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Discussion > Does Climate Science Exist?

I have given up repeating the mantra: "it's nothing to do with science; it's everything to do with politics".
But if we keep chipping away at the bad science or the dubious science or the unproved "psyence" we will eventually force the Climateers to try another tack but only once we can establish which of these various scientific arguments is correct.
You've made four statements above, each of which has been challenged at some time but the juggernaut rolls on either ignoring your (my, Martin A's, Dung's, others better qualified than we are) arguments or just dismissing them as "hand-waving", "not peer-reviwed", "just blog material" — see the "Away with the fairies" thread about Appell's dismissal of Jonathan Jones.
I am mildly encouraged by the increasing number of papers (Gianniani today is a good example) that are so bad that the sceptics can debunk them before the ink is dry. A few more of those and the cracks might start to show.

Aug 28, 2015 at 5:01 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Martin A
Would you not accept that when there are two competing theories about an issue then a la Feynman; the theory which most corresponds with experiment/observation is the one to back? Under those circumstances greenhouse gases are an irrelevance other than being part of the total atmosphere.
Aug 28, 2015 at 1:51 PM Dung

No, I don't see it as a question of choosing a theory (or hypothesis) to back (unless someone is literally taking bets on which one will prove to be correct). That was EM's line; if one theory seems better, that's the one to believe in.

If the gravity/gas laws theory genuinely explains the observed air temperature and is based on correct use of the laws of physics, then it is a valid hypothesis/theory about what is happening. But it does not mean the greenhouse effect theory can immediately be ditched as having been falsified.

My own guess (no more than that) is that, unless the gravity/gas laws theory is simply erroneous,both it and the greenhouse theory could both turn out to be approximations to the reality - or even complementary views of the same thing.

Aug 28, 2015 at 7:05 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Martin A

I hold you in great respect as a true mathematician and someone more qualified than almost anyone else on BH to make comments about mathematical issues. However on this issue you seem to be missing the Feynman logic ^.^
The Maxwell theory was proposed in the 19th century at a time when measuring temperatures and atmospheric pressures on other planets was not possible, nevertheless Maxwell, Clausius et al confidently predicted that surface temperature of a body could accurately be calculated knowing only the surface atmospheric pressure and the amount of solar radiation striking the top of its atmosphere. After the best part of 200 years we are able to fill in the blanks and we find that their predictions were correct.
One theory specifically excludes Greenhouse gases and the other is totally reliant on Greenhouse gases, I would say this is categorical proof that GH gasses are not relevant.

Aug 28, 2015 at 7:56 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Mike Jackson

You are a pillar of the 'Logic and Empirical evidence' based society ^.^

Aug 28, 2015 at 8:07 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung - I'll do some reading up on it.

Aug 28, 2015 at 11:18 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


a pillar of the 'Logic and Empirical evidence' based society
Also a pedant.
I agree with Martin A that one should not reject hypotheses just because a more seductive one has come along but I very much agree with you that:
- where scientists have proposed a hypothesis that works in a given set of certain circumstances but for which there is no way of confirming or falsifying it then it needs to go in the drawer marked 'pending';
- if a couple of hundred years later it appears that that hypothesis is confirmed because scientific knowledge has progressed to the point where independent verification is possible then we have no right to dismiss it out of hand.
But I'm not going any further down the road with you than that.

However ... the accepted hypothesis that would have us believe that CO2 is entirely responsible for an unnatural warming in the latter part of the 20th century is shot full of holes, the biggest of which is that the same suspects or their immediate successors who were threatening us with dire cooling if we didn't mend our envronmental ways are the ones who are now threatening us with dire warming if we don't mend ... etc., etc. Too much of a coincidence there and too much evidence from things like Climategate and the pronouncements of the environmental movement that suggest there is more than simply science in play here.
And to those who start jumping up and down and shouting "conspiracy theory", I'll give you two words: "Ancel Keys".

Aug 29, 2015 at 9:51 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Actually Mike Ancel Keys is a perfect example of the fallacy that Martin A has been trying to get his head around. Keys wrote a paper which purported to show that intake of animal fats was a major cause of arteriosclerotic and degenerative heart disease. On the face of it he provided a "better" explanation and this was widely accepted by the medical profession. He only used 6 countries for his research, there were 22 available, but his explanation was that as it was just after WW2 the data from the rejected countries were unreliable. (He wrote the paper in 1953, so he may have had a point). However the notion that sticky gooey fat could block the arteries was accepted (seems obvious right?) and moreover, it was things humans liked to eat and they were eating a lot of it. What's not to like in this self-hating society?

