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Is the Global Warming Theory Scientific?

A long article has been released with many quotes from the core group of global warming alarmist 'scientists'. Why do I quote that word? - because so far none of them have told us, the intelligent public, a full, proper, scientifically argued case giving evidence of four things:

  1. dangerous,
  2. human-emitted,
  3. carbon-dioxide-caused,
  4. global warming is taking place.

In other words, there are four propositions that must all be substantiated with credible evidence before a scientific theory exists that there is anything to fear from carbon dioxide. My take on the status of these four is: (1) is certainly false, (2) uncertain, (3) most likely largely false, and (4) most likely true, but not as large as it has been represented. But this post is not about the correctness of the theory, but the more basic question whether it is a scientific theory at all.

I think most people know of the concept that scientific theories must be falsifiable. There are a lot of subtleties around that idea that need not concern us now, but we can use it as a rough test for good science. Remember, good science doesn't have to be correct - a theory proposed, tested properly, and rejected for making incorrect predictions is still an exercise in good science, even if it failed to come up with an advance. And contrariwise, a wild guess shoved down people's throats by force without any attempt to test against reality is bad science, even if by some chance the guess happened to be correct.

So we see that the question of whether this is good science is not the same as the question whether it is correct (although the two are obviously related).

So how does the CAGW theory stack up?

Does Melting Sea Ice Raise Sea Levels?

Up until now I have unthinkingly assumed that melting sea ice doesn't change sea levels. The reason is a basic principle of physics: Archimedes' Principle, which says that a floating object displaces its own weight of liquid. The idea is that when the ice melts, it will exactly fill in the 'space' that the ice block made in the water, thus leaving the water level unchanged.

But there's a fly in the ointment: when sea ice freezes, it preferentially expels salt, in the process becoming purer than the sea water it is floating in. Pure water is less dense than salty water, so when the ice melts it will overflow the 'hole in the water' that the ice had occupied, and when it overflows, it raises the water level.

That's true, and that's a very interesting application of physics and a lesson to think precisely about the physics of any situation. In other words, as physics, it is fun and interesting.

But let's see how this is being used. At the alarmist site Skeptical Science, which purports to 'expose' the fallacies of skeptical views on global warming, they start out:

The Warmist Cult

Piers Corbin is the UK weather man who correctly forecasted this year's horrendous winter in the UK, whilst the official MET office simply added one more 'warm' failed prediction to their long list of embarrassments. He has had some incisive thoughts on the phenomenon of climate change as a bad religion, while his success where others have failed gives him the credibility to say it. From the linked article:

The really disturbing thing is the Warmists (aka Climate Changers) are totally arrogant, deluded and self righteous; and have become a dangerous cult that propagates falsity and anti-science.

I think what we have is a kind of warmist religious cult which doesn't exactly have a cult leader (like various past cults in the 70s and 80s, or Stalin or Hitler or Mao) - although Monbiot would make quite a good 'little Stalin' and James Lovelock probably believes he is 'it' - but in the same way as a cult the followers turn reality on its head to justify their ends.

Their ends in this case being reducing CO2 and various often very seriously misguided somehow linked do-gooding projects taken from a sort of a la carte menu of whatever you like ranging from using old tin cans (no prob but I don't need a religion to do that), burning food (biofuels), Carbon trading and so on to paying Chinese ex peasants to build prayer wheel avenues (wind farms) on our lands and seas at our expense.

Hal Lewis: My Resignation From The American Physical Society

"It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist."

Here in its entirety is Prof. Hal Lewis' public letter of resignation from the American Physical Society, from GWPF:

From: Hal Lewis, University of California, Santa Barbara

To: Curtis G. Callan, Jr., Princeton University, President of the American Physical Society

6 October 2010

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago). Indeed, the choice of physics as a profession was then a guarantor of a life of poverty and abstinence---it was World War II that changed all that. The prospect of worldly gain drove few physicists. As recently as thirty-five years ago, when I chaired the first APS study of a contentious social/scientific issue, The Reactor Safety Study, though there were zealots aplenty on the outside there was no hint of inordinate pressure on us as physicists. We were therefore able to produce what I believe was and is an honest appraisal of the situation at that time. We were further enabled by the presence of an oversight committee consisting of Pief Panofsky, Vicki Weisskopf, and Hans Bethe, all towering physicists beyond reproach. I was proud of what we did in a charged atmosphere. In the end the oversight committee, in its report to the APS President, noted the complete independence in which we did the job, and predicted that the report would be attacked from both sides. What greater tribute could there be?

10:10's Murder Movie

This is the most disgraceful piece I have yet seen from global warming alarmists. The site 10:10 has made (and very quickly withdrawn) a supposedly comic video that should tell anyone with sufficient wisdom just where we are headed by supporting this anti-scientific hoax. Here it is, please don't watch it with children around.

