Here’s an amazing piece of anthropomorphic editorializing from NASA disguised as science. “Our planet is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out of Earth’s system. But human activities are throwing that off balance, causing our planet to warm in response.” Our planet is trying to do what? Planets try to do things? Jupiter, try to call your office.
This rubbish comes from the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen’s old outfit now run by Gavin Schmidt, the guy who says “most climate deniers are sociopaths” and is all-in on alarmism. But even so this anthropomorphic, anti-scientific rhetoric is disquieting.
Especially as it fits with several other weird pieces of alarmist orthodoxy. One being the familiar one that the natural carbon cycle is always in balance due to the dynamic adaptability of nature, whereas our CO2 causes it to choke and stop balancing the stuff. Seriously. If CO2 goes up naturally, all is harmony and balance. If we inject it, it stinks the place out. And the idea that there is a temperature the planet “wants” to be, a proper temperature, a good happy Gaia temperature, but then we go aaack, crank up the thermostat and the resulting disharmony in the biosphere causes cosmic disaster.
This idea of cool, static bliss was put forward by John Kerry in his infamous 2014 Jakarta speech about all the GHGs being in a layer half an inch thick at the top of the sky. Unchallenged by the “you’re not a climate scientist” crowd, he intoned bizarrely that “for millions of years – literally millions of years – we know that layer has acted like a thermal blanket for the planet – trapping the sun’s heat and warming the surface of the Earth to the ideal, life-sustaining temperature. Average temperature of the Earth has been about 57 degrees Fahrenheit, which keeps life going.”
So no Pleistocene, no PETM, no Cretaceous, no snowball Earth including right before the dinosaurs burst loose? Apparently not, because Mother Earth doesn’t “want” such a thing and instead “is constantly trying to balance the flow of energy in and out” to create a flat, perfect, Gaia-is-serene 57 degrees “which keeps life going” of the sort we’re used to, squirrels and things, but not some wretched Brontosaurus or Megatherium that needs more warmth. Bosh.
Once we abandon the notion of Gaia up there in the sky frantically opening windows to keep the temperature exactly steady even though humans keep adding chimneys and tailpipes to the fire, it ought to raise the too-rarely-asked question: If we really can control Earth’s temperature, what level should we choose? Is there some reason to think 57 degrees is ideal, other than some politician’s speechwriter hallucinating that it’s been that way for a long time? Might it be better to stabilize it at 59.37? What is warmth even for? Is it good for life?
A major reason for thinking it’s not is the alarmist claim that once global warming starts it’s necessarily a runaway process. Apparently the Earth gets cross and says OK, forget that guff about me trying to balance it, if you want it to burn down, I’ll just let it burn and see how you like it, you semi-evolved simians. But if it’s not so, if the planet tends to stabilize itself but we get to set the temperature at which it then settles down, might we go yeah, add half a degree, good for the crops? Or crank that thing down, India’s too hot? Why not 55 degrees?
Or 83? Why not crank it way up? It’s true that we put many of our cities where we did because of where the ocean was in the middle of the current interglacial, and cities are big and heavy and hard to move. But given a bit of time to adapt, might we prefer the temperature of the Jurassic to that of the Pleistocene? Especially to make sure the glaciers don’t come back if Gaia messes up the recipe briefly? Bearing in mind that despite Kerry and Goddard’s nonsense, the best estimate is that the planet has normally been at around 22°C for the last half-billion years not this chilly, life-inhibiting 12°C that in the United States is 53.6°F (so where Kerry even got his 57°F is a mystery though not one you probably want to explore with him given his apparent unfamiliarity with photosynthesis or the geological record). And life seemed to be happy at those higher levels… if you like life. Big happy weird loud life with crests and horns and giant camels on Ellesmere Island.
Whatever the response, it can’t be that Mother Earth would be cross. But we cannot dwell on these issues because we must deal with some more egregious anti-science in the Goddard piece. Specifically the boast that “Climate modelling predicts that human activities are causing the release of greenhouse gases and aerosols that are affecting Earth’s energy budget. Now, a NASA study has confirmed these predictions with direct observations for the first time”. Wow. They stood up there on Kerry’s blanket and watched it happen. Cool. How?
Uh, in a computer filled with assumptions. Their “direct observations” are actually the result of piling Assumption on Algorithm to reach the top of Olympus and see if the gods are angry. Which they apparently are.
“This study used a new technique to parse out how much of the total energy change is caused by humans. The researchers calculated how much of the imbalance was caused by fluctuations in factors that are often naturally occurring, such as water vapor, clouds, temperature and surface albedo (essentially the brightness or reflectivity of Earth’s surface). For example, the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite measures water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere. Water vapor absorbs energy in the form of heat, so changes in water vapor will affect how much energy ultimately leaves Earth’s system. The researchers calculated the energy change caused by each of these natural factors, then subtracted the values from the total. The portion leftover is the radiative forcing.”
Note the breezy way they assert that the researchers calculated the impact of water vapour, clouds and so forth. But while AIRS may measure “water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere” it doesn’t do it by taking each cubic cm of the stuff and wringing it out. It peers down and uses complex algorithms to assess what’s going on in the entire stack. And the models cannot begin to cope with clouds because the computers operate on a macro scale and clouds are crucially a micro phenomenon. (There’s also some suspicious fine-tuning going on with the aerosols needed to create enough “cloud-aerosol forcing” to offset the posited high impacts of CO2.) Thus while “changes in water vapor will affect how much energy ultimately leaves Earth’s system” the researchers don’t know how much vapor there is or how it affects the balance. Certainly not to a decimal place. (So we won’t even ask what they think of the newly discovered phenomenon of “space storms” that rain electrons onto our poor old planet while it’s up there on the roof struggling with the Watts per square meter. Doubtless they calculated its impact like totally man.)
They must have. Because, Goddard trumpets, “The team found that human activities have caused the radiative forcing on Earth to increase by about 0.5 Watts per square meter from 2003 to 2018. The increase is mostly from greenhouse gases emissions from things like power generation, transport and industrial manufacturing. Reduced reflective aerosols are also contributing to the imbalance.” Mostly? Also contributing? Uh, you’re getting a bit vague for people doing direct observation. And was that a cat’s head poking out of the bag?
Afraid so. Because “The new technique is computationally faster than previous model-based methods, allowing researchers to monitor radiative forcing in almost real time.” So it’s not direct observation at all. It’s just a faster computer model making the same assumptions about the same data except “in almost real time.” And those assumptions are that natural processes cannot explain recent increases, after which they produce as if it were an independent empirical observation the logically necessary conclusion that natural processes cannot explain recent increases. (And just on cue Watts Up With That quotes historian Daniel Boorstin that “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.”)
Ladies and gentlemen of the Goddard Institute for Climate Alarmism, Apollo is mad at you and Athena and Coeus want to spank you. Though Hermes might want to shake your hands… if such beings had emotions and desires and tried to do things the way you think Earth does.