, hurricanes, alpine glaciers, malaria, etc. etc. all depend not on some global average of surface temperature anomaly, but on a huge number of regional variables including temperature, humidity, cloud cover, precipitation, and direction and magnitude of wind. The state of the ocean is also often crucial. Our ability to forecast any of these over periods beyond a few days is minimal (a leading modeler refers to it as essentially guesswork). Yet, each catastrophic forecast depends on each of these being in a specific range. The odds of any specific catastrophe actually occurring are almost zero. This was equally true for earlier forecasts of famine for the 1980’s, global cooling in the 1970’s, Y2K and many others. Regionally, year to year fluctuations in temperature are over four times larger than fluctuations in the global mean. Much of this variation has to be independent of the global mean; otherwise the global mean would vary much more. This is simply to note that factors other than global warming are more important to any specific situation. This is not to say that disasters will not occur; they always have occurred and this will not change in the future. Fighting global warming with symbolic gestures will certainly not change this. However, history tells us that greater wealth and development can profoundly increase our resilience.

In view of the above, one may reasonably ask why there is the current alarm, and, in particular, why the astounding upsurge in alarmism of the past 4 years. When an issue like global warming is around for over twenty years, numerous agendas are developed to exploit the issue. The interests of the environmental movement in acquiring more power, influence, and donations are reasonably clear. So too are the interests of bureaucrats for whom control of CO2 is a dream-come-true. After all, CO2 is a product of breathing itself. Politicians can see the possibility of taxation that will be cheerfully accepted because it is necessary for ‘saving’ the earth. Nations have seen how to exploit this issue in order to gain competitive advantages. But, by now, things have gone much further. The case of ENRON (a now bankrupt Texas energy firm) is illustrative in this respect. Before disintegrating in a pyrotechnic display of unscrupulous manipulation, ENRON had been one of the most intense lobbyists for Kyoto. It had hoped to become a trading firm dealing in carbon emission rights. This was no small hope. These rights are likely to amount to over a trillion dollars, and the commissions will run into many billions. Hedge funds are actively examining the possibilities; so was the late Lehman Brothers. Goldman Sachs has lobbied extensively for the ‘cap and trade’ bill, and is well positioned to make billions. It is probably no accident that

Gore, himself, is associated with such activities. The sale of indulgences is already in full swing with organizations selling offsets to one’s carbon footprint while sometimes acknowledging that the offsets are irrelevant. The possibilities for corruption are immense. Archer Daniels Midland (America’s largest agribusiness) has successfully lobbied for ethanol requirements for gasoline, and the resulting demand for ethanol may already be contributing to large increases in corn prices and associated hardship in the developing world (not to mention poorer car performance). And finally, there are the numerous well meaning individuals who have allowed propagandists to convince them that in accepting the alarmist view of anthropogenic climate change, they are displaying intelligence and virtue For them, their psychic welfare is at stake.

With all this at stake, one can readily suspect that there might be a sense of urgency provoked by the possibility that warming may have ceased and that the case for such warming as was seen being due in significant measure to man, disintegrating. For those committed to the more venal agendas, the need to act soon, before the public appreciates the situation, is real indeed. However, for more serious leaders, the need to courageously resist hysteria is clear. Wasting resources on symbolically fighting ever present climate change is no substitute for prudence. Nor is the assumption that the earth’s climate reached a point of perfection in the middle of the twentieth century a sign of intelligence.

Professor Richard S Lindzen has responded to the invitation to supply a paper for this site with the above.
He asks us to remember that this is only one of a number of papers that are currently being revised to allow for new advances and new data.

He is well qualified to have a considered opinion.

Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT

Professor Lindzen is a dynamical meteorologist with interests in the broad topics of climate, planetary waves, monsoon meteorology, planetary atmospheres, and hydrodynamic instability. His research involves studies of the role of the tropics in mid-latitude weather and global heat transport, the moisture budget and its role in global change, the origins of ice ages, seasonal effects in atmospheric transport, stratospheric waves, and the observational determination of climate sensitivity. He has made major contributions to the development of the current theory for the Hadley Circulation, which dominates the atmospheric transport of heat and momentum from the tropics to higher latitudes, and has advanced the understanding of the role of small scale gravity waves in producing the reversal of global temperature gradients at the mesopause, and provided accepted explanations for atmospheric tides and the quasi-biennial oscillation of the tropical stratosphere. He pioneered the study of how ozone photochemistry, radiative transfer and dynamics interact with each other. He is currently studying what determines the pole to equator temperature difference, the nonlinear equilibration of baroclinic instability and the contribution of such instabilities to global heat transport. He has also been developing a new approach to air-sea interaction in the tropics, and is actively involved in parameterizing the role of cumulus convection in heating and drying the atmosphere and in generating upper level cirrus clouds. He has developed models for the Earth’s climate with specific concern for the stability of the ice caps, the sensitivity to increases in CO2, the origin of the 100,000 year cycle in glaciation, and the maintenance of regional variations in climate. Prof. Lindzen is a recipient of the AMS’s Meisinger, and Charney Awards, the AGU’s Macelwane Medal, and the Leo Huss Walin Prize. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters, and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society. He is a corresponding member of the NAS Committee on Human Rights, and has been a member of the NRC Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate and the Council of the AMS. He has also been a consultant to the Global Modeling and Simulation Group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at California Institute of Technology’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Ph.D., ’64, S.M., ’61, A.B., ’60, Harvard University)

