An open letter from The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to Senator John McCain about Climate Science and Policy

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Open letter from The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to Senator John McCain about Climate Science and Policy.
Dear Senator McCain, Sir,

YOU CHOSE a visit to a wind-farm in early summer 2008 to devote an entire campaign speech to the reassertion of your belief in the apocalyptic vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change - a lurid and fanciful account of imagined future events that was always baseless, was briefly exciting among the less thoughtful species of news commentators and politicians, but is now scientifically discredited.

With every respect, there is no rational basis for your declared intention that your great nation should inflict upon her own working people and upon the starving masses of the Third World the extravagantly-pointless, climatically-irrelevant, strategically-fatal economic wounds that the arrogant advocates of atmospheric alarmism admit they aim to achieve.

Britain and the United States, like England and Scotland on the first page of Macaulay's The Viscount Monckton of Brenchlysplendid History of England, are bound to one another by "indissoluble bonds of interest and affection". Here in this little archipelago from which your Pilgrim Fathers sailed, we have a love-love relationship with what Walt Whitman called your "athletic democracy". You came to our aid - to the aid of the world - when Britain had stood alone against the mad menace of Hitler. Your fearless forces and ours fight shoulder to shoulder today on freedom's far frontiers. The shortest but most heartfelt of our daily prayers has just three words: "God bless America!" For these reasons - of emotion as much as of economics, of affection as much as of interest - it matters to us that the United States should thrive and prosper. We cannot endure to see her fail, not only because if she fails the world fails, but also because, as the philosopher George Santayana once said of the British Empire and might well now have said of our sole superpower, "the world never had sweeter masters." If the United States, by the ignorance and carelessness of her classe politique, mesmerized by the climate bugaboo, casts away the vigorous and yet benign economic hegemony that she has exercised almost since the Founding Fathers first breathed life into her enduring Constitution, it will not be a gentle, tolerant, all-embracing, radically-democratic nation that takes up the leadership of the world.

It will be a radically-tyrannical dictatorship - perhaps the brutal gerontocracy of Communist China, or the ruthless plutocracy of supposedly ex-Communist Russia, or the crude, mediaeval theocracy of rampant Islam, or even the contemptible, fumbling, sclerotic, atheistic-humanist bureaucracy of the emerging European oligarchy that has stealthily stolen away the once-paradigmatic democracy of our Mother of Parliaments from elected hands here to unelected hands elsewhere. For government of the people, by the people and for the people is still a rarity today, and it may yet perish from the earth if America, its exemplar, destroys herself in the specious name of "Saving The Planet".

Science and the climate: the facts

The facts about "rising temperatures"

You have said: "We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures ... Today I'd like to focus on just one [challenge], and among environmental dangers it is surely the most serious of all. Whether we call it ‘climate change' or ‘global warming', in the end we're all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly. ... Across the world average temperatures ... seem to reach new records every few years."

Here, Sir, are the facts about "rising temperatures". The facts which I shall give you in this letter are taken not from my own imagination, nor from the obscurantist reports of the UN's climate panel, nor from any lobby group, but from the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Very nearly all of the citations that support the crucial facts which your advisers seem not to have put before you, and which I shall set forth in this letter, are from peer-reviewed papers. Some, however, such as the documents of the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, are not peer-reviewed in the accepted sense of the term. Peer-reviewed papers will be indicated by citations with the date in parentheses, thus: Boffin et al. (2008). Papers that are not peer-reviewed will be indicated by square brackets, thus: IPCC [2007].

I begin with a geological and historical perspective on global mean surface temperature that your advisors seem to have withheld from you. For most of the past 600 million years, the mode of temperature - the temperature that most often prevailed globally - is thought to have been 12.5 °F higher than today's temperature: for today's temperature, in the perspective of the long recent history of our planet, is unusually low.

During each of the last four interglacial periods over the past half-million years, temperature was 5 to 8 °F warmer than the present (Petit et al., 1999).

For 2000 years in the Bronze Age, during the Holocene Climate Optimum (which is called an "Optimum" because warmer is better than cooler), temperature was up to 5 °F warmer than the present. Thanks to the warmer weather, on many continents simultaneously, the world's first great civilizations emerged.

It was also warmer during the 600 years of the Graeco-Roman warm period, when the twin civilizations that were the foundation of our own flourished in the Mediterranean. And it was warmer during the half millennium of the Mediaeval Climate Optimum, when the Renaissance reawakened humanity after the Dark Ages, and the great cathedrals and churches of Europe were built.

In 2001 the UN's climate panel made a maladroit and disfiguring attempt [IPCC, 2001] to heighten the baseless alarm that underlies all of its reports by denying that the Middle Ages were warmer than the present. However, three eminent statisticians working at the instigation of your own House of Representatives produced the definitive report [Wegman et al., 2005], confirming the peer-reviewed research of McIntyre & McKitrick (2003, 2005) establishing that the UN's graph had been doctored so as falsely to deny the reality of the mediaeval warm period, to whose existence hundreds of peer-reviewed papers from all parts of the globe attest.

At both Poles, it was warmer only half a century ago than it is today. For temperatures in the Arctic, see Soon et al. (2004). For the Antarctic, see Doran et al. (2002).

During the Maunder Minimum, a period of more than half a century ending in 1700 when there were no sunspots on the surface of our Sun, a Little Ice Age occurred all over the world (Hathaway, 2004). In 1700 there began a recovery in solar activity that has continued ever since, culminating in the 70-year Solar Grand Maximum that seems recently to have ended. During the Grand Maximum, the Sun was more active, and for longer, than during almost any previous similar period in the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al., 2005; and see Usoskin et al., 2003; and Hathaway, 2004). A symposium of the International Astronomical Union [2004] concluded that it is the Sun that was chiefly responsible for the warming of the late 20th century.

From 1700-1998, temperature rose at a near-uniform rate of about 1 °F per century [Akasofu, 2008]. In 1998, "global warming" stopped, and it has not resumed since: indeed, in the past seven years, temperature has been falling at a rate equivalent to as much as 0.7 °F per decade [Hadley Center for Forecasting, 2008; US National Climatic Data Center, 2008]. Very few news media have given any prominence to this long and pronounced downturn in the temperature trend.

It is now thought possible that no new global annual temperature record will be set until at least 2015 (Keenlyside et al., 2008). Yet the projection of the UN's climate panel had been that temperature would rise by about 1 °F during the 17 years to 2015. It is no surprise, then, that Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the panel's chairman, has called for a re-evaluation of its hitherto very high estimates of "climate sensitivity" - the temperature change in response to the ever-increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.

The facts about supposedly "rising temperatures" which I have set out above, can be readily verified by your advisors. If you like, I can assist them in finding the relevant peer-reviewed papers and global temperature datasets. On these facts, there is no scientific basis for your assertion that "We have many advantages in the fight against ‘global warming', but time is not one of them."

Since the world is not warming at the rate projected by the UN's climate panel, it follows that the urgency relentlessly suggested by that panel and echoed in your speech is by no means as great as the UN's reports would have us believe.

The correct question, posed by Akasofu [2008], is this: Since the world has been warming at a uniform rate in parallel with the recovery of solar activity during the 300 years following the Maunder Minimum, and since humankind could not have had any significant influence over global temperature until perhaps 50 years ago, if then, is there any evidence whatsoever that the observed anthropogenic increase in carbon dioxide concentration over the past half-century has had any appreciable influence, at all, on global temperature?

Another relevant question may occur to you: Is it not strange that the "global warming" scare has been rising in the media headlines and in the rhetoric of the classe politique throughout the past seven years, even though global temperature has been falling throughout that period?

Finally, now that you have the facts about temperature before you, it will be evident to you that you were not correct in having said that a new temperature record seems to be set every few years. Despite rapidly-rising carbon dioxide concentrations, there has been no new record year for global temperature in the ten years since 1998; and, in the United States, there has been no new record year for national temperature since 1934 - a record set almost three-quarters of a century ago, and well before humankind could have had any significant influence on temperature.

The facts about carbon dioxide concentration

You have said: "We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion."

Sir, the first of your two quoted statements requires heavy qualification: the second is scientifically false. The combined effect of the two statements is profoundly misleading.

Greenhouse gases keep the world warm enough for plant and animal life to thrive. Without them, the Earth would be an ice-planet all of the time rather than some of the time. The existence of greenhouse gases, whether natural or anthropogenic, retains in the atmosphere some 100 Watts per square meter of radiant energy from the Sun (Kiehl & Trenberth, 1997) that would otherwise pass out uninterrupted to space.

According to the UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007], anthropogenic "radiative forcings" from all sources compared with 1750 account for just 1.6% of this total, or perhaps almost 5% if temperature feedbacks as currently overestimated by the UN are taken into account. I say overestimated because the sum of the UN's high-end estimates of individual temperature feedbacks exceeds the maximum that is possible in the feedback equation used by the UN, implying that the central estimates are also very likely to be excessive. Your words "heavily implicated", therefore, seem somewhat overstated.

As to your second statement, the "worst" greenhouse gas - the one which, through its sheer quantity in the atmosphere, accounts for two-thirds of the 100 Watts per square meter of greenhouse-gas radiative forcing reported by Kiehl & Trenberth (2007, op. cit.) - is water vapor. Carbon dioxide accounts for little more than a quarter.

Two-thirds of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is naturally present, and carbon dioxide occupies just one-ten-thousandth more of the atmosphere today than it did 250 years ago (Keeling & Whorf, 2004, updated): for the atmosphere is large and we are small.

The UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007] thinks that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration compared with 1750 might occur later this century on current trends, and may lead to a global temperature increase of almost 6 °F. However, numerous papers in the peer-reviewed literature confirm that the UN's central climate-sensitivity projection must be excessive.

Allowing for the fact that the UN's climate panel has exaggerated the effects of temperature feedbacks, the temperature increase in consequence of a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration could be as little as 1 °F. Values as low as this have been suggested in the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. Chylek et al., 2007).

You have proposed, in your speech that three-fifths of the US economy should be closed down by 2060. Do you not think that a far greater degree of scientific certainty as to the effects of minuscule increases in carbon dioxide concentration on temperature would be advisable before strategic damage on any such scale is inflicted upon the US economy from within, and by a Republican?

