Below is the second open letter from Lord Monckton (first is published here) in reply to John O’Sullivan’s first and second open letter challenges to him in dispute of the so-called greenhouse gas ‘theory.’
A statement on behalf of Lord Monckton
3 May 2013
One John O’Sullivan has spent several weeks attempting to overcome his shock at the number of elementary errors of fact that he had made in replying to Lord Monckton’s response to an open letter from him asserting, with characteristic scientific illiteracy, that there is no greenhouse effect. The reply that O’Sullivan has now cobbled together intellectually dishonest, and characteristically so.
O’Sullivan says Lord Monckton had been “appealing to the authority” of various scientists he had listed. On the contrary, His Lordship had done no more than to demonstrate the characteristic factual inaccuracy of the statement in O’Sullivan’s original open letter to His Lordship that “not until 1981, when NASA’s James Hansen angled for the political stage, were scientists seriously considering CO2’s impact on climate.”
As O’Sullivan now accepts, that assertion was indeed factually inaccurate. Many scientists before Hansen had seriously considered the impact of CO2, of whom Lord Monckton had simply listed just a few. Here is what His Lordship actually wrote (O’Sullivan’s reply, with characteristic dishonesty, omits the first sentence of what Lord Monckton wrote so as to imply that His Lordship was appealing to the authority of the listed scientists rather than merely correcting O’Sullivan’s factual error):
“He [O’Sullivan] says that if I checked my history I should discover that it was not until 1981 that scientists were seriously considering CO2’s impact on climate. However, Joseph Fourier had posited the greenhouse effect some 200 years previously; Tyndale [or, rather, Tyndall] had measured the greenhouse effect of various gases at the Royal Institution in London in 1859; Arrhenius had predicted in 1896 that a doubling of CO2 concentration would cause 4-8 K warming, and had revised this estimate to 1.6 K in 1906; Callender had sounded a strong note of alarm in 1938; and numerous scientists, including Manabe & Wetherald (1976) [actually 1975] had attempted to determine climate sensitivity before Hansen’s 1981 paper.”
In no legitimate sense could His Lordship possibly be described as having perpetrated the fallacy of appeal to authority in that passage. His Lordship was merely correcting a serious factual error remarkable in one who presents himself as some sort of scientific authority and operates a mumbo-jumbo website under the mumbo-jumbo name of “Principia” “Scientifica”.
With characteristic loutish ill manners, O’Sullivan writes:
“What he [Lord Monckton] is counting on, of course, is that you and I have not read what these scientists and their contemporaries actually said. Perhaps he himself is not aware of what these scientists and their contemporaries actually said or he wouldn’t have appealed to their authority.”
Here, O’Sullivan characteristically but unwisely assumes that, since he is himself bottomlessly ignorant, others are as ignorant as he. As will be seen, that is not so.
O’Sullivan goes on to perpetrate a series of elementary errors, which Lord Monckton will now address seriatim.
Manabe & Wetherald
O’Sullivan writes: “At any rate, let us look at his [Lordship’s] more modern day reference, Manabe & Wetherald (1976). In fact this paper was published in 1967, not 1976, and the authors actually conceded:
“If one discusses the effect of carbon dioxide upon the climate of the Earth’s surface based upon these results, one could conclude that the greater the amount of carbon dioxide, the colder would be the temperature of the earth’s surface.”
Here O’Sullivan, with characteristic mendacity, takes a quotation deliberately out of context. Manabe & Wetherald (1967) had in fact developed their own climate model, based on a previous model by Rodgers & Walshaw (1966). The Rodgers-Walshaw model had found a warming of 1.95 K per CO2 doubling. Manabe & Wetherald (1967) found 2.36 K (of warming, not of cooling) per CO2 doubling.
Manabe & Wetherald (1975, not, as His Lordship had erroneously stated, 1976: even Homer nods) wrote:
“It is shown that the CO2 increase raises the temperature of the model troposphere, whereas it lowers that of the model stratosphere. The tropospheric warming is somewhat larger than that expected from a radiative-convective equilibrium model.” They revised their model to take into account changes in snow albedo, and concluded that a CO2 doubling would warm the Earth by 2.93 K.
Next, O’Sullivan cites a translation by one Casey, a geologist, of a paper by Joseph Fourier in 1827. He says Casey has demonstrated that Fourier’s paper did not refer to what we now call the greenhouse effect. However, using Casey’s own translation, it is evident that Fourier was aware of the distinction – crucial to the determination of climate sensitivity, and yet much undervalued in today’s computer models – between radiative and non-radiative transports.
Fourier talks of “the strata of the air” losing only “the mobility peculiar to them”. These are the non-radiative transports, such as convection and evaporation. He says:
“This mass of air, [if it were] thus [to] become static [or, as Casey has it, “solid”], on being exposed to the rays of the sun, would produce an effect the same in kind with that [which] we have just described. The heat, coming in the state of light [i.e. visible radiation] to the Earth’s surface [Casey has “the solid Earth”], would lose all at once, and almost entirely, its power of passing through transparent solids: it would accumulate in the lower strata of the atmosphere, which would thus acquire very high temperatures [in other words, the cooling effects of evaporation and convection would be absent].”
