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Global Climate Change
July 29, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Some of you may have heard of a pack of paid shills called The Heartland Institute.

These are the people whom Walmart paid to publish articles supporting Walmart's treatment of workers, and whom Philip Morris paid to bring into question any link between second hand smoking and health risks.

They are also being paid by Exxon Mobile, so it is not a surprise that one of their number, Roy Spencer, has just published a paper:

Spencer, R.W.; Braswell, W.D. On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance. Remote Sens. 2011, 3, 1603-1613 (link to full PDF)

which he is heralding in press releases as disproving Global Climate Change.

Those of you who remember polynomial graphs from school will know that the more variables you're allowed to change in an equation, the easier it is to make your equation fit closely to a set of data points.  In fact, if you have the same number of variables as datapoints, you can always get an exact fit.  This is why legitimate scientists, if they use regression analysis upon a bunch of data to come up with a curve that fits it, then carry out a confirmatory analysis using different data, to double check that the fit wasn't just coincidence.

Spencer, apparently, is fond of skipping this step.  He specialises in taking the inputs he wants to be the cause of temperature records (for instance: cloud cover), then using lots and lots of free variables to combine these inputs to produce a a result that is something similar to what's been observed.

To quote one reviewer:

”Well, give me more than 30 parameters, and I can fit a trans-dimensional lizard-goat and make rainbow monkeys shoot out its rear end.”

For those who enjoy reading incredulous scientists writing in full spate, I heartily recommend reading any of the following destructions of Roy's work:


  • Dear.Prudence
    July 29, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    ”Well, give me more than 30 parameters, and I can fit a trans-dimensional lizard-goat and make rainbow monkeys shoot out its rear end.”

    Bahahahaha!  This brand of "science" is why there is so many people who doubt decades of evidence that has been gathered.  Nothing like dumbing down the planet.

  • romalove
    July 29, 2011 at 11:39 AM


    When I was 20 years old I worked for Phillip Morris in their headquarters in Manhattan.  In fact, when I worked there they had just finished moving from an older building across the street to a brand new building with a gorgeous lobby and museum on the main floor.  Cigarettes and beer money can pay for an awful lot of beauty, I have to say.

    Anyway, the department I worked in was called Communications Research.  The mission of this department was to go out to all the conferences where papers and research was being presented on smoking and health, bring back the findings and find the way to debunk the presented science. 

    The dumbing down of America indeed as people can't tell which set of lies is the best one to believe in.

  • Clairwil
    July 29, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    Answers to Frequently Made Assertions on CafeMom about Climate Change, by Clairwil

    The Earth's climate changes naturally

    Yes it does, but not this fast.  Human activity is responsible for more than 90% of the speed of change that we've seen over the last 200 years.  And we can prove this.

    It is all a fraud.  The scientists were paid to lie by Al Gore, who's made billions off the scam.

    This is tin foil hat stuff, on par with faked moon landings.  Gore has made money from investing in companies working to combat Global Climate Change, but he was an advocate of green causes long before he put his money where his mouth was.  And it certainly doesn't explain why hard headed countries with their own scientists, such as Germany and Japan, have invested heavily in trying to reduce the Carbon Dioxide output of their economies.

    The Earth isn't warming.  Last winter was freezing!

    Weather isn't the same as climate.  It may have been cold near you, but it was hot elsewhere.  Raising the global average doesn't mean the temperature everywhere goes up by the same amount.  Some places will go up more than the average.  Some will go up less.  Some will even decrease in temperature.  That's what "average" means.  One of the reasons "Global Climate Change" is preferred to "Global Warming" is that warming isn't the only change that's happening.  The weather patterns are also shifting, and we're seeing more unseasonal weather, both extremely hot and extremely cold, both wetter and dryer than average (in different places).

    I don't care.  Humanity is so insignificant that, even if we did cause it, we can't undo the change now.  I'm not going to give up my SUV.  God will protect me - he promised he won't drown humanity.

    Don't be defeatist.  What humans did we can undo, but it will take time.  God didn't promise we wouldn't suffer massive economic hardship from flood and droughts, just that humanity won't get mostly killed off by floods.  And he did ask us to be stewards, which means we have a duty to look after the other creatures on the planet. 

  • Jane161
    by Jane161
    July 29, 2011 at 9:31 PM

    It is quit amazing the folks who don't know where the missing heat is according to the radiation budget all of a sudden think that Dr. Spencer is wrong.

    In fact, iffffffff you use the results of Dr. Spencer's published paper, it helps fill in the gap. 

    Climate science is infant, there is so very much to learn.  The current rate of warming is deff not out of the ordinary, in fact the warming of the early 20th century was statistically the same as the rate of warming of the late 20th century.

    On must remember that mothers are not lemmings and have the ability to quantify and research science with an understanding of the error bars and the iimplications of such.

    I have found the condescending attitude of the lead scientists at this time very disresepctful.  And when Dr. Dressler says it isn't about the science anymore but what is required of governments, that shows the true nature of this debate.  So very sad to see it delve into politics before the science has had a chance to mature.

