More Lies About CO2

A new paper, penned by a group of known warmist scare mongers, claims to have proof that CO2 is the control knob that regulates Earth’s temperature. Andrew A. Lacis, Gavin A. Schmidt, David Rind, and Reto A. Ruedy, all from NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, are boasting they have experimental proof that “carbon dioxide is the single most important climate-relevant greenhouse gas in Earth’s atmosphere.” Even though this climate alarmist cabal admits that H2O, in the form of water vapor and clouds, accounts for 75% of greenhouse warming, they still claim that that CO2 is king. Why? Because water's contributions are supposedly caused by feedbacks involving carbon dioxide. How have they proven that? By fiddling around with the same biased computer climate models that their other fictitious claims are based on.

The article appearing in the October 15 issue of the journal Science, entitled “Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature,” argues that because CO2—like ozone, N2O, CH4 and chlorofluorocarbons—does not condense and precipitate from the atmosphere at normal terrestrial temperatures it is CO2 that controls Earth's temperature. “Noncondensing greenhouse gases, which account for 25% of the total terrestrial greenhouse effect, thus serve to provide the stable temperature structure that sustains the current levels of atmospheric water vapor and clouds via feedback processes that account for the remaining 75% of the greenhouse effect,” they state. “Without the radiative forcing supplied by CO2 and the other noncondensing greenhouse gases, the terrestrial greenhouse would collapse, plunging the global climate into an icebound Earth state.” What utter tripe.

It has been shown time and again that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels lag changes in climate, rising only after temperatures start to increase and falling when Earth's climate grows colder. Otherwise, if CO2 is regulating temperature, how could the planet plunge back into glacial conditions after each warm interglacial period? The answer is it could not and would not, but we have ample evidence that it does—with CO2 trending downward after the fact. Lacis et al. base their case on the IPCC endorsed but never proven notion of “feedbacks.”


Water vapor and clouds provide 75% of greenhouse warming.

The authors admit that H2O accounts for the lion's share of greenhouse warming, even to the point of quoting Richard Lindzen's paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society. According to Lindzen, “about 98% of the natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapour and stratiform clouds with CO2 contributing less than 2%.” Lacis et al. admit that, “if true, this would imply that changes in atmospheric CO2 are not important influences on the natural greenhouse capacity of Earth, and that the continuing increase in CO2 due to human activity is therefore not relevant to climate change.”

The Sun is the source of energy that heats Earth. Besides direct solar heating of the ground, there is also indirect longwave (LW) warming arising from the thermal radiation that is emitted by the ground, then absorbed locally within the atmosphere, from which it is re-emitted in both upward and downward directions, further heating the ground and maintaining the temperature gradient in the atmosphere. This radiative interaction is the greenhouse effect, which was first discovered by Joseph Fourier in 1824, experimentally verified by John Tyndall in 1863, and quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. These studies established long ago that water vapor and CO2 are indeed the principal terrestrial GHGs. Now, further consideration shows that CO2 is the one that controls climate change.

I can concur with this statement up until the last sentence, where an obvious leap to judgment has been made. In fact, you can read about the discoveries of Fourier, Tyndall and Arrhenius in our book, The Resilient Earth. The real problem with the misleading twaddle put forth in the Science article is how the researchers claim to have proven the primacy of carbon dioxide.

The introduction and early wording seems to indicate that there was some real science going on here—actual experiments were performed and empirical measurements taken. But that would be a false assumption, because no physical science was performed, no act of real world research committed.

“An improved understanding of the relative importance of the different contributors to the greenhouse effect comes from radiative flux experiments that we performed using Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) ModelE,” the authors state (emphasis added). That's right—they sought proof for their hypothesis in their own computer models. Here is part of their explanation and results:

We used the GISS 4° x 5° ModelE to calculate changes in instantaneous LW TOA flux (annual global averages) in experiments where atmospheric constituents (including water vapor, clouds, CO2, O3, N2O, CH4, CFCs, and aerosols) were added to or subtracted from an equilibrium atmosphere with a given global temperature structure, one constituent at a time for a 1-year period...

We found the single-addition flux differences to be overestimated by a factor of 1.36, whereas in the single-subtraction cases, the sum of the TOA flux differences was underestimated by a factor of 0.734. By normalizing these fractional contributions to match the full-atmosphere value of GF, we obtained the fractional response contributions shown in Fig. 1.

Figure 1, shown above, depicts the essence of these calculations, including the separation of the greenhouse contributors into feedback and forcing categories. Note how the feedbacks far exceed the direct forcings, yielding a 75% to 25% split between water and the non-condensing gases. Even this division is given with qualification, “because of overlapping absorption, the fractional attribution of the greenhouse effect is to some extent qualitative.” Once the “experimental” portions of the paper are done and it is time to draw conclusions all uncertainty disappears, however.

For completeness they throw in some references to the “faint young Sun paradox,” Snowball Earth, and the sudden warming of the PETM. Seafloor methane, volcanoes and the Milankovitch cycles are all mentioned, and just as quickly dismissed as unimportant. Many factors, like aerosols and atmospheric chemistry, are simply ignored. No proof of a causal link between CO2 and H2O is presented, just inferences from model simulations.

If all CO2 is removed from Earth's atmosphere, state the authors with considerable guile, “the physics of this model send the climate of Earth plunging rapidly and irrevocably to an icebound state, though perhaps not to total ocean freezeover.” Again, I have added emphasis on the key term “of this model” because that is what they are testing against—their bloody computer model, not the real world.

