Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

Roy Spencer Wants You to Believe the Magician Really Cuts Her Body in Half

with 21 comments

Source: Joe Conrad Magic Theatre

We all know that she is not really going to be cut in half, but heck, I like this magic trick just as much as the next person.  Magic is fun to watch but most of us understand that it is not real.  Roy Spencer believes in magic and wants you to also.

Spencer, Monckton, Christie, Lindzen

Roy Spencer and his friends, Christopher Monckton, John Christy, and Richard Lindzen (appearing clockwise to the right and hereafter referred to as SMCL) tell you that humans can keep dumping billions of tons of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere and ocean and things are going to be just hunky dory. They believe that climate sensitivity (the equilibrium global surface air temperature change due to a doubling of CO2 from 280 ppm {pre-Industrial Revolution concentration} to 560 ppm) is very low. Simply put, they do not think that there will be much global warming this century despite the fact that just about every publishing climate scientist and every national academy of science state otherwise.

Skeptical Science lists some of SMCL’s public statements that fly in the face of the current scientific understanding. Compare SMCL’s statements with the following from the United States National Academy of Sciences (2011):

A strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems…. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.

Because they think we have nothing to worry about, SMCL are the darlings of the climate science deniers. For his part, Spencer thinks clouds cause climate change instead of the other way around. His latest paper (Spencer & Braswell, 2011) published in the obscure journal Remote Sensing caused quite a splash in the science denier world. Once again, the deniers trumpeted a single paper as somehow driving a nail into the coffin of man-made global warming. Of course, science does not work that way. To overturn the current scientific consensus requires extraordinary evidence and other scientists must be able to duplicate the results.

Alas, the paper was fundamentally flawed and used by Spencer to make false claims.  So much so that the Editor-in-Chief of Remote Sensing recently resigned. His resignation letter can be read here. An excerpt appears below:

I would also like to personally protest against how the authors and like-minded climate sceptics have much exaggerated the paper’s conclusions in public statements, e.g., in a press release of The University of Alabama in Huntsville from 27 July 2011, the main author’s personal homepage, the story “New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism” published by Forbes, and the story “Does NASA data show global warming lost in space?” published by Fox News, to name just a few. Unfortunately, their campaign apparently was very successful as witnessed by the over 56,000 downloads of the full paper within only one month after its publication. But trying to refute all scientific insights into the global warming phenomenon just based on the comparison of one particular observational satellite data set with model predictions is strictly impossible. Aside from ignoring all the other observational data sets (such as the rapidly shrinking sea ice extent and changes in the flora and fauna) and contrasting theoretical studies, such a simple conclusion simply cannot be drawn considering the complexity of the involved models and satellite measurements.

Although Kevin Trenberth and John Fasullo were first off the mark correcting Spencer’s errors, Dr. Michael Ashley wrote the best summary of the problems with Spencer & Braswell (2011) in his post Spencer & Braswell 2011: Proof that global warming is exaggerated? Or just bad science? I also highly recommend reading Robert Grumbine’s Peer Review and Wagner Resignation over Spencer and Braswell and the set of related links he has posted there. Another good summary by Trenberth, Abraham, and Gleick can be read at The Daily Climate.

Today, an important rebuttal to both Spencer and Braswell (2011) and Lindzen and Choi (2011) was published in Geophysical Research Letters. Dr. Andrew Dessler, in his paper Cloud variations and the earth’s energy budget, shows that in the previous ten years, clouds are NOT the cause of the observed climate change and that mainstream climate models are not in disagreement with observed data. (Listen to Dessler explain his paper.)

“The bottom line is that clouds have not replaced humans as the cause of the recent warming the Earth is experiencing,” – Dr. Andrew Dessler

There is no nail in the coffin after all (shocker!) but there was plenty of drama offered by both Spencer and Lindzen this year. At COP16 in Cancun, Spencer stood with Monckton at a press conference to publicly criticize Dessler’s previous paper and Lindzen complained about being shut out of prestigious journals and ended up publishing in the unheard of Asian Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science. Both of these gentleman should be ashamed of their unprofessional behavior.

