Physics

One of the nice things about physics (well, I like it) is that you can often quantify things by making basic back-of-the-envelope calculations. Maybe a classic example of this is David MacKay’s book about renewable energy called Sustainable energy – without the hot air. It’s a masterclass in how to use simplifying assumptions and basic physics to try and understand various physical processes.

Another example might be the standard Trenberth-like energy flux diagrams. It’s a nice simple illustration that tells us quite a lot about the basic greenhouse effect. If we consider the surface, we know that it receives something like 160Wm-2 from the Sun and has an average temperature of around 288K. Given this temperature, we know it must be radiating around 390Wm-2. We also know that it must lose some energy via non-radiative processes (thermals and evaporation); maybe another 100Wm-2. Hence it is losing – on average – a bit less than 500 Wm-2, but only receiving – on average – about 160Wm-2 from the Sun.

We also know that although surface temperatures can vary (day/night, seasons,…), if we average across the whole globe and over a long enough time interval, it is pretty steady (well, until we started adding GHGs to the atmosphere, that is). This tells us that it must – on average – be receiving as much energy as it loses. Since it is only receiving about 160W-2 from the Sun, it must be receiving – on average – about another 330Wm-2 from somewhere else. This is essentially the greenhouse effect; radiatively active gases in the atmosphere block outgoing long-wavelength radiation, returning some energy to the surface, and causing the surface to warm up to a higher temperature than would be the case were there no such gases in the atmosphere (or, no atmosphere).

We also know that the planet as a whole is in approximate thermal equilibrium (well, again, before we started adding GHGs to the atmosphere) and that we absorb – on average – 240Wm-2 from the Sun. Therefore, we must be ultimately radiating 240Wm-2 back into space. Since it is the atmosphere that is blocking energy from being radiated directly from the surface to space, one way to think of this is that there is some effective radiating layer in the atmosphere from which we lose as much energy into space (240Wm-2) as we gain from the Sun. However, as illustrated by the Trenberth energy flux diagram, it’s not quite that simple; some does come directly from the surface and some from within the atmosphere. We also know that – in reality – more complex physical processes (such as convection and evaporation) play an important role in setting temperature gradients in the atmosphere. However, we can still get a good idea of what’s happening by considering these fairly simple illustrations and calculations.

We can also use this to understand what will happen if we add more greenhouse gases; it makes the atmosphere more opaque to outgoing radiation and raises the effective radiative layer to a higher altitude. This causes temperatures below this layer to increase so that the amount of energy being radiated back into space once again matches the amount of energy being received from the Sun. It is simply an enhanced greenhouse effect.

The above is actually a rather lengthy and convoluted way to introduce something I encountered recently. I came across a blog post that critiques Peter Ward’s ozone depletion theory. Peter Ward’s basic idea is that CO2-driven warming is wrong and that what is causing global warming is the depletion of ozone. His basic idea (which is wrong) is that ozone absorbs ultra-violet (UV) radiation, that there is much more energy in the UV than the infrared (IR), and therefore that the warming is driven by changes in the UV flux driven by changes in ozone. His basic error is that even though a UV photon has much more energy than an IR photon, this does not mean that there is much more energy in the UV than in the IR (you also need to account for the number of photons in each wavelength band)

What I found interesting is that Peter Ward made an appearance in the comments and we had a rather lengthy exchange of views. It was quite a pleasant exchange and only became somewhat tetchy towards the end. However, Peter Ward was completely unwilling to quantify his alternative theory and claimed that the standard methods for determining energy fluxes (as in the Trenberth-like energy flux diagram) are simply wrong – apparently because the energy of a photon is h \nu (which he – incorrectly – kept claiming was the energy per square metre).

Although a little frustrating, I found this discussion quite fascinating. Someone is proposing an alternative to a well accepted theory, but won’t quantify their alternative and suggests that a lot of very basic physics is simply wrong; physics that has been extremely successful for a very long time. This is also physics that virtually every university in the world teaches its undergraduates and that has been used extensively in the development of advanced technologies that many of us use every day; are we just getting it right by chance?

To me, if you’re going to suggest an alternative to something that is well accepted, you have to be willing to actually show how it works quantitatively; you can’t just hand wave. This is especially true if your alternative requires that some very basic things, that are accepted by virtually everyone else, are fundamentally wrong. If you can’t – or won’t – quantify your alternative, then the chances of you being correct is pretty small. If your alternative idea also requires that well-accepted ideas that can quantitively match what we observe/measure are wrong, then the chances of you being correct becomes negligibly small. Given this, the conclusion of the post where I encountered Peter Ward’s ideas is almost certainly correct

his theory is garbage.

