An Astrophysicist Sums Up

Excerpts from the three part series below.

A significant amount of evidence indicates that the global temperature did increase during the 20th century. For example, direct thermometer measurements indicate that the temperature increased by perhaps 0.8°C.

In summary, there is no direct evidence showing that CO2 caused the 20th century warming, or as a matter of fact, any warming. The question to ask is therefore can we point to some other culprit? If humans are not the only ones responsible for climate change, what else is responsible?

Moreover, when studying directly the total ocean heat content, it is possible to see that the amount of heat going into the oceans is at least 5 times larger than can be expected from just the changes in the total solar irradiance (e.g., see this blog entry and references therein). Thus, one can conclude that there must be at least one mechanism amplifying the link between solar activity and climate.

The fact that the sun plays a decisive role in climate change has important implications to the understanding of the causes of 20th century global warming and the expected temperature change in the coming century. The increased solar activity over the 20th century can be translated into a radiative forcing contribution. Since the solar/climate link was already quantified, it is possible to estimate the solar contribution, which turns out to be about half of the measured warming.

Thus, the warming component left to be explained by humans is much smaller than is often claimed by the proponents of the anthropogenic warming. However, if we are to predict the temperature change over the 21st century, we have to know what is the expected human contribution to the radiative budget, but equally important, also the climate sensitivity to these changes in the energy budget.

As we have seen above, the answer to the second question is that the sensitivity is most likely small. In fact, this sensitivity is about 1 degree increase per doubling of CO2.

The evidence shows therefore that even if we continue with “business as usual”, we will not cause a climate catastrophe. It is also possible to estimate the sea level increase, which will be of order 10 cm over the coming century, much less than the meters talked about in Gore’s movie.

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High Quality Climate Data, Not!

Ken Stewart has released his much awaited review of the Australian High Quality Sites. His conclusion:

The High Quality data does NOT give an accurate record of Australian temperatures over the last 100 years.

BOM has produced a climate record that can only be described as a guess.

The best we can say about Australian temperature trends over the last 100 years is “Temperatures have gone down and up where we have good enough records, but we don’t know enough.”

If Anthropogenic Global Warming is so certain, why the need to exaggerate?

It is most urgent and important that we have a full scientific investigation, completely independent of BOM, CSIRO, or the Department of Climate Change, into the official climate record of Australia.

I will ask Dr Jones for his response.

Validation of Climate Models – the missing link

Validation of climate models is like finding someone to cement your drive.

You ask one contractor, and they say they can do it, sometime between now and Christmas. That’s a high level of uncertainty.

You ask another, and they say they can do it, but it’s their first time. That’s a low level of skill.

You ask another, and they say that they will do it, but the result is not going to be any better than what you have already, or may even be worst. That’s an honest vendor, and a product not ‘fit-for-use’.

Model validation is very obvious when you put it in a familiar context. There is a level of service you expect from the money you have to spend. Any public servant involved in the procurement of services faces a similar situation to concreting one’s drive. Due diligence requires a check that models are fit-for-purpose.

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Demonisation of Science – A trend to be fought

As I write this, my wife of 46 years is in intensive care fighting to live. She is there partly because of bad medical science and partly because of what had become a widespread syndrome in many scientific disciplines, the demonization of a person or a concept by people who can be wrong.

My wife does not provide the best example of demonization, but it is current, motivational and recent and on my mind. Please excuse me if I become too personal. The important part is not the personal part. It is the insidious danger of demonization.

I am a chemist, with a B.Sc. and part-time honours, chemistry major, from the University of Queensland, Australia. I also did a couple of years of aero engineering before a car crash curtailed further flying in the Air Force. My career covered many aspects of science, some engineering and much politics at the end. In retirement I can draw on a diverse set of experiences, but can also appreciate points of the philosophy of science. Mostly, that only comes with age and experience.

“Demonisation” is not my term. Maybe it originated with alcohol, the “demon drink”. It is now in fairly wide and expanding use. It was used a few years ago in climate circles to describe CO2 as a troublesome compound for all people, probably before the facts were complete. More recently, it has been used in a people context, as in the demonization of denialists.

