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Everything You Know Is Wrong

...about greenhouse theory?

Miskolczi's story reads like a book. Looking at a series of differential equations for the greenhouse effect, he noticed the solution -- originally done in 1922 by Arthur Milne, but still used by climate researchers today -- ignored boundary conditions by assuming an "infinitely thick" atmosphere. Similar assumptions are common when solving differential equations; they simplify the calculations and often result in a result that still very closely matches reality. But not always.

So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. His result included a new term, which acts as a negative feedback to counter the positive forcing. At low levels, the new term means a small difference ... but as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down.

And why is there resistance to his theory? Follow the money:

NASA refused to release the results. Miskolczi believes their motivation is simple. "Money", he tells DailyTech. Research that contradicts the view of an impending crisis jeopardizes funding, not only for his own atmosphere-monitoring project, but all climate-change research. Currently, funding for climate research tops $5 billion per year.

Miskolczi resigned in protest, stating in his resignation letter, "Unfortunately my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science cannot coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climate change related scientific results."

It's always amusing, and frustrating, to hear people who attack skeptics ad hominem because they're on the take from Big Oil or Big Coal, when places like the Competitive Enterprise Institute actually get very little of their funding from such sources. But climate researchers are always portrayed as objective, noble and selfless, unswayed by the need to maintain their grant funding stream from Big Climate Change. All I know is that I wish I was getting paid as much to be a skeptic as some apparently think I must be. Or getting paid at all, for that matter. But so far, not a single check has shown up in the mail from Exxon-Mobil or Peabody. It's also an interesting story, in light of Hansen's complaints that he was "muzzled" by the administration, all while he was going around giving speeches evangelizing to the faithful.

I also found this criticism underwhelming.

Dr. Stephen Garner, with the NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), says such negative feedback effects are "not very plausible". Reto Ruedy of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies says greenhouse theory is "200 year old science" and doubts the possibility of dramatic changes to the basic theory.

Yes, can't be overturning two-hundred-year-old theories. That would be completely unprecedented in science.

[Update in the afternoon]

This cautionary essay about science journalism seems to be relevant: beware the underdog narrative.


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Timor Mortis wrote:

Yes, can't be overturning two-hundred-year-old theories. That would be completely unprecedented in science.

Yeah, whoever wants to overturn those tried and true theories is crazy. Their minds must be peculiarly sensitive to vibrations in the ether or something.

Mike Puckett wrote:

Except the theory of the ether was overturned.

Rand Simberg wrote:

I think there was sarcasm involved, Mike.

Mike Puckett wrote:

Blame it on my zombified demeanor thanks to daylight savings time.

I cannot begin to describe my contempt for the concept (DST) that flows from every fibre of my being.

chris hall wrote:

My favorite long-lasting theory is Aristotelian mechanics, which persisted for nearly 2000 years. Pointing out that the theory didn't agree with observations was apt to get one into hot water.

(Aside to Mike: weather's getting nice. Got the bike out yet?)

Mike Puckett wrote:

My mountain bike you mean? I don't have a hog like you do Chris!

I will proabally break out the bike and hit the trail soon. I am thinking about doing the Seven Sisters trail over near Wytheville just beyond the south side of the Tunnel. It is that bumpy ridge that heads off to the west from I-77 that follows the south side of the valley that connects the interstate and US-52.

Sometime soon I hope to get up in your neck of the woods. I want to go Trilobite hunting over at Lusters Gate. I hear that is an excellent place to prospect for them.

Mike Puckett wrote:

Make that defines the south side of the valley.

brian d wrote:

Yes that equation can still used in simplified atmospheric analysis but it is completely unnecessary for models that have been created after the advent of computers. Since the proper model is a PDE (which couldnít be solved in 1922) with a spatial dimension in the upward direction the finite difference in that direction means that gradient and upper boundary condition are taken care of. Whatever solutions that come out of current models are more accurate than the ODE model with or without the proper B.C.

P.s. Iím not a global warming alarmist, itís no big deal, but no because of this.

Jim Harris wrote:

This cautionary essay about science journalism seems to be relevant: beware the underdog narrative.

Well, duh. Miskolczki is the lamest underdog narrative of the month. Unlike Lomborg and Milloy, he doesn't have even have the charisma to sustain attention.

Horus wrote:

I'm less sanguine about the climate change thing, though I agree a healthy does of skepticism toward climate science is important.

However, caution is also important, since altering the atmosphere with unknown consequences. It might cool us, do nothing, make us a little warmer, or dramatically warmer on short or long term time scales. We just don't know. Given the potential for some pretty bad outcomes, some caution is definitely in order.

At any rate, I agree that the best way to deal with it is market innovation toward energy efficiency and cleaner tech. There's reason enough to innovate in these areas with or without climate change.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on March 10, 2008 8:14 AM.

Hang Together, Or Hang Separately was the previous entry in this blog.

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