A controversial look at Blackbody radiation and Earth minus GHG’s

A controversial look at Blackbody radiation and Earth minus GHG’s” (2011-12-26). Anthony Watts provides more space for ill-informed attacks on “the Greenhouse Theory”. Here a savant named Reed Coray eagerly proves his wishful thinking, ominously triggered by Lord Monckton’s blithering. Funny how Anthony lets others espouse ideas that he’s officially too embarrassed to defend.

In this case everyone, except Reed, has miscalculated the Earth’s albedo and therefore there is no Man-made Global Warming. I guess the Earth’s albedo must have mysteriously, and naturally, changed in the last century.

Still, when his thesis is peppered with expressions like “I’m not sure what the definition of the ‘Earth’s characteristic-emission temperature’ is”, “If I am correct” and an apparent belief that he’s the first person to notice clouds and oceans, we are forced to conclude that we are dealing with an ill-informed but enthusiastic amateur with the usual opaque motivations.

It’s always entertaining when cranks latch on to black body radiation. If he’d referenced a spherical cow there might have been some redeeming comic value, but I think one of Anthony’s commenters sums it up best: “This is painful to read.”

51 thoughts on “A controversial look at Blackbody radiation and Earth minus GHG’s

  1. Back in 2010 one Reed Corey said:

    “Tallbloke, Nasif Nahle, and others. I enjoy reading and learn from your comments–especially those at WUWT because I spend most of my blog time there. “

    Yep someone that got their science education from cranks on blogs.

  2. Just more evidence that Watts has scraped the bottom of the barrel far too many times.
    He’s worn through the bottom and is using the dirt underneath.
    Sooner or later all the scraping is going to undermine that barrel and the whole works is going to topple over.
    Even fools don’t like to associate with idiots.

  3. “This painful to read” isn’t quite the comment that nails it.

    I prefer this one:

    “To the author of this post: It is strange that with all that Monckton got wrong in that post […] you have chosen to attack the one thing that he got right”

  4. Fair comments. I don’t doubt that most of the AGW proponents are personally sincere in their beliefs (but wrong). However it does seem, all too often, that they are unwilling or unable to return the compliment.

    I’ve read that law schools often set students the task of individually arguing a predefined legal case with one of their classmates in front of the whole class. The catch is, that the two students are not told in advance whether they will be playing the role of prosecutor or defence. It’s an interesting (but probably futile) thought experiment to perform in this case.

    “A man who knows only half an argument does not even know that.”

    [So it all boils down to debating tactics, does it? I rather think it’s about the physics and environmental evidence and to characterize accepting the scientific consensus as sincere but wrong simply shows you are a victim of your own accusation. The denialist position on climate, such as it is, has never risen above ignorance and partisanship. Here’s a rhetoric quote for you: “If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table.” – Ben]

    • The ‘court of law’ or ‘pubic debate’ paradigm is beloved of the sceptics, particularly those it seems, without a scientific training, as it implies two equal sides arguing contrary positions. And there is a single outcome, guilty/not guilty or won/lost.

      This may be a good basis for case law or political debate, it is not how scientific discourse proceeds. Scientific debates can only be ‘won’ by reference to demonstrable facts and the weight of observable evidence. No amount of rhetoric, however aristocratic, can sway a scientific debate in the absence of facts and evidence.

      And every survey of the literature, or the work of scientists in the field shows that those sceptical of AGW have little or no evidence to call on, as opposed to the thousands of studies that support the concensus viewpoint.

      [Holy cow! Next thing you’ll tell me is that the funniest TV shows aren’t the ones with the loudest laugh-track! That does seem to be the denialist presumption, doesn’t it? :-) – Ben]

  5. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I don’t attempt calculations like this because I don’t know enough to get it correct. But I’m smart enough to recognise someone who only knows as much as me, and Reed Coray is such a person.

    Anyway, even the folks at WUWT are suspicious.

  6. Earth’s albedo is constantly changing (from day to day, from season to season, from year to year) and it is a fact that Earth’s albedo is not accurately known.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that the albedo has changed this past century (some changes being entirely natural, others human induced such as de-forestation and forestation etc)

    [Weather vs climate, variability vs trends. Your point is true and at the same time inconsequential from a climate perspective. – Ben]

  7. Tell you what Ben. Re-read Reed Coray’s article – not easy, admittedly – grasp his central point, and then offer a cogent refutation. Then, we might be able to assess your comprehension skills and scientific understanding. For now though…

    i’m not arguing for or against Reed, rather just observing you completely missed the point. That doesn’t offer much encouragement regarding the rest of your site does it now?

    [I think I’ll decline the assignment. Why don’t you explain his “central point” since you are so sure I missed it. – Ben]

    • Certainly.

