Source: Repeal the Climate Change Act (http://repealtheact.org.uk/).
Event: Q&A session with Professor Richard Lindzen at the House of Commons
- Stuart Agnew: UKIP Member of the European Parliament
- Piers Corbyn: Astrophysicist and weather forecaster
- Peter Gill: Attendee and Member of the Editorial Board, Energy & Environment
- Terri Jackson: Founder of the Energy Group at the Institute of Physics
- Martin Lack: Attendee and geologist
- Peter Lilley: Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden
- Richard Lindzen: Atmospheric physicist and Professor of Meteorology at MIT
- Lord Monkton: 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley
- Colin Summerhayes: Attendee and emeritus associate of the Scott Polar Research Institute
Peter Gill: Do you think that it’s possible to infer from the work of [???] [00:40] of proxy measurements of carbon dioxide levels and temperature levels of the Earth to argue that way to say that there isn’t a likelihood of tipping points from the positive feed-back side of the argument?
Richard Lindzen: It all depends on what you mean by tipping points. I've always assumed that what they mean is that after crossing one [01:05] – and I think that the history of the Earth is that there has been no such tipping point.
Terri Jackson: There has been a report recently from the Japanese television station that the Japanese IBUKI climate satellite has revealed data showing that the areas showing the greatest CO2 emissions are areas of vegetation whereas the industrial areas like the concreted North America and here show the least. Would you put any credibility on that?
Richard Lindzen: That’s not new. It’s one big anomaly that the carbon cycle involves very large changes of which the anthropogenic component if a small percentage. The argument has always been that the changes due to vegetation and everything else are “natural and in balance” and the industrial contribution is small but an imbalance. In favour of that, to be fair, is the argument that the increases in the amount of the CO2 in the atmosphere are of the order of – actually they are only half of – the industrial output, so it is not as though the changes are completely out of line. Who knows what the truth is, because there’s still an open question as to how much changes in temperature have created the imbalance and the increase in CO2. For the moment I would be hard-pressed to argue it can’t be industrial.
Stuart Agnew: A question and a statement – the question is I’m a little bit puzzled that earlier in the talk you said that an increase in the carbon dioxide will increase the temperature but not by very much yet later in the talk you said that Al Gore’s graph actually shows that the rise in temperature came before the increase in carbon dioxide. I thought that is what I heard you say. Can I just refer you to something else. I'm a Member of the European Parliament. You may have heard about something called the European Citizens’ Initiative. The Poles are very keen to do what we are trying to do here which is to suspend the energy and climate package that Brussels has got. The Poles need six other partners – need seven other people, seven other countries to organise the collection of a million votes so I hope that somebody in this room will decide to represent Great Britain and get the thing rolling from here. Thank you.
Richard Lindzen: There’s nothing that I can say about that, I mean that’s a statement not a question – oh, how do I account for .. it’s not conflicting. It is known that CO2 can be affected by the temperature. In other words there is a … the simplest example is let’s say carbonated water. As you heat it the bubbles escape and the carbon dioxide is released. You have something similar in the buffering system of the upper ocean. So it is known that increases in temperature will cause increased CO2 and that looks like what’s going on in Gore’s picture. The CO2 increases – decreases after the temperature decreases. Subsequent measurements, not on that diagram, show that the same thing is true at the other end. I’m simply saying that OK, now the CO2 changes, that in principle can cause a change in temperature but that’s a pretty meagre effect.
Martin Lack: Professor Lindzen sir, I count it a privilege to be here today to hear you speak. I’m also grateful to Philip Foster for inviting me. I have a geological background and sir if you’ll forgive me there are many -
Richard Lindzen: You can be forgiven for a geological background. [Laughter around the room].
Martin Lack: There are many questions that I’d like to ask you but I’ll just .. in order to stick to .. I’ll stick to one. In order to answer the question you’ll need a little bit of context. You did mention paleo-climatology I think and you had a graph on the screen of the last 1 million years and our 7 or so glacial inter-glacials??? and you mentioned the time lag between CO2 and temperature changes and indeed you mentioned the 200-800 years. What I think failed to mention is the fact that that time lag is due to Milankovitch cycles with the wobbles in the Earth’s axis causing temperature changes which the Earth has to then correct by transferring CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere. OK, so the CO2 is in effect like the Earth’s thermostat but what we are dealing with now, we have induced CO2 change. The Earth still has a thermostat and in order to rectify that energy imbalance between inward and outward radiation the Earth must increase its temperature. So I consider – it seems to me a little bit bizarre to not even mention, not even acknowledge that fact. The temperature lag in the inter-glacial glacial is irrelevant. The important thing is that the Earth regulates its temperature...