References:

Barkstrom, B.R., 1984: The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 65, 1170–1185.

Douglass,D.H., J.R. Christy, B.D. Pearsona and S. F. Singer, 2007: A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions, Int. J. Climatol., DOI: 10.1002/joc.1651

Keenlyside, N.S., M. Lateef, et al, 2008: Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector, Nature, 453, 84-88.

Lindzen, R.S. and Y.-S. Choi, 2009: On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data, accepted Geophys. Res. Ltrs.

Lindzen, R.S., 2007: Taking greenhouse warming seriously. Energy & Environment, 18, 937-950.

Ramanathan, V., M.V. Ramana, et al, 2007: Warming trends in Asia amplified by brown cloud solar absorption, Nature, 448, 575-578.

Santer, B. D., P. W. Thorne, L. Haimberger, K. E. Taylor, T. M. L. Wigley, J. R. Lanzante, S. Solomon, M. Free, P. J. Gleckler, P. D. Jones, T. R. Karl, S. A. Klein, C. Mears, D. Nychka, G. A. Schmidt, S. C. Sherwood, and F. J. Wentz, 2008: Consistency of modelled and observed temperature trends in the tropical troposphere, Intl. J. of Climatology, 28, 1703-1722.

Schwartz, S.E., R.J. Charlson, R.A. Kahn, J.A. Ogren, and H. Rodhe, 2010: Why hasn’t the Earth warmed as much as expected?, J. Climate, 23, 2453-2464.

Smith, D.M., S. Cusack, A.W. Colman, C.K. Folland, G.R. Harris, J.M. Murphy, 2007: Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model, Science, 317, 796-799.

Tsonis, A. A., K. Swanson, and S. Kravtsov, 2007: A new dynamical mechanism for major climate shifts, Geophys. Res. Ltrs., 34, L13705, doi:10.1029/2007GL030288

Wong, T., B. A. Wielicki, et al., 2006: Reexamination of the observed decadal variability of the earth radiation budget using altitude-corrected ERBE/ERBS nonscanner WFOV Data, J. Climate, 19, 4028–4040.

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6 Responses to A CASE AGAINST PRECIPITOUS CLIMATE ACTION by PROFESSOR RICHARD LINDZEN

  1. Pingback: New Article | Bill Peddie's website

  2. Aaron Guhl says:

    Before you go on about conspiracy theories, etc. You should probably do your darnedest to understand the science from which those theories are based on. Instead you reference Lindzen’s study that he already admitted had mistakes in it. He assumes that the tropics are a closed system which is why his results show that there is a low climate sensitivity. Much of the energy in the tropics gets transferred to the subtropics which his study does not account for. Numerous studies have been done using Lindzen’s method, but substituting global data instead of regional tropical data only and their results are the exact opposite (high climate sensitivity). You can read one study here:

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL042911.shtml

    You can’t substitute regional data where global data sets are required for complete analysis.

    You make numerous other mistakes in your post that I won’t get into. But, I simply suggest you read more on the science of climate change before you carry on with conspiracy theories. It’ll do you and your readers good.

    • peddiebill says:

      Sorry to have offended you with my ignorance Aaron. I am sure it was unintentional. As it happens the reason why I have read several texts and articles on Global warming is precisely because I am trying to understand it, but you will need to be patient with me. For example I had no idea that as you imply Professor Lindzen has lost credibility. His articles are still being published in the refereed journals and the prizes keep rolling in. Because the climate sensitivity question is still being debated, I think it is premature to say it is highly sensitive. Anyway if it is, and if carbon dioxide is the main driver how come CO2 has been going up since 1998 but the temperature hasnt followed in step like those hockey stick theorists said would happen. I did read the paper you suggest I read, but thought rather that improvements were being suggested to one of his older joint published papers which is how I thought science worked anyway. While I am sure that ultimately we want reliable global data I would have thought you start with what you can measure which has to be local. But as far as Professor Lindzen is concerned, remember Newton was pig ignorant about relativity and Einstein still had heaps to learn about quantum mechanics, but this is hardly grounds for saying they have lost their credibility. I concede that I am not personally an expert and looking at the refereed literature I am puzzled why you are so sure you are. Was the article about pressure cookers yours? I am also a little puzzled about the jibe you make on conspiracy theories. I thought it was Professor Lindzen who was suggesting there was some jiggery pokery going on with carbon credits, not me! But if you are sure Enron was squeaky clean I will take your word for it.

  3. Aaron Guhl says:

    Sorry Bill. The article was rather confusing when it comes to perspective. At one point Richard Lindzen is referred to in third-person, so I had assumed that those parts were your authoring, not Lindzen’s. I suppose I should not have assumed.

    Perhaps it is Lindzen that should concentrate more on science than politics.

    I don’t mean to say that Enron was clean (it certainly was not), but when claiming that there are so many corrupt aspects to the green movement because of money to be made, the same statements could be made about the other side of the spectrum. Except atleast the green side doesn’t pour money into the pockets of terrorists.

    There will always be people who are simply positioning themselves to make money. That is why it is best to simply look at the science rather than the politics.

    Of course looking at the science, there are still some uncertainties. There always will be. The best thing to do is look at the big picture and see where the evidence points. There continues to be overwhelming evidence that points to how sensitive our climate system is to CO2 flucuations. Saying temperatures haven’t risen since 1998 even though CO2 has continued to rise is not evidence that the climate isn’t sensitive to CO2 changes. You’re essentially using 1998 as a baseline when it is widely known that 1998 was an extremely hot year and very anomalous during that decade. Looking at the trend for the last 30 years however you’ll see that temperatures have continued to rise. You need to ignore noise due to feedback systems in order to see the effect that CO2 plays.

    I never said you offended me nor did I take anything personal. Debate is always a good thing in science. But to ignore makes claims based on studies that have already shown their errors is not good science.

    • dave says:

      Unfortunately Dr Lindzen does mix some politics in with the science but the science he mentions cannot be easily dismissed.

      Dr Lindzen’s paper had ten references. Pointing to one paper that took issue with one reference does not dismiss his entire argument.

      The comment about one side pouring money into the pockets of terrorists is quite astounding. Where did this reference come from? Are skeptics now considered supporters of terrorists? The amount of money coming to the global warming enthusiasts is huge while blogs run by skeptics are simply just blogs (no money!). Here is a report about that money issue:

      Climate Money (pdf)

      Dr Lindzen is only mentioning what is widely known, that the UN and national governments are spending a fortune in reaction to the AGW fear mongering. Terrorists have nothing to do with this topic.

      Climate sensitivity is not ‘settled science’:

      New paper on climate sensitivity

      On climate sensitivity

      Saying temperatures have not risen since 1998 is just pointing out that CO2 went up but temperatures did not, even though there is supposed to be a high sensitivity.

      Of course temperatures have risen in the past 30 years. Quite a few authors have noted that temperatures over the last 150 years have been generally increasing but that is because global temperatures had bottomed out from the Little Ice Age, which of course had followed the Medieval Warm Period (when the Vikings were farming in Greenland) when the global temperatures were warmer than now. Even Dr Jones of the CRU acknowledges the recent warming is no different than earlier warning periods.

      BBC interview

      The Pacific Ocean seems to have a temperature cycle of about 60 years, 1/2 warmer than the other half. A cooling trend started the 20th century. The significant warming during the 1920’s and 1930’s had a fairly flat CO2 trend. The significant cooling trend in the 1960’s and 1970’s (the time of a new ice age scare) had increasing CO2 levels. The warming of the 1980’s and 1990’s was accompanied by increasing CO2 levels. The trend in the past decade, though warm, has been flat or cooling. While observing this sequence, we are asked to ignore the noise to see the effect of CO2.

      There is still a debate on the science of global climate. Dr Lindzen in the second paragraph points out CO2 cannot explain the changes in temperature especially when the oceans play such a prominent role in the world’s weather patterns.

      ENSO oscillation

      Rise of temperatures explained without GHG

      These links are not all ‘peer reviewed’ but that process has become quite corrupted into a buddy system, as revealed in some of the ClimateGate emails.

      Climategate men behaving badly

      Peer review

      AGW is now more politics than science, leading to heightened emotions. However, bringing up terrorists and bluntly asserting “it’ll do you and your readers good” are comments that I felt were rather offensive for this blog and would typically not be used in a civil debate about science.

  4. Pingback: New Article on Climate Change | Bill Peddie's website

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