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Sceptic letter in WSJ

A group of prominent sceptics have published a letter in the Wall St Journal:

Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.

(H/T James Evans in Unthreaded)

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Reader Comments (78)

Re: Hengist

Really? Which journal was the IPCC reports published in? When were they peer reviewed?

Can you point me to part that claims 1C increase over a century will have globally adverse effects?

Jan 27, 2012 at 3:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

I must admit that I find much sense in the comments of mydogsgotnonose.

The clasical heat transfer/thermodynamic equations do not suggest that you need to know about absortpion, emissitivity and radiation between two objects in order to calculate the rate of cooling. I consider that there is merit in what mydogsgotnonose has to say about the conflation between energy with heat.

In the experiment that I suggested, it is important that the container is insulated both inside and out and that the inside of the container is of material that does not or is only a weak radiator. It is also important that the volume of the container is large and as briefly alluded to that whatever material is used as the hot object (which can both conduct and radiate heat), it has as similar latent heat capacity as possible to that of the gas atmosphere so that when the second cooler but like object is included, the results are not skewed by measuring changes in the latent heat capacity of the cool gas, and coolgas/cool radiating object.

Of course, there is nothing magical about the 30 degC and 10 degC temperatures chosen and the experiment could be repeated with different temperature variables.

What surprises me in this debate, is the lack of experimenting to clarify some of the areas on which there may be reason to have doubts. Why is the scientific understanding not being taken forward by conducting suitable experiments leading to empirical quantifiable and reproducable data?

Jan 27, 2012 at 3:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

MDGNN Jan 27, 2012 at 1:42 PM

would that be the Gibbs of "Gibbs Free Energy"? I remember vaguely about it having to do with usable energy in (reversible?) closed systems or something along those lines.

Jan 27, 2012 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandy

What a superb, simple and elegant suggestion for an experiment Richard.
I hope that your challenge is taken up.

Jan 27, 2012 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyFOMR

I don't think anyone has thought about this for 60 years which is why climate scientists have fallen into the trap of imagining that you can add up the measured Prevost Exchange signal aka DLR and the IR from the Earth's surface which is energy transfer from the sun.

Take that away from the models and the positive feedback is suddenly much less.

Jan 27, 2012 at 1:23 PM | mydogsgotnonose

May I suggest you read the thread titled United Theory of Climate, which discusses the recent work by Ned Nikolov, Ph.D. & Karl Zeller, Ph.D, regarding climate science errors in calculating the effect of atmosphere on surface temperature.

I feel this work deserves a lot more objective discussion.

Part 1 of the abstract is available here:- and has links to the original work.

Jan 27, 2012 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

richard verney (Jan 27, 2012 at 3:38 PM) writes 'What surprises me in this debate, is the lack of experimenting to clarify some of the areas on which there may be reason to have doubts. '

That surprises me too. Out of all the billions that have been spent on science in response to alarmist pressures and attitudes, you'd think at least a decent chunk of it, would have been spent on relevant experimentation. That kind of money could pay for big labs, big pieces of kit, wind tunnels, radiation labs, enclosed towers to study convection, data quality checks, statistically designed experiments and observation plans, and many others. Given the huge policy implications of the scare, you'd thnk governments would fund such investigations as a matter of due diligence. That they have not, is relevant to our understanding of how on earth this ill-founded alarmism has made such in-roads into many areas of public and private life. Can it be that the pressurisers and beneficiaries of the all the largesse don't actually want to see core assumptions put to the test, put at risk of being demonstrated to be implausible or otherwise inadequate? As is pointed out in the Hockey Stick Illusion, ' ...politicians and the public seem somehow to believe that the fact that a paper has passed peer review means that it is correct.' (page 377, 1st edition). We have not even seen adequate funding of replication work, such as would have exposed the hockey-stick itself as an artefice - instead, as we all know, that had to wait in large part for the efforts of an unpaid amateur, as the HSI recounts so well.

Jan 27, 2012 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Shade

richard verney Jan 27, 2012 at 2:40 PM

What you say about photons not carry a label appears correct, but the reality is that we do not know or understand photons fully. Accordingly, we do not know for certain whether a photon needs to caery a 'pass' to be admitted entry to the warmer world inhabitted in T+ and it may be the case that a photon from T- whilst not having a label does not carry the required pass to affect the T+ world.

Well I'd always thought that photons were pretty well thoroughly understood. And that (via quantum eletrodynamics) their interactions with matter was pretty well tied up.

I have never seen experimental data on this but perhaps you have and I would be interested to see it.

The experiment I would like to see is a black metal strip at say 30 deg C being placed in a well insulated container containing an inert non GHG gas at say 10 deg C and the time taken for the hot metal strip to cool. I would then like to see that experiment repeated but this time with the addition of a second black metal strip at a temperature of 10 deg C (ie., the same temperature as the non GHG gas). I would like to see a comparison of the time taken for the hot metal strip to cool in both scenarios.

In the second scenario the hot metal strip will enjoy the benefit of receiving photons emitted from the cold metal strip and thus if you are correct, the time taken for the hot metal strip to cool should be extended in the second experiment. It is important to use a non GHG atmosphere so that no photons are being radiated from the gas. It is important that in the second experiement the second black metal strip is (on introduction) precisely the same temperature as the gas. Ideally, both the gas and the metal (or other radiating object) should have the same latent heat capacities.

If you have seen an experiment of this (or similar) then I would very much like to review the experimental data.

I don't have a ready answer but....

Instead of measuring heat transfer via cooling rates, it would probably be much more precise if you used electrical heating to provide a precisely known power input to each strip and then measure its steady-state temperature via small thermocouples araldited to the surface of each strip.

This should give equivalent information but it would be much easier to obtain high accuracy as you would not be saddled with trying to make brief transient measurements.

The whole thing could be done in an evacuated chamber to avoid the complications of convection cooling and radiation capture by any greenhouse gas (eg water vapour) that otherwise would be present.

I don't know of such experiments but I always imagined something like it would be the 1st or 2nd lab experiment in any course on heat and mass transfer (a.k.a. chemical engineering).

I think I'll post a query on an engineering discussion group and see what comes back. I would find it utterly amazing if students of chem engrg were expected to take on trust statements about formulas which are the foundation of their profession. (I'd be even more astounded if the formulas their profession is based on were false. )

Let's see what comes back.

Jan 27, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin A

John Shade

It also has to be remembered that the climate "scientists" who have driven the alarmism are not interested in real science. The physicists involved (Hanson, Mann, Trenberth etc) are not interested in basic physics, either experimental or theoretical. The other "scientists", (Jones etc) are not real scientists; the closest they come is wishy-washy observational "science" (tree ring counting, thermometer readings etc). So climate "science" has progressed without any real underlying theoretical or experimental basis and just relies on unvalidated computer models with no basis in physics. The last thing they want is some real physics (thermodynamics etc) and some experiments which would immediately disprove their "greenhouse effect" hypothesis. The current involvement of independent physicists must be really worrying to them.

Jan 27, 2012 at 4:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Good to see some well-published push-back against the hoards of CAGW-promoting ecoloons - hopefully, this letter to the WSJ will have got them all hopping mad! :oD

Jan 27, 2012 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

My first H/T. I might frame it. My life is almost complete. Now if I can just get Jennifer Aniston to sleep with me, I can die happy and fulfilled.

BTW, is this the first time that Michael Kelly has outed himself as a sceptic? Was he a sceptic pre-Oxburgh? If so, how did he get the gig? Or did the Oxburgh experience turn him to the dark side? Any clues?

Jan 27, 2012 at 6:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

P.S. I know it's a long shot, but does anyone have Jennifer's phone number?

Jan 27, 2012 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans


Jan 27, 2012 at 5:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

I don't know who he/she is, but it's not me.

Jan 27, 2012 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDreadnought

Martin A -

I wholeheartedly agree. Well, apart from the bit about 'scam'. With the exception of some greenies and extreme political ideologues [OK, quite a few] I think the vast majority of believers are sincere. I just think they're totally wrong.

