Closed Minds


The 140 character restriction on Twitter is inimical to serious intellectual debate, but too many people – and especially climate alarmists – seem to regard it as a licence for restricting themselves to abuse and sarcasm, while avoiding substantive issues.

Someone called Michael Merrifield, sailing under the pseudonym @ProfMike_M, seems rather good at it.  He derides any hint of climate scepticism, but has little to say about the actual issues.  He accuses me of failing to understand physics, and of an inability to think. This was one of his milder offerings: “Come on Roger, you can do it: show you know at least a little physics and can think at least marginally”.  In fact I got an excellent result at Physics “A” Level, and subsequently a Cambridge Maths degree.

Of course it’s tough to respond in 140 characters, so I resort to the blog, with some thoughts for Professor Mike.

First of all, is he aware that satellite data show no warming trend in the last eighteen years?  That may not prove anything by itself – but it critically undermines the credibility of all those climate models on which alarmists rely, since they all predicted rising temperatures.  Is he aware that virtually all the climate models on which alarmism depends predict a “tropical hot spot” in the atmosphere between five and ten km high – but that observations show that no such hot spot exists?  And does he understand that science fundamentally depends on the ability to falsify predictions?

Is he aware of the cyclical pattern of climate over at least the last ten thousand years (and very probably longer) with an approximately 1000 year periodicity, which gave us (inter alia) the Minoan Optimum, the Roman Optimum, the Mediæval Warm Period – and now, apparently, a new 21st-century optimum?

Has he paused to wonder why these warm periods are called “Optima”?  Perhaps because human societies generally prosper in warmer periods, and do better than they do in cooler periods?  Does he realise that the slight warming in the last century (around 0.7oC) is entirely consistent with that cyclical pattern?  And that therefore it requires no special or anthropogenic explanation?

Does he know that anthropogenic CO2 contributes only about 3% to the global carbon cycle?  Is he aware that there is very much more CO2 in the oceans than in the atmosphere – but that the oceans’ ability to retain dissolved CO2depends critically on water temperature?  So the increase in atmospheric CO2 over the last century may well be caused by cyclical temperature-driven out-gassing from the oceans as much (or more) than by human activity?  Does he know that over geo-historical time, atmospheric CO2 levels have been up to ten times – or more – higher than today – and that those periods of very high atmospheric CO2 were not associated with warming – indeed on some occasions coincided with ice ages? That no “tipping point” was ever reached, and that no “runaway global warming” ever took place?

Indeed is he aware that even at 400 ppm (the current level, more or less), the atmosphere is impoverished in CO2compared to the geo-historical perspective? And that levels much lower would compromise plant growth, bio-mass formation and crop yields?

Does he know that the admitted greenhouse effect of atmospheric CO2 is governed by a negative logarithmic equation – or in simple terms, a law of diminishing returns? That the relationship is not linear?  That the effect of a given ppm increase in CO2 gets less and less as the absolute level increases?  And that we are so far up the curve that it takes a very great deal of CO2 to have much effect?

Does he follow the debate on the climate sensitivity to CO2?  Is he aware that the IPCC assumes a sensitivity figure of 3oC plus per doubling of CO2, while many prominent scientists argue for a much lower figure?  And that recent climate trends tend to lend support to a lower figure?

Does he follow the debate about positive and negative feedbacks?  And the question whether the aggregate of all feedback mechanisms is positive or negative?  Does he know that the climate system is complex and chaotic (in the mathematical rather than the vernacular sense), and that any attempt to define a simplistic linear relationship between mean temperatures and some other single variable is doomed to failure, and frankly farcical?

Has he followed the correlation between sunspot activity and climate, first identified by astronomer Edmond Halley in the Eighteenth century?  And the effect of the Dalton and Maunder Minima in the Little Ice Age?  And does he still maintain that atmospheric CO2 is the only significant driver of climate?  Is he aware of the view of some astronomers that the current low levels of solar activity could presage a period of global cooling?

In short, does it ever occur to him that the “consensus” on global warming in 2015 could be about as spurious as the “consensus” on global cooling in 1975?  One of the cardinal errors in both science and (oddly enough – I have observed it myself) in business is to assume that a recent trend will continue in a linear way, causing disaster.  But in astronomy and in climate (and in business) a cyclical model is often a better guide to the future than a straight line.

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15 Responses to Closed Minds

  1. Michael Merrifield says:

    Sadly, you seem to have got the wrong end of the stick, Roger. My question to you, “Come on Roger, you can do it: show you know at least a little physics and can think at least marginally,” was apropos of a very specific, really rather simple question. Namely, why do NASA’s measurement of rising ocean levels give systematically different answers when they calculate the effect using a gravitational probe as compared to the direct measurement of ocean height? In fact, here’s where I ask it and show the data in question:

    If you would care to address that straightforward question, I’d be happy to engage with you on the altogether more complex misunderstandings that you lay out in this blog post.

