Sunday, June 14, 2015

Anthony Watts sez he has "no opinion"

Sou | 8:35 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment
It seems to me that over recent months, the owner of the anti-science blog WUWT has been shifting further away from science and shifting further conspiracy theories of "climate science is a scam" type. He has in the past claimed that he accepts that there is such a thing as a greenhouse effect. Today he takes a step back from that, and is now claiming to have no opinion on the subject. He wrote this at the top of an article (archived here) that basically claims that the world is warming by magic, not because of the greenhouse effect:
Note: I present this for discussion, I have no opinion on its validity -Anthony Watts
Anthony seems to be admitting now what his long time guest, Willis Eschenbach wrote about him. That he doesn't know the difference between science and crackpottery. Willis Eschenbach has been devastatingly scathing of Anthony Watts inabilities, writing (my emphasis):
When Anthony publishes scientific claims from the edges of the field, generally they are quickly either confirmed or falsified. This is hugely educational for scientists of all kinds, to know how to counter some of the incorrect arguments, as well as giving room for those unusual ideas which tomorrow may be mainstream ideas.
So it is not Anthony’s job to determine whether or not the work of the guest authors will stand the harsh light of public exposure. That’s the job of the peer reviewers, who are you and I and everyone making defensible supported scientific comments. Even if Anthony had a year to analyze and dissect each piece, he couldn’t do that job. There’s no way that one man’s wisdom can substitute for that of the crowd in the free marketplace of scientific ideas. Bear in mind that even with peer review, something like two-thirds of peer-reviewed science is falsified within a year, and Anthony is making judgements, publish or don’t publish, on dozens of papers every week.

Anthony decided to publish today's article (archived here). He has no opinion on whether it is nonsense, or so he says. Here is some of what Anthony Watts has no opinion on:
To my knowledge, I initiated in January 2008 the hypothesis that dCO2/dt varies with temperature (T) and therefore CO2 lags temperature by about 9 months in the modern data record, and so CO2 could not primarily drive temperature. Furthermore, atmospheric CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales.

Allan MacRae is talking about global mean surface temperature. He claims to have found a nine month "lag" between global surface temperature and the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What he wrongly concludes from his "find" is that the greenhouse effect isn't real.

Oddly enough, Allan does accept that surface and lower tropospheric temperature has increased over time. And that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased with time. The latter is not surprising. As long as we keep tossing more and more waste CO2 into the atmosphere, using our precious air as a rubbish dump, it will keep accumulating.

Allan MacRae's logical fallacy no. 1: the strawman

While Allan goes as far as showing that as time goes by, both atmospheric CO2 and global mean surface temperature increase, it doesn't take him long to go off the rails. What he did was plot the change in CO2 over time and the change in temperature over time. What he seems to be arguing against is that CO2 and global mean surface temperature aren't increasing in synch every minute of every day of every year. Yet no scientist would ever say that it should. Allan MacRae is building a strawman.

Global mean surface temperature on a month to month and year to year basis is affected by many things, not just atmospheric CO2. It is affected by the seasons, by ocean influence (for example, ENSO), by volcanic eruptions - just to give a few examples.

On a month to month and year to year basis, atmospheric CO2 is affected by how much CO2 is emitted (how much fossil fuel is burnt), which can be less in global economic downturns; and by the seasons (photosynthesis); and to a lesser extent by the weather (affecting how the number of photosynthetisising organisms, or the ocean temperature).

Allan MacRae's logical fallace no. 2: a non sequitur

Allan then uses another logical fallacy, the non sequitur. He effectively claims that because temperature caused CO2 to rise or fall in the past, it can only be temperature that's causing it to rise in the present. That doesn't follow. It's like saying that because it was interest rates that caused your savings to go up or down in the past, it can't possibly be your increase in salary (or job loss) that's caused your savings to go up (or down) in the present.

Allan MacRae doesn't try to explain the rise in temperature. Is it magic?

The other big problem with Allan's article is that he hasn't even tried to explain what is causing the increase in global surface temperature. He claims it's just a natural and irregular cycle but goes no further. He doesn't explain what he thinks is driving this "natural irregular" cycle. Does he think things get hot by magic?

Go on, try it yourself. Fill a saucepan with water out of the cold tap, and put in on the stove. Don't do anything else. Measure the temperature of the water in the pot every hour for 24 hours. At the same time, measure the temperature of the room. Wait till they equilibrate and then keep measuring the temperature of both. Does the water in the pot heat up more than the room temperature?

