William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Breitbart: A Reply to the 375 Concerned Members of the National Academy of Sciences


Today’s post is at Breitbart: “A Reply to the 375 Concerned Members of the National Academy of Sciences“.

Some 375 political activists attached to the National Academy of Sciences, supporting the totalitarian view on the climate question, have recently issued an open letter saying we “caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.”
In fact, the extent of our influence on climate is not “settled science.” Only 0.3% of twelve thousand papers published in learned journals claimed that recent warming was mostly manmade. The 375 activists are entitled to their opinion, but the scientific community’s peer-reviewed results overwhelmingly fail to endorse their narrow view that recent warming was predominately manmade.

True, we influence climate, by returning to the air some of the carbon dioxide that was there before. But so do termites, by emitting more methane than all the world’s farm animals combined. So do plants, by taking carbon dioxide; storing the carbon in leaves, stems, and trunks; and returning the oxygen to the air. So does the Sun, by supplying nearly all the Earth’s radiant energy. So do volcanoes, by emitting hot rocks that warm the air and ejecta that shade the Earth from the Sun and cause cooling. So do the oceans, by helping to keep the Earth’s temperature within a few degrees either side of the period mean for more than 800,000 years.

The activists say we are warming the oceans. But in the first 11 full years of the least ill-resolved dataset we have, the 3500+ Argo bathythermograph buoys, the upper mile and a quarter of the world’s oceans warmed at a rate equivalent to just 1 Celsius degree every 430 years, and the warming rate, negligible at the surface, rises faster the deeper the measurements are taken. The oceans are warming not from above, which they would if we were warming the air and the air was warming the oceans, but from below.

Go there to read the rest and despair at how politicized science has become.


  1. If you need a laugh, Google the first author.

  2. Lee:

    Which first “author”

    Santer – defended by “merchants of doubt”?
    Monckton – attacked by “merchants of doubt”?

    In either case what’s so ad-hominen-ly funny?

  3. I don’t get it! By writing the paper, are the authors proved to be experts on agnotology or climatology or climate change or global warming or science education? By publicized it in the unbiased media http://www.breitbart.com/, do the authors appear less political?

  4. JH:

    I suppose your idea of agnotology experts would be lewandowsky, cook and oreskes

  5. John B(), how did you derive your supposition of my idea of agnotology?

  6. John B(), how did you derive your supposition of my idea of agnotology experts? Who are lewandowsky, cook and oreskes? Am I suppose to know what they know?

  7. JH
    You seem to question Monckton, et. al, as experts in those subjects…

    If I’m wrong, you tell me who you find compelling as experts in those fields

    The interesting thing is that just by dint of doing agnotological work (regardless of quality) in those areas, they become de facto experts on climatology, climate change, global warming and science education

    By the way, that letter appeared in Gosselin’s NoTricksZone blog two days ago, so the Breitbart was not the first to run with it

  8. \blockquote
    The interesting thing is that just by dint of doing agnotological work (regardless of quality) in those areas, they become de facto experts on climatology, climate change, global warming and science education

    by “they”, I mean oreske, lewandowsky and cook

  9. Been a while since I’ve used blockquote

  10. JH

    I must have “lost” your last thread


    John Cook of SkepticalScience provided “technical assistance” for this “on-line” study, and provided his own “study” on the 97% concensus.

    Naomi Oreskes cowrote Merchants of Doubt equating climate skeptics questioning Climate Science with the Tobacco Industry’s questioning Medical Science.

  11. All true of course, however the tone more than a bit hectoring. OK for preaching to the choir but not likely to win any converts.
    Just my 2p (or 2c).

  12. Naomi Oreskes? Did someone say Naomi Oreskes?
    How dull.
    Al Gore’s associate from a long time ago when some still believed ‘an inconvenient Truth’.
    The high court in Britain ordered that the film never be shown in British schools as it contravened the law on indoctrination and that all the errors and inaccuracies must be pointed out if the film is to be shown.
    There were so many that the judge had only time to draw attention to a few.