      Reed takes an awfully long time, and far too many words, to say one thing. IF the method of computing an earth surface temperature in the absence of greenhouse gases assumes an albedo of 0.3, then it must be an invalid computation, for the simple reason that such an albedo must in large part depend upon the reflectivity of clouds, and water vapour is a greenhouse gas. Thus, the better way to calculate the non-greenhouse gas temperature is to absent clouds from the model and derive an albedo that depends only on oceans and land.

      Reed suggests that an albedo nearer 0 or 0.1 may be more appropriate.

      He is NOT saying that albedo has changed, he is merely suggesting that the figure used in the model of an earth without greenhouse gases is that of an earth WITH greenhouse gases.

      Now he may be quite wrong in that assertion, though it does make sense to me. But you very clearly are wrong in what you seem to think he said.

  8. Like you Ben, I also try to pay attention to the physics and chemistry, though we seem to come to different conclusions. I’m not sure if that exempts me from your category of “denialist”. There is no shortage of ignorance and partisanship on both sides of the argument. The article on WUWT you address is certainly not one of the best they have published, but I have read most of the comments and find some excellent, and helpful to my thinking on the matter.
    By contrast, the whole Dec 27 post by Willis Eschenbach I found almost unreadable, and does him less credit than he usually deserves. Not because it is wrong, but because I think the WUWT readers merit a better explanation. But I can understand his motives in trying to explain the subject to a wider audience. So does it all “boil down to debating tactics”? Well, why not ask Mike -“…the important thing is to make sure they’re loosing the PR battle”-Mann?

    Regarding my first post, I’ll try and explain further. Just considering having to defend the viewpoint of ‘the opposition’ sometimes actually helps to crystallise one’s own thoughts on a subject, and help understand why others may take a contrarian view.

    [Curious that you understand and forgive all WUWT’s failings but think that inconsequential remarks by the hated Michael Mann undermine the scientific position. You’re trying to convince yourself, not me. – Ben]

    • Ben,
      What I understand, and what I tolerate, and what I forgive, can be very different things. But I am heartened to read you using the word “inconsequential” in the same sentence as “Michael Mann”. If only the IPCC would take the same view.

      btw, I do like the design of your website, though sometimes the cursor dissappears/doesn’t blink. I’m not sure why. I occasionally experience it on other websites.

      [Twisting my words like that is juvenile and dishonorable. – Ben]

  9. “A man who knows only half an argument does not even know that.”

    The argument can be found in the scientific literature. What can be found on blogs is noise.

    There’s no requirement at all for someone to read blogs in order to understand climate science. Indeed even sceptics will proudly tell you there’s no coherent sceptic argument since they oddly consider this a strength rather than a weakness. In a given day on WUWT you can read 100 separate and incompatible arguments for why climate change isn’t happening/isn’t significant/isn’t caused by humans/won’t be bad.

    • “There’s no requirement at all for someone to read blogs in order to understand climate science.”
      Agreed. But it’s cheaper than text books, even if a lot of it is complete rubbish. For those who wish to seek knowledge and understanding, it can be a useful tool.

      “Indeed even sceptics will proudly tell you….”
      My dear, I am a sceptic. That is the first quality of a scientist. But please don’t you tell me what I think.

      “In a given day on WUWT you can read 100 separate and incompatible arguments for why climate change isn’t happening/isn’t significant/isn’t caused by humans/won’t be bad.”
      Quite. And a lot of them are probably tripe. But that doesn’t mean that cAGW is made true as a result of inadequate criticism. Sceptics don’t need to prove anything. The onus is on the proponents to disprove the null hypothesis. In my opinion they haven’t done it yet.

      [Smell that? It’s essence of self-satisfied denialism. – Ben]

  10. for the simple reason that such an albedo must in large part depend upon the reflectivity of clouds, and water vapour is a greenhouse gas.

    So, are you saying clouds are made of water vapor?

    [Baby steps, baby steps. – Ben]

  11. You sure that’s the question you want to ask Peter?‘ Indeed I am, if only to help clarify what you mean. Can you answer it please.

    • OK Peter. Call me crazy, but if in our little model we have no greenhouse gases, and therefore no water vapour, I’m guessing that we can’t have said vapour condensing in the atmosphere and forming clouds. Or are you proposing that we could have clouds without evaporation?

      • By the way, happy to pursue this but I’ll warn you up front that I am no climate scientist and haven’t a hope in Hell of arguing radiative transfer models and atmospheric heat transfer.

        I simply followed a link from WUWT to this post on this blog and observe that if Ben wants to be a smartass and take someone down, he’d do it way better if he could understand what his target actually said.

        As it is, he shows himself to be too eager to demonstrate his intellectual superiority, so eager in fact that he simply ends up the fool. And that hardly encourages me to read further of his blog.

