The 50,000-strong American body of physicists, the American Physical Society (APS), seems to be turning significantly sceptical on climate alarmism.
The same APS put out a formal statement in 2007 adding its voice to the alarmist hue and cry. That statement caused resignations of some of its top physicists (including 1973 Nobel Prize winner Ivar Giaever and Hal Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara). The APS was forced by 2010 to add some humiliating clarifications but retained the original statement that the evidence for global warming was ‘incontrovertible’.
By its statutes, the APS must review such policy statements each half-decade and that scheduled review is now under way, overseen by the APS President Malcolm Beasley.
The review, run by the society’s Panel on Public Affairs, includes four powerful shocks for the alarmist science establishment.
First, a sub-committee has looked at the recent 5th Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and formulated scores of critical questions about the weak links in the IPCC’s methods and findings. In effect, it’s a non-cosy audit of the IPCC’s claims on which the global campaign against CO2 is based.
Third, the sub-committee is ensuring the entire process is publicly transparent — not just the drafts and documents, but the workshop discussions, which have been taped, transcribed and officially published, in a giant record running to 500+ pages.
Fourth, the APS will publish its draft statement to its membership, inviting comments and feedback.
What the outcome will be, ie what the revised APS statement will say, we will eventually discover. It seems a good bet that the APS will break ranks with the world’s collection of peak science bodies, including the Australian Academy of Science, and tell the public, softly or boldly, that IPCC science is not all it’s cracked up to be.
The APS audit of the IPCC makes a contrast with the Australian Science Academy’s (AAS) equivalent efforts. In 2010 the AAS put out a booklet, mainly for schools, ”The Science of Climate Change, Questions and Answers”, drafted behind closed doors. The drafters and overseers totalled 16 people, and the original lone sceptic, Garth Paltridge, was forced out by the machinations of then-President Kurt Lambeck. The Academy is currently revising the booklet, without any skeptic input at all. Of the 16 drafters and overseers, at least nine have been IPCC contributors and others have been petition-signing climate-policy lobbyists, hardly appropriate to do any arm’s length audit of the IPCC version of the science. Once again, the process is without any public transparency or consulting with the broad membership.
The American Physical Society’s audit questions are pretty trenchant. Just to recite some of them points in the can of worms soon to be authoritatively exposed. Here’s a selection:
The temperature stasis
While the Global Mean Surface Temperature (GMST) rose strongly from 1980-98, it has shown no significant rise for the past 15 years…[The APS notes that neither the 4th nor 5th IPCC report modeling suggested any stasis would occur, and then asks] …
To what would you attribute the stasis?
If non-anthropogenic influences are strong enough to counteract the expected effects of increased CO2, why wouldn’t they be strong enough to sometimes enhance warming trends, and in so doing lead to an over-estimate of CO2 influence?
What are the implications of this statis for confidence in the models and their projections?
What do you see as the likelihood of solar influences beyond TSI (total solar irradiance)? Is it coincidence that the statis has occurred during the weakest solar cycle (ie sunspot activity) in about a century?
Some have suggested that the ‘missing heat’ is going into the deep ocean…
Are deep ocean observations sufficient in coverage and precision to bear on this hypothesis quantitatively?
Why would the heat sequestration have ‘turned on’ at the turn of this century?
What could make it ‘turn off’ and when might that occur?
Is there any mechanism that would allow the added heat in the deep ocean to reappear in the atmosphere?
IPCC suggests that the stasis can be attributed in part to ‘internal variability’. Yet climate models imply that a 15-year stasis is very rare and models cannot reproduce the observed Global Mean Surface Temperature even with the observed radiative forcing.
What is the definition of ‘internal variability’? Is it poorly defined initial conditions in the models or an intrinsically chaotic nature of the climate system? If the latter, what features of the climate system ARE predictable?
How would the models underestimate of internal variability impact detection and attribution?
How long must the statis persist before there would be a firm declaration of a problem with the models? If that occurs, would the fix entail: A retuning of model parameters? A modification of ocean conditions? A re-examination of fundamental assumptions?
- What do you consider to be the greatest advances in our understanding of the physical basis of climate change since AR4 in 2007?
- What do you consider to be the most important gaps in current understanding?
- How are the IPCC confidence levels determined?
- What has caused the 5% increase in IPCC confidence from 2007 to 2013?
[This relates to the size of feedbacks to the agreed and mild CO2-induced warming. If feedbacks are powerful and positive, the alarmist case is strong. If feedbacks are weak or negative, there is no basis for any climate scare or for trillions of dollars to be spent on curbing CO2 emissions].
A factor-of-three uncertainty in the global surface temperature response to increasing atmospheric CO2 as expressed by equilibrium climate sensitivity, has persisted through the last three decades of research despite the significant intellectual effort that has been devoted to climate science.
