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Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water – Pierre Latour’s Rebuttal

Written by Dr Pierre Latour PE

On April 25, 2014 prominent skeptic climate scientist, Dr Roy Spencer published his defense of the so-called greenhouse gas effect (GHE) titled, ‘Skeptical Arguments that Don’t Hold Water.’ It came in the form of a 10-point veiled attack against the organization that represents critics of such junk climate science. Below we publish Dr Pierre Latour’s rebuttal to Spencer’s arguments.Latour v Spencer

Not referring to Principia Scientific International (PSI) by name Roy asserted we had been the cause of  “the proliferation of bad arguments” the he found “almost dizzying.” Roy then set out his “Top 10 list” of key points raised by PSI that he then attempts to attack. But Roy omits posting a detailed version of the ‘theory’ he defends so we may critique it. This is a crucial issue, as readers need bear in mind there are over 63 competing official versions of the GHE. Indeed there are ‘Almost as Many Greenhouse Gas Theories as Clueless Climate Scientists.’ So much for “settled science.”

In rebuttal to Roy’s Top Ten PSI’s Chairman, Dr Pierre Latour replies below in a thorough point-by-point fashion. These very same points were posted by Pierre on Roy’s blog more than two days ago without reply. Will Roy now run shy of open debate?

Dear Dr Roy Spencer,

You are defending a version of the GHGT with assertions and claims attempting to refute common claims by skeptics. Need evidence, inference and warrants that they are relevant.

Could you kindly provide the version of GHGT you are defending, with mathematical expressions of the laws of radiant heat transfer you use to compute the effect of [CO2] on T? Are they steady-state algebraic equations or dynamic differential equations? Ordinary or partial? What physical parameters do you assume? Can you solve them for T(CO2) analytically, or numerically? What is the result? How did you verify them, their accuracy and prediction power? Why does UN IPCC continue to use statistically regressed empirical correlations of historic data correlations which can never prove causality without a scientific foundation, rather than yours?

  1. There is no greenhouse effect. Like two years ago, you again offer the fact down-welling IR measured by pyrometer (IR thermometer) from cold CO2 in sky at 300 w/m2 as proof heat transfers at that rate from cold CO2 to warmer surface, is absorbed by surface, heating it and causing it to radiate more intensely. It proves no such thing.  I explained you are confusing S-B irradiance or intensity of radiating matter with radiating heat transfer between two radiating matter bodies, driven by an intensity difference. Just because they share the same units, w/m2, does not mean they are the same phenomena. So your argument doesn’t hold water, or GHGT. Since there is no greenhouse in the sky, how can there be a greenhouse effect?
  2. The greenhouse effect violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. I accept your version of radiant heat transfer in one direction at a rate proportional to difference in intensities (emissivity * T**4). I can see if cold atmosphere warms for some reason, that increases resistance to radiant heat transfer up and would cause hot body to warm as well in order to transfer at the same rate. But you are left with explaining how CO2 heats the atmosphere in the first place, and since CO2 does indeed absorb/scatter (block) incoming solar in the overlapping spectrum tails, solar radiant transfer absorbed by and emitted by surface is reduced. That reduces surface temperature needed to transfer at reduced rate to CO2. So we have a net heating – cooling situation. All you need to do is quantify them both. I agree this would not violate 2nd Law. But the common version of GHGT with two way radiant heat transfer in K-T diagram is the version I proved does violate the 2nd Law. You need to decide whether radiant heat transfers from cold to hot, a violation, or not. You cannot have it both ways.
  3. CO2 can’t cause warming because CO2 emits IR as fast as it absorbs. Please write the energy conservation law for a CO2 molecule you describe, with clear definitions and correct parameters. At steady-state, when dT/dt = 0, I assure you the rate of absorption equal rate of emission, no matter what the body is. What is the relevance to validity of GHGT anyway? Once you accept CO2 cools upper atmosphere and warms the lower, you are in the business of defining what you mean by global warming and average temperature. The net depends on how you average, an arbitrary procedure. See #9.
  4. CO2 cools, not warms the atmosphere. Your statement does not refute the premise and confirm GHGT. My parting shot below confirms the premise.
  5. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere has no effect because the CO2 absorption bands are already 100% opaque. Quantify your claim with physics and reference. I join you as a huge critic of climate models used to predict global warming. But I do not understand your version of GHGT. When you see S-B intensities like NASA AIRS CO2 retrievals how do you determine whether it is caused by changes in T or emissivity? So what is the actual effect of adding CO2?
  6. Lower atmospheric warmth is due to the lapse rate/adiabatic compression. Convert your words to mathematics to quantify what you are talking about and why it supports your version of GHGT.
  7. Warming causes CO2 to rise, not the other way around. Your assertion fossil fuel combustion adds CO2 to atmosphere is correct. This is irrelevant to GHGT. It does not refute the premise statement, which is also correct, easily explained by solubility of CO2 in water (ocean) decreases with water T, high school chemistry for Champagne drinkers. The lag is known to be about 800 years. http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm
  8. The IPCC models are for a flat Earth. Please provide the 3D global climate model with Coriolis force you refer to. Is your remark about “thinking people” meant for a thinking person like me?
  9. There is no such thing as a global average temperature. Your analysis does not refute the premise statement. Temperature is a point property of matter, indicating the kinetic energy of its particles. There is no standard way to average point temperatures over dissimilar compositions, phases of state, pressures, heat capacities, mass or molar densities or ionization to get a value of average T with any physical meaning. I worry about averaging different types of measurements: thermometers, tree rings, ice cores, radiation intensities. Once you compute the average temperature of your car (engine, cooling system, AC, exhaust, interior and body surface) show me how you did it and what it means. I can then do it my way and get a different, equally meaningless value. Just because a bathtub of uniform water has a uniform temperature, which can be taken as an average for heat transfer calculations does not refute the premise. When you allowed me to argue over method (spacial, mass weighted) you confirmed the premise. I agree point measurements may be averaged over time, giving trends at the measurement point. With a host of point measurements trending together, it is reasonable to conclude the bulk of matter between them is trending the same way. Just be careful with your English. I agree with your last sentence.
  10. The Earth isn’t a black body. Actually James Hansen and many other GHGT promoters do assume Earth radiates to space as a black body, emissivity = 1.0. You claim the Earth is close to a black body because (surface or global?) emissivity is 0.95, close to 1.0. Wiki Standard Climate Model says it is 0.612. While pure water may be close to 0.98, you should correct it for the large absorption of radian energy by phytoplankton. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoplankton. Land flora reduce land emissivity greatly, far from 1.0. Further the issue is how much does replacing non-radiating O2 with radiating CO2 increase global emissivity to space? Any radiator with increased emissivity transfers energy to space at same rate with lower T. So you did not refute the premise.
    1.       T0 = 100(239/5.67*0.612)0.25 = 288.08 (14.93C, a generally accepted value)
    2.       There you have it all, in five sentences. What is all the fuss about? When I was in kindergarten, Henny Penny & Chicken Little said “The sky is falling!” They neglected to say how fast or when.
    3.       In 1981 James Hansen, NASA, assumed Earth was a black body, e = 1.0, and deduced Earth’s radiating temperature to be Tbb0 = 100(239/5.67*1.0)0.25 = 254.80 (-18.35C). Since it is about +15C, he declared the Greenhouse Gas Effect to be T0 – Tbb0 = 288.08 – 254.80 = 33C. Everybody was horrified, Hansen got famous, Al Gore got rich and the rest is history.

