I Can't Help But Laugh

I found this conjured up a terribly funny image in my mind.  JunkScience has a challenge to climate journalists to try the math to test for themselves whether current global warming estimates make any sense.  The challenge per se is not funny, but the picture of a journalist... well, read the challenge first:

We believe climate
models are programmed with excessive climate sensitivity based on a
flawed understanding of past ice ages. Moreover, climate models wrongly
magnify potential warming to accommodate positive feedback mechanisms
while comparison with empirical measure shows negative feedback dominates, reducing warming experienced to about half theoretical values.

The challenge is for you to actually check the numbers -- see for yourselves whether we are wrong or not. Look up Stefan's Constant or just use 5.67 x 10-8
(close enough for our purpose but look it up to be sure). The textbook
derivation of globally averaged greenhouse, using Stefan's Constant,
evaluates to roughly 33 °C and 150 Wm-2. The IPCC Third Assessment Report alt: Third Assessment Report (Equation 6.1) states: "The climate sensitivity parameter (global mean surface temperature response ΔTs to the radiative forcing ΔF) is defined as: ΔTs / ΔF = λ." A blackbody-equivalent Earth climate sensitivity parameter (λ) would be 33 / 150 = 0.22 °C per Wm-2. Real world measures (here) indicate Earth responds with only half the efficiency of a blackbody with a lambda (λ) value of just 0.1 °C per Wm-2.

Now use it to check the assertion: "Global climate forcing was about 6 1/2 W/m2
less than in the current interglacial period. This forcing maintains a
global temperature difference of 5 °C, implying a climate sensitivity
of 3/4 ± 1/4 °C per W/m2.
" Either consult your texts for Earth's temperature in Kelvin and any other numbers you need or see the numbers we've used here. Off you go -- we'll wait. If you can show us where we're wrong we'll retract and correct.

Can anyone out there picture your favorite journalist trying to do this?  Many journalists followed the tried-and-true career path of:  Avoid math altogether --> Become an English major --> Become a journalist as an alternative to playing the guitar in subway stations.  Who else would love to see Maureen Dowd taking on this analysis?


  1. Noumenon:

    I could laugh if he was expecting journalists to "Go study the black-body radiation chapter in an average physics textbook." Like they would. But this challenge is something nobody would do, even a math major like me. What could you possibly learn by having someone explain an equation to you, tell you what constants to use, and then checking his figures? It's like, here's the Black-Scholes theorem, and we're going to use a discount rate of 4.4074%, so do the math and can you prove I'm wrong about the stock market going up next week? You'd have to have several semesters of physics or climate science to even know if the black-body equation applies to global warming.

  2. Michael Wolf:

    And yet, to play guitar (or any other instrument) well you need a good understanding of math, if only an implicit one. The conclusion is clear: now-busking former English majors have a clear opportunity to take over writing about the climate!

  3. Max Lybbert:

    Noumenon, I believe part of the challenge is that journalists, by nature, would double-check the constants. If they were real journalists.

  4. Noumenon:

    If I tell you the amount of heat you get from burning a lump of coal is e=mc², confirming that c = 186,000 miles per second isn't going to prove I got the right answer.