Mother Nature is also not buying what SMCL are selling.

Here is what scientists know:

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap heat and cause the planet to be warmer. Humans are overloading the air with too much carbon dioxide (CO2). In the past decade, the increase of CO2 in the air due to human emissions has averaged about 2 ppm per year. To put that into perspective, the amount of CO2 that is emitted globally each day that remains in the air is equivalent to almost 8,000 Gulf oil spills each day!

8,000 Gulf Oil Spills Per Day

In the past 800,000 years, CO2 has naturally cycled between 170 ppm and 300 ppm. At 170 ppm there were massive ice sheets.  At 300 ppm there were no massive ice sheets and sea levels were hundreds of feet higher (goodbye Florida).  Small changes in the Earth’s orbit shape, tilt, and eccentricity were the initial cause of global climate change and then CO2 feedbacks accelerated the change.

CO2 Concentrations vs. Time

CO2 Concentrations vs. Time

We have blown past 300 ppm and are adding CO2 at rates not witnessed in at least the previous 800,000 years.  How can anybody look at this image and believe SMCL when they tell you that these increases in CO2 will not cause much climate change?  Do you believe magic will save us?  SMCL do but Mother Nature certainly does not.

Many independent observations convincingly indicate that the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere are warming.  Oceans are gaining heat, ice is rapidly melting, and the atmosphere is warming.  (A wealth of details and illustrations regarding this warming may be viewed on my Web page titled: Modern Day Climate Change.)

The World is Warming (NOAA, 2010)

The World is Warming (NOAA, 2010)

The pattern of warming matches that expected by increasing heat-trapping CO2 and other greenhouse gases.  There are no known natural mechanisms that can explain this pattern.   The physics of increasing heat-trapping gases tells us:

  1. Higher latitudes (toward the poles) will warm the most while lower latitudes (tropics) will warm less
  2. Winters will warm faster than summers
  3. Nights will warm faster than days

Recently, NOAA (2011) issued the latest 30 year climate normals for the United States, and as expected, points #1,2,3 are evidenced in the graphics below:

Seasonal Changes in US Normal Temperatures

Seasonal Changes in US Normal Temperatures

Latest 30 Year US Climate Normals for Max T and Min T

Latest 30 Year US Climate Normals for Max T and Min T

Climate sensitivity is NOT low as SMCL believe. According to the IPCC (2007): “Climate sensitivity is likely to be in the range 2 to 4.5oC (3.6 to 8.1F) with a best estimate of about 3oC (5.4F), and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C (2.7F). Values substantially higher than 4.5oC cannot be excluded.”  Here is where we are headed in the best and worse case emission scenarios:

Climate Scorecard

Climate Scorecard

According to Synthesis Report from the Climate Change Congress – University of Copenhagen (Richardson et al., 2009):

“Recent observations show that societies and ecosystems are highly vulnerable to even modest levels of climate change, with poor nations and communities, ecosystem services and biodiversity particularly at risk. Temperature rises above 2oC will be difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and are likely to cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond.”

This is a polite way of saying that 2C may be a deal-breaker for people and for nature.  Unfortunately, it appears that the world, especially the US, does not have the political courage to change course and prevent us from “falling off the cliff”.  For much more information about the impacts of climate change please see Impact of Climate Change or my public presentation Climate Change is Not Being Nice to Mother Nature.

Human emissions of CO2 are already changing our climate.  As predicted more than two decades ago, a warmer planet will result in more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, fires, and floods.  You do not need me to tell you what your eyes are seeing.  These extreme events have been all over the news lately.

Scientists are not the only ones that are very concerned.  Health experts are concerned. Dr. Georges Benjamin, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association, made this point quite clearly in his recent statement:

Climate change is one of the most serious health threats facing our nation. Yet few Americans are aware of the very real consequences of climate change on the health of our communities, our families and our children.