    How depressing that that name is still coming up.

  13. John B(),

    The paper contains some agreeable and some disagreeable and unproven speculations. It is one of the backs-and-forth criticism on some consensus results and definitions between two groups of authors. (Simply not my cup of tea.) Both groups quote scientific papers to support their claims.

    No, the paper doesn’t show any of the authors is an expert on any of the topics I mentioned. No, it doesn’t matter where the paper appeared first, publicizing it in breitbart.com doesn’t make the authors appear less political. (Kinda ironic considering what’s said in the paper, Hence, I don’t get it.)

    Whether each of the authors is an expert in any of the subjects is a different story. (Perhaps, one needs to define what it means to be an expert. No, a master’s degree won’t do. Anyway, it’s a bit silly to spend time in telling people they are not an expert or talking about whether a person is an expert. Educate them if they are not expert and show me the research!)

  14. How to destroy your credibility/being taken seriously,
    write something like this:

    “science has no idea whether or at what rate the oceans are “acidifying.” What is known, however, is that the oceans are not acid (as rainwater is): they are pronouncedly [sic] alkaline. It is also known that, under anything like modern conditions, they are so powerfully buffered that alkaline they must remain.”

    Here, again(!), is an example of taking literal meaning of words (‘ocean acidification’ one would have thought, by now, would be understood by everyone) and twisting the phrase into something nobody means, and based on that twisted interpretation used by nobody, pretend to refute the original assertion.

    Apparently is only nearly everybody, except the authors of the referenced paper, who understand that as CO2 reacts with sea water, the water, already basic, becomes less basic (less alkaline) — this reduction in alkalinity is referred to as “acidification.” NOBODY on the alarmist side is endeavoring to assert the oceans will, because of CO2 absorption, cross the neutral threshold and someday become acidic.

    “Ocean Acidification” is a simple shorthand used to mean “Ocean Alkalinity Decreasing to a Significant/Dangerous Degree” (or similar). Whether that is actually a problem its made out to be is another matter worthy of debate.

    How it works:

    As carbon dioxide (CO2) is absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere (and this is known to occur with 100 percent certainty) it bonds with sea water forming carbonic acid. This acid then releases a bicarbonate ion and a hydrogen ion. The hydrogen ion bonds with free carbonate ions in the water forming another bicarbonate ion. These chemical reactions are readily observed & measured — known with 100 percent certainty. That carbonate tied up in ions, and thus not available to marine life, would otherwise be available to marine animals for making calcium carbonate shells and skeletons. So the more dissolved carbon dioxide in the ocean, the less free carbonate ions available for marine life to make calcium carbonate.

    The alarmists are predicting a change in ocean pH from about 8.2 to about 7.8 (from slightly alkaline to a tad less slightly, but still slightly, alkaline) over the next 100 yrs or so, “all things being equal.”

    That “acidification” (again, with that term meaning a ‘slight reduction in alkalinity’) is believed to contribute to “coral bleaching” — with the so-called “bleaching” being primarily caused by ocean warming, with that warming also attributed to outcomes associated with human CO2 emissions. Warming water is the dominant issue with the reduced alkalinity being a secondary adverse contributing factor.

    One may or may not be convinced that the amount the oceans are warming is an issue of concern, but nobody with a modicum of chemistry can deny that about half the CO2 produced by humans in aerosol form is absorbed by the oceans, and, that well-known natural chemical reactions involving that absorbed CO2 are reducing the alkalinity (“acidifying”) the oceans. That much is certain. Whether any of that is cause for concern is another matter — but that’s not what the linked paper addressed.

    “Coral Bleaching” by the way is the term used to describe dead coral, which results in the coral becoming white…like clean bleached laundry. The term is meant to be descriptive in a metaphorical sense — NOT literal. The “coral bleaching” phenomena has nothing whatsoever to do with Sodium Hypochlorite (known as “bleach”).

    Just as anyone understanding a eensy weeny tad bit about “coral bleaching” would know that that phenomena has zilch to do with Sodium Hypochlorite — and, would dismiss as a crank anyone who asserted that “coral bleaching” can’t be occurring because the ocean’s Sodium Hypchlorite (“bleach”) concentrations are unchanged — will similarly dismiss the entirety of the paper for such a faux pas as asserting that ocean “acidification” can be dismissed because the oceans are alkaline and sure to stay that way. The authors either made a genuine interpretation error (showing they fail to know the actual concepts involved), or, resorted to childish sarcasm/exaggeration as a rebuttal device — either way this ruins their credibility.

  15. Ken:

    You get the idea. See also Dr. Briggs’ recent post[s] here where he takes scientists to task for pronouncing recent years the “hottest on record”, pretending to think that they must not know about ancient Earth climates that were much warmer than now. These posts, and the Breitbart article, are not intended to inform or influence the scientifically literate, nor to educate the public. They are purely political (at least Breitbart labeled the article “political science”).

  16. Ken,
    You must have been fast asleep when they were trying to reach you basic chemistry in primary school and you have been blind to most simple observations ever since.

    The solubility of CO2 increases very dramatically as water cools… which is why your Kool Aid fizzes up and overflows when you open a warm can. Also why the essential plant nutrient CO2 is more abundant in cold polar seas and the abundance of life there in spite of reduced available sunlight compared to warm tropical seas.

    Acidification also decreases the solubility of CO2 as carbonate and bicarbonate… just put a few drops of vinegar into any carbonate solution and watch the CO2 effervesced out of solution.

    Also, as any plant nutritionist can tell you the best balance of mineral nutrients for plant growth is to be found on the slightly acid side of neutral. There is no reason to assume that the cyclical population boom and bust of the corals is caused by “AGW” or Anthropologically caused Acidification.

    CO2 and carbonates are always in dynamic equilibrium in aqueous solution. You can’t have it both ways unless you are a nutcase trying to sell a socio-political disease disguised as “science”.

    Ultimately, popular “science” these days is not about investigating physical reality and its associated phenomena, it is merely a marketing tool to sell perverse misanthropic ideology.

  17. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 28, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    But if that is the case, then as the waters warm up, they will hold less CO2 in solution, and the CO2 will be released into the air. So increasing temperature will be associated with increasing CO2 because the temperatures cause the CO2 and not the other way around. What a thought!

    BTW, at what point of CO2 concentration does photosynthesis begin to shut down? I know it varies, but I mean approximately.

  18. Good question, YOS.
    I don’t know at what point photosynthesis begins to shut down but trials in greenhouses with elevated CO2 about 100 years ago indicated that there is a practically exponential increase in plant growth as CO2 is increased from normal atmospheric levels (about 0.03%) to about 1% after which the response levels out at about 4%; perhaps because other nutrients (like sunlight) become the limiting factor or perhaps because CO2 becomes toxic beyond that level… I don’t know of any experiments that confirm or deny either possibility. However, I do know that the use of CO2 to control insect pests in stored grain is lethally inhibiting to the insects at around 20% but that level does not kill the live germ of the grain.

    I guess that we could summarise by saying that CO2 is really, really good for plants and practically no bother at all for animals at any concentration that could ever be achieved on Earth. For example, mouth to mouth (expired air) resuscitation can sustain a human with about 16% O2 and 4% CO2.

    Caveat: the figures quoted are off the top of my head from about 40 years ago.

    [quote]So increasing temperature will be associated with increasing CO2 because the temperatures cause the CO2 and not the other way around. What a thought! [/quote] Yes, increased water temperatures will be associated with reduced dissolved CO2 levels and increased atmospheric CO2, but bear in mind that the relationship is a dynamic equilibrium.

  19. Plants use CO2 for food, so more CO2 has got to be good for plants, right?

    Like, if one pork chop at dinner is good for me, then 17 pork chops would be even better!

    Come on, that’s an unfair caricature. Nobody reasons that way.

    Well, if you add a dash of botanical ignorance to the main dish of climate pseudoscience and ingest, this is what can plop out the other end:


    For a beginner’s introduction to the actual effects of elevated CO2 concentrations on plant growth, start here:


  20. Lee, even a political argument can be right or wrong, true or false. There are still people hoping that the communist party will be voted in for example despite the fact that communism has been ‘tried out’ many times and has never yielded good results.
    AGW is a political science and it is not a pure science because it is a theory that draws on whatever and whenever it likes the features of other sciences. It’s somewhere between sociology and anthropology in it’s scientific rigger.

    Of course rising sea temperatures releases more CO2. What the AGW want to be true is that more CO2 = more greenhouse effect in a linear fashion with as much effect for each doubling.
    They believe that earth is a sensitive butterfly as opposed to the truth that everything is too chaotic and complex to actually find a signal of earth’s temperature.

    Observation and bad model predictions….projections…have shown this theory to be wrong and it was wrong many years ago but resurrected by politicians breathing money into the theory.
    Joseph Hertzlinger YES it was Margaret Thatcher. A French Canadian called Maurice Strong is also one of the founders of the AGW movement. If there were ever a Mr Big it was him but this doesn’t need a Mr Big. It has politics with an ever more global reach.

    Lee Phillips compounded Ken’s remark by himself pretending that people don’t remember their first year science classes.
    It is the political science that IS current climatology.
    The field of climatology didn’t exist until very recently and one of the first climatologists does not subscribe to it’s current politicisation. One Professor Tim Ball. He has received death threats and has been shunned. Not the behaviour of good clean ‘experts’ I’d say. That kind of thing is the behaviour of desperate gangsters and people who don’t have truth on their side.

    What is disingenuous of Lee and Ken are to hide the obvious use of the word ‘acidification’ as a deceptively alarming word and then talk about others being political!
    THAT is politics right there!

    It is in itself an exaggeration and that it hasn’t been corrected is a wilful act of deception on the part of those pushing it.
    To pretend that one has to be an ‘expert’ to understand most of this is very dumb if not very arrogant.
    I have noted that many on the skeptical side have indulged in a little ‘you’re not an expert’ type language with talk of ‘civilians’!
    However, the argument must stand scrutiny by anybody if it is a good one.
    In the field of climatology one doesn’t even need to get into the tricky geekier side of the science such as the much quoted
    ‘cloud parameterisation” or the like. Nor does it matter if someone found some dead polar bears, except to the polar bear;s mothers.
    Nor whether people think it’s colder or warmer or anything else. If the theory is shown to be wrong it is wrong. Meteorology, biology, geology, palaeontology, dendrochronology, there must be about a hundred fields which have all been farmed!

    There has been so far no good predictions based on the theory which is worked into, contained within and the purpose of the models.

    There has been nothing of note to see when looking at satellite temperature record measurements.
    There is a known history on earth of massively higher CO2 levels in the geological timeframe of the earth.
    There has been higher temperatures in earth’s history without polar bears suffering or the human race dying out because of a positive feedback.
    If the earth is shown, and it has, because nothing is happening, to have a low sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 with respect to runaway greenhouse effect, then there’s nothing to see here and people like Lee should really start to make arrangements for the big climb down.

    As for the reference to the CARTOON historical temperature record which was used to good effect to describe the problem of overconfidence in small fractions of a degree temperature change, Lee you are wasting your time.
    You KNOW the earth has been warmer in the past just as you KNOW that oceans do not all have the same PH. By now, so does every tom dick and harry and the public are more and more educated about the truth.
    You might be a clever man, but it’s not strictly relevant to whether or not the public can understand this stuff or not….and there are lot of clever men.

    As for talk of ‘experts’ it is just an appeal to authority. The argument must stand on it’s own without the mortarboard and cloak.

  21. Ye Olde Statistician

    September 29, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Like, if one pork chop at dinner is good for me, then 17 pork chops would be even better!

