Dear KQED, (on the eve of your panel on climate change)
I know you must feel pressed to hype the dangers of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change, the words are so “impressive”, but you have a reputation which I generally admire to investigate the latest trends in science and philosophy. I do as well and I have an education and experience behind me which is at least equal to anyone in your organization. I was stimulated by an email at a university where I was teaching which suggested that they would give me the video “An Inconvenient Truth” made by Al Gore to show to my students if I wanted it.
Being a elementary particle physicist with some standards of scientific behavior (my group at SLAC won a Nobel Prize for discovering the quark), I realized a con job by a non-scientist politician when I saw one. I replied that I wasn’t interested in the video, but if they had one of Richard Feynman’s “Lectures on Physics”, I would be glad to have it. I was immediately challenged to debate what was in those days called global warming with another physics professor. I didn’t know much about it, but the attitude of these aggressive nonscientists annoyed me and just from listening to their rants I realized that they were wrong without knowing any particulars.
I then started researching the subject and have continued ever since in amazement that an entire body of scientists could be so unscientific and political. They take the fact that carbon dioxide absorbs light energy from the sun and reemits it as heat radiation (infrared wavelengths) and they run with it. But because the problem is very difficult and they are not very smart, they miscalculate the effects on the global climate. Three comments are appropriate. One–the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is very small and the amount of humanly generated carbon dioxide is much smaller than that. Two–in order for CO2 to make a difference, there has to be a mechanism called positive feedback to amplify its effect. This feedback depends on the effect of clouds and analysis using data from clouds usually gives a negative feedback as do many effects in physics. Three–climate models based on a subset of the physics of our planet do not reproduce past climate variations and do not agree with each other. Some reports of the IPCC have had to include as many as 30 different models because they disagreed so markedly.
The undeniably complex generation of clouds by our atmosphere is beyond the capability of models to reproduce, but inferring the increase in global temperature due to a doubling of the CO2 in the atmosphere from data is continually being reduced (most around 1.3 degrees C) and may finally reach zero and go negative. The reason I think that it’s positive now is due to an assumption that the entire record of temperature change is dominated by carbon dioxide when that is in fact not the case. A very provocative possibility is that cosmic rays generate clouds and variations in cosmic rays generate varying amounts of clouds, more clouds meaning lower temperatures as we all know. Cosmic rays were low from the 50s to the 80s and so there were fewer clouds and higher temperatures.
Now the cosmic rays are up again and there has been no temperature change in the last 20 years. As long as there are few sunspots there will be more cosmic rays. Other natural effects like changes in ocean currents, changes in green cover, and, as yet undefined, energy storage variations in the planet Earth perhaps related to its hot core clearly affect the badly defined global temperature. The analysis and predictions of the climate science community is clearly dominated by computer jocks with little experimental expertise.
Finally my 15 second sound bite is that “the role of carbon dioxide in the development of the climate is small and probably suppresses changes in temperature rather than increasing them. The role of human generated CO2 is even smaller.”