The authors are fully convinced that they have “proven” CO2's primacy in controlling Earth's climate. “From the foregoing, it is clear that CO2 is the key atmospheric gas that exerts principal control over the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect,” they conclude, adding, “water vapor and clouds are fast-acting feedback effects, and as such are controlled by the radiative forcings supplied by the noncondensing GHGs.” Why? Because their models say so! If you glean anything from my writings please let it be that climate modeling is not climate science.


NASA GISS workers carrying out climate experiments.

It should be painfully obvious that this is not a paper about real world climate change or even atmospheric physics—it is about a bunch of people playing with computer programs. So enamored are they of their software creations that they have come to believe their model and actual physical reality are one in the same. These are “scientists” who have long ago convinced themselves that CO2 is of first importance and that it calls the tune on all climate feedbacks; feedbacks that must exist to make their hypotheses workable.

What is more, the incestuous ideologues who edit Science have also drunk the pseudo-science cool-aid. Here is the editor's blurb introducing the article:

The physical effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on Earth's energy budget—that is, its "greenhouse effect"—has been understood for more than 100 years, but its role in climate warming is still not universally accepted. Lacis et al. conducted a set of idealized climate model experiments in which various greenhouse gases were added to or subtracted from the atmosphere in order to illustrate their roles in controlling the temperature of the air. The findings clearly show that carbon dioxide exerts the most control on Earth's climate, and that its abundance determines how much water vapor the atmosphere contains, even though the radiative effect of the water vapor is greater than that of carbon dioxide itself.

Water vapor's impact is greater, but CO2 is still to blame. This flies in the face of recent research, published in the same journal, that says the role of CO2 is overstated. Since when does a set of “modeling experiments” performed on an “idealized climate model” rise to the level of scientific proof? Never, and with good reason. Such results are incapable of “clearly” showing anything about the real world. This is sham science of the sort that has all but destroyed the credibility of climate scientists everywhere. Yet, these charlatans continue to foul their own nests with this offal.

Of course their models verify their own biases, they wrote the damn things. This isn't science, it is a delusion shared by a bunch of co-workers who are so blinded by their toys and pet theories that they cannot be bothered to check their results against nature. I do not know who the bigger fools are: Lacis et al. for believing their own nonsense, Science for publishing it as real science, or those who will read it and think this dreck actually means something.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Water vapor vs CO2

Furthermore, in a blog posting in answer to a question about water vapor, one of the authors (probably Schmidt) mentioned that they had tried the same "experiment" with water vapor as they did with CO2 --

* Zeroing it -- initial evaporation was enormous, and atmospheric humidity stabilized at a "normal" value within months.

* Doubling it -- the excess rapidly rained out, once again arriving at a "normal" value after a short time.

The message that I (though apparently not Lacis et al.) get from this is that the hydrological cycle is a powerfully negative feedback, and will stabilize the concentration of the primary greenhouse gas almost regardless of initial conditions. According to their own model, CO2 is very nearly irrelevant.

But then, I keep expecting climate pscience to make sense...

Biased computer modelers

From the Resilient Earth:
"How have they proven that? By fiddling around with the same biased computer climate models that their other fictitious claims are based on."

From Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann:
"Modellers have an inbuilt bias towards forced climate change because the causes and effect are clear."
(General circulation modelling of Holocene climate variability,
by Gavin Schmidt, Drew Shindell, Ron Miller, Michael Mann and David Rind, published in Quaternary Science Review in 2004.)
http://www.meteo.psu.edu/~mann/shared/articles/Schmidtetal-QSR04.pdf

part of the problem

part of the problem, IMO, of why such science is allowed is that for the great masses of us we simply dont have access to the original article.

now i understand a magazine needs subscriptions to stay in business, but at the prices they want, as well as many other mags, the majority of the people will never get to see it, so they have to rely on others summarizing it for them.

science papers should really become public domain after a very short time since, most likely, the science was paid for by our tax dollars.

We agree

We here at TRE most certainly agree that scientific papers should be publicly available. But not to the point where we invite a lawsuit :-)

The CO2 Is Climate Thermostat Farce

Just read your post - excellent! I've added a link to your article from the C3 post I did on the same subject: http://www.c3headlines.com/2010/10/are-nasa-climate-scientists-pathologi...

C3 Editor

CO2 nonscience

While having made a valiant try to falsify the hypothesis, that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, they simply fail to do so. The hypothesis is not falsified. One must navigate around several pretrial arguments to do this but in the end their conclusion is simply a restatement of their initial hypothesis.

We all know CO2 is an important green house gas. The question is two fold. Is CO2 the principal and key GHG? Have the authors demonstrated that beyond any reasonable scientific doubt? All the Kacise et al. have done is use models, which can do noting but reproduce the results of the assumptions used to try and make their case. It won’t work. This is not science, it is just another form of propaganda that fails to admit the limitations on the methodology and the limitations of the present knowledge base.

Propaganda is just that, propaganda; the selection of half truths, appeals to authority, miss use of questionable analogy, reliance on inductive not deductive reasoning. This paper is propaganda, therefore this paper is not science. My suggestion is we should all read the paper for ourselves, not the comments or press release or some wags analysis, except for Doug's and mine. Then make your decision, Science or not.

Why does it even matter? I matters in that Kacise et al. may be correct. They may just as easily be in error. We are back to the ends being used to justify the means and that simply is a bankrupt philosophy. I am still puzzled by just why ordinary rational people, on issues such as this, loose their “scientific rationality” and become advocates. Our training and education should if nothing else, focus us all on the scientific method and its attendant philosophy and logic. Those who stray away I think loos the privilege to calling themselves and what they do scientists and science. It is not one's degrees or one's employment status that counts here, it is how one does what one does.

Dennis Nikols