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Lambert’s Pinker-tape “ambush”: PR stunt

Lambert has claimed a major win over his use of a voice recording (Monckton’s McLuhan Moment). As usual, it all sounds incredibly clear cut and impressive until the bluff gets hit with a 5 minute test…

The bottom line? The infamous “Pinker tape” turns out to be a reenacted piece of cherry-picking exaggeration, where lines are taken out of context to imply something important, or to frame it as if it was significant.

It’s true Monckton did get Pinker’s sex wrong (golly), and there was a point about fluxes being at the surface vs top of the atmosphere, but nothing Pinker or Lambert said makes much difference to the point that matters: climate sensitivity. (When the top of atmosphere problem emerged, Monckton recalculated the climate sensitivity on the spot; it changed from  “very low” to “even lower”.)  Pinker herself acknowledges that Monckton’s approach is reasonable.

Monckton has over the years pointed to many reasons why climate sensitivity is low. The Pinker paper is just another one of these corroborating pieces (and it looks a doozy). Using satellite measurements, Pinker shows that more sunlight is reaching the surface of the Earth (possibly due to fewer clouds over the ocean).  Over the 18 years, the increase in energy amounts to almost 3W/m2. If this is the case, there is just not much room for greenhouse gases to be heating the world after the effect of this extra surface sunlight is taken into account.

Pinker 2005 global solar irradiation

Pinker 2005, Fig 1: global solar irradiation. 

Lambert’s staged recording and carefully edited slide contained this select message:

“The CO2 “radiative forcing” value that Mr. Christopher Monckton is quoting refers to the impact on the Earth’s Radiative balance as described above. The numbers that we quote in our paper represent the change in surface SW due to changes in the atmosphere (clouds, water vapor, aerosols). These two numbers  cannot be compared at their face value. To the  best of my understanding this is the source of the misunderstanding.”
“Our work was properly interpreted in the latest IPCC Report (2007)”
But look at Lambert’s PDF (Is this really her whole reply–nothing omitted?). Without also seeing Lambert’s original email to Pinker, it’s impossible to make sense of some phrases. In places, she appears to be correcting Lambert as much as Monckton. An honest look at the Pinker statement says Monckton may have gotten the terminology wrong, but allowing for this, his analysis “passes”:
“People tend to use the concept of “Forcing” kind of “freely”. There are many
concepts of forcing in use, such as aerosol forcing, cloud forcing, which can be related to shortwave or long wave or both (as defined above). Since the energy from the sun is the major driver of the climate system, and since clouds are the major modulators of how much of this energy reaches the surface, people tend to label this effect as “cloud forcing” (which is not the same as the formal definition). I believe that one of the issues pointed out in your communication is related to the use of the “cloud forcing” concept. Indeed,  this is not the official definition of “cloud forcing”; however, if we give Christopher Monckton the benefit of doubt and assume that he meant “the impact of clouds on the surface shortwave radiation” than it can pass.”

(Emphasis added by me)

Set up a strawman and kill it…um, dead

Monckton never claimed the IPCC misrepresented Pinker. He said they actively ignored the bigger meaning; so Monckton agrees with what the IPCC said about the paper, but not with what it omitted to say. Pinker has not addressed this point at all. It’s a non-event if she also agrees the IPCC didn’t make any outright errors in referring to her work. Pinker did not say “The IPCC quoted my work appropriately and in full and could not have made any more of it, and Monckton’s analysis is completely inappropriate for the following reason….”
We can argue the toss based on incomplete information, but Pinker’s reply is not a strong endorsement of Lambert. Nor does she make the clear claim that Monckton is wrong either, just that there is a misunderstanding about the surface flux compared to the top of the atmosphere flux. Yet, Lambert on the day tells the crowd, which could not possibly have seen Pinker’s reply, that she clearly says Monckton is wrong, which is only true in any sense if you include the words: “wrong about minor points”. Lambert was cherry picking, as usual, and lying by omission. It’s dishonest, especially given that Lambert had himself declared from the outset that the most important point is climate sensitivity. The minor errors Monckton made aren’t significant to the climate sensitivity implications of Pinker’s observations; Lambert’s values (and the IPCC’s) are still a wild exaggeration on an order of seven or eight fold.

What’s the point of a renenactment? Only PR…

After the debate, Lambert admitted it was not Pinker’s voice in the recording, and he appears to have had an acknowledgement of that in fine print on his slide used in the debate. But, he did not make it clear on the day, and many onlookers mistakenly thought it was Pinker speaking (like Lucia). Does this matter? Maybe; maybe not. (You can hear the Mp3 and the “recording” is at 24:17 minutes. The only one who knows if this is a reasonable rendition is Pinker.)