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57 Responses to Physics

  1. The interesting thing about Peter Ward’s reluctance to quantify his ozone warming theory, is that it’s not that hard to throw some numbers out. I had a look at a Solar spectrum, and – at the Earth Sun distance – the solar flux in the UV seems to be around 100Wm-2. If you take into account that the Earth is spherical, this means that the UV contributes about 25Wm-2 to solar insolation. We’ve warming by about 1K and still have a planetary energy imbalance of 0.6Wm-2. Given a Planck response of 3.2Wm-2K-1, this means that the radiatively influence of whatever has caused the warming is around 4Wm-2. If you want this to be associated primarily with UV, then this would seem to suggest a massive change in the fraction of the UV that is reflected or absorbed by ozone in the stratosphere. Seems completely unrealistic. I should add that these are just rough numbers; others might have more accurate values.

  2. Actually, to avoid confusion, I wrote this post as though were considering a system in equilibrium where all the fluxes balance. Technically, the Trenberth diagram in the figure is meant to be representative of the system about now; after we’ve increased atmospheric CO2 by about 40%, producing a planetary energy imbalance. Hence, both the TOA and surface fluxes in the diagram are not quite in balance, because of the enhanced greenhouse effect driven by our emissions. It will clearly tend back towards equilibrium as we warm, and had probably been in quasi-equilibrium for a few thousand years, prior to us starting to emit CO2.

  3. Dikran Marsupial says:

    Another example would be arguments about cycles in climate, but no matter how good the correlation may be, it isn’t going to convince without a plausible physical mechanism that can explain the strength of the observed effect (and preferably show why the other known forcings do not affect climate).

  4. Dikran,
    Indeed, and that is especially true given that we know that there are variations in climate that can be driven by variations in other factors (like the Sun). However, as I think you’ve pointed out with respect to atmospheric CO2, finding short-term variations in climate that match, for example, short-term solar variations, does not mean that the Sun is the major driver of long-term warming.

  5. I haven’t read the Ward post, but shouldn’t one calculate with the UV flux at the surface rather than the Top Of Atmosphere UV flux from the sun? I hope for my poor skin that the UV flux at the surface is a lot, a lot smaller than 25 Wm-2.

  6. Victor,
    I agree. I was simply pointing out that the maximum UV flux you have is around 25W/m^2 – I think, at least. As you say, the fraction that is actually associated with warming (absorbed by the surface or lower atmosphere) is probably much smaller. Hence, if you want most of the enhanced warming to be due to changes in the UV flux that is absorbed by the surface or in the lower atmosphere, it’s probably – in a relative sense – an enormous, and completely unrealistic, change.

  7. Completely unrealistic. If we had 4 Wm-2 UV at the ground, life on land like we know it would no longer exist.

  8. Victor,
    An interesting point. I hadn’t even considered that.

  9. whannah says:

    The more I think about Peter Ward’s ideas, the more in awe I am of how cocky he is about them. If any sane person had an earth shattering revelation about basic radiation theory, why wouldn’t they focus on proving the basic principle first? All of his effort is trying to convince people of the dozens of logical steps that might follow if he was correct about step 1, without first arguing for step 1. It’s just so backwards and strange.

  10. Walter,
    Thanks for the comment (and for others who read this, it’s Walter’s post about Peter Ward’s ozone theory that I was highlighting in this post). I also find it very strange that someone can be so sure of their ideas despite how remarkable it would be if they did turn out to be right and how many things that we regard as basic would need to be wrong. As you say, the obvious step would be to first correct the basics before presenting some final theory that you can’t yet actually use to quantify anything.

  11. Dikran Marsupial says:

    @whannah if you think that is cocky, there are plenty out there (Salby, Essenhigh, Humlum, Segalstad etc.) who have argued that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural, and not due to fossil fuel use, and the worlds climatologists are fundamentally wrong about the most basic fact imaginable. This is very easily shown to be incorrect, via multiple lines of evidence.

    To misparaphrase Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human hubris; and I’m not sure about the universe!” ?

