Global Warming: Does CO2 Heat The Atmosphere? No ….

Original post here:

CO2 heats the atmosphere…a counter view

A guest post on Watts Up What With That by : Tom Vonk (Tom is a physicist and long time poster at many climate blogs.

The simplistic view of CO2 heat trapping

If you search for “greenhouse effect” in Google and get 1 cent for statements like…

“CO2 absorbs the outgoing infrared energy and warms the atmosphere” – or – “CO2 traps part of the infrared radiation between ground and the upper part of the atmosphere”

…you will be millionaire .

Even Internet sites that are said to have a good scientific level like “Science of doom” publish statements similar to those quoted above . These statements are all wrong yet happen so often that I submitted this guest post to Anthony to clear this issue once for all.

In the case that somebody asks why there is no peer reviewed paper about this issue , it is because everything what follows is textbook material . We will use results from statistical thermodynamics and quantum mechanics that have been known for some 100 years or more . More specifically the statement that we will prove is :

A volume of gas in Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium (LTE) cannot be heated by CO2.

There are 3 concepts that we will introduce below and that are necessary to the understanding .

  1. The Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium (LTE)

This concept plays a central part so some words of definition . First what LTE is not . LTE is not Thermodynamic Equilibrium (TE) , it is a much weaker assumption . LTE requires only that the equilibrium exists in some neighborhood of every point . For example the temperature may vary with time and space within a volume so that this volume is not in a Thermodynamic Equilibrium . However if there is an equilibrium within every small subvolume of this volume , we will have LTE .

Intuitively the notion of LTE is linked to the speed with which the particles move and to their density . If the particle stays long enough in a small volume to interact with other particles in this small volume , for example by collisions , then the particle will equilibrate with others . If it doesn’t stay long enough then it can’t equilibrate with others and there is no LTE .

There are 2 reasons why the importance of LTE is paramount .

First is that a temperature cannot be defined for a volume which is not in LTE . That is easy to understand . The temperature is an average energy of a small volume in equilibrium . Since there is no equilibrium in any small volume if we have not LTE , the temperature cannot be defined in this case.

Second is that the energy distribution in a volume in LTE follows known laws and can be computed .

The energy equipartition law

Kinetic energy is present in several forms . A monoatomic gas has only the translational kinetic energy , the well known ½.m.V² . A polyatomic gas can also vibrate and rotate and therefore has in addition to the translational kinetic energy also the vibrational and the rotational kinetic energy . When we want to specify the total kinetic energy of a molecule , we need to account for all 3 forms of it .

Thus the immediate question we ask is : “If we add energy to a molecule , what will it do ? Increase its velocity ? Increase its vibration ? Increase its rotation ? Some mixture of all 3 ?”

The answer is given by the energy equipartition law . It says : “In LTE the energy is shared equally among its different forms .

As we have seen that the temperature is an average energy ,and that it is defined only under LTE conditions , it is possible to link the average kinetic energy <E> to the temperature . For instance in a monoatomic gas like Helium we have <E>= 3/2.k.T . The factor 3/2 comes because there are 3 translational degrees of freedom (3 space dimensions) and it can be reformulated by saying that the kinetic energy per translational degree of freedom is ½.k.T . From there can be derived ideal gas laws , specific heat capacities and much more . For polyatomic molecules exhibiting vibration and rotation the calculations are more complicated . The important point in this statistical law is that if we add some energy to a great number of molecules , this energy will be shared equally among their translational , rotational and vibrational degrees of freedom .

Quantum mechanical interactions of molecules with infrared radiation

Everything that happens in the interaction between a molecule and the infrared radiation is governed by quantum mechanics . Therefore the processes cannot be understood without at least the basics of the QM theory .

The most important point is that only the vibration and rotation modes of a molecule can interact with the infrared radiation . In addition this interaction will take place only if the molecule presents a non zero dipolar momentum . As a non zero dipolar momentum implies some asymmetry in the distribution of the electrical charges , it is specially important in non symmetric molecules . For instance the nitrogen N-N molecule is symmetrical and has no permanent dipolar momentum .

