Dr David Evans on the Wong/Fielding/Sackett Meeting
I wish someone had been counting interruptions: I am certain that we were interrupted many, many more times than we interrupted. Often you could do more than acknowledge the last point when they interrupted you just as you started to make your own point. For much of the meeting we could hardly get a word in edgeways. Some terrible nonsense got by unchallenged.
All the speakers on the alarmist side frequently rephrased our questions. Often the rephrasing changed the meaning, and often it set up a straw man. It was as if they had to map the question to the nearest Grist talking point. I’m not sure how much of the rephrasing was a way of answering a question they would prefer to answer, and how much was because they genuinely did not understand what point we were making, but there was certainly at least some of both types.
It’s as if they had never before encountered real live competent skeptics or their arguments. Actually, there is a technical reason for this: they probably hadn’t. Only alarmists work in alarmist organizations; they only hire like-minded people. Skeptics who know what they are talking about are booted off alarmist websites (the good arguments are nearly all on the skeptic websites). Like the mainstream media, alarmists suppress and avoid skeptic thought at all cost. This has left alarmists generally very ill informed about either the skeptic arguments or the caliber and numbers of skeptics. It is easy for alarmists never to encounter competent skeptics, and to believe their own political line that the skeptics are just a few misinformed cranks in the pay of big oil.
We pointed out that they hadn’t actually presented any evidence that carbon was the main cause of global warming. No response. Clearly they thought they had, but all they presented was evidence that warming occurred and some models results. Models are theory, not evidence. So: warming, but no evidence that carbon done it. The attempt to frame carbon is a classic stitch up, based mainly on the IPCC’s refusal to consider other suspects.
We pointed out that the models were wrong because they predict a hotspot and there was no hotspot. The amount of warming is equal to the “no-feedback warming” (due to the forcings, which we agreed they had about right for CO2) multiplied by the “feedback factor”. The models assume that the feedback is predominately due to water vapor, and that the feedback factor is about 2.5 – 3. The weakest spot in the IPCC calculations is the effect of feedbacks. This is where they get it seriously wrong, resorting to hand waving and assumptions instead of empirically-validated physics. Naturally they instead draw your attention to the forcing calculations, which are solid.
We showed them the diagram of the model predictions versus the radiosonde observations in my No Evidence paper (page 7). (Warning: horn tooting. That document explains why, despite media impressions, there is no actual evidence that rising carbon dioxide levels are the main cause of global warming. I recommend at least the introduction.) But if there is no hotspot then there is no water vapor feedback, in which case the feedback factor must be less than 1.2, and so the climate models exaggerate predicted temperature rises by at least a factor of two. All IPCC models and calculations of temperature rises rely on a large feedback factor, but the missing hotspot is empirical evidence that it is in fact small.
I thought it appeared from their faces they this was news to them, or at least an unusual argument. Their response was interesting: they replied simply that they had not used models in their arguments at the meeting. There was a moment’s awkward silence, then they moved on. You see, the lecture handout had concluded with the statement “the mid-range amount predicted from the human-driven change in radiative forcing at equilibrium is 1.3 C”, which is a model result. And the lecture had included climate model hindcasts of the last century’s air temperatures with and without the CO2 forcings, and this had been presented to us as evidence. And they relied on model forecasts plenty in the discussion that followed. So if the models are wrong, their conclusions are wrong too.
So why are they not defending the models? Or did they just not want to answer that particular question, and we were bamboozled out of pursuing it? (If so, did the Senators notice the glaring problem?) Perhaps they were being tricky—you can basically do any temperature prediction by the models with a short calculation based on a system diagram with feedbacks. Takes two minutes with a calculator, you don’t actually need to run the models. Perhaps they meant that the quoted results were “calculated by hand”, not “using models”? Surely not? Anyway, we didn’t explore that topic further. I thought it brazen, but crying “rubbish” would have seemed out of keeping with the tone of the meeting.
The other tactic of note was their reliance on ocean temperatures and the deemphasizing of air temperatures. They based the whole empirical part of their case on their claim that ocean temperatures are rising. However this is not a credible claim. We did not dispute it much, because it is a matter of measurement and data and it didn’t seem to me that this meeting should be exploring those narrow technical issues. At one stage William Kininmonth, 45 years a climatologist and head of Australia’s National Climate Centre for 12 years, explained the physics of how this was not credible, but they didn’t seem to notice.
Ocean temperatures have only been measured in any detail or to any depth for five years, by the Argo buoys. And as that article says, “Josh Willis of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has reported that the Argo system has shown no ocean warming since it started in 2003. “There has been a very slight cooling, but not anything really significant””. The Argo buoys have been recalibrated, and for a while they showed a slight warming trend. The latest result seems to be slight cooling: see the graphs on this Argo site.
The ocean temperature data is sufficient to prove that the IPCC are wrong about the climate (the rise would have to be over a certain amount to confirm the IPCC case). We did not bring this up at the meeting, though we had discussed the Argo ocean temperatures just before the meeting. There is a larger problem: alarmists have all the authority positions in climate science and own (manage) all the datasets. Datasets that contradict the IPCC climate theory have a habit of being recalibrated or otherwise adjusted for technical reasons, and the changes to the datasets always make them more supportive of the IPCC theory. It has happened several times now—but by chance alone you would expect technical adjustments to make the data less supportive of any given position about half the time.
The only other unusual issue was the discussion about Figure 3A in Senator Fielding’s questions. This graph, by Syun Akasofu, shows all the observed global air temperatures, which go back to about 1880. It shows a rising temperature trend as the Earth comes out of the little ice age of the 1600s and 1700s, with alternating warming and cooling periods of about 30 years around the trend. It is discussed here. Human emissions of CO2 were only significant after 1940 (Figures 2 and 3), but the temperature rise had been rising fairly steadily since 1750 or at least 1880—which seemed to interest Senator Wong.
They asked how the straight trend line was drawn; we replied it had been done with a ruler, and that this was simply empirical evidence. The Department’s science adviser replied that they had much more sophisticated methods of drawing trend lines. We were all so impressed!
The meeting finished at 5:26. For political meetings such as this, a meeting of an hour and a half is considered long. I am thankful they gave us a hearing at all, though in the larger scheme of things they should of course be talking to us regularly. (Remember, a trial without a defense is a sham, business without competition is a monopoly, science without debate is propaganda, and government without an opposition is usually a disaster. Who is paid to audit the IPCC? No one, it’s just a few unpaid bloggers.)