The unbearable lightness of climate denialist thought

December 28, 2009

Maybe “emptiness” would be a better description.

Carbon dioxide’s greenhouse gas functions were discovered in the 19th century.  The physics are beyond dispute by rational people.

But that doesn’t stop the hard-core denialists from searching for a way to deny the undeniable.  Anthony Watts hosts a guest post from a guy who says that because the atmosphere is complex, the physics of global warming do not apply.

The guest poster is Willis Eschenbach.  His argument?  Well, rivers don’t run straight to the sea; they meander.  Ergo, water doesn’t run downhill in a complex system.   Consequently, no global warming.  In another place he argues that humans are not metal, therefore, no global warming.

I mean — sweet Mother of Pearl! —  this guy even denies the existence of the Army Corps of Engineers, and river straightening:

The results of changes in such a flow system are often counterintuitive. For example, suppose we want to shorten the river. Simple physics says it should be easy. So we cut through an oxbow bend, and it makes the river shorter … but only for a little while. Soon the river readjusts, and some other part of the river becomes longer. The length of the river is actively maintained by the system. Contrary to our simplistic assumptions, the length of the river is not changed by our actions.

No wonder they place all their bets on stealing e-mails from scientists.  Somebody show that man the South Platte River through Denver, Colorado, or the Los Angeles River through Los Angeles, or the Mississippi from Arkansas to the Gulf.  Somebody give that man a paddle!

Here are a couple of clues:  First, water always runs downhill — capillary action being the exception.  Eschenbach doesn’t propose capillary action as a driver of river meandering.  Any hydrologist will tell  you, however, that even a meandering river runs downhill.  Second, human beings don’t conduct heat like metal blocks.  Even a dead human won’t conduct heat like a copper block, but especially a living human will radiate heat away through several different paths, so that heating the feet of a human will not cause a concomitant rise in temperature of the head.  But, heck, if you soak the human’s head in hot water, it won’t warm like a block of steel, either.  The examples offered in this piece get pushed past the brink of absurdity.  It’s impossible for me to believe that Eschenbach — or Watts — fails to understand the physics so greatly.  I can only imagine that they are driven by a fanatic devotion to an idea of the result they hope to see, and that blinds them to the errors they make.

Finally, water’s flow, downhill or up with capillary action, doesn’t negate global warming.  Human conductivity affects warming not at all, also.

(No, “constructal theory” doesn’t have much to do with itConstructal theory generally doesn’t apply to atmospheric conditions, since the air is, technically, not alive, but a dynamic fluid system already highly evolved for these purposes.  Even for those cases in which contructal ideas apply to non-living systems, constructal theory does not claim that laws of physics are suspended or held in abeyance, as Eschenbach claims at Watts’s blog.  The idea of constructal theory is that systems not in equilibrium, will, over time, figure out (evolve) more efficient means to get into equilibrium.  This has nothing to do with the fact of CO2 acting as a greenhouse gas.  Constructal theory would only suggest that, over time, the atmosphere would develop systems to get heat distributed better despite CO2, which means that warming would not be held in abeyance at all, but spread out further and farther.)

Watts is already hot that I posted science links at his place on another post.  Go see what other commenters can get away with.  Can the camel’s nose of real science push into the WUWT tent?

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