He subsequently wrote another paper using 7 countries, quite why he didn't use the 22 countries available has never been explained as far as I know.

In 1957, Jacob Yerushalmy and Herman Hilleboe—Berkeley statistician and New York State Commissioner of Health, respectively, who’d both attended the WHO meeting with Keys—wrote a scathing critique of Keys’ beloved graph.This is where it gets like climate science.

There own graph of the 22 countries and their heart disease rates in fact supported Keys in that it looked as though Keys was indeed correct and that consumption of fact correlated with heart disease in that the more fat consumed the higher the rate of heart disease. And for your average climate scientist that would be enough, proof positive in two studies proving the same thing.

Except that Jacob Yerushalmy and Herman Hilleboe appear to have had truly scientific minds and continues to examine the data. They next compared fat intake to all deaths for men between 55 and 59, and to their surprise, found that fat eaters were more unlikely to die from other diseases (maybe because they didn't live long enough?).

They also looked further into the data and noted that the high fat eaters and high heart disease rates were in the most developed countries, and that some of the less developed countries didn't assign reasons for deaths as rigorously as the more developed nations.

They then put all heart disease deaths together and the rate of deaths for meat eaters came down a little.

Then the fat intakes had been calculated by taking the total amount of food available in each country, an presumably dividing by the population to get the average intake. First of all not a good way of deciding who is actually eating fat, but moreover not taking into account that in a more developed country there will be more waste than in an underdeveloped country.

In fact they showed that basically the data were - I believe the technical term is - "shite". (Bristlecone pines and short-centring anyone?).

So here we have it, the hypothesis was considered "better" because it simultaneously blamed people for their own deaths, and at the same time forbade them to eat things they like.

It was debunked, but two people one of them a statistician but the medical profession went on to use the paper for 55 years, (and they didn't need an Intergovernmental Panel on Human Caused Heart Disease) because it was a "better" i.e caused more pain for humans, and was supported by the "science".

The advice now is to "eat only food that will spoil and eat it before it spoils." So steaks are back on the menu.

Synopsis of this blog

Aug 31, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Registered Commentergeronimo

Your "seems obvious right?" is the reason I called my blog "Stands to Reason" (I really must spend more time over there!)
The point I was making was that it only took one determined researcher wih a bee in his bonnet to fool virtually the entire medical establishment for the best part of half-a-century.
Those who would now call us conspiracy theorists for claiming that the AGW scam is simply a means for the eco-activist establishment (starting with Carson and travelling via Ehrlich, Strong, et al to where we are today) need to be reminded just how easy it is to fool all the people some of the time.
I have no personal brief for either the CO2 theory or the solar/pressure theory though I am inclined to favour the latter on the principle of Occam's Razor — it explains the situation simply and doesn't require a whole raft of new terms (like "back radiation"), complex diagrams of the ebb and flow of heat in, out, sideways,and back again, and a whole scientific establishment with camp followers carrying out dubious research with dubious figures to persuade us all that temperature changes too small to measure are (a) our fault, and (b) going to cause catastrophic changes that (to quote King Lear) "will be the terrors of the earth"!
As I've said from the beginning, it simply doesn't pass the smell test!

Aug 31, 2015 at 11:54 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Scene 1. Sir Humphrey enters the PM’s outer office.

SH: Good morning Bernard. Thank you for the tip off, I spent yesterday afternoon with Sir Richard Betts briefing myself.

Bernard: Well he was in something of a tizzy yesterday, apparently he’d bumped into Peter Lilley at dinner in White’s on Thursday night and had been earwigged about the costs of the CCA and the lack of benefits.

SH: Costs Bernard? They aren’t costs, they’re investments Bernard. Investments that will bear fruit for our grandchildren. What on Earth is he talking about?

Bernard: He’s also got a problem with the new leader of the Labour Party he wants to discuss with you, much along the same lines I believe (a buzzer goes off). I think he’s ready for you now.

Scene 2. Bernard shows Sir Humphrey into the Cabinet Room, the Prime Minister is sitting with his back to the fireplace in the middle of the Cabinet meeting table.

PM: Ah good morning Humphrey please take a seat. You can stay too Bernard.

SH:(emollience itself, sits opposite the PM Bernard places himself at the end of the table with a notepad and pen): Good morning Prime Minister. We have the report on pay in the Civil Service finished and I’ve brought a copy for you to read before we release it to the wider public.