    More like ‘if a bite of pork chop is good, then two bites is better.’ The amount of CO2 being discussed is nowhere near the levels from the Carboniferous period, when plant growth was luxuriant and gave us (eventually) many seams of coal. I have seen some figures that suggest we are very close to the minimum levels for sustaining plants. (Though this varies by species and circumstance.) So it’s more like an increase from one drop of water to two or three, rather than an increase from a bucket to an ocean.

    However, it is always a tendency of human beings to suppose that what the world was like in our youth is how the world must be kept forever. It is also our tendency to be overly impressed by the immediate past. People in the 1920s assumed that Islam was a spent force and would never again threaten the cities of the West. Scientists at the turn of the 19th/20th century supposed that everything important had been discovered and all that was left was filling in the next decimal place. Stockbrokers and newsreaders always seem to report that the current boom (or bust) will go on and on.

    A good example is the effect of CO2 on temperature. The Arrhenius relationship is logarithmic, which means that each doubling of the independent variable results in successively smaller increases in the dependent variable. And this assumes that the atmosphere is infinitely thick. It’s not clear how boundary conditions, always a bugaboo, come into play. Numerous feedbacks have been proposed to goose the CO2 effect to make it scarier than water vapor (about which no one rational supposes we could do anything, and which cannot be blamed on Evil Western Patriarchal Technological Civilization anyway). But these feedback mechanisms are on more shaky grounds than the Arrhenius formula and in some cases, like cloud cover, scientists will argue on whether the sign of the relationship is positive or negative.

  22. Lee,
    Your bland assertion that increased CO2 will increase global temperature is nothing more than political hype. There is no physical or chemical mechanism by which one or two extra completely transparent, colourless, relatively inert CO2 molecules mixed in 1000 other similar molecules of air can change the temperature of the air. It simply does not happen except in the imagination of some ideological misanthropes.

    That said, we know for sure that colloidal water in the form of clouds is a very effective shield/blanket for radiant energy. Perhaps you lot should be trying to reduce the cloud cover (or, more likely, try to put a tax on clouds so that ordinary people will be obliged to pay the thieving money-lenders even more).

    More realistically, increased CO2 stimulating increased plant growth should lead to infinitesimally small “global” cooling as more of the Sun’s energy is trapped in organic material rather than being dissipated as heat.

    That link to “CO2 is not good for plants” is a nonsense conjecture quite detached from observation and experiment.

    Anyhow, for whatever reason, satellite observations reveal that the Earth is undergoing an increased “greening” on land… goodness knows what’s the improvement in the oceans. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of whales starving to death so I guess that it’s safe to assume that they have plenty of tucker… the big, fat, bastards burping and farting and breathing huge amounts of CO2 and CH4. But, of course, that doesn’t matter because the ideological misanthropes only want to rid the World of what’s left of Christian civilisation.

  23. “Plants use CO2 for food, so more CO2 has got to be good for plants, right?”

    Yes, plants do benefit from increased CO2than that of air.
    Farmers use it in greenhouses to increase tomato yields. You need tomatoes for ketchup.
    For really good homemade ketchup, reduce a load of tomatoes even with skins and add a huge amount of sugar until they almost burn (in the frying pan).
    That’s free!

    I didn’t bother with the links, I’m sure if I wanted to show increased CO2 was bad for plants, I’d pick the right plant to start the experiment and OR keep water levels and nutrient levels the same, so likely causing the plant some stress.

    Freeman Dyson had interesting things to say about the biomass which is in the soil and which is a massive sink for carbon and which will inevitably fluctuate when CO2 fluctuates although not in a way that we can measure..
    Soil will become more fertile, which is the key in agriculture. There really are no conceivable disadvantages to increasing CO2.
    Levels having been so high in the geological timeframe of Earth is proof that Earth can withstand the levels much higher than the alarmists are putting out.
    This inescapable fact or accepted fact cannot be overlooked as if it were a side issue.

    It is you who are pushing pseudoscience. I can only hope you’re a true believer.
    You don’t believe in anything else, much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


© 2016 William M. Briggs

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