Can the Climate Heal Itself? – Dissenters from the catastrophe consensus on warming are worth listening to.
By Andy Kessler
Excerpt: But what if the entire premise is wrong? What if the Earth is self-healing? Before you hurl the “climate denier” invective at me, let’s think this through. Earth has been around for 4.5 billion years—living organisms for 3.7 billion. Surely, an enlightened engineer might think, the planet’s creator built in a mechanism to regulate heat, or we wouldn’t still be here to worry about it.
Richard Lindzen, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lead author of an early Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, told me, “Temperatures in the tropics remain relatively constant compared with changes in the tropics-to-pole temperatures. The tropics-polar difference is about 40 degrees Celsius today but was 20 degrees during the warm Eocene Epoch and 60 degrees during Ice Ages.” This difference has more to do with changes in the Earth’s rotation, like wobbling, than anything else. According to Mr. Lindzen, this effect is some 70 times as great as human-made greenhouse gases.
OK, back to clouds. Cumulus clouds, the puffy ones often called thunderclouds, are an important convection element, carrying heat from the Earth’s surface to the upper atmosphere. Above them are high-altitude cirrus clouds, which can reflect heat back toward the surface. A 2001 Lindzen paper, however, suggests that high-level cirrus clouds in the tropics dissipate as temperatures rise. These thinning cirrus clouds allow more heat to escape. It’s called the Iris Effect, like a temperature-controlled vent opener for an actual greenhouse so you don’t (existentially) fry your plants. Yes, Earth has a safety valve.
Mr. Lindzen says, “This more than offsets the effect of greenhouse gases.” As you can imagine, theories debunking the climate consensus are met with rebuttals and more papers. Often, Mr. Lindzen points out, critics, “to maintain the warming narrative, adjust their models, especially coverage and reflection or albedo of clouds in the tropics.” More tuning.
A 2021 paper co-authored by Mr. Lindzen shows strong support for an Iris Effect. Maybe Earth really was built by an engineer. Proof? None other than astronomer Carl Sagan described the Faint Young Sun Paradox that, 2.5 billion years ago, the sun’s energy was 30% less, but Earth’s climate was basically the same as today. Cirrus clouds likely formed to trap heat—a closed Iris and a negative feedback loop at work.