Richard Lindzen: I don’t think that there is any case to be made for that. Let me explain why. There’s often been a discussion about Milankovitch that you need the CO2 and that came from a very bizarre mistake in geology - maybe one does have to ask for forgiveness for being a geologist – [more laughter] and it was the following. You had many studies that looked at Milankovitch parameter, which is insolation polewards of 60 degrees during the summer, and you have the precession of the equinoxes, the geo-centricity and the obliquity
given to you a time series and the time series has a qualitative resemblance to the ice-core data, but it never looked very good. The CLIMAT program noticed that and tried to budget one way and the other. Now here’s where one gets into an interesting question. It’s only recently, the last three or four years, that people realised that you should not compare the Milankovitch parameter with ice volume or temperature.
Martin Lack: Yes sir, I think that you misunderstand me. I did a [???] interrupt me...
Lord Monckton: I think that I’m going to do is ask you to – wait a minute – to ask you to hold that thought until the end of the meeting. We only have a few more minutes left for questions. We’re going to take SHORT questions please, at the back ...
Unknown attendee: In your 2009 paper it was Trenberth who identified some errors which you corrected in your 2011 paper. Has Mr Trenberth accepted these corrections and does he now accept the results of your 2011 paper?
Richard Lindzen: You know, er, he certainly has never made a public statement of that. Implicitly actually there is an interesting statement in the Trenberth-Fasullo-etc. paper which is they accept our infrared results, which is somewhat surprising. It was something that I was proposing n 2001, the Iris-effect and it said that the infrared feedback, which is what the water vapour feedback is in the model, shouldn’t be there. It should be negative feedback. Trenberth actually acknowledges that. The issue is the short-wave feedback and there we did make an error using a different reference level. Correcting it didn’t make much difference.It’s embarrassing on something like that to make a mistake. We realised that pretty quickly but the important point was to consider the lagged regression which we didn’t do in 2009. It wasn’t Trenberth’s criticism of it, it was just realising, like any other area of engineering and physics, you have to distinguish cause from effect.
Unknown attendee: Two very quick questions. Because of the laws of physics it was very good for many of us to see the blackboard. Will you be publishing this paper?
Richard Lindzen: All of the slides will be available afterwards.
Unknown attendee: Since we are here, we have one MEP I believe. I wonder if there are any other of our legislators here at this all-important conference.
Lord Monckton: Oh yes, one at the back I think. Peter Lilley, oh yes, can we hear from Peter Lilley? Here we are.
Peter Lilley: Last night Lord Stern gave the first of three lectures on Lord Stern [general laughter] and [???] on the assertion that [???] there was a 30 or 40% chance that if CO2 reached that [???] ppm by the end of the century there would be an increase in temperature of over 5 degrees and that in turn would put hundreds of millions of lives at risk this century. I’d like you to comment on the latter point of what the consequences of the 5 degree increase would be, and secondly on the probability of it happening.
Richard Lindzen: I think that the probability has to be close to zero. What would happen? Hard to tell, because in the past the only way you got that large a change was by a huge change in the equator to pole temperature difference for which the 5 degrees was the residue not the driving force. So I do not know of any major climate regimes that was driven by the mean value. Almost all of them were characterised by changing the equator to pole. That’s the thing I was trying to mention. The whole notion of climate as one number driven by a second number is kind of nutty.
Unknown attendee: Roy Spencer’s done a lot of work on clouds and as that’s a key aspect of climate change would you say a few words on that and Henrik Svensmark’s theories [???]
Richard Lindzen: Two separate questions. Roy and us, Spencer, Braswell, myself, Troy are lookng at much the same thing, getting much the same results. Where we’re differing is in methodologies for how you deal with lags, you know there’s engineering methodology of looking at the phase space. That seems to be too noisy. We think it’s sorted, but basically our stuff is supportive. When you get to Svensmark – a diffent issue. The issue of cloudiness and cosmic rays is a much subtler issue than people think. You always will get clouds. You don’t need cosmic rays to produce clouds that would not otherwise occur, but they occur certainly at a different level. They might have a different concentration of super-cooled droplets that would have different optical properties, so Svensmark is showing that cosmic rays could affect clouds. It would not be a feedback, it would be another cloud variation that is obscuring the feedback but it is something that would be relevant to what I mentioned, you know, that if, you know, 5 degrees with a doubling of CO2 then your almost against the vertical portion of the graph and then something like Svensmark’s mechanism could bring you over the top by simply changing the property of the clouds that are being fed back. So, yeah, its says that feedback factor won’t be constant. There are other things causing fluctuations and in the case of feedbacks that could alter the feedback factor.
Unknown attendee: Could you say something about the theory and the empirical evidence for the carbon dioxide residence time in the atmosphere?
Richard Lindzen: Okay, first let me issue a caveat. This I something that I am not an expert on – of carbon chemistry, but there are different time-scales, so for instance one of the things that is being cited is let’s say you have an equilibrating system and the disequilibration decays exponentially. Nevertheless it can be argued that - let’s say the exponential time-scale’s 50 years – that even in a million years you still have something. It’s not yet zero. Is that of any interest to anyone? I doubt it but that is sometimes what is being referred to. The exponential thing would be the statement that if I perturbed the equilibrium what is the effective time-scale for it to mostly – 2/3rds of the way on return to equilibrium. That’s almost certainly 50 years. The reason I say that is, if I assume that they’re correct the increase of CO2 is due to man’s emissions, the emissions themselves have been e-folding [???] over most of the industrial period with a time-scale of almost 50 years. In an equilibrating system the fact that you see only half of what was emitted to the atmosphere is suggesting that the relaxation time of the system is also of about 50 years.
Piers Corbyn: Richard, yes, you’ve shown us very ably that CO2 isn’t a problem, indeed you told me this years ago in a meeting of the Royal Society. The problem of course is the politics which flows from this nonsense, however, I do want to ask you a scientific question, which is you’ve shown us why the CO2 theory essentially doesn’t work so the question is could there be more things we haven’t yet got to grips with which show even its effect is zero, such as for example the assumption is a sort of semi-static system whereas in fact we’ve got dynamical systems with temperature fluctuations in the upper atmosphere all the time. Now could it be that feedback’s there because the 4th power of a mean is less that the mean of a 4th power, could it be that in fact considering dynamical changes would that even make the CO2 effect come to zero?
Richard Lindzen: I doubt it, to be honest. It’s hard to imagine how you could do that. It’s just, you know, how do you avoid changing the emission levels?
Piers Corbyn: You do but if you’ve got more CO2 then the fluctuation day and night goes up and the 4th power of a fluctuating thing is bigger than the 4th power of a less-fluctuating thing so it can give out more radiation and therefore make it cooler.
Richard Lindzen: Yes but then you’d have to get it to do it so as to exactly cancel.
Piers Corbyn: Oh yes, I know, but it might go the other way and make it general cooling.
Colin Summerhayes: I wonder if I can get you to comment on the ideas of Jim Zachos for example which were published widely in the National Geographic in October last year about the significance of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum? You will remember it requires an input of 1000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere, the ocean became acidic, the temperature went up by 5 degrees and they’re using their hard geological evidence as an analogue for what we may be doing to the system at the moment so I wonder if you’d care to comment on that?
Richard Lindzen: Yeah, I mean the Eocene is a fascinating issue. It’s a primary .. As you know there are certain controversial aspects of it. A long time ago not just Zacos but Zacos and others had estimated that the temperature changes at the equator were minimal, might even have been cooling and that you had a vast reduction in the equator to pole temperature difference in winter. The measurements of CO2 have never supported a large increase in CO2 during this period. Only recently have people returned to that. The first estimate of high CO2 was Berner and when I asked Berner how he got it he said he assumed th emodels were correct. So, the fact that he saw the temperature increase meant that the CO2 had to increase, so it wasn’t an independent confirmation. What’s happened of late – and it’s something I’m personally interested in – you had attempts with the models to simulate this by cranking up CO2. The problem with the models was that they gave you as much temperature increase at the equator as at the poles so they didn’t affect the pole to equator temperature difference. They just made everything higher. You now have people like Huber??? coming in and saying that there’s no observational constraint on the emperature at the equator. I don’t believe that. In addition there’s something that they’re not aware of and that’s something new. If I look at the temperature difference between the equator and pole at about 5 kilometres, today in the Earth’s atmosphere that difference is no different from what you had at the Eocene at the surface. It’s about half the temperature
difference that you have at the surface. The whole business of the difference at the surface is the Arctic inversion and there’s almost no work on that. That suggests that this may be an instability of ice, that you have an anomalous period, you get ice, you get inversion, it spreads the isotherms at least pole-ward by about 50 degrees and Zacos I think is just joining a band-wagon with that recent thing in the National Geographic. I’m surprised .. because he had a lot of good papers before... just accurately laid out.
Martin Lack: I have one very simple question -
Lord Monckton [with repeated interruptions from Martin Lack]: Can we.. wait a minute - hang on a moment because there are others who want to .. NO .. at the back please .. .
Unknown attendee: It's encouraging that we've [???] other scientists have propagated and now [???] but it seems to me you have kept your head down too long [???].
Richard Lindzen: I don’t feel guilty on this count. I mean, I’m reminded from your remark there was an English mathematician that some of you may know the name of, Watson. He wrote a huge tomb on Bessel Functions and it had a bibliography that extended for forty pages. In the last edition of this book Bessel Functions he has a preface in which he acknowledges that the bibliography has not expended greatly from the previous edition but he dais after 30 years his interest in Bessel Functions has waned.
Unknown attendee: I’d like to make a political point. Do you know, as an American, that it seems to be a required indoctrination in schools that Gore’s – Al Gore’s – you know, documentary is [???] view.
Richard Lindzen: Yeah, there are places where it is shown, it’s been shown widely. It is encouraged in the schools. There are people who are fighting this. It has not reached the courts yet but the problems are multiple and part of it is In America at least – and I don’t know how it is in the UK – the primary qualification to teach science is a degree in education and not science. So you have teachers who wouldn’t know science if they saw it and th ekids – the good part of that is the kids know that. To assume children are completely
tabula rasa is probably a mistake. They can tell phoneyness and so I don’t see young people being completely indoctrinated by it.
Unknown attendee: Just very quickly, could you clarify the primary driver of the climate?
Richard Lindzen: You know, certainly the primary driver – what do you mean, the fluctuations?
Unknown attendee: Would you say that the Sun is the predominant driver?
Richard Lindzen: Well, of course, you know, it’s essentially a planet heated by the Sun and responding. It’s also a planet that has been reasonably stable in climate for 4 ½ billion years during which time the Sun has changed a great deal, so there must be something more to it and when we’re talking about the last 150 years the changes are completely compatible with the internal changes which require external changes. We’re talking about tenths of a degree. So when people ask what’s the driver well yes, in some sense the Sun is essential to driving the system but then it doesn’t mean that if I’m looking at it for 100 years and I see fluctuations that it has to be the Sun. The system has plenty of other degrees of freedom.
Lord Monckton: Ladies and gentlemen, it remains only for me to say the very warmest and most heart-felt thanks to our kind speaker. It’s very rare in either house of our Parliament that somebody comes to us and speaks with such an engaging combination of clarity and authority born of profound study and prolonged meditation and with such an entire absence of political spin. From that, we have a lot to learn, but I think that all of us, Sir, have learnt a great deal about how the climate hangs together, the various influences -
some of which we can model, some of which frankly we cannot - and the likelihood or un-likelihood that we are likely to see anything in the way of major warming and even if there were, major catastrophe arising from that warming. I agree with the gentleman at the back that I wish there were more scientists who, like Dick Lindzen, have been going around - in his case for the last 30 years and more - giving talks like this to legislators and also to the public and getting the scientific facts across and having to endure, as everyone does who
dares to question this particular new superstition, the vilification and ad-hominem attacks of those who are entirely incapable of arguing with the elegance and authority that you have treated us to here today, Professor. So I ask everyone to give the very warmest thanks to Professor Richard Lindzen.