Fallout from Our Paper: The Empire Strikes Back

July 29th, 2011 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

UPDATE: Due to the many questions I have received over the last 24 hours about the way in which our paper was characterized in the original Forbes article, please see the new discussion that follows the main post, below.

LiveScience.com posted an article yesterday where the usual IPCC suspects (Gavin Schmidt, Kevin Trenberth, and Andy Dessler) dissed our recent paper in in the journal Remote Sensing.

Given their comments, I doubt any of them could actually state what the major conclusion of our paper was.

For example, Andy Dessler told LiveScience:

“He’s taken an incorrect model, he’s tweaked it to match observations, but the conclusions you get from that are not correct…”

Well, apparently Andy did not notice that those were OBSERVATIONS that disagreed with the IPCC climate models. And our model can quantitatively explain the disagreement.

Besides, is Andy implying the IPCC models he is so fond of DON’T have THEIR results tweaked to match the observations? Yeah, right.

Kevin Trenberth’s response to our paper, rather predictably, was:

“I cannot believe it got published”

Which when translated from IPCC-speak actually means, “Why didn’t I get the chance to deep-six Spencer’s paper, just like I’ve done with his other papers?”

Finally Gavin Schmidt claims that it’s the paleoclimate record that tells us how sensitive the climate system is, not the current satellite data. Oh, really? Then why have so many papers been published over the years trying to figure out how sensitive today’s climate system is? When scientists appeal to unfalsifiable theories of ancient events which we have virtually do data on, and ignore many years of detailed global satellite observations of today’s climate system, *I* think they are giving science a bad name.

I have received literally dozens of phone calls and e-mails asking basically the same question: did James Taylor’s Forbes article really represent what we published in our Remote Sensing journal article this week?

Several of those people, including AP science reporter Seth Borenstein, actually read our article and said that there seemed to be a disconnect.

The short answer is that, while the title of the Forbes article (New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism) is a little over the top (as are most mainstream media articles about global warming science), the body of his article is — upon my re-reading of it — actually pretty good.

About the only disconnect I can see is we state in our paper that, while the discrepancy between the satellite observations were in the direction of the models producing too much global warming, it is really not possible to say by how much. Taylor’s article makes it sound much more certain that we have shown that the models produce too much warming in the long term. (Which I think is true…we just did not actually ‘prove’ it.)

But how is this any different than the reporting we see on the other side of the issue? Heck, how different is it than the misrepresentation of the certainty of the science in the IPCC’s own summaries for policymakers, versus what the scientists write in the body of those IPCC reports?

I am quite frankly getting tired of the climate ‘alarmists’ demanding that we ‘skeptics’ be held a higher standard than they are held to. They claim our results don’t prove their models are wrong in their predictions of strong future warming, yet fail to mention they have no good, independent evidence their models are right.

For example….

…while our detractors correctly point out that the feedbacks we see in short term (year-to-year) climate variability might not indicate what the long-term feedbacks are in response to increasing CO2, the IPCC still uses short-term variability in their models to compare to satellite observations to then support the claimed realism of the long-term behavior of those models.

Well, they can’t have it both ways.

If they are going to validate their models with short term variability as some sort of indication that their models can be believed for long-term global warming, then they are going to HAVE to explain why there is such a huge discrepancy (see Fig. 3 in our paper) between the models and the satellite observations in what is the most fundamental issue: How fast do the models lose excess radiant energy in response to warming?

That is essentially the definition of “feedback”, and feedbacks determine climate sensitivity.

I’m sorry, but if this is the best they can do in the way of rebuttal to our study, they are going to have to become a little more creative.

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