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Ivar Giaever - Nobel Winning Physicist and Climate Pseudoscientist

Posted on 12 July 2012 by dana1981

We often see scientists from non-climate fields who believe they have sufficient expertise to understand climate science despite having done minimal research on the subject; William Happer, Fritz Vahrenholt, and Bob Carter, for example.  As he admits in his own words, Nobel Prize winning physicist Ivar Giaever fits this mould perfectly:

"I am not really terribly interested in global warming.  Like most physicists I don't think much about it.  But in 2008 I was in a panel here about global warming and I had to learn something about it.  And I spent a day or so - half a day maybe on Google, and I was horrified by what I learned.  And I'm going to try to explain to you why that was the case."

That quote comes from a presentation Giaever gave to the 62nd Meeting of Nobel Laureates in 2012, for some unknown reason on the subject of climate change.  As Giaever notes at the beginning of his talk, he has become more famous for his contrarian views on global warming than for his Nobel Prize, which have made him something of a darling to the climate contrarian movement and climate denial enablers.

In this post we will examine the claims made by Giaever in his talk, and show that his contrarian climate opinions come from a position of extreme ignorance on the subject, as Giaever admits.  Giaever personifies the classic stereotype of the physicist who thinks he understands all scientific fields of study:

xkcd physicistsCartoon from xkcd which describes the behavior of Ivar Giaever to a 'T'

Accuracy of the Surface Temperature Record

In his talk, Giaever spent a lot of time criticizing Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri (IPCC chairman) for winning the Nobel Peace Prize for - according to Giaever - 'making the global surface temperature record famous' (Figure 1).

surface temp record 

Figure 1: Various global surface and lower troposphere temperature data sets.

Giaever proceeded to question the accuracy of the surface temperature record, ultimately asking:

"How can you measure the average temperature of the Earth?  I don't think that's possible."

Unfortunately this simply displays an ignorance regarding the surface temperature record, whose accuracy has been confirmed time and time again, and which is also consistent with lower troposphere temperature measurements, as illustrated in Figure 1. 

Glenn Tramblyn has answered Giaever's question in great detail in his four part series Of Averages & Anomalies, and Kevin C also had an excellent and detailed post on recent temperature measurements in The GLOBAL global warming signal.  The answers to these questions are out there for those who are willing to spend more than a few hours on Google searches, and it is not constructive to give presentations on subjects without first doing such basic research.  We are again left wondering why Giaever was asked to give a presentation to Nobel Laureates on a subject on which he has no expertise and has not done even the most basic research.

The Significance of the Observed Global Warming

Giaever also disputed the significance of the measured 0.8°C average global surface warming over the past 130 years, comparing it to a human fever and the temperature at which he had to maintain tissue for cell growth during his own biophysical experiments, also showing the following slide:

Giaever small temp change slide

Giaever does not seem to know how to put the observed 0.8°C global surface temperature change in proper context.  It may sound small in comparison to the absolute global temperature in Kelvin, or in comparison to changes in human body temperatures, but it is a very large change in global surface temperature, especially over a period as brief as 130 years (Figure 2).

holocene temps

Figure 2: Eight records of local temperature variability on multi-centennial scales throughout the course of the Holocene, and an average of these (thick dark line) over the past 12,000 years, plotted with respect to the mid 20th century average temperature.  The global average temperature in 2004 is also indicated. (Source)

In addition to this rapid surface warming, the global oceans have also been accumulating heat at an incredible rate - the equivalent of more than two Hiroshima "Little Boy" atomic bomb detonations per second, every second over a the past half century.  Presumably a physicist of Giaever's stature would appreciate the magnitude of this global energy accumulation.

As a physicist, Giaever should also understand that seemingly small objects and quantities can have large effects, but instead he seems to rely on incorrect "common sense" perceptions which are based on ignorance of the subject at hand.

CO2 vs. Water Vapor

As another example of this behavior, Giaever proceeds to demonstrate that he also does not understand the role of the greenhouse effect in climate change.

"Water vapor is a much much stronger green[house] gas than the CO2.  If you look out of the window you see the sky, you see the clouds, and you don't see the CO2."

