Dec 08 2011

The Foundational Fault In Alarmists AGW Theories


Climategates I and II have done enormous damage to the ‘science’ underpinning the alarmist view of man-made CO2 driven global warming. From the exposure of the ‘hide the decline’ trick which destroys the hockey stick graph, to the realization that the unaltered, clearly represented data and results from the CRU actually cannot prove today’s climate is any warmer or cooler than previous period, to the shoddy code exposed in Climategate I, the mathematical confidence underlying the alarmists claims has been rotting away. See here for many, many posts over two years on where the math does not meet the claims.

I am here to attempt to uncover the final straw that should (in any other scientific field) provide the final nail in the coffin of alarmists claims. As I have said many times, if the claim that today’s climate cannot be accurately compared to the well documented Medieval, Roman and Bronze age warming periods, then there is no way to claim the Earth is experiencing runaway warming due to anything (let alone human generated CO2).

The entire proxy and tree ring paleoclimate effort (historic climate derived indirectly from geological, chemical or biological indicators) is founded on the assumption that the Uniformitarian Principle used in geology can be applied to biological and global climate systems. This is patently absurd!

Here is what the Uniformitarian Principle requires in order for the paleoclimate results to have a shred of confidence:

The theory that all geologic phenomena may be explained as the result of existing forces having operated uniformly from the origin of the earth to the present time.

In terms of plate tectonics, mountain building, erosion, etc this is a valid assumption. It means the complete set of physical interactions that drive a geological system today are EXACTLY the same in past periods, so we can compare today and infer the past. This is why we can measure erosion in rivers or in ancient mountain ranges and infer how Niagara Falls was created and migrated to its current location, or how The Great Lakes formed from the last glacial retreat, etc.

But it makes NO SENSE when talking about biological systems and how they respond annually to the local environment (which is NOT local climate). When searching the Climategate II emails I discovered this statement (email #2836) from Keith Briffa in July of 2009 referring to a NERC project that was/is addressing the ‘decline’ seen in tree rings so sinisterly hidden by Mann and Jones circa 2000:

Palaeoclimate reconstructions extend our knowledge of how climate varied in times before expansive networks of measuring instruments became available. …

Inferences about variations in past climate, based on this understanding, necessarily assume that the associations we observe now hold true throughout the period for which reconstructions are made. This is the essence of the uniformitarian principle. …

The existence of divergence casts doubt on the uniformitarian assumption that underpins a number of important tree-ring based (dendroclimatic) reconstructions.

The divergence of modern tree rings in the cherry picked proxies of some areas of the Northern Hemisphere (NH) with present day temperatures (1960-2010, the most accurate portion of the record) used to compare past and present tenps really shook the alarmist camp. It is no surprise why this disconnect between proxy and local temperature had to be hidden in the Hockey Stick graphs. This would undercut the entire alarmist case.

And we know from work by Jeff Condon at Air Vent that Briffa, Mann, et al cherry picked tree rings for proxies since there is no real clear temperature signal in the rings anyway. It must have been a shock to have the divergence show up after filtering for any signal they could pretend existed. This cherry picking in itself is a violation of the Uniformitarian Principle, because if the forces or indicators are IDENTICAL in all cases, then all tree rings should have a clear and unambiguous temperature signal of the same order. Since they had to cherry pick to find rings with a signal, then it is obvious rings do not respond to temp in an identical fashion (over time, space, altitude or whatever).

An October 1999 email (#1731) from Jones in response to some comments makes it clear how foundational this assumption is to IPCC:

His two points are basically wrong !

1) ‘Patterns during the 20th century are applicable to earlier epochs’. This assumption applies to all paleo reconstruction papers ever written. OK, it is an assumption called the ‘Principal of Uniformitarianism’ and we could have stated it clearer, but it is one that has been made by countless thousands before us. If it is not valid we might as well give up.

So, is the long held assumption that identical processes are in place over 1000 years for a stand of trees in a large region valid? Of course not. As many have pointed out tree rings are influenced by numerous factors that would overpower any temperature impact. These include amount of water available, amount of nutrients (which in turn can be influenced by fire, wind damage, migration paths of animals that deposit fertilizer, pestilence, etc), sunny days, canopy, early warm or late warm starts for spring, etc.

Each year over the centuries that these dynamic ‘eco systems’ existed around  trees measured for temperatures, the Uniformitarian Principle was violated in so many ways it is absurd to make the argument it could ever apply. As Phil Jones said: they should just give up and start over.

Even worse, the biological proxy itself is not unchanged over this time. Genetically each species has evolved since the Medieval Warm Period. Therefore its response to the widely fluctuating local climate has also changed. It’s response to pestilence is different. Its efficiencies in nutrient or solar processing has evolved. Everything has changed as a species to some degree.

In email #4454 there is a great debate on when one cannot apply the Uniformitarian Principle to paleoclimate factors. Here is a snippet:

>David M. Lawrence wrote:
> > Uniformitarianism is perfectly appropriate here.  Just because there are individual variations in a process,
> > whether in stomatal response to water stress or in erosion and deposition rates of sandbars, doesn’t mean
> > that one cannot make generalizations of how the process works for all from observations of how the
> > process works in some.

>Nope, I don’t think so.  You have found yourself forced to resort to generalisations: stomata respond.
>Uniformatarianism is exact.  Not “nearly the same” but “the same”.  If you could guarantee that the
>biochemistry and the genetics of the plant species were exactly the same, then I would agree.  But you can’t
>assert that.  Quartz sand IS exactly the same over time – no genetic variation.

Water availability is not the only regulatory factor and is  not directly responsible for the turgor of guard cells.  The turgor pressure of the guard cells is regulated by alteration of the osmotic potential of the cytoplasm (H and Ca ion transport across the plasma membrane) in response to stimuli including ABA in terms of drought stress or the internal CO2 concentration, resulting in the changes in Water Use Efficiency, which is increased in elevated CO2 environments.  Even mechanical stress, such as that induced by wind sway, can result in a short term closure of stomata.  Mutants in the production of ABA or sensitivity to ABA have very altered stomatal responses.  This implies a genetic component to stomatal function, so I’d be hard pressed to generalize that “all guard cells work in the same way” with out really investigating each tree one samples to verify that ‘hypothesis’.


What this exposes is the foundational fault in ALL Alarmist AGW claims. Without unambiguous proof today is significantly warmer than prior periods, there is no fire for the alarm bells. There is no runaway global warming.

And if this logical, scientific argument is not enough, then let me allow one Keith Briffa to communicate his until now hidden views (email #2999; July 2007):

Subsequentlty other researchers have reported “divergence” phenomena , but again associated with high latitudes only. There is as yet, no definitive answer or even concensus that these studies represent the same phenomenon. Most suggested “solutions” (see Rob’s comments)to the cause are problematic and it is important to study the nature and possible causes further. At present such studies are hampered by a lack of recent tree-ring and tree-density data (especially post 1980). The answer may lie in a mixture of methodological and biological factors.

Tree-ring based and virtually all proxy reconstructions (including of the NH) are subject to large statistical uncertainty, arising out of diminishing quality and coverage of predictors back in time. The methods used to translate these data into quantitative estimates of past temperatures also assume uniformitarianism in the relationships between predictors and predictand. This is hard if not impossible to prove.

Briffa goes on to point out humankind has changed the environment, so the principle will not hold for that reason as well. But even if humankind did not have an impact, the forces of evolution and the dynmnics of annual diversity for any ecosystem nullifies the use of this foundational assumption.

Therefore, the house of cards that is the AGW theory of human produced CO2 in the atmosphere has NO scientific or mathematical basis. None.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “The Foundational Fault In Alarmists AGW Theories”

  1. crosspatch says:

    Might want to have a look at this thread at Anthony’s and I put a link in the early comments to a similar analysis done on the actual temperature record (not tree ring) using CET, the longest temperature record on the planet … same result.

  2. AJStrata says:


    Been reading your comments at CA and WUWT. Not sure the message is getting through.

    The China data is different for one reason – realistic error bars and no hiding the decline games. I was a bit disappointed with McIntyre – he wants to be part of the click it seems.

  3. crosspatch says:

    Point is that the same analysis was done on CET which is a thermometer record, not a tree ring record, in a completely different part of the world and the same result came of it.

    see the comment:

    crosspatch says:
    December 7, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Ahh, here it is:

    It all started last week when Vukcevic did a spectrum analysis of CET. I asked him to plot the composite waveform, and he did. Then I asked him to plot the temps on the composite and he said he had already done so. Then I asked him to carry the signal forward. The link above is what he came back with. Then this week we have the Chinese. They have a longer data set and can include the 800 year component that was missing from Vukcevic’s data. The result is for all practical purposes identical.

  4. om says:


    Not to quibble, but the Uniformitarian Principle in geology has been missused in the past to discredit or not consider hypotheses and evidence that doesn’t comport with the ruling orthodoxy. The best most recent example concened the Channeled Scablands in eastern Washington and the great Missoula Floods from the Pleistocene. The evicence was there but not accepted for more than 40 years, Bretz was the USGS geologist that could not get the entrenched “consensus” to look at the evidence and acknowledge it. Repeated catastrophic floods. How deep was the water? About 1500 ft at the Wallula Gap here the Columbia River and Snake River meet. Incredible volumes of water. So the present processes aren’t always the best explaination of past events.

    Part of the problem was that “Uniformitarianism” was a reaction to the theory of Biblical (Noah) floods being responsible for all landforms and other geological phenomena. But the “Biblical” opposition to “Uniformitarianism” was later replaced by the revolutionary (marxist) scientists.

    So science can’t escape politics.

    Keep after the AGW bas**ds.

  5. AJStrata says:


    Will do (keep after). And every good concept is misused once in a while. E.g., moon landing deniers ….

  6. pdtillman says:

    Unless I’m misreading it, the email in question is actually from Tim Osborn?:

    – or is this a quoted fragment?