Science Lessons For Secretary Of State Kerry

David Middleton has written a Guest posting in the WattsUpWithThat (WUWT) blog titled “Science lessons for Secretary of State John F Kerry”. Middleton opens with this: “Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s recent remarks on climate change at the Atlantic Council were so scientifically illiterate that I find it difficult to believe that he managed to barely get a D in geology at Yale University.  As a US citizen and geoscientist, I feel it is my patriotic and professional duty to provide Secretary Kerry with a few complimentary science lessons.”

Here is some of what Kerry said:

So stop for a minute and just think about the basics. When an apple falls from a tree, it will drop toward the ground. We know that because of the basic laws of physics. Science tells us that gravity exists, and no one disputes that. Science also tells us that when the water temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it turns to ice. No one disputes that.

So when science tells us that our climate is changing and humans beings are largely causing that change, by what right do people stand up and just say, “Well, I dispute that” or “I deny that elementary truth?” And yet, there are those who do so.

 To this Middleton responds: “Well Mr. Secretary… The Theory of Gravity can be empirically tested with such repeatability that it has become a Law and can be expressed with a simple equation… It can even be tested and  confirmed on the Moon…

The freezing point of water (phase transition) can also be empirically tested and demonstrated with ample repeatability. However, the freezing point of water is not always 32°F. The freezing point is dependent on both temperature and pressure…”

Scientist and engineers have a course named thermodynamics where they become familiar with phase diagrams.


Chart from Wikipedia—Water Phase Diagram

Examining the water phase diagram you will note that water can be vapor, liquid or solid. Most people are aware of that at atmospheric pressure (1 bar) and 0°C water can be solid or liquid. And at the same pressure, at a temperature of 100°C, it can be either vapor (steam) or liquid. Look along the 0°C line and note that the changing pressure can result in water being liquid, vapor or solid. And uniquely at the triple point, vapor, liquid and solid water coexist.

Middleton goes on in detail to show that climate computer models are unreliable and have almost no predictive skills. This blog, Climate Change Sanity, has discussed this issue in detail so I wont rehash it here. But I would still recommend to the reader that a look at the details that Middleton provides to make his point are well worth the time to read.

Then Middleton discusses the “scientific consensus “ that the warmers use —an appeal to authority—- rather than opening up their catastrophic man-made global warming theory to debate.

Kerry says:

Now folks, we literally do not have the time to waste debating whether we can say “climate change.” We have to talk about how we solve climate change. Because no matter how much people want to bury their heads in the sand, it will not alter the fact that 97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

To this, Middleton responds:  “Well Mr. Secretary… The SkepSci bloggers who claimed the bogus 97% consensus don’t even assert that “97 percent of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

“The that less than 1% “of peer-reviewed climate studies confirm that climate change is happening and that human activity is largely responsible.”

The f0llowing chart appears in Middleton’s blog, showing  a peer-reviewed study of the studies that made the original claim that Kerry cites. (Click on charts to enlarge.)

peerreviewedclimatestudiesKerry_01_zpsgdfkz0oa…91datafile.txt (click here to  link the studies reviewed.)

The study found that just 0.5% of the studies explicitly endorsed AGW and said it was the main cause of warming. Another 32.1 % seemed to believe that AGW was happening but did not state it was the main cause.   The majority of the papers held No Position on whether or not warming was man-made.

Middleton also discusses Kerry’s claims about recent years being the “ warmest in all of history”.   Kerry, saying he does not want to sound haughty, gives an inaccurate account of what the greenhouse gas effect is. Middleton says:” Don’t worry Mr. Secretary… You don’t sound haughty. You sound like a guy who got a D in geology and would have gotten an F in physics”.

Then Middleton describes the greenhouse effect.

Middleton sums up his critique of Kerry’s lecture as follows:

“The laws and theories of gravity and phase transition are not even remotely analogous to the fatally flawed AGW hypothesis.

97% of peer-reviewed climate studies do not conclude that humans are largely to blame for recent climate changes.

There is no evidence that 14 of the last 15 years are the warmest in all of recorded history.

A greenhouse works by retarding convective cooling.  The greenhouse effect works by retarding radiative cooling.  Secretary Kerry’s lack of scientific literacy will work by retarding our economy”.

I am not through with Kerry’s lecture. Tax filing is next but after that I have a few things to say about his lecture that Middleton did not cover.


9 responses to “Science Lessons For Secretary Of State Kerry

  1. Is this the same David Middleton who was educated as a geologist (not a climate scientist) and who works/worked on behalf of the oil and gas industry? Perspective matters. We’re just asking.
    Because here’s the thing: aside from Patrick Moore (and a quick Google search shows him to be an axe-grinder who has been selling his services to Big Polluters for years), deniers don’t seem to be able to point to many actual climate scientists. So if this David Middleton is who we suspect he is, you’re asking as to take the word of an oil industry geologist over 97% of peer reviewed studies. (Middleton simply made up the info-graphic above. See in the July 2014 Scientific American.)Thank you for your considered response.

    • You have been spending your time just reading things that you think you agree with. I don’t imagine skeptical Science features many who do not think like they do. This link
      will lead you to 1000 scientists that are skeptics. The list grows bigger every year.
      Also, one of the groups I belong to—-The Oregon Petition —along with 31,000 other scientists and engineers.

      You might want to read these two recent blogs about Cook and Lewandowsky efforts.