Needless to say, the second sentence above represents a very bizarre argument.  Giaever is either arguing that CO2 is a visible gas (it is not) and the fact that you can't see it means there is too little in the atmosphere to have a significant warming effect, or that only visible gases can warm the planet, or some other similarly misinformed assertion. 

That clouds are visible to the human eye and CO2 isn't simply is not relevant to the greenhouse effect and global warming.  It's also worth noting that like CO2, water vapor is not visible - clouds are condensed water droplets, not water vapor.

Additionally, water vapor does not drive climate change.  There is a lot of it in the atmosphere, so it is the largest single contributor to the greenhouse effect.  However, water vapor cannot initiate a warming event.  Unlike external forcings such as CO2, which can be added to the atmosphere through various processes (like fossil fuel combustion), the level of water vapor in the atmosphere is a function of temperature. Water vapor is brought into the atmosphere via evaporation - the rate depends on the temperature of the ocean and air. If extra water is added to the atmosphere, it condenses and falls as rain or snow within a week or two. As Lacis et al. (2010) showed, as summarized by NASA (emphasis added):

"Because carbon dioxide accounts for 80% of the non-condensing GHG forcing in the current climate atmosphere, atmospheric carbon dioxide therefore qualifies as the principal control knob that governs the temperature of Earth."

Climate Myth Whack-a-Mole

Giaever continues ticking off the most common climate myths, going from arguing that it may not even be warming, to claiming the warming is insignificant, to asserting the warming is caused by water vapor, and ultimately that the warming is indeed caused by human influences:

"Is it possible that all the paved roads and cut down forests are the cause of "global warming", not CO2?  But nobody talks about that." 

Climate scientists do of course investigate and discuss the effects of deforestation and urban influences.  The 2007 IPCC report discusses the influences of deforestation on climate in great detail, for example here and here, and devotes a section to policies aimed at reducing deforestation here. The United Nations has also implemented the Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) to address the effects of deforestation on climate change. In short, by claiming that nobody has considered the effects of deforestation on climate, Giaever once again demonstrates that he simply has not done his homework.

The IPCC report also discusses the influences of urban heat islands and land use effects here and here, for example.  Giaever then claims that one person has talked about these effects - US Secretary of Energy and fellow Nobel Laureate Steven Chu, who suggested paining roofs white to offset some warming, though he does not discuss Chu in a very flattering light.

"[Chu has] been bought by the global warming people, and he's now helping Obama trying to make green energy in the United States."

In the presentation in question, Chu described the potential effects of the white roof proposal as follows:

"Making roads and roofs a paler color could have the equivalent effect of taking every car in the world off the road for 11 years"

Chu discusses white roofs as a geoengineering possibility in response to greenhouse gas-caused climate change, as a way to offset a small portion of the global warming our fossil fuel combustion and associated carbon emissions are causing.

Failure to do Homework Earns a Failing Grade

At this point we're 9 minutes into Giaever's 32-minute presentation, and he begins comparing climate science to religion.  Yet based on his arguments in those first 9 minutes, it's clear that Giaever has not done even the most basic climate research, so how can he possibly make such a radical determination?

While Giaever is certainly a highly accomplished physicist, that does not automatically make him a climate expert as well.  As Giaever himself has admitted, he has spent very little time researching the subject, and it shows.  He simply bounces from one climate myth to the next, demonstrating a lack of understanding of Climate Science 101, and then insults the entire scientific field by comparing it to a religion, brining life to the xkcd cartoon at the top of this post.

Memo to climate contrarians - expertise comes from actually researching a subject.  There is a reason why scientists who have researched climate change in the most depth are also the most likely to be convinced that global warming is human-caused (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Distribution of the number of researchers convinced by the evidence of anthropogenic climate change (green) and unconvinced by the evidence (red) with a given number of total climate publications (Anderegg 2010).

In his talk, Giaever complained that he had become famous for his climate contrarianism, which he claimed indicated that dissenting opinions on the subject are not welcome.  On the contrary, Giaever has been criticized for repeating long-debunked climate myths which he could have easily learned about through a little bit of research - by perusing the Skeptical Science database, for example, where we have debunked all of his Googled climate misconceptions. 

