It’s Too Bad The APS Won’t Learn from This

Dr. Harold Lewis is a giant in physics. At one time, he was the chairman of the physics department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is now an Emeritus professor at the same institution. He served in the Navy during World War II, was chairman of the technology panel on the Defense Science Board, chaired that same board’s study on nuclear winter, was on the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, was a part of the President’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee, chaired the American Physical Society’s study on Nuclear Reactor Safety, and was a member of the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. As if that’s not enough, he is a co-founder of JASON, a group of scientists who advise the United States Government on scientific and technological issues.

This giant recently resigned from the American Physical Society (APS). Why? Because he was sick and tired of the APS supporting pseudoscience when it comes to global warming. In his resignation letter, which I urge everyone to read, he specifically says:

…the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

Even though I doubt that the APS will learn from this action, I applaud Dr. Lewis for publicly separating himself from an organization that claims to be scientific but seems happy to throw science under the bus in order to jump onto a politically fashionable and incredibly lucrative bandwagon.

How can I possibly say that an organization composed of most of the United States’ greatest physicists is throwing science under the bus? Well, all you have to do is read the APS statement on global warming. Here is an excerpt:

The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. (emphasis mine)

As Dr. Lewis notes in his resignation letter, there is a “poison word” in that statement, and I have put it in boldface type. Dr. Lewis correctly points out that few things in physics (and indeed, few things in science as a whole) are incontrovertible. To claim that heavily-massaged data related to climate proxies and the predictions of deeply-flawed computer models represent “incontrovertible” evidence is not just scientific nonsense, it is scientific fraud.

Until scientists are wiling to start communicating science correctly, the general public will continue to misunderstand it. Worse yet, policy makers will pass laws and regulations based not on sound scientific reasoning, but on hyperbole. Such laws and regulations will end up doing more harm than good.

Well done, Dr. Lewis. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt that the APS will learn anything from your courageous act. Hopefully, however, it will help others learn what real science is all about.

8 thoughts on “It’s Too Bad The APS Won’t Learn from This”

  1. I notice that the quote you provide doesn’t specifically state that we are incontrovertibly causing said global warming. Would it be a reasonable assumption to say that such is implied or stated elsewhere.

    I’m also surprised at the suggestion that this amounts to bribery; I realize that nuclear, solar, and other sustainable energy providers have a vested interest in the result, but I wouldn’t consider money a motivating force in the matter. Big oil companies can get thousands of dollars a second, so there’ll be plenty of cash on the other side of the fence as well.

    1. Josiah, even the temperature measurements don’t agree. Satellites show no global warming, while thermometers do. Thus, even the simple statement that the world is warming is not incontrovertible. In addition, the term “global warming” commonly means “greenhouse-gas-related warming,” and even if the earth is heating up, it is not clear that greenhouse gases are the culprits. My money is on natural cycles….IF the world is warming at all.

      The money to which Dr. Lewis refers is GRANT money. The majority of scientific research is academic, and that is funded by grants. Global warming research is a hot grant item right now, and Dr. Lewis thinks the APS has jumped on the global-warming bandwagon so that more physicists will get more research grants. I am not sure I agree with him on that point, however. I personally think it is a result of the fact that there is a bandwagon mentality in science. This causes scientific groups to join scientifically-fashionable causes whether or not real science supports them. This is much like how churches follow fads rather than good theology (to reference an earlier conversation we have had) đŸ™‚

  2. Dear Dr. Wile,

    In your reply to Josiah, you mentioned that “Satellites show no global warming, while thermometers do.” Are you talking about the data released by UAH and Spencer and Christie?

  3. Hello again.

    In the mid-2000s, the UAH temperature data showed a discrepancy with ground data. Their warming was less than what the RSS group, for instance, showed, and it was at odd with the radiosonde data. However, it was shown by Mears et al. in 2005 that a diurnal correction on satellite-derived lower tropospheric temperature needed to be applied to the satellite data. Once used “this correction in the calculation of lower tropospheric temperature from satellite microwave measurements, [we] find tropical warming consistent with that found at the surface and in our satellite-derived version of middle/upper tropospheric temperature.” (excerpt taken from the Science abstract). Thus, unless I am mistaken the UAH data is now in accordance with the ground temperatures. What have I missed?

    1. Hi Mathieu,

      You are missing the fact that the RSS group uses climate models to do the diurnal correction. We already know that climate models are terribly flawed and are biased toward warming. Thus, what the RSS group has done is essentially taken data that show no global warming and massaged them with warm-biased models, and surprise…they show warming. John Christy is more interested in finding out what the data really say, so he uses an empirical correction based on actual observations of three AMSUs that sampled the earth at different times during the day. Obviously, this is the more scientifically responsible thing to do, and it results in the graph I linked in my previous reply.

      Christy’s 2007 paper shows that the RSS data are biased towards warming. It also shows the huge discrepancy between land-based and satellite measurements for the tropics. It is worth the read.

  4. I read your post on computer modeling, and to be honest with you, I am not sure that I agree with some of your conclusions. My understanding is that climate models are let to run for several “computing” years to check that they will oscillate around a long-term mean that is the same regardless of what the initial conditions are. Once the long-term mean (i.e., some sort of baseline) is achieved, forcings are applied. Thus, I am not sure what you mean by “warm-biased” models. It does not seem that models have global warming built-in, so to speak.

    I live in CA, and if it weren’t for last year’s EL Nino that brought 120% of the average snow pack on some parts of the Sierras, the Central Valley would be starting its 5th dry year. If increased ENSO variability possibly means wetter years for us during El Nino, it could also mean drier years during La Nina. What will matter overall is the water budget from one end of the spectrum to the other. Thus, the models might be correct. More variability might lead to drier years if the water budget is skewed by more numerous La Nina years over El Nino years.

    To get back to our current topic of discussion, I read Dr. Christy’s article (though I must admit not being able to understand it all). The conclusions are interesting indeed. I need to go back to Mears et al.’s article to check how exactly they calculated their correction. I noticed that Dr. Christy’s paper was received 11 November 2005, with data spanning from 1979 to 2004. I wanted to read what RSS had to say about this particular article and found along the way a paper entitled “Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere – Understanding and Reconciling Differences” with Ramaswamy, Christy, Lanzante, Mears, Santer, and Folland. This executive summary is very informative and available for free at

    The abstract reads that “Previously reported discrepancies between the amount of warming near the surface and higher in the atmosphere have been used to challenge the reliability of climate models and the reality of human-
    induced global warming. Specifically, surface data showed substantial global-average warming, while early versions of satellite and radiosonde data showed little or no warming above the surface. This significant discrepancy no longer exists because errors in the satellite and radiosonde data have been identified and corrected. New data sets have also been developed that do not show such discrepancies.”

    The last sentence really got me intrigued. The reason seems to be written on page 11. “A potentially serious inconsistency has been identified in the tropics. The favored explanation for this is residual error in the observations, but the issue is still open.” From what I gathered,radiosonde data and satellite data at higher elevation digress rapidly because of change in pressure possibly affecting the radiosonde equipment. I need to read more about it though.

    What I find interesting is that Christie is a co-author for both papers, with conclusions quite different from each other. The only difference would be that the executive summary is a bit more recent (final draft posted 5/02/2006). I wonder why he would be an author on an executive summary that does not share some of the conclusions from a previous article. Did new data come up or did he agreed with Mears and consort? Finally, I am sorry for such a long post. I will try to keep them shorter next time.

    1. Mathieu, the point of the post I linked is that there is a broad consensus amongst computer models that Southwestern North America should be drying. In fact, it is not. For more than 30 years, it has been getting wetter. This is in direct disagreement with the broad consensus of climate models. The fact that California had 4 dry years in a row before last year means nothing in reference to the climate models. First, the models are interested in long-term trends, and the long-term trend is precisely opposite of what is predicted by climate models for that region. Second, it is not unusual for California to have 4 dry years in a row. It happened back in 1915.

      What I mean by “warm-biased models” is that the climate models have consistently predicted warmer temperatures than what were seen after the prediction. I agree that global warming hasn’t been “built in.” Instead, the models are biased to predict too-warm temperatures because we don’t understand climate well enough to model it accurately. This is, most likely, because negative feedback mechanisms are not taken properly into account. Obviously, since global climate models don’t work, it is senseless to use them to correct data. They will correct the data on the warm side, just as the models have always performed.

      The NOAA report that you link uses the RSS corrections, not the empirical corrections that are more scientifically reasonable. Christy is an author on the report not because he agrees with the conclusion, but because he is an expert on satellites and how they measure temperatures. In addition, I would not be surprised if he was obligated to be a part of the report, since he gets some grant money from the NOAA. Also, the NOAA report is simply a larger version of the Mears 2005 paper, so it is actually older than Christy’s 2007 paper. The fact that Christy’s paper was received in 2005 but not published in 2007 is typical, and it reflects the delays produced by peer review, publication schedules, etc. The NOAA report also had those kinds of issues to deal with. Indeed, I expect the NOAA report took longer to get to press, given the fact that such a government report has to not only undergo scientific peer review, but also bureaucratic review.

      Once again, then, using the more scientifically-reasonable correction to the satellite data, there is no significant warming in the mid-troposphere, as shown by the graph I linked in my first response to you. This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what you would expect for greenhouse-gas-induced global warming, as that would cause the troposphere to heat up more than the surface. Exactly the opposite is going on, which means greenhouse gases are most likely not causing any warming.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: