Problem premises, misplaced blame

I was reading a paper by Hansen et al and found the term “known planetary energy imbalance”. This has always been an interesting term to me. It presupposes that:
(A) Balance is supposed to exist.
(B) We know every factor in the energy mix and it’s contribution to the overall balance

Without verification of these two premises, any conclusions that arise from these premises are not logically true. The conclusion may be true, but the arguments used to “prove” them do not lead to the conclusion and do not serve to verify the conclusion.

(A) How do we know a “balance” ever existed? Humans love balance, that I understand. Mathematical equations have to balance as a matter of definition. Then there are the laws of thermodynamics. Mathematically, we want all the parts to add up—same amount of energy in as out. Right now, the earth is absorbing more energy than it is releasing back into space. The energy is going into the oceans. This is interpreted to mean something is “wrong” and must be fixed.

The need for balance is seen in the use of the global mean temperature (a statistic that reduces thousands of readings to one easy number). Any variation from this temperature is an anomaly. If even the smallest change occurs, it has enormous implications. Should one point out that the temperature of the Earth has always varied, the shrill response is: “Not this much”! Everything must balance and thus must remain stable.

If there is an imbalance and the global mean temperature is going up, we must “fix” it. Fix it to what? The pre-industrial era? Was it in balance then? What about the warming after the LIA? Did that indicate a return to balance or a falling out of balance? Snowball earth—definitely out of balance? What about when snowball earth started to melt? The balance was definitely not present then. So what period in time was the energy in/energy out in balance? Why did it stop being in balance? Was it ever really in balance or are we looking at a system that works without the balance we demand and that system’s imbalance results in what we call “climate”? Is it the imbalance that is the “correct” state?

Hansen is now saying “natural” climate is holding the CO2 in check—El Nino, La Nina, and solar output. However , he continues to claim CO2 from humans is the “predominant forcing”. The 5 year mean (running average) has been flat for a decade, while CO2 continues to rise. I garden. The predominant factor in successful gardening is water. We have had 12 years of drought. For a while, my irrigation watering, fertilizing, etc produced some results. However, year after year, the crop became smaller and smaller. My ability to get enough water through sprinklers was limited by the drought, also. This year, my garden is ¼ the area of the past. This year, rain has been falling. The amount of produce from the smaller area is exceeding the yield from last year’s large area. Nothing I did could overcome the lack of rain. Rain is the predominant factor. It seems problematic that a factor so huge and planet-threatening as human-produced CO2 could be knocked down by natural factors. The claim that warming will return is still clung to, however. Nature will fail to retain it’s current domination and CO2 will again reign. In my case, I know the rain was the dominant factor because when it returned, so did the garden. Until now, that was nothing more than an hypothesis. Just as “the warming will return” is nothing more than an hypothesis until the warming does return. Even then, there is the serious question of how a climate driver the size of human-induced CO2 could be overwhelmed by any natural process.

Hansen’s theory also presumes there exists a dominant driver of climate and that it will remain dominant except for brief periods. It is equally possible, and may be probable, that there exists no single factor or single group of factors that rule climate. Many factors may rise to dominance for periods of time, then are overpowered by others. In other words, there are multiple drivers that move up and down in their level of influence.

(B)We know every factor in the balance and it’s part/percentage in the balance. This is obviously false. Until the temperatures “flattened”, natural forces were said to be completely overwhelmed by CO2—that CO2 is the driving factor. If we did know everything there is to know about climate, we would have realized that nature might be a very large part of climate changing and that our contribution was not large enough to rule the climate kingdom continually. Climate scientists would have been telling us that CO2 was one factor but there were many others, and that their current understanding was that CO2 was the major driver at the moment (plus forcings, of course). They would have clearly stated that leveling off was possible and that nature could prevail for at least short periods. This was not found in the narrative until the temperatures flattened and there arose questions about why the warming of the atmosphere had stopped or slowed. As far as I know, it is not found in the research papers either. The narrative and research say warming is primarily due to CO2. It is the questioners who suggest otherwise.

Climate scientists bemoan the fact that people do not believe or trust them. Statements are made to the effect that Fox News is having more influence over people’s beliefs than the scientists themselves. Fox News is spreading an anti-science message and damaging the climate scientists standing.

That is NOT the problem. This sudden “nature is stronger at the moment but we assure you it will get continue to get hot just like we said it would” is clearly viewed as a CYA statement. When scientists predict warming for years and then circle the wagons and put out CYA statements when the warming flattens, they look just like politicians. People don’t trust politicians—the same happens when scientists start to act like politicians: Distrust.

Problem premises and CYA tactics are why people distrust climate science. Try clearly stating the premise and backing it up with solid evidence, not a “trust me” from the people promoting the theory. Of course, you will need a theory that actually can be verified. When models fail, the theory fails. When the theory cannot account for changes in what warms and how much, the theory fails. It is this failure that is the problem. Pure and simple.

Scientific Badger

Scientific Badger


3 comments on “Problem premises, misplaced blame

  1. The name of the paper is Global temperature Update Through 2012. Google it–comes right up.

    I’m looking at the 10 references (pretty short compared to what I usually see) and six are his previous papers (actually, one is his book) one is the IPCC and two others. Actually, the one “Our Affair with En Nino: How We Transformed an Enchanting Peruvian Current into a Global Climate Hazard” looks interesting. I must check that out. There is one on Earth energy imbalance that Hansen wrote. I will check that one out also.

    As PeterB notes, energy in must equal energy out (or used or absorbed) but I have not found anything that shows the “balance” is actually stable. Warming occurs, cooling occurs. Without humans being involved. Which means the mechanisms that create the balance are ever changing and we don’t control them. Or understand them fully.

  2. youkipper says:

    Which Hansen et al paper are your referring to? A link would be nice. Are you sure it doesn’t mention or reference other research showing how the imbalance is determined?

  3. PeterB in Indianapolis says:

    If natural variation can “temporarily” overwhelm the climate signal of “human produced CO2, then, by definition, human-produced CO2 CANNOT BE the primary driver of climate. By definition, a primary driver cannot be overwhelmed by effects less powerful than itself. Thus, the claim that CO2 concentration controls temperature is completely refuted and need not even be discussed further – the hypothesis has been disproved.

    As far as energy balance goes, physically speaking, energy in must equal energy out + energy used or absorbed. I just don’t think the climatologists have an accurate energy balance portrayal. Actual measurements show that in years such as 1998 (big El Nino), energy out at the Top of Atmosphere was actually FAR GREATER than the models predicted, meaning that energy being released back into space (and not used or absorbed or turned into heat) is yet another thing that the climatologists have completely failed to model correctly.

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