Why the Greenhouse Gas Theory Flunks the Albedo Test

Written by John O'Sullivan

Those of us who ‘deny’ the validity of the radiative greenhouse effect (GHE) theory are asked to provide our own alternative explanation of how the earth’s climate system operates.

Well, the answer is simple: the sun and earth’s water cycle are the key. But you have to measure their impact at the ‘real’ surface of earth (top of the atmosphere) not at ground level. Why? Because that is the only location you can genuinely measure the impact of albedo (cloud cover cooling).

When our book, ‘Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory’ was published in 2009 as the world’s first full-volume debunk of the GHE, the extraordinary scientific discovery of Henrik Svensmark was not widely known. Svensmark  theorized cosmic rays on cloud formation as an important climate factor. [1,2,3]

But even in 2009, some prominent believers in the GHE, such as leading ‘lukewarmer’ and MIT climate professor, Richard Lindzen suspected cloud albedo, not carbon dioxide, via the iris hypothesis was a better explanation of earth’s changing climate system.

Finally, in 2011 Svensmark’s theory (see diagram below) was validated empirically after testing at CERN.

The sun, the clouds and the climate | The k2p blog

Meanwhile, as for Lindzen’s ideas, Wikipedia notes:

“The iris hypothesis is a hypothesis proposed by Richard Lindzen et al. in 2001 that suggested increased sea surface temperature in the tropics would result in reduced cirrus clouds and thus more infrared radiation leakage from Earth’s atmosphere. His study of observed changes in cloud coverage and modeled effects on infrared radiation released to space as a result supported the hypothesis… In 2017 a paper was published which found that “tropical anvil cirrus clouds exert a negative climate feedback in strong association with precipitation efficiency”[4]. If confirmed then that finding would be highly supportive of the existence of an “Iris Effect”.”

Both of these advances in understanding how cloud changes impact climate weaken rather than help the discredited greenhouse gas theory promoted by doomsayers promoting man-made global warming alarm.

Changes in cloud cover (albedo) due to cosmic impact is thus proven to be a determinant of our planet’s surface temperature; an important variant which the radiation-obsessed GHE totally ignores. The effect is beyond human control.

The return of the iris effect? « RealClimate

Such empirical evidence and advances in the scientific understanding, are further validating our argument that Earth’s internal climate system is not solely explained by radiation but rather by the heat flows and phase changes in gases (cloud formation by convection and conduction) as per the laws of thermodynamics.

Radiation (via CO2) is demonstrably a minor player (contrary to GHE theory claims). It appears applied science rather than academic speculation now leads the way in solving the climate puzzle.

A reliance on applied science, especially chemical process control systems engineering to model Earth’s atmosphere better quantifies the effect of water and CO2 on Earth’s surface temperature showing they together work as a COOLANT.

As renowned expert in chemical engineering, Pierre R Latour PhD (formerly of NASA and Dupont) shows:

“I discovered in 2012 introducing radiating gases like H2O and CO2 to the atmosphere actually cools the Earth slightly…CO2 affects surface temperature by at least four mechanisms, one positive and three negative. CO2 decreases Earth’s global radiating temperature to space slightly. When atmosphere parameters increase by 1% due to CO2, surface temperature changes – 0.762C and atmosphere changes – 0.392C.” [5]

The Albedo Problem in Climate Theory

While claiming that CO2 is innocent, the ‘Slayers’ have never denied all molecules radiate every which way including downwards, but that effect is proportional to their temperature and emissivity. We have long pointed out that one of the great errors of GHE theory is the failure to properly calculate albedo (the impact of clouds).

Astrophysicist and independent climate researcher, Joseph E Postma showed that:

“Generally, the inference of an atmospheric GHE is made by comparing the Earth’s near-surface-air average temperature to its global effective blackbody radiative temperature calculated from the absorbed energy from the Sun – there is a difference of 33K.”

But a blackbody has zero albedo yet earth’s albedo due to clouds is significant. As Postma notes:

“There exists a simple contextual flaw in this inference because the average terrestrial albedo is much higher than the true surface albedo due to the presence of clouds in the atmosphere, resulting in a terrestrial albedo of approximately 0.3, while the true surface albedo is actually much less at only 0.04…. It should be noted that the much higher albedo, with GHG’s present, is caused by the presence of clouds from droplet-condensation of the GHG water vapour. This reduces the amount of sunlight absorbed by the system and thereby must reduce the temperature, in spite of the warming effect of the GHE from water vapour’s own presence.” [6].