O=C=O is also symmetrical and has no permanent dipolar momentum . C=O is non symmetrical and has a permanent dipolar momentum . However to interact with IR it is not necessary that the dipolar momentum be permanent . While O=C=O has no permanent dipolar momentum , it has vibrational modes where an asymmetry appears and it is those modes that will absorb and emit IR . Also nitrogen N-N colliding with another molecule will be deformed and acquire a transient dipolar momentum which will allow it to absorb and emit IR .

In the picture left you see the 4 possible vibration modes of CO2 . The first one is symmetrical and therefore displays no dipolar momentum and doesn’t interact with IR . The second and the third look similar and have a dipolar momentum . It is these both that represent the famous 15µ band . The fourth is highly asymmetrical and also has a dipolar momentum .

What does interaction between a vibration mode and IR mean ?

The vibrational energies are quantified , that means that they can only take some discrete values . In the picture above is shown what happens when a molecule meets a photon whose energy (h.ν or ђ.ω) is exactly equal to the difference between 2 energy levels E2-E1 . The molecule absorbs the photon and “jumps up” from E1 to E2 . Of course the opposite process exists too – a molecule in the energy level E2 can “jump down” from E2 to E1 and emit a photon of energy E2-E1 .

But that is not everything that happens . What also happens are collisions and during collisions all following processes are possible .

  • Translation-translation interaction . This is your usual billiard ball collision .
  • Translation-vibration interaction . Here energy is exchanged between the vibration modes and the translation modes .
  • Translation-rotation interaction . Here energy is is exchanged between the rotation modes and the translation modes .
  • Rotation-vibration interaction … etc .

In the matter that concerns us here , namely a mixture of CO2 and N2 under infrared radiation only 2 processes are important : translation-translation and translation-vibration . We will therefore neglect all other processes without loosing generality .

The proof of our statement

The translation-translation process (sphere collision) has been well understood since more than 100 years . It can be studied by semi-classical statistical mechanics and the result is that the velocities of molecules (translational kinetic energy) within a volume of gas in equilibrium are distributed according to the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution . As this distribution is invariant for a constant temperature , there are no net energy transfers and we do not need to further analyze this process .

The 2 processes of interest are the following :

CO2 + γ → CO2* (1)

This reads “a CO2 molecule absorbs an infrared photon γ and goes to a vibrationally excited state CO2*

CO2* + N2 → CO2 + N2⁺ (2)

This reads “a vibrationally excited CO2 molecule CO2* collides with an N2 molecule and relaxes to a lower vibrational energy state CO2 while the N2 molecule increases its velocity to N2⁺ “. We use a different symbol * and ⁺ for the excited states to differentiate the energy modes – vibrational (*) for CO2 and translational (⁺) for N2 . In other words , there is transfer between vibrational and translational degrees of freedom in the process (2) . This process in non equilibrium conditions is sometimes called thermalization .

The microscopical process (2) is described by time symmetrical equations . All mechanical and electromagnetical interactions are governed by equations invariant under time reversal . This is not true for electroweak interactions but they play no role in the process (2) .

Again in simple words , it means that if the process (2) happens then the time symmetrical process , namely CO2 + N2⁺ → CO2* + N2 , happens too . Indeed this time reversed process where fast (e.g hot) N2 molecules slow down and excite vibrationally CO2 molecules is what makes an N2/CO2 laser work. Therefore the right way to write the process (2) is the following .

CO2* + N2 ↔ CO2 + N2⁺ (3)

Where the use of the double arrow ↔ instad of the simple arrow → is telling us that this process goes in both directions . Now the most important question is “What are the rates of the → and the ← processes ?

The LTE conditions with the energy equipartition law give immediately the answer : “These rates are exactly equal .” This means that for every collision where a vibrationally excited CO2* transfers energy to N2 , there is a collision where N2⁺ transfers the same energy to CO2 and excites it vibrationally . There is no net energy transfer from CO2 to N2 through the vibration-translation interaction .

As we have seen that CO2 cannot transfer energy to N2 through the translation-translation process either , there is no net energy transfer (e.g “heating”) from CO2 to N2 what proves our statement .