Monckton’s reply (to me in an email):

The only point that Lambert scored was that I had gotten Pinker’s sex wrong in my Melbourne presentation (which, from memory, is the only one in which I mentioned her sex). Otherwise, his stuff was gibberish, as the audience swiftly understood when I explained it to them. During the debate, I had kindly done the calculation on the basis that the change in surface radiance mentioned in the Pinker paper would be the same at top of atmosphere, from which a climate-sensitivity calculation using the UN’s method follows.
However, since Pinker insists that it is the surface radiance that her paper addresses, one must of course use the Stefan-Boltzmann radiative-transfer equation to evaluate the temperature change corresponding to the change in radiance caused by the reduction in cloud cover. And that means just about zero climate sensitivity, which, within the usual error margins, is about the same as the 0.12 K/W/m2 that my previous method had calculated. The common-sense point, as I explained to the audience, is that with that amount of warming from a natural source there was not much room for CO2 to have made much of a contribution.
PS: Lambert has a wife who blogs too. It’s good to know he has a loyal supporter as his favourite faith collapses. Her take on the debate was entertaining. She slogged away at Monckton, but for…wait for it… being eloquent, having a photographic memory, quoting experts, throwing compliments, not interrupting, and being quick to answer all questions. Shocking stuff. What should he have done? Been gruff, brusque and interjected regularly?

Cohenite makes some interesting comments on Deltoid’s and Lucia’s blogs, that I found useful — in part copied here:

LM= Lord Monckton, TL =Tim Lambert, SW = Shortwave (ie incoming sunlight), LW = Longwave (ie mostly outgoing radiation).

If LM had his McLuhan moment than Tim has had his Woody Allen one. The Pinker direct testimony was a smart tactical move; I was sitting with John Smeed and Stewart Franks and we all thought this was a good start; but it was just a stunt.

In fact this is what LM spoke about; the forcing of less cloud in the 1983-current period; this is a period, as Tim noted, which has featured the lowest sunspot activity in over 100 years; but this is irrelevant because less cloud means more insolation and SW forcing. If radiative forcing from extra SW is as high as Pinker found than 2XCO2 CS must be lower than the IPCC figure given the ^ Temperature during that period. Pinker has some further insight in response to Tim’s slide 12:

“The statement: “is not forcing at all” because “it only accounts shortwave radiation” is not the key problem here. As said before, we can talk about shortwave cloud forcing and LW cloud forcing, as long as it is clear what we mean. The problem is that it is not the accepted definition of SW cloud forcing and should have been labeled as “impact of clouds on the surface downwelling SW”.The net values of both SW and LW is: Fnet (cloud) = FSW (cloud) + FLW (cloud)”

This was LM’s error in saying the extra SW reaching the surface was cloud SW forcing; cloud SW forcing is a negative forcing as Ramanathan found:  http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/243/4887/57

And cloud SW forcing is much larger than cloud LW forcing. So, while LM has muddled these terms as Pinker says, LM is still right about the CS issue because the 0.16Wm2 PA is sufficient to explain ^T.

2 other points; Tim fell down in explaining the temperature manipulation issue; the public understand the ramifications of CRU and GISS data ‘adjustment’; motherhood statements about scientists just doing their job don’t wash and the point from the floor that the adjustments are always up cannot be dismissed by an assertion that as many adjustments are down as up.

Secondly the LM trend slide which presented an alternative to the IPCC chart showing an increasing trend over shorter periods coming to the most recent times; LM’s alternative slide showing the 3 PDO temp increases is valid and Tim’s dismissal on the grounds that you cannot validly assess trends over shorter periods actually lost him a lot of the ground that the initial Pinker revelation established, because the short period trend invalidity applied to the IPCC trend acceleration graph as LM pointed out.

Still, the debate was pretty good and Tim did better than I expected him to.

Posted by: cohenite | February 12, 2010 9:24 PM


jakerman, this is becoming circular; you say: “Ramanathan 89 is measuring the Fnet = Fs + FL ; and not measuring the ΔFnet = ΔFs + ΔFL.” But Pinker in her paper is doing neither; she is measuring ΔSW as a proposed response to ΔF as well as other factors [volcanoes, aerosols etc]; Pinker finds that ΔSW/ΔFs declined from 1983 – 1992 but from 1983-2001 was >0 by 0.16W/m2 PA. Pinker’s paper does not deal directly with ΔLW/ΔFL but she does look at TOA flux anomalies for the 1983-2001 period; she finds a decline rate of 0.17W/m2 for the 20S-20N TOA compared with SW surface increase rate of 0.18W/m2 [fig 4]. That is, for the period 1983-2001, over the tropics, the EEB increased by almost the same rate as the increase in SW. Surely this works against any conclusion that the greenhouse effect has caused temperature increase for this period.

Lotharsson; as I’m sure you know, a forcing is an additional or increasing factor to a system and a feedback is a response, usually expressed in temperature, to that forcing by the system; the Clement et al paper simulated a GHG forced decrease in clouds so the clouds effect on temperature would be a feedback. AGW only recognises 2 forcings, CO2/GHGs and solar; however if the reduction in clouds was not due to either GHGs or ΔSW [as per Pinker] but due to stochastic or cyclical reasons then the cloud change itself would be a forcing; personally I cannot see how AGW treats ACO2 as a forcing because it releases CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels and how WV variation and cloud variation based on evaporative cycles is treated as a [usually +ve] feedback.


R. T. Pinker,1 B. Zhang,2 E. G. Dutton3 (2005), Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation? Science, 6 May 2005: Vol. 308. no. 5723, pp. 850 – 854, DOI: 10.1126/science.1103159  PDF available (with free login)

PS: And having said all that, I wanted to say that I was surprised and impressed that Lambert was willing to take up the challenge. At least he believes what he says, and deserves credit for not shying away, as so many have done before him. Here’s hoping there are more debates.

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