Friday, October 16, 2009

Engaging in Peer Review.

I have acted as both reviewer and the reviewed in the area of peer reviewed literature. However I have never been a reviewer of a Peer of the British Realm. So I am pleased to be able to look at a piece on YouTube (no, I'm not going to link to it) that has been making the rounds. It is an interview of Lord Monckton (3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley) by Michael Coren. In it he claims to present a scientific argument against global warming and this is the claim I want to review.

The interview was about 1 hour long and was unfortunately mostly made up of rhetoric. For example, he said that Al Gore could only answer simple questions like “what’s your name”. He consistently called the people who understand the science of global warming the “bed wetters”, claimed that the “left” overplayed it hand (in regards to global warming) for money, power and glory; and much more of the like. However, there was some science in there so lets plunge in and see what it boils down to.

The first bit that he presents comes from Part 1 of the YouTube broadcast at 7:15 where he states (and I am paraphrasing here) that 700 scientists from 400 institutions in the last 20 years have contributed to a number of papers that say that the MWP was real, global and noticeably warmer than the present. I am fairly familiar with the literature in regards to global warming and I am not aware of
anything that says the MWP was global and noticeably warmer than today. So I am calling him on that one.

In part 2 (at 4:00) he starts talking about outgoing radiation. Now, I could have been distracted by him doing strange things with Coren’s head (physically, not mentally - you really should watch it), but his argument seems a little confused. He asks what would happen to the outgoing radiation if the ocean and land warmed by 1 degree C – would it increase, decrease or stay the same? He claims that it would increase but that every computer model is programmed to show that it would decrease. That is flat out wrong in that the models are not programmed to show a decrease, instead they respond to the physics of the situation.
Whether the temperature goes up or down depends on the relation between the incoming radiation and the outgoing radiation. If the surface temperature was magically increased by 1C, you would indeed see more outgoing radiation until the Earth had cooled to its current temperature. However if you add more CO2, then part of the outgoing radiation will be inhibited and temperatures will go up. The earth will then radiate more energy in the parts not blocked and a new equilibrium will be reached. The models show this in both cases.

Tied in with this point was a rather strange claim that goes something like this. “The IPCC best estimate for increase of temperature for a doubling of CO2 is 3 ¼ degrees. However suppose it really turns out to be only ½ degrees, is that really worth worrying about?“ Seriously, that is what I got out of his argument. If someone can interpret it differently, please let me know.

In part 3, Monckton talks about a paper by Richard Lindzen and I am going to confess that this is the first time I have come across the paper so I can’t really comment too much. The paper uses satellite data to measure outgoing radiation and claims that the outgoing radiation does not match what it is supposed to do. My off the cuff comment is first, satellite data is very tricky to work with and second, we are not dealing with equilibrium temperatures, so there may be a time lag. If anyone is interested in this paper, let me know and it may be worth a post.

In the same section at 7:45 he talks about the oceans not warming. This of course is wrong since the
oceans are warming . He also talks about the lack of warming in the troposphere. This is a technical and complex issue so I will do the simple thing and outsource it to Chris Close (a good review of the topic).

Part 4 had a comment in it at 6:40 about how much effort it would take to reduce CO2. My only comment is that he appears to ignore the current sinks (as we produce CO2, a lot of it is being taken up by plants and absorbed into the Ocean).

In part 5 there was little about global warming but he did bring DDT into the discussion. I am generally aware of the issue of DDT, but instead will happily link to
Ed Darrell.

In closing, since Lord Monckton went to great lengths to say that both Al Gore and David Suzuki refuse to debate him, I am ready, willing and eager to debate him! You heard it here first.

So, there it is! All in all a very poor set of arguments, but I can now add another review-of-a-peer paper to my CV.
If you have come across a point of his that you think is worthy, then please let's hear it in the comments.

No comments: