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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Global warming? Yeah, it's pseudoscience

Warning: long, dense post.

The Daily Bayonet has a post on The Watermelon Agenda (a watermelon being a socialist disguised as an environmentalist: red on the inside, green on the outside). I commented:

The Left has a history of using pseudoscience as a prop. Starting with the Marxist pseudoscience of history, through the original Progressives with eugenics in the 1920s, to Goreism in the past 20 years. It makes sense. If you abjure religion and tradition, what props do you have left?

I do not use the word "pseudoscience" lightly. It took me about 15 years to set that bit on global warming (meaning Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming ((CAGW)), or Goreism).

Global warming became a public issue in the hot summer of 1988. At that time, I was working on part of the HITRAN database of atmospheric absorption parameters. HITRAN was the basis for calculating the increased absorption by atmospheric CO2, and therefore the foundation of the global warming models. (I was working on CO2 frequencies.)

I thought, "Great! Now when people ask me what I do, I can point to something they've heard of." Then I did my due diligence and realized that I didn't want to be associated with work of that quality.

Well, lots of people publish lots of stuff I wouldn't. Most of what's published in solid state physics, for example (I did a 2-year postdoc with a solid state group), which is not a pseudoscience. But I kept paying attention to global warming news, and it just kept getting worse. I had gone through a phase of being interested in pseudoscience, reading dozens of books pushing hollow-earth theories and the like, and even getting a flat-earth newsletter for a while. I started to notice the same behavior in global warming supporters that I had seen in pseudoscience supporters. When I learned about their attempt to expunge the Medieval Warm Period, that was the last straw. I set the bit.

But I like to have multiple lines of evidence leading to the same conclusion. Here's one that doesn't require a lot of technical knowledge, you just have to pay attention.

The first review of global warming results was the 1979 National Academy of Sciences Charney Report. It stated, "We estimate the most probable global warming for a doubling of CO2 to be near 3C with a probable error of +/- 1.5C." This is called the "climate sensitivity," and so, in 1979 it was estimated to be in the range of 1.5C to 4.5C.

Research in this area proceeded in near-total obscurity until that hot summer of 1988. The IPCC was formed, and then issued its First Assessment Report (FAR) in 1990. The climate sensitivity was estimated as 1.5C to 4.5C.

A few years later, GPS technology made it possible to directly measure the amount of sunlight absorbed by clouds, by allowing one aircraft to fly above the clouds in formation with another unseen aircraft below the clouds. It turned out that 6 times as much energy is absorbed as the models assumed. The paper with these results was published in the January 27, 1995 Science (page 496), and was considered important enough to get a companion "Research News" article in the same issue, titled "Darker clouds promise brighter future for climate models" (page 454). The news article admitted the disappointing lack of progress in narrowing down that range for the climate sensitivity, but raised expectations that using the correct value for absorption by clouds would help out.

The Second Assessment Report (SAR) was issued in 1995. The climate sensitivity was estimated as 1.5C to 4.5C.

The 1996 update to HITRAN contained a clerical error in the water vapor parameters, which changed the calculated infrared absorption by about the same amount as doubling CO2 would. After some time, a researcher contributing new water vapor data to HITRAN noticed the error and it was corrected. It had no effect on the climate models and was never noticed by climate modelers.

The Third Assessment Report (TAR) was issued in 2001. The climate sensitivity was estimated as 1.5C to 4.5C.

Tens of billions of dollars were spent on global warming research, using supercomputers whose merest operational parameters, the computers of 1979 were not even worthy to contemplate.

The Fourth Assessment Report (FA... er, lack of planning there, I mean AR4) was issued in 2007. The climate sensitivity was estimated as 2.0C to 4.5C, immediately followed by a statement that values less than 1.5C were highly unlikely. So, 1.5 to 4.5, then.

Follow all that? The output of the model doesn't depend on the input. This isn't even "Garbage In, Garbage Out." This is "Anything In, Same Old Garbage Out." This isn't even a model.

You don't need to know any climatology to know this isn't right. You just need to know something about computers, and if you got here, you probably know enough.

1 comment:

  1. I like this. Must read some more of your stuff.