Exposed: the Greenhouse Gas Junk Science Back Story

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Believers in the greenhouse gas theory, the cornerstone of the science of man-made global warming, often refer to a select history of researchers and key papers to bolster claims for a “settled science.” But here we expose just how flimsy is its provenance. Below is exposed the flaws in such seminal works by James Hansen, Richard Lindzen, the National Academy of Science (NAS) and others. This article is a summary of six articles located at the author’s blog (Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart 6).

The ‘Charney’ Report

We begin with the NAS, the pinnacle of American science, as we delve into how the major academies of sciences played their roles in the greatest travesty of modern science. ‘Charney’ is a  seminal 13,000-word report about earth’s climate from 1979 and NOWHERE in those 13,000 words does it mention the term ‘greenhouse gas effect’ or any such derivative of the term.GHE

Also, nowhere does ‘Charney’ speak of our planet being ’33 degrees warmer than it would otherwise be;’ (a common GHE meme) and no mention of “back radiation heating” and/or delayed cooling due to carbon dioxide (CO2). And who was among the key authors? None other than NASA’s James Hansen and Richard Lindzen!

It seems utterly plausible to infer that uncertainty about the science of the greenhouse gas effect (GHE) was the reason why Hansen, Lindzen and their eminent co-authors omitted to include mention of the term, or of the mechanism whereby CO2 causes warming/delayed cooling in the atmosphere.

Hate-filled Response

When I published those six articles I enraged a slew of global warming afficionados, mostly from attacking me on this crucial technical issue. My blog became filled with irate accusatory comments. In response I pointed out that nowhere in this major report were the best brains in the business able to put a name to what they described. As I told them: settled science requires settled nomenclature.

They demanded I check Google Scholar. I did. Google Scholar hits on “CO2″ plus “Greenhouse effect”are as follows:

1950-1959: 34
1960-1969: 225
1970-1979: 762

They then told me to check out Gilbert Plass, “The Carbon Dioxide Theory of Climate Change” Tellus magazine (1956) and Manabe & Wetherald (1967); both being key papers frequently cited by alarmists in support of their assertions about man-made global warming.

But neither of these authorities is able (or wants to) to identify the mechanism of “back radiation heating”/delayed cooling (disproved here and elsewhere). They merely speculate that CO2 MAY cause warming. But they failed the crucial challenge (as per the scientific method) of  presenting a STATED HYPOTHESIS/THEORY of how CO2 operates as a warming agent in any supposed ‘greenhouse effect.’

As the furore on my blog escalated Dr Gerhard Kramm (University of Alaska Fairbanks, Geophysical Institute, USA, Meteorology and Climatology) came to post comment in my defense. Dr Kramm eloquently demonstrated how vague are all the classic descriptions of CO2 warming. [1]

Kramm, myself and the hundreds of qualified independent experts at Principia Scientific International (PSI) say that if the CO2-driven GHE is long-settled science then surely we would have no trouble finding the greenhouse gas theory identified by name in the in-depth 13,000-word NAS ‘Charney’ report on atmospheric carbon dioxide.  But there is not even any passing reference to it. Moreover, and perhaps more damaging to the credibility of the ‘theory,’  is that the NAS overlooked to mention anywhere the favored current IPCC term, ‘back radiation heating’ as the mechanism for enhanced CO2 warming. Why is that?

Crucially, my six-part series shows that other prestigious institution, the American Meteorological Society (AMS) had specifically dismissed the concept of any GHE by 1951, in collaboration with the head of Britain’s Met Office, CEP Brooks. [2]

The AMS, and Britain’s top climate expert, thus affirming Professor RW Wood’s famous experiment debunking the greenhouse effect (1909), an experiment successfully replicated in 2011 by Professor Nasif Nahle. [3]

Not only do climatologists need to explain away why the NAS didn’t define the GHE itself, they also are left with the daunting challenge of explaining why the nomenclature disappeared off the mainstream radar for decades after the Wood debunk of 1909 till ‘re-discovered’ by Bert Bolin, first chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and others from 1975.