        Had he provided some reasoned case for dismissing Reed’s proposition, even if it were simply a couple of sentences, I’d have felt some degree of admiration and I’d have learned something. As it happens, Ben just confirms my views of those pushing the CAGW barrow.

        Thus, Wotts Up With That does more for the skeptic cause than even Lord Monkton manages.

        [So you think Reed knows what he’s talking about? I plead guilty to the charge of finding him incomprehensible. If you consider Monckton’s self-important logorrhea a “skeptic” triumph, then you’re well primed to bob along with Reed. – Ben]

      • Bit late but..

        Simple approach is to simply have clouds as before but assume that Water vapor is transparent to IR (and all other GHGs).

        Mind you, there would be little point in running a whole GCM to work this out. I suspect that the numbers come from simple 1-D models. Indeed, if we tries a full modeling approach we’d probably find that albedo very quickly rose as the oceans froze over, meaning that the temperature would drop by far more than 33K, but that’s not what we are interested in when trying to quantify the greenhouse effect itself – we want to hold everything else constant.

  12. “[So you think Reed knows what he’s talking about? I plead guilty to the charge of finding him incomprehensible. If you consider Monckton’s self-important logorrhea a “skeptic” triumph, then you’re well primed to bob along with Reed. – Ben]”

    See, there you go again, shooting from the hip, foot firmly in your sights. Ben, READ first, then COMPREHEND, then engage mouth (or fingers in this case).

    Where have I said that I think Reed knows what he’s talking about, or that Monckton is right? All I have said is that firstly you haven’t the courtesy to make an effort to understand the point of view Reed expressed, before dumping on him. That doesn’t make you right, and it certainly doesn’t prove Reed wrong. It just makes you a boor. And second, I was observing that while skeptics may parade LM as having a powerful anti-CAGW argument, you provide a similar message through your boorish public behaviour.

    Now, I don’t know you at all, and you may be a great guy, but all I’ve got to go on is this blog. And on first impression, it’s not good. My suggestion is, assume that some of your audience will not be as scientifically literate as you and offer them a useful counter-view, rather than self aggrandizing smartassedness.

    Now, I shall stop abusing your hospitality and ask you a sincere question.

    I’ve read many times the matter of the 33C difference between greenhouse and non greenhouse earth temperature, and each time it seems to be couched in a slightly different way. I am not particularly bright, but bright enough to know I can’t hope to fathom it without a lot of study and perhaps experience. But that doesn’t stop me being intrigued.

    So, you could take the time to offer a simple explanation – besides me others may find that useful.

    Or, you could just tackle Reed’s argument.

    As best I can tell, that is simply that if one absents greenhouse gases from a model earth in order to derive a non-greenhouse-forced temperature for that earth, one should not use an albedo of 0.3 given that is predicated upon there being water vapour in the atmosphere.

    Of course, it’s your blog, you may be a busy man, and I might have annoyed you to excess. In which case, we can all move on and I’ll go back to trying to get a handle on this matter by rereading SoD, WUWT, JoNova and maybe a couple of others. At the end of the day, skeptic or not, I enjoy all of those and I have learned a lot. And that’s got to be a good thing.

    [You’re sounding more and more like Monty Python’s “Argument” sketch. So much jumping around, revising yourself, lecturing one minute, being expansive the next. Your selection of representative climate websites is a howl though. Enjoy your journey of discovery, but your trajectory doesn’t look good – Ben]

    • Fair enough. My latest post was rather long winded and dull I’ll agree but in my defence it was written while travelling in some discomfort jammed in between several dogs and two adult children. I still think you completely missed Coray’s point, but what the heck.

      Meanwhile I’ve very much enjoyed some of the commentary on the latest posts by LM and Dr Nikolov at WUWT on this very matter. On the whole it seemed to me there were some pretty sharp commenters in those threads.

  13. Graeme M…..you asked how a model can use albedo without GHG? Well we can do that because snow and ice create an albedo effect, especially if the planet were snowball which would happen without GHG. That is why arctic ice is somewhat important. Honestly it is quite simple if you know the physics but if you do not it becomes more complex. Do you have at least some physics in your background? Maybe a year in high school? Something other than blog posts at WTFUWT?

  14. Graeme, I feel you may be serious about wanting to learn the science. A lot of it is pretty difficult when it’s not completely obscure to non-scientists.

    Spencer Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming site is pretty good It delivers a neat mix of history of science and the science itself in neatly parcelled, readily digestible portions. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.htm

    If you’re serious about the ‘proper’ scientific stuff, try Science of Doom – and you’re very welcome to join my skip-the-equations club to do so. It’s sometimes hard going. But it is neatly packaged topic by topic. It’s up to you (or me) to decide exactly how much time or effort we’ll put in on any given aspect of a subject.

