Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Debate over!! Good guys win.

Can Climate Audit’s reputation get any worse? Sadly, it can.

This tawdry tale was acted out by the following cast of characters:

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley AKA Christopher Monckton
Goarge Monbiot AKA Top-notch journalist
John Andrews AKA Climate Audit enforcer wing-nut
Coolhead AKA Random wing-nut
Gavin Schmidt AKA A real, live climate scientist
Deconvolutor AKA Someone who is also quite sensible
Al Gore AKA The Next US President

Let us continue on from this post which detailed the problems with reality that the good Viscount was facing.

Still fully endorsing Moncton’s treatise on the great climate change hoax (except for some typos, I’m lead to believe), John Andrews of Climate Audit leapt to Moncton’s defence when George Monbiot published a detailed, reality-based criticism in the Gaurdian. This time Andrews fawned over a comment by poster ‘Coolhead’ in reply to Monbiot’s peice.

The Monbiot excerpt, as posted on Climate Audit:
…”the UN repealed a fundamental physical law”, doubling the size of the constant (lambda) in the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. By assigning the wrong value to lambda, the UN’s panel has exaggerated the sensitivity of the climate to extra carbon dioxide. Monckton’s analysis looks impressive. It is nonsense from start to finish. His claims about the Stefan-Boltzmann equation have been addressed by someone who does know what he’s talking about, Dr Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He begins by pointing out that Stefan-Boltzmann is a description of radiation from a “black body” - an idealised planet that absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation that reaches it. The Earth is not a black body. It reflects some of the radiation it receives back into space.

To which, ‘Coolhead’ replied (also posted on Climate Audit):
Gavin Schmidt is a competent scientist. He is also a clever debater. Gavin, and a number of his like-minded colleagues, have perfected the art of targeting a relatively trivial technical point and making it appear as though it demolishes the entire argument. The Stefan-Boltzmann relationship is fundamental in defining the climate of the earth at every level of the atmosphere. Monckton has, admittedly, used the S-B formula in a rather simplistic way in that he calculates the warming response to an increase in Carbon Dioxide - while assuming all other factors remain fixed, i.e. he does not include feedback effects. However, since nobody knows how large these feedbacks are - or even whether they are positive or negative, Monckton’s estimate is as good as anyone’s, so I make this 1-0 to Monckton.

So what’s going on here? Is Gavin Schmidt from RealClimate wrong, as Moncton, Coolhead and Andrews are claiming?

No, of course not.

‘Deconvolutor’ explains why:

This is either a misrepresentation or a misunderstanding or just projection (i.e accusing your opponent of what you tend to do yourself). I have tried to explain Gavin Schmidt’s argument in an earlier posting on this threat so I shall not repeat it. The correct quote is rather different, Schmidt writes:

''Readers need to be aware of at least two basic things. First off, an idealised 'black body' (which gives of radiation in a very uniform and predictable way as a function of temperature - encapsulated in the Stefan-Boltzmann equation) has a basic sensitivity (at Earth's radiating temperature) of about 0.27 °C/(W/m2.''

He is not yet talking about Monckton but introducing a basic definition for non-experts so that they will follow his next point i.e ''The second thing to know is that the Earth is not a black body! On the real planet, there are multitudes of feedbacks that affect other greenhouse components (ice alebdo, water vapour, clouds etc.) and so the true issue for climate sensitivity is what these feedbacks amount to.''

Notice how this version is quite different from yours; it has nothing to do with “absorbing all the radiation” or reflecting radiation back to space (i.e it has nothing to do with being “black” in the popular sense of the term).

The emissivity correction has no influence on this discussion. What he is discussing is whether the Earth behaves as if it radiates with a single temperature equal to that of the ground (Monckton’s approximate conclusion) or whether the true story involves large corrections caused by feedbacks. To add an extra point, the greenhouse gases (including water vapour) also radiate to outer space but since they are much colder than the ground you will get the wrong result if you rely only on the latter.

Feedbacks are not a ''trivial technical point'' as you claim but the whole point of the discussion. Monckton claims to have proved they are small, but as Schmidt shows later in his discussion Monckton’s highly simplified argument is very probably flawed. Just one additional point to my previous comment on this, there is a complete lack of error bars in Monckton. Monckton asserts ''all its other forcings are far smaller, less well understood, and broadly self-cancelling.''

The two phrases ''less well understood'' and ''broadly self cancelling'' are completely contradictory. That is not the way you combine errors. That is just his way of choosing the case which leads to his pre-determined conclusion.

For some reason Andrews didn’t post this on Climate Audit. Maybe it was just an oversight?

Following on, Andrews still pretends that the ‘Hockey Stick’ graph is based solely on the 1999 work of Mann, Bradley and Hughes, and quotes ‘Coolhead’ again:
This one is an absolute 100%, 24-carat gold-plated, gimme for Monckton. The UN Panel’s graph is the infamous “Hockey stick”. Those that still try to defend it (apart from its creators) either haven’t acquainted themselves with the facts or simply don’t understand them. The hockey stick is a reconstruction based on tree ring data which claims to shows the climate history over the past several centuries. There are a number of things wrong with it, but the main case against it is that:-
The researchers used a methodology which identified data series with unusual 20th century growth; then gave them a weighting which ensured that these data would be most influential in the eventual reconstruction. This is a process known as ‘data mining’. Note that this was not necessarily done deliberately. Apart from the H-S fiasco, there is an avalanche of studies from ALL OVER the world which shows that the effects of the MWP and the Little Ice Age which followed were both deep and widespread - 3-0 to Monckton.

This is misleading. Numerous other studies have shown that it is warmer today then during the so-called Medieval Warm Period. Andrews and Coolhead also forget to mention that when the minor mistakes were corrected in the original MBH paper, it still showed roughly the same results. The ‘hockey stick’ still stands tall today.

And when the Viscount and assorted Climate Auditors were down for the count, who steps into the ring to finish the job off? None other than Al “Alien” Gore.
Monckton goes on to level a serious accusation at the scientists involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, claiming that they have "repealed a fundamental physical law" and, as a result, have misled people by exaggerating the sensitivity of the Earth's climate to extra carbon dioxide.

If this were true, the entire global scientific community would owe Monckton a deep debt of gratitude for cleverly discovering a gross and elementary mistake that had somehow escaped the attention of all the leading experts in the field. But, again, this charge is also completely wrong, and it appears in this case to spring from the Viscount's failure to understand that these complex, carefully constructed super-computer climate models not only have built into them the physical law he thinks that he has discovered is missing, but also many others that he doesn't mention, including the fundamentally important responses of water vapour, ice and clouds that act to increase the effects of extra carbon dioxide.

Moreover, direct observations from the 20th century, from the last ice age and from the atmosphere's response to volcanic eruptions, all give estimates of the earth's sensitivity to extra CO2 that are exactly in line with model results (around a 3C warming for a doubling of the CO2 concentration).

And, despite Viscount Monckton's recycled claims about the so-called "hockey stick" graph (an old and worn-out hobby horse of the pollution lobby in the US), this faux controversy has long since been thoroughly debunked. The global-warming deniers in the US were so enthusiastic about this particular canard that our National Academy of Sciences eventually put together a formal panel, comprised of a broad range of scientists, including some of the most sceptical, which vindicated the main findings embodied in the "hockey stick" and definitely rejected the claims that Monckton is now recycling for British readers.

Good guys 1: Crazies 0