Health impacts (2010)

Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, made this point even more bluntly in stating:

We need to… convince the world that humanity really is the most important species endangered by climate change.

Military and intelligence experts are concerned.  In a 2010 statement, 33 of the top generals and admirals in the United States stated:

Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place. It’s threatening America’s security. The Pentagon and security leaders of both parties consider climate disruption to be a “threat multiplier” – it exacerbates existing problems by decreasing stability, increasing conflict, and incubating the socioeconomic conditions that foster terrorist recruitment. The State Department, the National Intelligence Council and the CIA all agree, and all are planning for future climate-based threats. America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil makes us vulnerable to unstable and unfriendly regimes. (2010)

Financial experts are concerned.  A 2010 statement from 268 investors representing assets of more than US$15 trillion:

Several leading studies indicate that the systemic shocks to regional and global economies from climate change will be substantial and will worsen the longer world governments wait to take sufficient policy action.

Already this year, the United States has experienced the greatest number of billion dollar climate-related disasters in its history and you should expect this to become much more common and much worse in the decades to come.  We all pay for this whether we experience the event or not because our taxes and our insurance rates will be climbing to cover these costs.

# of $ Billion Climate-related Distasters

# of $ Billion Climate-Related Disasters

Climate change is already here and the worst is yet to come.  Solutions are going to be put into place.  If you do not accept the science and choose not to sit at the solution table, you will have no say in what happens.  Why not come join the discussion.  There is no debate that humans are overloading the atmosphere with heat-trapping carbon and that big climate changes will occur if we keep emitting away like there is no tomorrow.  The debate needs to move away from the cause and on to the solutions.

Spencer, Monckton, Christy, and Lindzen want you to believe all of this evidence and all of these experts are wrong.  C’mon, you know that is not true just like you know that the woman is not really being cut in half.

Trust the evidence and the experts – not the magicians.  

I will be posting other links to this story below as I find them:

Resignations, retractions and the process of science – Realclimate

Andrew Dessler’s New Paper Debunks Both Roy Spencer And Richard Lindzen – Skeptical Science

Latest Research Shows That Clouds Do NOT Cause Global Warming – Greg Laden

Editor-in-chief resigns as a new paper identifies errors in “fundamentally flawed” climate paper – Brian Angliss

Roy Spencer Persecuted By Own Data – Barry Bickmore

The Eternal Return or: The Unbearable Wrongness of Spencer and Braswell – The Policy Lass

Science Stunner: Editor of Journal that Published Flawed Denier Bunk Apologizes, Resigns, Slams Spencer for Exaggerations – Joe Romm

Journal editor resigns over ‘flawed’ paper co-authored by climate sceptic – Leo Hickman

Journal editor resigns over ‘problematic’ climate paper – Richard Black

Journal Editor Resigns After Publishing Flawed Climate Study Touted By Forbes, Fox – Jocelyn Fong

Editor who published controversial climate paper resigns, blasts media – John Timmer

Paper Disputing Basic Science of Climate Change is “Fundamentally Flawed,”
Editor Resigns, Apologizes
 – Peter Gleick

Spencer & Braswell and the Review Process – John Nielsen-Gammon

Remote Sensing Editor Resigns Over Spencer/Braswell Paper – Barry Bickmore

Dessler shows that clouds aren’t causing climate change, refuting Spencer and Braswell – Tim Lambert

New Scientific Paper Rebuts Contrarian Cloud Claims– Jan Dash

A Reality Check on Clouds and Climate – Andrew Revkin

Climate Change ‘Sceptics’ Exploit Weaknesses in Journal Review Processes – Bob Ward

Spencer and Braswell fundamentally flawed, journal editor resigns – Bart Verheggen