This has an interesting corollary for the process (1) , IR absorption by CO2 molecules . We know that in equilibrium the distribution of the vibrational quantum states (e.g how many molecules are in a state with energy Ei) is invariant and depends only on temperature . For example only about 5 % of CO2 molecules are in a vibrationally excited state at room temperatures , 95 % are in the ground state .

Therefore in order to maintain the number of vibrationally excited molecules constant , every time a CO2 molecule absorbs an infrared photon and excites vibrationally , it is necessary that another CO2 molecule relaxes by going to a lower energy state . As we have seen above that this relaxation cannot happen through collisions with N2 because no net energy transfer is permitted , only the process (1) is available . Indeed the right way to write the process (1) is also :

CO2 + γ ↔ CO2* (1)

Where the use of the double arrow shows that the absorption process (→) happens at the same time as the emission process (←) . Because the number of excited molecules in a small volume in LTE must stay constant , follows that both processes emission/absorption must balance . In other words CO2 which absorbs strongly the 15µ IR , will emit strongly almost exactly as much 15 µ radiation as it absorbs . This is independent of the CO2 concentrations and of the intensity of IR radiation .

For those who prefer experimental proofs to theoretical arguments , here is a simple experiment demonstrating the above statements . Let us consider a hollow sphere at 15°C filled with air . You install an IR detector on the surface of the cavity . This is equivalent to the atmosphere during the night . The cavity will emit IR according to a black body law . Some frequencies of this BB radiation will be absorbed by the vibration modes of the CO2 molecules present in the air . What you will observe is :

  • The detector shows that the cavity absorbs the same power on 15µ as it emits
  • The temperature of the air stays at 15°C and more specifically the N2 and O2 do not heat

These observations demonstrate as expected that CO2 emits the same power as it absorbs and that there is no net energy transfer between the vibrational modes of CO2 and the translational modes of N2 and O2 . If you double the CO2 concentration or make the temperature vary , the observations stay identical showing that the conclusions we made are independent of temperatures and CO2 concentrations .

Conclusion and caveats

The main point is that every time you hear or read that “CO2 heats the atmosphere” , that “energy is trapped by CO2” , that “energy is stored by green house gases” and similar statements , you may be sure that this source is not to be trusted for information about radiation questions .

Caveat 1

The statement we proved cannot be interpreted as “CO2 has no impact on the dynamics of the Earth-atmosphere system” . What we have proven is that the CO2 cannot heat the atmosphere in the bulk but the whole system cannot be reduced to the bulk of the atmosphere . Indeed there are 2 interfaces – the void on one side and the surface of the Earth on the other side . Neither the former nor the latter is in LTE and the arguments we used are not valid . The dynamics of the system are governed by the lapse rate which is “anchored” to the ground and whose variations are dependent not only on convection , latent heat changes and conduction but also radiative transfer . The concentrations of CO2 (and H2O) play a role in this dynamics but it is not the purpose of this post to examine these much more complex and not well understood aspects .

Caveat 2

You will sometimes read or hear that “the CO2 has not the time to emit IR because the relaxation time is much longer than the mean time between collisions .” We know now that this conclusion is clearly wrong but looks like common sense if one accepts the premises which are true . Where is the problem ?

Well as the collisions are dominating , the CO2 will indeed often relax by a collision process . But with the same token it will also often excite by a collision process . And both processes will happen with an equal rate in LTE as we have seen . As for the emission , we are talking typically about 10ⁿ molecules with n of the order of 20 . Even if the average emission time is longer than the time between collisions , there is still a huge number of excited molecules who had not the opportunity to relax collisionally and who will emit . Not surprisingly this is also what experience shows .

Climate Gate: IPCC – United Nations International Panel on Climate Change Harshly Rebuked By Investigating Panel of International Experts

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up 22 years ago to provide science advice to governments as they try to deal with global warming, needs to overhaul the way it runs itself, according to a report released Monday.

Among those needs: more transparency; a rigorous set of conflict-of-interest rules; wider representation of dissenting views among practicing climate scientists in its final reports; and a limit on the number of reports scientists can take a lead role in producing.

The review and its recommendations come from a panel made up of 12 experts from 10 countries. The members were selected by the InterAcademy Council, an organization representing 15 national academies of science in developed and developing countries.

