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A replacement burger has been constructed and was described in The Sunday Times. It was supposed to counter the greenhouse gases emitted by cattle. I sent a letter to the editor and it was surely edited to produce the cut down version following my version:

From Dr Jack Barrett, Poling, Arundel

The article in The Sunday Times Magazine (16th April 2017), “Can this burger save the world?” is based on the false assertion that ‘Meat is the biggest cause of greenhouse gasses.’ The BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016 contains data about the carbon that entered the atmosphere in 2015. Oil burning produced 3.64 gigatonnes of carbon (one gigatonne = 1000 million tonnes), gas burning produced 2.63 GtC, and coal burning produced 3.23 GtC. There was an additional 0.6 GtC from cement production and the total amounted to 10.1 GtC of which half remained in the atmosphere and caused the concentration of carbon dioxide, CO2, to increase by 2.3 ppmv (parts per million by volume). The other half was distributed in the ocean and in the biosphere, the latter increasing the greening of the planet.

            Fossil fuel carbon is part of a very long range cycle and was part of Earth’s atmosphere many millions of years ago and is not being replaced as quickly as we are using it.

Cattle (and human beings) are engaged in a much shorter range carbon cycle. Cattle eat grass, and grass grows by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Cattle themselves represent a storage of carbon which is not released to the atmosphere until their meat is used as food for us. Their breathing injects carbon into the atmosphere, but that carbon originates in their food and has previously been extracted from the atmosphere.

            However large the emissions of greenhouse gases from cattle are they represent the recycling of carbon and do not increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

            The replacement burgers are derived from wheat, potatoes, konjac, and coconut oil. The carbon in these products is derived from CO2 in the atmosphere and is returned to the atmosphere when the burgers are eaten. They might be more palatable to some people, but they do nothing to reduce the threat to global temperature that the burning of fossil fuels represents.

            Any reduction of the cattle population would possibly allow more re-forestation which would tend to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration, but there might be unintended consequences for milk production!


My letter was ‘edited’ to the published version

The article “Can this burger save the world?” (16th April 2017) quotes the assertion that ‘Meat is the biggest cause of greenhouse gasses.’  It is true that cattle inject carbon into the atmosphere, but that carbon originates in grass which grows by absorbing carbon from the air in the first place. On the other hand, fossil fuel carbon was part of Earth’s atmosphere many millions of years ago. Carbon from fossil fuels is therefore a more serious problem in terms of the greenhouse effect. That said, any reduction of the cattle population could allow more re-forestation which would tend to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration (though there might be unintended consequences for milk production!).


Prof. Happer's version of radiative transfer

Jack's comments

Prof. Happer has advised President Trump about climate change and is a climate-change denier, just what the President ordered! Ask and it shall be given.

As a Professor of Physics at Princeton it is surprising that he gives only half the story about the role of CO2 in determining the distribution of heat in the Earth's atmosphere and the Earth's surface.

He concentrates upon the collisional processes that cause the deactivation of vibrationally excited CO2 molecules. These are the ones that have been excited by absorbing a suitable photon given out by the Earth's surface or by a photon emitted by a component of the atmosphere.

It is true that the natural lifetime of an excited state is too long compared with the collision rate to account for much of the emission of such excited molecules. But Happer seems to have forgotten that the very high collision rate experienced by CO2 molecules contributes enormously to the population of its excited states. This highly dynamic process of activation/deactivation of CO2 molecules by collision sustains the intensity of emission of photons to be that expected by the Kirchhoff law and given by the Planck equation. Such emission by CO2 molecules in the atmosphere can be accurately computed by programmes such as HITRAN and the spectra generated are in good agreement with those observed experimentally.

The key to understanding the greenhouse effect of CO2 (or any other greenhouse gas) is to consider (i) the radiative balance between incoming solar radiation and the total radiation emitted by the Earth's atmosphere and surface to space, and (ii) the effect of increasing the concentration of CO2 upon the effective altitudes of its emissions to space.

(i)                 Over the long-time the Earth is in radiative balance with space; this means that the rate of energy entering the Earth system, atmosphere and surface, is balanced by its emission to space.

(ii)              The altitude of emission at any specific frequency from CO2 may be defined as that where there is a 51% chance of a photon emitted towards space escaping through the remainder of the atmosphere and thus contributing to the maintenance of the radiative balance. In the main bulk of the atmosphere the concentration of CO2 is too high to allow any of its emitted photons to escape to space.

Any increase in the concentration of CO2 will cause the emission altitudes of its various emission frequencies to increase. As the most important frequencies have emission altitudes in the troposphere where temperature decreases with increasing altitude any concentration increase causes the emission altitudes to move to lower temperatures. The consequence of such changes is to reduce the rate of emission to space to below that necessary to maintain radiative balance. So, the whole system, atmosphere and surface, warms up sufficiently to restore radiative balance and there has been some global warming and that results in climate change, the details of which are very difficult to predict. But global warming is happening and causing climate changes. 


From an interview of William Happer with Andrew Revkin, comments by JB

Q: Can you dig in on that a little bit? What is the shaky thing? Is it the science itself or the interpretations?

A. What's not only shaky but almost certainly wrong is the predicted warming. In 1988, you could look at the predictions of warming that we would have today and we're way below anything [NASA scientist Jim] Hansen predicted at that time. And the celebrated climate sensitivity, how much warming you get for doubling CO2 and waiting for things to settle down, the equilibrium sensitivity, is probably around 1 degree centigrade, it's not 3 1/2 or whatever the agreed-on number was. It may even be less. And the Earth has done the experiment with more CO2 many, many times in the past. In fact, most of the time it's been much more CO2 than now. You know, the geological record's completely clear on that. So, nothing bad happened, in fact the earth flourished with more CO2.

JB: This is shaky stuff. I agree that the models exaggerate the warming, but the warming from a doubling of CO2 since 1850 is on-going and likely to be around 1.8°C. At least, Happer admits that there is warming and that it will continue. He is not correct to claim that the Earth has done the CO2 experiment many times in the past. The current 'experiment' is where we humans are depleting the Earth's reserves of fossil fuels faster than ever and this is the prime cause of the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and is causing the observed warming. That 'experiment' has not been done before. In the past, the causes of warming have been the periodic changes in the Earth's orbit. Such warming has caused CO2 to be less soluble in the ocean and the extra CO2 in the atmosphere has caused secondary warming. When orbital changes produced cooling, the reverse process has occurred with CO2 dissolving in the cooler ocean. So, the geological record has not been very clear to Prof. Happer.

Q: So, you really do see global warming as a non-problem, not as something worth investing in?

A: Absolutely. Not only a non-problem. I see the CO2 as good, you know. Let me be clear. I don't think it's a problem at all, I think it's a good thing. It's just incredible when people keep talking about carbon pollution when you and I are sitting here breathing out, you know, 40,000 parts per million of CO2 with every exhalation. So, I mean it's shameful to do all of this propaganda on what's a beneficial natural part of the atmosphere that has never been stable but most of the time much higher than now.

JB: Happer verges on denial here. He considers the higher concentration of CO2 as a good thing. To a certain extent this is correct. Most vegetation grows more quickly with higher concentrations of the gas. But, many experiments have shown that there are limits to such growth enhancement. The two limits are the higher temperatures produced and the lower availability of trace elements essential for growth. Adaptation of vegetation to higher temperatures and lower concentrations of essential elements in the soil is limited and in the long term is not beneficial to growth.

Our breathing out CO2 at 40,000 ppm is not a problem. We are returning carbon to the atmosphere which has been removed from the atmosphere as our food was produced. The same applies to cattle that are wrongfully being blamed for doing the same thing! Cattle also emit methane, another greenhouse gas which is converted into CO2 in the atmosphere. Breathing is part of the short-term carbon cycle, the use of fossil fuels interferes with the long-term carbon cycle in which they are only being replaced very slowly.




Comments on two recent papers

Two recent papers have dealt with (i) the early 2000s temperature 'hiatus' and (ii) an attempt to base temperature prediction on a statistical analysis of temperature data.

Much has been made by deniers of climate change of the slowdown in global warming since the El Niño event of 1998. The HADCRUT4 data are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Hadcrut4 data for annual mean data between 1998 and 2015


After 1998 the global mean temperature decreased as the effect of the El Niño event diminished. If the data between 2001 and 2014 were to be selected it showed an almost zero trend which allowed deniers to claim that global warming had ceased and that the basic physics was wrong. They ignored the possibility that some factor was responsible for producing a cooling effect that countered the expected warming effect of increasing CO2 concentration. This factor was the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) that operates warming and cooling effects over a roughly 64 year period. The previous cooling period was from 1944 to 1976, after which its warming phase enhanced the warming due to the increasing CO2 concentration. It might be expected that the next cooling period of the IPO would begin some 32 years after 1976, i.e., 2008. The paper by Fyfe et al, Making sense of the early 20002 warming slowdown, Nature Climate Change, 6, 224, (2016) describes in detail the above reasoning. The 2015 El Niño event has offset the cooling effect of the IPO and the next few years will provide more evidence of the resultant effects of global warming and the IPO.

Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation has produced a paper by Terence C. Mills, Professor of Statistics at the University of Loughborough entitled 'Statistical Forecasting: How fast will future warming be?' He treats the problem by operating a statistical programme on the time series that includes the HADCRUT4 data of annual mean temperature anomalies since 1850.


Figure 2 Hadcrut4 annual data since 1850


The 'Summary' includes the following text:


ARIMA (autoregressive integrated moving average) models are fitted to three representative data sets: the HADCRUT4 global surface series, the RSS global lower troposphere series and the Central England Temperature (CET) series. A clear finding presents itself for the two global temperature series. Irrespective of the model fitted, forecasts do not contain any trend, with long horizon forecasts being flat, albeit with rather large measures of imprecision even from models in which uncertainty is bounded. This is a consequence of two interacting features of the fitted models: the inability to isolate a significant drift or trend parameter and the large amount of overall noise in the observations themselves compared to the fitted 'signals'.


The HADCRUT4 data shown in the graph exhibit an overall trend given by the equation:


Δt = 0.0049 x - 9.5387, where x is the year. The R2 value is 0.68, giving R = 0.82; a considerably significant correlation which is clearly at odds with Mills' finding.


Mills does in fact recognise several 'regimes', portions of the data that appear to exhibit different slopes. These are 1850-1919, 1920-1944, 1945-1975, 1976-2001 and 2002- 2014, the latter ending with 2014 because the 2015 data were not available when the paper was written. The respective slopes of these regimes were estimated to be -0.012°, 0.152°, -0.036°, 0.204° and -0.077° as temperature changes over decades. To identify one of the regimes as that between 1850 and 1919 seems at odds with the other ones which are identifiable by eye from the graph and coincide with the frequency of the phases of the IPO. A better regime would be that between 1878 and 1910 with the portion of the graph between 1850 and 1878 being the still rising part of the previous IPO warming phase.


Another serious criticism of the Mills approach is to ignore completely any possible causes of the observed changes. The identification of some autocorrelation, for example, is reported without any possible justification. It's as though changes in the previous years were responsible for some of the observed changes. It is possible that some autocorrelation does occur because, for example, an increase in CO2 concentration might cause a global temperature increase and the temperature increase would cause a further increase in CO2 concentration and increase the temperature further. The lack of any possible causes for trends and autocorrelation is detrimental to the conclusions reached. Mills also appears to have identified 'noise' in the data, but there is no indication of this in the measured data, there are errors of measurement but these are very small compared to the presented data.


With regard to the graph of Figure 2, there is a general increase in the temperature anomaly that would be expected from the general and steady rise in CO2 concentration. Superposed on the general increase are the 32 year phases of the IPO and several other influences of smaller durations. If my function of temperature anomaly and logarithm of the CO2 concentration [Δt = 2.66 ln(CO2/ppmv) - 15.45] is removed from the data, there remains the effects of the other factors and the overall trend is then zero!




Good news, old news from the GWPF

In an important new report published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, former IPCC delegate Dr Indur Goklany calls for a reassessment of carbon dioxide, which he says has many benefits for the natural world and for humankind.

This is catch-up with usual prejudicial additions. My e-book 'Global Warming: The Human Contribution' deals with the attractive aspects of increases in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. Many many experiments have been reported over the years about this subject and there can be no doubt that more CO2 in the atmosphere does benefit crop yields. Such increases also contribute to temperature increases and there is a limit to these beyond which further increases produce a negative effect upon plant growth. Carbon dioxide is essential to all life and is the ultimate fertilizer of vegetation. Increases in its atmospheric concentration do enhance growth, but to continue such enhancement there needs to be increases in the supply of essential nutrients. These nutrients are trace metals that are produced in soils by natural weathering of rocks and their rate of supply is the same as that of rock weathering: very very slow. The effect of increased CO2 is dependent upon the concentration of the gas and an increased supply of the essential nutrients. The rate of supply of these nutrients could eventually become the rate-determining factor of plant growth.

The article by Dr. Goklany is one more example of the GWPF's keenness to promote factors that show the benefits of CO2 increases, while debunking the deleterious effects.

Matt Ridley (The Times, 19th October, 2015) had an article in which he repeated the old news that more CO2 in the atmosphere was good for crop growth with the implication that it's warming effect might be ignored, at least for the near future. 

Jack's reply to Matt Ridley's article, printed in The Times 21st October, 2015

Matt Ridley ("Now here's the good news on global warming", Oct 19th) reminds us that CO2 is good for crop growth, a fact known to greenhouse users for decades. They adjust the CO2 concentration in their greenhouses to about five times greater than that in the present atmosphere. Increases in CO2 concentration and atmospheric temperature together produce more rapid and more extensive vegetation growth. But, like all good things there are dangers in excesses of them. For example, maximum temperatures for vegetation growth lie between 20°C and 30°C and global warming is reducing the area of land that can be used for efficient food production. The beneficial effects of CO2 increases are limited by the very slow production of the essential trace elements required for plant growth, so the present modest enhancement cannot be expected to continue and will level off in the future.




Fuel Statistics

The BP Statistical Review of World Energy is now available. This is a short summary of trends in the UK and the World by comparing of the data for 2013 and 2014.

Primary energy consumption in the World increased from 12807 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) to 12928 Mtoe; an increase of 1%. UK consumption decreased from 200.6 Mtoe to 187.9 Mtoe; a decrease of 1.45 %. Data for the World and the UK for consumption [in units of Mtoe] of fossil fuels, nuclear energy, hydroelectricity and renewal sources of energy are given in the Table:


2014 World Consumption

% change from 2013

2014 UK Consumption

% change from 2013



+ 0.8





+ 0.4


- 9.2



+ 0.4


- 20.3



+ 1.8


- 9.7



+ 2.0


+ 26.2



+ 12.0


+ 19.4


The BP Review also contains data of the CO2 emissions of the countries of the world. The World's emissions in 2014 amounted to 35498.7 million tonnes containing 9681 million tonnes of carbon; an increase of 0.5% compared to 2013.

UK emissions in 2014 amounted to 470.8 million tonnes of CO2 containing 128.4 million tonnes of carbon; a decrease of 0.9% compared to 2013. UK emissions represent 1.33% of total world emissions.

The latest estimate for the fraction of CO2 emissions remaining in the atmosphere is 44%. The world emissions in 2014 amounted to 35.5 gigatonnes of CO2 containing 9.68 gigatonnes of carbon of which 4.26 gigatonnes remained in the atmosphere. Converted to atmospheric concentration [1GtC = 0.469 ppmv] this amounts to an increase of 2.0 ppmv. This is not significantly different from the actual recorded increase in 2014 at Mauna Loa of 2.1 ppmv.





The GWPF (Lawson/Peiser) published this counter to the brief account of global warming matters published by the Royal Society. Of the 20 points made, this is the one that most needs to be corrected.


THE SMALL PRINT: What the Royal Society Left Out


5 What do changes in the vertical structure of atmospheric temperature - from the surface up to the stratosphere - tell us about the causes of recent temperature change?


Royal Society: The observed warming in the lower atmosphere and cooling higher up in the stratosphere is the result expected from increases in CO2 and decreases in stratospheric ozone. Natural factors alone cannot explain the observed changes.


GWPF: A fuller picture: Not so: basic physics implies that increasing levels of carbon dioxide will lead to increased cooling in the stratosphere. This is quite separate from the greenhouse impact in the troposphere of increased carbon dioxide. However, measurements in the stratosphere indicate that although the overall trend is down, any cooling is only seen in the immediate aftermath of volcanic eruptions. Between such eruptions, stratospheric temperatures have been rising. This merely indicates that carbon dioxide levels here as elsewhere are not the only factor determining temperature.


JB: This is not the case. Sure, increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere should cause tropospheric temperature to increase and stratospheric temperature to decrease as indicated by basic physics and agreed by the GWPF document. It is not the case that the stratospheric temperature changes are entirely due to volcanic action. The following figure is from IPCC 5 and shows clearly the trends of temperature in the troposphere and the stratosphere. The trends are those expected from the increasing concentration of CO2 and there has been no natural explanation for either of them.


Some comments on the article by Bernie Lewin: HUBERT LAMB AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF CLIMATE SCIENCE (published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation) and on an extract from 'Climate through the ages', by C. E. P. Brooks (Ernest Benn Ltd., 1926, revised edition 1949)


Bernie Lewin writes:


5 Early doubts about the greenhouse hypothesis


If Lamb wrote down his assessment of the science behind the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis in the 1960s, then we are yet to find it. His views are first found fully elaborated in the first volume of Climate: Present, Past and Future.

This book had been under preparation for many years before its publication in 1972, which was just after he had left the Met Office to direct CRU.

In a systematic survey of the absorption of incoming solar radiation by the various gases in the atmosphere, Lamb's discussion turns to the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide attributed to industrial emissions. Doubts about the proposed warming effect are raised on three main fronts. Firstly, there is the old argument (See for example Knut Ångström, 'Über die Bedeutung desWasserdampfes und der Kohlensaüres bei der Absorption der Erdatmosphäre', Annalen der Physik 1900, 4, 720) that current atmospheric levels of water vapour and carbon dioxide already block most of the radiation, and so any additional carbon dioxide would have little effect.


JB: This 'bottom-up' argument is faulty. The absorbed energy emitted by the surface has still to surmount the considerable hurdles provided by the greenhouse gases and extra CO2 slows down the rate of passage of radiation from the surface to space. This, in turn, causes the troposphere temperature to rise. Proper understanding of the greenhouse effect is reached by a consideration of the spectral changes that occur in a top-down approach, mentioned in my comments below.


BL: Secondly, the suggestion of causation in the correlation across geological time between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and temperature is disputed.


JB: The correlation is disputed mainly by sceptics who don't fully understand the science. Over geological time the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has varied considerably, but has never been the sole cause of global temperature change. For example, the recovery from ice-age conditions as the Earth's orbit changes to allow greater input of solar radiation is assisted by the return of dissolved CO2 from the warming ocean to the atmosphere.


BL: There is another likely explanation: the solubility of the carbon dioxide in the oceans varies with temperature, and so the oceans could just be 'breathing out' carbon dioxide when they warm.


JB: There are seasonal changes in the distribution of CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere, but not enough to explain the increased concentration that has occurred since 1850. Evidence from the 13C/12C isotopic ratio changes in the atmosphere and the ocean shows that the increasing concentrations arise from the burning of fossil fuels. The temperature change that would be necessary to produce the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is considerably more than occurred. The CO2 exchange between ocean and atmosphere is well understood and no temperature change has occurred that could explain the increase in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere without the warming caused by the increased CO2 concentration being included.


BL: Lamb's final objection was one that he would repeat over and over as a critical empirical fact. Even allowing that the effect is still weak, the case for its importance is not helped by the pause in warming during the post-War boom:

The observed decline of global temperature since 1945 implies some other factor exercising about three times as strong an effect (in the opposite direction) as the carbon dioxide increase. This mid-century warming pause had indeed demolished the empirical grounds for Callendar's claim.


JB: The decrease in global mean temperature between 1940 and 1976 produced just as much misplaced scepticism about the greenhouse effect as the current lack of warming since 1998. Lamb, in his books, places much emphasis on the natural causes of atmospheric warming and seems to ignore their influence in causing the observed temperature to rise and fall such that the warming from increasing CO2 is either enhanced or enfeebled. These factors are being ignored at the present time by sceptics who wish to discount the warming produced by the increasing CO2 concentration. They ignore the two main natural influences known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation which can either produce more warming than expected from the CO2 changes or to cancel out that warming.



From 'Climate through the ages', by C. E. P. Brooks (Ernest Benn Ltd., 1926, revised edition 1949)


Brooks: In certain theories of climate change extraordinary importance is attached to variations in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Periods during which the atmosphere was rich in this gas are considered to have been uniformly warm, those in which it was poor to have been cold or even glacial periods.


