Global Warming Hysteria

Global Warming Hysteria

My recent post, “What if They Are Wrong,” explored the possibility that human-generated CO2 will be determined, after all is said and done, to have no appreciable affect on climate.  The post generated a lot of discussion. I want to follow up on some of that discussion with this brief post.

CO2 is, after all, a trace gas and humanity has added to it a trace amount. An essential requirement that it have a major influence on our climate is a set of feedback mechanisms that magnify its effect. Most notably, for CO2 increase to have any seriously dangerous ramifications for human life it is necessary that a positive and significant feedback exist between the CO2 abundance in the atmosphere and the water abundance. This feedback loop, its sign and its magnitude, are seriously in question.

To take one example, it is well-established that water vapor in the upper troposhpere and lower stratosphere (the region known as the “tropopause”) has been decreasing for the last ten years.  This was not only not predicted by climatological computer models, it has not yet been explained by those models. Speculations as to the origin of this drying out include an unexpectedly large rise from the 1998 El Nino (which is only now drying out) to a decrease in the atmospheric content of methane, another greenhouse gas, over the past decade or more. Alas, the decrease of the methane is also not explained.

A short but well-presented description of this discrepancy was given almost exactly two years ago in Scientific American (hardly a global warming skeptic publication!). Sci. Am. quotes one of the authors of the original (Science Magazine) study thusly:

We found that there was a surface temperature impact due to changes in water vapor in a fairly narrow region of the stratosphere,” explains research meteorologist Karen Rosenlof of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Aeronomy Laboratory, one of the authors of the study. “The reason for the water vapor change is the temperature drop at the interface between the troposphere and the stratosphere over the tropics. What we don’t know is why the temperature dropped.”

[Previously I omitted the link to the above-quoted Scientific American article. It can be found here. Sorry for the oversight].

Note that the researchers in this publication are by no means heretics in the scientific establishment. They make genuine efforts to explain these findings. But the results are still a mystery.

All told, stratospheric water vapor declined by 10 percent since 2000, based on satellite and balloon measurements, yet that was enough to appreciably affect temperatures at ground level according to climate models. “Reduce the water vapor and you have less long-wave radiation coming back down to warm the troposphere,” Rosenlof says. Conversely, an apparent increase in water vapor in this region in the 1980s and 1990s exacerbated global warming.

And, as noted above, the authors considered the influence of methane on the atmospheric water:

Of course, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is also affected by another potent greenhouse gas—methane—which has unexpectedly failed to increase in recent years. “The other influence is methane, which breaks down into two water molecules and CO2 in the stratosphere,” explains climate scientist Drew Shindell of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). “Methane’s growth rate has dropped, so it’ll have become a weaker source of stratospheric water, but we don’t fully understand why its concentrations have not increased as rapidly in recent years as they did for the previous several decades.”

As a producer of greenhouse heating, methane is typically considered to be about twenty times as effective, molecule-for-molecule, as CO2.

The main issue I am raising is not that the scientists who are at the front line of this research are blind or bellicose – not that they are unscrupulous or fraudulent. Most of the scientists working in the field are not trying to push an ideological position but are genuinely trying to get at the truth. If they can be accused of any moral failing, it is simply the tendencey to go with the flow when it comes to writing grant proposals and alluding to the possibility of global warming as a justification for supporting their research. Nothing horrible about that.

That does not say that there are not a few at the top and at the edges who are true believers – who think that behaving as deceivers is ethically the right thing to do given the gravity of the threat (that they perceive) and the ignorance of the masses to that threat (as they perceive).

Sound science will, unimpeded by the hysterics, lead to sensible public policy. It is my belief that the final conclusion will be that CO2 produced by humanity will be found to be of only minor importance for global climate and that it will be heavily outweighed by exchange of heat with oceans of evolving temperature and other factors such as solar-determined cloud formation. But I am open to evidence and, alas, a lot of global warming hysterics in the scientific community (and especially in the non-scientific, political community) have their ears stopped with gobs of wax.

I want to finish this post with a reference to a significant letter that appeared in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. Signed by sixteen (sober) scientists, this letter lays out the case against hysteria better than I can and I urge the worshipers in the Church of the Green to read it and ponder it deeply. They make reference to Yale economist William Nordhaus who, while simply accepting the scientific conclusions of the IPCC uncritically, nevertheless concludes that the radical policies of the Kyoto accord, which calls for dramatic limitations on CO2 emissions in the west, are counter-productive to the extent that they undermine the health of our economy and its capacity to deal with climate problems in the future. The WSJ article states:

A recent study of a wide variety of policy options by Yale economist William Nordhaus showed that nearly the highest benefit-to-cost ratio is achieved for a policy that allows 50 more years of economic growth unimpeded by greenhouse gas controls.

In conclusion, global warming is an unchallengeable “consensus” only among those who deeply yearn to save the planet. The conviction of those politicians and activists and (few) scientists that debate is destructive is itself destructive. It arises from the dungeons and dragons psychodrama going on in the minds of those deluded saints – where they embody themselves as the White Wizards and the skeptics as the Morlocks.

The appropriate role for conservatives is to oppose the bias of hysteria and the “cautionary principle;” to demand every essential cost-benefit analysis and, understanding the daydreams of the holy, to insist that progress comes by first placing our feet upon the ground.

17 Responses to “Global Warming Hysteria”

  1. John Marshall says:

    Well said. I have a problem with the GHG theory and the re-radiated heat from a cold area, the mid/upper troposphere, to the warm surface. That violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

  2. Curfew says:

    Great read, thank you.

  3. I’m no scientist, but I’m no dummy, either, and my best reasoning tells me this piece is sound in its reasoning, and that the mind which produced it is sober, serious and not driven or skewed by a hidden agenda.

    I could be wrong, but I’m not. (Don Henley, Victim of Love)

    Thank you, kind sir, for making a well-reasoned case against climate hysteria. I hope your brand of thinking carries the day.

  4. Berthold Klein P.E. says:

    The “greenhouse gas effect” has never been proven by creditable experimental. Here a a few references that shows that GHGE is a political hoax.
    When major university physics departments are afraid to tell the truth that the “greenhouse gas effect” has never been proven with “creditable experiments & data” We are in trouble.
    List of references:
    The paper “Falsification of the Atmospheric CO2 greenhouse effect within the frame of physics” by Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner is an in-depth examination of the subject. Version 4 2009
    Electronic version of an article published as International Journal of Modern Physics
    B, Vol. 23, No. 3 (2009) 275{364 , DOI No: 10.1142/S021797920904984X, c World
    Scientific Publishing Company,
    Report of Alan Carlin of US-EPA March, 2009 that shows that CO2 does not cause global warming.

    Greenhouse Gas Hypothesis Violates Fundamentals of Physics” by Dipl-Ing Heinz Thieme .
    from the London, Edinborough and Dublin Philosophical Magazine , 1909, vol 17, p319-320. Cambridge p340.1.c.95, i
    The Hidden Flaw in Greenhouse Theory
    By Alan Siddons
    from: at March 01, 2010 – 09:10:34 AM CST

    After 1909 when R.W.Wood proved that the understanding of the greenhouse effect was in error and the ghg effect does not exist. After Niels Bohr published his work and receive a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. The fantasy of the greenhouse gas effect should have died in 1909 and 1922. Since then it has been shown by several physicists that the concept is a Violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    University of Pennsylvania Law School
    A Joint Research Center of the Law School, the Wharton School,
    and the Department of Economics in the School of Arts and Sciences
    at the University of Pennsylvania
    Global Warming Advocacy Science: a Cross Examination
    Jason Scott Johnston
    May 2010
    This paper can be downloaded without charge from the
    Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection:
    Israeli Astrophysicist Nir Shaviv: ‘There is no direct evidence showing that CO2 caused 20th century warming, or as a matter of fact, any warming’ link to this paper on climate depot.
    Web- site references:
    Slaying the Sky Dragon – Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory [Kindle Edition]
    Tim Ball (Author), Claes Johnson (Author), Martin Hertzberg (Author), Joseph A. Olson (Author), Alan Siddons (Author), Charles Anderson (Author), Hans Schreuder (Author), John O’Sullivan (Author)
    Wood is correct: There is no Greenhouse Effect
    Posted on July 19, 2011 by Dr. Ed
    Repeatability of Professor Robert W. Wood’s 1909 experiment on the Theory of the Greenhouse (Summary by Ed Berry. Full report here or here. & PolyMontana.)
    by Nasif S. Nahle, June 12, 2011
    University Professor, Scientific Research Director at Biology Cabinet® San Nicolas de los Garza, N. L., Mexico.
    More carbon dioxide cools, not warms, the earth
    Posted on July 19, 2011 by Dr. Ed
    Determination of the Total Emissivity of a Mixture of Gases Containing 5% of Water Vapor and 0.039% of Carbon Dioxide at Overlapping Absorption Bands.
    by Nasif S. Nahle, from the PDF (see general description here)
    Professor and Director of Scientific Research Division at Biology Cabinet Mexico Ponder the Maunder

    An additional treatise on the subject is available on, archives: December,2010 G-3 The greenhouse gas effect does not exist. by Berthold Klein, The main section of interest is Section 10: The demonstration.
    The only thing more dangerous than ignorance is arrogance.”
    —Albert Einstein

    • David Appell says:

      The Gerlich and Tscheuschner paper is, simply, trash. It has been debunked everywhere. Look it up.

      Actually there is direct evidence of an increasing greenhouse effect: Harries et al, Nature 2001. And there have been several follow-up studies that have found the same result.

      Nature 410, 355-357 (15 March 2001)
      “Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997,” John E. Harries et al.

    • David Appell says:

      And “Slaying the Dragon” is even worse — it is pseudoscience, literally. Claes Johnson is a crackpot who thinks he has disproved nearly every major scientific finding of the last 100 years — the greenhouse effect, special relativity, dark energy — and these are just the ones I know about.