I also agree about the 2nd law. I'm with SoD on this - and with his cogent reasoning. One thing that supports my belief is the knowledge that none of the most prominent sceptic scientist will have anything to do with the disbelief in DLR. Not Christie, Not Lindzen, not anyone. And I believe even the best of us look for confirmation bias where we can find it.

I understand the motivation to say CAGW is false because all AGW claims are false/a conspiracy/deranged. To me that is about as reasonable as saying the world is going to end next Monday morning when the timeout ends ;)

FWIW I thought the article was pretty convincing although the scare-mongering about lysenkoism was paranoid and counter-productive. If it had avoided the easy and cynical tribalism it would have been very powerful indeed.

Jan 27, 2012 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnteros

James Evans -

Yes, but sorry. Promised not to share it ;)

Jan 27, 2012 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnteros

I have found that very good - but all too short - essay "Lynsenko and Global Warming" here as well:

Jan 27, 2012 at 9:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJustin Ert

Oops, I should have included that Henk Tennekes was:
KNMI (Dutch Meteorolgical Institute) at the time and he had great problems with his pension afterwards.

Yes, the Dutch are good at betraying each other and coercing each other to tow the party line.
They proved that in '39 as well, they turned out to be the most efficient in handing over jews to the nazis. More efficient than the german population itself.

Despite all their posturing of being "relaxed", "cool" , "tolerant" etc they have learnt nothing at all over the years. A dangerous lot and it will only be singletons who dare stick their neck out , there. For good reasons.

Jan 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM | Unregistered Commentertutut

Call me partisan if you like, but I'm with MDGNN on this. The experiment could be up-scaled to provide the majority of us unmathematical peasants with a conceptually much simpler illustration.

Take two identical high efficency heat engines and place each in an identical transparent enclosure (I hesitate to say "greenhouse" but you get the picture): fill one enclosure with ordinary air, the other with CO2 at whatever concentration you want, but obviously higher than air: radiate both identically with some sort of UV - sunlight would be just dandy: measure output of each engine.

Debate settled!

If "back radiation" is seen not to exist in the real world, we keep the Second Law, carry on our merry coal and oil burning ways and nothing much changes except a whole bunch of dud scientists/economists/politicians get consigned to the scrap heap and a whole lot of our money is saved. If it does exist - perfect! We stick lots of heat engines inside CO2 enriched greenhouses all over the world and have limitless cheap-as-chips energy for ever to keep our air conditioners going as the average global temperature roars beyond even IPCC's scariest predictions (not that we'll need to since we won't be burning much oil or gas).

HOWEVER... as I've pointed out before in another place, I don't think the CO2-enhanced heat engine has ever been built, or will be. Not because it hasn't been thought of, but because any sane engineer knows it won't work.

Jan 28, 2012 at 3:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze


FWIW I thought the article was pretty convincing although the scare-mongering about lysenkoism was paranoid and counter-productive. If it had avoided the easy and cynical tribalism it would have been very powerful indeed.

In what sense is this scare-mongering?

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death. ... Lysenko and his team lived very well, and they fiercely defended their dogma and the privileges it brought them.

This is all true. In what sense is it paranoid and counter-productive? In what sense is it easy and cynical tribalism? Isn't it extremely relevant?

I deeply disagree with your words but as I do I'm aware that I don't have a clue who you are, though I know each of the brave scientists who have signed this very public letter.

I would greatly value a detailed discussion of how exactly any of us should treat the key historical analogies in the 20th century of state-controlled science breaking down, namely the attack on Mendel's genetics under Stalin and the worldwide eugenics movement leading to the Holocaust under Hitler. I am 100% behind the sixteen scientists in this matter. I don't think it's the least bit paranoid to tell the story in the context of global warming dogma and I think they did it very well.

But I also deeply dislike someone denigrating an important and breakthrough letter published in the Wall Street Journal, and thus affecting the reputations of the sixteen scientists involved, while choosing to shield their own reputation in safety of pseudonymity. But at least you don't have to worry about the historical analogy. Trofim Lysenko had the courage to go by his own name.