JB: Over geological time global temperature variations are not due primarily to changes in the atmospheric CO2 concentration. The variations are driven by changes in the Earth's orbital characteristics and the consequent effects on the concentration of atmospheric CO2 either enhance or enfeeble them.


Brooks: Chamberlin has devoted great ingenuity to a discussion of the probable variations in the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during different geological periods, and though his conclusions are probably somewhat exaggerated, there appears to be very little doubt that the variations have been considerable. Recent physical researches have shown, however, that the part of the terrestrial radiation which is taken up by carbon dioxide is almost completely absorbed by water vapour, and no increase in the amount of the former gas could increase the total absorption appreciably.


JB: This is a common misunderstanding of the way in which spectroscopy contributes to the greenhouse effect. There is considerable overlap between the frequencies of terrestrial radiation absorbed by water vapour and CO2, but the one does not reduce the influence of the other. Both substance provide hurdles to the passage of terrestrial radiation to space and both act as greenhouse gases. Any increase in the absorption characteristics of the atmosphere at any given frequency leads to warming in the troposphere: that major fraction of the atmosphere that lies below the stratosphere.


Brooks: W. J. Humphreys pointed out that the only way in which an increase in carbon dioxide could affect the temperature would be by absorption at high levels in the atmosphere where water vapour is nearly absent. As explained in the case of water vapour, this would increase slightly the proportion of radiation from the air which is directed towards the earth, and decrease that which is directed towards space, and in this way, the mean temperature of the earth may have been modified to the extent of a few tenths of a degree.


JB: This view of the spectroscopy of the atmosphere is not correct. As in my previous comment, any increase in the atmospheric concentration of a greenhouse gas provides extra decrease in the rate of passage of radiation from the surface to space and that results in extra warming of the troposphere. The proper understanding of the greenhouse effect is to consider the emission level at each relevant frequency, the emission level being the altitude at which there is a 51% chance of upwardly emitted radiation escaping to space without being re-absorbed. There are two cases to be considered. Case 1 is when the emission-to-space level lies below the stratosphere and where the atmospheric temperature decreases with increasing altitude. An increase in the concentration of the greenhouse gas would cause the emission level to rise to a cooler part of the atmosphere and that would reduce the intensity of the emission to space. The resulting greater retention of the energy causes the troposphere and the surface to increase; global warming occurs. Case 2 is when the emission-to-space level is in the stratosphere where the temperature increases with increasing altitude. An increase in greenhouse gas concentration would again increase the altitude of the emission level, but this would result in the emission intensity increasing. In consequence the Earth would cool down until radiative balance with space was re-established. Water vapour exists largely in the troposphere and it behaves as Case 1. Carbon dioxide is a well-mixed gas and contributes to tropospheric warming and stratospheric cooling as in Case 2. In the atmosphere generally the many frequencies at which absorptions of terrestrial radiation occur the emission-to-space levels range from zero (i.e., emission from the surface), through many parts of the troposphere to parts of the stratosphere. Thus, warming of the surface/troposphere system and cooling of the stratosphere participate in the overall warming of the surface/atmosphere system. Increases in concentration of CO2 cause warming of the surface/troposphere system and cooling of the stratosphere. Both phenomena are well documented.


Final comment: Delving into the history of the science of global warming is more likely to find scepticism of the theory. Science develops by the general acceptance of more modern theory and that which is subjected to the severe criticism of the peer review system operated by recognised journals.


Nigel Lawson's summary of his opinions about climate change


There is something odd about the global warming debate - or the climate change debate, as we are now expected to call it, since global warming has for the time being come to a halt.

JB: Nigel omits to consider that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is in its cooling phase and that its effect can be the cancellation of the small amount of warming that the increasing CO2 has caused in the period since the last serious El Niño event of 1998. This PDO was the main cause of the cooling that was observed between 1940 and 1976, a period in which climate scientists themselves were theorizing could presage a new ice age.
I have never shied away from controversy, nor - for example, as Chancellor - worried about being unpopular if I believed that what I was saying and doing was in the public interest.
But I have never in my life experienced the extremes of personal hostility, vituperation and vilification which I - along with other dissenters, of course - have received for my views on global warming and global warming policies.

JB: This is unfortunate as there are several kinds of dissenters, some so extreme that they regard the basic physics as being wrong. Nigel is not an extreme dissenter, but does ignore important aspects of climate change understanding. Lord Deben said people like Lord Lawson should not be classed as 'climate change deniers' but should instead be referred to as "dismissers." He said these people do not say climate change is not happening but deny the urgency to take action.

For example, according to the Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, the global warming dissenters are, without exception, "wilfully ignorant" and in the view of the Prince of Wales we are "headless chickens". Not that "dissenter" is a term they use. We are regularly referred to as "climate change deniers", a phrase deliberately designed to echo "Holocaust denier" - as if questioning present policies and forecasts of the future is equivalent to casting malign doubt about a historical fact.

JB: If the argument is used that 'global warming has come to a halt' to conclude that the science is wrong, then Ed Davey has a point.
The heir to the throne and the minister are senior public figures, who watch their language. The abuse I received after appearing on the BBC's Today programme last February was far less restrained. Both the BBC and I received an orchestrated barrage of complaints to the effect that it was an outrage that I was allowed to discuss the issue on the programme at all. And even the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Commons shamefully joined the chorus of those who seek to suppress debate.

JB: It's essential to supress contributions to the debate that are not properly science-based.
In fact, despite having written a thoroughly documented book about global warming more than five years ago, which happily became something of a bestseller, and having founded a think tank on the subject - the Global Warming Policy Foundation - the following year, and despite frequently being invited on Today to discuss economic issues, this was the first time I had ever been asked to discuss climate change. I strongly suspect it will also be the last time.
The BBC received a well-organised deluge of complaints - some of them, inevitably, from those with a vested interest in renewable energy - accusing me, among other things, of being a geriatric retired politician and not a climate scientist, and so wholly unqualified to discuss the issue.

JB: There is an issue here that only climate scientists should be allowed to venture opinions about climate change. Nigel is not a climate scientist and neither am I, but I have studied the physics of global warming very thoroughly and am surprised that some people express doubts about it. Increases of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere produce warming of the surface and in the troposphere and cooling in the stratosphere. The physics of these changes are well understood.
Perhaps, in passing, I should address the frequent accusation from those who violently object to any challenge to any aspect of the prevailing climate change doctrine, that the Global Warming Policy Foundation's non-disclosure of the names of our donors is proof that we are a thoroughly sinister organisation and a front for the fossil fuel industry.
As I have pointed out on a number of occasions, the Foundation's Board of Trustees decided, from the outset, that it would neither solicit nor accept any money from the energy industry or from anyone with a significant interest in the energy industry. And to those who are not-regrettably-prepared to accept my word, I would point out that among our trustees are a bishop of the Church of England, a former private secretary to the Queen, and a former head of the Civil Service. Anyone who imagines that we are all engaged in a conspiracy to lie is clearly in an advanced stage of paranoia.

