On June 2, 2017, in a Letter regarding US withdrawal from Paris climate agreement addressed to the MIT community, Professor Rafael Reif, president of MIT, criticized President Trump’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Accords. In this refutation, we propose to clarify the scientific understanding of the Earth’s climate and to dispel the expensively fostered popular delusion that man-made global warming will be dangerous and that, therefore, the Paris Agreement would be beneficial.
Professor Reif wrote, “Yesterday, the White House took the position that the Paris climate agreement — a landmark effort to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions — was a bad deal for America.”
There is no science unambiguously establishing that CO2 is the chief cause of the warming observed since the end of the Little Ice Age. The opposite has been repeatedly demonstrated. Ice cores have revealed that changes in CO2 concentration follow, rather than precede, changes in temperature. During the last deglaciation, the latest high-resolution records show atmospheric CO2 lagging temperature by 50 to 500 years. Our enterprises and industries return to the air some of the CO2 that was formerly present there, and some warming may be expected. That warming will be small and beneficial.
Professor Humlum and colleagues have demonstrated that changes in CO2 concentration follow changes in temperature after about 8-11 months. The time-lag between changes in temperature and consequent changes in CO2 concentration are caused by outgassing of CO2 from the oceans when they warm and uptake by the oceans as they cool. In addition, the growth rate of the atmospheric CO2 has been slowing recently, linked to an enhanced terrestrial biosphere uptake. Our contribution to atmospheric CO2 adds to the effect of these fluctuations, but it does not add much. One of us (Harde 2017) has reached similar conclusions.
Professor Reif’s assertion that global temperatures can be regulated by an international agreement to atone for our sins of emission is, therefore, at odds with scientific knowledge regarding cause and effect. King Canute’s warning to his English courtiers in 1032 A.D. that even the divinely anointed monarch could not command sea level should be heeded by bombastic intergovernmental agencies a millennium later. The professor’s assertion is, moreover, logically invalid, since the Paris agreement permits China and India to industrialize without limit on their emissions.
The climate is changing even as we speak! Click before it’s too late!
One of us (Marko) showed Reif the linked piece in advance. One of his functionaries, Maria T. Zuber, Vice President for Research, E.A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics, responded. Here is her response.
Dear Dr. Markó
President Reif has received your communication regarding his June 2 letter to the MIT community and he has asked me to respond.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in its 2014 synthesis report, wrote:
Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions have increased since the pre-industrial era, driven largely by economic and population growth, and are now higher than ever. This has led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Their effects, together with those of other anthropogenic drivers, have been detected throughout the climate system and are extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.
This is a view shared by scientific academies and professional societies around the world. For example, a statement issued by the Royal Society and member institutions included this text:
The scientific evidence is now overwhelming that the climate is warming and that human activity is largely responsible for this change through emissions of greenhouse gases.
Based on the hundreds of conversations that I have had with faculty, students, alumni, and researchers, these statements reflect the consensus view within the MIT community — a consensus grounded in the compelling body of scientific evidence regarding anthropogenic climate change. For example, 22 faculty members from MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences recently wrote:
The risks to the Earth system associated with increasing levels of carbon dioxide are almost universally agreed by climate scientists to be real ones. These include, but are not limited to, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and increases in extreme flooding and droughts, all with serious consequences for mankind.
In summary, we have found strong consensus within the MIT community that the scientific evidence of anthropogenic climate change is compelling; that the risks posed by climate change warrant global action; and that the Paris Agreement represents an important step toward greater global cooperation in responding to this challenge.
Thank you for taking the time to share your views with President Reif.
The esteemed and well known Viscount Monckton of Brenchley prepared the following response to President Reif.
Dear Professor Reif,
I see from your reply to Professor Marko on the climate question that MIT, like so many academic institutions captivated by totalitarianism, no longer does science by the scientific method but solely by reference to the Party Line, which you have rebranded as “consensus”.
You were given the plainest of evidence (Legates et al., 2013) that, in the peer-reviewed literature where the rest of us do science, the express support for IPCC’s Party Line to the effect that it is near-certain that recent warming was mostly manmade is of order 0.3%. That evidence might have given a rational observer cause to question whether IPCC, whose duty is fairly to reflect the peer-reviewed literature, is doing its job when it asserts, to a spurious 95% “confidence”, that recent warming is mostly manmade.
You say that “scientific academies and professional societies around the world” share the viewpoint of IPCC, cited by you with enthusiastic approval. The evidence (Legates et al., op. cit., as well as the growing discrepancy between predicted and observed warming) might have given a rational observer cause to ask whether those knowledge workers’ unions were advancing science or their members’ cash interests.
You say, on the basis of “hundreds of conversations…with faculty, students, alumni and researchers”, that the Party Line (sorry, “consensus”) is “grounded in the compelling body of scientific evidence regarding anthropogenic climate change”. Let us narrow the issue to just one aspect of the official science.
There is a natural greenhouse effect, which drives the difference of 33 K between the mean emission temperature of the Earth (255 K) and the mean surface temperature (288 K). That greenhouse effect comprises partly the consequence of forcings and partly the consequence of feedbacks. Assume ad argumentum (and per impossibile) that the 33 K natural greenhouse effect comprises entirely feedbacks.
You will agree, I think, that the feedbacks acting on today’s climate (before any perturbation by us) cannot by any stretch of the imagination exceed the entire natural greenhouse effect, for otherwise they would be by some magical process materially influencing the Sun itself. Accordingly, elementary feedback theory stipulates that the feedback fraction f, which is the fraction of today’s 288 K surface temperature that is fed back, cannot exceed 33/288, or 0.11, and it is most unlikely to be this large.
IPCC, however, says reference warming ΔTs in response to doubled CO2 before feedbacks will be 1.2 K, but that equilibrium warming ΔT after feedbacks will fall on [1.5, 4.5] K, implying that its feedback fraction f = (1 – ΔTs/ΔT) will fall on [0.23, 0.74]. But that interval is between twice and seven times the absolute maximum possible value of f, and two orders of magnitude greater than any realistic value.
The above three paragraphs constitute a complete, formal demonstration by contradiction that the “consensus” interval of equilibrium sensitivities to which you and MIT and IPCC so profitably cling must be a monstrous overstatement. If so, IPCC’s conclusion and yours, defying all but 0.3% of the peer-reviewed literature, that recent warming was almost certainly mostly manmade is manifestly insupportable.
Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
Yours truly received a total compensation of all and any consideration for this work $0.00. In cash.