Here, Fourier is talking of the displacement of incoming radiation to the near-infrared when the radiation strikes an emitting surface such as the Earth, by what eventually became known – and quantified – as Wien’s displacement law. By that law, incoming radiation, whatever its wavelength, is displaced upon encountering an emitting surface, such as that of the Earth, and is emitted at a peak wavelength determined solely by the temperature of the emitting surface.
The simplest expression of Wien’s displacement law is that the peak wavelength of the radiation emitted from the Earth’s surface, in microns, is simply 2897 divided by the temperature of the surface in Kelvin (i.e., 288 K). Thus, 2897/288 is a little over 10 microns, sufficiently close to the principal absorption wavelength of CO2 at 14.99 microns to ensure some interaction, and hence quantum resonance in the CO2 molecule, and hence the switching-on of the molecule like a radiator so that it emits heat directly.
Fourier continues – and this is the crucial passage in which what we now know as the greenhouse effect is posited:
“The mobility of the air, which is rapidly displaced in every direction [upward by evaporation and convection, sideways by advection, downward by precipitation and subsidence] and which rises when heated [convection], and the radiation of non-luminous heat [châleur obscure: i.e. infrared radiation] into the air, diminish the intensity of the [warming] effects which would take place in a transparent and static atmosphere [evaporation and convection cool the surface, for instance], but do not entirely change their character.
“The decrease of the heat in the higher regions of the air [the upper atmosphere] does not cease, and the temperature can be augmented by the interposition of the atmosphere, because heat in the state of light [i.e. visible radiation] finds less resistance in penetrating the air than in repassing into the air when converted [on striking the Earth’s surface, by Wien’s displacement law] into non-luminous heat [châleur obscure: i.e. infrared radiation].”
Any honest reader of this passage will recognize that Fourier is indeed here positing the greenhouse effect.
Nor is O’Sullivan correct in attempting to assert that Fourier is saying that “the ‘greenhouse effect’ couldonly exist if the air stopped moving”. For Fourier explicitly states the opposite: that, even in the presence of the non-radiative transports that give the air its “mobility”, the “character” of the warming “effects” that would arise in the absence of those transports would “not entirely change”.
O’Sullivan then quotes John Tyndall, and, in doing so, establishes not that Tyndale had not observed that Tyndall had measured the greenhouse effect exerted by CO2, but that he had:
“Carbonic acid gas is one of the feeblest of absorbers of the radiant heat emitted by solid sources.”
O’Sullivan went on to quote Tyndall as saying that carbonic acid gas is “extremely transparent to the rays emitted by the heated copper plate”. However, that does not demonstrate that there is no greenhouse effect. On its face, it demonstrates that there is a greenhouse effect. Tyndall may have found it small because the greenhouse effect is wavelength-dependent, and the particular copper plate may have been emitting little infra-red radiation at wavelengths chiefly in or adjacent to the principal absorption bands of CO2.
O’Sullivan on to say that, though Tyndall was not able to test water vapour in his apparatus, he had speculated that water vapour acted like a “warm garment”. In this Tyndall was again supporting the notion – which he had observed with carbonic acid gas but could not observe owing to the propensity of water vapour to condense in his apparatus – that there is a greenhouse effect, this time from water vapour, which, by its sheer quantity, is the most significant greenhouse gas, accounting for between two-thirds and nine-tenths of the greenhouse effect in the lower troposphere, though for considerably less in the upper.
O’Sullivan attempts to say that Tyndall’s remarks about the “warm blanket” that we now know of as the greenhouse effect were confined to water vapour alone. Yet the above passages demonstrate that Tyndall had also detected some effect from carbonic acid gas, albeit a weak effect, possibly because his heat sources did not produce enough infra-red radiation in the principal absorption bands of CO2. Amateurs such as O’Sullivan are prone to overlook the wavelength dependence of the interactions between infrared radiation and greenhouse-gas molecules.
Next, O’Sullivan makes a garbled and characteristically intellectually dishonest attempt to suggest that Svante Arrhenius’ finding that a doubling of CO2 concentration would raise atmospheric temperatures was contingent upon “the proposition that there were no active feedback mechanisms operating in the atmosphere that would counter this warming.”
In fact, Arrhenius had simply stipulated that he was considering the zero-feedback or instantaneous case. As we should now put it, the forcing from additional CO2 in the atmosphere (3.71 Watts per square meter) is multiplied by the instantaneous or Planck sensitivity parameter (0.31 Kelvin per Watt per square meter), which contains no provision for feedbacks, to obtain the zero-feedback response to a CO2 doubling, which is 1.16 K.
The forcing is 5.35 times the natural logarithm of the proportionate change in concentration (in the present instance, 2 for a doubling), though the coefficient, which has already been reduced from 6.4 in earlier papers, may still be on the high side. The Planck parameter may be calculated by taking 30 years’ latitudinal temperature data and repeatedly applying spherical trigonometry and the Stefan-Boltzmann relation latitude by latitude, integrating the results over the whole Earth. If anything, the official value may be on the low side.