Instead, Giaever has used his position of scientific authority as a Nobel Laureate to misinform people about a subject on which he has not even done the most basic research.  That is not how a good scientist should behave, and that is why Giaever has rightfully and deservedly been criticized.  Giaever finishes his talk by proclaiming

"Is climate change pseudoscience? If I’m going to answer the question, the answer is: absolutely."

The problem is that Giaever has not done his homework, which is why he gets the wrong answer, and his presentation deserves a failing grade.  Ironically, Giaever defines "pseudoscience" as only seeking evidence to confirm one's desired hypothesis, which is precisely how Giaever himself has behaved with respect to climate science.

Listening to Giaever's opinions on climate science is equivalent to giving your dentist a pamphlet on heart surgery and asking him to crack your chest open.  While climate science has a basis in phyiscs (and many other scientific fields of study), it is an entirely different subject, whose basics Giaever could undoubtedly grasp if he were willing to put the time in to do his homework. 

But individual scientists (even Nobel Laureates) suffer from cognitive biases like anyone else. That's why we don't rely on indvidual scientists or individual papers to draw conclusions about climate change. The only way to get an accurate picture is through the work of many scientists, peer reviewed and scrutinized over decades and tested against multiple lines of evidence.  Giaever demonstrates how far cognitive bias - reinforced by a few hours of Googling - can lead anyone to the wrong conclusions, and also proves that no individual's opinion, regardless of his credentials, can replace the full body of climate science evidence.

Note: for climate-related talks at the same conference made by Nobel Laureates who have actually researched the topics in their presentations, see these videos of Paul Crutzen and Mario Molina.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 69:

  1. Have to love the arrogance. He really does wear his ignorance on his sleeve and then start digging.

    Although, there are plenty of scientists guilty of this. We're just as vulnerable to hubris as the next person.
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  2. Thanks for such an interesting de-construction Dana. I loved the cartoon too.
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  3. One of the more common misrepresentations (doubtless the result of motivated reasoning in the majority of cases) that contrarians make use of is the assertion that mainstream climate science makes an effort to silence dissenting opinions (topically, we have Giaever complaining that dissenting opinions are not welcome).

    What is going on, so it seems to me at any rate, is that they are conflating the inevitable criticism of their opinions (which is entirely reasonable) with "silencing dissent". As far as I can see Giaever has fallen into this trap as well.
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  4. Chris @2 - thanks, and props to Andy S for suggesting the cartoon. It really is a perfect illustration of Giaever's behavior.

    Composer @3 - agreed, there's a difference between criticizing comments because they're 'unwelcome' and criticizing them because they're intellectually lazy and wrong. Giaever and most of his contrarian counterparts' arguments fall into the latter category. There is certainly a strong correlation between climate contrarianism and intellectually lazy/wrong arguments, so it's easy to see why they would confuse the two categories.
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  5. Wow, that's simply amazing. His slide showing the temperature change in Kelvin must have been tongue-in-cheek. No real physicist would be so ridiculously arbitrary in the selection of units.

    Using a different temperature scale (Réaumur for example) one can get that the temperature increased from ~12.0 °R to 12.64 °R (5.3%). That is amazingly rapid warming!!!
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  6. See a talk by Nobel particle physicist Burt Richter, who "retired" from running SLAC, and then spent a lot of time learning about climate. He already knew a bit about energy. His climate slides could have been used by Al Gore. Burt ran the American Physical Society project on energy efficiency, has a decent book out, and continues to be involved in useful projects.

    Giaever was one of the signers of the 2009 APS Petition.
    He was in wave B, i.e., likely recruited directly by the organizers. I cannot know, but if I had to guess, Happer or Austin. Giaever has since resigned from the APS.
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  7. Okay, great article, Dana and yes, Giaever's arguments are very weak. But physicists are actually nice people, really! You can't stereotype an entire community based on a few extreme examples! :-)
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  8. Ivar Giaever spent most of his working life at General Electric. In later years he has held a professorship at Oslo University, payed for by StatOil. He seems to belong to Fred Singers vast social network.
    Giaever wrote a short opinion piece in Aftenposten a few years ago, telling his fellow norwegians that global warming stopped in 1998. The only authority mentioned was Fred Singer.
    When Giaever resigned by from the APS last september he sent a copy of the e-mail to Fred Singer, who published it at his website. Curiously, he also copied the letter to Hal Lewis, who died half a year earlier.
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  9. Since ad hominum is out, the following will have to be couched in personal recollection. True tale, though:

    Scientist X receives Nobel in field A.
    Scientist X retires, essentially, but in an interview with national magazine is asked if he wishes to comment on science in general. X replies, essentially, thus: I do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. (comment related to field B).