JB: I doubt whether such people are fully conversant with global warming physics and are supporting the GWPF for other reasons.
The reason why we do not reveal the names of our donors, who are private citizens of a philanthropic disposition, is in fact pretty obvious. Were we to do so, they, too, would be likely to be subject to the vilification and abuse I mentioned earlier. And that is something which, understandably, they can do without.
That said, I must admit I am strongly tempted to agree that, since I am not a climate scientist, I should from now on remain silent on the subject - on the clear understanding, of course, that everyone else plays by the same rules. No more statements by Ed Davey, or indeed any other politician, including Ed Milliband, Lord Deben and Al Gore. Nothing more from the Prince of Wales, or from Lord Stern. What bliss!

JB: Opinions based upon an understanding of the science of global warming are always welcome. Opinions that are not based upon understanding are expected to be due to some bias based on non-scientific matters.

But of course this is not going to happen. Nor should it; for at bottom this is not a scientific issue. That is to say, the issue is not climate change but climate change alarmism, and the hugely damaging policies that are advocated, and in some cases put in place, in its name. And alarmism is a feature not of the physical world, which is what climate scientists study, but of human behaviour; the province, in other words, of economists, historians, sociologists, psychologists and - dare I say it - politicians.

JB: This is an important point. Alarmism is not what the IPCC reports are about. The term has been introduced by those doubters who wish to downplay the effect of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. The impacts of global warming, climate change, are well reported in section 2 of the latest IPCC report. It is clearly based on scientific reports that an increase of 4°C in the mean global temperature would have very serious implications for crop growth apart from other matters. A 2°C increase would not have the same implications and that is why the IPCC is recommending that we should not allow a greater temperature increase than this. This is not alarmism, it's a very sensible outcome of a great deal of scientific investigation and even the 2°C increase is many years away even with current CO2 emission rates operating.
And en passant, the problem for dissenting politicians, and indeed for dissenting climate scientists for that matter, who certainly exist, is that dissent can be career-threatening. The advantage of being geriatric is that my career is behind me: there is nothing left to threaten.
But to return: the climate changes all the time, in different and unpredictable (certainly unpredicted) ways, and indeed often in different ways in different parts of the world. It always has done and no doubt it always will. The issue is whether that is a cause for alarm - and not just moderate alarm. According to the alarmists it is the greatest threat facing humankind today: far worse than any of the manifold evils we see around the globe which stem from what Pope called "man's inhumanity to man".

JB: The climate does change over time and has done so for ever. Since 1850 we know from observations that the greenhouse gas concentration has increased and that the trend towards higher temperatures has become obvious. Nigel is correct in mentioning other perils stemming from human nature and these we should keep on trying to minimize.
Climate change alarmism is a belief system, and needs to be evaluated as such.

JB: Climate change is a belief system for those who believe in the physics underlying the understanding. Belief is a word that can be misunderstood quite easily and is used to excuse many opinions that have no basis in science whatsoever. 'Believe' is used sloppily to mean 'understand,' but in its strict sense is used by people who are of a religious nature or are uncertain about a subject.


Here are LB's views in his own words. JB agrees and is pleased that LB resigned from GWPF since that organization spreads negativity about the whole subject of climate change. See below for more of JB's comments

My view on climate research 

Lennart Bengtsson 

During the last weeks there has been a lot of speculation regarding my views and my scientific standpoint on climate research. I have never really sought publicity and it was with a great deal of reluctance that I began writing articles for public media. A large part of my unwillingness to partake in public debate is connected to my friend Sven Öhman, a linguist who wrote about semantics and not least about the difficulties specialists run into when attempting to communicate with the public. Words and concepts have different meanings and are interpreted differently depending on one's background and knowledge. Sometimes such misunderstanding can be disastrous. 

This is also true for concepts such as climate and climate forecasts. Climate is nothing but the sum of all weather events during some representative period of time. The length of this period cannot be strictly specified, but ought to encompass at least 100 years. Nonetheless, for practical purposes meteorologists have used 30 years. For this reason alone it can be hard to determine whether the climate is changing or not, as data series that are both long enough and homogenous are often lacking. An inspection of the weather in Uppsala since 1722 exemplifies this. Because of chaos theory it is practically impossible to make climate forecasts, since weather cannot be predicted more than one or several weeks. For this reason, climate calculations are uncertain even if all model equations would be perfect. 

Despite all these issues, climate research has progressed greatly, above all through new revolutionary observations from space, such as the possibility to measure both volume and mass of the oceans. Temperature and water vapor content of the atmosphere are measured by occultation with GPS satellites. Our knowledge of earlier climate has increased substantially. 

It is not surprising that the public is impressed by this and that this trust transfers to climate forecasts and the possibility to predict the earth's future climate. That all this occurs within a context of international cooperation under the supervision of the UN, and with an apparent unity among the scientists involved has created a robust confidence in IPCC's climate simulations, in Sweden not the least. SMHI's [Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute] down-scaled climate simulations for 100 years are impressive and show in detail and with splendid graphics how the climate will turn out both in Östergötland [the Swedish province of East Gothland] and in Västerbotten [West Bothnia]. This is invaluable for municipality climate experts and planners who are working feverishly to avoid future floods and forest fires. The public is in good hands in the benevolent society. 

Unfortunately, things are not as splendid as they seem. As a result of chaos theory, weather and climate cannot be predicted, and how future climate will turn out will not be known until future is upon us. It would not help even if we knew the exact amount of greenhouse gases. Add to this the uncertainty about the future of the world. This should be clear to anyone, simply by moving back in time and contemplating what has unfolded from that viewpoint. As Daniel Boorstin put it: "The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge". 

I'm concerned that this is the problem of the present, and the real reason for me to choose to partake in the climate debate over the last couple of years. I don't think anyone disputes that I have been highly critical of those who completely reject the effects of greenhouse gases on the earth's climate. [JB's embolding] This is however not the problem, but rather how much, how soon and to what extent "climate change" will happen. There is no 97% consensus about this, and even less concerning how weather and climate will turn out in Västerbotten [West Bothnia] in 80 years. This is why it unfortunately is misleading of SMHI to show their beautiful maps, because people may actually believe that this is the way the climate will turn out. The climate scientists of SMHI know this, of course, but for the users this is not clear. My colleague in Hamburg, Guy Brasseur, told me the other day that an insignificant change on about 70 km height in a climate model's mesosphere, made the weather systems relocate from north Germany to the Alps, consequently with radical regional climate change as a result. 

Even more alarming is the tendency of giving people the impression that weather events are becoming more extreme, and that this has actually already occurred. Apart from a possible increase in precipitation and a possible intensification of tropical hurricanes that has not yet been detected, there are no indications of extreme weather in the model simulations, and even less so in current observations. 

This has convincingly been demonstrated and also held up by the IPCC. Damages are increasing, as are damages from earth quakes, but this due to the growing economy. It is also important to stress that injuries suffered by humans during extreme weather has decreased substantially due to better weather forecasts. 

What is perhaps most worrying is the increased tendency of pseudo-science in climate research. This is revealed through the bias in publication records towards only reporting results that support one climate hypothesis, while refraining from publishing results that deviate. Even extremely cold weather, as this year's winter in north Eastern USA and Canada, is regarded as a consequence of the greenhouse effect. 

Were Karl Popper alive today we would certainly have met with fierce critique of this behavior. It is also demonstrated in journals' reluctance to address issues contradicting simplified climate assessments, such as the long period during the last 17 years with insignificant or no warming over the oceans, and the increase in sea-ice cover around the Antarctic. My colleagues and I have been met with scant understanding when trying to point out that observations indicate lower climate sensitivity than model calculations indicate. Such behavior may not even be intentional but rather attributed to an effect that my colleague Hans von Storch calls a social construct. 

That I have taken a stand trying to put the climate debate onto new tracks has resulted in rather violent protests. I have not only been labeled a sceptic but even a denier, and faced harsh criticism from colleagues. Even contemplating my connections with GWPF was deemed unheard of and scandalous. 

I find it difficult to believe that the prominent Jewish scientists in the GWPF council appreciate being labeled deniers. The low-point is probably having been labeled "world criminal" by a representative of the English wind power-industry. I want to stress that I am a sworn enemy of the social construction of natural science that has garnered so much traction in the last years. For example, German scientists have attempted to launch what they call "good" science to ensure that natural science shouldn't be driven by what they view as anti-social curiosity-research by researching things that might not be "good". Einstein's "anti-social behavior", when he besides his responsible work as a patent office clerk in Bern also researched on the theory of relativity and the photoelectric effect, was of course reprehensible, and to do this during work-time! Even current labor unions would have strongly condemned this. 

I hope that these lines of text will shed light on my viewpoints and my actions and perhaps create some understanding for my motivations. 



Professor Bengtsson, the former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, said he accepted that emissions would increase the global average temperature but the key question was how quickly. Now at the University of Reading, Lennart Bengsston was persuaded to resign from Nigel Lawson's GWPF by the many adverse comments from climate scientists. His letter to a German newspaper, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, is reproduced below. The sentences are given numbers for purposes of replies from JB.

1.      The complex and only partially understood relationship between greenhouse gases and global warming leads to a political dilemma.

2.      We do not know when to expect a warming of 2 degrees Celsius.

3.      The IPCC assumes that the earth will warm up by 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius in response to a doubling of CO2 concentration.

4.      These high values of climate sensitivity, however, are not supported by observations. In other words: global warming has not been a serious problem so far if we rely on observations.

5.      It is only a problem when we refer to climate simulations by computer models. There is no alternative to such computer simulations if one wants to predict future developments.

6.      However, since there is no way to validate them, the forecasts are more a matter of faith than a fact. --Lennart Bengtsson, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 14 April 2014

JB Replies

1.      This is a very true statement. The science has been misunderstood by some politicians, either by ignorance or on purpose. There are doubts fully discussed in the IPCC Working Group 1 2013 report, but there are no doubts that we are contributing to the increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2 and the warming that is produced as a result.

2.      Another true statement that could be seized upon by deniers etc. When a warming by 2°C will occur is not known, but it will happen if emissions of CO2 continue. Since 1850 there has been a warming of about 1°C and the next one degree will occur when the CO2 concentration reaches a suitable value and when the natural climate change effects allow. It should be realized that natural changes can and do alter global mean climate by ±1°C, so a CO2-induced change of 1°C could be enhanced by another 1°C by natural changes or might be cancelled out by them.

3.      This is an annoying range of values and is brought about by the models using different scenarios for our future emissions, but also suffers from a lack of proper treatment of the sensitivity. My consideration of this has led to a value of 1.84°C warming for the doubling of the CO2 concentration, given that the value could be very different depending upon the state of the natural influences.

4.      This can be taken by the deniers etc. that we have little to worry about. My value of 1.84°C is towards the lower end of the IPCC range and is based entirely upon observations. The very small trend in global temperature since 1998 gives support for those who have the opinion that global warming has stopped. It has done this before. Between 1940 and 1976 there was some global cooling, described by the climate scientists of the day as a precursor to the next ice age! They were wrong then…

5.      Another true statement capable of giving support to the deniers. Modelling the global climate is an enormous task and it no surprize that the models differ from each other and that none of them reproduce historical climate accurately.

6.      This is just not so. We have many examples of computer forecasts of future climate changes using few or many relevant properties and those forecasts may be examined up to the present day. Most of the forecasts have been shown to be exaggerated, but not on purpose, just because all the factors were not included in the computations. The many attempts to forecast the extent and speed of future global temperature changes and the accompanying climate changes are not matters of faith. They are undertaken by climate scientists of repute. Their papers are published in properly peer-reviewed journals, they are dealing with a massive problem and can easily be attacked by those who have illusory doubts that CO2 (a trace gas) can have such an important effect on global climate. Without CO2 no life would be possible. But, we can have too much of a good thing! James Lovelock has become a luke-warmer and his statement that people in Singapore are alive and well at 12.5°C omits the fact that 99% of their food has to be imported. An increase in mean temperature in wheat-growing regions would be disastrous; not even adapted grain will grow under such conditions. Beware!


Benny's report of the leaked IPCC document. If only the GWPF were to be innocent of such qualities!?

Dr Benny Peiser, of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, described the leaked report as a 'staggering concoction of confusion, speculation and sheer ignorance'.  As for the pause, he said 'it would appear that the IPCC is running out of answers … to explain why there is a widening gap between predictions and reality'. --David Rose, Mail on Sunday, 15 September 2013



Lord Lawson versus The Royal Society


Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has been criticized by Sir Paul Nurse PRS on several grounds and has resulted in the following correspondence and the preparation of a background paper by Dr Benny Peiser, Director of the GWPF.


JB's interspersed comments in red


From the President Paul Nurse


30 April 2013


Dear Lord Lawson

Thank you for your letter of 19 March.

Responding to that letter I append the names of five internationally distinguished climate scientists who are all UK based and Fellows of the Royal Society. I have copied them into this letter so they are aware that you may be contacting them.


           Sir Brian Hoskins, Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change

           Professor John Mitchell, Principal Research Fellow Met Office

           Professor Tim Palmer, Royal Society Research Professor, University of Oxford,   Atmospheric Oceanic and Planetary Physics

           Professor John Shepherd, Professorial Research Fellow in Earth System Science University of Southampton, School of Ocean and Earth Sciences

           Professor Eric Wolff, Science Leader, Chemistry and Past Climate, British Antarctic Survey


JB: All scientists of good repute in their particular field


As regards the other three points you make in your letter I will address them in turn.

First, I made no claim that my statement that average global temperature in the decade 2000-2009 was higher than that in the decade from 1990-1999 is anything new. It is of course a widely recognised observation. You may find it useful to discuss this with the climate science experts named above.

Second, I think you are rather overstating the credibility of the Montford document.  For example, Montford disparages me for criticizing politicians who talk nonsense about science. I list below some of those statements that I criticized.

"Intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science class"

"don't believe in a theory that humans originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea or from monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees"

"that climate problems in Texas are best solved through days of prayer for rain"

What is the GWPF doing publishing something that gives support to such absurd anti-science views? Surely you do not think scientists or anyone else should sit idly by when politicians talk nonsense about scientific issues?


JB: Andrew Montford writes rubbish without any scientific basis


Third, regarding the secrecy of your funding I was highlighting the fact that policy discussions need to be carried out in an open and transparent manner which includes identifying where your financial support comes from. It was you who mentioned the fossil fuel industry and the fact that some people suggest it is funding you. You might have added that others also speculate that you may be funded by wealthy individuals who have particular political views. The only way to deal with rumours like these is to be open and transparent about the funding of GWPF.

Yours sincerely

Paul Nurse


Lord Lawson replies:


Dear Sir Paul

Thank you for your letter of 30 April in reply to mine of 19 March, and for the names of five Fellows of the Royal Society for us to contact. Our Director. Dr Benny Peiser, will be getting in touch with them with a view to setting up a meeting with a team from the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

In addition to Dr Peiser, our team would comprise:

           Professor Vincent Courtillot (Professor of Geophysics, Paris Diderot University)

           Professor Mike Kelly FRS (Prince Philip Professor of Technology, University of Cambridge)

           Nic Lewis (independent climate science researcher)

           Professor Richard Lindzen (Professor of Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

           Viscount Ridley (the science writer Dr Matt Ridley)

           Professor Richard Tol (IPCC Lead Author and Professor of Economics, University of Sussex)

We propose the following twofold agenda:

1.      The science of global warming, with special reference to (a) the climate sensitivity of carbon and (b) the extent of natural variability;

2.      The conduct and professional standards of those involved in the relevant scientific inquiry and official advisory process.

In view of the public interest in this important topic, I believe that it would be right to invite

members of the press to attend the meeting as observers.

Finally, two brief comments on the rest of your letter.

First, at no time has the GWPF published anything advocating either the theory of intelligent design or prayer as a climate policy, nor would we dream of doing so. If anything can be classified as 'anti-science' it is your blatant disregard for these facts.

Second, while it is admittedly a matter of opinion many would consider the GWPF's reliance on voluntary contributions from 'wealthy individuals' motivated solely by altruism as morally superior to running a political campaign on the back of the hard-pressed taxpayer, as the Royal Society under your leadership is now doing.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt Hon Lord Lawson



From the President Paul Nurse

4th June 2013


Dear Lord Lawson


I tire of your rude and aggressive letters and begin to wonder whether it is worth the effort of trying to help you.


Montford attacked me for criticizing anti-science remarks made in the US, the ones I quoted in my last letter. Either you are unaware of this nonsense published by the GWPF, or you are now distancing yourself from the Montford report. For your information the Montford comment is on page 36 of the GWPF report and the New Scientist article he criticized is attached.


Yours sincerely


Paul Nurse



From Lord Lawson

9th July 2013


The Global Worming Policy Foundation

10 Upper Bank Street, London E14 5NP



Dear Sir Paul,


I have only recently received your ill-tempered letter of 4 June, which was delayed by the fact that the address of the Global Warming Policy Foundation has changed.


I am surprised by its contents, which focus on a complaint about Andrew Montford's report The Royal Society and Climate Change, published by the GWPF. The report appeared over a year ago, long before our correspondence began. It is in no sense 'anti-science'.


As to substantive matters, I am disappointed by the letter from the five scientists nominated by you in your previous letter, in which they decline to meet my scientific colleagues for a discussion of the issues involved in climate change policy. They give no good reason for their unwillingness to engage, although they do state that they would be happy to 'advise' me personally. That can readily be achieved. I would like to invite your Fellows to meet me and my team in the House of Lords and to fix a firm date for such a meeting as soon as practicable.


If this is not acceptable, I can only conclude that, regrettably, you and your colleagues are unwilling to engage in genuine discussion and debate about this important issue.


I am copying this to your five colleagues and to Benny Peiser.


Yours sincerely

The Rt Hon Lord I.awson


cc. Brian Hoskins, John Mitchell, Tim Palmer, John Shepherd, Eric Wolff, Benny Peiser




To Rt Hon Lord Lawson


9th July, 2013


Dear Lord Lawson


We have each received a letter from the Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. We are happy to learn that the GWPF accepts much of the scientific evidence about climate science, but we do not consider the meeting he proposes is the best way to improve the quality and breadth of the scientific advice available to you.


We should, however, like to confirm that we should be happy to provide you personally with advice on specific climate science issues, as was originally offered by Sir Paul Nurse the President of the Royal Society. The 2010 Royal Society Document, 'Climate change: a summary of the science' (http// to which we all contributed, would provide a suitable starting point. Please let us know if there are specific scientific issues arising from this statement on which you would like to have further information and advice.


As you are no doubt aware the Science Working Group of the IPCC will be publishing its Fifth Assessment in late September. There will certainly be widespread climate science discussions following this, and this would also provide an excellent basis for further discussion of any scientific issues that may arise.


Yours sincerely


Brian Hoskins

Director, Grantham Institute for Climate Change. Imperial College London


John Mitchell

Principal Research Fellow, Met Office


Tim Palmer

Royal Society Research Professor in Climate Physics, Department of Physics, University of Oxford


John Shepherd

Research Fellow in Earth System Science, School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton


Eric Wolff, Science Leader, British Antarctic Survey


cc: Dr B. Peiser. Director, The Global Warming Policy Foundation


London, 12 July: Lord Lawson, the chairman of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), has invited five Fellows of the Royal Society to meet him and his team in the House of Lords to discuss issues surrounding climate science and policy.

The five climate scientists, nominated by Sir Paul Nurse, the President of the Royal Society, refused an earlier invitation to meet with the Director of the GWPF, Dr Peiser, and a small group of experts nominated by the GWPF. Although they gave no reason for their unwillingness to engage, the Fellows stated they would be happy to 'advise' Lord Lawson personally.

Lord Lawson said he was willing to give the Royal Society a last chance to engage in a genuine dialogue, at which he would be personally present. "If this [invitation] is not acceptable, I can only conclude that, regrettably, you and your colleagues are unwilling to engage in genuine discussion and debate about this important issue."

JB: It seems to me that the Royal Society chosen five are so confident in their knowledge and understanding that they regard Lord Lawson's chosen five not to be sufficiently knowledgeable to make a face-to-face meeting useful. The only member of Lord Lawson's five who has plenty of knowledge and understanding of the science of climate change is Richard Lindzen. I am surprised to find him on Lord Lawson's 'side' except that the main argument is about the climate sensitivity and Richard Lindzen is a powerful supporter of a value significantly lower than the values put forward by the IPCC. The physics of global warming is well established and the only topic that is controversial and is the proper subject for debate is the climate sensitivity. Prediction of the future of such a complex system is shrouded with uncertainty and will be best treated with very careful and on-going consideration of past and current observations rather than by more and more sophisticated computer programmes.