Here is what Arrhenius actually concluded in his paper of 1906:
“In ähnlicher Weise berechne ich, dass eine Verminderung des Kohlensäuregehalts zur Hälfte oder eine Zunahme desselben auf den doppelten Betrag Temperaturänderungen von –1.5 ºC beziehungsweise +1.6 ºC entsprechen würde.”
In short, a doubling of CO2 causes warming. Arrhenius went on to discuss the impact of water vapor, which, however, he saw as a positive feedback, amplifying the direct warming from CO2, and not as a negative feedback, attenuating it.
O’Sullivan should realize how long is the tradition that stands against him, and how great the labors of those who have attempted to quantify the greenhouse effect. It is the determination of climate sensitivity, not the fact of the greenhouse effect, that is the true subject of the scientific debate.
O’Sullivan also mentions in passing a century-old experiment by Wood, which, however, was not conducted under the rigorous conditions of today. In particular, the straightforward containment within the box capped (if Lord Monckton remembers correctly) with sodium chloride glass would cause heat to accumulate at a rate far greater than would arise from near-infrared interactions with very small quantum of CO2 that would be present in so small a space.
O’Sullivan merely confirms what Lord Monckton had said in his original letter: Callender had sounded a warning about CO2. Lord Monckton did not assert that Callender had demonstrated its effect.
Unanswered points from Lord Monckton’s original letter of reply
O’Sullivan is silent upon Lord Monckton’s direct refutation of his inaccurate assertions that His Lordship had “styled” himself “‘science adviser’ to Margaret Thatcher; that Lord Monckton had written a speech for her in 1988 when he had left her service in 1986 and the speech is known to have been written by another; that CO2 does not warm the atmosphere at all; that the ‘hot spot’ in the mid-troposphere is a symptom of greenhouse-gas-driven warming only; that remarks in fact made by Al Gore were made by His Lordship; that blackbodies such as the Earth cannot simultaneously possess albedo; that the effect of CO2 is masked by that of water vapor at all altitudes; etc., etc.
His Lordship is entitled to assume that, on all these points, O’Sullivan is now better informed, if not necessarily wiser.
In sum, O’Sullivan’s reply to Lord Monckton was characteristically, belligerently wrong on every material point; he was unable to reply to the great majority of Lord Monckton’s previous points; and his entire letter was predicated on the characteristically intellectually dishonest misstatement of the context in which Lord Monckton had listed some of the scientists who had studied or discussed the impact of CO2 before Hansen (1981), and on the deliberate and dishonest suppression of the vital sentence in Lord Monckton’s reply that established the innocent context of Lord Monckton’s remarks.
‘Unanswered Points’ Answered below:
By John O’Sullivan
(a swift reply to Monckton’s strawman point immediately above – a more detailed rebuttal on the science is being drafted by PSI senior scientists)
Above, Lord Monckton labours the strawman inference that I claimed he was directly involved in Thatcher’s 1988 speech to the RS. I stated no such thing. But I did infer he helped guide Thatcher towards that end by my statement that “you helped your boss, Prime Minister Thatcher spin the CO2 alarm. “
This is proven by Monckton’s own admission he was in Downing St. promoting the “CO2 causes warming” claim until 1986 as he admits “For four years I advised the Prime Minister on various policy matters, including science. “
If anyone is in any doubt that his lordship sought to trumpet his influence about climate issues in Downing St. check his cited interview with the Guardian that he told, ““it was I who – on the prime minister’s behalf – kept a weather eye on the official science advisers to the government, from the chief scientific adviser downward.”
The Guardian story I cited in my first open letter reveals, “Viscount Monckton also modestly notes that he was responsible for bringing in “the first computer they had ever seen in Downing Street”, on which he “did the first elementary radiative-transfer calculations that indicated climate scientists were right to say some ‘global warming’ would arise as CO2 concentration continued to climb”. “
Splitting hairs, m’lord?
As with Al Gore’s claim to have “invented the Internet” we see his lordship similarly modest about his achievements shaming others who have sought to cast doubt on his great scientific insight and genius. Indeed the Guardian continues:
“On page 640 of her 1993 autobiography Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years, the former prime minister describes how she grappled with the issue of climate change, referring only to “George Guise, who advised me on science in the policy unit”. Indeed, given Monckton’s purportedly crucial role, it seems to be heartless ingratitude from the Iron Lady that she does not find room to mention him anywhere in the 914-page volume on her years as prime minister. “
But, your lordship, if you wish to assert you were the voice of reason at Thatcher’s side for those years while others around her were sounding climate alarm please provide evidence (e.g. any publication by you) prior to, or around 1988, where you make it plain you are skeptical and Thatcher was wrong to sound the alarm in her 1988 speech.
If you fail to provide such proof we are thus fairly entitled to infer, as per your other Downing St. claims, that they should be taken with a grain of salt.
So, which is, Chris – luminary or liar?