Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WSJ: Matt Ridley Replies to His Climate-Change Critics, cleans up the intellectual mess

Matt Ridley Replies to His Climate-Change Critics

Jeffrey Sachs blows a gasket, and our contributor cleans up the intellectual mess.

Sept. 9, 2014 9:56 a.m. ET     THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Editor's note: Matt Ridley's Sept. 4 op-ed, "Whatever Happened to Global Warming?," stirred a strong response, not least among the enforcers of climate-change orthodoxy. Here is Mr. Ridley's reply to his critics, adapted from his blog:

Post-script. After the article was published, an astonishing tweet was sent by the prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs saying:

"Ridley climate ignorance in WSJ today is part of compulsive lying of Murdoch media gang. Ridley totally misrepresents the science."

Curious to know how I had lied or "totally misrepresented" the science, I asked Sachs to explain. There was a deafening silence.

There then appeared at the Huffington Post an article under Sachs's name. Its style was quite unlike that of Sachs. The piece purported to—in a spin doctor's words—expose:

"The Wall Street Journal Parade of Climate Lies - ‪@JeffDSachs destroys daft ‪@mattwridley article in@WSJ"

However, it does nothing of the sort. It's all bluster and careful misdirection, and contradicts nothing in my article, let alone producing evidence of lies. The sheer inaccuracy of the riposte in its descriptions of what I said or what I think are breathtaking, as are its failure to address any of the issues I raise, let alone contradict them. I had respect for Jeffrey Sachs as a scholar before reading this. Here are some key passages:

"Ridley's "smoking gun" is a paper last week in Science Magazine by two scientists Xianyao Chen and Ka-Kit Tung . . ."

Notice the quote marks around "smoking gun," implying that I used the phrase. I did not. In any case, the Chen and Tung paper was only one of the pieces of evidence I cited.

". . . which Ridley somehow believes refutes all previous climate science."

I said nothing of the sort and I believe nothing of the sort. Chen and Tung is about currents in the Atlantic, not about "all climate science"!

"The Wall Street Journal editors don't give a hoot about the nonsense they publish if it serves their cause of fighting measures to limit human-induced climate change. If they had simply gone online to read the actual paper, they would have found that the paper's conclusions are the very opposite of Ridley's."

In his writing the real Mr. Sachs does not often use phrases like "don't give a hoot."

In any case, he's plain wrong about the contradiction. The quote I gave from the press release is accurate. And I have read the paper and can assure Mr. "Sachs" that its conclusions are not the opposite of what I have said. As further confirmation, how about asking the paper's lead author himself? This is what he wrote to Prof. Judith Curry in response to her questions:

"Dear Judy,

The argument on the roughly 50-50 attribution of the forced vs unforced warming for the last two and half decades of the 20th century is actually quite simple. If one is blaming internal variability for canceling out the anthropogenically forced warming during the current hiatus, one must admit that the former is not negligible compared to the latter, and the two are probably roughly of the same magnitude. Then when the internal cycle is of the different sign in the latter part of the 20th century, it must have added to the forced response. Assuming the rate of forced warming has not changed during the period concerned, then the two combined must be roughly twice the forced warming during the last two and half decades of the 20th century."

In other words, as I said, the warming of 1975-2000 was only half caused by man-made emissions and half by natural causes, according to their conclusions, and natural causes were enough to cancel man-made forcing in the years after 2000.

To continue with the "Sachs" article:

"First, the paper makes perfectly clear that the Earth is warming in line with standard climate science, and that the Earth's warming is unabated in recent years. In the scientific lingo of the paper (it's very first line, so Ridley didn't have far to read!), "Increasing anthropogenic greenhouse-gas-emissions perturb Earth's radiative equilibrium, leading to a persistent imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) despite some long-wave radiative adjustment." In short, we humans are filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel use, and we are warming the planet."

Mr. "Sachs" did not have far to read in my own article to find this is in complete agreement with what I wrote also:

"I've long thought that man-made carbon-dioxide emissions will raise global temperatures, but that this effect will not be amplified much by feedbacks from extra water vapor and clouds, so the world will probably be only a bit more than one degree Celsius warmer in 2100 than today."

Instead of using words like "unabated" why not give numbers? I did.

The warming during 1975-2000, even if you cherry-pick the end points, was about 0.4 degrees C if you average the five main global data sets, and if half of that was natural, then man-made forcing was going at the rate of less than 1 degree per century, rather less than what I said.

"Second, the total warming is distributed between the land and ocean surface on the one hand and the ocean deep water on the other. The total rise of ocean heat content has continued unabated, while the proportion of heat absorbed at the surface and in the deeper ocean varies over time. Again, in the scientific lingo of the paper, "[T]his forced total OHC [ocean heat content] should be increasing monotonically over longer periods even through the current period of slowed warming. In fact, that expectation is verified by observation . . . " In other words, the ocean has continued to warm in line with predictions of just such a phenomenon seen in climate models."

