Monday, October 7, 2013

Just who are the denialists?

People have the nasty habit of giving their opponents names.  Those who are convinced that humans are wrecking the world by burning fossil fuels call those who don't believe them "denialists." It implies that they are close to the Holocaust deniers, and so are clearly beyond the pale.

I have come to the conclusion that they are wrong. The true denialists are those who believe in global warming, and who will go to any lengths to deny the evidence against that position.

For instance, this last week has seen the release of the final draft of the IPCC's Working Group 1.  Working Group 1 concerns itself with observations of the climate and how it might change in future.  

Within minutes of it being released, the sceptics had noted that a key figure, which compared predicted temperatures to measurements, had been drastically altered after the second draft had been approved.  In the second draft, the observations lay below the lowest range in the predictions, and seemed to be getting further from the predictions as time went by.  In the final version, the measurements had been pushed up and the predictions had been pushed sideways and Voila!, the revised measurements now fell within the range of the changed predictions.  Really!  Grown men did this!  Consciously! And honestly thought that no-one would notice.  

That's the trouble with calling people names.  Before you know where you are, you have convinced yourself that they are stupid, too.

And there were lots of similar examples.  In the Summary for Policy Makers, the scientists had said "It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together."  The politicians did not like this, so they added a juicy version "It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." Suddenly "more than half" had become "dominant cause." That way, no one might be left with the idea that the scientists had actually said there was a reasonable chance that quite a lot of the warming was entirely natural. 

My own contribution concerned the warming of the upper troposphere.  In the previous Assessment Report, the IPCC had said "Upper-tropospheric warming reaches a maximum in the tropics and is seen even in the early-century time period. The pattern is very similar over the three periods, consistent with the rapid adjustment of the atmosphere to the forcing. These changes are simulated with good consistency among the models." They even had some figures to show just what they meant:

These are sections through the atmosphere, from the South Pole on the left to the North Pole on the right. Instead of altitude they give the pressure in 'hectoPascals" which is sort of unfamiliar to most people, but 400 is around 8km up and 200 around 12km.You can clearly see the flattened 'bubble' getting hotter as the century goes by.  The models suggest that that bit of the atmosphere should warm at about 0.6 degrees Centigrade per decade, far faster than on the surface of the Earth.

Weather balloons have flown into that region for 60 years.  Airliners have carried commuters at those altitudes for 40.  The temperature can be inferred from satellite measurements.  None of these methods have managed to find any evidence of warming at anything like 0.6 degrees Centigrade per decade.  The thermometers suggest slight cooling; the satellites slight warming.

This huge discrepancy between model and measurement has been the subject of intense discussion since the 2007 Assessment.  When I read the first draft of the latest report, I said "Heh! You haven't mentioned the problem!" Along came the second draft - same difficulty.  This time I read out to the IPCC the actual papers from the peer-reviewed literature that they should be using -  
Allen, Robert J. and Sherwood, Steven C. (2008) Warming maximum in the tropical upper troposphere deduced from thermal winds. Nature Geosci 1 (6), 399- 403,; 
Lanzante, John R., Melissa Free, 2008: Comparison of Radiosonde and GCM Vertical Temperature Trend Profiles: Effects of Dataset Choice and Data Homogenization. J. Climate, 21, 5417–5435. doi:;  
Singer, S Fred, (2011). Lack of Consistency Between Modeled and Observed Temperature Trends Energy & Environment, 22, 375-406 DOI  - 10.1260/0958-305X.22.4.375 ; 
Douglass, D. H., Christy, J. R., Pearson, B. D. and Singer, S. F. (2008), A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions. Int. J. Climatol., 28: 1693–1701. doi: 10.1002/joc.1651
Titchner, Holly A., P. W. Thorne, M. P. McCarthy, S. F. B. Tett, L. Haimberger, D. E. Parker, 2009: Critically Reassessing Tropospheric Temperature Trends from Radiosondes Using Realistic Validation Experiments. J. Climate, 22, 465–485. doi:
(I mean, how pedantic do you have to be?)

I concluded my review saying "not even the satellite data comes near the predictions that were made in AR4 - the discrepancy between ALL the data and the models is wide. This debate MUST be reflected in the text."  So the IPCC had been told where to look - it is their job to review the peer-reviewed literature - and had been told that there was a debate because the measurements disagreed with the models. What did they do?

Nothing!  Absolutely nothing (apart from quoting Titchner in a different context). The Summary for Policy Makers says:
"It is virtually certain that globally the troposphere has warmed since the mid-20th century. More complete observations allow greater confidence in estimates of tropospheric temperature changes in the extratropical Northern Hemisphere than elsewhere. There is medium confidence in the rate of warming and its vertical structure in the Northern Hemisphere extra-tropical troposphere and low confidence elsewhere."
Section 2.4.4 says:
"In summary, assessment of the large body of studies comparing various long-term radiosonde and MSU products since AR4 is hampered by dataset version changes, and inherent data uncertainties. These factors substantially limit the ability to draw robust and consistent inferences from such studies about the true longterm trends or the value of different data products."
So the data were apparently wrong! 

There is a Table 2.8 headed:
"Trend estimates and 90% confidence intervals (Box 2.2) for radiosonde and MSU dataset global average
values over the radiosonde (1958–2012) and satellite periods (1979–2012). LT indicates Lower Troposphere, MT
indicates Mid Troposphere and LS indicates Lower Stratosphere"
Notice that?  No Upper Troposphere - none, silence! Likewise, there is a Figure 2.24 which shows some Lower Troposphere trends, but is equally silent on the Upper Troposphere. 

And that is the full extent of the discussion of the problem in the latest Report.

Now you could well ask "So what?" The significance is that this goes to the heart of the physics on which all the models used to make predictions are based. If you watched "The Great Global Warming Swindle," you will have seen the critic, Richard Lindzen of MIT, speaking about how the Upper Troposphere should be warming.  The physics of the atmosphere, as generally understood by all scientists of whatever global warming persuasion, require it should be warming.  There is consensus - but the data show the consensus to be wrong.

Therefore the models are wrong.  It only takes one clearcut observation to destroy the integrity of a scientific thesis. The physics underlying all the models is wrong - and we don't know why. Moreover, the IPCC is demonstrably skirting the issue, telling us that "the observations substantially limit the ability to draw robust and consistent inferences."  What utter nonsense!  They lie.

By any measure, the IPCC and its supporters are the true denialists, but it would be wrong of me to use such a word to describe them. So let's just use a good, old-fashioned word - call them liars, and have done with it. 

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