A letter to Gavin Schmidt goes unanswered

It has taken me a while to follow up on this letter I sent to Gavin Schmidt on 5 March, 2010. It will come as no surprise to anyone that he hasn’t deigned to answer my email. However, as it expresses succinctly some of the main defences against the “denier” appellation I’ll put it up for comment.

Dear Dr Schmidt,

I’m disappointed to hear you quoted (below) apparently referring to climate “sceptics” as “nutters”.

For it is not mental instability that requires me to want evidence of AGW. It is not insanity to want someone to describe in simple words, without taking too long, without referring me to the hundreds of unfriendly pages of the AR4, the evidence for AGW.

Not, note, evidence for the greenhouse effect, which is indisputable. Not evidence for the growth in humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases, which is indisputable. Not evidence for the growth in atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, which is indisputable. Not evidence of mild warming during the late 20th Century, which is indisputable.

What, sir, is the evidence for dangerous anthropogenic global warming?

If the evidence is now “overwhelming”, you ought to know it off by heart, so it won’t take long. Even if you take the time to call me a nutter.

from NY Times, March 2, 2010:

But some scientists said that responding to climate change skeptics was a fool’s errand.

“Climate scientists are paid to do climate science,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, a senior climatologist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. “Their job is not persuading the public.”

He said that the recent flurry of hostility to climate science had been driven as much by the cold winter as by any real or perceived scientific sins.

“There have always been people accusing us of being fraudulent criminals, of the I.P.C.C. being corrupt,” Dr. Schmidt said. “What is new is this paranoia combined with a spell of cold weather in the United States and the ‘climategate’ release. It’s a perfect storm that has allowed the nutters to control the agenda.”

The answer is simple, he said.

“Good science,” he said, “is the best revenge.”

Best regards,

Richard Treadgold
Climate Conversation Group

Either Gavin does not share the view that the evidence is overwhelming, or he’s still trying to put his finger on it.

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25 Thoughts on “A letter to Gavin Schmidt goes unanswered

  1. Precisely the response I get when I ask a very specific question of a warmista, sometimes having to repeat the very specific question after the intitial knee-jerk, smoke-blowing, hand-waving response. The response in the end to the very specific question is silence.

    • Right. Well expressed. But we keep doing it, don’t we? Where else would you rather be?

      Or is that TV3’s slogan? Ahh – I’ve been brainwashed!

    • Yes, for some reason we keep doing it. When good men do nothing… Hate it when evil prospers. So we keep doing it. Asking the simple questions in polite and clear terms. And keep asking, as you are doing with NIWA. An inspiration, you are. [Mate! -RT]

  2. Andy on 06/01/2012 at 2:57 pm said:

    I would not say that the argument for the “greenhouse effect” is indisputable There have been commenters here and elsewhere that dispute the concept of “back radiation” that forms the basis of the greenhouse effect.
    I don’t have enough knowledge of the topic to form an opinion.

    On another topic, Bryan Leyland’s article in the Dom Post seems to be attracting the usual rhetoric


    • When I talk to climate/earth scientists Chris de Freitas and Willem de Lange they confirm the greenhouse effect as certainly real, though very small. I haven’t researched it much, though I came across an excellent description of it (if correct) today from ronniethebear at Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/01/05/the-2011-climate-b-s-of-the-year-awards/?commentId=comment_blogAndPostId/blog/comment/1688-109-249
      (the first half of his comment, anyway.

      I’ve done a little research on the radiative aspect of it, and there seems little doubt that the CO2 molecule responds in similar fashion to all other molecules on receipt of radiated energy, according to its specific structure. That is, it gets more highly energised and instantaneously, if sufficiently excited, itself emits some radiation. But it’s inconceivable that CO2, only 0.000582 of the atmosphere by weight, might by that skimpy means alone dominate its temperature. Are we to believe it could overcome all convection and conduction together? Ever seen a thunderstorm? An odd fantasy, to be sure.

      I’ve been reading the Dom Post comments for half an hour now, deciding what if anything to reply to. Have to do something about them.

    • Simon on 17/01/2012 at 11:24 pm said:


      Take a look at http://www.climatechangedispatch.com/home/9799-that-bogus-greenhouse-gas-whatchamacallit-effect as that says a lot about the invalidity of the Greenhouse effect.

      As Dr. Latour says, why do you need a paper to explain this, where simple logic will suffice.

  3. Huub Bakker on 06/01/2012 at 4:16 pm said:

    You got, Richard, exactly what you would expect from someone like Gavin – silence. One must never debate with sceptics. Ignore them whenever possible and never get into a debate with them. .

  4. Richard C (NZ) on 06/01/2012 at 6:23 pm said:

    “Good science,” he said, “is the best revenge.”

    Can’t argue with that.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 06/01/2012 at 7:05 pm said:

    Scafetta’s twisting the knife.

    ‘Testing an astronomically based decadal-scale empirical harmonic climate model versus the IPCC (2007) general circulation models’, Nicola Scafetta, 2012.

    The results of this paper reinforce previous claims that the relevant physical mechanisms that explain the detected climatic cycles are still missing in the current GCMs and that climate variations at the multidecadal scales are astronomically induced and, in first approximation, can be forecast


    At last the IPCC climate models have some competition. Have informed Matt #31 at Bryan Leyland’s Dom Post article accordingly (as well as taking him to task over sea levels):-

    Matt #31, in case you think IPCC climate models are the only climate models in existence you might like to take a look at this paper:

    • Nice, Richard.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 06/01/2012 at 7:49 pm said:

      Error cascade | Climate Etc.

      JC comment: I think the the concept of error cascade is interesting and relevant to climate science. I think this particular article goes over the top in essentially dismissing all of AGW as junk science, but I think his perception is correct in that once you start invoking scientific consensus and deniers, you lay yourselves open to the charge of junk science.

      …With regards to this statement: “Eventually, one of the factoids generated by an error cascade is going to collide with a well-established piece of evidence from another research field that is not subject to the same groupthink.” It seems to me that any such challenge from outside the field would most likely come from the solar community.


    • Andy on 08/01/2012 at 9:33 am said:

      Bryan Leyland’s article is also getting some airtime over at Kiwiblog


  6. I got the same non-response from Schmidt when I asked for the equations by which the center of a radiantly heated ball can be a couple of times hotter than that calculated by Stefan-Boltzmann for its surface — as he has claimed for Venus .

    The retardation of this field of applied physics compared to any other comparable field is pathetic .

  7. Australis on 06/01/2012 at 8:26 pm said:

    In about 70% of the ‘public debate’, activists and Government scientists focus on:
    (a) scientific consensus and ‘the debate is over’;
    (b) the “authority” of the IPCC, Royal Societies, National Academies, etc; or
    (c) an ad hominem attack on deniers;
    and often refer to the IPCC claim that “most of the warming in the second half of the twentieth century was very likely caused by human activities”.

    A further 25% ventures into science but only:
    (a) the Keeling CO2 curve;
    (b) the greenhouse effect;
    (c) a warming graph (sometimes the full hockey stick).

    This approach is no accident. It is fostered and co-ordinated by Edelman PR, RealClimate, etc and followed slavishly by a chain of blogs like Hot Topic.

    Apparently, Richard T didn’t get the memo.

    • That analysis makes a lot of sense and echoes one’s experience at a multitude of sites. I think the remedy is simple – help each other understand the truth and how to clearly describe it, then declare it freely. Which is just what we’re doing. If I had more resources and didn’t have to earn a living I’d go on the road and hold public meetings all over the country, just as Salinger and Renwick have been doing, to accelerate and deepen public understanding of the issues.

      However, I got the memo all right! I just smelled a rat like the rest of you.

      Not that you smelled like a rat, of course …

    • Clarence on 07/01/2012 at 12:57 am said:

      Right. It would be great if the entire sceptic community could focus in on:

      1. No warming over the last decade – the models are wrong.
      2. Sea levels are static. Global sea ice is growing; so is the polar bear population
      3.CO2 is less than .04% (390ppm) of the atmosphere, and less than 5% from humans.

      And, for anyone interested in the science, we should recognise a broad consensus of scientists that humans are adding to CO2 concentrations, and the greenhouse effect is likely to increase temperatures by an extra amount when levels double after about 2150. That’s about all the Royal Society (UK) is now saying. But that leaves the elephant in the room – HOW MUCH?

      154 countries signed up to the UNFCCC at Rio in 1992 (long before the scientists could connect humans to the observed warming) which requires that “CO2 be stabilised at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate”. system”. The same question arises – HOW MUCH?

      This is the debate. The one we never had. The question is what level of CO2 concentration would be dangerous? The political, not scientific, answer of 450ppm is total rubbish – based on most recent scientific papers. On this key issue, the science is not settled, and there is no consensus.

    • Yes, good. My list goes like this.

      1. No warming this century — no child under 15 has experienced global warming.
      2. CO2 is only 0.00039 of the atmosphere and cannot possibly dominate it.
      3. The IPCC reckons we won’t detect a human influence on the climate for 20 or 30 years.
      4. Only incomplete, unverified computer models forecast disaster.
      5. Sea level rise has not accelerated and has lately reversed. Polar bears are fine.

      I’m not sure about the recovery of the Arctic sea ice extent. Since the “record” low of 2007, summer minima have fluctuated and I don’t see an increasing trend. It’s true there’s a slow increase in southern sea ice extent.

      Points 4 and 5 would be further talking points if the audience were interested.

      The first three points are simple, persuasive and authoritative. If people knew that the great big mysterious juggernaut of the IPCC now says that, and could see the ramifications, they would be surprised and would probably fire Nick Smith. The EU would have a hard time making their carbon taxes stick.

    • Simon on 17/01/2012 at 11:28 pm said:

      If you want to understand the (lack of) IPCC’s credentials, you only have to read Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise’s “..Delinquant Teenager..” book. Blows the IPCC right out of the water and shatters it to smithereens.

  8. Anthropogenic Global Cooling on 07/01/2012 at 9:44 am said:

    I think Schmidt’s response was predictable, but it’s also becoming more & more irrelevant. Have you seen these film clips of testimony exposing climate change in the Canadian Senate’s Climate Change hearings? The following are from Ross McKitrick & Ian Clark, with more to choose from on the right:



  9. Clarence on 07/01/2012 at 10:43 am said:

    Sounds convincing. On “no warming this century” one could build “so the UN climate models are obviously wrong”.

    There’s a good depiction of this at http://www.c3headlines.com/2012/01/latest-satellite-data-human-co2-emissions-have-caused-earth-to-cool-over-past-15-years.html.

    Is it worth reproducing that stark graph on the blog?

    • I like the comment about the models. You sent me to C3, and I’ve just spent some time there; I hadn’t noticed all the graphs before. Man, if you want a graph, that’s the place to go! I’ll throw something together to highlight the discrepancy between the model predictions and reality.

      Thanks, Clarence.

  10. Clarence on 08/01/2012 at 1:12 am said:

    You’re welcome.

    As to the “settled science” meme, catch Climategate email 1285 at http://tomnelson.blogspot.com/2012/01/warmist-mike-hulme-agrees-that-debate.html.

    Prof Mike Hulme, founding director of the Tyndall Centre (at UEA) and author of the Economist ‘book of the year’ (2009) says the debate is really about politics:

    “So while not endorsing this attempt at undermining our basis for current exceptional global warming, I must say I find myself in sympathy with much of what Will Hutton writes. In particular his conclusion that the debate around climate change is fundamentally about power and politics rather than the environment seems undeniable. There are not that many “facts” about (the meaning of) climate change which science can unequivocally reveal.
    I am copying this to Asher Minns, since Asher has been giving the issue of “sound science” and Tyndall’s reaction to it some thought recently.

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