  15. Graeme M: “I’ll warn you up front that I am no climate scientist and haven’t a hope in Hell of arguing radiative transfer models and atmospheric heat transfer.”

    So you openly admit you do not have the ability to discern a good analysis from a bad one, yet you press on our host to provide you with a critique of someone posting on WUWT – You wouldn’t be able to understand that either?

    What’s your point? Are you trying to demonstrate your own silliness? (you’re succeeding)

    Still, you’re no worse than the hordes of disciples over at WUWT. Good to see you stay away from science based sites, they would dilute your pure fake scepticism…

  16. Graeme: I think that the answer to your question lies in the fact that the calculated difference between -18°C and +15°C is due to the greenhouse effect (everything else being equal, like albedo), not the presence of greenhouse gases (like water vapor, which indeed affect albedo and therefore surface temperature). At least, that is how I understand it, and if that is true, then the argument made at WUWT is at best irrelevant. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable could confirm.

  17. Gosh, a veritable storm of comments. Let me explain myself a little more then.

    First, I am just an average Joe who likes to read/follow a few of the skeptic sites, primarily for fun. I find the arguments and the varying views entertaining and it occasionally pushes me off to Wikipedia or SoD or a uni website to find out more. The more I read, the more I realise the less I know. To really understand this stuff as you all rightly observe requires a proper edukayshun. I have no more than High School with no science and limited maths. But that’s OK, I do this for fun.

    Second, I am skeptical. Right up front, I will say that I don’t believe that CO2 can cause CAGW. Don’t try to tell me why I am wrong because all we would do is go down a path I’ve already trodden. Of course I may be wrong. In fact, you would say, I most certainly am. That’s OK. I don’t count for anything. If I were the PM or President, regardless of my beliefs, I would act as though it is real as the best scientific advice is that it is. But personally, I really hope to live a few more years to see how this one plays out.

    Now, the point of my original post was very simple, and I see that the new commenters have missed it too. Let me say it again. Ben did not bother to properly read or understand Reed Coray’s blog article on WUWT, but he did feel he could offer a smartass comment on it. I am not saying Reed is right, I am not saying Lord Monckton is right, and I am not offering any argument about the greenhouswe effect. I am simply saying Ben is wrong in what hje thought Reed said.

    Reed made this observation. As far as he – Reed – understands things, in the presence of an atmosphere containing greenhouse gases the earth’s surface temperature is, on average, 15C, whereas if we calculate that temperature absenting those gases, the temp would be -18C. However, Reed notes that the calculation to derive that -18C uses an albedo of 0.3. And that number utilises the reflective capacity of clouds. If though there were no greenhouse gases, there would be no water vapour. And if there were no water vapour, there would be no atmospheric condensation of said vapour and hence no clouds. Thus, you cannot use 0.3 as the number for albedo if calculating the effective surface temperature without greenhouse gases, you must use something closer to zero. That’s it.

    And I am saying that if Ben wants to criticise Reed, he would do better to criticise what Reed means, not what he misunderstood Reed to mean. Reed did NOT say that the earth’s real albedo has differed at any time, or that it is not 0,3. He merely observes what seems to him to be a logical inconsistency.

    JRC, of course it is simple in theory, it’s when you delve that it is not. Hopefully you can see why your comment too misses the mark. Adelady, tell me more about the skip the equations club. Mike, you’re a dill. Christophe, yes of course, but that’s the whole point. No greenhouse gases to have no greenhouse effect. It’s a model.

    Finally, I observe I’ve done it again, another long post. Too long. My apologies for that :)

    [So… no science education whatsoever and yet you “don’t believe that CO2 can cause CAGW.” If that isn’t classic denialist thinking’ I’ll eat my hat. Reed’s anti-scientific speculation depends on impossible physical conditions and even then doesn’t explain anything. Deleting “clouds” from albedo means removing not only water vapor but also both atmosphere and oceans. They’re related you know. Even if it’s all down to albedo then Reed needs to describe a “natural” trend that matches the real global temperature increase. Your response to your other critics here is shallow and disrespectful and seems to be more about your enjoyment of arguing than about the facts. – Ben]

    • Oops, sorry all. I am an Aussie and I described Mike as a dill. That simply means, he’s an idiot.

      [So the important thing is to make sure you land your insults? – Ben]

  18. Hmmm… Well Ben, I’m sorry if I came across too ‘disrespectful’ but let’s face it, your whole site is dedicated to disrespecting others. I guess you think that’s cool. Whatever.

    Nonetheless, I did find something of interest here. I would very much like to take up Adelady’s offer re the skip-the-equations club.

    Adelady, if you pop back in, let me know the details, or email me at gmc99 at bigpond.com. I do have a pretty fair grasp of the matter – my earlier caveat was simply that it’s the detail that I can’t hope to grapple with, and that’s more a matter of lack of time to delve.

    [What I do is draw attention to the chronic willful ignorance and misrepresentation at Anthony’s website. Your characterization simply suits your own interests. – Ben]

    • Ben, if all you do is ‘draw attention to’ what you believe to be willful ignorance by being disrespectful to those posting or making comments there, I submit that you are really just a cheap shot artist. I would have more respect for your efforts if you actually explained, without the character assessments, why someone is wrong. I repeat, it just makes you appear a boor, and it seems a boor with limited detailed of the subject matter. I’d hazard a guess that Monckton would have you for breakfast.

      Ben, WUWT is a BLOG. It’s not the last word in scientific publication. It’s like a bunch of people sitting around arguing stuff. Some people are smart, some are not, some know their topic, some are ignorant and some don’t know the difference. It’s a free world, the Internet, and we are welcome to enjoy that freedom.

      Like it or not, some people accep the state of the science and believe in CAGW. Some people do not. And while those who do not may turn out to be wrong, it does not follow that they do not have a right to discuss their views. You’d rather that people only discuss the Ben approved view of the world? There aren’t science matters that you personally have doubts about? How about dark matter? Dark energy? String theory? Free will?

      I have a contrary nature, I don’t believe what I read, just because I read it. I want to know more, and because I can never be an expert in any of those fields I have to at some point decide for myself. I don’t believe there is dark matter OR dark energy. I think string theory is a desperate attempt to salvage theoretical physics. I believe we do have free will. Could be wrong but I love discussing these matters and arguing the toss.

      You of course prefer I do not, AND you wish to tell me so, rudely.

      [No, WUWT is not just a blog. It’s a very calculated effort at sowing confusion in the public mind. It is a political weapon, but a clumsy and fundamentally anti-scientific one. Me, I try to be a skeptic, particularly in political matters. In science there are plenty of things that are misunderstood, but progress steady in spite of your ignorant rejections. You, you seem to love to argue about things that you freely admit you lack an adequate understanding of and are pleased with your efforts. I know just enough to recognize someone who thinks he knows more than he does. – Ben]

      • I can’t argue authoritatively on Watt’s use of WUWT as a political tool – I don’t know intimately the motivations – but I don’t for a moment think that is true. I think Anthony Watts has a particular view on the matter, true, but that’s no different to people like Gavin or John Cook. I will assume you have a leftist philosophy with a strong streak of environmentalism? An opposing view doesn’t necessitate funding by evil oil companies you know.

        As for my ignorant objections, well, I’d have a hard time imagining that my views will have any effect at all on science’s progress. I am a nobody. But I like to learn, and I like to come from a position where I just do not believe without question. Sure, I am ignorant of much of what I am arguing about. So?

        If I am wrong, I should be able to be convinced of that. If not, well… who really cares? But surely it is through discussion, robust argument, that we can exchange views, learn and progress ourselves? I’ll bet that there is no shortage of self-assured, egotistical scientists, but that doesn’t stop them or their peers engaging in perhaps even heated argument, does it?

        [Denialists have only accidental interest in the progress of science, but are deeply committed to impeding public policy by sowing confusion. Thanks though for finally giving us your definitive self-assessment: “Sure, I am ignorant of much of what I am arguing about. So?” – Ben]

      • I love it when WUWT droids complain about ‘Character assassination’. One only need look to the fate of Muller, one minute great Scientific mind next minute Satan according to the never ending bog roll that is WUWT.

  19. “Reed – understands things, in the presence of an atmosphere containing greenhouse gases the earth’s surface temperature is, on average, 15C, whereas if we calculate that temperature absenting those gases, the temp would be -18C. However, Reed notes that the calculation to derive that -18C uses an albedo of 0.3. And that number utilises the reflective capacity of clouds. If though there were no greenhouse gases, there would be no water vapour. And if there were no water vapour, there would be no atmospheric condensation of said vapour and hence no clouds. Thus, you cannot use 0.3 as the number for albedo if calculating the effective surface temperature without greenhouse gases, you must use something closer to zero. That’s it.”

    The 33k calculation is a simplification intended to show the effect of greenhouse gasses assuming other factors remain constant. Some of the factors assumed to remain constant in that calculation are themselves a product of greenhouse gasses.

    In the real Earth removal of greenhouse gasses would give you a snowball Earth with a much higher albedo than the current one and thus a much colder planet. A more realistic calculation would actually overstate the radiative effect of greenhouse gasses, odd how all the “alarmist” scientists didn’t pick it though.

    An albedo of zero would involve the removal of all water from the planet making it an unrecognisable one from what it is today. It also makes the comparison useless since you’d be saying “If you removed all greenhouse gasses and all water…” so hey why not “If you removed all greenhouse gasses and all water and added a billion clowns…”

    • Sharper00, just for the record, my original point was not whether there is any substance to Reed’s claim. I was simply pointing out that Ben took a cheap shot based on his own misunderstanding of what Reed said. I was not arguing anything at all to do with what albedo is, was, should be or might be.

