Gavin Schmidt: Climate Homeopathy

Posted: January 27, 2012 by tallbloke in Energy, Incompetence

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With our renewed understanding of the omnipresent force of gravity, and its profound effect on the heat distribution in planetary atmospheres via the pressure gradient it causes we can start to appreciate the numbers involved. If there was no gravity and we wanted to change the pressure of our atmosphere from its mid altitude value of 500Hpa to the near surface value of ~1000Hpa for the lowest kilometre, the force we would have to exert is vast. Our power stations churfing out enormous volumes of carbon dioxide 24/7 to power the compressors required would soon deplete all our fossil fuel reserves to hardly begin keeping up with the task.

Gravity does it for free. Effortlessly. Not a joule expended. It just ‘uses the force’, Jedi Knight style. We don’t know how it does its gravity thing, not even Sir Isaac Newton did, but we’re glad it does what it does to surface air density, because that’s what keeps the surface of the planet a lot warmer than it would otherwise be. Gravity. It’s big, and it’s strong. Equivalent to many millions of Megawatts over the surface of Earth. Teamed up with 1360W/m^2 of sunlight pouring into the dayside of the planet’s atmosphere, they’re a hot proposition, raising the grey-body temperature at the surface by more than 100K according to new figures calculated by our friends Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller.

Compare and contrast with a trace gas in our atmosphere, carbon dioxide. Some people believe it acts to warm the surface of our planet, with the power of the longwave radiation it emits towards the ground. Others say it raises the effective height of emission of radiation to space to a cold place high in the sky, about 0.1km higher than it used to be before we emitted more of it over the last 60 years. They say the 90 parts per million increase is mostly responsible for the perhaps ~0.5K warming of the surface since 1950. It comprises 0.039% of the atmosphere, but can give the planet a fever. Reduce it by a mere 200 parts in a million they tell us, and we would face a big chill in ice age conditions.

I was tickled last week when I was browsing on the realclimate website and came across an exchange between our old friend Vukcevic and Gavin Schmidt, who pooh-poohed Vuk’s proposal for an effect on arctic circulation relating to changes in Earth’s magnetic field, another vastly powerful force. Gavin didn’t think the energy equivalent involved would be sufficient.
“Or do you have some magic mechanism?” he jibed “climate homeopathy perhaps?”

Et tu Gavin.


  1. Funny, I’ve always thought the CAGW proposition has very close parallels with Homoeopathy.

    Homoeopathists desperately seek to explain the mechanism by which Homoeopathy has it’s effect, whilst the sceptics stand back and say, “What effect?” Similarly AGW-ers also seek to explain the “effect”, whilst failing miserably to demonstrate any effect whatsoever.

    It was on my to-do list to blog about it sometime, so you rather stole my thunder. Ah well, never mind. There are plenty of other things to poke fun at.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Sorry Derek, it was too good to resist. 🙂

    Night all, patience with moderation queues please.

  3. Dave N says:

    That explanation of small changes in CO2 cannot explain why the Earth has experienced many periods where CO2 was much higher, yet temps were way lower and vice-versa. One of the most basic tenets of science has to be repeated: observations trump theory; each and every time.

  4. I love the sense of light humour.

    However, it’s unfortunate that homeopathy should be frequently represented on the climate blogs as if it were a fraud, illusion, debunked superstition, well, that’s what the word pseudoscience implies. I have studied it rather more closely, and in the hands of a sensitive practitioner, amazing healings can happen to longstanding conditions that have remained untouched by anything else. One such was a little girl, daughter of acquaintances, who used to have such bad epilepsy that she could not attend normal school but had to study at home. Homeopathy cured her completely, over about two years. In such cases, homeopathy has been a life-changing blessing for people.

    This isn’t the only subject where the mechanics are not understood in conventional scientific terms. It is highly-disciplined, it is a skill that can be studied and learned though some are more naturally gifted than others, and there is a large body of knowledge that is steadily being carefully researched and added to. The principles depend on mysterious properties of water, that were tested with high scientific precision by a highly-experienced, highly-qualified scientist, head of a prestigious research laboratory doing conventional science – Professor Benveniste. For his findings, he was horribly pilloried, misrepresented, excommunicated. Yet what did he then do? He continued his research on homeopathic dilutions, privately funded by his own means. But classical Science does not even hear about this.