This is highly misleading. The quote from the paper does not contradict me at all. In any case, remember, the data on ocean heat content is highly ambiguous. As Judith Curry summarized it recently:

"The main issue of interest is to what extent can ocean heat sequestration explain the hiatus since 1998. The only data set that appears to provide support for ocean sequestration is the ocean reanalysis, with the Palmer and Domingues 0-700 m OHC climatology providing support for continued warming in the upper ocean.

All in all, I don't see a very convincing case for deep ocean sequestration of heat. And even if the heat from surface heating of the ocean did make it into the deep ocean, presumably the only way for this to happen involves mixing (rather than adiabatic processes), so it is very difficult to imagine how this heat could reappear at the surface in light of the 2nd law of thermodynamics."

Back to the "Sachs" article:

"Third, it is the 'vertical distribution' of the warming, between the surface and deep water, which affects the warming observed on land and at the sea surface. The point of the paper is that the allocation of the warming vertically varies over time, sometimes warming the surface rapidly, other times warming the deeper ocean to a great extent and the surface water less rapidly. According to the paper, the period of the late 20th century was a period in which the surface was warmed relative to the deeper ocean. The period since 2000 is the opposite, with more warming of the deeper ocean. How do the scientists know? They measure the ocean temperature at varying depths with a sophisticated system of 'Argo profiling floats,' which periodically dive into the ocean depths to take temperature readings and resurface to transmit them to the data centers."

I have no problem with this paragraph, which merely reiterates what I said about the Chen and Tung paper, with a bit more detail about the Argo floats, etc. It finds no evidence of my misrepresentation, let alone total misrepresentation.

"So, what is Ridley's 'smoking gun' when you strip away his absurd version of the paper? It goes like this. The Earth is continuing to warm just as greenhouse gas theory holds."

Check, I agree—over the long term and slowly, just as greenhouse gas theory holds. But the atmosphere is not continuing to warm right now.

"The warming heats the land and the ocean. The ocean distributes some of the warming to the surface waters and some to the deeper waters, depending on the complex circulation of ocean waters."

Check. Could not have said it better myself, though remember this is still speculation and was not predicted.

"The shares of warming of the surface and deeper ocean vary over time, in fluctuations that can last a few years or a few decades."


Where's the contradiction with what I wrote? There is none. If Mr. "Sachs" had bothered to read my article properly, he would find that his description of what is happening is pretty well exactly the same as mine. Except that he gives no numbers. What I did was to show that if Chen and Tung are right, and half the warming in the last part of the last century was natural, then the "rapid" warming of those three decades was still too slow for the predictions made by the models. It will if it resumes give us a not very alarming future. And if it does not resume for some time, as Chen and Tung speculate that it might not, then the future is even less alarming.

And no, again, I did not use the phrase "smoking gun." I used several other arguments, all of which Mr. "Sachs" fails to address at all, so presumably he agrees that there has been a "pause," that it was denied for many years by the climate establishment, that there was general agreement among them that a pause of more than 15 years would invalidate their models, and so on.

He goes on:

"If the surface warming is somewhat less in recent years than in the last part of the 20th century, is that reason for complacency? Hardly. The warming is continuing, and the consequences of our current trajectory will be devastating unless greenhouse gas emissions (mainly carbon dioxide) are stopped during this century. As Chen and Tung conclude in their Science paper, 'When the internal variability [of the ocean] that is responsible for the current hiatus [in warming] switches sign, as it inevitably will, another episode of accelerated global warming should ensue.' "

I hardly think it was complacent of me to ask world leaders to address the much more urgent issues of war, terror, disease, poverty, habitat loss and the 1.3 billion people with no electricity.

The only disagreement is whether future warming will be "devastating," and that is a prediction not an empirical fact. I cannot yet be "wrong" about it.

When will Mr. "Sachs" get around to including a number? He surely cannot be under the impression that lukewarmers like me think there is no greenhouse effect? He surely knows that the argument is not about whether there is warming, but how fast.

And where did I lie, or misrepresent? Where did he "destroy" me, pray? He did not.

Mr. "Sachs," who is usually a careful academic, has published a lot of wild accusations against me and "totally" (his word) failed to stand them up. How did this come about? Perhaps, being a busy man, he asked somebody else to ghost-write much of the piece for him and did not check it very thoroughly. Perhaps he wrote it himself. Either way, no problem, a quick tweet apologising to me and admitting that nothing in his article contradicts anything in mine, that we merely disagree on the predictions of dangerous warming, and I will consider the matter closed.

I published most of this riposte to Mr. Sachs's article on my blog post on Sunday and drew his attention to it on Twitter.

He ignored it but posted a single tweet as follows:

"WSJ ignores science conclusion that another episode of accelerated warming should ensue as ocean variability 'inevitably' switches sign."

Actually, the word the scientists use is "rapid" warming and they use it also to describe the warming of the 1980s and 1990s, which as I showed was not nearly as rapid as predicted by the models. So, even when the Atlantic currents are boosting the man-made warming, it is not as fast as the models predict.