Climate Skeptic Science: Approach with Caution – Peter Sinclair

Spencer/Braswell: This is not New. This is the Way it’s Done. – Peter Sinclair

Bombshell: Journal Editor Resigns over Flawed Spencer paper – Peter Sinclair

Why Questionable “Science” Gets Published, Pounced On in the Media, Retracted, Causes Resignations…Rinse and Repeat – Chris Mooney

GRL doi:10.1029/2011GL049236 Andy Dessler does not like Spencer and Braswell very
– Eli Rabett

Eli predicts that Roy’s Tuesday is not going to be much better than his Friday – Eli Rabett

Wagner Apologized – Eli Rabett

Holy editor resignation, Batman! – William M. Connelly

On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance – Greg Laden

Climate noise amplification – Jason Thibeault

Bad Week for Roy “Wrong-Way” Spencer – Peter Sinclair

New Research Examines Role of Clouds in Climate Change – Scientific American

Roy Spencer Responds With More Shoddy Statistics and Excuses – Barry Bickmore


Written by Scott Mandia

September 6, 2011 at 5:59 am

21 Responses

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  1. See also the UU-UNO Climate Portal here:

    Jan Dash

    September 6, 2011 at 6:30 am

  2. “Trust the evidence and the experts not the Magicians” Me thinks he protests too much. I’ve just popped in and don’t know who you are or what your site is trying to achieve but have you done the science, do you really know what you are talking about, do you know anything about atmospheric physics, molecular science, or even how the planet is warmed and cooled, anything? Just like the rest you have an opinion and you chose the science that supports it. Its amazing, two scientists are given the same data but come up with a different answer. There is always a bias, lucky for you. There are so many that know the science, don’t agree with you and yours, and are ridiculed for having an opinion. Too often when the proof is right in front of you, the blindfold that is your preconceived ideas are in the way. Even the theory that the weather will be more extreme is a theory, not fact and yet you grasp every little bit of news just to support your opinion. Whether the earth is warming, cooling or changing at all is still the question and the answer has not been found, yet.

    Mandia: I am a meteorologist who has been teaching weather and climate courses at the college level for 23 years. I certainly am qualified to speak about climate change. You are welcome to learn by reading the comments from the regulars here who are quite intelligent and also by visiting my Global Warming Man or Myth? site.

    Ask why is it so?

    September 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

    • “I’ve just popped in and don’t know who you are or what your site is trying to achieve but have you done the science, do you really know what you are talking about, do you know anything about atmospheric physics, molecular science, or even how the planet is warmed and cooled, anything?”

      “Just like the rest you have an opinion and you chose the science that supports it.”

      Ask why it is so that someone who admittedly knows nothing about Scott Mandia makes such absolute statements despite their total ignorance.

      Robert Murphy

      September 6, 2011 at 10:17 am

    • “I’ve just popped in and don’t know who you are or what your site is trying to achieve…”

      Head-bone connected to the brickwall-bone…

      Bernard J.

      September 7, 2011 at 10:13 am

  3. Waaaaaaa! There are so many who disagree but are ridiculed! Whether the earth is warming, cooling or changing at all is still the question and the answer has not been found, yet. Whether cigarette smoking causes cancer or not is still the question and the answer has not been found yet either — the science can never be settled!!!!!!!!!

    There’s a reason Roy Spencer’s research is ridiculed. It’s ridiculous.


    September 6, 2011 at 8:03 am

  4. “Trust the evidence and the experts not the Magicians” Me thinks he protests too much. I’ve just popped in and don’t know who you are or what your site is trying to achieve but have you done the science, do you really know what you are talking about, do you know anything about atmospheric physics, molecular science, or even how the planet is warmed and cooled, anything?

    You just pop in, don’t even know whose blog this is, yet you still go on a tirade about the Dr. Mandia credentials without even the slightest mention of yours? You also have no idea what a theory is either.

    Mandia: Not a Dr. yet but thanks for the promotion. When my littlest guy goes to school full time I go back to school also. 🙂

    Ryan C.