What gives rise to the large uncertainties in this fundamental parameter of the climate system?
How is the IPCC’s expression of increasing confidence in the detection/attribution/projection of anthropogenic influences consistent with this persistent uncertainty?
Wouldn’t detection of an anthropogenic signal necessarily improve estimates of the response to anthropogenic perturbations?
Models and Projections
The APS notes that the IPCC draws on results and averages from large numbers of models, and comments, “In particular, it is not sufficient to demonstrate that some member of the ensemble [of models] gets it right at any given time. Rather, as in other fields of science, it is important to know how well the ‘best’ single model does at all times.”
Were inclusion/exclusion decisions made prior to examining the results? How do those choices impact the uncertainties?
Which metrics were used to assess the [claimed] improvements in simulations between AR4 and AR5 [2007 and 2013 reports]?
How well do the individual models do under those metrics? How good are the best models in individually reproducing the relevant climate observations to a precision commensurate with the anthropogenic perturbations?
The APS notes that the 5th IPCC report acknowledged model overestimates of climate sensitivity to C02 increases, both in transient and equilibrium modes:
“As the observational value of TCR [transient climate response] is simply estimated to be approximately 1.3degC, it appears that the models overestimate this crucial climate parameter by almost 50%.”
Please comment on the above assessment.
Box 12.2 of AR5 Working Group 1 states: ‘Unlike ECS [equilibrium climate sensitivity], the ranges of TCS [transient climate sensitivity] estimated from the observed warming and from AOGCMs [ Atmosphere-Ocean General Circulation Model] agree well, increasing our confidence in the assessment of uncertainties in projections over the 21st century.’ Please comment on that statement in light of the discussion above.
The scale of anthropogenic perturbations
The APS notes that solar and thermal warming of the earth’s surface is about 503 watts per square metre, whereas the IPCC’s estimate of manmade CO2 forcing is only 1.3-3.3 watts per square metre, less than 0.5% of the total. Even if CO2 levels leapt from the present 400 parts per million to 550ppm, the CO2 warming would still be less than 4 watts per square metre, the APS says.
“The earth’s climate stems from a multi-component, driven, noisy, non-linear system that shows temporal variability from minutes to millennia. Instrumental observations of key physical climate variables have sufficient coverage and precision only over the past 150 years at best (and usually much less than that). Many different processes and phenomena will be relevant and each needs to be ‘gotten right’ with high precision if the response to anthropogenic perturbations is to be attributed correctly and quantified accurately. For example, a change in the earth’s average shortwave albedo [reflectivity] from 0.30 to 0.29 due to changing clouds, snow/ice, aerosols, or land character would induce a 3.4 W/m2 direct perturbation in the downward flux [warming], 50% larger than the present anthropogenic perturbation.
Moreover, there are expected feedbacks (water vapor-temperature, ice-albedo…) that would amplify the perturbative response by factors of several. How can one understand the IPCC’s expressed confidence in identifying and projecting the effects of such small anthropogenic perturbations in view of such difficult circumstances?”
The APS notes that the models seem able to reproduce the Arctic declining ice trend, but not the Antarctic rising ice trend. Moreover, the APS has spotted that the IPCC had done its ice graphs using only 17 out of its 40 models, these 17 happening to produce reasonable fits with the data. The APS says,
“One may therefore conclude that the bulk of the CMIP5 [latest] models do not reproduce reasonable seasonal mean and magnitude of the ice cycle. Is that the case? And if so, what are the implications for the confidence with which the ensemble [the whole 40 models] can be used for other purposes?
The rate of rise during 1930-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years. Please explain that circumstance in light of the presumed monotonic [steady] increase from anthropogenic effects.
The IPCC-projected rise of up to 1m by the end of this century would require an average rate of up to 12mm/yr for the rest of this century, some four times the current rate, and an order of magnitude larger than implied by the 20th century acceleration of0.01mm/yr found in some studies. What drives the projected sea level rise? To what extent is it dependent upon a continued rise in Global Mean Surface Temperature?…
With uncertainty in ocean data being ten times larger than the total magnitude of the warming attributed to anthropogenic sources, and combined with the IPCC’s conclusion that it has less than 10% confidence that it can separate long-term trends from regular variability, why is it reasonable to conclude that increases in Global Mean Surface Temperature are attributable to radiative forcing rather than to ocean variability?
IPCC officials and their supporters, including President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry, have disparaged sceptical questioners as ‘flat-earthers’. Has the American Physical Society shifted to a flat-earth position?
Tony Thomas has written some 30 climate essays for Quadrant and Quadrant online. He blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com