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Monday, 23 November 2009

I used to be a climate change agnostic

.. but now I feel myself drawn ever closer to the sceptical camp. And it is not because of the arguments of the sceptics, but in large part due to the emails of the global warming proponents. Sorry we are supposed to call it climate change.

For the benefit of those who have not heard my thoughts on this before, I am not a physicist, but I suppose I could have been, having won an award to Cambridge at a very young age to read Engineering, but I suppose it could just as easily have been physics. I just didn't fancy the beards and sandals that go with physics. So I think I have a good feel for classical physics, including thermodynamics.

Now it has always struck me as a bit strange that the climate could reach a tipping point where heat would accumulate trapped in the earth and its atmosphere. Thermodynamically, the earth is like a very leaky bucket, except instead of being filled with water, the earth is being blasted with radiation from a fusion reaction 93 million miles away, and the temperature of the earth has risen to a point where the rate of dissipation of energy through black-body radiation is in balance with the incoming. Putting more CO2 in the atmosphere is like plugging a hole in the bucket, but the bucket still leaks through all the other holes and it doesn't fill with water.

More obviously, there was never any real explanation of tipping points, and the very nature of physics suggests that they are very difficult to achieve. Take for example the melting of North Sea Polar ice, which the CC activists say would lead to massive warming as more light was absorbed. As I have said before, this seemed implausible because we know there is very little sunlight at the top and bottom of the planet because it comes in sideways rather than from overhead.

Think about it. That is why it is so cold, and a lot of any temperature they do have is due to the atmosphere, and in the case of the North Pole, the water below the ice (which explains why the North Pole is warmer than the South Pole). Don't believe me? Look up the temperatures on the sunny and dark sides of the moon, which is the same distance from the sun and thus should be at the temperature that the earth would be without any atmosphere/oceans.

OK, but if CO2 does have some effect, how is the CO2 absorption effect dampened or amplified? Well I don't know, but if scientists want to explain why there will be a tipping point they should be able to tell us where all the energy goes and where it comes from. One of my pet theories is that with higher temperatures there would be more evaporation of water which has a cooling effect on the rest of the atmosphere at the point of evaporation, probably not that much in the whole scheme of things, but the clouds formed by the extra evaporation would increase the albedo of the earth, and with a much more dramatic effect than any polar icecap melting because (a) clouds are less dense than ice so a little water vapour creates a lot more white cover than the same mass of ice and (b) water evaporates and clouds form in places where the sun is strongest, thus reflecting more light. So I guessed this might be a way that the rate of heating of he atmosphere is dampened with negative feedbacks.

So imagine my surprise when I read the following email at the CRU. Yes, some of their scientists think the same way. And what is more they think this may explain the reduction of average temperatures in the last 10 years, only they haven't really looked into this (which might be unhelpful to their position), nor indeed have they really considered how all the heat flows around the atmosphere and the oceans, which I would have thought was a prerequisite for any modelling.

But most damning of all is the following email which sets out the CRU's defences against requests to support their assertions by publishing their data. If you have nothing top hide, then why try to hide behind non-disclosure agreements?

The politicians keep telling us the science is settled. It is now blindingly obvious that it isn't.


Graeme said...

Both your links to the emails point to the same one.

Alex said...

Fixed, thanks.

richard said...

climate change supporters and governments have completely failed to prove it to the world.

Steven_L said...

I confess to quitting physics after GCSE science, so I'm a bit lost on this one.

I do know that plotting to hide FOI Act stuff from people you don't like is a bit dodgy though.

I doubt I'd keep my job long if I started sending emails like that around the office.

The King of Wrong said...

They've responded to the "Mike's Nature Trick" furore - the graphs make very interesting viewing!