Models, Not Climate, Are Hypersensitive to Carbon Dioxide

The Kyoto Protocol is expiring this year, having accomplished what climate skeptics expected -- nothing. Manmade greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric greenhouse are up while global temperature have gone nowhere, the latter a trend that started years before Kyoto went into effect.

But before the international climate kleptocracy descends en masse to its next exotic location (Doha, Qatar in November 2012) to try breathing life into the Kyoto Protocol, someone should check under the hood to review what is trying to be achieved and why. has done this work and we have come to the conclusion that the Kyoto Protocol is a clunker that should be allowed to expire without progeny.

As a column like this is too short to cover any real detail, we have prepared about 20 pages of explanation in downloadable PDF format. But here is a very brief and simplified overview.

Climate concern originally began because the planet appeared to have warmed about seven tenths of one degree (0.7o) Celsius since preindustrial times.  Post hoc ergo propter hoc, these events are seen by alarmists as related and, therefore, human activity causal of the rise in global mean temperature.

Some people still ask how we know what the global temperature is or should be, so here's a quick refresher:

We know the size and emission temperature of the sun, how far away it is and how much sunlight the Earth intercepts. We've got a pretty good idea what proportion of sunlight is reflected away without warming the Earth, so we know its effective equilibrium temperature (the temperature at which it radiates energy to space to balance the amount it gets from the sun).

We also know that within the atmosphere, below the point where incoming and outgoing radiation is in balance, we have a nice little life-friendly incubator of atmosphere  warmed by compression, conduction, evaporation and transpiration and through absorption of infrared radiation.

The greenhouse effect you hear so much about is because the atmosphere is composed of some infrared radiation absorbers, mainly water in its various forms but including carbon dioxide (CO2), inter alia, which absorb and re-radiate energy helping to keep the lower atmosphere warmer. As the warmed air is displaced by cooler, more dense air it is forced upward where it expands in the lower pressure, cooling until there are no absorbers remaining and energy is radiated to space, balancing that coming from the sun.

Enhanced greenhouse theory postulates that adding more absorbers, like CO2, will absorb more infrared near the surface and increase temperatures in the zone where we live. Based on atmospheric modeling, a doubling of pre-industrial era CO2 levels was thought to yield an increase of about 1.2ºC in surface temperature.

It turns out that base estimate is a dud -- i.e., it is far too large. We know this because the -- gasp -- the alarmist Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us so.

The method for calculating a change in forcing (something that makes temperature change) is net "down minus up" expressed in Watts per meter squared (W/m2). The IPCC is most definite that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 adds 3.7 W/m2.  This makes the calculation actually: incoming solar radiation minus albedo plus feedback, which (if you do the math like we have) resolves to less than a 0.7ºC increase from a doubling of CO2 -- not 1.2ºC.

Unfortunately for alarmists, the situation goes downhill from there.

Climate models have been tortured to guesstimate future climate decades and even a century in advance even though they are not suited to that purpose. They are merely process models which, like economists, can be very helpful for understanding what we have seen but useless for telling us what we will see.

Because we do not fully understand the climate system and do not know how to represent such important functions as cloud formation -- and we still lack sufficient processing power to represent the Earth at fine enough resolution to capture such important heat transports as thunderstorms -- many of Earth's climate processes are parameterized (i.e., faked) in models.

Also because we do not really know how to model the climate we pretend some things are more important than they really are -- like making CO2 responsible for a large effect because we don't know what is required for models to properly calculate near-surface temperature, for example. CO2 levels are used simply as a multiplier to adjust model output to more or less match previously measured temperatures.

But this still isn't enough, so marvelous magical multipliers are applied to further magnify CO2's alleged effect in an effort to curve-fit historical measures.

Unfortunately for modelers (and their alarmist backers), the world doesn't believe them. The world is not warming in response to increasing atmospheric CO2.

According to the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center (CDIAC) we have already added 3.15 W/m2 worth of additional forcing from greenhouse gases -- some 85% of the figure for a doubling of CO2. As the doubling of CO2 is supposed to have yielded 3oC warming, we should have seen 85% of 3oC, a little over 2.5oC.

We have not.

According to the most recent IPCC Assessment Report 4 (p103, AR4 WG1 FAQs) we've only seen 0.7oC from enhanced greenhouse -- and land use change, black and brown carbon (soot and smoke) and everything else of which humanity stands accused. While it's a long list, there has been little global temperature effect.

This means the marvelous magical multipliers used in the models should actually be divisors. And there are good logical reasons this should be so. While climate models always treat clouds as warming influences, anyone trying to catch some rays and interrupted by intervening cumulonimbi would beg to differ.

Some will claim this is because warming takes a long time to equilibrate and that most of the warming is "in the pipeline." That's outright nonsense.

As the National Climatic Data Center points out, Earth reacts rapidly to the extra absorption of incoming solar radiation by northern hemisphere land masses, increasing the planet's mean temperature by almost 4oC from January to July and cooling back to January again. The mean land surface temperature changes more than 11oC over the same period. In our new analysis, we provide a multi-source time series of Earth's warming and subsequent cooling with the 1997-1998 "super El Niño" event -- it was done and dusted in under 30 months.

We also use Earth's natural greenhouse effect as a template to determine that doubling the atmosphere's CO2 will only deliver 0.4oC warming, over half of which has already occurred unnoticed in the background of natural variation many times larger.

Check out our analysis for a lot more and you too will be asking, "Where did they get a crazy idea like that?" Climate models are hypersensitive -- but Earth isn't.

Steve Milloy publishes

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