Don’t commit economic stupicide over a bad assumption
We independent scientists can tell you exactly which part of the IPCC climate calculation is wrong, and show you three different sets of empirical evidence that prove it so. Air and ocean temperatures have been dropping for the last few years, contradicting the climate model predictions made in 2001 of soaring temperatures. Yet the world won’t listen to us, and seems determined to commit economic stupicide. How did it come to this?
Alarmist climate theory was complete by 1984. The first stage is to compute forcings due to extra carbon dioxide and other factors—these calculations are sound, except that they omit important natural factors (more below). The second stage is to calculate the temperature rise directly due to those forcings—basic physics, and everyone agrees that if carbon dioxide levels doubled then the consequent temperature rise will be about 1.1°C. The third stage is to apply the various “feedbacks”. Most of the feedbacks are small and their values are known roughly from observations.
So the alarmists assumed that almost all the temperature rise since pre-industrial 1750 to recent times was due to rising carbon dioxide levels, then worked out how big the water vapor feedback needed to be in order to get the observed temperature rise. The result was that it needed to be large and amplifying—the feedbacks (essentially just the water vapor feedback) multiply the pre-feedbacks temperature rise by about 3.0, so the final temperature rise if carbon dioxide doubles (which we expect by 2100) is about 3.3°C.
Notice two problems: some natural factors are left out of the forcings, and the value of the water vapor feedback is based on an assumption. However, the theory looked pretty good, so the IPCC was formed in 1988, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997, and lots of bureaucratic and science jobs were created. The theory had “momentum”!
Then new evidence destroyed the theory. The theory says that if the pre-feedback temperature rises, such as from extra carbon dioxide, then extra water vapor will accumulate at the top of the lower troposphere, thereby warming the planet further because water vapor is a greenhouse gas. That extra water vapor would be relatively warm—creating a hotspot in the pattern of atmospheric warming during a global warming episode. But weather balloons that radio back the temperature as they ascend have been measuring atmospheric temperatures. By 1999 it was clear there was no hotspot at all—so there is no amplifying water feedback!
Further, observations of clouds (Spencer 2008) and satellite observations of outgoing radiation (Lindzen and Choi, 2009) both show that the feedback multiplier is low and dampening, about 0.5. So the effect of doubling carbon dioxide from 1750 to 2100 will be a rise of only 0.6°C, which is of little concern.
The Medieval Warm Period, around 1000-1300 AD, was warmer than now. Something then plunged the earth into the Little Ice Age of 1400 to 1800, but since 1750 the world has been warming at a steady trend rate of 0.5°C per century as it recovers. On top of that trend are oscillations of alternating warming and cooling that last about thirty years each. If the pattern persists, then the last warming ended recently and we are in for mild cooling to 2030.
Whatever factor caused the Little Ice Age, and whose passing has warmed the world for the last 250 years, is not in the climate models. Nor is whatever caused the cooling of the last few years, or the oscillations.
Alarmist climate theory exaggerates the effect of carbon dioxide about five-fold, due to the assumption that nearly all the warming since 1750 is due to rising carbon dioxide. This assumption is especially brave because human emissions of carbon dioxide were virtually non-existent before 1850, and were insignificant compared to current levels until after 1945.
But alarmist climate theory has political momentum. That very momentum prevents the alarmist scientists just turning down the water vapor feedback in the models—because then there would be no cause for alarm. They are locked in politically.
In other areas of science, theories change when contradicted by data, and opposing scientists are not denigrated as “deniers” or demonized by smear websites run by PR agencies. Climate “science” has become corrupt and politicized.
How long before the alarmists start fudging the temperature records, because there is so much money, political control, and science funding riding on the outcome? Bad news—it’s already started. How long before opposition to official climate science is made a crime? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, but some are already talking about it.
Decisions with huge financial implications are normally subject to intense scrutiny and an examination of vested interests. Do our politicians really want to rearrange the energy sector, and cast economically marginal people into energy poverty, on the basis of reports from an unaudited organization with obvious self interests? Well yes, apparently. And the cheerleading media think it’s pretty cool too.
Dr David Evans was a consultant to the Australian Greenhouse Office from 1999 to 2005, developing Australia’s carbon accounting model for measuring compliance with the Kyoto Protocol in the land use change and forestry sector.