Dr. William Gray and Dr. Kevin Trenberth Debate Global Warming — Part 2

Editor’s Note: this is Part 2 of a two-part debate. Read Part 1 here.

Part 2 — The Debate Rages On:

Dr. William Gray

We Are Not In Climate Crisis

Dr. Gray’s rebuttal to Dr. Trenberth:

Kevin Trenberth has given the standard response that human-induced global warming advocates always give to their critics. He cites the large number of people and the broad effort involved in the last 15 years of IPCC reports, which have shown little variation in their expectations of large amounts of human-induced temperature rise during the rest of the 21st century. He also cites the recognition of the IPCC warming advocates’ views through their award of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Peace Prize Award is a political judgment award and is thus different from the traditional Nobel scientific awards. The Peace Award is not based on the usual verifiable scientific standards of the Nobel awards for chemistry, physics, medicine, etc.

I will respond to 10 statements which Trenberth has made in his rebuttal to my initial comments.His statements are given in quotations and my response.

1. “The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to show that specific global and regional changes resulting from global warming are already upon us. The future projections are for much more warming, but with rates of change perhaps a hundred times as fast as those experienced in nature over the past 10,000 years.” It is by no means clear that the global warming we have experienced over the last 30 and last 100 years is due primarily to human-induced CO2 rises. The globe experienced many natural temperature changes before the Industrial Revolution. How do we know the recent warming is not due to one or a combination of many natural changes that were experienced in the past? There is no way Dr. Trenberth or anybody else can, with any degree of confidence, say that future global warming may be a hundred times faster than anything we have seen in the past. This is pure conjecture.

2. “I don’t know anyone who has so profited” (from the warming scare) Millions of dollars in federal grants and private money have been spent on the study of global warming. It is in the interest of thousands of committed warming advocates that the global warming threat be made credible and be continued.

3. “Open discussion based on sound science is widely encouraged.” Discussion with global warming skeptics has not at all been encouraged. Most skeptics have been ignored and/or denigrated as tools of the fossil-fuel industry. Dr. Trenberth himself has said that I myself am no longer a credible scientist because I doubt the human-induced warming hypothesis. I know of no conferences that have encouraged an open and honest debate between warming advocates and warming skeptics. It has been difficult for warming skeptics to obtain federal research grant support. The warming advocates define “sound science” as science that agrees with them, and they restrict it to only this.

4. “But they (GCMs) are by far the best tool we have for examining the enormously complex weather and climate system, and to replace model results by someone’s belief that has no physical basis does not cut it.” Being the best tool we have does not mean we should necessarily believe the GCMs. I and many of my warming skeptic colleagues do not put much stock in the GCMs. These models have a number of basic flaws. To wit: important sub-grid scale processes such as individual thunderstorm activity are parameterized. I have previously noted that the GCMs don’t issue public forecasts of global temperature one or two-five years in the future because they know they do not have skill at these shorter range time scales. They would lose credibility if they publicly made forecasts that could be verified. Yet the models want us all to believe their forecasts 50-100 years in the future!

5. “I have found that the only scientists who disagree with the IPCC report are those who have not read it and are poorly informed.” This is simply untrue. Thousands of scientists from around the globe who have closely followed the IPCC statements believe that they have grossly exaggerated the influence of CO2 rises on global warming. The IPCC has largely ignored the potential natural processes of global-temperature change, such as the deep ocean current changes. The IPCC continues to assume a positive rain-enhanced water vapor feedback loop when the observations indicate it is slightly negative. There has recently been a coming together of 400 prominent climate scientists from around the globe who have written an open letter to the Secretary General of the UN which voices strong disagreement with the IPCC’s warming conclusions.

6. “The IPCC process is very open.” Not true. The IPCC has not been open. Known warming skeptics have not been invited to participate. Despite my 50-plus years of meteorology experience and 25 years of making seasonal hurricane forecasts I was never approached by the IPCC. This also applies to many of my older experienced meteorology colleagues who tell me they have never been contacted by the IPCC. In general, any climate or meteorological colleague who had previously tipped his hand concerning skepticism about human-induced global warming was not invited to participate in the IPCC process.

7. “The strength of the IPCC report is that it is a consensus report. Far from being a ‘gross exaggeration’ as claimed by Gray, the IPCC report is really solid and conservative.” Kevin Trenberth has been a long-term major player in the IPCC process, and it is to be expected that he views his and his many IPCC colleagues efforts in this way. But there are thousands of experienced climate and meteorology experts who, for very solid reasons, see it otherwise. In science, the majority or the consensus can be and is often wrong. In addition to which, much of the uncertainty included in the actual IPCC report is removed in the Summary for Policymakers (SPMs). Very few individuals (and especially politicians) ever read material beyond the SPM.

8. “As Americans, we should be outraged that the Chinese are dumping huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” Why should we Americans, with our elevated standard of living, be outraged at the Chinese for trying to elevate their standard of living from the poverty they have had to endure for so long?

9. “And we should be outraged that our politicians have not represented us well in that way. By the same token, the Chinese ought to be just as outraged that Americans are putting about as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” This statement shows how Trenberth (and the warming advocates in general) have isolated themselves from the economic reality of the global economy. Being “outraged” in Dr. Trenberth’s context means that you believe rising levels of CO2 have been the primary cause of global temperature rise, and that this will continue in the future. I and many of my colleagues do not believe this to be true. We owe our industrial society and elevated standard of living to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels have won out over other energy sources because they are the most economic and the most efficient form of energy. We need to maintain a vibrant growing economy so that we can afford a large commitment to research alternate energy sources. This will entail emitting higher amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. To cut fossil-fuel use so drastically would cause a global upheaval beyond anything Dr. Trenberth imagines. It would also create extreme economic hardship and, at the same time, do virtually nothing to alter global temperatures, as no less than global-warming alarmist Dr. Jim Hansen recently admitted in a court of law. It would keep the non-developed and developing world in a state of grinding poverty. In addition, studies have shown that full adoption of, for example, the proposed Kyoto Protocol would reduce warming only six percent by 2100 compared to “business-as-usual.”

10. “If done in the right way, benefits to the climate through reduced emissions save energy and promote the\ economy, while increasing sustainability.” This is a pie-in-the-sky pipedream. “Done the right way”? How so, precisely? By subverting the most fundamental economic laws, like cost effectiveness, and supply and demand? If the globe were to reduce current CO2 amounts by 20 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050, as has been proposed, we would see a massive slowdown in global economic development, and the condition of humanity would immediately be made worse. Additionally, there would no longer be the capital – i.e. venture capital – in the economy with which to explore and develop new forms of energy. Technology and progress require money. If something is economically viable, government doesn’t need to subsidize it, or make its use compulsory: the market will naturally provide for it because it is cost-effective. The idea that society would prosper from cutting fossil fuel emissions is an utter illusion. Alternate energy sources are more costly right now, and their compulsory use will only lead to a lower standard of human living – to say nothing of the fact that this sort of governmental coercion is Constitutionally prohibited.


Global Warming: Coming Ready Or Not

Dr. Kevin Trenberth

Dr. Trenberth’s rebuttal to Dr. Gray’s response:
I will let the Nobel Peace Prize to the IPCC stand on its own merits. Responses to Bill Gray’s other comments follow by number.

1. Natural variability does not happen by magic. The energy for warming has to come from somewhere. Ice Ages come and go but have causes associated with changes in the Earth’s orbit around the sun, proving that such natural variability has a cause. El Niño is an example of natural variability associated with rearranging heat by ocean currents and we can track where the heat in the warm regions has come from. Similarly, surface ocean warming might occur if the deep ocean cools as currents redistribute heat. Instead we know that the whole ocean is warming and sea level is rising at unprecedented rates. The pattern of observed warming is unlike any natural variation and the rates of change are faster. Hence we can prove that the observed warming is not natural and we can point to the cause: observed increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that trap infrared radiation from escaping to space.

2. Grants to scientists to understand climate are not synonymous with studying global warming. Moreover studying how and why our planet is warming is actually important – or we could not answer silly beliefs that claim otherwise. A grant is to carry out prescribed work and is very different than a gift to an individual to do what one likes with.

3. Conferences and discussions about warming, climate models, and what, if anything, to do about it occur all the time. However, a scientific approach takes evidence into account. Beliefs that are not consistent with evidence discredit the person who continues with them, and such a person is less likely to be invited to participate in the events.

4. It has been said that “all models are wrong, some are useful.” We think it is better to use models demonstrated to have skill. Today’s best climate models are now able to reproduce the observed major climate changes of the past century. When the models are run without human changes in the atmosphere, the natural forcings and intrinsic natural variability fail to capture the increase in global surface temperature over the past 35 years or so. But when the anthropogenic effects are included, the models simulate the observed global temperature record with impressive fidelity. Observed changes in storms and precipitation are also replicated only by models with human changes in atmospheric composition.

5. I stand by my comment. It is not correct that IPCC assumes anything of the sort claimed. Whether the 400 scientists have any climate credentials or are prominent I leave to others. I wonder if they have collectively published as many climate papers as I have?

6. Open invitations to review the IPCC drafts are widely broadcast. I am sorry Bill was not personally invited. He would obviously be very surprised if I named all the skeptics who have participated in IPCC.

7. Language in the Summary for Policy Makers is not technical by design but calibrated language expressing confidence and likelihoods is included. The IPCC reports are widely used as reference works and have thousands of citations.

8. I agree that an increased standard of living is a fine goal. However, acceptable ways to achieve that goal do not include short-term gains at the expense of long-term disaster.

9. Fossil fuels have won out in part because much of their true cost is not borne by the user, but rather the air pollution and environmental damage is borne by all. We need a sustainable economy that serves the people, not one that continues to grow for its own sake and which damages the environment. The right way refers especially to the timetable over which changes are implemented along with appropriate incentives and penalties. The average life of a car is 12 years in the United States and so a fleet of cars can be changed on that timeframe. Changing coal-fired power stations takes the order of their typical lifetime: 35 to 40 years. How is it that, unlike other states, California since 1973 has continued to grow without increasing energy use per capita? Conservation and reducing waste through very practical measures works, as is demonstrated by differences among states and countries with similar standards of living but very different per capita energy use.


Dr. Gray’s Closing Comments:

I greatly commend Kevin Trenberth for agreeing to debate me on this global warming issue. Many global warming advocates will not engage is such open and opposite dialogs. I think it is in the public’s interest that such back and forth debates continue and expand with other scientists of opposite persuasions on the warming topic. I also commend Ray Harvey for suggesting and moderating this exchange between myself and Kevin Trenberth.

This was Part 2 of a 2-part debate. Read Part 1 here.


  • Tamar

    January 30, 2010

    Dr. Kevin Trenberth is one of the most reputable scientists in his field, and I admire him a great deal. Bill Gray, on the other hand, is an old kook, way past his prime, and he should hang it up. That said, I’m extremely disappointed with Dr. Trenberth’s response; I don’t feel he won this argument as forcefully as he could have.

  • MJW

    January 30, 2010

    In regards to Tamar’s comment, Trenberth didn’t really present much of an argument beyond “In the IPCC we trust.”

    Temberth made two comments which are quite revealing: “Open discussion based on sound science is widely encouraged” but “I have found that the only scientists who disagree with the IPCC report are those who have not read it and are poorly informed.” He’s all for open discussion as long as it agrees with his point of view; otherwise, it’s the result of being poorly informed and therefore not sound science.

  • hro001

    January 31, 2010

    I’m not sure when this debate took place. But I do know that there’s an E-mail in the Climategate files that includes the following:


    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a
    travesty that we can’t. The CERES data published in the August BAMS 09 supplement on 2008
    shows there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observing
    system is inadequate.”

    Date: Mon, 12 Oct 2009 08:57:37 -0600
    From: Kevin Trenberth

    And while I’m here, Dr. Trenberth seems to pub considerable faith in the IPCC “review process”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work in the way that he claims.

    For an example of this much vaunted review process in action, you might want to take a look at “The climate change game … Monopoly: the IPCC version”


  • Redmond

    January 31, 2010


    I think it essential to look at what Dr. Trenberth was saying in private at the  time this debate occoured

    Hi Tom
       How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to make the planet brighter.  We are not close to balancing the energy budget.  The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not!  It is a travesty!

    And later he said:

    The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

    Does this mean he agrees with Dr. Gray?

  • Richard M

    January 31, 2010

    Redmond has it absolutely correct. Trenberth must have been choking out the lies.

    This is typical of AGW debates. The skeptic gets up and talks about science and the AGW supporter talks about their credibility and alarmism. Their credibility is now trash given ClimateGate and other recent disclosures about the IPCC. I still expect to see the alarmism until they get laughed in their faces.

  • Richard M

    January 31, 2010

    Tamar, of course Trenberth didn’t win the argument. He never said a single thing that supports AGW. I also note how you jumped right in with the ad homs. Typical AGW supporter. Maybe you should have read the words each man produced and used that to form an opinion.

  • EJ

    February 4, 2010

    To date, there is no engineering quality study about what impact increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations have on the global temperature. The climate scientists who claim increasing CO2 concentrations increase temperature make assumptions on the forcings. They assume the forcings!

    Also, the temperature records have been found to be suspect. We are no longer even sure that there is any global warming. It is time to reject the terrestrial records, all of them (GISS, CRU, NOAA, New Zeland), as they are contaminated with undocumented (the dog ate it) adjustments, and use the satellite record from now on, which has three decades under it’s belt.

    Trenberth’s appeal to authority of the IPCC should, after December 2009, be forever shattered.

    There was never any science before the IPCC to support any kind of tipping point, let alone effect.

    The UN IPCC is no honest broker. Has any recent UN body been honest? They are not honest in their mission, nor honest in their methods. One only need examine the list of scientists who resigned from the panel over the years.

    We now know that among the 2,500 scientists, over half of these scientists are lawyers and journalists who have never studied a rigorous science. We know that there are only a few dozen climatologists wrote the chapter on CO2 impacts. There are thousands of pHd’s who say nay to these few dozen UN experts.

    Should Trenberth have the groundbreaking engineering study about the CO2 doubling impact on the global temperature, the undisputable physics, let him post it here and now. Otherwise, go crawl back into the life hating hole you dwell in doctor T.

    Thanks to Dr. Gray and Ray.

    EJ – engineer

  • Dave

    March 9, 2010

    “If something is economically viable, government doesn’t need to subsidize it, or make its use compulsory: the market will naturally provide for it because it is cost-effective. The idea that society would prosper from cutting fossil fuel emissions is an utter illusion. Alternate energy sources are more costly right now, and their compulsory use will only lead to a lower standard of human living – to say nothing of the fact that this sort of governmental coercion is Constitutionally prohibited.”
    Sheer ignorance abounds ! The Oil+Gas industries alone receive between $15-20bn in tax payer subsidies and the hidden costs are greater ! vulnerability in supply, wars to protect said supply. I’m not going to disagree with you that new energies are expensive but; How do you think we make fossil fuels so cheap !?
    “Governmental coercion” did you have your head up your ass for the last eight years ?
    The instant a government stops cutting big oil a break and starts investing in batteries and solar panels old farts start whining. Pathetic!

  • Victory

    April 17, 2010

    I am unhappy with Trenberth’s arguments from authority. That attitude actually thwarts real scientific investigation. Science should be open not closed by its very nature. Actually no concensus can be made on climate change because we don’t yet know enough and our rapidly antique ways of measuring climate activity has sprung leaks. So, what we have here is not so much a bunch of ingroups conspiring to close up scientific inquiry but a bunch of people protecting their theories. Astounding egotism to say the least. And we will all pay unless we insist that science be open, available and up to date.

  • redomondo

    October 20, 2010

    A nice article about YDr. Gray

    From Alan Caruba

  • John Kassabian

    May 14, 2011

    As it is 2011 now, and global temps have leveled off since 1998, and we have had some very cold winters due to la nina, give credence to Gray’s (The Old Cook’s) arguments. It is ocean circulation which is the primary driver for global climate.


  • Stewart Lovell

    April 28, 2015

    Redux my comments in Part one. Trenberth, just appealed to more authority, saying trust ME and IPCC. Still claims models are empirical data, (extremely anti-scientific crap), and has the audacity to say we are headed to a “crisis” with a whopping 0.7 degrees C of presumed warming in 100 years, with much more to come despite all evidence to the contrary, and an alarming rate of sea level rise that doesn’t exist and doesn’t account for local erosion rates, coastal margin land subsidence, groundwater depletion land subsidence, and a host of other variables.

    It’s ALWAYS warming, causing all kinds of crises that never have occurred and never will. Nepal earthquake – global warming! Add it to the “List”.

    Thanks for showing us your and your ilks’ true colors, Mr. “Travesty”.

    GREAT JOB Dr. Gray, old “coot”.

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