Scroll To Top

Friday, May 2, 2014

Roy Spencer isn't always wrong ...

Sou | 2:31 AM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

Roy Spencer is often wrong, at times deceitful and sometimes right. This time he is more right than wrong. He occasionally comes out with some home truths about climate science, which annoys some deniers no end.  They prefer to think he's always on their "side".

In the past Roy's written about the greenhouse effect, which was a magnet for "slayers". This time he's expanded his list and written:

Top Ten Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water

Anthony Watts has reposted Roy's article at WUWT (archived here). This is Anthony pretending to be "serious" about climate science. (Pity his credibility has been shot a thousand times and more, with all the rubbish he promotes.)

Here's the list - I'll just post the headers and you can fill in the blanks yourself - or check here for the details, because some of the headers are a bit ambiguous or misleading.

  1. There is no greenhouse effect. 
  2. The greenhouse effect violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics. 
  3. CO2 can’t cause warming because CO2 emits IR as fast as it absorbs. 
  4. CO2 cools, not warms, the atmosphere. 
  5. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere has no effect because the CO2 absorption bands are already 100% opaque. 
  6. Lower atmospheric warmth is due to the lapse rate/adiabatic compression. 
  7. Warming causes CO2 to rise, not the other way around 
  8. The IPCC models are for a flat earth
  9. There is no such thing as a global average temperature 
  10. The earth isn’t a black body. 

From the WUWT comments

Fake sceptics were busy jockeying to position themselves as "real" sceptics, but most of them are just faking it. Others are happy to be seen as plain ordinary science deniers of varying kinds.  Here is a sample:

Gerard Harbison says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:05 am
Actually, I think it’s a very useful post, and I have no substantial disagreement with any of it.

PaulH is one of many who says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:11 am
Re. #9, I have no problem with the idea of calculating a global average temperature. My question is, what is the “correct” average (target) temperature, and who decides?
If he waits a bit he'll find quite a few people who'll decide when it's too hot for comfort, or too hot to grow the food they used to grow, or so hot the ice has melted and their home town is a new Atlantis.

Thomas Hogg and a few other commenters ask the impossible:
May 1, 2014 at 6:17 am
Could Dr Spencer complement this valuable article with its analogue
ie Ten Skeptical Arguments that do hold water?

Update: Roy Spencer hasn't delivered the impossible. He's tried but his effort is pathetic and fails the "hold water" test.

ferdberple comes out with his notion he's written before - that all that extra CO2 is pressing on the walls and ceiling and floor of the sky and stopping water from evaporating!
May 1, 2014 at 6:28 am
What effect does adding CO2 to the atmosphere have on water vapor? All things being equal, doesn’t increasing the partial pressure of CO2 by necessity make it harder for water to evaporate, reducing atmospheric moisture and thus reducing the GHG effect of water in the atmosphere?
Isn’t the reduction in atmospheric moisture consistent with long term observations? As CO2 is increasing, isn’t atmospheric H2O is decreasing? Otherwise, wouldn’t atmospheric pressure need to increase as per partial pressure law? Wouldn’t the increase in atmospheric pressure itself lead to warming?

Juergen MIchele says Roy Spencer is wrong - CO2 cools the planet:
May 1, 2014 at 6:28 am
Looking at your point 4. :
CO2 in the upper atmosphere blocks outgoing radiation from the earth surface.
But the incoming radiation from the sun in the relevant frequency range is hundredfold compared to the back radiation from earth.
As a consequence more CO2 cools!

Tom Stone says he's learnt something today:
May 1, 2014 at 6:32 am
Thank you Dr. Spencer. Until today, I was a proponent of fallacy #7. Science is at its best when it challenges itself with observational evidence.

And in the blink of an eye Tom Stone is relieved that thanks to the fake sceptics at WUWT he's unlearnt it again. Tom Stone says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:34 am
Some of the more recent posts indicate that I was not so wrong. Even better.

Mike M has come up with a doozy of an argument that proves categorically that all the scientists don't know nuffin', including Roy Spencer, and says he can't get a "palpable" answer. (Reminds me of the palatable leftists):
May 1, 2014 at 6:40 am 
Bob B says: May 1, 2014 at 6:31 am “Roy, I think your #7 is a strawman argument. I have seen it stated by skeptics that the temperature leads the rise in CO2 in the Vostok ice core records and not the other way around. I believe the data does indeed show that.”
Yes and I use that all the time while emphasizing the alarmist claim that “CO2 took over to push temperature even higher”. So if CO2 pushed it higher then how in the world did it manage to come back while CO2 remained higher? No one seems to give a palpable answer to that question outside of “natural variability”. So then I’ve got them – if “natural variability” was solely responsible for bringing temperature down when CO2 was at or near its highest concentration – WHY should I believe that “natural variability” could not have been solely responsible for the rise of temperature when CO2 was at a lower concentration ?

JimS comes up with a number 11 and says:
May 1, 2014 at 6:55 am
Another bad skeptic argument is stating that just one volcanoe eruption can spew out more CO2 than all the CO2 that mankind has ever produced throughout industrial history. This is simply NOT true and I see it being used much too much.

AlecM says (excerpt):
May 1, 2014 at 6:58 am
My Dear Roy, you are still so wrong despite my efforts to educate you!
And proceeds to do nothing of the sort - in a very long comment. His Dear Roy has heard all the "slayers'" nonsense before.

