The New Three-sided Climate Debate: A User Guide

Written by PSI Staff

The furore over man-made global warming is no two-sided debate. Instead, three factions: ‘Alarmists’, ‘Lukewarmists’ and ‘Slayers’ battle it out. Below is a simple user guide.

For over a quarter of a century the dispute was over how much the trace gas, carbon dioxide (CO2) impacts earth’s climate. Many believed it was ‘settled science’ and in the atmosphere CO2 ‘traps’ heat or delays cooling of the surface. The only issue up for debate was ‘how much?’…. until recently.

But since publication of a controversial and ground-breaking book ‘Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory’ (2010) a third body of scientists has emerged.  What has this new third group added to the debate?

Academic Theorists Versus Industrial Applied Scientists

Well, the newbies (called ‘Slayers’ after their book) claim to have fresh evidence that carbon dioxide (CO2) can do NOTHING to alter the control knob of earth’s climate. Their approach focuses on how CO2 is alleged to operate as part of the radiative greenhouse gas effect (RGHE), the widely-accepted theory taught in universities worldwide. Unlike others in the debate, they claim that the known properties of CO2, discerned over many tens of decades by industrial scientists, discredits the idea this trace gas can influence warming, plus the RGHE is not detected in nature. They also say more CO2, not less, is better for the planet.

The science is inherently complicated, so let’s start by dividing the three debating factions simply as follows:

(1) GOVERNMENT ACADEMICS: First, we have the largest and most established group (representing the ‘consensus’) and euphemistically termed by the others, ‘Alarmists.’ Since their emergence in the 1980’s this group argues the ‘greenhouse gas’ radiative theory shows CO2 traps heat and the more humans emit the more dangerous global warming will result. To avert a climate catastrophe, they advocate higher taxation on energy use to force cut backs on human CO2 emissions. This group is dominated by government-funded (mostly socialist) academics who claim to represent the majority view (they certainly hold sway over the peer-reviewed journals). They have long insisted the debate is ‘settled,’ though tens of thousands of independent scientists disagree.

(2)  CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: We then have what most people recognise as skeptics; a group now more widely known as ‘Lukewarmists.’ They don’t disagree that the trace gas CO2 must be causing ‘some’ warming, but they think it is so small it isn’t worth worrying about. This group fully back the greenhouse gas theory and claim warming is logarithmic (i.e. determined on a sliding scale of positive water vapor feedback -see this post from WUWT and reader comments and see the confusion).  They only dispute whether CO2 is dangerously impacting climate, because their logarithmic scale shows only diminishing and benign ‘lukewarming’. The Alarmists dismiss the ‘Lukewarmists’ as politically right-wing and funded by the oil industry.

(3) INDUSTRIAL & APPLIED SCIENTISTS: Lastly, we have the emergent ‘Slayers’ (as per their book) whose work is backed by a small UK charity, Principia Scientific International (PSI). They say the radiative greenhouse gas effect (RGHE) is junk science because CO2 has only ever been proven to cool things (note: for a century CO2 has been an important refrigerant gas in industry).  Most ‘Slayers’ are experts from the ‘hard’ and applied sciences and manufacturing. They say the real-world evidence is on their side and that the empirical data proves CO2 only cools because it is industrially proven to be a super-efficient emitter of heat – thus it cannot ‘trap’ heat energy or delay cooling. Their ace card is their expertise as ‘hands on’ industrial scientists trained in making gases perform useful tasks within safe limits. They say the academics who promote the RGHE theory have been misled by undue dependence on faulty computer models.

Unlike the other groups, the ‘Slayers’ and Principia Scientific International claim to be non-political without government or corporate financial backers.

This emergent group argue both the other two groups are possessed by Confirmation Bias and also lack sufficient training in thermodynamics to recognise RGHE is based on fudged numbers.

Alarmists and Lukewarmists Say Cold Things Making Warm Things Even Hotter!

Get an Alarmist and a Lukewarmist together and they will agree on a monumental anti-science concept: that a cooler atmosphere will add and/or trap heat at the earth’s surface.

But, say the ‘Slayers’, that is contrary to the laws of thermodynamics. Proper application of those laws defeats the RGHE because:

Heat flows from hot to cold; cold does not cause hot to become hotter; hot in warming cold does not become hotter still because it warmed the cold

If you believe in the RGHE then you believe that the power of the sun to warm the earth is far less than the power of gases in the atmosphere to warm our planet. In fact, the RGHE theory insists that from thin air CO2 works to heat the surface with a whopping:

……….two-hundred-and-seven percent (207%) more energy than the Sun!

This junk science is set out in the official diagrams relied on by both Alarmists and Lukewarmists, as shown below:

As readers can see from the above, RGHE theory needs you to believe that the  sun provides a mere 161 W/m^2 of energy to the Earth surface, while Earth’s atmosphere…wait for it… adds a massive 333 W/m^2 of energy to the surface. Doesn’t that smell fishy – even to non-scientists?