  • Jane161
    by Jane161
    July 29, 2011 at 9:33 PM

    Wow, the last 200 years huh?  And what documented evidence do you have of that?  You do realize that temp swings, which are called phase shifts, have occured frequently in the past I would hope?


  • Clairwil
    July 30, 2011 at 4:24 AM
    Quoting Jane161:

    You do realize that temp swings, which are called phase shifts, have occured frequently in the past I would hope?

    Are you thinking of localised swings, limited to specific regions, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Bond events (Europe's 'little ice age'); or are you thinking of global climate cycles (Milankovitch) ?

  • Clairwil
    July 30, 2011 at 4:49 AM
    Quoting Jane161:

    Quoting Clairwil:

    The Earth's climate changes naturally

    Yes it does, but not this fast.  Human activity is responsible for more than 90% of the speed of change that we've seen over the last 200 years.  And we can prove this.

    Wow, the last 200 years huh?  And what documented evidence do you have of that?

    Glad you asked.

    Ice cores tell us not only how warm the Earth was in the past, but also how much Carbon Dioxide there was in the atmosphere at the time, and the ratio of the different Carbon isotopes in in the Carbon Dioxide.

    We can compare this to the data we have covering the last 200 years.

    What we find is that Carbon Dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels (mainly oil and coal) has a different ratio of isotopes to Carbon Dioxide produced by living plant and animals.  This allows us to track how much of the year-on-year increase in atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is due to human activity.  (Actually it understates the case, because that doesn't include the increase due to humans burning and cutting down forests.)

    So we have evidence that humans are causing the CO2 increase, and we have evidence (from straight testable physics) that if you add CO2 to an atmosphere, more heat does get trapped (the greenhouse effect).

    The remaining piece to prove is the rate of change and the evidence for this is sourced not just from one ice core but from multiple sources, all of which show the same thing:

    If we look at the rate at which the global average temperature has changed over the last 200 years, and compare it to the natural rate at which the global average temperature has changed in the past, we see it is moving at least 10 times faster than it ever has.

    (I emphasise "natural" because I'm excluding when the Earth was hit by a meteor, or a super-volcano exploded, which obviously changed things very fast - yes they are 'natural' in a sense, but since we know the Earth has not been mostly destroyed by meteor or volcano in the past 200 years, they are not the type of 'natural' being put forwards to explain our current rate of change.)

  • Clairwil
    July 30, 2011 at 5:22 AM
    Quoting Jane161:

    the missing heat is according to the radiation budget


    157 = Space --> Atmosphere   ( 78 absorbed, 79 reflected)

    184 = Space --> Surface      (161 absorbed, 23 reflected)

    278 = Space <-- Atmosphere   (199 emitted,  79 reflected)

    063 = Space <-- Surface      ( 40 emitted,  23 reflected)

    278 = Atmosphere --> Space   (199 emitted,  79 reflected)

    333 = Atmosphere --> Surface (333 emitted)

    157 = Atmosphere <-- Space   ( 78 absorbed, 79 reflected)

    453 = Atmosphere <-- Surface (356 emitted,  97 convected)


    063 = Surface --> Space      ( 40 emitted,  23 reflected)

    453 = Surface --> Atmosphere (356 emitted,  97 convected)

    184 = Surface <-- Space      (161 absorbed, 23 reflected)

    333 = Surface <-- Atmosphere (333 emitted)


    (All figures are in watts per square meter)

    Which 'missing heat' would that be?

  • LucyJr
    by LucyJr
    July 30, 2011 at 7:31 AM

    I am disappointed in the news services which sent this paper viral, without including any critical evaluation.

    You know it just bewilders me that some people are doing their utmost to stop us protecting our children's future.

  • Jane161
    by Jane161
    July 30, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I would suggest that you plot the rate of warming in the early 20th century to the rate of warming in the late 20th century.  You will see that statistically the rate is the same.

    It has been claimed that the early 20th century was not anthorpogenic in nature, but only the late 20th century is.  Interesting don't  you think?

    From a purely physics point of clarification, a doubling of co2 would at most provide 1.1C warming.  That is what the models indicate with all other factors being held constant.  What the models are not showing, and this is critical, is that as it warms the radiation leaving the earth also increases and the warm derived from a doubling will not be achieveable.

    I also note tht it looks like you are using GISS as your temperature metric.  The warmth that they recently have attributed to the Arctic is not there according to DMI which uses actual measurements rather than extrapolations on a 1200k radius.

    One other item to note is that we have just left a solar grand maximum.  The rate of increase has slowed to point that it looks negative on the whole.  ARGO data shows the oceans have a slight cooling bias, Hadcrut shows a flat to negative trend established.

    The weather pattern observed the past few years is indicative of cooling.  The clashes of warm air to cold air produces more severe and intense climate flucuations.

    Climate science has so much to learn.  The parameters of the models need to be adjusted for the current observations to provide us with credible data.  As it is presently, the error bars are so large that the only way one can look at the actual resutls and think it proves anything is with a strong confirmation bias.

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