GWPF Background Paper

By Dr Benny Peiser


A. Matters where we agree with the dominant scientific establishment and can quantify the outcome

1. The greenhouse effect is real and CO2 is a greenhouse gas.


JB: Indeed, and CO2 is responsible for ~20% of the warming.


2. CO2 has increased in the atmosphere from approximately 0.029% to 0.039% over the past 50 years.


JB: More accurately, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased from 318 ppmv to 396 ppmv; 24.5%. And it has risen because of the burning of fossil fuels.


3. CO2's greenhouse warming potential follows a logarithmic curve with diminishing returns to higher concentrations.


JB: This is correct, a doubling from 300 ppmv to 600 ppmv could produce a warming of ~1.84°C and another increase of 300 ppmv to 900 ppmv would produce a warming of ~0.8°C (according to the equation derived in my ebook: Global Warming: The Human Contribution). A plot of the  equation follows.



4. Absent feedbacks, and other things being equal, a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels would warm the atmosphere by approximately 1.1°C.


JB: This is an understatement.


5. Since 1980 global temperatures have increased at an average rate of about 0.1°C per decade. This is significantly slower than forecast by the vast majority of GCMs.


JB: Also understated. The mean global warming over the period is misleading. The accepted value is 0.14°C per decade, but this glosses over some possibly serious trends. The Northern hemisphere has warmed at a rate of 0.2°C per decade, the Southern hemisphere by only 0.08°C per decade. And the North Polar Region has warmed at a rate of 0.47°C per decade, the South Polar Region has cooled by 0.03°C per decade. This is discussed at length in my ebook.


B. Matters where we agree with the scientific consensus but cannot quantify the outcome.

1. Positive feedbacks from water vapour and soot, negative feedback from clouds and aerosols, and other factors, mean that actual climate sensitivity is a matter of vigorous scientific debate.

2. Natural variability caused by ocean oscillations, amplified solar variations and other factors also act to increase or decrease temperature change. Thus overall temperature prediction is doubly uncertain.

3. Arctic summer sea ice has decreased, but Antarctic sea ice has increased; this is more consistent with regional albedo changes due to soot than with global temperature changes due to greenhouse warming.

4. There is no consensus that recent climate change has affected the variability of weather or the frequency of extreme weather events.

5. Economists generally agree that net economic damage will occur above 2°C of warming, net economic benefit below that level, but this cannot be certain.


JB: Much work has shown that crop damage will occur if the temperature of a region increases by 4°C and would not be alleviated by adaptation.


C. Matters on which we think the evidence does not support the scientific consensus

1. There has been no net increase in global temperatures for about 16 years, a period about the same length as the warming period that preceded it.


JB: This is a commonly used fact held by some to show that the physics of the greenhouse effect is wrong. There is nothing wrong with the physics, just an ignoring of the natural factors which are operating to offset any warming produced by the increasing CO2 concentration.


2. Paleo-climate proxies agree that worldwide temperatures were higher and changed faster during other periods of climate change about 1,000, 2,000, 4,000, 8,000 and 12,000 years ago.


JB: This is another red herring! The problem we have is the increasing CO2 concentration produced by our own efforts, there's no doubt that temperatures were higher in the past due to natural factors. The early Earth was a liquid mixture.


3, Predictions of increasing humidity and temperature in the tropical troposphere, a key prediction of rapid greenhouse warming, have been falsified by experimental data casting doubt on whether the warming of 1980-2000 was man-made.


JB: The key factor in global warming theory is that the poles warm up more than the tropics and this is occurring in a half-hearted manner with the South Polar Region refusing to cooperate!


4. Ice core data clearly show carbon dioxide responding to temperature change, rather than preceding them during glaciation and deglaciation episodes.


JB: Another misunderstanding by global warming critics. The data do show that the CO2 concentration lags the temperature changes, but this is because the changes in CO2 concentration are due to changes in the sea surface temperature. The CO2 does cause warming, but it cannot cause the temperature changes observed in the past. Coming out of an ice age, the warming causes more CO2 to be released from the ocean and this causes some more warming, the natural warming and that produced by the extra CO2 go hand in hand.


5. Satellite evidence confirms that vegetation has increased in density, in natural as well as agricultural ecosystems, probably as a result partly of carbon dioxide increases.


JB: It is well known (by people using greenhouses) that a higher concentration of CO2 promotes plant growth, both in rate and amount. There is a point where an increase in CO2 cannot produce any extra beneficial effect because the nutrients in the soil are not able to be replenished at the required rates (see my ebook for discussion.)


D. Why alarm is not secure

1. All sides of scientific debates have vested interests and display confirmation bias. Science keeps itself honest not by expecting unrealistic self-criticism by scientists but by encouraging challenge, and diverse interpretations of data, rather than trying to enforce a single "consensus".

2. Forecasting of all kinds is extremely unreliable and predictions of ecological disaster have an especially poor track record.

3. Policies to decarbonize the economy using today's technology are likely to be harmful to human welfare and natural ecology.

4. Integrity, openness and objectivity need to be introduced to the conduct of the scientific debate to restore the damage done by the Climategate, Hockey Stick, Gleick, Gergis, Lewandowsky and Marcott episodes.

5. Exaggerated alarmism is not harmless and is not scientific.


E. GWPF's policy position

1. Policy needs to take account of uncertainty.

2. Policy needs to be subjected to thorough cost-benefit analysis.

3. An enforceable global agreement on emissions reduction is unrealistic.

4. Adaptation may be a cheaper and less harmful policy than mitigation.

5. Public funding should support open debate, not one-sided advocacy.


In his final Africa programme Sir David Attenborough stated that the Sahara had suffered a temperature rise of 3.5°C in the last twenty years. According to the last thirty three years data from the UAH satellite the decadal trend for tropical land is 0.07°C making Attenborough's claim to be exaggerated by a factor of 25!



The global temperature has not exceeded the 1998 value since that year and the trend [from satellite and terrestrial data] is near zero. Various people and organizations have been vociferously claiming that the atmosphere/surface system is in a cooling phase that 'disproves' the connection with rising CO2 concentrations, the global temperature did rise somewhat in 2009. The graph shows the Hadley Centre values (dots) and those from the UAH satellite (crosses). The data are plotted on the IPCC predictions which are clearly significantly higher than those observed since 2005, although the latest data (2009 & 2010) show some warming.




The annual increases in CO2 concentration are shown below for the last six years plus the first eight months of 2012. The seasonal changes are very similar and there are similar increases annually in the concentration of the gas.


Global temperature data since 1998 [from Satellites] are shown in the next graph, up to May 2012.



  Claims that the temperature is decreasing are not supported by these data. That the trend from 1998 is flat and indicates that any warming from emissions of carbon is cancelled by some other [natural] cause. The extraordinarily high anomaly around 1998 was principally caused by an El Nino event that was due to upwelling of warmer water in the south-western Pacific Ocean. A very recent La Nina event has caused the temperature decrease in the last months of 2010. The apparent discrepancy between the two sets of data is due to their different bases. The UAH satellite record is 0.259 C lower than the HADCRUT3.