Parting Shot: Earth’s temperature is unmeasurable, but…….

  1. Satellite spectrometers measure Earth’s average radiating intensity day-night, pole-to-pole, summer-winter to be about I = solar constant*albedo/4 = 1366*0.7/4 = 239 w/m2 of its surface. I varies with solar input and flora photosynthesis rate. The latter increases with solar, T and [CO2], reducing T and [CO2]. Cool.
  2. Stefan-Boltzmann Radiation Law gives temperature of any radiating body with emissivity e < 1 as T = 100(I/5.67e)0.25.
  3. Earth’s global emissivity is difficult to measure or determine, but Standard Global Climate Model uses e = 0.612. It increases with content of radiating gases like H2O and CO2. (It goes down with T.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Climate_Model
  4. Since e is in the denominator, if e increases, T decreases. Doubling CO2 from 400 to 800 ppmv increases e by about 0.001 to 0.613.

T1 = 100(239/5.67*0.613)0.25 = 287.96 (14.81C)

T1 – T0 = -0.1156C. Cooling. Decreasing I drops T1 more, increasing e further.

UN IPCC says 1.5 < T1 – T0 < 4.5. Wrong.

You did not refute any of the premises. I think I rebutted all of your claims except #5, 6 & 8. You did not propose and verify any GHGT. I don’t think your 10 analyses hold much water. I am wondering just what you do believe and why.

You clearly do not approve of skepticism, the hallmark of scientific endeavors. You are prone to insert snide, denigrating remarks against those with whom you disagree. Name calling is rather unbecoming professional behavior from such an eminent scientist, weakening your debating skills.

I hope you find this helpful and welcome any corrections of fact.

Pierre R Latour, PhD Chemical Engineer, GHGT Skeptic

Posted #1528, 26Apr14


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Comments (3)

  • Avatar



    Congratulations Dr Latour,
    I think that it is worthwhile rebutting Luke warmer arguments.

    There is one skeptic argument that I think does not hold water and that is that reflected radiation would lead to runaway warming if the GHGE theory were valid.

    I did try to open a forum discussion on that a few weeks back, but my entry got lost in the posting. I might try again.

  • Avatar

    Greg House


    Pierre, it is not a good idea to try refuting all the crap Spencer&Co produce. They are irrelevant.

    The IPCC is relevant, however, and luckily for us they presented their “greenhouse effect” in their 2nd and 4th report in a very clear manner. It is easy to demonstrate that their “greenhouse effect” is physically impossible, however not for this reason, as you put it: [i]”Since there is no greenhouse in the sky, how can there be a greenhouse effect?”[/i]

    You need to refine your argumentation.

  • Avatar

    Pat Obar


    It proves no such thing. I explained you are confusing S-B irradiance or intensity of radiating matter with radiating heat transfer between two radiating matter bodies, driven by an intensity difference. Just because they share the same units, w/m2, does not mean they are the same phenomena. So your argument doesn’t hold water, or GHGT. Since there is no greenhouse in the sky, how can there be a greenhouse effect?

    Dr. Latour, I agree with your vernacular expression of what is physical! It lacks expression of what is, and what can be! You are correct in your “driven by an intensity difference.”
    Please understand that your claim is correct, but has nothing to do with the careful, Maxwell equations description of “what is” in electromagnetic radiative, energy transfer, using quaternion arithmetic of Maxwell and Hamilton, or the vectors in Euclidean geometry, so well translated by Maxwell’s student, John Poynting. I await your reply!

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