    Just like AGW.

    I believe I can answer anyone who thinks I am mistaken. However, I don’t want to, because right now I would far rather continue developing the wiki for Climate Science – something to help Climate Science reclaim integrity – that does not need to worry at all about whether or not homeopathy can work – and the wiki will not, in the end, if I have it right, even depend on anything to do with me or my beliefs at all, because it will be the work of everyone here.

    Please, go gently with the mysteries of the universe. First thing to do is research the best from all sides, not the worst or even the mediocre; usually that involves some digging, and it takes time.

  5. Brian H says:

    Lucy, you may have just diluted your reputation below detection levels. Pity, really!

  6. Brian H says:

    Taking gravity as a given, position wrt any and every COG in the universe then translates into/implies PE. E.g., Earth has a huge PE wrt the galactic core, but circumstances are such that it doesn’t convert detectably into sensible KE and heat. With local gases etc. crossing “field lines” in Earth’s gravitational well, PE ↔ KE exchanges are frequent, and almost continuous.

    Big difference.

  7. tchannon says:

    Hmm.. well, oh dear because I know who is watching. I know that was an unfortunate time and place to place that comment Lucy. Lets hope it doesn’t mushroom. I am placing a considered comment.

    My position is there is a continuum where a substance can change the effect it has medically, the bizarre world of dosage. In addition far too much medical research relies heavily on statistics, often dodgy, we do get works for most people but has none or the opposite effect on some.
    (an infamous example of contrary effect is Ritalin, a stimulant which is sometimes used for a calming effect on the supposed excessively active)

    The concept of reversal of effect in part of homoeopathy doesn’t cause me a problem but the
    whole hog of dilution to nothing most certainly does.

    There is a raft of medical stuff I could go into where much of it is unknown to all but specialised medical people, fewer outside, strange stuff but in no case is there an irrational explanation.

    Lucy, read this please

    I’ve known epileptic individuals, as in watching over them on the floor when others would not. I’m inclined to agree it is erratic and can vanish in varying degrees. In the older, but do they get a driving licence?

    Sitting on the wall, here, a padded cushion.

  8. P.G. Sharrow says:

    @Lucy Skywalker says:
    January 27, 2012 at 1:27 am

    “I love the sense of light humour.”

    As do I, Lucy. For true enlightenment one should not have a closed mind. Homeopathy should be discussed in a less stressful place. I would be glad to explore the subject at my establishment and sick my dragon on any trolls that show up. 😎 pg

  9. tallbloke says:

    Whatever people’s personal experience tells them, we are all subject to the law of gravity and the fundamental gas laws forever.

    The radiative properties of gases don’t change either, though I suspect the generally accepted view of their rank in the order of magnitudes we understand relating to the effective working of the Earth’s and Venus’ climate systems is about to.

    “Climate homeopathy” is not “medicinal homeopathy”. Even placebos often work medicinally when administered by sympathetic practitioners to trusting patients. Climate sceptics won’t be swallowing the hogwash on offer from climate clowns and quantitative quacks however.

    The carbon dioxide fetish in climate science very much a temporary phenomenon. Even though it seems like it has been going on forever… 🙂

  10. steveta_uk says:

    I was once present when my sister-in-law was treating her small son homeopathically for some minor ailment. Out of curiousity I read the label on the medicine.

    I was surprised to note the dosage instructions, and asked her why the child’s dose was smaller than the adult dose? She couldn’t explain it.

  11. Michael Hart says:

    I second tim channons view. Sorry Lucy.
    It is much easier to do the experiment (and clinical trials) to falsify homeopathy.

    However, some might speculate that Gavin himself has already demonstrated the placebo effect also exists in climatology.

