Marc Morano: Courting Mendacity

The false claim that human-generated CO2 is not enough to cause climate change
Science • Views: 31,971

A few days ago LGF and I got into a bit of a squabble with renowned climate change denier Marc Morano over an error I made concerning his “debate” with Bill Nye. I wrote that he used a talking point often trotted out by the denialists (and found on Morano’s site in several places), during that debate. He didn’t say it. At least during the debate.

He does, however, use that particular talking point on his fount of misinformation,, here and here.

Although Morano did not use that talking point in this “debate,” and complained bitterly about my claim that he had, (no doubt to direct attention away from the substance of my post) he did throw out quite a few other howlers.

MORANO: There are quite literally hundreds of factors that influence global temperature, everything from tilt of the earth’s axis to ocean cycles to water vapor, methane, solar system, the sun, cloud feedback, volcanic dust. The idea that CO2 is the tail that wags the dog is not supportable.

And if you go down and look at the scientific literature, we are finding reams of data. And new peer-reviewed study showing the Medieval and Roman warming periods as warm or warmer than today without our CO2 emissions. So what’s happened here is the whole movement, because now we’ve gone 16 years without global warming, according to the U.N. data [from UK Met Office], and they’ve now morphed into extreme weather.

And we have the absurd spectacle of people claiming that acts of Congress and United Nations can control the weather and make hurricanes less nasty and make tornadoes less frequent, which by the way none of them are showing any trends at all that are unusual.

MORANO: CO2 is rising. No one is disputing that. What Bill Nye just did was waste everyone’s time explaining that CO2 is rising. The question is what impact does CO2 have on the weather, what impact the CO2 have on climate change. And that, as we you look at the geologic records, we’ve had warmer periods where it’s been — with higher — with lower CO2 and we’ve had colder periods with higher CO2. And you have to go way back for some of that but the bottom line is hundreds of factors are dictating our climate.

The Medieval Warm Period was both southern and northern hemisphere. On my Web site there’s literally — it demolishes the idea of a hockey stick, new peer-reviewed study, so the idea that Bill Nye is just going around saying CO2 is up, therefore global warming is dangerous, we should be concerned, it’s not. It’s not dangerous. The bottom line is all these factors dwarfs the effects of CO2.

MORANO: No. You go to the peer-reviewed literature. You’re looking at anecdotal evidence. This is now the level of your daily horoscope. Basically global warmists like Bill Nye say global warming will cause many bad weather events and guess what? Bad weather events happen all the time so people look and they say look, there’s more proof, there’s a bad weather event.

Bottom line, big tornadoes, F-3 and larger since 1950s have dropped dramatically. Bottom line, we’ve gone the longest period without a major U.S. category 3 or larger hurricane hitting the U.S. since 1900, maybe the civil war.

Bottom line, new study in the journal “Nature,” peer-reviewed, no change in U.S. drought in the last 60 years. Bottom line, a new study out shows that drought has not changed in 85 to Hundred and 26 years.

2010 tied for “hottest” year? It is “purely a political statement.” Even NASA’s James Hansen admits it is “not particularly important.”

MORANO: Why it’s the wrong argument? Because every proposal ever done including the United Nations Kyoto Protocol would not even detectibly impact the temperatures assuming you buy into their science. What we’re talking about —

MORANO: We’re talking about a climate bill in the United States. President Obama was going around telling people it will keep the planet four or five degrees cooler for our grandchildren. His own EPA said it wouldn’t affect global CO2 levels let alone temperature. And if you actually do —

MORANO: Right now the developing world is getting 1,000 plus coal plants, there are 1.3 billion people don’t have running water and electricity. If we actually go the route of trying to stop carbon- based energy which has been their lifeline, which would lower infant mortality and long life expectancy, it would be the most immoral position you can take. So the bottom line is even if the skeptics are wrong the solutions that the global warming alarmists have proposed would have no detectible impact on climate.

MORANO: These predictions of Bill is based on climate models that violate 81 one out of 87 of the basic principles of forecasting.

MORANO: Doing nothing — first of all the United States did nothing, our CO2 emissions are dropping as we move to fracking away from coal through technology so the idea of nothing — there’s nothing to do. The idea of — there’s no way you can solve a nonproblem. Sea level has been rising since the end of the last ice age. There’s no acceleration. The Dutch Meteorological Institute said there’s no acceleration. You can look at the data, the land base data.

[Quoted from the transcript]

Since Morano decided to redirect the focus to LGF instead of to the substance of my post, I thought I’d look at a few of the obviously false or misleading comments he did make during that debate.

Throughout Morano’s comments you’ll find a common thread, the use of an obviously true statement coupled with some informational slight of hand. Today I’ll look at his first blatant bit of misinformation, a combination of the obvious and a straw man - CO2 is too small a factor to affect climate.

“There are quite literally hundreds of factors that influence global temperature, everything from tilt of the earth’s axis to ocean cycles to water vapor, methane, solar system, the sun, cloud feedback, volcanic dust. The idea that CO2 is the tail that wags the dog is not supportable.”

There are indeed hundreds of factors influencing global temperatures, including CO2 and methane, both of which are classed as Green House Gases (GHG) meaning they slow the passage of radiant energy through the atmosphere by changing the direction of transmission and by transferring energy to other molecules through conduction.

When he talks about the tilt of the Earth’s axis, he’s referring to the Milankovich Cycles which have been used to explain the cycle of ice ages (glaciation) seen in the geological record. The combination of the 41,000 year axial tilt cycle (Obliquity), shape of the orbit (how out of round it is (Eccentricity)) and the 22,000 year orbital precession (the timing of orbital perihelion) cycle determine the points of warming and cooling which start and stop the interglacial warm periods. Cool summers trend to glaciation period, warm summers trend to interglaciation periods. (more about where we are and where we’re going, orbitally speaking, in a later post)

Related to this is the amount of energy being produced by the sun. The more energy it produces, the more energy hits the earth unless it is reflected away. The average energy from the sun hitting the atmosphere is 1366 W/m2 with an 11 year variance of about 1.2 W/m2. If sun activity was the main reason for climate warming, there would be a correlation between average temperature and energy variance. There isn’t one.

The average temperatures have been stable from 1998 til today, yet since 1998 there has been a full solar cycle.

The ability of earth to reflect solar energy is its reflection coefficient or albedo. Most important in the earth’s albedo are snow cover and cloud cover.

Water vapour and cloud feedback both affect and are affected by climate change. However, cloud cover and atmosphere vapour content cycle about a mean value that doesn’t change appreciably without being forced to do so by an external force. Using them as an explanation for current temperature trends ignores the source of their formation, therefore they can’t be used to marginalize the effects of basic climate forcings like GHGs and the sun.

The same is true of oceanic currents. The amount of energy contained by the oceans affects the horizontal temperature gradients which in turn affects the vertical transport of warm or cold water. The most well known example of this is the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. Introducing cold fresh water to the ocean’s warm salty water also changes heat transport.

An important point to take from this is that the ocean energy balance is affected not just by the amount of energy entering the earth system but by the amount leaving the system. The ocean by itself is not a climate forcing, it can affect weather, but it can’t contribute to the global climate system without an external forcing initiating change.

That leaves one thing capable of contributing to global warming - a process that reduces the amount of heat energy leaving the atmosphere. Since the earth’s energy balance remains stable without a change in an external forcing such as solar insolence (due to changes in the sun’s output or orbital changes) or an internal process turned into a forcing by some change and we see neither Milankovitch cycles, nor the sun itself are in a position to do that, we have to look to an internal change.

Only CO2 fits that need.

Also see

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