What my six articles showed was that the glib historical narrative of the settled science of the GHE put out by characters such as Spencer Weart is a fiction. But better yet, it is no small irony that key papers for the GHE are easily refuted (eg Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald (1975)) not by skeptics, but by the biggest alarmists of all, the IPCC as mentioned herein by Canadian climate researcher, Norm Kalmanovitch.

Manabe, Wetherald, Hansen and the IPCC

The influential paper by Manabe & Wetherald (1975) make just TWO vague and passing references to a “greenhouse effect” but never define by what mechanism CO2 is a player. Moreover, in their conclusion (page 13) the authors admit their models show that the effect of any increase in CO2 is “very small because the change in heat transport is mostly offset by the change in the transport of latent heat.” [my emphasis]

M&B then admitted that they intentionally rigged their model so that cloud cover is fixed, thus negating the overriding thermostatic power of water vapor (latent heat). How flawed a science study is that?

But at least M&B had the good decency to end their paper by stating, “Because of the various simplifications of the model described above, it is not advisable to take too seriously the quantitative aspects of the results obtained in this study.” (page 13)

And for heaven’s sake, in his PhD paper (1967) even James Hansen was talking about a greenhouse effect only of dust. No mention ANYWHERE by him of CO2. [4]

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the forerunner in making claims of  ‘back radiation’ heating as the mechanism by which CO2 adds additional heat to our planet. But that term, just like the GHE, is completely absent from the NAS Charney Report. 

What ‘Charney’ did stress was the uncertainties. The authors admitted they lacked sufficient real world data and so had to rely on guesstimates from computer models.  They admit they only speculated that  an otherwise benign trace gas (CO2) may warm the climate.  But the  clear caveat stated in ‘Charney’ was that CO2 might actually cause cooling, a flaw in the AGW narrative that the IPCC and GHE advocates subsequently made “disappear.”

No Mechanism to Explain this ‘Magic Gas’

In short, what my series of articles showed is a failure to identify the mechanism by which CO2 is supposed to generate additional warming at the earth’s surface. Only during the 1980’s was the mainstream widely talking of a possible CO2-driven GHE by name and speculating about how it might do so,  not before.

As Joe Postma tells us on

“The one thing which has become very clear, is that the GHE doesn’t actually have a consistent explanation or description.  We have seen it as the backradiation ‘active heating’ mechanism, where radiation from a cold source adds serially with the radiation from the Sun in order to amplify the temperature generation; we have seen it as the “delayed cooling” mechanism, where GHE advocates wish to be in compliance with the Laws of Thermodynamics, and so backradiation does not cause “active heating”, but merely serves to reduce the rate at which energy is lost, particularly during the nighttime.  In my last paper, we proved that neither of these things actually occur because, by definition, these things should be quantifiable and observable in their effect on the temperature, and they were not.”

Supporting that, to my mind, is Norm Kalmanovitch who makes a brilliant point:

“The IPCC was formed in 1988 and their glossary produced some time later defines a greenhouse gas as an atmospheric gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect. In 1980 the greenhouse effect calculates to 35.56°C and today it is 0.14°C lower at 35.42°C (based on Hansen et al 1981 formulas which are identical to the formulas we used in theoretical geophysics in 1969) Since 1980 the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased from 23Gt/year in 1980 to over 35Gt/year today.

Since there was only a decrease in greenhouse effect as CO2 concentration increased it is clear that CO2 did not contribute to the greenhouse effect; so by IPCC definition CO2 is not a greenhouse gas! This is what happens when you fabricate terminology without first providing a proper scientific definition!”

It’s the Water Cycle, Stupid!

 Based on that assessment, the IPCC’s AR5 is ratcheting down of CO2 sensitivity. As such, we have gone full circle to what the AMS and CEP Brooks was telling everyone in 1951.

They stated that the idea that CO2 could alter the climate “was never widely accepted and was abandoned when it was found that all the long-wave radiation [that would be] absorbed by CO2 is [already] absorbed by water vapor.”

As PSI researchers have repeatedly affirmed in their peer-reviewed studies; the water cycle dominates climate and CO2 can only be shown to cause cooling – not warming. And despite atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide up more than 40 percent in recent decades, global temperatures have stubbornly remained flat for more than 15 years. So, how many more years of no warming need pass before government climatologists finally admit that the ‘theory’ of a greenhouse gas effect is refuted?


[1] Gerhard Kramm,, December 22, 2012 at 7:11 pm:

“[Charney] is not the description or definition of the so-called atmospheric greenhouse effect. And the physical description given by the AGW activists is rather poor.

Molecules not only absorb radiative energy, but also emit energy. This was already described by Albert Einstein (1917). To derive Planck’s radiation law he not only considered absorption by molecules, but also spontaneous emission and an emission induced by the radiation field (search for Einstein coefficients). Einstein wrote his paper in German, but there is also a translation into English. Milne (1928) extended Einstein’s idea by considering inelastic collision (collision of first kind) which plays an important role in the Franck-Hertz experiment and super-elastic collision (collision of second kind) the was introduced into the literature by Klein and Rosseland at the beginning of the 1920′s. According to the papers of Einstein and Milne, the source function in the Schuster-Schwarzschild equation can be replaced by Planck’s radiation law if local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) exists (see Chandrasekhar, 1960, Radiative Transfer). Base on Milne’s formula, one can show that the assumption of LTE is valid up to a height of about 60 km above the earth’s surface. Beyond this height, a source function for non-LTE is required. The is the case, for instance, if radiative cooling in the mesosphere is calculated.

Hansen et al. (2011), for instance, claimed that a planetary energy imbalance of 0.58 +/- 0.15 Wm^2 does exist at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). Hansen eventually expressed this energy imbalance by more than 400,000 atomic bombs of the Hiroshima type. However, Hansen et al. derived this value on the basis of an obsolete value for the solar constant of 1366-67 W/m^2. But we now that during the past six decades the value of the solar constant was 1360-61 W/m^2. Thus, if we use the correct solar constant, no energy imbalance at the TOA does exist (see: and the references therein).”

[2] Brooks, C.E.P. (1951). “Geological and Historical Aspects of Climatic Change.” In Compendium of Meteorology, edited by Thomas F. Malone, pp. 1004-18 (at 1016). Boston: American Meteorological Association

[3] Nahle, N., ‘Repeatability of Professor R W Wood’s 1909 Experiment on the Hypothesis of a Greenhouse Effect,’, (accessed online: September 16, 2013).

[4] Hansen, J.E., and S. Matsushima “The atmosphere and surface temperature of Venus: A dust insulation model”Astrophys. J. 150: 1139–1157 (1967) Bibcode1967ApJ…150.1139HDoi:10.1086/149410


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Comments (3)

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    John Damato


    Wow. That’s some serious science. My head hurts now, but I’m better educated.

  • Avatar



    Thanks Greg. As you point out, the authors provided only a hazy notion of the mechanism of CO2 warming, suggesting “absorption” as the key. But as we all know, CO2 is one of the best [b]emitters[/b] of IR, so whatever energy is absorbed is emitted faster by CO2 than regular air. It us thus a false and readily disproved hypothesis that only those untrained in Chemistry or thermo would have developed into a ‘theory.’

  • Avatar

    Greg House


    John, the “Carbon Dioxide and Climate: A Scientific Assessment” from 1979 is actually a warmist paper.

    They did not use terms like “greenhouse effect” and “back radiation”, right, but they stated that increasing CO2 concentration would cause warming: [i]”When it is assumed that the CO 2 content of the atmosphere is doubled and statistical thermal equilibrium is achieved, the more realistic of the modeling efforts predict a global surface warming of between 2°C and 3.5°C, with greater increases at high latitudes.”[/i]

    They refer mostly to “absorption” by CO2 [i](“The primary effect of an increase of CO 2 is to cause more absorption of
    thermal radiation from the earth’s surface and thus to increase the air
    temperature in the troposphere”)[/i], but also mention radiation: [i]”…downward radiation from the base of the clouds raises the temperature of the earth’s surface and troposphere”[/i]. The latter was later “developed” to “back radiation from greenhouse gases”, I guess.

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