Claim: Spencer & Braswell - "Climate models get energy balance wrong, make too hot forecasts of global warming."

Why This Claim is Wrong: This quote is from a press release issued by the authors of a July, 2011 paper by Roy Spencer and Don Braswell "On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance". The paper claims that climate models overestimate the sensitivity of surface temperatures to CO2 forcing. It does so with a vastly oversimplified one-dimensional model, using naive statistics, and too many unconstrained fitting parameters. The same model can be made to fit either a high sensitivity (of temperature to CO2) or low sensitivity conclusion, but Spencer latches onto the low sensitivity conclusion using very poor decision-making. He was unable to get his paper published in a reputable climate journal and so went straight to publishing his own book via vanity press "The Great Global Warming Blunder". In summer '11 Spencer got it published in an open access journal called "Remote Sensing", which is not a climate journal and it clearly did not get reviewed by climate-competent referees. A good criticism of the work is here, here, and also in Why comment on this? Only because it's getting a fair amount of splash in the denialist blogosphere and Fox news outlets, none of whom have made a good reading of the paper, it would appear.

Update on Sept 4, 2011: The editor of the journal "Remote Sensing" has now resigned, over the inept refereeing and publication which he supposedly oversaw, of the Spencer & Braswell paper. He agrees with the post-publication severe criticisms of the paper and that his journal did not exercise proper judgment of the paper's deep flaws. Worst, the editor allowed the authors to choose their own referees(!), rather than find independent referees. Will the many biased media outlets, such as the 700 Club, the Christian Post, Fox News, and others, issue apologies for hyping this paper? That would be the honorable thing to do, but based on past history, I would not expect it. More analysis of this affair and Spencer's surprising and unfortunate behavior afterward is here.

In Short: It's in the worst traditions of junk science.


Return to Climate Denial Claims List

Return to Climate Science Main Page