It has recently become fashionable for climate contrarians – or realists, as I prefer to be known, to abandon any attempt to dispute the underlying science of AGW, and instead point out to climate zealots the absurdities of their prescriptions for ‘mitigation’, or the futility of ‘decarbonising’ already low-emitting societies while China – whatever soothing words it might use to pull the wool over the eyes of the useful idiots – remains committed to an essentially coal-fired 21st century, implying an emissions trajectory which will dwarf that of its pious Western adversaries. Scientific rebuttal, the argument goes, just doesn’t work, but mitigation costs, which are more readily appreciated as engineering problems, just might.
You can see the point. As Jonathan Swift observed, it isn’t possible to reason a man out of a belief that he was not reasoned into. And despite a catalogue of failed predictions derived from AGW ‘science’, despite two decades in which temperatures have remained statistically stagnant, despite the frustrating refusal of the Great Barrier Reef to die, of the islands of the Pacific to sink, and of the Polar ice caps to melt, belief in the output of alarmists’ computer models has endured, and allowed Net Zero policies to flourish, and thereby continue to threaten the very foundations of Western civilisation. So, it’s certainly a plausible to argue that these people’s faith in AGW science is beyond reason, and to hope that they will be more susceptible to arguments that point to the futility and wrong-headedness of their mitigation measures, and to the very real costs they will be required to pay to enact them.
But that ignores the very real probability that these people are indifferent to reason of any order, and that they derive a social reward from adherence to the cult of ‘climate change’ which makes them overtly hostile to any information which challenges its precepts.
There is some hope, however. Recent polling by IPSOS shows a marked increase in climate scepticism around the world, while a survey of American opinion suggests that, whatever they may say about their belief in AGW, most Americans are unwilling to spend more than the price of a cup of coffee a week to mitigate it. So, it’s tempting to think that while adherence to the cult has been widespread, it is not sufficiently durable to survive contact between its disciples and the direct cost to them of its consequences.
When an irrational belief system such as climate alarmism begins to crumble in this way, the apostates, mindful of the social consequences of their apostasy, look anxiously for justificatory excuses. All of a sudden, scientific arguments which were lately dismissed as ‘denialism’ are embraced warmly. Could it be that the science will finally have its day, and that the alleged imperviousness of the faithful to reason was just a consequence of faulty timing?
With that in mind, I was gratified to find this video, of a talk by physicist Tom Shula which addresses one of the key assumptions embodied in the theory of catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming.
The idea of the ‘greenhouse effect’ is one that treats the Earth’s atmosphere as analogous to the solid pane of glass that forms the roof of a greenhouse. The carbonistas argue that the propensity of gases like methane, water vapour and, of course CO2 to absorb incoming ultra-violet radiation and re-emit the same energy as infrared justifies this metaphor. I was taught the physics of radiative transfer back in 1968, and many of the details are hazy, but I do remember my physics teacher insisting that, should anyone attempt to persuade me that greenhouse gases were threatening the environment, I should remember that the Earth’s atmosphere is not a solid barrier like the roof of a greenhouse. Convection of warm air, which a greenhouse roof prohibits, is not prohibited by the atmosphere. This assumption that convective rejection of heat from the atmosphere was a negligible factor on the earth’s energy budget has always been a main plank in my scepticism.
One of the most astonishing results of the ‘settled science’ meme that bedevils climate ‘science’ is that almost no effort has been made to validate experimentally the assumptions used by the climate models to produce their scary predictions, while billions have been spent on more, better and different ways of modelling the same assumptions.
Shula’s work is the first I have seen that addresses the key assumption underlying climate modelling, that the rejection of heat from the earth’s surface is predominantly radiative, and that convection plays a minor part, and conduction almost none. Using an instrument invented 120 years ago, and readily comprehensible physics, he concludes that the modellers have it exactly the wrong way round, and that convection is the dominant means by which heat is rejected to space, with conduction also playing a greater part than it is given credit for. That being so, the ‘greenhouse effect’ on the earth’s climate becomes negligible.
Of course, Shula’s conclusions are open to challenge, but he’s described his experiment in sufficient detail for others to replicate it. And his account of the relevance of his experiment to the atmosphere as a whole is clear enough for anyone who sees a flaw in his reasoning to call it out. That’s how science – proper science, as opposed to climate ‘science’ – is done.
Let the science begin.