Now turn on the stove under the pot. Let the stove heat up. Keep measuring the water in the pot and the water in the room. Does the water in the pot heat up more quickly than the room? What could have caused that? If you were Allan MacRae, you'd be arguing that it wasn't the fact that you added heat by burning fossil fuels or from the sun (if you've got solar power) or wind (if your electricity comes from windpower). He'd be arguing that it doesn't matter what caused the water in the pot to heat up. The fact that it heated up is sufficient to show that temperatures go up for no reason at all.

Allan to his credit did get as far as acknowledging that the fluctuation in atmospheric CO2 within a year is largely driven by photosynthesis. However nowhere does he try to explain what is causing the rapid and inexorable rise in global surface temperature. Not anywhere that I could see.

So does he think that pots of water heat up by magic? Does he think that the oceans, the surface and the air can heat up by magic?

I don't know. He doesn't say. Allan does seem to be a fan of Murry Salby. The weird man who gave up credible scientific research a few years ago, and who seems to think that burning fossil fuels doesn't release CO2. (Or maybe he thinks that plants have stopped using up CO2, and that CO2 isn't plant food after all.)

Meanwhile, back in the real world, here is what is happening to global surface temperature:

Data source: NASA GISS

And this is how atmospheric CO2 has changed over the past 800,000 years:

Data source: EPICA Dome C Ice Core 800KYr Carbon Dioxide Data and NOAA

Anthony says he doesn't know if Allan MacRae (and Murry Salby) is right or wrong. Anthony doesn't know if the world is heating up by magic, or if the greenhouse effect is real. He harbours all kinds of conspiracy theories about this, as if he doesn't even know if all the melting ice and warming oceans and land masses really means that it's, well, getting hotter.

CO2 was "very tightly coupled" with surface temperature in the past

Allan doesn't keep up with scientific progress, either. He wasn't aware that as earth came out of past glaciations, the time lag between the observable rise in CO2 and the rise in temperature can be very tightly coupled, much more so than previously thought. That's been found by re-examining ice core data from Antarctica, using more accurate measurement techniques. What happens is that CO2 is released from warming oceans. The added CO2 means that temperatures rise even faster. It's a feedback loop.

Below is a figure from a perspective article in Science by Edward Brook, showing the results of two studies published in 2013:

Lead and lag. Carbon dioxide concentrations and averages of temperature proxy records for last deglaciation, as compiled by Parrenin et al. (3) and Pedro et al. (4). Pedro et al. used existing CO2 and temperature proxy data from coastal Antarctic cores and the temperature anomaly is presented in standard deviation units (the number of standard deviations from the mean of the record) to illustrate the average timing of temperature change. Parrenin et al.'s record is the average temperature anomaly for all the records they combine (in °C), relative to modern conditions. Using largely independent methods and data, both studies indicate a very tight coupling between regional Antarctic temperatures and CO2. Source: Brook (Science 339, 2013)

Alarmist predictions from deniers

Deniers have a tendency to cherry pick bits of science that they think supports their wrong arguments and discard everything else. Deniers don't give up old ideas readily either. They aren't open to new knowledge. Think how many of them still run with outdated and incomplete meme of the "800 year lag", instead of what is now shown to be a "very tight coupling". Or how many of them claim that a simplified schematic in the first IPCC report is "right", while all the science of the past 25 years "must be wrong". Look at how many deniers still can't accept that global surface temperature of the last one or two thousand years is shaped just like a hockey stick. You'll occasionally see comments from deniers who think that it was hotter in the 1930s than it is today.

Data source: NASA GISS

Anthony Watts has "no opinion" on whether an ice age cometh in five years

Anthony Watts sez he has no opinion on whether Allan MacRae is right or wrong. Allan predicted cooling and wrote:

Recent global warming was natural and irregularly cyclical – the next climate phase following the ~20 year pause will probably be global cooling, starting by ~2020 or sooner

Scientists spend a lot of time working out what causes changes in climate, whether they were caused by something in nature, like massive volcanic eruptions, or earth's orbital variations; or something that we did to upset the balance, like burning fossil fuels. Deniers can't be bothered with science. They just claim "it's natural" without saying what caused this "natural" change.

One thing that doesn't change a lot is denier's alarmist predictions of global cooling. Or how woefully bad they are. They are often in the near term rather than too far ahead, so it's easy to show how wrong they are. And for some unknown reason they are often made during or just after another "hottest year ever" (like 2014 and, so far, 2015). Just like Allan MacRae's prediction.

From the WUWT comments

sturgishooper buys the "it's magic" argument hook, line and sinker:
June 13, 2015 at 8:37 pm
Forgive me if I comment, “Well, duh!”
“Climate scientists” are intensely stupid, and must be intentionally, willfully so, to have so completely confused cause and effect, hoping that the hoi poloi wouldn’t notice the Mann behind the curtain.

owenvsthegenius doesn't accept known chemistry, that burning hydrocarbon releases CO2 and uses up oxygen. He's probably never been in a room with a kerosene heater. 
June 13, 2015 at 9:17 pm
You can guess that atmospheric carbon has increased because humans, if you like. But it is just as likely a natural occurance, we can reliably claim some of the increase is ours, outside that is all guess work. Likewise, and thank you Anthony, its painfully obvious that claiming to know a surface temp mean of any year is ludicrous. I’m a big tech guy, I want to know the limitations and specs of our gear. At the moment we have vague temp inferences and nothing more. Until we have more than that this argument on every side is purely theoretical and worse. The best we can say is, ” from our observations ( which are shotty) we can guess at a global mean temp, and we can guess at trends in a vague way. That policy makers are looking at the serious scope of climate change based on the “observed” or “modelled” is pure unbridled stupidity of the very highest order

Bill H opts for the "something else" - the "it's magic" explanation.
June 13, 2015 at 9:11 pm
Well, That is an interesting presentation which, if correct, would make the CO2 monster look like the CO2 droplet… The difference of changing the feedback being from being very Positive to very Negative makes the CO2 monster a drip… The lag so nicely shown makes it impossible for it to be anything but caused by something else.

owenvsthegenius doesn't care for logic, and writes "logic be damned". He'd probably rather accept the "magic" explanation:
June 13, 2015 at 9:29 pm
The more I get into the CAGW debate the more on its face the alarmist camp falls. It’s like a series of pratfalling stooges lining up with more infuriating claims. And logic be damned. Zoom into any CAGW claim and before long the underpayment looks stupid. I’m quite certain the math is also stupid. Every single claim is stupid. It’s too much, I’m so glad that there is a sober forum like this one to help people navigate through the falsehoods that make up CAGW. I now have enough sense under my belt to unseat any alarmist at any given time on each of their stupid points. So thank you Anthony, thank you Lord Moncton, thank you to the locals here at WUWT. It’s comforting to be able to bring calm to my family and friends whole others are subject to the hysteria.

Bernard Lodge wonders why Anthony Watts has no opinion on whether or not CO2 is a greenhouse gas:
June 13, 2015 at 9:26 pm (excerpt)
Anthony, why do you not have an opinion about Allan MacRae’s post? It appears to be so simple? 

Bernard Lodge decides that CO2 cannot possibly have a greenhouse effect because radiation travels at the speed of light. He doesn't seem to realise that the oceans are getting hotter (and no, all the heat in the ocean doesn't dissipate at the speed of light. Nor does the heat at the surface or in the atmosphere.):
June 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm
I have also learned in my high school physics class that all electromagnetic radiation travels at the speed of light. The ‘warmists’ say that CO2 is a ‘radiative’ gas that absorbs and emits long wave radiation and warms the planet by reflecting back LW radiation emitted by the earth’s surface. On the face of it, this sounds plausible. However, since LW radiation travels at the speed of light, no matter how many times it is reflected back and forth, in an instant it is gone (into space). It strikes me that rather than warm the planet, CO2 is busy stripping heat out of the atmosphere at the speed of light!
Could it be the boring O2 and N2 molecules in the atmosphere that are actually retaining the heat by acting as a blanket? In other words, what the ‘warmists’ are saying is again the opposite of what is actually happening?
Could this mechanism help explain why CO2 is really the dependent variable?
Again, I am not a scientist and I know we are not supposed to question the radiative physics behind the greenhouse gas effect but can one of the real scientists here explain where I am going wrong with my high school physics? Thanks.

He asked for help from a "real scientist", which is not very useful, given that very few real scientists bother with WUWT.

p.g.sharrow isn't a real scientist but he responded anyway, and wrote something about plant food. Nothing to do with the radiative properties of CO2.
June 13, 2015 at 10:41 pm
@ Bernard Lodge; You have it exactly correct.Carbon Dioxide does not act as a greenhouse in preventing heat lose. Oxygen and Nitrogen act to prevent heat flow as insulators, A real greenhouse effect!
CO2 is a plant food, not a greenhouse gas. Max Planck proved this in 1906. pg

TonyL gave a longer and better answer, which you can read here.