    Did you hear about the homeopath who forgot to take his medicine?
    -He died of an overdose. 🙂

  12. Anthony Watts says:

    @Tim Channon Lucy, homeopathy is sub-prime medicine, like some sub-prime climate science we’ve seen.

  13. tallbloke says:

    @Anthony. Engineers aren’t confused by mechanics.

  14. Zeke says:

    The Placebo Effect is a well-documented response of the human mind and body to a harmless substance. For reasons not fully understood, the human body’s systems are strengthened enough by belief in a treatment to be able to heal in some instances. There are no laws against placebo pills at this time, and the only regulations on placebo treatments are labeling requirements revealing the active ingredients. In the case of homeopathy, the amount of active ingredient is clearly labelled as required by law, in ppm, I believe.

    On the other hand, I think the case can be made that a major cause of both illness and death in this country is from iatrogenic disorders. This is an underreported and very unfortunate side of the medical field. People die often of the “cures.” This can be death from side effects, unintended consequences, improper dosages, fatal combinations, incomplete surgeries, and infections during surgeries. I have witnessed many people who simply trust doctors and do whatever they prescribe, no matter how drastic. Therefore, I would certainly liken AGW and its “precautionary principle” as more like the kinds of surgeries and deadly side effects that are killing people today, in the name of a “cure” of some future weather conditions. Second opinions and personal research into alternatives is advisable, rather than allow these doctors near our lifelines and freedoms.

  15. tallbloke says:

    Well said Zeke.

  16. Vuk says:

    CO2 modelling show:
    (Vuk after JOSH)

  17. Well, let me guess, … Zeke above is not Zeke Hausfather?

  18. mpf says:

    Climate scientists actually believed the Sun revolved around the Earth.

    They called it a Hot House when it was hotter on the outside. Man could not survive the direct heat on the moon without atmosphere, what made them think the earth could be hotter with atmosphere?

    As wrong, as the consensus in Galileo’s time.

    The atmosphere protects us by cooling the heat from the Sun, not warming it.

  19. Dave Worley says:

    The sun’s fusion reaction would not be possible except for the gravitational force compressing that matter. We cannot make a fusion generator because the force required to compress the matter is greater that the energy created in the fusion reaction. Gotta have the gravity from that huge mass of matter to make it self-sustaining. Noting that even the sun is unsustainable and will eventually run out of matter.

    In a similar way, the compression of gases at the surface due to gravity would seem to contain the collisions of gas molecules within a smaller volume, resulting in more collisions than would occur in a less dense atmosphere of a less massive planet.

    I firmly believe that the size of our planet (and hence its gravitational force) is one of the several fortunate properties which make life possible here. Distance from the sun, tilt of the axis and liquid water are some other major, rare and fortunate properties of our planet. The thermal properties of CO2 are but a bit player in the opera of our sphere.

  20. homeopathy – trace amounts of one substance, having an effect – an improvement, on a living system. makes perfect sense to me.
    could cosmic rays be described as a trace amount relative to the size of the clouds they initiate ?
    can hygroscopic nuclei be described as a trace amount relative to the size of the raindrops they create ?
    at a gut (intuitive bs meter) level, I think there’s a place for homeopathy, i.e. as an aid to digestion and physical health.
    I am reminded of the physicians response to witchcraft – “burn them !!”
    Imagine how those court supported 17th century physicians felt – all these healthy old women curing the sick with their home remedies whilst the physicians’ patients died.
    I don’t think much has changed. astrologers have been replaced, but that’s another story.
    of course I don’t much about homeopathy (or climate science), but I’m not going to write it off just yet, and especially not when viewing the success rate of conventional medicine.
    I’m certainly not arguing that CO2 is homeopathetic, although there may be a new term for a warmist there – homo pathetic.

  21. Unfortunate time and place to put the comment as you say Tim. And I cannot even explain, on this thread, why it was still necessary imho.