PM. Thank you Humphrey, but that’s not what I want to discuss with you this morning. Apparently the leader of the opposition has a brother who’s some sort of astrologer…

SH: Meteorologist, Prime Minister.

PM: They’re different? Anyway I’m getting hammered at every PMQ on this climate change “crap”, as my predecessor referred to it. He’s making me look a complete fool.

SH: Oh come Prime Minister, not a complete fool, and anyway he’s not doing himself any favours turning up in that hat for PMQs.

PM (smiling): “Yes, apparently he’s not going to be tied by bourgeois expectations of formality. Did you see that the entire shadow cabinet wore the same hat last week. I spent the entire PMQ expecting them to break into some sort of sea shanty peppered with “me lads”.

But to the point Humphrey, I met Peter Lilley at a dinner in the Reform Club last Thursday and asked his advice on how to handle these questions. Lots of mumbo jumbo stuff about satellite temperatures and homogenisation etc. but then the knock out blow. He told me of some fellow called Poppy had set the rules for science and one of the rules was that any scientific theory should be falsifiable and that the theory of global warming doesn’t have such a condition, so it isn’t a “scientific” theory. I’d like to get a briefing on this if you don’t mind.

SH: No, no Prime Minister, I spent some time with Sir Richard Betts at the Met Office yesterday and he explained it all to me. Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere traps heat and will increase the temperature.

PM: But Lilley told me that carbon dioxide has increased for eighteen years and temperatures have been more or less stable, so why is that Humphrey?

SH: Prime Minister, it is commonly assumed that the temperatures have stayed the same, but in fact they have continued to go up, you are being misled…

PM: That’s enough Humphrey! I checked myself this morning and as Lilley said there has been no warming since 1998. 18 years Humphrey. Lilley explained that this chap Poppy put it this way, if a scientist says P will cause Q it only has to fail to do that once for the hypothesis P causes Q to be wrong.

SH: Nooo Prime Minister, that’s using formal logic. The problems with formal logic come when one tries to apply it to the real world. Strict application of the propositional calculus would make all science impossible, not just climatology. It would also invalidate any system using evidence, from law to engineering.

To test the hypothesis that increased greenhouse gases generate global warming is more difficult. You can demonstrate the effect on the laboratory scale, but do so on a planetary scale needs a duplicate planet on which greenhouse gas concentrations have been kept constant. If that control planet warmed as much as our Earth, global warming would be falsified.

The resources for such an experiment are not yet available. How do you distinguish between the fallacy of "confirming the consequent" and genuine cause and effect?

"If P then Q" must be shown to be false. You might do so in two ways.

Firstly by demonstrating that the mechanism linking cause and effect is not sound (If P not always Q).

Secondly by demonstrating that another cause better explains the observations (If R then Q).

This is how science operates. It is known in formal logic as modus tollens or "denying the consequent"

I used the word "demonstrate" deliberately. A better theory has a better mechanism explaining the observations. It demonstrates causation more effectively than the earlier theory.

Consider Newton's Law of gravity and general relativity.

Newton described the behaviour of objects by an inverse square law hypothesis,
He did not explain why this was so. Nor did he cover anomalies such as the precession of Mercury. The basic hypothesis of General Relativity is that matter tells space how to curve and curved space tells matter how to move. It explains anomalies which the Newtonian hypothesis did not.

You see it in all sciences. Hypotheses are tested, modified to better reflect reality and updated or replaced as more evidence comes in.

If I may say so Prime Minister don’t get tangled up in the concept of a hypothesis as a logical construct and focus too much on semantics.

Think of a hypothesis as a tool. It is used to bridge the gap between theory and reality, allowing you to design experiments and predict the behaviour of a system.

Just as you would prefer to use the best tool for the job, a scientist with a choice of different hypotheses will tend to use the one which best reflects reality.

Given a choice between the CO2 increase global warming hypothesis and the natural variation global warming hypothesis, the former is a better fit to reality than the latter.

When you do the temperature, energy flow and energy content calculations the CO2 hypothesis produces a better fit between theory and observations than the natural variation hypothesis.

PM: (staring open mouthed) Did you understand any of that Bernard?

Bernard: I think we’ve been told to watch our Ps and Qs Prime Minister

PM: Did Sir Richard Betts tell you all that Humphrey?

SH: No, he said he wasn’t certain.

PM: Then who Humphrey?

SH: It was a retired biology teacher I met while walking in the Peak District who explained it to me.

PM: Let me see the paper on Civil Service pay.

Sep 1, 2015 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I should have given a h/t to EM without whose dialogue expertise the post would not have been possible

Sep 1, 2015 at 5:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

"I think we’ve been told to watch our Ps and Qs Prime Minister"


Sep 1, 2015 at 5:33 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


You said

To be perfectly honest I have never previously seen any reference to the Maxwell/Clausius/Carnot gravito-thermal effect of atmospheric pressure or the support it received from Feynman, is anyone else in the same boat?
Aug 26, 2015 at 11:52 AM Dung

I then said I am instantly put off from reading further when I see things like "How Gravity continuously does Thermodynamic Work on the atmosphere to control pressure & temperature". SLBTM, although you'd need to read it to be sure. I had the impression that this upset you a bit. I said I'd read up on it.

I've taken a look* at MS's (the owner of the Hockeyschtick blog) explanation of what he refers to as "the gravito-thermal greenhouse effect of Maxwell, Clausius, Carnot, Boltzmann, Feynman, Poisson, Helmholtz, et al". It is surprisingly similar to the standard explanation of the greenhouse effect, although he clearly regards it something quite different.

Here, in outline is what MS does.

1. He states that the effective radiating temperature (ERT) of Earth is 255K. This is the temperature that a spherical black body the diameter of Earth and receiving a flux of radiation from the Sun equal to the flux that Earth absorbs (*not* receives) will have when in equilibrium, with the energy per unit time absorbed being equal to the energy per unit time being radiated. It's a standard calculation using the Stefan–Boltzmann law formula j = sigma T^4 and solving for T.

2. MS calculates what he calls 'determine the "gravity forcing" upon the atmosphere'. This is essentially calculating the lapse rate, which he gets as -6.5°C per km. He also calculates atmospheric pressure as a function of height. (This seems to be where his "How Gravity continuously does Thermodynamic Work on the atmosphere to control pressure & temperature" comes in - the calculation seems standard to me, although I confess I have not checked it by re-doing the derivation myself from scratch.)

3. From these results MS gets the height (5.1km) at which the atmospheric temperature is that of the 255K effective radiating temperature (ERT) of Earth. Note; I think he makes an assumption at this point - implicit, not stated - that the atmosphere radiates as a black body at the ERT. In reality this represents an approximation since the spectrum of radiation from the atmosphere is not the same as the spectrum of radiation from a black body at the same temperature. He calculates that half of the mass of the atmosphere is above this height, half is below.

4. Finally, MS calculates the surface temperature by starting with the 255K and working out the change in temperature due to the lapse rate: 255 + 5.1×6.5 = 288K ( = 15°C). Thus the surface temperature is 288-255 = 33°C above the effective radiating temperature of the Earth, which is the result of what he terms "the gravito-thermal greenhouse effect".

That's pretty much it. Because of the close similarity between what he says and the conventional explanation of the greenhouse effect using the lapse rate and the height from which radiation escapes to space, I'm puzzled by his position the greenhouse effect due to greenhouse gases is something quite different from his theory.

Previously, I had said

My own guess (no more than that) is that, unless the gravity/gas laws theory is simply erroneous, both it and the greenhouse theory could both turn out to be approximations to the reality - or even complementary views of the same thing.
Aug 28, 2015 at 7:05 PM Martin A

I now think my insight was correct - they are both approximations to the reality - and similar in formulation.

*I have not yet read the paper for which he said "New paper confirms the gravito-thermal greenhouse effect on 6 planets including Earth, falsifies CAGW" (Volokin, D., ReLlez, L., Emergent Model for Predicting the Average Surface Temperature of Rocky Planets with Diverse Atmospheres, Advances in Space Research (2015)

Sep 1, 2015 at 10:35 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

There you go!
Two different hypotheses that turn out to be closer to each other than we thought.
Thanks, Martin.

What I think we are getting here is an approximation of how the atmosphere controls the climate. The earth is not a black body but provided you accept that and don't start getting over pedantic you are going to end up with a workable understanding.
Scientists can spend as long as they like trying to refine the knowledge but for practical purposes of living on this planet do we need anything more? And there doesn't seem to be anything in either of these hypotheses that supports the idea that CO2 is a major driver of climate change or that there are likely to be any sort of "tipping points" or that anything that mankind has been doing for the last couple of hundred years has any serious relevance to how the climate works.
So can we all get on with our lives, please?

Sep 2, 2015 at 12:55 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Martin A

Have you read this:

Sep 2, 2015 at 12:57 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung, yes I read that.

Hockeyschtick said "Physicist Richard Feynman proved the Maxwell gravito-thermal greenhouse theory is correct & does not depend upon greenhouse gas concentrations".

That is not really true. Look in the chapter of Feynman's lectures on physics referred to ( The Principles of Statistical Mechanics. 40–1The exponential atmosphere ). You will not find the term "the Maxwell gravito-thermal greenhouse theory" in it anywhere and, likewise, you will find no mention of greenhouse gases or their concentrations.

In that chapter, Feynman showed how the pressure of a gas at a given height in a gravitational field can be calculated (together with other things such as how classical mechanics does not correctly explain the specific heats of gases).

A problem that I see with Hockeyschtick is that he takes various incorrect explanations of the greenhouse effect (for example "backradiation heats the ground") and then proceeds to show that the incorrect explanation is bollocks. But it's the various incorrect explanations that are bollocks, not the greenhouse effect itself.

In this case, apparently somebody somewhere has stated that if it were not for the presence of greenhouse gases, the atmosphere would be at uniform temperature at all heights. That is bollocks. The lapse rate (, by which it gets colder as you go higher, does not depend on the presence of greenhouse gases.

I think, in referring to Feynman's lecture he was invoking the authority of Feynman to make that point.

To go back to the original question of this thread, I take all the nonsense explanations of the greenhouse effect, something at the very heart of 'climate science', as being a symptom of it not really qualifying as science.

Sep 2, 2015 at 6:30 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A


Sep 3, 2015 at 5:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Come in EM, the water's fine.

Sep 3, 2015 at 5:40 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Problems with reCAPTCHA. 😕

Sep 3, 2015 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Sep 2, 2015 at 6:30 PM | Martin A

Can you describe the Earth's atmsphere with no GHG, ie only radiation from the surface can escape to space?? What happens to hot air that convects? and what is the surface temperature in this much simpler atmosphere?

Sep 3, 2015 at 9:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

On lapse rate..

'Whether it's fixed or variable only makes a difference when you come to do calculations; not in understanding the basic principle.'
That sort of is the crux of the matter though when the calculations are calculating the surface temp from 'top of atmosphere'. The lapse rate is so tied up with the much more dominant convection, water vapour, water/cloud effect as to make simplified examples useless.
I assume increasing surface temperature generally increases convection and heat away from the surface and rest balances itself out 'somehow??' to give you a pretty stable system.

Sep 4, 2015 at 6:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

Martin, also on the isothermal point. In the absence of any convection a stratified isothermal atmosphere would be stable wouldn't it?? A stratified atmosphere does seem to sort of be a basic 'incorrect' assumption sometimes.

Sep 4, 2015 at 6:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterRob Burton

...and what is the surface temperature in this much simpler atmosphere?

~ 255K?

Sep 4, 2015 at 7:30 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Just some thought on lapse rates:

Using the ELR cooling at 6.5 deg C/Km up to 11Km and then a steady(ish) temperature of -56.5 deg C up to 20Km is a bit simplistic, as in the real world it is far more complex. I consider this as using a global temperature; it informs in theory but doesn’t reflect the complexities of the real world.

There is the dry adiabatic lapse rate (DALR), which cools at 9.8 deg C/Km, but the most important one in meteorology is the saturated adiabatic lapse rate. The SALR cools at ~5.0 deg C/Km but varies considerably depending on temperature.

Air mass type, (warm/dry, warm/wet, cold/dry, cold/wet) and the stability (stratified or convective) of that air mass are key to understanding upward heat transfer.

Full upper air soundings (radio sonde) are taken twice a day at selected meteorological station globally at 0000Z and 1200Z every day. The Skew-T plots of these are available here
The Skew-T plots show temperature and dew point on ascent through the atmosphere. The closer together these lines are, the more moist the air is. And inversely, the further apart they are the drier the air is. This is hand to show the potential for different cloud formation at different heights.

The DALR and SALR are shown on the plots. Taking the surface temperature and or the predicted maximum temperature using the SALR will show how far in height a saturated parcel of air will rise, thus showing the stability of the air mass.
Using the time-lapse facility on the web site, you can see the plots over time periods and see how they vary, quite considerably in mobile conditions, as different air masses/stabilities take effect.

Sep 4, 2015 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeilC