The Tragic Tautology of the Greenhouse Gas Effect

Carl Brehmer reminds us of a crucial internal conflict within the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis. So vague and self-contradictory are the myriad explanations given by climatologists of this “theory” that anyone who critically examines it soon understands that it is best explained as a tautology.

In rhetoric ‘tautology’ is defined as using different words to say the same thing, or a series of self-reinforcing statements that cannot be disproved because they depend on the assumption that they are already correct. We never have and never will get a detailed scientific explanation of the “greenhouse gas” effect (GHE) because for climatologists to seek one would require them to dissect it, thus exposing the truth;  it hangs on nothing of any substance.

We are never given the “how” for the GHE and yet science is all about how things work. When Principia Scientific International (PSI), comprised of 200 experts in science and engineering, sought clarification from the supporters of the GHE they were either ridiculed or ignored. So with no answers as to the “how” inquiring minds turned to the “why” for the rise of this climate chimera.

In a series of articles we saw that the idea of a GHE driven by carbon dioxide was re-invented in the late 1970’s after being widely accepted in science as refuted before 1950.

The re-invented “theory” gained acceptance during the 1980’s as the field of government-funded climatology grew. Despite inward investment in climate research no rigor was applied to give any standard definition of what the “greenhouse effect” is.

“Analogously but Different”

Incredibly, despite a multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded “carbon reduction” industry avidly pursuing control of this alleged climate thermostat there are no agreed equations and no agreed descriptors of its how this “thermostat” actually works. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) adds to the confusion by glibly declaring our atmosphere is analogous to a greenhouse “but different.”

These handwaving proponents of the hypothesis will always start out by admitting the only meaningful source of heat to the surface of the earth is the sun. But then they will often declare that certain gases then serve to drive “down-welling radiation” (or “back radiation”) from the atmosphere as a secondary heat source.

Please take no one’s word on this. Just do your own Google search; most definitions of the “greenhouse effect” either overtly assert or at least imply that downwelling IR radiation from the atmosphere adds additional heat to the ground/ocean.

But nowhere will you be told where the extra heat generated by the atmosphere goes, because all outward longwave radiation (OLR) at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) is equal to, and in balance with, all the absorbed sunlight.  So, within the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis all that “additional” thermal energy that the atmosphere generates disappears as mysteriously as it appeared in the first place (see diagram).


Astrophysicist, Joseph E. Postma speaks for most critics of this shape-shifting GHE. Postma points out that the duty of modern empirical science is to seek to identify the physical principles that underlay observed phenomena. He writes:

“By identifying and understanding the underlying principle, we thus understand reality. If we can mathematize the principle and justify it on a-priori mathematical absolutivity, then the phenomenon becomes a scientific Law, such as the Laws of Thermodynamics or Kepler’s Law of Universal Gravitation, or the Laws of Least Action or Least Time. We can also engineer the physical principle and use it to our benefit, to produce products, services, and generally, to create wealth and increase the standard of living of people, etc.

The obvious question: is the underlying principle of the atmospheric greenhouse effect actually defined, anywhere? All I have to tell you, is that “No, it is not.””

A healthy skepticism demands of us that we look again at the above diagram, sold to us as the basic model of the greenhouse gas effect. Imagine what difference the addition or removal of that cyclical flow of phantom internal energy would make on the system as a whole. It makes no difference scientifically at all and we could easily discard it if we wished by applying the accepted principle of ‘Occam’s Razor’ (“plurality should not be posited without necessity”).  But to a charlatan looking to pick your pockets for more tax dollars, it is very necessary being the cleverest and most powerful tautology ever sold.



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7 responses to “The Tragic Tautology of the Greenhouse Gas Effect

  1. Martin Hodgkins

    The ‘I’ in IPCC is ‘Intergovernmental’ not ‘International’ which I am sure you know, John. It is a political, not a scientific organisation.

  2. John O'Sullivan

    Martin, thanks for spotting the typo. Yes, indeed, the IPCC is very much a political body.

  3. Pingback: The Tragic Tautology of the Greenhouse Gas Effect « Skeptics Chillin'

  4. GAI

    There is a lot more to it than that.

    #1. The IPCC mandate states:

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to assess the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of human induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for mitigation and adaptation.

    Humans were tried and found guilty BEFORE the IPCC ever looked at the first scientific fact. The IPCC mandate is not to figure out what factors effect the climate but to dig up the facts needed to hang the human race. The IPCC assumes the role of prosecution and and the skeptics that of the defense but the judge (aka the media) refuses to allow the defense council into the court room.

    #2. The assumption is made that CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere. The JAXA, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, Greenhouse Gas Observation Satellite ‘IBUKI’ as well as a lot of other data such as this from NASA/ Purdue University plus common sense shows it is not.

    This assumption is absolutely critical because without it Callendar could not toss out most of the early CO2 measurements made using analytical chemistry and Ernst Beck’s compilation stands. Mauna Lao could not justify tossing out the ‘outlier’ readings that don’t fit the curve. There are also the high ice core CO2 measurements (pre 1985) and plant stomata data that do not fit the CO2 Hockey Stick that have been tossed as noted by Dr. Jaworowski. Lucy Skywaller pulled all that information together HERE. NOTE: over at WUWT this assumption is aggressively defended by Ferdinand Engelbeen

    #3. The variable sun is reduced to a constant sun.

    As Dr. Nir Shaviv noted the smoothing of the temperature data done by the warmists eliminates the statistically significant temperature variations (of about 0.1°C) exist in the global temperature, following the 11 year solar cycle. Again at WUWT the ‘resident expert’ vigorusly defends the idea that the sun is constant and there is no link between the sun and the climate.

    #4. The reduction of the earth to a flat plane with no day or night allows the warmists to ignore the fact that CO2 and H2O have absorption bands in the range of sunlight as well as in the IR. If you take the ‘greenhouse effect’ as given this means all that CO2 and H2O does is modify the temperature and make the days cooler by stopping incoming energy and the nights warmer by stopping outgoing energy. (OOPS there went your catastrophe.)

    Despite the graph I linked to I have never seen a ‘luke warmer’ discuss the CO2 and H2O greenhouse effect on incoming sunlight. I have also never seen a discussion on the theoretical time it takes for a photon leaving the surface of the earth to reach outer space. Milliseconds, minutes, hours days, years???

  5. GAI

    Now on to the politics:

    The philosophical basis of Marx’s thought on Truth is the Hegelian Dialectic.

    …As a student, Marx accepted the philosophy of Hegel as the only sound and adequate explanation of the universe. According to this philosophy, “the only immutable thing is the abstraction of movement.” The one universal phenomenon is change, and the only universal form of this phenomenon is its complete abstraction. Thus, Hegel accepted as real only that which existed in the mind. Objective phenomena and events were of no consequence; only the conceptions of them possessed by human minds were real. Ideas, not objects, were the stuff of which the universe was made. The universe and all events therein existed and took place only in the mind, and any change was a change in ideas. Therefore, to account for these changes in ideas was to account for change in the universe.

    In the Hegelian philosophy no idea could exist without an opposite. Thus, the idea of light could not exist unless there were an idea of darkness, nor truth without falsity, nor high without low. If an idea were labeled a thesis, its opposite would be its antithesis. Consequently, in this realm of the mind within which the universe had its only real existence, innumerable theses and antitheses existed. Struggle or conflict was the en-evitable fact in such a universe—conflict of the thesis with its antithesis. In this struggle thesis and antithesis acted and reacted on each other, and a new phenomenon—synthesis—was created….

    This explains why there is such an emphasis placed on ‘The Consensus of 97% of Climate Scientists.’ To those raised on the Hegelian Dialectic the conflict of the thesis with its antithesis has already been resolved, the synthesis reached and it is time to move on to the social implementation. This is the real reason why we are called ‘Denialists’ not because we deny Global Warming the overt reason, but because we completely deny their Hegelian philosophy, by insisting on using the scientific method.

    This explains why they will not debate ‘the science’ in public. In their minds it is not needed. It explains the arrogance of the “Intellectuals” It explains why questionable methods and out right fraud is so prevalent in scientific research these days. If you are taught in school that there is no such thing as TRUTH then modifying the results as needed to advance ‘society’ is perfectly justifiable. If you do not believe there is an ‘absolute truth’ no amount of arguing the scientific facts is going to sway you.

    From this philosophy evolved the Delphi Technique, which is used to manipulate people into accepting a predetermined conclusion.

    This brings us to Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization. Lamy makes it very clear that one of the critical factors for implementing a world government is “legitimacy” or buy-in by the public (See Comment )

    The easiest way to get the public to ‘buy-in’ is to create a problem, have people think there is a discussion and they are part of it and then come to the predetermined conclusion. To get the predetermined conclusion you have to have ‘controlled’ opposition. This is what Fox new is and this is what the ‘lukewarmer’ websites are.

    “We all agree there is global warming, now we are trying to come up with how bad it is – aka the climate sensitivity.”

    This is the Delphi Technique in action.

    If you have spent much time at WUWT you can see that conversation is allowed- within bounds. the name Landscheidt can not even be mentioned much less discussed and ‘Slayers’ who deny there is a greenhouse effect get told off. The conversation is becoming more and more one of whether the climate sensitivity is above or below 1. Conversations about the effects of the sun on the climate are roundly squashed.

  6. Sparks

    February 9, 2013 at 12:27 am

    “Again at WUWT the ‘resident expert’ vigorously defends the idea that the sun is constant and there is no link between the sun and the climate.”

    Are you talking about Leif? if you are I don’t think he defends the idea that the sun is constant, Well, because the Sun isn’t, it has a varying magnetic field that increases and decreases with amplitude which in-turn increases and decreases the intensity of energy that reaches Earth. I maybe wrong because Leif has his own views on the sun-climate issue I’m sure. I’ve had some very constructive exchanges with him at WUWT. He’s very much grounded in his own understanding of the science.

    As for the link between the sun and the climate, I have used monthly sunspot numbers and the Armagh observatory’s temperature record, and I have found a trend between the suns activity and temperature. Although I’m not sure how valid the process is, because I had to breakup the seasons to get it. e.g. For winter on the Northern hemisphere Ive used only the sunspot numbers for December from 1875 to 2012 and I used only the temperatures for February from 1875 to 2012. When I added the trends they matched.

    When solar activity (ssn) for December increased the temperatures for February increased and when solar activity (ssn) for December decreased the temperatures for February decreased. it’s a very striking connection between the sun and climate if valid, the other interesting thing about this; is if this trend is in all individual temperature records then it is present the global temperature anomaly, and looking at the data the variation and overall influence of the sun is actually far greater than some are claiming.

    (John, sorry to veer-off-topic a bit 🙂 )

  7. Karl Hallowell

    I just happened to look at this article while searching for something else. The comments on the figure puzzle me. I see a graph with four nodes. One node, the “sun” is a source. One node, “space” is a sink. The other two, “atmosphere” and “surface” are energy neutral and radiate as much heat energy as they absorb. Obviously, the model is too simple for any sort of real world policy, but it does a fair job of modeling the basics of the greenhouse effect.

    We don’t actually have perpetual motion since the dynamics are driving by the two heat sinks, the sun and space. Basically, energy is flowing from a 5800 K hot sink to a 2.7 K cold sink and happens to do a few loops on Earth before it moves on. There is no energy being created elsewhere in the diagram model since the energy that flows into a node equals the energy that flows out.

    Second, we can actually observe this trapped heat either directly on Earth (for example, temperature drops as altitude increases and thunderstorms form off this heat differential by moving heat up to a higher level where it radiates more efficiently to space) or in similar situations (such as a car with the windows rolled up on a sunny day).

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