References and further reading

Parrenin, Frédéric, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Peter Köhler, Dominique Raynaud, Didier Paillard, Jakob Schwander, Carlo Barbante, Amaëlle Landais, Anna Wegner, and Jean Jouzel. "Synchronous change of atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic temperature during the last deglacial warming." Science 339, no. 6123 (2013): 1060-1063. DOI: 10.1126/science.1226368 (pdf here)

Brook, Edward J. "Leads and Lags at the End of the Last Ice Age." Science 339, no. 6123 (2013): 1042-1043. DOI: 10.1126/science.1234239 (pdf here)

Pedro, Joel B., Sune Olander Rasmussen, and Tas D. van Ommen. "Tightened constraints on the time-lag between Antarctic temperature and CO 2 during the last deglaciation." Climate of the Past 8, no. 4 (2012): 1213-1221. doi:10.5194/cp-8-1213-2012 (open access)

Selected from HotWhopper


  1. "So does he think that pots of water heat up by magic?"

    Its a wonder the Wutters don't demand money from their electricity suppliers for all the electricity they must think they generate when they boil a kettle.

  2. I look forward to Anthony Watts headlining all his posts about new papers with "Presentation of Evidence Suggesting…" instead of "Claim:…"

  3. I present this for discussion, I have no opinion on its validity: They can have a "pause" or a nine month lag between temperature and CO₂, but they can't have both.

  4. Wow. Psychologists could spend years studying the antics of the denizens of WUWT. They really have no clue how ignorant and incompetent they come across, or how nutty they sound.

  5. ==> "Today he takes a step back from that, and is now claiming to have no opinion on the subject."

    I saw that article from Anthony and had a similar reaction.

    I guess that because Anthony is consistent in his scientific views, now he will have to stop saying that he doesn't doubt that there is a GHE and only questions the magnitude of the effect. '


    That's going to happen!!!!

  6. This just encourages me more to finish up my series on the greenhouse effect v. gravity as a mechanism for surface warmth. I bet I could also simulate the short term lag/long term lead issue issue...

  7. It seems that MacRae has previous (comedic) form:


  8. Bernard Lodge should do a search on Youtube with 'CO2 IR absorption'.


    The IR is absorbed and then re emitted in all directions. Yes this happens at the speed of light! There is a small delay while the charge dipole moment of the CO2 is vibrating after absorption before re emitting the IR photon in a random direction.
    Even Youtube 'knows'!

    1. If you look at the comments below this video you will find people as knowledgeable as the wutters. They do not possess the most basic of scientific knowledge to begin to even have a glimmer of understanding. Hence 'scientists don't know nuffin'. I always thought a double negative was positive. Bert

  9. MacRae has previous when it comes to cooling predictions. In an article for extreme fake sceptic website 'ICECAP' in September 2008 entitled "Is This The Beginning of Global Cooling" MacRae answered his own question with an emphatic "YES".

    He based this on a high order polynomial trend he managed to fit to the (then) UAH data. The same trend now shows warming, even using the latest UAH data set.

  10. "You'll occasionally see comments from deniers who think that it was hotter in the 1930s than it is today."

    You're right about them hanging onto business suits that no longer fit. That's a relic of 10+ years ago when it was _possible_ to argue that the 30s - in the lower 48 USA - was their hottest decade.

    Back then it was the classic, insular 'America = the whole world' issue. Now it's a total denial of both global and local reality. Most of us throw out our moth-eaten or horribly out-dated clothes and other possessions. Not this crowd.

  11. The level of inanity of R. Courtney is nothing, if not breathtaking!

    "We know the equilibrium of the carbon cycle has altered for some unknown reason with a result that atmospheric CO2 concentration has varied, and that is about all that we know."

    There aren't *enough* facepalms on the planet.......

    1. I know, this is really hard to figure out. The fact that we're putting 30+ gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year by burning fossil fuels is just coincidental to the rise. And the fact that the lower 13C/12C isotope ratio in atmospheric CO2 post-industrial, which is perfectly consistent with what happens when you burn a lot of fossil fuels:


      ...well, the scientists must be wrong about that because, you know, if I can't understand it how can they understand it?

      Completely blinded by their ideology/greed. Useful idiots. More like playground bullies, actually; the way they carry on at LOL WHUT?! Will be the downfall of us all if inaction continues, unfortunately.


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