The Big Lie About Global Warming

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From Science Matters

 By Ron Clutz

The notion that CO2 from human activities causes global warming has multiple flaws, many of which have been dissected and rebutted here and elsewhere.  But The Big Lie is to fundamentally misrepresent how Earth’s climate system works. Richard Lindzen explains in the above interview with Jordan Peterson.  For those who prefer reading I provide a transcript from the closed captions in italics with my bolds and added images.

JP: When you started to object to the narrative, back say in ‘92, To what narrative were you objecting and on what grounds were you objecting?

RL: You’re touching on something that took me a while to understand. You know Goebbels famously said: If you tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, it’ll become the truth. there’s been a lot of that in this. But there are aspects of establishing the narrative, that is, what makes something the truth that I hadn’t appreciated.

So the narrative was the climate is determined by a greenhouse effect
and adding CO2 to it increases warming. And moreover besides CO2
the natural greenhouse substances–water vapor, clouds, upper level clouds–
will amplify whatever man does.

Now that immediately goes against Le Chatelier’s principle which says: If you perturb a system and it is capable internally of counteracting that, it will. And our system is so capable.

So that was a little bit odd. You began wondering, where did these feedbacks come from? Immediately people including myself started looking into the feedbacks, and seeing whether there were any negative ones, and how did it all work?

But underlying it, and this is what I learned: iI you want to get a narrative established, the crucial thing is to pepper it with errors, questionable things. So that the critics will seize on those and not question the basic narrative.

The basic narrative was that climate is controlled by the greenhouse effect. In point of fact the earth’s climate system has many regions, but two distinctly different regions. There are the tropics roughly minus 30 to plus 30 degrees latitude, and the extra Tropics outside of plus or minus 30 degrees.

They have very different dynamics, and this is the crucial thing for the Earth by the way. And this is a technicality and much harder to convey than saying that greenhouse gases are a blanket or that 97 percent of scientists agree.

This is actually a technical issue. The Earth rotates. Now people are aware that we have day and night, but there is something called the Coriolis effect. When you’re on a rotating system it gives rise to the appearance of forces that change the winds relative to the rotation. So at the pole the rotation vector is perpendicular to the surface, while at the equator it’s parallel to the surface:it’s zero.

And this gives you phenomenally different Dynamics. So where you don’t have a vertical component to the rotation, vector motions do what they do in the laboratory in small scales. If you have a temperature difference, it acts to wipe it out.

Figure 11. Most sunlight is absorbed in the tropics, and some of the heat energy is carried by air currents to the polar regions to be released back into space as thermal radiation. Along with energy, angular momentum — imparted to the air from the rotating Earth’s surface near the equator — is transported to higher northern and southern latitudes, where it is reabsorbed by the Earth’s surface. The Hadley circulation near the equator is largely driven by buoyant forces on warm, solar-heated air, but for mid latitudes the “Coriolis force” due to the rotation of the earth leads to transport of energy and angular momentum through slanted “baroclinic eddies.” Among other consequences of the conservation of angular momentum are the easterly trade winds near the equator and the westerly winds at mid latitudes.

And so if you look at the tropics the temperatures at any surface are relatively flat: they don’t vary much with latitude. On the other hand you go to the mid Latitudes, in the extra Tropics the temperature varies a lot between the tropics and the pole. We know that about how temperatures are cold at high Latitudes. And if you look at changes in climate in the Earth’s history, what they show is a Tropics that stays relatively constant, and what changes is the temperature difference between the tropics and the pole.

During the Ice Age it was about 60 degrees Centigrade, today it’s about 40.  During 50 million years ago something called the eocene the difference was about 20. So that’s all a function of what’s going on outside the tropics. Within the tropics the greenhouse effect is significant but what determines the temperature change between the tropics and the pole has very little to do with the greenhouse effect.

It is a dynamic phenomenon based on the fact that a temperature difference with latitude generates instabilities. These instabilities take the form of the cyclonic and anticyclonic patterns that you see on the weather map. You can see the tropics are very different from even a casual look at a weather map.
The systems that bring us weather travel from west to east at latitudes outside the tropics. Within the tropics they travel from east to west. The prevailing winds are opposite in the two sections.

Sometimes people say that changes due to the greenhouse effect are amplified at the poles. That is not true: there’s no physical basis for that Statement. All they do is determine the starting point for where the temperature changes in mid-latitudes and that’s determined mainly by Hydrodynamics.

Okay that’s complicated to explain to someone and yet it’s the basis for those claims of seemingly large significance of these small numbers. You know they’re saying if Global mean temperature goes up one and a half degrees it’s the end. That’s based on it getting much bigger at high latitudes and determining that. But all one and a half degrees at the equator would do or in the greenhouse part of the Earth is change the temperature everywhere by one and a half degrees, which for most of us is less than the temperature change between breakfast and lunch.