The facts about the basis of the imagined scientific "consensus"

You have said: "We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great."

Sir, the implication of your quoted remark is that the "serious and credible scientists" who are warning us that "time is short and the dangers are great" outnumber the equally "serious and credible scientists" who are not warning us of anything of the kind. The reverse is the case. A recent survey (Schulte, 2008) of 539 peer-reviewed scientific papers published since January 2004 and selected at random using the search term "global climate change" reveals that not a single paper provides any evidence whatsoever that "time is short" or that "the dangers are great".

The notion of imminent, catastrophic climate change is a fiction that is almost wholly absent in the scientific literature. Indeed, the only papers that predict catastrophe are written by a tiny clique of closely-connected, extravagantly-funded, politically-biased scientists with unhealthily close political and financial connections to certain alarmist politicians in the party that you nominally oppose.

Suppose, ad argumentum, that the UN's exaggerated climate-sensitivity estimates, proven in the peer-reviewed literature and in the unfolding temperature record to be fantasies wholly unrelated either to scientific theory or to observed reality, are true. Even then, the disasters imagined by the UN's climate panel and by certain politicians are unlikely to occur. Since the UN's estimates are indeed exaggerations, and are known to be so, the only potentially-"credible" basis for the alarmism reflected in your speech falls away. In the scientific literature, there is no "consensus" whatsoever to the effect that anthropogenic "global warming" will be "catastrophic".

It is vital that you should understand the extent to which the UN's case for panic action is founded not upon theoretical proofs in climatological physics, nor upon real-world experimentation (for nearly all of the parameters necessary to the evaluation of climate sensitivity are not directly measurable, and their values can only be guessed) but upon computer models - in short, upon expensive guesswork.

However, using computer models to predict the climate, even if the input data were known rather than guessed, cannot ever be effective or accurate: for the climate, in the formal, mathematical sense, is chaotic. The late Edward Lorenz (1963), in the landmark paper that founded the branch of mathematics known as chaos theory, proved that long-run climate prediction is impossible unless we can know the initial state of the millions of variables that define the climate object, and know that state to a degree of precision that is and will always be in practice unattainable.

Why is such very great precision necessary? Because it is the common characteristic of any chaotic object, such as the climate, that the slightest perturbation, however minuscule, in the initial value of even one of that object's variables can induce substantial and unpredictable "phase transitions" - sudden changes of state - in the future evolution of the object. Unless the initial state of the object is known to an unattainably high degree of precision, neither the timing of the onset, nor the duration, nor the magnitude of these phase transitions can be predicted at all. Accordingly, the predictions go off track very suddenly and dramatically, but ineluctably.

The UN [IPCC, 2001], accepts that the climate is "a complex, non-linear, chaotic object", and, consequently, that "long-term prediction of climate states is impossible". Yet it then attempts the impossible by making predictions of climate sensitivity that are already being proven exaggerated by the failure of temperatures to rise as the computer models had predicted (or, recently, at all).

All of the climate models relied upon by the UN predict that the distinguishing characteristic or "fingerprint" of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing as opposed to any other forcings is that in the tropical mid-troposphere, about 6 miles up, temperature over the decades should rise at two or even three times the rate of increase observed at the tropical surface. However, this predicted "hot-spot" over the tropics is not observed in any of the tropospheric temperature datasets since reliable measurements were first taken by balloon-borne radiosondes 50 years ago.

Douglass & Knox (2006) and Douglass et al. (2008) have established that the absence of the "hot spot" predicted by the UN's models is real, and is not (as was suggested by Thorne et al., 2007) a measurement error or artifact within the estimated uncertainty interval of the observed record. Lindzen (2008) estimates that in the absence of the "hot-spot" the UN's estimate of climate sensitivity must be divided by at least three. Thus, making this adjustment alone, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration would raise global temperature not by 6°F but by a harmless and beneficial 2 °F.

You also need to know that the values for climate sensitivity in the computer models - in short, the central estimates of how much the world's temperature will increase in response to a given rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - are not outputs from the models, but inputs to them. The computers are being told to assume high climate sensitivity [Akasofu, 2008].

Let me summarize the irremediably shaky basis for the UN's alarmist case. It is not based on physical theory. It is not based on real-world observation. It is based on computer modeling, in which - astonishingly - the models are told at the outset the values for the very quantity (temperature response to increased carbon dioxide concentration) that they are expected to find.

Now you will appreciate how ridiculous it is, to any competent mathematician, to hear the IPCC claiming that it is "90% certain" that most of the observed warming during the 50 years before the warming stopped in 1998 is anthropogenic. For a start, a 90% confidence level is not a recognized statistical interval: 95% confidence, or two standard deviations, is a recognized interval, but that would be even more absurd than trying to claim 90% confidence for a proposition that depends absolutely for its validity upon parameters that cannot be measured and can only be guessed: and a proposition that is demonstrated to be false with each successive year during which no further "global warming" takes place. It is regrettable that anyone should seek to make policy, as you have done, on such a manifestly unsound basis.

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