      You need to raise your standards.

  5. Russell says:

    God’s teeth, Stopa- why didn’t you do your dimensional analysis?

    At present CO2 levels, there are a million billion molecules of the stuff in the way of a thermal infrared photon trying to get out of the atmosphere.

    The atmosphere is not a quantum dot of condensed matter, and SEAS isn’t the physics department, so please stop eliding the former and implying the endorsement of the latter- you’re just making life easy for the Democrats.

    • Mike Stopa says:

      “God’s teeth?” That’s a new one Russell.

      I don’t imply the endorsement of the Harvard physics department anymore than William Happer does of Princeton Physics, or Richard Lindzen does of MIT atmospheric science or Ivar Giaever does of RPI.

      (For the record, I am in physics, not SEAS).

      The atmosphere is more complicated than a quantum dot. That’s part of the problem. But I’d like to hear more about how I am making it easy for the Democrats(??).

  6. John W. Garrett says:

    Marvelous. Thank you for calling for observance of the tenets of scientific method.

  7. TonyL says:

    I am trying to be sober and serious. I keep telling myself, don’t be hysterical; don’t alarm other people. So, I soberly ask you, Dr. Stopa, if you are presenting an unbiased, rational critique of global warming why did you not address or at least allude to the following questions?
    How much does stratospheric water vapor contribute to global warming? Give us an estimate. How exactly does an increase in water vapor in the lower stratosphere between 1980 and 2000 and the absence of an increase between 2000 and 2010 call into question the effects of CO2 on global warming? Why has the trend in warming in the past 30+ years continued upward if water vapor in the lower stratosphere is an important determiner of warming? Finally, is your belief that anthropogenic CO2 will prove to be of minor importance based on any empirical evidence? Please instruct us in the science.
    I would like to see a second post that answers these questions soberly and without the use of words like “hysteria” and phrases like “push an ideological position…”

    • Mike Stopa says:

      The abstract from Solomon et al., Science *327*, 1219 (2010) reads as follows:

      “Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000. Here we show that this acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000–2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More limited data suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% as compared to estimates neglecting this change. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor is an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.”

      As noted in an earlier post, the (British) Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit confirmed recently that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997. A popular press discussion of this with reference can be found here:–Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html.

      Finally, my belief that “anthropogenic CO2 will prove to be of minor importance” is a hunch. Nothing more. There are in fact reams of empirical evidence for and against this claim – but that evidence goes far beyond climate science per se and into the fields of sociology and politics. I don’t believe that anyone can justify a claim to the contrary as anything more than a “hunch” as well.

      But I, at least, am honest to label my hunches for what they are.

      • TonyL says:

        Thanks for your explanation. I think I understand your thinking, but I do not agree with it. The argument about temperature trends is unresolvable, of course, as many other have noted, if the trend is limited to the post-1997 period. I suspect that the period is a plateau like similar 10 to 12 years plateaus that were reached earlier. The next three or four years may show who is correct.
        I assume that by “minor importance” of CO2 you are referring to the sensitivity of the climate to CO2 increases via short-term feedbacks and not to the established science about its insulating effects. I have not read all the studies of climate sensitivity but I have read some and depend on summaries of the others. My understanding is that most of these indicate a not insignificant effect, while only a few would support your position.
        I hope you will not be insulted by my next comment in this regard, but I have honestly tried to read the books and articles by some of the more skeptical individuals who have scientific credentials (some climatologists and also geologists and physicists). At least the more prominent ones are all politically conservative, like you. In some cases they are also religiously conservative. I wonder whether there is something about their worldview and their political ideologies that leads them to reject the large number of studies showing high climate sensitivity to CO2 increases in favor of the few studies that do not.

    • Mike Stopa says:

      Please note that the full text of the Solomon et al. Science article alluded to above is not notably deep and if you are a scientist or have scientific training I recommend you take a look at it.

  8. David Bailey says:

    There are so many strands to the CAGW saga. One that you haven’t touched on, but which has been discussed by Anthony Watts, is that the global temperature data data is itself suspect.

    1) Most of the measurements are not made to anything like 0.1 C accuracy.

    2) The number of temperature data sites has gone down substantially since 1990. The lost data is estimated by software!

    3) The data is also subject to a number of obscure adjustments. Frequently, it would seem that these adjustments rise with time. This is particularly surprising, because measuring stations that become urbanised would require a negative adjustment to correct for the so called urban heat island effect.

    We all accept that the temperature data has been flat over the last 13 years, but it is distinctly possible that that above problems have helped to hide a decline(!!)

  9. Shredderofmass says:

    Right or wrong, I am fairly certain that the correct response is not that of the Obama admin; Give billions of dollars to companies that immediately go bankrupt, companies that just happen to be run by Obama contributors. Unless you think tax dollars cause global warming and you’re trying to make them vanish without a trace.


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