    X Is asked "Why" by interviewer. Response, essentially, is this: Might as well, if you happen to be proven right for a claim that far outside the consensus, you will be famous. No one becomes famous for believing what everyone else does.

    This twisted kind of reasoning is behind a lot of this, IMO.
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  10. I don't know whether Nobel-winnng scientists are more likely than others to go off the rails when speculating on fields outside those they have specialized in (although they may well be, bolstered by the status conferred by the prize).

    However, they certainly get more publicity (one thinks here of Luc Montaigner), and the Nobel adds unwarranted credibility to their claims, even if the evidence shows their speculations are incorrect.
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  11. curiousd@9: Similar situation for me.

    Scientist A (let's call him "booomie"), who is a GEOlogist, works with numerous and well-respected GEOphysicists. "Booome' spends about 5 years doing intensive research into a whole host of resources that are concerned with AGW, including becoming a friend toa noted researcher at NASA-Goddard. "Booomie's" discovery of "Sepical Skience" is his next big step, in doing research on the topic of AGW, which sends him even deeper into scholastic sources that support the AGW theory. "Booomie" reads over 1000 papers on the topic and is pretty-well convinced, by the data and interpretation thereof, that AGW is ~anything~ but a "hoax," a "crock," or "bad science."

    "Booomie" then has the *temerity* to put forth the AGW theory to a few of the Ph.D. GEOphysicists and is agog (I think J. Cook would say "gobsmacked!) when aforementioned GEOphysicists assert, loudly and with *great* authority, that AGW is essentially a crock.

    "Booomie" is left scratching his head and doing *much* more research on "confirmation bias"......;)
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  12. Fig 3 shows that about 800 climate scientists are convinced by the evidence of human caused climate change and around 90 are unconvinced. The percentage of unconvinced here, approx 11%, is higher than the 2%-3% figure from other surveys, which is a worry to me. If you take out the least experienced first pair of figures it gets closer to the 3%.

    I've sometimes wondered how many climate scientists there are and this implies a bit less than 1000, based on papers published.

    I'm impressed that someone has published around 900 papers. There's also someone who's published 650 papers who is unconvinced by the evidence! I wonder who these two scientists are.
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  13. Just finished watching the video by Dr. Giaever: oh my gosh...

    He states that "Without an atmosphere, the Earth would be *roughly* 35C colder."

    Whaaaa? I'm just a geologist but I'm *fairly* certain it would roughly be a LOT colder than that! The amount of uter falsehoods, incorrect assumptions, and misconstrued "facts" in this are, to me, as embarrassing as any of Christopher Monckton's prounouncements.

    This is indeed one of the myriad reasons I find it so difficult to discuss the science with fake skeptics, when *notable* fake skeptics such Dr. Giaever step into it this deeply.

    Sigh......
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  14. vrooomie: Never trust your intuition. The roughly 35C colder figure is one of the few things in Giaever's talk which is accurate. See for example IPCC AR4.

    (But you were pretty unlucky with the claim you picked. The odds of picking one that was right were pretty low.)
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  15. Kevin, what probably threw vroomie was the bit about "Without an atmosphere".

    IIRC, we know from Lacis & Schmidt that without the non-condensing GHG's Earth's temperature would plunge some 35ºK to it's effective black body temperature, 254ºK. The problem is that this is not necessarily intuitive as being the same as atmosphere-free.
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  16. John @7 - as someone with a physics background myself, I prefer not to speak ill of physicists! At the same time, I've seen the Giaever xkcd behavior first hand quite a few times. Physicists tend to think pretty darn highly of their intellects, usually for good reason, but it can lead them into Giaever behavior :-)
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  17. re: physicists
    I know a few Nobel physicists and they are quite sensible.
    In the APS Petition writeup mentioned in #6, {Austin, Happer, Singer, Lewis, Gould, Cohen}, with much campaigning,m managed to get ~200 signers out of ~47,000 aps members, I.E., <0.5%. Id' guess that's lower than most segments.

    The demographics were very skewed older, slightly skewed male, and somewhat skewed politically conservative.
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  18. After listening to Mr. Giaever I used as antidope the presentations of Mr. Crutzen and Molina.
    Together with the above rebuttal of Dana I do feel good again!
    During the speech of Giaever the public reacted on the humor, they laughed.
    I really wonder why nobody of the audience stood up and told Mr Grieaver to stop his non-scientifical talk. IMO it was not even pseudoscience.
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  19. I found Giaever's presentation uncomfortable and embarrassing in the extreme. So much so I had to turn it off. It is an object lesson for any Emeritius to stick to what he knows best, and not go shooting his mouth off. It was dreadful to see a once-respected scientist make an ass of himself. But no doubt there are those who will pander to his vanity, and seek to gain from the confusion spread.
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  20. Correct, Kevin@14: without *GHGs,* indeed Giaever is about right, but as DB said, Giaever stated "without an atmosphere." That's a glaring example of not much thought being put into a statement, by someome ostensibly thoughtful.

    W/o an atmosphere, Earth would be WAY colder than 254K!

    Words--and grammar-- matter...;)

    In any case, it's somewhat embarrassing to watch an otherwise intelligent person get it so notably incorrect.
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  21. Piet, I believe English may be your second language (nothing wrong with that) but given your use of the word "antidope" in referencing the really good works of Molina and Crutzen, I had to laugh out loud at its accuracy..that's my takeaway of the day...thanks!

    I knew you meant 'antidote,' but I think 'antidope' is *way* funnier....;)
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  22. vroomie, without an atmosphere the side of the Earth not facing the Sun would be much colder than 254K... but the side which WAS facing it would be much warmer. The average global temperature would indeed be 254K.

    Also, an atmosphere without greenhouse gases would likely actually be COLDER than no atmosphere at all... because the atmosphere would block some of the incoming radiation. Earth's current atmosphere retains more heat through greenhouse warming than it blocks as incoming radiation, but both effects exist.
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  23. Interestingly, I quoted the same Giaever passage when rebutting his speech on a contrarian site as evidence of his opinion's irrelevance.
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  24. vroomie, CBDunkerson:
    The difference between a (presumably rotating) planet with an IR-transparent atmosphere and no atmosphere is more than I can do in my head! I think this is the place to start, but I don't have time to dig through the issues.
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  25. BC,

    from the abstract:

    Here, we use an extensive dataset of 1,372 climate researchers and their publication and citation data to show that (i) 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the tenets of ACC outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and (ii) the relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of ACC are substantially below that of the convinced researchers.
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  26. See Reasons.

    Clearly: TEC5 (going emeritus in the bad way).
    Likely: PSYa (Austin, Happer, Singer), maybe IDE2/POL2.

    It is truly embarrassing when someone who once did good work goes like this.

    In the APS Petition list, Syun-Ichi Akasofu (retired eminent aurora researcher) is another sad case like that, although many of the signers haven't had particularly notable careers, and almsoet none ahve done credible (or any) climate research.
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  27. Vroomie, IIRC, the temperature difference between the Earth as a black body at thermal equilibrium with no atmosphere and the Earth at thermal equilibrium with no non-condensing greenhouse gases is indeed negligible. Again, this is non-intuitive, so I refer you to the awesomeness that is the Science of Doom (listing of pertinent pages here with this page here being a good starting point. Additionally, relevant pages can be found at Skeptical Science here and in this paper by Ramanathan.
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  28. In addition to this rapid surface warming, the global oceans have also been accumulating heat at an incredible rate - the equivalent of more than two Hiroshima "Little Boy" atomic bomb detonations per second, every second over a the past half century.


    Yes, but the sun produces the equivalent of 10^11 bombs going off every second, so if true, it seems to me that the energy accumulating here on earth is negligible.

    Just the part where he uses Kelvin to make his point is rather a boggling display of something not complimentary ( [-Snip-]). The lower parts of that scale aren't conducive to life, and don't occur here on earth anyway. On the other hand, that is an argument I hadn't yet seen so kudos for creativity?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Speculations on motive/character snipped.
  29. I knew you meant 'antidote,' but I think 'antidope' is *way* funnier....;)


    Agreed! Very much funnier. I'm going to incorporate "antidope" into my vocabulary now.
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  30. Personally speaking, Dr Giaever's admission that his stance on global warming is the result of a few hours' work on Google makes me very embarrased for him.

    It puts him in such august company as anti-vaccine activist and not-quite-celebrity Jenny McCarthy, who credits "The University of Google" for her understanding of vaccinology and the aetiology of autism spectrum disorders.

    If your understanding of some subset of science ends up being functionally equivalent to Jenny McCarthy's, then "Google U" is not your friend.
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  31. I'll not pursue this much farther, in order to not stray too far off-topic but I believe an airless Earth would be MUCH hotter than 255K on the hot side.

    Source


    The bottom line that DOES relate is, Dr. Giaever's presentation was poor, at best, and deeply embarrassing, at worst. My point about having to battle "fake experts who happen to have a Nobel prize in some utterly unrelated field" stands....:(
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  32. Woops..sorry: I forgot to add to my prior post that I used the moon data because we're essentially in the same orbit as the Moon; there'd be some difference in albedo, but I couldn't find that data.

    Always learning!
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  33. Vroomie, the blackbody temperature of the Earth without atmosphere is essentially the same as that of the Earth with an atmosphere lacking in noncondensible greenhouse gases (assuming both are at thermal equilibrium).

    In addition to the Science of Doom resources I referred you to earlier, please see:
    1. NASA Earth Fact Sheet

    2. Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature
    (Lacis et al 2010)

    3. Attribution of the present‐day total greenhouse effect
    (Schmidt et al 2010)

    Not that it should matter, but I asked Dr. Mann for clarification on this and he indicated the above to be an appropriate response to this situation.
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  34. I have a "skeptical" acquaintance that occasionally emails news articles me. He sent one when Giaever resigned his membership in the APS over their statement on AGW. I contemplated a response along the lines of "well, that's his prerogative but from everything I can tell regarding his reasons, it seems he doesn't really understand the scientific case in favor of AGW and therefore APS's acceptance of the case” – but in the end I just sighed to myself and never responded knowing from experience the attention span for meaningful drill-down into the heart of Giaever’s criticism was unlikely. I am convinced that most “skeptics” in the general public simply just aren’t that interested in the science. A handy but shallow sound-bite will do just fine, thank you. Basically, I think that much (most ?) of the public believe that when a “really smart noble prize-winning scientist” says he doesn’t believe AGW is a problem, then that in and of itself counts as valid counter-evidence against the science. …” I suppose we all use simplifications but in my experience listening to “skeptical” friends and acquaintances, there is little or nothing below the surface. If say to Frank “OK Frank, I agree, water does account for the largest part of greenhouse effect, please continue and tell why human generated GHGs are not important with respect to climate change”, I almost always get another sound-bite.
    So Dana, thanks for the post. I will politely bring it to my “skeptic” friends’ attention.
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  35. Daniel J. Andrews: You wrote @28: “it seems to me that the energy accumulating here on earth is negligible”. I have to say that this statement could be used as a handy but misleading sound bite along the lines of one that Giaever made when he publicized his APS resignation: He said something like “temperatures have been remarkably stable”, indicating there was no concern regarding earth’s energy accumulation because after all, average global surface temp is only less than a degree Celsius different than it was a hundred years ago. OK, the rate of accumulation may be subjectively “negligible” in comparison to the output of the sun, or to an extraterrestrial studying the energy distribution of our solar system, but it is far from “negligible” with respect to the climates that a significant fraction of life forms on earth will have to put up with.
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  36. Thanks, DB: I missed the black body data of earth when I looked first.
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Anytime, glad to help.
  37. I think an important point, in this discussion of what the temp of an airless Earth would be, is that on neither side would there be conditions under which present-day life would exist.

    Dr. Giaever asks the standard deniers' canard, "What is the optimal temperature of the planet?", as if that has never been investigated...and it has, and it's well-known.

    Roger D@34: your points are well-made, and dead-on, IMHO.

    For what it's worth, I've gotten *really* good at quickly identifying which conversation with any given denier/skeptic is going to be worth my time, by paying close attention to how they respond to established scientific research: I'm not old, by any means, but 55 is old enough to recognize how much of my remaining time should be spent yelling into the void...>;-/
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  38. This article made me think of something that I had read on Wikipedia about the famous 'Monty Hall Problem' that gained much attention after being posed in Parade Magazine in Marilyn vos Savant's column.
    From Wiki:

    In her book The Power of Logical Thinking, vos Savant (1996:15) quotes cognitive psychologist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini as saying "... no other statistical puzzle comes so close to fooling all the people all the time" and "that even Nobel physicists systematically give the wrong answer, and that they insist on it, and they are ready to berate in print those who propose the right answer."
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  39. Thank's Dana for this comprehensive rebuttal!

    Ivar Giaever's presentation and accompanying video must be deemed a "special gift" for the "fake-skeptics" who just like to see and hear their misconceptions validated by somebody who is a Nobel Laureate, regardless of how wrong he is about the topic. A point in case are the video statistics on the Lindau Laureate website: If you look at the list of best rated videos, Giaever's video is currently at rank 10 with 183 ratings and an average of 4,64 and it even tops the list of most viewed videos with 3223 views. These numbers are quite the outliers compared to the other videos available on the website. Mario Molina’s talk (which was given directly before Giaever’s) is the second most watched video, but still only has 274 views and 8(!) ratings with an average of 3,88. Something is clearly “wrong” with these ratings – especially as it is a no brainer of which of the two videos is the factually correct one. So, how can it be that a factually wrong presentation has been viewed a lot more and rated a lot better than a correct one? Most of us here will have an answer to this obviously rather rethorical question I guess!
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  40. Various, when discussing the temperature of an Earth without an atmosphere, it is important to remember that in that case it would have no means to redistribute heat on the surface (the oceans would either freeze or boil away). As such, it would have both much higher and much colder temperatures than at present, as indicated by CBDunkerson @22. However, because energy radiated increases with the fourth power of temperature, that would make it much more efficient at radiating energy to space for a given global mean surface temperature. Therefore its global mean surface temperature would fall by at least 60 degrees C to be comparable to that of the Moon, and probably lower because the Earth would probably have a higher albedo than the Moon (although possibly lower than at present).

    Therefore Giaever's claim as stated is simply false.
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  41. BaerbelW @ 39 - interesting point about the videos and views and ratings on that website. I guess that shows Giaever was right about one thing - you get a whole lot more attention for contrarian views on climate change(even if that contrarianism is based on total ignorance of the subject) than mainstream views (even if those mainstream views are based on sound science).

    But you don't just get criticism, you also get a lot of positive attention (hence Giaever's video's wholly undeserved high rating), which I suspect is why Giaever continues to speak on the subject - I suspect he likes the accolades from climate contrarians.

    This reminds me of curiousd's comment @9, where certain individuals would prefer to take a contrarian stance because it increases their odds of having a groundbreaking opinion. It also increases their odds of being very wrong, as Giaever is here.
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  42. As an addendum to my 40, from my memory (which isn't the best) the formula for the means surface temperature of a planetary body with no atmosphere is (((1-albedo)*(Insolation/2)/(2*5.67*10^-8)^0.25)/2), which for a presumed albedo of 0.2 would yield an expected mean surface temperature for the Earth with no atmosphere of 160 K. For comparison, the Moon has a mean surface temperature at the equator of 220 K, and 130 K at 85 degrees North. It has an expected mean surface temperature of 200 K using the above formula, and an albedo of 0.14.

    Edit 13/7/12, 8:00AM - corrected bracketing in formula and the result; edited text noted in bold.
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  43. BC @12, Anderegg et al state:

    "The UE group comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers of the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups (Materials and Methods). This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that ≈97% of
    self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of ACC (2). Furthermore, this finding complements direct polling of the climate researcher community, which yields qualitative and self-reported researcher expertise (2). Our findings capture the added dimension of the distribution of researcher expertise, quantify agreement among the highest expertise climate
    researchers, and provide an independent assessment of level of scientific consensus concerning ACC."