The review panel, assembled in May at the request of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri, did not address the science of global warming itself. Instead, it focused on management issues raised in controversies that erupted during and after the IPCC issued it last set of climate reports in 2007.

Many of these controversies came to light within the past 10 months. Emails leaked from the University of East Anglia revealed a handful of influential climate scientists displaying a circle-the-wagons mentality as some analysts tried to gain access to their data and analysis methods. Critics alleged that the emails also held evidence of fudged results.

In addition, some global warming skeptics have identified mistakes in the 2007 volumes, including a claim that a warming climate could deprive the Himalayas of their glaciers by 2035. [a claim subsequently retracted by the IPCC – the IPCC was forced to admit that the claim was not supported by data but was, instead, based upon an interview]

Still, “there’s no question that the IPCC’s trust was somewhat dented by all these controversies,” said review-panel chairman Harold Shapiro, an economist and professor emeritus at Princeton University. Panel members “think that what we have recommended will help restore” trust in the IPCC’s work.

Among its 22 recommendations, the panel calls for the adoption of conflict-of-interest policies that cover everyone directly involved in producing the reports. It recommends limiting the IPCC chairman, as well as a handful of other top IPCC participants, to overseeing only one set of periodic climate reports, after which they would be replaced for the next set. And it seeks a more transparent, thorough discussion in IPCC reports of credible dissenting views on aspects of climate research and projections, along with a clearer, more consistent description of uncertainties surrounding conclusions the IPCC reports offer – particularly in the influential summaries for policymakers.

Taken as a whole, the report and its recommendations are “remarkably hard-hitting,” says Roger Pielke Jr., who specialized in science policy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “It’s not at all the rap on the knuckles that some commentators had expected.”

Assuming the recommendations are adopted as a package, and not picked over, “this could mark the moment when climate science joins the 21st century as far as science advice is concerned,” Dr. Pielke says. “It’s had some practices that were too ad hoc for its prominent role.”

The next step must come from the 194 governments that make up the IPCC. The first opportunity to discuss these recommendations as a group and perhaps act on them comes at the IPCC’s plenary session in Pusan, South Korea, in October.

The next set of IPCC reports is due out in 2013.

McAuley’s World Comments:

In a strange an obviously desperate act Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Rajendra Pachauri interjected his opinion on Monday, defended the science itself … stating that the science is “sound”. The  InterAcademy Council study and findings offered no such support for the IPCC. The InterAcademy Council did not replicate the studies, a number of research groups are doing that at present, the InterAcademy Council analyzed and criticized the IPCC”s failure to incorporate and follow basic elements of the “scientific method”.

From the InterAcademy Report (PDF LINK BELOW): “We found in the summary for policymakers that there were two kinds of errors that came up — one is the kind where they place high confidence in something where there is very little evidence. The other is the kind where you make a statement … with no substantive value, in our judgment.”Rajendra Pachauri, head of UN climate change body, under pressure to resign:

IPCC report raises fresh questions over Dr Rajendra Pachauri’s leadership

The UN’s climate change panel must introduce a structure to prevent conflicts of interest, according to a report by the world’s top science group that raised fresh questions over the leadership of the body.

In response to accusations that Dr Rajendra Pachauri had compromised his position as chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) because of his role in an environmental consultancy, the report described the claims as “troubling”.

The report exposed a number of procedural management failings, highlighting the role held by Dr Pachauri as needing particular scrutiny.

The Indian engineer has been chairman of the IPCC since 2002, renewing his initial six year term in 2008.

However there have been repeated calls for his resignation, most notably following the incorrect claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035.

The questions over the IPCC led to a review of his organisation by the InterAcademy Council, a grouping of the world’s most prestigious science organisations.

“It was beyond our charge to review the conflict-of-interest controversies that have been reported in the press,” said Prof Harold T. Shapiro, chairman of the investigating committee, “but we did note that the lack of a conflict of interest policy was troubling to many of the stakeholders we heard from.

He added: “Operating under the public microscope the way IPCC does requires strong leadership, the continued and enthusiastic participation of distinguished scientists, an ability to adapt, and a commitment to openness if the value of these assessments to society is to be maintained.”