  12. Willard says:

    Added “ozone depletion” to this page of the Contrarian Matrix:

    The imperceptible GW may very well be natural, cyclical, chaotic, where carbon plays a minor role compared to the Sun, cosmic rays, CFCs, ozone depletion, some known unknown (dragons perhaps), or some unknown unknown.

    https://contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com/lots-of-theories/

    The link to ozone depletion leads to this resource:

    https://ozonedepletiontheory.info/Papers/Ward2016ProblemsWithPhysics%20160318.pdf

  13. Jim Hunt says:

    Hopefully this is not too far off topic, since you’re touching on my “day job” for a change. Is there a physicist (or maybe even an engineer!) in the the house with any bright ideas for SEWTHA 2.0? For some initial thoughts from the Twittosphere see:

    http://www.V2G.co.uk/2016/02/what-should-be-in-sewtha-2-0/

    Getting back to my moonlighting, does anyone here have any words of wisdom to impart to a “skeptical” fellow who patronises the Halley Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford thusly:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2016/04/claim-arctic-sea-ice-holds-firm/#comment-214191

    A very interesting theory. A lot more information needs to be gathered, and now that we are developing the technology to gather the data, things will get more interesting.

  14. Getting back to my moonlighting, does anyone here have any words of wisdom to impart to a “skeptical” fellow who patronises the Halley Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford thusly:

    No, not really. I’ve tried imparting what I thought were words of wisdom (others might disagree) to that “skeptical” fellow. It didn’t have any impact.

  15. Jim Hunt says:

    I’ve tried imparting what I thought were words of wisdom (others might disagree) to that “skeptical” fellow.

    Was that at the Bishop’s Palace Anders?

  16. BBD says:

    Jim

    ATTP is right. RR is not susceptible to reason. See eg. this painful thread on ocean acidification.

  17. Jim,
    Actually, this comment from Richard Telford, might seem appropriate. In particular,

    Demanding decades more data before you will even contemplate that there might be a problem is a classic denier strategy.

  18. Jim Hunt says:

    Thanks for the info BBD & Anders,

    In which case perhaps we’ll see if the “Capybara” is susceptible to surrealism instead?

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2016/03/hadisst-historical-arctic-sea-ice-data/#comment-214173

  19. Bizarre sort of error to make. You have to be fairly knowledgeable about science to know that E = H*nu means UV photons are more energetic than visible or IR. But, by that time, you’d also be knowledgeable enough to know Planck’s law and integrate it over IR and UV ranges to see that UV is ca. 10% of the solar output and IR is ca. 50%. (Solar Tb being ~5760 K).

    Following a train of reasoning wherever it may lead is not an easy thing. Ugly facts keep slaying our beautiful theories.

  20. Robert,
    Indeed, that’s what I find confusing. If you know enough to know that E = h \nu, surely you also know enough to – as you say – know that to determine the energy in the different bands you need to integrate over the different ranges. I did try to point this out. It didn’t work.

  21. Willard says:

    > If you know enough to know that E = h \nu, surely you also know enough to – as you say – know that to determine the energy in the different bands you need to integrate over the different ranges.

    I don’t see why:

    In a recent experiment of his design, British sociologist Harry Collins asked a scientist who specializes in gravitational waves to answer seven questions about the physics of these waves. Collins, who has made an amateur study of this field for more than 30 years but has never actually practiced it, also answered the questions himself. Then he submitted both sets of answers to a panel of judges who are themselves gravitational-wave researchers. The judges couldn’t tell the impostor from one of their own. Collins argues that he is therefore as qualified as anyone to discuss this field, even though he can’t conduct experiments in it.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2006/10/the_amateurs_revenge.html

    I think you mean if Peter really knew what he was talking about.

  22. I think you mean if Peter really knew what he was talking about.

    Yes, probably. Fascinating article about Harry Collins. I’m not quite sure what it indicates, though. He did, apparently, spend 30 years studying it at an amateur level. Doesn’t really seem to refute the idea that a reasonable depth of knowledge requires some amount of effort.

  23. BBD says:

    Doesn’t really seem to refute the idea that a reasonable depth of knowledge requires some amount of effort.

    Which brings us back to B. B. King and the other guy.

  24. Willard says:

    > Doesn’t really seem to refute the idea that a reasonable depth of knowledge requires some amount of effort.

