Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water –Joe Postma’s Rebuttal
Written by Joseph E Postma
Roy Spencer’s post on “Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water” is all about defending the basis of alarm. Every single one of his points is in defence of the basis of alarm, and it might have been copied directly from an alarmist source such as Gavin Schmidt or Michael Mann.
Let’s go through his sophistry:
1. THERE IS NO GREENHOUSE EFFECT. Despite the fact that downwelling IR from the sky can be measured, and amounts to a level (~300 W/m2) that can be scarcely be ignored; the neglect of which would totally screw up weather forecast model runs if it was not included; and would lead to VERY cold nights if it didn’t exist; and can be easily measured directly with a handheld IR thermometer pointed at the sky (because an IR thermometer measures the IR-induced temperature change of the surface of a thermopile, QED)… Please stop the “no greenhouse effect” stuff. It’s making us skeptics look bad. I’ve blogged on this numerous times….
Roy, a colder source of heat does not heat up a warmer source of heat. And the surface atmosphere stays warm overnight because of its large thermal mass and that of the ground. It is basic physics…things do not cool down instantaneously. And it is a simple calculation to perform. Empirical data demonstrates that the radiation from the colder atmosphere does not warm up the warmer surface, and the reason it is this way is because of the laws of thermodynamics – cold does not heat up hot. An IR thermometer operates on the principles of a differential – if the target is cooler then the voltage differential on the thermopile is negative and the response curve is calibrated to report a corresponding temperature. Cold does not heat up hot. It doesn’t matter if you blog about it – cold doesn’t flow heat to hot.
2. THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT VIOLATES THE 2ND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS. The second law can be stated in several ways, but one way is that the net flow of energy must be from higher temperature to lower temperature. This is not violated by the greenhouse effect. The apparent violation of the 2nd Law seems to be traced to the fact that all bodies emit IR radiation…including cooler bodies toward warmer bodies. But the NET flow of thermal radiation is still from the warmer body to the cooler body. Even if you don’t believe there is 2-way flow, and only 1-way flow…the rate of flow depends upon the temperature of both bodies, and changing the cooler body’s temperature will change the cooling rate (and thus the temperature) of the warmer body. So, yes, a cooler body can make a warm body even warmer still…as evidenced by putting your clothes on.
This is classic sophistry. A “two-way flow” of energy results in a one-way flow of heat only, with heat flowing only one way, from hot to cold. The cold does not heat up the hot while the hot is heating up the cold. It is only heat flow from hot to cold, with the balance of the energy flow, the differential between the hot and cold temperatures, determining the intensity or rate of heat flow, which determines how quickly the cold object changes temperature. When the cooler object warms up, this does not require the warmer object to warm up also. The cool and warm object come to equilibrium and energy then flows through the cold object to its other extremities. Putting your clothes on traps air between the skin and clothes, and this air then gets heated up by your skin, which then makes youfeel warmer. The clothes are not responsible for creating heat, or adding heat energy or temperature to you. Your oven doesn’t get hotter because the turkey gets cooked.
3. CO2 CANT CAUSE WARMING BECAUSE CO2 EMITS IR AS FAST AS IT ABSORBS. No. When a CO2 molecule absorbs an IR photon, the mean free path within the atmosphere is so short that the molecule gives up its energy to surrounding molecules before it can (on average) emit an IR photon in its temporarily excited state.  Also important is the fact that the rate at which a CO2 molecule absorbs IR is mostly independent of temperature, but the rate at which it emits IR increases strongly with temperature. There is no requirement that a layer of air emits as much IR as it absorbs…in fact, in general, the the rates of IR emission and absorption are pretty far from equal.
CO2 can’t cause warming because it isn’t a source of heat. Only sources of heat can cause cooler objects to warm up.
4. CO2 COOLS, NOT WARMS, THE ATMOSPHERE. This one is a little more subtle because the net effect of greenhouse gases is to cool the upper atmosphere, and warm the lower atmosphere, compared to if no greenhouse gases were present. Since any IR absorber is also an IR emitter, a CO2 molecule can both cool and warm, because it both absorbs and emits IR photons.
If CO2 emits radiant energy, as you claim, then this means that it has a high emissivity. 99% of the atmosphere, oxygen and nitrogen, has little to no emissivity. As temperature is inversely proportional to emissivity for a given required radiant flux, then oxygen and nitrogen are warmer than CO2. The atmosphere stays warm overnight because oxygen and nitrogen can’t shed their heat. CO2 can lose heat.
5. ADDING CO2 TO THE ATMOSPHERE HAS NO EFFECT BECAUSE THE CO2 ABSORPTION BANDS ARE ALREADY 100% OPAQUE.First, no they are not, and that’s because of pressure broadening. Second, even if the atmosphere was 100% opaque, it doesn’t matter. 
There is indeed an effect. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere supplies plants with their fundamental natural organic fertilizer. In real greenhouses we put the CO2 level to aboutfour times what it is in the outside air, because this is what plants like best, and lets them grow the best and produce the most food. More CO2 in the atmosphere is a boon for life. As far as spectral absorption, this only occurs when you have a cold gas in front of a warmer source. This proves that CO2 can’t be heating up the surface.
6. LOWER ATMOSPHERIC WARMTH IS DUE TO THE LAPSE RATE/ADIABATIC COMPRESSION. No, the lapse rate describes how the temperature of a parcel of air changes from adiabatic compression/expansion of air as it sinks/rises. So, it can explain how the temperature changes during convective overturning, but not what the absolute temperature is. Explaining absolute air temperature is an energy budget question. You cannot write a physics-based equation to obtain the average temperature at any altitude without using the energy budget. If adiabatic compression explains temperature, why is the atmospheric temperature at 100 mb is nearly the same as the temperature at 1 mb, despite 100x as much atmospheric pressure? 
The lapse rate formula demonstrates precisely that the bottom of the atmosphere must be warmer than the top. It does not take a logical genius to thus understand that the average numeric temperature will be found neither at the bottom nor at the top, but in the middle of the atmosphere. Thus, the bottom of the atmosphere must be warmer than the numeric average of the atmosphere, and it is only the average which corresponds with the average energy balances. The lapse rate does indeed directly specify that the lower atmosphere must be warmer than the average. It is basic mathematics. And Roy, that the temperature begins increasing again above the troposphere where non-ideal and plasma behaviour of the gas takes over is very well known, and has absolutely nothing to do with the adiabatic processes in the lower “ideal gas” atmosphere and those equations. You’re starting to sound like Gavin Schmidt…just like him in fact.
7. WARMING CAUSES CO2 TO RISE, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND The rate of rise in atmospheric CO2 is currently 2 ppm/yr, a rate which is 100 times as fast as any time in the 300,000 year Vostok ice core record. And we know our consumption of fossil fuels is emitting CO2 200 times as fast! So, where is the 100x as fast rise in today’s temperature causing this CO2 rise? C’mon people, think. But not to worry…CO2 is the elixir of life…let’s embrace more of it!
In all past geologic records, it was indeed warming that preceded, and thus likely caused, the subsequent increase in CO2. Strange that you would talk around this fact and avoid it…being a “skeptic” and all.
8. THE IPCC MODELS ARE FOR A FLAT EARTH I have no explanation where this little tidbit of misinformation comes from. Climate models address a spherical, rotating, Earth with a day-night (diurnal) cycle in solar illumination and atmospheric Coriolis force (due to both Earth curvature and rotation). Yes, you can do a global average of energy flows and show them in a flat-earth cartoon, like the Kiehl-Trenberth energy budget diagram which is a useful learning tool, but I hope most thinking people can distinguish between a handful of global-average average numbers in a conceptual diagram, and a full-blown 3D global climate model.
The greenhouse models are produced with a flat Earth, and thus they are devoid of any actual physics that speaks to anything about reality. These flat-Earth models are the only way the greenhouse effect meme can be created. The Kiehl-Trenberth energy budget is not a useful tool, it has nothing to do with reality whatsoever…because it is based on a flat Earth. A flat-Earth cartoon, which is where the greenhouse effect meme comes from, has nothing to do with reality, because the Earth isn’t flat. Do you really not understand the difference? It is a fundamental mathematical, physical, geometric, energy flux, difference.
9. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE Really?! Is there an average temperature of your bathtub full of water? Or of a room in your house? Now, we might argue over how to do the averaging (Spatial? Mass-weighted?), but you can compute an average, and you can monitor it over time, and see if it changes. The exercise is only futile if your sampling isn’t good enough to realistically monitor changes over time. Just because we don’t know the average surface temperature of the Earth to better than, say 1 deg. C, doesn’t mean we can’t monitor changes in the average over time. We have never known exactly how many people are in the U.S., but we have useful estimates of how the number has increased in the last 50-100 years. Why is “temperature” so important? Because the thermal IR emission in response to temperature is what stabilizes the climate system….the hotter things get, the more energy is lost to outer space.
A bathtub full of water generally has an isotropic temperature (the same throughout), and so yes, it does have a sensible average temperature. Same with a room. This is nothing like the Earth or any other object which has variations in temperature all over it. Temperature is an intrinsic quality of matter that corresponds only with the specific place of measurement. The numeric value of an average can be used to track changes, but it doesn’t correspond with any actual physics that might be occurring in any specific area. The Earth can only emit more energy to outer space if it is receiving more energy from the Sun.
10. THE EARTH ISN’T A BLACK BODY. Well, duh. No one said it was. In the broadband IR, though, it’s close to a blackbody, with an average emissivity of around 0.95. But whether a climate model uses 0.95 or 1.0 for surface emissivity isn’t going to change the conclusions we make about the sensitivity of the climate system to increasing carbon dioxide.
The only atmospheric sensitivity to carbon dioxide that matters in regards to temperature is how CO2 might change the emissivity. This is a high school equation. No evidence has ever been produced that shows that the Earth’s climate is sensitive to carbon dioxide, other than it improves plant growth. The only thing CO2 could do is increase the atmosphere’s sensitivity and thus help the atmosphere cool, since the atmosphere’s emissivity is already non-existent due to oxygen and nitrogen which make up 99% of the atmosphere.
The above is an edited version of Postma’s article. To read the full version visit: climateofsophistry.com