      However, this 33C matter is a curious one. I have read and tried to follow the numbers on various sites, including SoD, and as I said each has a slightly different wrinkle. I can see I need the time to really give it some thought. Not because I particularly need to know, but because I am curious.

      I must say that your explanation above, while I understand it to broadly approximate what I have read elsewhere, is rather illogical. Note that I am aware that this merely points to my lack of deep knowledge on the matter.

      My reasoning is that if we assume hypothetically that there are no greenhouse gasses, it does not imply we have to absent the oceans, or change the surface into smooth rock, or change the rotation speed of the earth or add one billion clowns. Removing the greenhouse gasses but leaving all else intact makes sense in this context, excepting that it would also require the removal of all effects of those gasses. For example, the calculation directly exludes radiative effects of GGs – obviously enough of course. So why shouldn’t clouds, a direct result of GGs, also be excluded?

      The point it seems to me is to examine the outcome were GGs removed, and that requires the removal of all direct effects of GGs. It does not require the removal of oceans which give rise to GGs.

      So I do take Reed’s point. I am not saying I believe he is right, I just don’t see a logical basis for an albedo of 0.3 in a MODEL of an earth without greenhouse gasses when the purpose of the model is to derive the effect of removing said gasses.

      [So you like the assumptions that suit your objective, but not the ones that don’t. Now that’s critical thinking. – Ben]

      • Ben, you seem unnecessarily devoted to proving ‘deniers’ wrong. I am not saying I prefer any assumptions at all. How on earth did you get that from what I wrote?

        I am saying no more than that I can see Coray’s point. I am not saying he’s right, I am not saying he or I know more than scientists, I am not saying he has seen through the climate science charade.

        All I am posing is this question – why would we use an albedo of 0.3 in this calculation? Monckton and Sharper00 both agree that we do, for no more reason than that’s the way it is. But it does not make logical sense to me. That’s not preferring a particular assumption, it’s simply saying I don’t get it.

        So far, you haven’t shown me that YOU get it either. Maybe you do and you prefer not to engage? Beats me, but every answer to me so far has been to deflect the core question and replace it with another smartass dig. is that your entire repertoire? Really, I am curious now.

      • “excepting that it would also require the removal of all effects of those gasses.”

        No it would not because the effects of those gasses are themselves highly complex and not all effects apply at all concentrations or in all climate states. If scientists were to more accurately represent the state of the Earth without greenhouse gasses they would over-represent it’s effects and mislead the public. They correctly choose to simplify the comparison while at the same time giving a more accurate impression.

        If scientists did do as you suggest there’d be posts on WUWT screaming about alarmist scientists deliberately making the greenhouse effect appear far more powerful than it is in order to steal their taxes.

        “The point it seems to me is to examine the outcome were GGs removed, and that requires the removal of all direct effects of GGs. It does not require the removal of oceans which give rise to GGs.”

        In order to reach an albedo of zero or close to it you would also have to remove the oceans and all other water, then you would have an albedo close to that of the Moon because…the Earth would look a lot like the moon! If you want to include the albedo calculation but keep the water and remove the greenhouse gasses then you have a white Earth which is much much colder than -18C.

        Reed wants to compare an Earth that looks like the moon with the current one, which is extremely silly and why there’s a drawing with the caption “Consider a spherical cow of radius r…” on this post.

        “Sharper00, just for the record, my original point was not whether there is any substance to Reed’s claim.”

        Oh I know! Your point is just to make noise. Lots and lots and lots of noise. You’re clearly well aware there is absolutely no substance to Reed’s claim since you roundly refuse to defend it or endorse it in any way. Yet you are happy to write extensively complaining on a post which is predicated on there being no substance to Reed’s claims demanding you be personally educated on the topic.

  20. “Skip the equations”?
    Easy. You **decide** which topic, or which particular post on that topic, you are willing to do some real work on. You read the post carefully skipping the equations, and in SoD’s case that means line by line and occasionally going back to reread a paragraph or two.

    Then you make a further decision. Are you willing to take his word for it on the maths and physics equations or do you put in more time following the details in all their glory? At this point I print out the post I’m interested in and sit down with a highlighter pen. You can go through the whole thing or you can satisfy yourself on a couple of key issues and then go a few paras further and see if you can still follow. If not. Go back and redo what you’ve done so far, maybe make some notes in the margins. At this point I usually decide I’ve done enough to be happy that I’ve followed along.

    I’m not a scientist either, and my maths skills are financial rather than scientific. So the big issue is that even when I’m completely satisfied that I’m on top of whatever the (part) topic is, I know full well that I won’t be able to teach it to someone else – which is my marker for full understanding.

