Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What if CO2 is not the warming catalyst?

Professor Richard Lindzen
Last week John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance in the Scottish Government included this commitment in the foreword to his budget proposals:
And we will also continue to prioritise spending on action to combat climate change.
That action is focused on reducing carbon emissions.

Also last week, in testimony given to the House Subcommittee on Science and Technology, Professor Richard Lindzen made a remarkable presentation which deserves a wider audience in Scotland.  It challenges the assumptions on which John Swinney, (on behalf of the Scottish Government and people) is executing public policy.  The question arises as to whether that public policy has any basis in science.

Lindzen is an impeccably qualified scientist.  He is professor of the Programme of  Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate at Massachusett Institute of Technology.  Yet he is airily dismissed by such Edinburgh climate scientists as Professor Gabi Hegerl who considers his scientific views are trumped by accepted climate models

Here are his conclusions to the House:
Perhaps we should stop accepting the term, ‘skeptic.’ Skepticism implies doubts about a plausible proposition. Current global warming alarm hardly represents a plausible proposition. Twenty years of repetition and escalation of claims does not make it more plausible. Quite the contrary, the failure to improve the case over 20 years makes the case even less plausible as does the evidence from climategate and other instances of overt cheating.
In the meantime, while I avoid making forecasts for tenths of a degree change in globally averaged temperature anomaly, I am quite willing to state that unprecedented climate catastrophes are not on the horizon though in several thousand years we may return to an ice age.
 Here are his salient points extracted from Lindzen's presentation.  :

  1. ". . . ‘Incontrovertibility’ belongs to religion where it is referred to as dogma."
  2. "As noted, the value of ‘authority’ in a primitive and politicized field like climate is of dubious value –it is essential to deal with the science itself. This may present less challenge to the layman than is commonly supposed.
  3. "‘Global Warming’ refers to an obscure statistical quantity, globally averaged temperature anomaly, the small residue of far larger and mostly uncorrelated local anomalies. This quantity is highly uncertain, but may be on the order of 0.7C over the past 150 years. This quantity is always varying at this level and there have been periods of both warming and cooling on virtually all time scales. On the time scale of from 1 year to 100 years, there is no need for any externally specified forcing. The climate system is never in equilibrium because, among other things, the ocean transports heat between the surface and the depths. To be sure, however, there are other sources of internal variability as well.
    Because the quantity we are speaking of is so small, and the error bars are so large, the quantity is easy to abuse in a variety of ways.
  4. "The claims that the earth has been warming, that there is a greenhouse effect, and that man’s activities have contributed to warming, are trivially true and essentially meaningless in terms of alarm."
 This is a presentation which will repay careful reading, as you try and work out why our public policy is built on the assumption that Professor Lindzen is wrong and Professor Hegerl is right.

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