What promoters of the GHE fail to account for is that since the bulk portion of the terrestrial albedo is caused by cloud-tops, at altitude, we still cannot directly infer that the resulting 255K terrestrial temperature with clouds present should be found at the physical ground surface, whether or not there is a GHE, because the radiative surface with albedo equal to 0.3 does not reside with the ground surface.

In short, the ‘theory’ is looking in the wrong place to measure temperature!

Martin Hertzberg PhD deduced that:

“Since most of the albedo is caused by cloud cover, it is impossible for Earth to radiate out into Space with unit emissivity if 37% of that radiation is reflected back to Earth, or absorbed by the bottom of those same clouds. Even for those portions of Earth that are not covered with clouds, the assumption that the ocean surface, land surfaces, or ice and snow cover would all have blackbody emissivities of unity, is unreasonable. This unrealistic  set of assumptions – leading to sub-zero average temperatures for Earth – is shown in Fig.1; and it is referred to there as the “Cold Earth Fallacy”.” [7]

Keep in mind that the water vapour concentration at the surface of the Earth varies between 1% and 4% by volume [8]

The GHE theory relies heavily on simplification and averaging of data to determine a ‘flat earth’ non-time dependent system, which of course, is unrealistic. The use of over-simplified averages is the root of the failure of the theory.  A gross error being the crass use of the ground surface to represent the real surface of the planet (it isn’t). The actual ‘surface’ is the very top of the atmosphere where total cloud albedo can be properly accounted.

The surface of the net terrestrial albedo, which is used to calculate the equilibrium, is found at altitude, on the cloudtops, and not at the physical ground/sea surface.

The admission of such is implicit in Lindzen’s “iris theory” and in Svensmark’s cosmic ray theory.

As Postma explained:

“The net terrestrial albedo of 0.3, which value originates largely by the presence of cloud-tops, is thus actually found at cloud-top heights which range up to 20 km in altitude.” [9]

Postma performs detailed calculations in his paper that expose the glaring flaws in this GHE oversight on albedo. He concludes:

“…with increasing global surface temperature and increasing CO2 concentration (not necessarily causally-related a priori), no increase in the temperature scale height of the atmosphere has actually been observed [10], thus putting into question the GHE postulate itself, and the source of the warming. Why increasing CO2 concentration hasn’t led to an increase in the temperature scale height of the atmosphere thus requires explanation, which may possibly be found in Miskolczi’s “Saturated Greenhouse Theory” [11] which has an excellent summary here [12].

Thus, if the ideas of Lindzen and Svensmark are to be believed, we cannot disagree with the ‘Slayers’ that the top of the troposphere, where the concentration of water vapour is essentially negligible as compared to its surface value, is the better start point for formulating a realistic theory of earth’s climate. Not at ground level where the GHE has mired climate research for 30 years.

[1]  Calder, Nigel (October 10, 2006). “Cosmic rays before seven, clouds by eleven”New Scientist. Retrieved 2012-07-14.

[2] Gray, Richard (February 11, 2007). “Cosmic rays blamed for global warming”The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2012-07-14.

[3] Svensmark, Henrik (2007). “Cosmoclimatology: a new theory emerges”. Astronomy & Geophysics48 (1): 1.18–1.24. Bibcode:2007A&G….48a..18Sdoi:10.1111/j.1468-4004.2007.48118.x.

[4] Choi, Yong-Sang; Kim, WonMoo; Yeh, Sang-Wook; Masunaga, Hirohiko; Kwon, Min-Jae; Jo, Hyun-Su; Huang, Lei (2017). “Revisiting the iris effect of tropical cirrus clouds with TRMM and A-Train satellite data”. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres122 (11): 2016JD025827. Bibcode:2017JGRD..122.5917Cdoi:10.1002/2016JD025827ISSN 2169-8996.

[5] Latour, P., R., Radiation Physics Laws Give The Effect Of CO2 On Earth’s Temperatures – A Primer (February 25, 2017) https://principia-scientific.org/radiation-physics-laws-give-effect-co2-earths-temperatures-primer/

[6] Postma., J., E., ‘A Discussion on the Absence of a Measurable Greenhouse Effect’; 1.1. The problem, and truth, of the albedo https://principia-scientific.org/publications/Absence_Measureable_Greenhouse_Effect.pdf

[7] Hertzberg, M., Earth’s Radiative Equilibrium in the Solar Irradiance. Energy & Environment,

  1. 20(1).

[8] Wikipedia. Atmosphere of Earth. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth.

[9] Moroney, C., R. Davies, and J.P. Muller, Operational Retrieval of Cloud-Top Heights Using MISR Data. IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 2002. 40(7).

[10] 2005; US Climate Change Science Program Report]. Available from: http://sciencespeak.com/MissingSignature.pdf

[11] Miskolczi, F.M., Greenhouse Effect in Semi-Transparent Planetary Atmospheres. Quarterly Journal of

the Hungarian Meteorological Service, 2007. 111(1): p. 1-40.

[12] Science, F.o.; Available from:


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Comments (4)

  • Avatar

    Nick Schroeder


    There are three basic arguments in the great climate change/global warming debate.

    What it does.

    Bickering over the alleged global warming symptoms allegedly caused by mankind’s evil carbon dioxide, i.e. melting ice caps and glaciers, rising sea levels, extreme weather and a plethora of other apocalyptic hallucinations. Refuting these speculative, baseless, fact-free fears with actual observed data proving natural variations fails since these delusions are nothing more than articles of faith, voices in heads and monsters under beds.

    How it works.

    Unsettled quasi-scientific bickering over details about the mechanism behind the undeniable Radiative GreenHouse Effect, i.e. 1. the atmosphere warms the earth, 2. warming produced by an upwelling/downwelling/”back” perpetual and divinely balanced GHG LWIR energy loop, 3. which is powered by an ideal S-B BB LWIR energy upwelling from the surface. Entire RGHE theory is nothing but thermodynamic rubbish!!!

    Does it even exist.

    Whether the greenhouse effect is even real. By reflecting 30% of the incoming solar radiation the atmosphere actually cools the earth much like that reflective panel behind a car’s windshield. Without an atmosphere the earth would receive 25% to 40% more kJ/h and get warmer becoming much like the barren lunar surface, blazing hot lit side, deep cold dark side, a total refutation of RGHE theory which claims just the opposite.

    No greenhouse effect, no greenhouse gases, no man caused climate change or global warming.

    Nick Schroeder, BSME CU ’78, CO PE 22774

    • Avatar

      Al Shelton


      Thanks Nick… I will include your comment when I pass John’s article on to friends.

  • Avatar

    Joseph Olson


    Wiki/Water_absorption_spectrum > water vapor absorbs in +37,000 spectral lines, every absorption is followed in a billionth of a second by an emission of a longer wavelength, lower energy photon, effectively filtering out incoming radiation

  • Avatar

    jerry krause


    Hi John,

    It might seem I should be happy that people have begun to consider a relationship between clouds and climate. But you wrote: “Well, the answer is simple: the sun and earth’s water cycle are the key. But you have to measure their impact at the ‘real’ surface of earth (top of the atmosphere) not at ground level. Why? Because that is the only location you can genuinely measure the impact of albedo (cloud cover cooling).”

    I have read that the major factors of climate are temperature, precipitation, and wind. Plus the seasonal variation of these factors. These three major climatic factors are routinely observed (measured) at or below the altitude of 10 meters. And the magnitudes of these factor seems to be clearly related to the solar radiation that actually reaches the earth surface and is absorbed there.

    But I specifically focus on Svensmark’s theory about the relationship between sun spots and clouds and aura phenomenon.

    “During sunspot maximums, the Earth will see an increase in the Northern and Southern Lights” and “One interesting aspect of solar cycles is that the sun went through a period of near zero sunspot activity from about 1645 to 1715. This period of sunspot minima is called the Maunder Minimum. The “Little Ice Age” occurred over parts of Earth during the Maunder Minimum.” https://www.weather.gov/fsd/sunspots

    For, I cannot remember reading how this aura phenomenon might significantly influence the circulation of the polar atmosphere. So I do not know if anyone has considered how it might influence the circulation of the polar atmosphere and even the atmosphere’s circulation at lower latitudes.

    Have a good day, Jerry

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