    So, most of the time, I take his word for it. With the occasional couple of hours labouring over unfamiliar material I gather enough sense that I can follow other people’s comments on scientific sites, and also enough that i know not to challenge any of the underlying physics (or maths or stats). But I’m absolutely ace at reading graphs – as most people can be if they just pay enough attention.

    • Adelady, that’s pretty much how I go about it. The problem is that when you get deep enough, you soon find that there isn’t enough time, you don’t have the resources, you don’t have a teacher to explain the wrinkles or you just aren’t smart enough. I actually do follow some of the maths, I am pretty clear on most of the principles, and I’ve learned more physics and chem than I ever did at school. I was too busy following my own interests at school to take that stuff in, but now I am older I have a great thirst for knowledge.

      However there always comes a point for me where I just can’t get any further. Then I let my intuition take over. With the proviso intuition is over-ridden when more info comes in.

      And for the moment, I am about 80-20 convinced that we will not see catastrophic global warming due to CO2 emission. However, I keep reading and learning, and that percentage may change in time, one way or the other.

      [It just don’t smell right. Is that your argument when you strip away all the posturing? – Ben]

      • It is indeed. Intuition is a very useful tool and has been proven so on many occasions by far superior minds than mine.

        Certainly in my case it may just mean I am a dunderhead and prefer to put my head in the sand. But the smell test is a very good test to apply. It’s not the ultimate arbiter of course, but it’s a good first approximation.

        My guess is you do the same every day.

      • So we see the demise of Humanity because too many don’t trust people smarter than themselves in a particular field and prefer to keep their head firmly planted up their arse.

  21. “there always comes a point for me where I just can’t get any further.” Everyone gets there. Even the super-duper physicists get to that point if they’re faced with glaciology or ecology or oceanography data or reports where they lack personal expertise to do their own analysis.

    And that’s where we part ways. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough to form a valid view of my own on many things, not just climate science. Any intuition I might have would be totally unreliable as a guide to thought, let alone action. I read Choice magazine for information about the various virtues and flaws of products I’m interested in.

    So I do what most scientists do. I rely on the expertise of those who are knowledgeable and experienced in that particular area. Google Scholar and websites of particular scientists – Mauri Spelto does a great catalogue of the progress of individual glaciers for example.

    Me? I think you’re using ‘intuition’ where you should be using a more accurate word like ‘trust’. I trust science as presented by scientists. You seem to trust those who lack scientific expertise but criticise science and scientists anyway.

  22. Heh… lots and lots and lots of noise eh? I dunno, you’ve pontificated at length over at Climate Etc, Sharper00.

    But yes, this one has gone long enough so I hereby cease and desist. I acknowledge your point re Ben’s comment Sharper00. After browsing this site and reading the policy I can see that Ben’s aim is just to take a shot at what he sees as misinformation or more obvious examples of silliness. It doesn’t matter if he’s on target or not in doing so.

    Anyways, I gotta get back to some decent denialism. I see there’s a few posts over at WUWT I’ve missed while making noise here, so better get cracking, lots of good stuff to read…

    [Who could have predicted this outcome? – Ben]

    • “I can see that Ben’s aim is just to take a shot at what he sees as misinformation or more obvious examples of silliness.”

      Thanks for adding extra examples on the side, it just makes a visit here that much more enjoyable and saves our host some work.

      I’d trust Ben’s misinformation meter over your reality distortion field any day.

      • I wish I had something deeply insightful to offer in reply Mike, but I think all I can muster is “hahahahaha”

        [You had me at “I wish I had something deeply insightful to offer”. – Ben]

  23. I was looking for the bit where you pull his argument apart and demonstrate where he is wrong.
    Fat chance.
    This site is no more that a sneer campaign.
    Knock yourselves out.

    [Which argument was that, exactly? – Ben]

  24. Ahhh, just spent a pleasant hour or two browsing WUWT and JoNova. Certainly grounds one for sure. Not much happening over here I see. :)

    Adelady, there is an interesting thread over at Judith Curry’s that touches on some of your comments (and those of others) here on this thread.


    I also found this in a comment in that thread which it seems to me touches on your thoughts in respect to intuition and trust. I would still contend that intuition is indeed a legitimate tool for inquiry and decision making – not the only tool of course. And perhaps my use of that tool is a little ham-fisted, but still.

    “Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his seminal work in psychology that challenged the rational model of judgment and decision making, is one of our most important thinkers. His ideas have had a profound and widely regarded impact on many fields—including economics, medicine, and politics—but until now, he has never brought together his many years of research and thinking in one book.

    In the highly anticipated Thinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Kahneman exposes the extraordinary capabilities—and also the faults and biases—of fast thinking, and reveals the pervasive influence of intuitive impressions on our thoughts and behavior. The impact of loss aversion and overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the challenges of properly framing risks at work and at home, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning the next vacation—each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems work together to shape our judgments and decisions.

