Physicist Howard Hayden responds to Peter Gleick’s “2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards.”
Hayden’s letter to Forbes is below. Gleick’s Forbes commentary is here.
January 7, 2012
Re: Gleich: The 2011 Climate B.S.* of the Year Awards
One of the very best recent examples of science at is best is that of the paper by Spencer, Braswell, and Christy, who published temperature data taken by satellite. Because of the decay of the orbit, there was a drift downward in measured temperature. When the matter was called to the attention of the authors, they immediately corrected the error, and continue to this day to correct for orbital decay. That is the way scientists are supposed to behave. Peter Gleich has obviously paid no attention to these facts, since he maligns the authors rather viciously, in keeping with the ad-hominem nature of the climate alarmist cohort.
In elementary algebra—oh, so long ago—we learned how to make graphs with the independent variable on the horizontal axis and the dependent variable on the vertical axis. Later on, in science classes we learned the usefulness of the technique: the independent variable is the cause and the dependent variable is the effect. In the fields of health physics and pharmacy, the graphs are called dose-response curves, but everybody who has done experimental science has made similar plots.
The discussions about whether—and how much—increases of CO2 concentration cause increases in temperature come down to such a cause-effect relationship. Table 6.2 of IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (http://ipcc.ch/) says that the temperature rise (effect) should be directly proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 concentration ratio (cause), expressed as T T0 lnC / C0 . A reasonable
approach would be to plot temperature rise on the vertical axis versus the CO2 logarithm on the horizontal axis. The reason I say “would be” is that climate alarmists have never done it. A pharmaceutical company that approached the FDA for a license to manufacture and distribute a drug for which they failed to produce dose-response curves would be laughed out of the hearing room.
We need not sit helplessly by, waiting to climate modelers to connect effect with cause. Readers can make the requisite graph, using temperature data and CO2 data from NASA/GISS at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts+dSST.txt and http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce-/ghgases/Fig1A.ext.txt respectively. The results may cause you to issue a sigh of relief.
In science, nobody gives a damn what you believe; if you’re lucky, somebody may care about your data or analysis. Accordingly, a nose count of who believes what is irrelevant. The figure that Gleich
cites—97% of climate scientists—is phony; it is from a very small sample of climate alarmists, but even if representative, it would still be irrelevant.
There is a well-vetted list of 39,000 scientists and engineers (www.oism.org) who have publicly taken a position against the IPCC’s conclusions. Their fields of expertise are as varied as the fields that are relevant to climate, but all of them are experts in scientific inference in their own fields. But their existence is also irrelevant to the scientific questions.
Oh, and Gleich is also confused about another topic. He confuses temperature with temperature rise, which is like confusing where you are with how fast you’re going. He says, “Glenn Beck incorrectly tells viewers that there has been no warming in the past decade – the hottest decade in over a century.” The last decade is slightly warmer than the 1930s, and may well be the warmest decade since the Medieval Warm Period; however, the question is how fast the temperature is rising. In fact, the temperature rise during the decade is trivial.
Howard C. Hayden
Prof. Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut