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Not so simple after all

18 Nov 2020 | OP ED Watch

The standard line on climate is that the science is both settled and simple. Which makes one wonder why so many billions of government dollars must continue to pour into research on the subject. But as we showed in our video “The Simple Physics Slogan” featuring William van Wijngaarden, the notion that it’s “high school” physics is just plain wrong. And we’re happy to see that new research by van Wijngaarden and the distinguished Princeton physicist Will Happer has found that when you take the complexity into account, it seems the danger has passed. What a relief, you might think, especially to the alarmists.

If true it is very good news indeed and very much contrary to the orthodox view. We’ve all seen those charts showing atmospheric CO2 over the last 800,000 years or so and the sudden spike since 1950. And we’ve all been told that CO2 drives temperature, even that it’s the “control knob” on the global thermostat. Some of us have observed that if so, the knob seems to be broken, only to be told “just you wait”. (Or that the last 20 years were hotter than hotness, that 2020 is the hottest year ever and so on. Or both.) But according to van Wijngaarden and Happer, there’s another very real possibility.

It may be that the greenhouse effect, which speaking of oversimplification does not resemble the action of a greenhouse, tapers off rapidly. Which in some sense we already knew. It is generally accepted, by alarmist as well as calmer types, that the amount of warming caused by CO2, the so-called Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity or ECS, is a fixed number relative to a doubling of atmospheric CO2, which by itself means that indeed the more we add, the less effect any given quantity has. If going from, say, 300 ppm to 600 ppm raises temperature 1.5 degrees, you’d have to go from 600 to 1200 to add another 1.5 and from 1200 to 2400 for the next one.

So it is already widely agreed that the curve mapping warming on to GHG concentrations does not accelerate upwards as in the usual scary charts; it decelerates rapidly. (This shape of the curve doesn’t depend on whether ECS is high or low though the temperature does, and for what it’s worth estimates of ECS seem to be trending downward over time.) But if Happer and van Wijngaarden are right, the effect is even more dramatic. Indeed, they say, “at current concentrations, the forcings from all greenhouse gases are saturated.” The GHGs are already doing all the warming they can, and adding more will have almost literally no effect.

If so, it’s very good news, right? So all the people very concerned about the health of the planet will rush to check it out, fervently hoping it’s true, right? I mean, surely they don’t want there to be a crisis just so they can save us from it or keep getting grants. That would be incredibly short-sighted and self-centred.

5 comments on “Not so simple after all”

  1. "....surely they don’t want there to be a crisis just so they can save us from it or keep getting grants."
    How can we ever effectively dismantle the grant system to eliminate the tactic of inserting key words related to alarmism over 'climate' and mitigation ?
    I sat with people who were community 'experts' at getting grants and heard them chuckle as they made sure to insert phrases into their proposal that suggested that their work would mitigate 'climate'...... a real eye opener.
    Should all grants include a cost/benefit analysis and a way to prove efficacy?

  2. Climate science is in the business of generating government grants?
    Now who is in the business of promoting hoaxes??

    1. Who is in the business of promoting hoaxes on climate change? Gore, Suzuki, Berman, Butts, McKenna, Trudeau, most Environmental NGOs..... for a start.

  3. Loved “The Simple Physics Slogan” .
    Hated the distracting background music (probably a generation issue).
    Could you provide an option to turn the music off? Or simply provide two videos, one with music and one without?

  4. There has been a lot of blog stories on different websites like Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), WUWT, and now on your website about the article of W&H by name “Dependence of Earth's Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases”. The message of these stories has been the same as referred above that “at current concentrations, the forcings from all greenhouse gases are saturated.”

    This is a strange conclusion directly conflicting with the results of the article of W&H. They conclude that doubling the CO2 concentration will cause the case of fixed absolute humidity, the surface warms by 1.4 K which agrees very well with other research studies.

    Indeed, in The AR4 the IPCC reports that “In the idealized situation that the climate response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 consisted of a uniform temperature change only, with no feedbacks operating, the global warming from GCMs would be around 1.2°C”.

    W&H reports that “The surface warming increases significantly for the case of water feedback assuming fixed relative humidity. Our result of 2.3 K is within 0.1 K of values obtained by two other groups.” So, what is the IPCC value in the case of water feedback? The IPCC reports in AR 5 that “It can be estimated that in the presence of water vapor, lapse rate and surface albedo feedbacks, but in the absence of cloud feedbacks, current GCMs would predict a climate sensitivity (±1 standard deviation) of roughly 1.9 ⁰C ± 0.15 ⁰C.”

    The conclusion looks pretty strange to me. The IPCC’s TCR value is 1.9 ⁰C and the same of W&H is 2.3 ⁰C, and the TRC values without any feedbacks are 1.2 ⁰C versus 1.4 ⁰C. The warming values of W&H turns to be greater than those of the IPCC. The basis of saturated CO2 effects by W&H is not true at all.

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