    September 6, 2011 at 8:17 am

  5. […] Roy Spencer Wants You to Believe the Magician Really Cuts Her Body in Half « Global Warming: Man or…. […]

  6. […] Scott Mandia function fanbutton(appidd,page,w,div,show_faces,stream,header) { $(document).ready(function() { […]

  7. […] the analyses as they come. For a start, you can read a thorough analysis at Skeptical Science, Scott Mandia’s Blog, and now at Real […]

  8. […] are links to other takes on this story from Skeptical Science, Greg Laden, Brian Angliss, and Scott Mandia. Eco World Content From Across The Internet. Featured on EcoPressed Another thought on our […]

  9. Hmmm.

    Roy Spencer is to climatology as Frank Spencer is to, well, anything to which he attempts to turn his hand…

    Bernard J.

    September 7, 2011 at 10:09 am

  10. […] Roy Spencer Wants You to Believe the Magician Really Cuts Her Body in Half […]

  11. My how fast a new paper can go from writing to peer review, are the team that scared? The new Dessler paper doesn’t impress me. It shows quite clearly something is amiss in peer review. I won’t believe such garbage.

    Mandia: The imperfections in the peer-review system certainly have not slowed the rapidly rising rates of carbon emissions and warming of the planetary system. Arguing about whose hose to use while watching a hourse burn is a prescription for disaster.


    September 7, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    • gm, remember the L in GRL represents ‘Letters’, not ‘Lengthy’. The whole purpose of GRL’s existence is to get stuff like this commentary published more quickly than can be done by Nature or similar journals publishing more weighty papers.

      (Did you check the received and published dates for all the other items in this issue of GRL to see if any other items were published more quickly? Thought not.)


      September 9, 2011 at 3:13 am

    • Look before you leap:

      Dessler’s paper is nothing unusual despite the protests from Watts, McIntyre, and Pielke, Sr. Read and be enlightened.

      Scott A Mandia

      September 9, 2011 at 6:21 am

    • genealogymaster, your science-dodging complaint is not original. The false doubt mongers who invented it are very likely aware that GRL is a Letters journal and that the time to publication was normal. For more on this, see
      Conspiracy Dog-whistling about GRL and the New Dessler Paper.

      Pete Dunkelberg

      September 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

  12. Genealogymaster.

    What point in Dessler’s paper do you perceive to be most egregiously incorrect? What point comes second, and what comes third? Let’s have them presented by you here, and see how your gripes withstand scrutiny.

    If you can’t do this, then obviously your lack of impressedness stems not from objective criticism, but from ideological blinkeredness.

    And note – calling something you don’t agree with “garbage”, and then refusing to “believe” that something, is not a logical thing to do if you have not first actually demonstrated that that something is indeed garbage.

    You aren’t a scientist, are you?

    Bernard J.

    September 8, 2011 at 12:19 am

  13. “Scientists are not the only ones that are very concerned.”

    — has the insurance industry noticed (SwissRe)? I think so!


    September 11, 2011 at 10:54 am

  14. It is time we started methodically to attack the SMCL position. Their hypothesis is that climate sensitivity is low – at least below 1.5*C, and they prefer a figure of ~0.5*C.

    This hypothesis cannot account for multiple lines of evidence which point to a range of 1.5-4.5*C. Data from palaeoclimate, volcanoes, solar cycles and ocean temperature changes all, remarkably, converge on this figure. Not to mention that computer models cannot match observations with a low climate sensitivity figure.

    Against this substantial body of evidence, the “skeptics” can only advance a handful of flawed papers. Their hypothesis cannot stand up. It is time for us to take the battle to these guys and show the world that they should be classified as without scientific credibility, along with such people as the creationists.

    Richard Lawson

    September 12, 2011 at 6:12 am

  15. […] In addition, there is some interesting reading here, here, here, and here. […]

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