    That is entirely consistent with the graph shown, with the only group containing more than 10 scientists in which the ratio of UE (Unconvinced by the Evidence) to CE (Convinced by the Evidence) is better than about 3% is among those researchers having published between 20 and 50 papers on climate science.

    The total ratio is irrelevant. Anderegg et al composed their list of UE and CE scientists by looking at lists of names from various publications supporting, or dissenting from the IPCC AR4 concensus. There is no reason to presume the numbers from each group are representative of the proportion among all groups. For what it is worth, there where 904 CE and 472 UE scientists from the initial lists, and yes that does mean that nearly all of the scientists CE had published more than 20 papers on climate science, while only about 20% of scientists UE had.
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  44. It amazes me how a scientist from any field can not grasp the basics of climate science. Does the scientific process work differently in other disciplines? All that is required is to pick up a copy of International Journal of Climatology, or similar standing climate publication, and read. You probably don't even have to read much more than the introduction to each article to realise the climate science community is well beyond the "is it us or not?" question.
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  45. As an ignorant physicist that worked in structural biology I have met Nobel Laureates in our field. My boss used to bring his international mates into the lab and then have to leave because of some administrative problem. They all asked more questions than even offering any advice or pontificating. They were genuinely interested how we did things in our lab. I was only introduced to them by name and had no idea who they were. It was only later at lunch or dinner I found out who they were. These were all very humble men who knew their limitations in spite of their success and obvious talents.

    I can only suppose that if the deniers cherry pick data they will cherry pick Nobel Laureates. Bert
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  46. When I read about Molina's presentation, I noticed he was talking at least in parts about concerns of scientists about public misrepresentations and severe misunderstandings, taking "climate change wars" as an example for this phenomenon (I remember Hansen talking about the same issues lately; SkS is currently running a support list for Jones, who was/is a target of hate&flame mails for just doing his job).

    Perhaps the Giaever presentation was meant as a practical demonstration of the before mentioned reasons. If so, the attending audience could indeed have learned something.
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  47. I'm really astonished how many of you came to the conclusion that an atmosphereless earth would be colder.
    You miss something important unnoticed: no atmosphere means no clouds and therefore a reduced albedo (about 12% according to Trenberth's Energy budget). This gives an absorbed energy of 300 W/m² for which the equilibrium is 270K - only valid for 29% of Earth surface, of course.

    For those who argue that ~240 W/m² were to use: guys, this value depends on cloud albedo!

    And don't forget that comparisons with the Moon will fail for 71% of the Earth due to the radiative behaviors of water are largely different between shortwave and longwave. So, the blackbody/graybody equations don't work at all. But, this is a different story to be told another time.

    -funny-
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  48. JoeRG,

    If the average temperature of the earth were to be 270K, much of the water will be frozen, and thus the albedo will certainly be higher then 12%.
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  49. IanC @48:
    As told, the 270K are only valid for 29% of the surface.

    Given the current conditions, the value for the other 71% would be somewhat higher because SW radiation is absorbed at greater depths down to several tens or even hundreds meters. Contrary, LW can be radiated to space only from the uppermost layer. So there must be a transport of heat to the surface before it can be re-radiated. The energy remains in the system and therefore the inner temperature raises to a level where a freezing is impossible for most of latitudes - remember, the cooling effect of clouds is not existent.
    Given that oceanic currents are running as we know it, this heat (OHC) is transported to the poles too. Therefore the albedo would not be as high as you expect.

    You can prove the behavior of water quite easily: Imagine a coast where the surface temperatures of water and the shore are equal at dusk. The water will always be warmer during the night because of the stored heat. With or without an atmosphere doesn't matter at all.
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  50. It truly is sad to see Giæver putting so much effort into thoroughly destroying his future reputation as a brilliant scientist. Interestingly, he only achieved mediocre to poor grades in college. Could seem that he is extremely talented in a very narrow field, but much less apt at absorbing knowledge in others.
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