  2. Maureen Gannon says:

    Roger I am not on twitter etc so can I go off topic and ask you a question , on LBC this morning James talkoveryou O’Brian was discussing HS2 , I sent a mail as I have done to others it is never mentioned, can you answer please , Why is the fact that HS2 is on orders from our Brussels master and we will be fined if it is not built? Why is never revealed to the public is it on a D notice the fact that it starts in Frankfurt and is modeled on Hitlers Autobauhns for easy access to any country

  3. Brin Jenkins says:

    Interesting question! Fined if it is not built, why is it so important when there seems so little demand for it here?

    • Maureen Gannon says:

      Directive 96/48/EC check it out for yourself Brin, UKIP said they would use it in the Election campaign it was never reported , thats another big FAT WHY.

      • Actually I haven’t dug into this myself, but time and time again, I have suggested, on John Redwood’s blog (I thought he was meant to be Eurosceptic?) that DG MOVE was behind the HS2. Each time I was moderated off.
        Why can’t they just be honest? If they are not, then honest people – Jelly Corbyn, Nigel Farage, Nicola Sturgeon, Alec Salmond – will soon be the people that dominate politics. As is already happening.

  4. davidbuckingham says:

    Reverting to your excellent compilation of global warming argument, you could add the fascinating study “The Chilling Stars” by Henrik Svensmark and Nigel Calder (2007, Icon Books), which focusses on the effect of the sun’s activity and cosmic rays. The more active the sun the fewer cosmic rays which play an important part in cloud formation. They also discuss the many series of cycles of differing lengths interacting in complex ways over millions of years.

  5. Christopher Browne says:

    a pillock like prof Mike would only understand, in a very few characters, foxtrot oscar.

  6. davidbuckingham says:

    ps I may have said this here before but I like a global consensus analogy with Eugenics which seemed to hold 99% of western intellectuals, movers and shakers mesmerised for pretty much the first half half of the 20th century, until it was given a bad name by Hitler. (The collectivist/racial theories go back to Romanticism, Hegel’s Statism and Kant’s Unknowable Noumenal Reality. Arguably the same thread which has led to ProfMike’s non-evidence-based pseudo-science). Let’s hope we don’t have to wait for another Hitler before this is debunked.

    • I’m familiar with the work, and with Svensmark’s publications, but there’s only so much you can get in one post!

    • Eugenics is a good example — as is the Millennium Bug. And remember that the Flat Earth was once the paradigm, while the Round Earthers were the heretics!

      • I loved your – yes – rhetoric. Well written.
        On LBC yesterday “Climate Change Deniers” were roasted by some man in specs whose name I currently forget. Everyone who “denies” Climate Change is simply hiding their head in the sand. Nearly every single scientist in the world knows that Global Warming is happening and that it is caused by “our emissions”, especially the Chinese. But “every little helps” and “we must set an example to the world”. We are all doooooomed!
        He did actually have the honesty to read out one e mail:
        “Are we still at one minute to midnight?”
        That was the tone of the programme – very poor standard actually, but that is what we have to fight before all the lights go out.
        Yesterday I went to look at our solar farm in the fens. (Honestly). I pointed out to the dog handling security guard, while distant HiViz officers were discussing the Project, that the sun doesn’t shine here much in winter, especially at night. He just gave me a pitying look.

  7. Derek says:

    I am very disappointed that Professor Merrifield has not felt able to reply. I assume, Roger, that you sent him an invitation via Twitter. Perhaps he doesn’t do posts of over 140 characters! Or he simply has no answer to your excellent summary of the actual situation.

  8. Brin Jenkins says:

    What is this problem over sea levels? Surely tectonic plate movement affect coastal land levels, some falling and others rising. The satellite measurements seem to be rather esoteric, and unless one is involved in that field of experimantal science one is unlikely to know much about it. Instead of deriding others in their lack of expertise it might be better to explain what, how, and why it works. Until then I would have little faith and ask does it matter anyway?

    I’m more concerned by how CO2 supposedly causes temperature to rise? We understand the bulk of this gas is disolved in the oceans, and warming water releases soluble CO2. Heat is the cause of release. How in the next breath can we say the cause and effect are reversed, CO2 now causes the heat that releases more CO2? If that illogical fact were true the climatic system should have destroyed itself millions of years ago with runway positive feedback.

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