Julien talks about "cinetic" energy and wind and says he thinks that atmospheric physicists might have neglected convection:
May 1, 2014 at 7:13 am
Thanks for this good article, although there isn’t any surprise there. Sometimes I’ve doubted point #8, but now I think it’s ok. There are still some obscure areas:
- About point #2, when a photon hits a CO2 molecule, it can be as well transformed into cinetic energy (same as heat at the atomic level), and therefore it can generate convection (and therefore winds). Globaly it concludes that energy is either transformed into heat or wind, but that doesn’t really change anything.
The real argument behind the fact that climate models might break the second law of thermodynamics is because the climate models may neglect convection.

David A doesn't like it when people use the word "stupid" and says Roy Spencer shouldn't have explained why the fake sceptics' arguments were wrong, instead he should have explained why the fake sceptics' arguments were wrong - or something:
May 1, 2014 at 7:15 am
There is more then one straw man in Dr. Spencer’s overall OK post. Basically the CAGW enthusiast all agree, so it is natural that skeptics fall into every other possible camp. This means it will be natural for skeptic’s to have disparate views. It would have been best to call those considering a different view wrong because… The use of the word stupid is antagonizing and counter productive.

mpainter points out that a lot of WUWT-ers are having trouble with No. 7 (Warming causes CO2 to rise, not the other way around), and says:
May 1, 2014 at 7:22 am
It looks like you are getting clobbered on #7. Better prop that one up a bit, if you can. My personal understanding is that warmer SST emits higher CO2. Am I wrong?

He's got a point. Thing is, if we weren't adding so much CO2 to the air and something else was causing global warming, then warmer oceans would release more CO2 than they absorb. Thing is, the oceans are absorbing more CO2 than they release at the moment, even though they are warming, because the partial pressure of CO2 is rising so quickly.

Resourceguy doesn't read much at WUWT, despite what he says. The comments above his in the very same thread show just how wrong he is:
May 1, 2014 at 7:23 am
I see this as confirmation of my addiction to WUWT as a source for climate science information because I don’t recognize any of these items on the list and I certainly am not aware of “proliferation” of them anywhere. Does the author have some agenda here. More information on where the “proliferation” is coming from would be more insightful than the list itself. I suppose if all blogs were counted equally you could come up with a list like this and call it proliferation.

John Boles says:
May 1, 2014 at 7:40 am
I agree with the article, but still, there are plenty of skeptical arguments that DO hold water.
Unfortunately he didn't list even one of the "plenty".

Dung says that Dr Spencer is wrong to rely on science (excerpt):
May 1, 2014 at 7:47 am
Daft response number 1 ^.^
Mr Spencer makes a mistake common to many on both sides of this argument, he assumes that current scientific theories (i.e. theories emanating from qualified scientists) are correct.

John Whitman pulls Roy up on his manners and says he could be more like Richard Lindzen who is polite to the ludicrously stupid:
May 1, 2014 at 7:50 am
Roy Spencer, I think your positions do debunk those skeptical positions, but was your use of the unprofessional ‘stupid’ and ‘ludicrous’ words necessary? Oh, yes, I see they were because your goal was to get 1,000+ nasty comments. You could have just used professional scientific words like; contrary to observation,, incorrect, unsupported, etc.
My esteem for you is lowered somewhat today. Personally, Lindzen’s approach of never taunting and always low key polite behavior serves science incomparably better than your approach with this article’s unbecoming unprofessionalism.

Roy Spencer makes no excuses but offers a reason and says:
May 1, 2014 at 7:55 am
…actually, the way Dick handles this is to avoid engaging people. My downfall is engaging them, repeatedly, hoping they can at least understand what they are talking about before trying to debunk it. This leads to frustration, and then to bad manners.


  1. Somebody should tell Fred Berple that oxygen concentrations are falling at a rate 2.5x times than CO2 is rising. Plenty of "room" for that CO2!

    1. Personally, I love Ferd. Maybe it's because I'm convinced he's a Poe.

    2. I agree. His posts appear to be mocking the denier side and I find them entertaining.

  2. I'm having a hard time telling the difference between Spencer's "bad skeptical arguments" list and his "good skeptical arguments" list.

  3. Roy reminds me of Evan Jones - a very smart individual who longs for mainstream respect while pandering to the science-illiterate. The utterly ingenuous questions on the 'good' list are heartbreaking, if only because I KNOW he knows the crap he's trying to pull.

  4. (I think "science-illiterate" would have been better phrased as "anti-science".)

  5. What Roy hasn't appreciated is that all skeptical arguments hold water equally well at all times, even when they don't! Never forget the QToCD.

    As chief example, it takes a special kind of (what I think we can safely call Wattsian) Doublethink not to know that while you are loudly claiming not to deny that temperatures are rising you are also happily beavering away attempting to 'prove' the notion that rising temperatures are an artifact of faulty weather-station siting. In one country.

  6. Thanks for this post - very entertaining. I've reviewed Dr Spencer's "Top 10 good skeptical arguments" (which are all questions rather than arguments). Even with the alterations that he appears to have made to the top 10 in response to criticism in the comments, they are still hilarious.

    It's very useful and revealing to see Dr Spencer produce this list. Once again the phrase "Is that all you've got?" springs to mind. (I find Prof Curry's testimonies to congressional committees enlightening for similar reasons).

    There are some marvellous suggestions for additions to the top 10 in the comments. e.g. Bob Mount suggests the following argument should be added :

    'Does temperature exist?...Isn’t it time to bin temperatures and concentrate on what we want to know:- “Is the Earth heating up unduly or not?” ' (I hope my selective quoting is not being unfair to Bob Mount, please read the original for the full context).

    I'm having real trouble working out whether many of the comments are serious or are just ridiculing climate change denialism. I love blog science.


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.