    Engaging the reader in a lively conversation about how we think, Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. He offers practical and enlightening insights into how choices are made in both our business and our personal lives—and how we can use different techniques to guard against the mental glitches that often get us into trouble. Thinking, Fast and Slow will transform the way you think about thinking.”

    [Thanks for the report for how soothing you find the primordial ooze. “Intuition” is instinctive and driven by pre-conceptions. Useful for dodging a sabertooth tiger but not for comprehending complexity. In your case it seems, conveniently, to justify and reinforce your biases. – Ben]

  25. This is part of a review I found of Kahneman’s book

    “It kept our remote ancestors alive. …… It does, however, pay a high price for speed. It loves to simplify, to assume WYSIATI (“what you see is all there is”), even as it gossips and embroiders and confabulates. It’s hopelessly bad at the kind of statistical thinking often required for good decisions, it jumps wildly to conclusions and it’s subject to a fantastic suite of irrational biases and interference effects (the halo effect, the “Florida effect”, framing effects, anchoring effects, the confirmation bias, outcome bias, hindsight bias, availability bias, the focusing illusion, and so on).”

    And that’s why I try to avoid relying on my own interpretations or impressions of scientific information. I’m well aware of confirmation bias and the like. I absolutely, certainly, completely **know** that left to my own devices I would most likely miss out on information and analysis that disconfirms or undermines my own preferences and preconceptions.

    So, my personal list of sites and blogs contains a whole heap of entirely predictable gardening, cooking, economic and other interests. But I don’t always visit those. The ones I do routinely check are places like NOAA, NSIDC, BOM, CSIRO, Cryosphere Today (especially during the Arctic melt season) as well as a couple of education and medical science sites, and for picking up on what’s happening everywhere else http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/earth_climate/ gives me a whole heap of information on topics that are not usually my prime areas of interest. Archaeology and ecology I find fascinating, but I have no mental “framework” to guide me. So I just go where the news on latest research takes me.

    I have biases like everyone else. So I try to sit back and rethink what’s going on when I have an “Aha!” moment. Is it wonderful work? Or is it merely confirming what I already thought? More often it’s a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ which still requires a bit of checking for bias or preconceptions.

    One thing you’ve not touched on, and that’s ‘withholding judgment’. I know I previously equated your use of ‘intuition’ with trust issues. But I find a lot of people go with intuition or trust or somesuch simply because they feel they must decide once and for all (and be committed to that forever). When most of the time the correct response is OK – for now. The willingness to say
    “I accepted something that now turns out to be wrong and now I have to see what other things have to be revisited because they’re based on that” is essential.

    It involves no sense of betrayal by others or guilt at being ‘taken in’ or disloyalty to someone you respect. New scientific results that challenge previous ones do not have to involve childish disappointment on discovering the truth about Father Christmas.

    • Yes, I think you have nailed it with the last two paragraphs. And that is largely my approach with most things. I read enough of whatever to get a sense of the matter, then let my intuition guide me. Or maybe ‘gut feel’ is a better word. But never such that the choice is unalterable Hopefully in most things I am open to later persuasion as I learn more, or as the explanation becomes more profound.

      But at the risk of another long labouring post, I have to note that I don’t just work with the ‘facts’ as they are known – I want to examine other nuances and motivations. I am firmly of the conviction that thinking, or human intellect, is not all its cracked up to be. While science is rational inquiry and it generally serves us well, it is not immune to the shortcomings of human behavioural modes (not the right words – I just mean that science like many other fields of inquiry is ultimately subjective).

      Because I can never be expert in most matters I tackle, at some point I make my own judgement. I don’t hold that to be an ultimate judgement as far as I am concerned though.

      CAGW is a case in point. The science as I understand it does not convince me beyond doubt. And I observe the politicisation of the matter as well as a disquieting sense that the left has seized the high ground in public discourse, and done so slyly in my opinion. I am not suggesting a conspiracy by the way, this is pretty much business as usual for society, but it does not convince me of the case for CAGW.

      And Ben, your dig above “[You had me at “I wish I had something deeply insightful to offer”. – Ben]” is excellent. I had to chuckle, nicely done.

  26. Graeme m said:

    “I am firmly of the conviction that thinking, or human intellect, is not all its cracked up to be.”

    Well what does he expect when he spends so much time on wattsuphisbutt? Try honest sites and you might find superior intellects to what you will find in that cesspit.

  27. An important point about science is that it is about data, not just “thinking.” As a scientist, I have a lot of positive experience with the notion that having a lot of data, and following where the data lead, results in correct answers. This is greating strengthened by the fact that science is about not one, but thousands of bright and well informed people looking at all of the data.

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