Being mostly applied scientists and engineers the ‘Slayers’ are adept at weeding out such crass flaws in clever-sounding theories by referring to what actually happens in nature. They pinpoint other key errors, including those in the original 1920’s mathematical equations in the standard model of the RGHE performed by the British mathematican, Lewis Fry Richardson, pictured below (‘The man who invented weather forecasting’).

Richardson’s genius was never doubted and questions about his (flawed) numbers have long been overlooked and forgotten. Yet Richardson’s errors are still key to the ‘standard model’ (shown above) relied on by governments and universities worldwide.

PSI strongly endorses the ‘Slayers’ assertion that the atmospheric greenhouse mechanism is a conjecture that can be proved or disproved by concrete engineering thermodynamics.

Exactly this was done many years ago by an expert in this field, namely Alfred Schack, who wrote a classical textbook on the subject. In 1972 Schack showed that the radiative component of heat transfer by CO2, though relevant in combustion chamber temperatures, can be neglected at atmospheric temperatures. CO2’s influence on the Earth’s climate is definitively immeasurable.

Three Paradoxes in the Consensus Climate Theory

For readers averse to crunching the numbers and wading through complex equations, the ‘Slayers’ simplify their scientific analyses by pointing to the basics shown in three paradoxes:

Paradox One: (the blatant fraud) Despite thousands of years of proxy data (e.g. from ice cores) proving all past rises in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels FOLLOW not cause increases in global temperatures, alarmist scientists have falsely reported the opposite;

Paradox Two: (an irrational love affair with models) Despite hard empirical evidence that solar energy first heats earth’s surface before rising up to warm the air, alarmists have turned this fact full circle to program their models to suggest it is the cooler air that somehow heats earth’s warmer surface even more;

Paradox Three: (the mathematical errors inc. L R Richardson’s etc.) The direct heat of the sun, which can only impact half of our three-dimensional planet at any time, has been crudely modeled as constant; a ‘flat earth’ heat source with one-quarter of the intensity averaged out over the entire planet (the ‘P4 number’)

Generally, ‘Lukewarmists’ and ‘Slayers’ argue most over Paradox Three, with general agreement elsewhere.

Despite where they disagree, ‘Lukewarmists’ and ‘Slayers’ alike argue government climate scientists rely too heavily on computer models and have too long resisted ‘going back to basics.’  But the ‘Slayers’ are dismayed that the other groups stubbornly maintain trust in mathematical models rather than empirical data.  They argue that their refutation of the RGHE has been misunderstood and misrepresented, even when they cite authorities from climate science and meteorology.

When Skeptics Are Not Skeptical

Key figures among the ‘Lukewarmers’ insist they are truly skeptics but their actions contradict such claims. PSI’s Joseph A Postma has set out why these skeptics have failed here. For example, prominent ‘Lukewarmers’ WUWT’s Anthony Watts and Dr Roy Spencer have invested so much skin in defending the RGHE theory that critics say to give up their position now will make them look foolish, even hypocritical. Dr Spencer, has sought to defend the RGHE by attacking PSI:

Spencer and others claim that RGHE is proven by using hand-held infrared thermometers, which they say, senses down-welling IR radiation from the RGHE.  But this is refuted:

Anthony Watts owns and runs the very popular and influential climate discussion site, WUWT.  Watts uses ‘anti-science’ tactics and possesses no university science degree. For years he has banned the ‘Slayers’ from the site and attacked and ridiculed them, serving as a de facto gatekeeper of ‘sensible discussion’ across blog sites. Recently, two scientists working independently of PSI, Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller, were likewise attacked for publishing a paper validating ‘Slayer’ science.

By contrast, PSI scientists warmly welcome any and all new findings that may progress wider scientific knowledge. Joseph Postma even posted an excerpt of the new Nikolov and Zeller paper on his blog for discussion:

More Credentialed Scientists Disown Greenhouse Gas Theory

Despite the attempts of the Alarmists and Lukewarmists to preserve in stone the outmoded idea of a CO2 control knob on our climate, science moves forward seeking better explanations. Only last month the Journal of Earth Science & Climate Change became the latest reputable organisation to publish yet another study ‘slaying’ the faltering greenhouse gas theory. Author Dr. Thomas Allmendinger, a physicist (chemistry, quantum mechanics), used real-world experiments to document a glaring lack of empirical support for the position that CO2 is a dominant agent of atmospheric warming.

Dr Allmendinger confirmed that the greenhouse effect idea exhibits “no empirical data or physical calculations and experimental data.”

In fact, in recent months no less than 17 new scientific papers have been published by journals denouncing the ‘greenhouse effect’ as the primary explanation for climate change.

How many more serious scientists need to be aligned with the ‘Slayers’ and Principia Scientific International before the greenhouse gas ‘theory’ is recognised as junk?