In the face of immediate condemnation this has hastily been defended as quirky British humour. Sorry. That excuse won't wash. Let’s try to analyse the comedic logic of this video.

Alternative cause for global warming?

In a comment on a story on Wattsupwiththat,  Julian Flood makes the following interesting suggestion:

No doubt you are familiar with planktonic carbon-fixation paths, but let me remind you anyway. Most plants, phytoplankton included are C3, a process which is discriminatory against the heavier carbon isotopes, so a richly-fed ocean will tend to take up a slightly greater proportion of the light isotope 12C. C3 requires a good level of trace elements, including… zinc and chromium, IIRC, but don’t quote me on that… and without those trace elements the phytos which use C4 will begin to dominate. Indeed, certain flexible phytos will change in those circumstances to C4 from C3. C4 uses much more C13/14 than C3.

A starving, stratified ocean will thus move towards a metabolic pathway which pulls down more heavier isotopes of carbon and the atmosphere will be depleted of those isotopes. I have argued that this is the source of the light isotope atmospheric signal which we are pointing to as the anthropogenic signal.

To Jeremy Grantham: See Why the Global Warming Scare is Threadbare in 5 Minutes

Jeremy Grantham has put out a report claiming to be "everything you need to know about global warming in five minutes". Thank you Jeremy for summarising the global warming case so succinctly. It should make it much easier for readers to see where the truth lies. Here are my comments on your case, please feel free to post any response you wish.

1) The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, after at least several hundred thousand years of remaining within a constant range, started to rise with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. It has increased by almost 40% and is rising each year. This is certain and straightforward.

True. It is also a fact, proved by literally hundreds of careful scientific experiments, and also by every operator of a commercial greenhouse, that almost every plant on Earth grows better—30% better for a 300ppm increase is a conservative average—with more CO2. There are six billion people on Earth, and the increase in CO2 you mention has fed about a billion of them with the same cropland under cultivation. I think you had something else in mind when you mentioned the CO2 increase, but it had better be really important if  you intend us to put it ahead of the lives of billions.

Global Warming could make Humans EXTINCT within 50 years

Charles the moderator over on Wattsupwiththat called the following from the stupidest article he'd ever seen. It's hard to disagree. For those who imagine that we have an issue with two sane sides in the global warming debate (or even worse, who think that the alarmists are the only sane side!), this article should show you, unless you too are so far gone there's no hope, just how much sheer mindless stupidity and lunacy surrounds the global warming scam / false religion / mass delusion. And all this despite the increased CO2 feeding an extra billion people and saving who knows how many wildlife and species.

Be alarmed. Be very alarmed. But not with the increase in vital CO2 plant food, rather with the demonstrable fact that our species can collectively go completely and utterly insane. Those of us who want a good future for our children and for all the other creatures on Earth have a lot of hard work to do to reverse the mass insanity. (I am putting the entire article here because it is evidence, and I don't trust these people to leave it in place when it gets rightly panned all across the internet.)

Are we heating the Earth too much - with heat?

As readers will know, I have been thinking about the hullabaloo about CO2 and global warming and I quickly concluded that CO2 is no threat, won't do any significant warming (which would be good anyway), and is in fact 100% good for the planet. But someone said to me, if CO2 is no danger, that doesn't mean that humans are not causing a danger in some other way. Of course I agreed with this, because there are lots of things humans are doing wrongly and thereby causing terrible damage to our world (and the CO2 storm in a teacup is distracting us all from fixing those real problems).

My friend then went on, however, to propose that the danger was still global warming and that the mechanism was, instead of CO2 greenhouse warming, the mere fact that human technology gives off heat. All the power used by all the machines and transport and so on eventually ends up as waste heat. Maybe that is in itself enough to cause us serious warming trouble? So I did some calculations.

According to the laws of thermodynamics, the process of doing useful work must necessarily lose some of the energy from the fuel in the form of waste heat; and that heat, well, heats. In other words, because of the huge extra amount of useful work we do, we create excess heat that would not have been here otherwise, and that heat has to either be dissipated somehow, or else raise the temperature.

The factors that have caused the ice ages, as we saw, are primarily small changes in insolation (heating) by the Sun. The changes can happen because the Sun’s energy output changes or because of cyclic changes in the Earth’s orbit and inclination, etc., changing the amount of heat that actually arrives on the surface. Changes in the Earth’s orbit are believed to be the triggers for the onset of ice ages, and the changes in heating caused by those changes are thought to be quite small compared to the total power output of the Sun. This might lead us to suspect that human-caused changes in the amount of heat at the surface might indeed have a significant effect on the climate.

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