Jan 28, 2012 at 5:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

Oops, sorry.

I think I meant IR not UV.

Jan 28, 2012 at 6:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

Predictably, the scornful retaliation starts. This one by Peter Gleick in Forbes

Jan 28, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

Philip Bratby - I completely agree with your comments on physics. Many "real" physicists question the CAGW conjecture, and there is a deafening silence from many as well. When any new physics is discussed (such as the "united theory of climate", currently appearing under the discussion thread) it is interesting that the war breaks out between the "sceptics" themselves.

And Oi !! - James Evans - hands off Jeniffer Aniston! She is promised to me (in my dreams...)

Jan 28, 2012 at 10:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

@Roger Longstaff (modest,aren't you)

Jennifer Aniston? I've had better.

Jan 28, 2012 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterLevelGaze

Justin and all - I have recovered Ollier's text via WayBackMachine and it's available here (it's got some minor differences compared to the one at the Lavoisier Group web page).

Jan 28, 2012 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio Morabito

Maurizo Morabito,

Thank you very much for this link, I had not seen it before. This is the best essay of its type that I have ever seen!

A copy to David Cameron, anybody?

Jan 28, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Longstaff

“Shooting the Messenger” appears to be standard operating procedure for climate “scientists”.

In the recently released email, (1625.txt) we find Phil Jones discussing with senior University of East Anglia (UEA) staff, the idea of giving Professor Jonathan Jones (not to be confused with Phil Jones!) and I the same treatment as he (Phil Jones) gave another UK academic, for us having the temerity to send a FOI request to UEA.

Subsequently (1812.txt) Phil Jones asks the Head of Communications at UEA “The thought is whether we should follow the same course with these two”

Fortunately wiser council prevailed with UEA Head of Communications replying on the same day “Do you know the heads of department at (their universities). Are you sure that they would dissociate themselves from their colleagues who have written? We want to avoid any accusation that you are trying to get people fired because they disagree with you. This (Keiller) chap appears to be deputy head of department and could, I think, cause a huge stir if he got wind of it.

As it happens I did.

Jan 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Sorry, chaps the above is a (inadvertent) duplicate.

However it may well serve a useful purpose. I noted that Hengist has been remarkably silent
about my recent dealings (and past) with UEA.

Maybe Hengist would like to explain why he feels that Professor Phil Jones was unwilling, or
possibly, unable to defend his own actions at the Information Tribunal hearing, where the hapless
Jonathan Colum-French was wheeled out instead?

Jan 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

"A deceptively attractive argument but fundamentally wrong, however explaining why has taxed me. I have been helped however by talking with fellow metallurgists who like me have designed heat transfer processes where we have to get it right. So, as we represent the class of experimental physicists who have been forgotten my modern science, let me explain why photons from a colder body can't heat a hotter body"

Indeed. Ever wondered why blast furnaces use fire bricks?
They do indeed radiate heat back into the furnace.

Jan 30, 2012 at 1:40 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocmartyn

There are some excellent offshoots in this thread, on a return to the experimental method for AGW physics and Don's question on the strange inability of Phil Jones to take an oath on matters which directly concern him. But I'd like to return to the Lysenko comparison made in the WSJ letter. I think it's noteworthy that neither Peter Gleick, in Forbes, or Peter Frumhoff, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, in their criticisms of the letter on Friday even mention Lysenko. This suggests strongly to me nobody on the consensus side wants any unaligned person even to think about this history.

For me it's not only not paranoid to make this comparison, it's exactly what's needed for the average WSJ reader (and the many others that they are likely to influence) to take the area as seriously as they should.

Of course no historical analogy is ever perfect. Nobody is saying critics of the AGW dogma today are liable to suffer as much as critics of Lysenko when Stalin had consolidated power and given his blessing to his director of the Institute of Genetics at the Academy of Sciences. But the trends in the climate area should give real concern, not least because the reach of this variant of pseudo-science is unashamedly global. The battle to overcome it and all its works is unlikely ever to be pretty.

Jan 30, 2012 at 3:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

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