    I think it takes some effort to reach Peter’s level of sophisticated obfuscation. It takes time and dedication. Peter probably read quite a lot, perhaps even more than actual climate scientists. However, it’s quite clear he’s trying to portray himself as having the expertise to contribute without having even reached interactional expertise. This is not a problem for the contrarian audience he may be targetting, which is built on a narrative, with talking points, memes, and so forth.

    I note that whannah had to work quite a bit to switch from his “talking about” mode, where tone can be harsh, to “talking to,” where your interlocutor can raise concerns about your tone. He did surprisingly well. Better at the very least than this other guy:

  25. Magma says:

    that there is much more energy in the UV than the infrared (IR)…
    because the energy of a photon is h \nu (which he – incorrectly – kept claiming was the energy per square metre)…

    If someone is unwilling to do the basics of understanding the Planck radiation formula and working through the steps to calculate the power per wavelength interval, or at the other end not bother to find out that ground level UV and IR flux are routinely measured at many observatories, then I don’t know what to say. And all that careful work on his ozone depletion theory website, the plots, graphs and text… all wasted thanks to some basic misunderstandings that can be a hazard of the self-taught.

    Anyway, enough time wasted on cranks and their faulty ideas. My groundbreaking paper proving that birds are actually feathered insects isn’t going to write itself.

  26. Adam R. says:

    “I think it takes some effort to reach Peter’s level of sophisticated obfuscation.”

    Indeed, and the growing number of such expert crackpots at large on the internet is why I, a layman, abandoned climateball and left it to scientists to hold up the side. My thanks to Walter and our host for this “result.”

  27. John Mashey says:

    He and his friend had a booth at AGU2015 (i.e., spent the money), and I stopped by and picked up brochures, but did not talk to them. One of the brochures stated:

    “There has been a fundamental misunderstanding in physics about what radiant energy is and how it should be calculated. Natural philosophers and scientists have debated for 2400 years whether light travels as waves or as particles. New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station, and that the thermal energy involved is simply equal to frequency times a constant, representing the energy of the atomic oscillators which are the sources of radiation. It turns out that the energy of ultraviolet B radiation is actually 48 times greater -48 times “hotter”- than the energy of infrared radiation, confirming common experience. There simply is not enough energy involved with greenhouse gases for them to play a significant role in global warming.”

    So there.

  28. 160,390,100 W/m2. If you quote some numbers, you should say how the quantities are measured and how large the uncertainty of the measurement is. Today it is cloudy.

  29. Paul,
    This is a blog post, not a peer-reviewed paper. Also, that it is cloudy today would be rather irrelevent if we’re considering quantities averaged over a sufficiently long time interval so that short timescale variations average out.

    However, since you asked so nicely (?) here’s a more recent figure from Stephens et al. (2012) which also includes uncertainties

  30. Andrew dodds says:

    Magma –

    That often seem the blind spot of cranks. Assuming that their pet theory is completely restricted to their hobby horse area with no wider effects. After all, the sun must presumably emit traces of far-UV to soft X rays.. So if we ignore intensity, we must all be fried.

    More often in global warming areas it’s a case of ‘proving’ that sensitivity is very low and hence climate can never change. Which requires ignoring the whole geological record.

  31. Adam R. said on April 10, 2016 at 5:30 am,

    “…the growing number of such expert crackpots at large on the internet is why I, a layman, abandoned climateball and left it to scientists to hold up the side.”

    This phrase “expert crackpot” or “expert crank” is one we should all remember. It’s a good way of characterizing a phenomenon about which the educational experts need to teach and have failed to successfully teach to the general population. This failure is evidenced especially here in the US by how large a percentage of the population rejects professional science in so many areas of science.

    These educational experts should make it a priority to teach the general public to accept the professional scientific literature (defined to be the reputable, professionally refereed science journals and the reputable science textbooks and monographs all taken in their ongoing aggregate) to be the best humanity has at any given time as to what the truth really is about this physical universe. This includes teaching the general public that since they simply will not have the tools to refute what these expert crackpots say, they the general public should essentially not even listen to these expert cranks. (Sure, the general public can learn some basic logic, including some fallacies, formal and informal, but that would not be enough to refute these expert crackpots on many points. The general public ultimately needs to learn to trust professional science along the lines of the earlier definition.)

  32. Marco says:

    “New observations show that light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation travel simply as frequency, in a manner similar to the signal from your cellphone or a radio station, and that the thermal energy involved is simply equal to frequency times a constant, representing the energy of the atomic oscillators which are the sources of radiation.”

    Errr…uhm…[scratches head]. New observations? This just sounds (to me, at least) like a poorly-worded convolution of the wave-particle duality, not anything new. Well, apart from the last part of the sentence, but that part doesn’t make much sense. Also, it is almost as if Ward suggests the signal from cellphones or a radio station is not a form of electromagnetic radiation.

  33. angech says:

    “I had a look at a Solar spectrum, and – at the Earth Sun distance – the solar flux in the UV seems to be around 100Wm-2. If you take into account that the Earth is spherical, this means that the UV contributes about 25Wm-2 to solar insolation.”
    I am not sure on this.
    Should the incoming figure of 341.3 Wm-2 from the Sun be an average applied to the whole of the earth taking into account it’s sphericity and the fact that there is a half that is getting no sun at all?
    Wiki “The total amount of energy received per second at the top of Earth’s atmosphere (TOA) is measured in watts and is given by the solar constant times the cross-sectional area of the Earth. Because the surface of a sphere is four times the cross-sectional area of a sphere, the average TOA flux is one quarter of the solar constant and so is approximately 340 W/m²”
    Obviously I am missing something.
    If I am right the total amount of energy at midday in the square meter[s] directly under the sun are a lot, lot higher than 341.3 Wm-2 [wild guess 1360 WM-2].
    The 100 Wm-2 of UV incoming would then be a much smaller amount [13.6 times smaller] of the solar flux.
    as Victor Venema says:
    ” I hope for my poor skin that the UV flux at the surface is a lot, a lot smaller than 25 Wm-2.”
    Do we know what the actual daytime energy is eg just double the total so 481.6 average?

  34. angech says:

    I had an interesting discussion with Neil King at Lucia’s on the temperature of the earth.
    The Earth and the moon should be at the same temp with no atmosphere and similar albedo.
    the moon is actually tar black, lower albedo than earth so should be at a higher average temperature. That the layer of air and water at the earth surface is hotter on average than the moon is a function of GHG.
    Moon Earth Ratio (Moon/Earth)
    Mass (1024 kg) 0.07346 5.9724 0.0123
    Solar irradiance (W/m2) 1361.0 1361.0 1.000
    Black-body temperature (K) 270.4 254.0 1.065
    From space the earth appears colder as a body though it’s skin layer is warmer.
    He won on the topic of heat loss from a spherical body.

  35. angech,
    The 100Wm-2 referred to the UV portion of the spectrum only. Across all wavebands it is 1360Wm-2. I also did divide by 4 to take into account the Earth’s geometry. If you divide 1360 by 4, you get 340Wm-2 which is the Solar insolation. UV contributes about (according to what I looked up) maybe 25Wm-2.

    Should the incoming figure of 341.3 Wm-2 from the Sun be an average applied to the whole of the earth taking into account it’s sphericity and the fact that there is a half that is getting no sun at all?

    It already has been. Solar flux at 1AU is 1360 Wm-2.

  36. angech,
    I saw some of the discussion on Lucia’s with Neal. Neal’s physics is pretty solid.

  37. izen says:

    @-“From space the earth appears colder as a body though it’s skin layer is warmer.”

    As with Venus.
    I wonder how the ‘UV theory’ applies to explain Venusian climate…

  38. izen says:

    @-KeefeAndAmanda
    “These educational experts should make it a priority to teach the general public to accept the professional scientific literature … This includes teaching the general public that since they simply will not have the tools to refute what these expert crackpots say, they the general public should essentially not even listen to these expert cranks.”

    I am unconvinced that it is possible to teach people to be less sceptical of mainstream sources of authority. I suspect that even if it was possible it may be ethically dubious.
    It sounds like the sort of thing that religions and churches do warning against heretics. Even claiming their authority is absolute fails to prevent apostasy.

    Acceptance of establishment authority derives from the level of engagement and trust that an individual invests in that society. Their relationship to established authority and communal governance shapes their acceptance without analysis, of the mainstream position on science. The trust placed in mainstream science is an emergent property of the social engagement, not a separately educable feature.

    It is unfortunately possible to undermine the degree of trust and therefore unquestioned acceptance of mainstream knowledge by attacking the integrity and utility of the mainstream governance system. Because mainstream science is closely allied with that establishment position the distrust of government carries over into distrust of science.

    In the US there has been a political movement (astroturfed) to undermine the worth of governance, specifically to remove taxes and regulations which in turn limits welfare and other government spending, including on science research. It is odd to see commercial enterprises seeking to destabilise the authority of governance in the interests of enhanced profitability when that profitability only makes sense in a stable society.
    Although if you can move all the profits to Panama, or Delaware, I don’t suppose it matters.

  39. Following izen — from space, Venus is also colder than the Earth.

  40. Willard says:

    > Indeed, and the growing number of such expert crackpots at large on the internet is why I, a layman, abandoned climateball and left it to scientists to hold up the side.

    It’s hard to declare leaving ClimateBall without playing ClimateBall.

    Dealing with expert crackpots in an expert manner is one of most expedient ways to improve one’s expertise. Refuting crap is not that easy, and understanding where the misunderstanding occurs is even less easy. An expert’s background may not prepare well for that kind of thing. Besides, one has to resist the urge to flame instead.

    We’re on the Internet – experts might as well get used to be thankful for all the concerns.

  41. Joshua says:

    K & A –

    ==> These educational experts should make it a priority to teach the general public to accept the professional scientific literature…

    How do you define “educational expert?”

    Do have ideas for educational approach do you suggest that be done? Are you thinking of particular that your goal is realistically achievable?

    IMO, your statement suggests a didactic, top-down vision of education that is inconsistent with the evidence on effective education, and with the likely pedagogical process that educational experts might recommend.

  42. Adam R. says:

    @Willard
    “It’s hard to declare leaving ClimateBall without playing ClimateBall.”

    Who says I didn’t play? I’ve played the game since usenet days.
    .
    .
    “Dealing with expert crackpots in an expert manner is one of most expedient ways to improve one’s expertise.”

    Well, yeah, thanks to playing ClimateBall I’ve certainly (perforce) learned a great deal about AGW, starting from next to nothing. However, I was never going to reach the level of understanding necessary to demolish effectively someone who is educated to PhD level in physics. I have a career in a field only distantly related to the subject. It would require considerable reading and researching on my part trying to keep up with Ward’s arcane Gish gallop, while two scientists had the ammunition at hand to destroy him quickly with a couple of well placed shots. (Which expanded my understanding, BTW. Ta very much, lads.)

    On unrelated forums, I occasionally encounter the old wheezers like, “In the ’70s the consensus was cooling!” and I’ll debunk those, but Premier League ClimateBall these days gets beyond my effective arguing reach in a hurry, and I simply don’t have the chops for it when expert cranks like Peter Ward appear.
    .
    .
    “We’re on the Internet – experts might as well get used to be thankful for all the concerns.”

    ??

  43. > Who says I didn’t play?

    You, here:

    Indeed, and the growing number of such expert crackpots at large on the internet is why I, a layman, abandoned climateball and left it to scientists to hold up the side.

    Perhaps I misunderstood.

    ***

    > Premier League ClimateBall these days gets beyond my effective arguing reach in a hurry […]

    Indeed, and this may explain why AT’s got so much concerns raised against him at first.

    ***

    > ??

    Read the comment thread at whannah’s or the story behind the tweet I cited earlier, or this:

  44. Jim Hunt says:

    @Adam – I never quite got around to writing up my PhD (engineering, not physics). Nonetheless I find myself actually quite enjoying my current match with Willard (Watts, not nevaudit):

    The Awful Terrible Horrible Arctic Sea Ice Crisis

    One feels compelled to ask why Willis’s global average temperature graph neglects to mention 2015 when he implies that it does?

    What division would you estimate that we’re playing in?

  45. Ken Fabian says:

    Izen – “I am unconvinced that it is possible to teach people to be less sceptical of mainstream sources of authority. I suspect that even if it was possible it may be ethically dubious.”

    The ‘ordinary’ person’ has some kind of right to believe and promulgate whatever beliefs they like however there are well established legal precedents for those holding positions of trust and responsibility to take expert advice seriously – where that advice warns of harmful and damaging consequences arising from decisions being made. Which is one reason why the credentialed maverick experts (rather than expert crackpots) are so highly valued by those seeking ways to avoid such advice whilst avoiding legal consequences like charges of criminal negligence; the broader spreading of doubt, denial and delay to the general public is important too, if widespread enough it also allows a kind of ‘reasonable person’ defence for ignoring the mainstream expert advice.

    Of course there isn’t a well established precedent specific to mainstream climate expert advice like there is for, say, engineering or medical advice even though the essential precedent is there. The time scales, where full consequences are long delayed, beyond a single human lifespan, are a big challenge to common law legal systems as well. And the benefits vs harms issue complicates things when we have become so widely dependent upon fossil fuel burning that rapid cessation itself will cause harm, and more immediately than the long term use.

    I think responsibility avoidance by those who can be held to have such responsibility underpins much of the high level support from commerce and industry and political organisations – much of the fractious mess we have for climate/energy politics is a consequence of that support; tank think, PR, advertising, lobbying, judicious donating are all established tools for challenged industries to protect themselves. The expert crackpots could not have the reach they do but for those activities, which include the legitimising of unreasonable and inappropriate scepticism of (specific targeted) authorities.

  46. Adam R. says:

    Yeah, Jim, I saw that. The naked cowardice at Anthony’s lost it’s last fig leaf long ago, didn’t it? I don’t think Willis can excuse himself with ignorance—or even stupidity.

    And from what I’ve seen of you, you seem quite fit for the game. Definitely Premier League talent. (Jeez, this metaphor is getting tatty!)

  47. angech says:

    Robert Grumbine says: April 10, 2016 at 1:28 pm
    “Following izen — from space, Venus is also colder than the Earth.”
    Not sure how this works Robert.
    Venus is closer to the sun so must get more energy in hence must out more energy out [depending on albedo of course]. Off the top of my head I would feel Venus should appear a lot warmer than earth from space.

  48. angech says:

    Robert Grumbine
    You are correct , sir.
    The reason though would be the much higher Venusian albedo Venus Earth Ratio (Venus/Earth)
    Bond albedo 0.90 0.306 2.94
    Visual geometric albedo 0.67 0.367 1.83
    Solar irradiance (W/m2) 2601.3 1361.0 1.911
    Black-body temperature (K) 184.0 254.0 0.724
    The little energy that makes it in sure makes it hot. in the atmosphere
    Average temperature: 737 K (464 C)
    Major: 96.5% Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 3.5% Nitrogen (N2)
    No oxygen of note

  49. Jim Hunt says:

    @Adam – Thank you for your kind words. Actually the opposition would disgrace a Sunday morning pub league team still carrying a bellyful of beer from the night before.

    Meanwhile commenter Kasia has concocted a suitably surreal put down for the “Repetitive Rodent”:

    http://GreatWhiteCon.info/2016/04/claim-arctic-sea-ice-holds-firm/#comment-214200

    Snow White, please stop wasting your time here, go and spend more time with your Prince Charming, he is longing for some good sex.

  50. Jim Hunt says:

    Some sad, bad news for SEWTHA fans everywhere and anywhere:

    http://itila.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/perhaps-my-last-post-well-see.html

    There’s lots I could write, but the way I’d like to stop is by pointing you to the writings of someone else. Max Edwards wrote a piece for the Guardian about his own cancer, and much of what he writes resonates for me. He was a remarkably eloquent writer.

  51. BBD says:

    Terrible, sad news about David MacKay. I had no idea.

  52. Angech says:
    April 11, 2016 at 7:58 am

    “Major: 96.5% Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 3.5% Nitrogen (N2)
    No oxygen of note (Venus)”

    Thanks Angech. But you forgot to discuss the importance of water in the atmosphere for establishing the mean surface temperature. In short: Venus is a “CO2” planet, the earth is a “water” planet. Today it is cloudy in southern Germany.

  53. Jim Hunt says:

    @BBD – Neither did I, until I fired up Twitter yesterday. The latest news about Prof. David MacKay’s health can be seen here:

    https://www.justgiving.com/davidjcmackay

    David is still alive and stable in Addenbrookes hospital, as of Tuesday 12th April. We are setting up this JustGiving page in case anyone would like to make gifts to the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity

  54. Have just heard that David MacKay died today. My condolences to his family and friends.

  55. Dikran Marsupial says:

    That is very sad news indeed.

  56. Jim Hunt says:

    My own modest remembrance of Sir David MacKay:

    http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?topic=1522

    A rather more comprehensive one from Athene Donald:

    http://occamstypewriter.org/athenedonald/2016/04/16/rip-sir-david-mackay/

    He was an extraordinary man who contributed so much to physics and wider societal issues during his tragically short life.

    Somehow his character pervaded the world around him and made us all more aware of the importance of finding ways to communicate beyond our own communities.

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