Useful Links for Further Reading

Written by practising scientists and engineers with careers more in industry than academia, PSI/Slayers publications generally point to real world evidence and the standardized measurements refined over decades in industry of how gases really perform when cooled/heated. This is the applied science antidote to the monotonous and unscientific phraseology of RGHE believers about “backradiation,” “heat trapping” or “heat flow restriction” due to CO2.

This helps non-science readers better understand how clever-sounding concepts are used to fool the unsuspecting:

In fact, chemical engineers working in industry using CO2 gas for commercial and practical purposes have identified four known ways in which this unique gas is proven to cool the environment:

Moreover, when applied scientists in manufacturing have tried to commercially exploit the supposedly superior ‘heat trapping’ properties of CO2, claimed for it by ‘theorists’, they have failed spectacularly, thus proving the RGHE concept is bogus:

While the Alarmists and Lukewarmists may cite various mathematical proofs of the greenhouse gas theory these groups cannot cite any experiments performed in the open atmosphere to back their claims. Instead, they will resort to reliance on a well-known ‘closed system’ lab test that is readily discredited as unscientific:

Conversely, PSI/Slayers cite the open atmosphere experiments performed by Professor Nasif Nahle (Monterrey, Mexico):

An explanation of the ‘standard model’ RGHE is described here:

Canadian astrophysicist, Joseph Postma has characterised the standard model RGHE as ‘flat earth physics’ and summarises the inherent errors here:

Scientists who support the RGHE have challenged PSI to submit an alternative model of earth’s atmosphere.  Joseph Postma has formulated this in his paper:

Comments (6)

  • Avatar

    Joseph Olson


    Fake Lindzen-North debate > “No Loophole for Your Soul” > CanadaFreePress, Jan 2010

    Fake Curry-Mann debate > “Non Science Nonsense” > CanadaFreePress, Apr 2010

    Fake Spencer Luke science > “Rocket Scientists Need Not Apply” > CFP, July 2010 > AGW & Thermodynamics > AGW, green energy, peak oil myths

  • Avatar

    Marty Hertzberg


    This reminds me of a commentary I read many years ago by a Dutch author whose name I have forgotten. He notes that during the Spanish Inquisition, three schools of thought prevailed. There were the fundamentalists who argued that all heretics should be burned at the stake. Then there were moderates who argued that only a few should be burned. And then there were the radicals who maintained that they should burn none at all.

  • Avatar

    Robert Kernodle


    I started in group one.

    I evolved to group two.

    Now I am in group three.


  • Avatar

    Nicholas Schroeder, BSME, PE


    The genesis of RGHE theory is the incorrect notion that the atmosphere warms the surface (and that is NOT the ground). Explaining the mechanism behind this erroneous notion demands some truly contorted physics, thermo and heat transfer, i.e. energy out of nowhere, cold to hot w/o work, perpetual motion.

    Is space cold or hot? There are no molecules in space so our common definitions of hot/cold/heat/energy don’t apply.

    The temperatures of objects in space, e.g. the Earth, Moon, space station, Mars, Venus, etc. are determined by the radiation flowing past them. In the case of the Earth, the solar irradiance of 1,368 W/m^2 has a Stefan Boltzmann black body equilibrium temperature of 394 K, 121 C, 250 F. That’s hot. Sort of.

    But an object’s albedo reflects away some of that energy and reduces that temperature.

    The Earth’s albedo reflects away about 30% of the Sun’s 1,368 W/m^2 energy leaving 70% or 958 W/m^2 to “warm” the surface (1.5 m above ground) and at an S-B BB equilibrium temperature of 361 K, 33 C cooler (394-361) than the earth with no atmosphere or albedo.

    The Earth’s albedo/atmosphere doesn’t keep the Earth warm, it keeps the Earth cool.

    • Avatar

      Robert Kernodle


      The Earth’s atmosphere keeps the Earth both warm and cool, by REGULATING the temperature. “Cool” during the day, and “warm” during the night.

      We judge the relative meanings of these terms, “warm” and “cool” by how our bodies feel. Physics just happens to cooperate with these feelings on this particular planet.

      During the day, it just so happens that the atmosphere keeps the sun-side of the planet fairly “cool” in many locations, but a “cool” that is slightly “cooler” at night, which is a lot “warmer” at night for our bodies than if no atmosphere were there.

      The huge thermal capacity of the mass of all Earth air would take a long time to get down to the really “cold” temperature of space on the dark side of Earth, and so this “warm-at-night” temperature, which is our body’s “cool-at-night” temperature is enabled by the slow pace of heat loss of a massive atmosphere, which looses heat just fast enough so that by the time it has rotated back to the sunny side, the “warm-at-night” “cool” has gotten even “warmer” for out bodies, but really is “cool” compared to the now really “hot” Earth sunny side of outer space without the atmosphere.

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