    Homeopathy is not a sub-prime science as Anthony Watts maintains. That word has the ring of fraud, and fraud it is not. I rue the lack of interest here, in listening to the best of its supporters, as part of Scientific Practice. But as I said, I don’t want to spend time on this here. I see my particular example has been shot down, possibly legitimately in this case. However there is a lot more, perhaps the most simply and directly persuasive is the existence of vets who use homeopathy extensively for animals… because it works where other stuff does not. I find the picture of Prof Benveniste continuing to do his research, very telling and quite moving. I use homeopathic burn ointment because it works where nothing else does. I don’t use homeopathy apart from that. But I care about the proper examination of evidence, which I know has not been done on the climate science threads for homeopathy. And I know how scandalous Nature’s treatment of Benveniste was. And the subsequent review.

    I cannot compromise my concern for truth, and fair investigation, but I do try to make it user-friendly where I can! Sorry if I’ve offended anyone, that was not my intention.

  22. P.G. Sharrow says:

    The search for knowledge and wisdom can not be successful with a closed mind.

    The great gods of physics Newton and Einstein, pursued many fields of inquire that the orthodoxy of today would decry as foolish and not scientific.

    If you wish to see all of creation, take off your blinders and look ALL around. pg

  23. Andrew says:

    Having been misdiagnosed many times by modern Western Medicine…I feel compelled to remind everyone that doctors PRACTICE medicine…blood letting and leaches were once ‘modern medicine’ then it wasn’t…then it was ok again…ever wonder why a barber pole is red and white?

    Back to the gas and pressure thing…I know H2O boils at lower temps the higher one climbs…and isn’t a pressure suit needed to avoid ones blood boiling way up high in the atmosphere. Does that observation kinda explain things?


  24. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Zeke:from iatrogenic disorders…>/i>. translated from the Greek, literally means: disorders caused by physicians (from Ιατρóς : physician)

  25. Bob Fernley-Jones says:

    Lucy, (and onlookers), a word of support for you on the great unknowns and controversies in much of science, and analogously on the medical front versus so-called climate science:

    Quite apart from placebo effect, and much anecdotal homeopathy stuff, (which I suspect are closely related), there are some examples of recovery from diagnostically terminal cancer that appears to have been as a result of the power of the mind, (I think again somewhat related to placebo). My father, long ago underwent surgery for suspected bowel cancer on symptoms of excruciating grey-faced pain of blockage, despite opiates etc. Mother and I went in to hear the surgeon’s report and we were told that additionally his liver was cancerous and beyond rescue, so they abandoningly sewed him up and fitted a (bypass) colostomy bag, saying that he would be dead by Christmas, it being November. Well, he lived more than another three decades, and in-between he had his alimentary tract reinstated. Why, how?
    He explained that he told the cancer to go away. (meditation) I have spoken to doctors of medicine on this, and their response is: NO, that is not possible, he could not have had cancer.

    I seem to recall that an early round-the-world solo yachtsman, Sir Francis Chichester, also had “diagnosed terminal cancer” but that it too “went away”

    Also, my recollection is that there is apparently powerful evidence that Oz vet. Dr Ian Gawler suffered severe bone cancer involving amputation of a leg, and there are horrible photos of chest-rib growths, which reportedly went away maybe substantially with the help of Dr Ainslie Meares with meditational guidance. However there is controversy about whether the medical diagnosis was correct, and that there may have been TB involved….. Ho Hum…. Situation normal!

    Lucy, please do not feel that you need to respond, I don’t want to distract you from your wiki idea. I’m just saying, I’m on your side.

  26. Zeke says:

    tallbloke says: “The carbon dioxide fetish in climate science very much a temporary phenomenon.”

    I think you are right about this. In my estimation, AGW will collapse under its own weight within one or two years, as a defunct and discredited scientific theory.

    However, there are many in both parties who are working hard to slip a carbon tax into the US economy, even claiming that it will be revenue neutral for the gov’t and will be offset by other tax cuts, such as a cut in payroll taxes. Once a tax is put on carbon in the US, I think that would bring back the dead carbon trading market. And that is the ultimate objective – to put a price on carbon. Jo Nova has written that at its peak, carbon trading was over 200 bn per year, and was expected to rise into the trillions, with carbon being the single most traded comodity in the world. As long as the US can resist vigorously a carbon tax for at least another year or two, then hopefully we will see these emissions reductions agreements in Europe torn up, and national economies set back on track. Watch our elections.