Following criticism that the position of chairman was too powerful, the report also suggested that no one should be allowed to serve more than one term. It did not comment on whether Dr Pachauri should be able to serve out his second term.

Dr Benny Peiser, Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, said Dr Pachauri was now “damaged goods”.

“The criticism of the management process is quite severe,” he said. “It is an indirect call for Dr Pachauri to step down,” he said.

The role of chairman is a part time, unpaid role.

Dr Pachauri has been accused of a conflict of interest in the past because of his other role as leading The Energy Research Institute (Teri), a think tank promoting sustainable development. [and actively engegaed in the trading of “carbon credits” in Europe]

It was alleged that he could have vested interest in proving climate change by business dealings with carbon trading companies. However he was cleared on any financial wrongdoing recently by an independent review.

Dr Pachauri has always made clear that to the IPCC that he as another role as director of TERI.

Asked if he would consider resigning if requested to, he said he would abide by any decision the IPCC made.

Dr Pachauri has stood up in the past against what he called “ideologically driven” attacks on the IPCC.

“The IPCC will be strengthened by the IAC review and by others of its kind this year,” he said.

“We already have the highest confidence in the science behind our assessments.

“We’re now pleased to receive recommendations on how to further strengthen our own policies and procedures,” he added.

ClimateGate Saga Continues – Climate Chief Hid Knowledge Of Bad Data Until After Copenhagen Summit

The Latest Global Warming Scandal – United Nations IPPC Chief Cashing In – $100′s of Millions Made By Putting 1700 Steel Workers Out of Work

A PDF of the InterAcademy Council Report: Climate Change Assessments: Review of the Processes and Procedures of the IPCC

In a related issue: Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli continues his attempts to obtain what should be “public research data” from the University of Virginia. The Attorney General has been trying to complete an investigation into whether a prominent global warming proponent may have “doctored research data” to obatin Federal Research funds fraudulently … There is no reason for scienitific reason the “Climate Data” should be held in secret is there? … there is no proprietary interest that could be compromised by a public review and analysis of the data is there? … thew “scienitific methiod” would then dictate a release of the data for “peeer” or “State” review …. if the “data” wasn’t “cooked’ for personal or prefessional benefit, what would one have to fear?

Updated: Judge sides with UVa in climate case, dismissing Cuccinelli demands

An Albemarle County judge has dismissed Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s demand that the University of Virginia turn over documents related to the research of a prominent climate change expert.

Cuccinelli, a vocal climate change skeptic, had been investigating the possibility that climatology professor Michael Mann fraudulently obtained five taxpayer-funded research grants while employed at UVA between 1999 and 2005.

In an opinion issued this morning, Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli failed to show a sufficient “reason to believe” that UVA possessed any documents related to Mann that suggested a fraud occurred.

UVA fought Cuccinelli’s demand for documents, saying the attorney general’s investigation violates the principle of academic freedom and would have a chilling effect on scientific research of controversial subjects.

In his ruling, Peatross set aside Cuccinelli’s civil investigative demands “in their entirety, without prejudice to the Commonwealth to proceed according to the law.”

Cuccinelli did not show, Peatross wrote, any evidence that Mann’s work was “misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Peatross added, however, that the attorney general is within his rights to issue CIDs — which carry the legal weight of subpoenas — to investigate taxpayer-funded research grants awarded to professors such as Mann.

Cuccinelli said in a statement that he will send a new CID to UVA to continue his hunt for proof that Mann defrauded Virginia’s taxpayers in obtaining grants that funded his climate change research.

“While this was not an outright ruling in our favor, I am pleased that the judge has agreed with my office on several key legal points and has given us a framework for issuing a new civil investigative demand to get the information necessary to continue our investigation into whether or not fraud has been committed against the commonwealth,” Cuccinelli said.

A UVA spokeswoman said a statement on Peatross’ ruling will be forthcoming.

Mann, who now works at Penn State, said he is “very pleased” the judge set aside Cuccinelli’s subpoenas.

“It is a victory not just for me and the university, but for all scientists who live in fear that they may be subject to a politically motivated witch hunt when their research findings prove inconvenient to powerful vested interests,” Mann said in an e-mail to The Daily Progress. “I’m looking forward now to trying to get back full time to the things I really care about: doing research and extending the forefront of our scientific understanding of the science of climate and climate change, advising students and postdoctoral scholars, and doing the best I can to communicate to the public important scientific findings.

Global Warming: Climate Gate – Mann’s Hockey Stick Findings Refuted – Irrelevant To Accurate Warming Predictions – Annals of Applied Statistics


Watts Up With That? –  New paper makes a hockey “sticky wicket” of Mann et al 98/99/08

Sticky Wicket – phrase, meaning: “A difficult situation”.

Now, there’s a new look to the familiar “hockey stick”.

The “infamous Hockey Stick” below:

Multiproxy reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere surface temperature variations over the past millennium (blue), along with 50-year average (black), a measure of the statistical uncertainty associated with the reconstruction (gray), and instrumental surface temperature data for the last 150 years (red), based on the work by Mann et al. (1999). This figure has sometimes been referred to as the hockey stick. Source: IPCC (2001).

McShane and Wyner re-examine and replot the data below …

Backcast from Bayesian Model of Section 5. CRU Northern Hemisphere annual mean land temperature is given by the thin black line and a smoothed version is given by the thick black line. The forecast is given by the thin red line and a smoothed version is given by the thick red line. The model is fit on 1850-1998 AD and backcasts 998-1849 AD. The cyan region indicates uncertainty due to t, the green region indicates uncertainty due to β, and the gray region indicates total uncertainty.

“Not only are the results stunning, but the paper is highly readable, written in a sensible style that most laymen can absorb, even if they don’t understand some of the finer points of bayesian and loess filters, or principal components. Not only that, this paper is a confirmation of McIntyre and McKitrick’s work, with a strong nod to Wegman. I highly recommend reading this and distributing this story widely.”

The original paper submitted by McShane and Wyner to Annals of Applied Statistics here: A Statistical Analysis of Multiple Temperature Proxies: Are Reconstructions of Surface Temperatures Over the Last 1000 Years Reliable?


On the one hand, we conclude unequivocally that the evidence for a ”long-handled” hockey stick (where the shaft of the hockey stick extends to the year 1000 AD) is lacking in the data … Consequently, the long flat handle of the hockey stick is best understood to be a feature of regression and less a reflection of our knowledge of the truth… Climate scientists have greatly underestimated the uncertainty of proxy based reconstructions and hence have been overconfident in their models…  

Global Warming: IPCC Global Warming Model Used To Predict Temp Changes Overstates Warming By 60% – American Meteorological Society


The observed increase in global mean surface temperature (GMST) over the industrial era is less than 40% of that expected from observed increases in long-lived greenhouse gases together with the best-estimate equilibrium climate sensitivity given by the 2007 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Possible reasons for this warming discrepancy are systematically examined here. The warming discrepancy is found to be due mainly to some combination of two factors: the IPCC best estimate of climate sensitivity being too high and/or the greenhouse gas forcing being partially offset by forcing by increased concentrations of atmospheric aerosols; the increase in global heat content due to thermal disequilibrium accounts for less than 25% of the discrepancy, and cooling by natural temperature variation can account for only about 15%. Current uncertainty in climate sensitivity is shown to preclude determining the amount of future fossil fuel CO2 emissions that would be compatible with any chosen maximum allowable increase in GMST; even the sign of such allowable future emissions is unconstrained. Resolving this situation, by empirical determination of the earth’s climate sensitivity from the historical record over the industrial period or through use of climate models whose accuracy is evaluated by their performance over this period, is shown to require substantial reduction in the uncertainty of aerosol forcing over this period.

Why Hasn’t Earth Warmed as Much as Expected?


Stephen E. Schwartz Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York

Robert J. Charlson University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Ralph A. Kahn NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

John A. Ogren NOAA/Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado

Henning Rodhe Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

The full PDF of the  paper can be viewed here:

Wikipedia & Peer Review: Real Climate.Org Allowed To “Edit Or Delete” 5,428 Climate Articles

By Lawrence Solomon

THE NATIONAL POST – Canada’s Largest National, English Language Paper

The Climategate Emails describe how a small band of climatologists cooked the books to make the last century seem dangerously warm.

The emails also describe how the band plotted to rewrite history as well as science, particularly by eliminating the Medieval Warm Period, a 400 year period that began around 1000 AD.

The Climategate Emails reveal something else, too: the enlistment of the most widely read source of information in the world — Wikipedia — in the wholesale rewriting of this history.

The Medieval Warm Period, which followed the meanness and cold of the Dark Ages, was a great time in human history — it allowed humans around the world to bask in a glorious warmth that vastly improved agriculture, increased life spans and otherwise bettered the human condition.

But the Medieval Warm Period was not so great for some humans in our own time — the same small band that believes the planet has now entered an unprecedented and dangerous warm period. As we now know from the Climategate Emails, this band saw the Medieval Warm Period as an enormous obstacle in their mission of spreading the word about global warming. If temperatures were warmer 1,000 years ago than today, the Climategate Emails explain in detail, their message that we now live in the warmest of all possible times would be undermined. As put by one band member, a Briton named Folland at the Hadley Centre, a Medieval Warm Period “dilutes the message rather significantly.”

Even before the Climategate Emails came to light, the problem posed by the Medieval Warm Period to this band was known. “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period” read a pre-Climategate email, circa 1995, as attested to at hearings of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works. But the Climategate transcripts were more extensive and more illuminating — they provided an unvarnished look at the struggles that the climate practitioners underwent before settling on their scientific dogma.

The Climategate Emails showed, for example, that some members of the band were uncomfortable with aspects of their work, some even questioning the need to erase the existence of the Medieval Warm Period 1,000 years earlier.

Said Briffa, one of their chief practitioners: “I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards ‘apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data’ but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. … I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1,000 years ago.”  

In the end, Briffa and other members of the band overcame their doubts and settled on their dogma. With the help of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the highest climate change authority of all, they published what became the icon of their movement — the hockey stick graph. This icon showed temperatures in the last 1,000 years to have been stable — no Medieval Warm Period, not even the Little Ice Age of a few centuries ago.

But the UN’s official verdict that the Medieval Warm Period had not existed did not erase the countless schoolbooks, encyclopedias, and other scholarly sources that claimed it had. Rewriting those would take decades, time that the band members didn’t have if they were to save the globe from warming.

Instead, the band members turned to their friends in the media and to the blogosphere, creating a website called “The idea is that we working climate scientists should have a place where we can mount a rapid response to supposedly ‘bombshell’ papers that are doing the rounds” in aid of “combating dis-information,” one email explained, referring to criticisms of the hockey stick and anything else suggesting that temperatures today were not the hottest in recorded time. One person in the nine-member team — U.K. scientist and Green Party activist William Connolley — would take on particularly crucial duties.

Connolley took control of all things climate in the most used information source the world has ever known – Wikipedia. Starting in February 2003, just when opposition to the claims of the band members were beginning to gel, Connolley set to work on the Wikipedia site. He rewrote Wikipedia’s articles on global warming, on the greenhouse effect, on the instrumental temperature record, on the urban heat island, on climate models, on global cooling. On Feb. 14, he began to erase the Little Ice Age; on Aug.11, the Medieval Warm Period. In October, he turned his attention to the hockey stick graph. He rewrote articles on the politics of global warming and on the scientists who were skeptical of the band. Richard Lindzen and Fred Singer, two of the world’s most distinguished climate scientists, were among his early targets, followed by others that the band especially hated, such as Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, authorities on the Medieval Warm Period.

All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles. His control over Wikipedia was greater still, however, through the role he obtained at Wikipedia as a website administrator, which allowed him to act with virtual impunity. When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand. When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions. Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings. In these ways, Connolley turned Wikipedia into the missionary wing of the global warming movement.

The Medieval Warm Period disappeared, as did criticism of the global warming orthodoxy. With the release of the Climategate Emails, the disappearing trick has been exposed. The glorious Medieval Warm Period will remain in the history books, perhaps with an asterisk to describe how a band of zealots once tried to make it disappear.

Financial Post

Normal 0 0 1 32 184 1 1 225 11.512 0 0 0

 Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.

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