Clearly Mr. Sachs and I disagree about how dangerous man-made global warming is likely to be in the future. I think all the explanations for the pause, including the Chen and Tung one, only make my case stronger that man-made warming is not being enhanced by feedbacks and is proceeding according to the greenhouse effect of CO2 alone. I may of course be wrong. But it is ludicrous, nasty and false to accuse me of lying or "totally misrepresenting the science." I have asked Mr. Sachs to withdraw the charges more than once now on Twitter. He has refused to do so, though he has been tweeting freely during the time.

Soon after my article was published, another peer-reviewed paper appeared in the Journal Nature Climate Change, about as mainstream a climate science publication as you can find. It is entitled: "Climate model simulations of the observed early-2000s hiatus of global warming." The respected commentator and academic Roger Pielke Jr. tweeted:

"Can't wait to see ‪@JeffDSachs eviscerate this paper, no doubt by more of Murdoch's lying henchmen"


  1. Both sides of this quarrel are deluded, thinking that not only can increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere warm the atmosphere (and at trace levels like the current .04% at that) but also warm the ocean--and the deep ocean at that. And yet they both also firmly believe--along with all climate scientists, and all other scientists who consider themselves "experts" but are quite wrong--that the surface warms the atmosphere, rather than that the atmosphere can warm the surface, and even the deep ocean, as they are both arguing at the moment. What could possibly go wrong with such tangled, unthinking thinking? There is not the slightest whiff of real science, real physical understanding, in any of "the mess"--and Ridley has certainly not cleaned up any of it. (He is even wrong that putting a phrase in quotes necessarily implies it is a direct quote of one's opponent of the moment. Ridley should well know that, yet he just adds to the mess by not realizing so simple a thing.) (See my Venus/Earth temperatures comparison for the definitive evidence that actually DOES clean up the whole mess that is current climate theory). And do any of them think the average reader is going to follow their knotty (and pretentious) arguments, rather than throw the paper down in disgust with the lot?

  2. A 2012 paper by NASA scientists and their colleagues deals with observations rather than theory.

    Graeme L. Stephens et al, An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations. Nature Geoscience Vol. 5 October 2012

    URL: http://www.aos.wisc.edu/~tristan/publications/2012_EBupdate_stephens_ngeo1580.pdf

    These observations, based on the best instrumental data that exists, support Matt Ridley by showing that the observations support AGW so weakly that similarly weak natural events could cause cooling..

    "The net energy balance is the sum of individual fluxes. The current uncertainty in this net surface energy balance is large, and amounts to approximately 17 Wm–2. This uncertainty is an order of magnitude larger than the changes to the net surface fluxes associated with increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (Fig. 2b). The uncertainty is also approximately an order of magnitude larger than the current estimates of the net surface energy imbalance of 0.6 ±0.4 Wm–2 inferred from the rise in OHC. The uncertainty in the TOA net energy fluxes, although smaller, is also much larger than the imbalance inferred from OHC."

    (TOA = Top Of Atmosphere; OHC = Ocean Heat Content)

    Regarding the estimate of ocean heat content, they stated,

    “For the decade considered, the average imbalance is 0.6 = 340.2 − 239.7 − 99.9 Wm-2 when these TOA fluxes are constrained to the best estimate ocean heat content (OHC) observations since 2005 (refs). This small imbalance is over two orders of magnitude smaller than the individual components that define it and smaller than the error of each individual flux. The combined uncertainty on the net TOA flux determined from CERES is ±4 Wm-2 (95% confidence) due largely to instrument calibration errors (refs). Thus the sum of current satellite-derived fluxes cannot determine the net TOA radiation imbalance with the accuracy needed to track such small imbalances associated with forced climate change.”

    When you follow up the reference to Kopp and Lean, the uncertainty expands. They stated,

    "Rapid solar irradiance variations with larger amplitude are superimposed on the 11‐year cycles; decreases on time scales of days to weeks can be as large as 4.6 W m−2."

    Greg Kopp and Judith L. Lean, A new, lower value of total solar irradiance: Evidence and climate significance, 2011

    The variation in solar irradiance reported by Kopp and Lean amounts to 34%, approximately double the net estimated increase in OHC referred to by Stephens et al.

    I conclude that theory of radiative transfer may attribute 50% of warming to man and 50% to nature, but the observational support for this or for any other ratio is negligible.

    Firmly-held beliefs about the direction and causes of climate change cannot be founded on climate science, at least not on empirical science. There is no body of data precise enough to support any theory of global warming, global balance, or global cooling.

    We hang onto theory because, like the drunk searching for his lost keys under the streetlamp, there is more light there than in the parking lot where he dropped them.

    The time has come when climate science must concentrate on defining the range and scale of natural drivers of climate together with the internal variability of the climate system.

    More here: http://geoscienceenvironment.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/the-emperors-of-climate-alarmism-wear-no-clothes/

  3. I commented directly on the HufPost article pointing out that Sachs is fronting for James Hansen whose scare story that Venus is a "runaway" is easily , quantitatively proven false : that http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/the-wall-street-journal-p_b_5776558.html?fb_comment_id=fbc_499611930141892_503561263080292_503561263080292#f1a2fed4e3b8d6