    I think it is important to point out that even people who claim skepticism of AGW science, are in fact in favor of a carbon tax. They even post on WUWT.

  27. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Zeke says:
    January 29, 2012 at 8:05 am
    You are right: Talking about a non existing problem is a kind of a tricky thing, it promotes it, so many people, consciously or unconsciously favor the existence of the issue and its consequences.
    What was it all about? Can´t remember! 🙂

  28. Roger Andrews says:

    Zeke says:

    “In my estimation, AGW will collapse under its own weight within one or two years, as a defunct and discredited scientific theory.”

    Let’s see if we can help it along its way.

    I posted this graph on the “volcanoes” thread a couple of days ago, but no one took any notice, so here it is again:

    It’s the UAH temperature record for the lower troposphere with the El Niño (Niño3.4 > 0.5) and La Niña (Niño3.4 < -0.5) months removed. With the ENSO noise gone we see that effectively all the tropospheric warming since 1979 was caused by an upward shift of about 0.3C at the time of the 1998 El Niño, and maybe another after the 2010 El Niño, although there aren't enough data to confirm that yet.

    And where's the anthropogenic warming? Well, unless CO2 causes El Niños there isn't any.

  29. Roger Andrews says:


    Right. But Bob did it using SST, and now I show that it works for TLT too.

    It also works, almost, for SAT.

    I’m beginning to think that El Niños are a bigger deal than I thought they were.

  30. Zeke says:

    Well it sure the h— is an ideal gas if it erupts out of volcanoes, AND you can tax it.

    And look at that discrete step in the temp record.

  31. tallbloke says:

    Hi Roger A: Good stuff. I think that since SAT is caught between SST and LT it’s likely a bit inflated by UHI though.

    Calibrating to ‘pristine rural sites’ which have intensified spray irrigation of crops over the last 50 years doesn’t help.

  32. Roger Andrews says:

    Hi TB:

    Having spent a lot of time going through the SAT records looking for UHI impacts and not finding any, I think the gradual warming may well be AGW in action (have to throw the Team a bone of some kind). But whether it is or not is largely academic because the warming translates into a climate sensitivity of only about 0.25C, which as far as I’m concerned is is close enough to zero to be ignored.


    If we want to combat climate change we obviously have to tax El Niños. Who should pay? Well, El Niños occur in international waters, so I guess it would be the UN. 😉

  33. Zeke says:

    The only problem is, we know the UN does not have anything we would want. (;

    @ Adolfo, You are spot on, it is not in the top three issues and is not even brought up in some of the primary debates. /:

  34. Brian H says:

    William Martin says:
    January 28, 2012 at 6:49 am

    homeopathy – trace amounts of one substance, having an effect – an improvement, on a living system. makes perfect sense to me.
    The trouble is William, that the dilution sequences used reduce the traces to much less than one molecule per sample. That’s not a trace, that’s a ghost.

  35. Zeke says:

    Brian H says: “The trouble is William, that the dilution sequences used reduce the traces to much less than one molecule per sample. That’s not a trace, that’s a ghost.”

    The active ingredients of homeopathic remedies are clearly labeled. The individual who takes a homeopathic pill is aware of the trace amounts of active ingredient. What the discussion is really about is patient freedom.

  36. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Everyone knows that in homeopathy less is better, and none is the best! At times this can also be said of medicinals and pill pushers. MDs bury their mistakes. Be careful about anything that you ingest, READ the Contradictions first! pg

  37. Brian H says:

    P.G. Sharrow

    Be careful about anything that you ingest, READ the Contradictions first! pg

    Labels with contradictions are unlikely, even contraindicated!

  38. tchannon says:

    Not contrasymtomatic?

  39. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Brian H says:
    February 5, 2012 at 11:45 pm ;”Labels with contradictions are unlikely, even contraindicated!”

    At times the contraindications are contradictions. 😎 Just be careful. pg