Scientists to whom the demon label is attached can have a harder time than they should. In the case of Colleen, I was demonised by the general physician in charge and by senior nursing staff because I consistently told them that they should look beyond the easy diagnosis they had made. When you know a person for nearly 50 years, you can detect changes that are not so obvious to the casual observer, but then the doctor has the training and his word should be accepted. As it turned out, Colleen had a diagnosis of post-operative constipation following a repair of a broken hip – not an uncommon happening. What had really happened was that she had had an earlier colonoscopy where a cut had been made and marked with methylene blue die in case follow-up was need. This had weakened the bowel wall. Several days of large doses of morphine had dehydrated her and the combination resulted in a blocked and perforated bowel, the hole about an inch in diameter, with a couple of pounds of faecal material mingled with her other abdominal organs.

It was necessary for me to be quite forceful of expression for several days before the correct tests were done and the problem – perhaps then 6 days old – was rectified by lengthy surgery. This demonised me in the eyes of some of the medical profession involved. A lay person cannot diagnose, only a doctor can do that. But, unless I had persisted I would now no longer have a wife. Experience, observation, open mind, thinking about the evidence, reinterpretation, explaining every little observation, insisting on more data – these were the life-saving ingredients.

In my career I have met demonization several times. We inherited a site where lead batteries had been recycled and there was residual lead in the soil. We were told “authoritatively” that lead poising affects the IQ of young children. A “Team” has worked for years to prove this alarming hypothesis – but they have demonised the authors and the possibility of a simple and strong reverse causation explanation. See

Two comments follow about lead and children. First, in the mid 1980’s, when some intensive work was done, published estimates of the weight of daily soil ingestion by children differed by well over an order of magnitude. So the models had uncertainty – as do today’s global climate models. Second, this question is relevant to climate change because of the discontinuation of leaded petrol and the resultant increase of fuel use by cars and trucks. This affected the so-called GHG load on the atmosphere.

Another case from Australia, again medical, resulted in 2 Nobel Laureates, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren. See
Barry Marshall in particular was demonised for his astounding proposition that ulcers were caused by bacteria and could be cured by antibiotics. He even self-administered a dangerous concoction to drive home his point. Personally, I feel that the “Team” opposition to their work should be documented better and spread more widely, so that those who demonise will know that they can be shamed in public when shown wrong.

Getting closer to climate matters, there was widespread demonization of the peaceful use of uranium for large scale electricity generation from the late 1960s onwards. From 1972 I consulted to and then joined the company which had discovered the immense Ranger uranium deposits in 1969. It was soon apparent that there were considerable learning curves for science sub-sets like radioactive decay, assaying, ore resource calculation and particularly radiation health measures. Well, the mines are still operating today and no person appears to have been harmed by them (though we did lose one employee to a crocodile attack).

The second steep learning curve for nuclear was to counter the demonization of radioactivity. You probably know that there are still many people today who have absolute belief that nuclear power generation wastes have to be managed for 250,000 years. This is simple psycobabble as can be shown in a few minutes. Of course, the future of nuclear electricity interacts with fossil fuel use and projections for atmospheric composition of GHG.

Almost by necessity, I lowered my involvement in geochemistry and increasingly went political about late 1980s to counter the anti-nuclear protest. Slowly but surely, the arguments put up in opposition were demolished by demonstration and logic, until no realistic viable case exists to further hold back on nuclear expansion. Demonisation has however resulted in Australia still having no nuclear power generators, despite a large output of mined uranium.

Demonisation has distorted the science, in a way costly to power users and the environment.

Demonisation is resurgent in relation to the Climategate emails and inquiries. Those who have submitted words critical of the science are not all extremists. There is a weight of experience and intelligence in these contra submissions, but those who make them are being ignored or derided. This is not a civil way to act. The inquirers have done shoddy work (with the exception of Graham Stringer MP from Britain; and now the penny is dropping for the Commons Inquiry leader Phil Willis.)

Wherever you look, it is not hard to find evidence of demonization in science. The anti vaccination movement is an example. There is widespread chemophobia, for example in framing where “organic” or “natural” methods are suddenly trendy, despite the certainty that many people would die of starvation if global organic farming was made compulsory. Ditto for genetic modification of crops, a human extension of a process of Nature. The demonisation of science is an insult to the truly professional scientist. I worked several years in the synthetic fertilizer industry in a very large new plant and mixed with people whose skill and dedication was too prominent to be insulted.

Recently was saw the terrible example of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishing lists of names of good people and demons with respect to attitudes, as they interpreted them, towards man-made global warming. This is ugly. . PNAS should take a long look at its charter, purpose and methods.


1. We frequent bloggers need to check if we are falling into the demonization trap ourselves. I am guilty, especially a few times when blogging was new to me.
2. Demonisation is antithetic to good science. Good science equates to open minds.
3. There are more effective ways to make an example than by demonising. Shaming is an acceptable alternative sometimes, but most effective of all is the dispassionate analysis that is done by people like Steve McIntyre and several others whom you know too well to need mentioning here. Lead by example.
4. Emotion and politics interact with science, but in an ideal world they are separate from it. It is harder to set out to do good science when you have made up your mind on the outcome.
5. Try to avoid making a mellow generalisation from data. In a surprising number of cases (well, surprising to me) the solution is in the exception to intuition. Data points that are averaged out of existence often take with little Rosetta stones.

It was the devil in the detail that led to intervention in the case of my wife, at the start of this essay. It was not helpful to be demonised for pointing out that misdiagnosis was possible.

There is more that can be written on this theme, more in the context of climate. Should our host feel that responses below warrant it, I would be honoured to write more.

Monthly Roundup

  • The Age reports that Climategate was a game changer. Judith Curry said Dr Jones had shown himself to be ”genuinely repentant, and has been completely open and honest about what has been done and why … speaking with humility about the uncertainty in the data sets”.

    So far its a case of the academic defense: “Oops, I lied.” Sir Muir Russell, the chairman of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, notes that senior climate scientists say their world has been dramatically changed by the affair. We welcome senior climate scientists to the real world of professional transparency. Steve McIntyre has received overwhelming financial support from his readers for his trip to the Guardian’s debate in England.

  • Senator Wong reminded a conference on the Gold Coast that scientists were responsible for this unpopular policy bind: “Remember why this debate started, why we all started talking about climate change and why people called for action?

    “It is because of you that we understand that climate change is real and it is because of you that we understand that climate change is happening now … and that it is caused by carbon dioxide emissions.”

    But she also challenged scientists to get their act together:

    … the science behind the political debate cannot be over-estimated. Unfortunately in the recent past, science has not been able to speak with one voice on climate change, making it impossible for politicians to enact practical measures to address the phenomenon.

    Reading between the lines, could it be that her political windsock no longer points towards the agenda of tenured liberal progressive moonbats and she is butching-up to the union bosses that put Ms Squiggle in command? Hmm…

  • Lubos reviews a sloppy article by Rasmus Benestad on climate feedbacks. He explains the system as I see it, with many short run positive feedbacks in the atmosphere (and oceans) but stronger negative feedbacks in the long run, producing a “half-pipe” response profile.
  • Lubos makes me laugh:

    Well, let me make it clear that there’s nothing controversial about negative feedbacks. In this battle between negative feedbacks and Rasmus Benestad, it is the latter who is an utterly controversial crackpot. The existence of crackpots may make basic concepts of science controversial among crackpots – and the remaining readers of Real Climate, if there are any – but it can’t make it controversial in the real science.

  • CSIRO is making science more accessible to decision-makers by “trialling different ways of presenting climate information”. And if they couldn’t be more non-committal, they are presenting the regional forecasts of models that “are complex, and constantly being refined” in a slick interface. If as my upcoming publication shows, the model forecasts are worthless, then you have to wonder — What is the point?

    The rainfall simulations in the models are completely opposite to reality over the last 100 years. To make this clear to climate scientists, when rainfall decreases the models increase. When rainfall increases, the models decrease. The best way decision-makers could use CSIRO model forecasts is as contrary indicators, i.e. buy when they say “sell”, and sell when they say “buy”.