      I wonder if you know what a climate scientist is? For example John Cook has a BS is Physics. Stephan Lewandowski has his degree in psychology. Al Gore only has a low GPA. Michael Mann has degrees in math, physics and GEOLOGY (heaven forbid a geologist, too). Gavin Schmidt has a degree in math. Jim Hanson has degrees in physics, math and astronomy. The author of the Scientific American article you passed on to me has a degree in biochemistry. Most of the computer modelers are math-based people. Whom among them are climate scientists? And what is your criteria? Just people that promote Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming?

      I have put in place a new comment policy which is—- comments that use desmogblog or similar or from people who allude that someone is bought and paid for by such and such a group will be deleted on subject to edit. Your comment here is the last that kind.

      On a different note. Your blog is very good. The photography perhaps could be assembled in to a book and published. Or maybe you already do that. The food section was often mouth watering.

      • Thanks for your response. No, we read both sides. There’s enough evidence to convince us that, unquestionably, the planet is warming (having lived in Alaska and talked to several biologists and native elders up there who have seen things change in their lifetime is part of what convinces us) and that it is highly likely humans are contributing to this warming.
        So… doesn’t it trouble you that there are virtually no scientists with bonafied credentials in the field of climate science who are skeptical of climate change… that you have to trot out Patrick Moore over and over again because he’s essentially all you have, and he recently made a fool of himself, on camera, when caught in one of his many dishonest statements – on behalf of the people who write his paychecks? You can Google “Patrick Moore refuses to drink water” to see the video and draw your own conclusions. We’ve concluded that he is nothing more than a shill for whomever is willing to sign a paycheck made out to him.
        Anyway, we do support healthy skepticism, and scientists, journalists and politicians have been wrong often enough in our lifetime to keep us alert. What’s the saying? There are three political parties in America: Republican, Democrat, and Awake? Thanks for checking out our blog, too. Have a great day, CB. Jack & Barbra

      • You are not talking global when you cite Alaska. For example, if you lived in Scandinavia you would “unquestionably” conclude that global sea level is falling dramatically.

        What is this fixation with Patrick Moore? He doesn’t get much press from the skeptical bloggers as they have many people and topics to write about. I do not remember talking about him in my small blog. Be careful of whom you are calling a fool. This maybe one for you to consider. Google—“Oppenheimer Barbra Streisand”.

        Here are a couple of sites that accumulate data about skeptical research. The first is one showing solar research. Google “Club du Soleil—papers of interest”. I have reviewed but a fraction of the listing. As warmers generally consider the Sun as being unimportant, most of the solar science seems to be done by skeptical or neutral scientists.

        A list of the research by skeptical scientists can be viewed by putting “Popular Technology .net” in to your search engine. You will find last years list that at that time totaled about 1350 papers. Skeptical scientists don’t spend much time looking into species extinction, population migration, alpine glacier recession or other types of anecdotal reporting.

        In the short time period of time it took you to respond to my reply to your previous comment, makes me “skeptical” that you actually looked through the list of 1000 Skeptical scientists. If you are a speed-reader, I apologize.

        I had asked you to give me a definition of a “bona fide climate scientist”. Please do that and name some names—and don’t stop with just a few.


      • Hi CB, Jack here. C’mon… “You are not talking global when you cite Alaska,” you say. CB, 90% of the glaciers In The World are receding. So, no, obviously it’s not just Alaska. Is that what you’re going to hang your hat on… that each data point is just one data point?
        Here’s the gist of what I think: I think there are many sound, observable reasons that virtually all climate scientists believe the Earth is warming and further believe humans are part of the reason. Conversely, I notice that the website you point to notwithstanding, that every time skeptics bring out a “scientist” to “debunk” global warming it turns out that the scientist is trained in a field far removed from Climate study (we’ve been offered psychiatrists, medical doctors, TV weather personalities, geologists) or, in the rare case the person is a climate scientist, that they have a long histories of making other dubious claims and are almost always in the employ of big industry.
        Plant and animal migration and glaciation patterns are observable, but that doesn’t make them anecdotal. Scientists who are interested in the issue of climate change Are studying these things, and comparing contemporary observations and photographic evidence with that of the past.
        I took a look at Here’s what I noticed: It appears to be heavily agenda driven. I didn’t see the list of scientists you referred to, but I did see a list of over 1,000 peer reviewed papers on the subject. I clicked on one and read the abstract. There was not one single mention of climate change in the abstract… which makes me wonder what kinds of papers they are “counting” when putting this list together.
        And that’s the other thing. It seems that every time I’m pointed to evidence by a skeptic, it turns into a dead end. “Go read Patrick Moore,” I’m told. Or “temperatures aren’t really rising,” I’m told. Or “the Arctic is actually gaining ice,” I’m told. Time and again, it proves to be a waste of time to follow these non-leads.
        Here’s an example of an article that I feel is valid and useful in this discussion. It provides names of scientists, and their credentials are easily vetted with a Google search.
        You know, if the first article I’d clicked on in Popular Technology had seemed factual and relevant, I’d have kept looking at others. But I’ve been down this road too often, directed by skeptics. Maybe the journal is on the up-and-up. Maybe it isn’t. But remember, I didn’t invent or search for Patrick Moore. I came across him in a dozen or more skeptic articles. If there are so many credentialed skeptics, why indeed is he so frequently trotted out. Or geologists in the pay of big oil? Or Charles Krauthamer, who is a psychiatrist? Etc., etc.
        My friend, let’s agree for now to disagree. I respect your skepticism, but in this matter I don’t really understand the basis for it. I’m looking at a world where there is abundant evidence that the climate is warming. You look out and see something very different. I’ve read and trusted Scientific American for years. They’re not always right, but they almost always are, and in this matter it’s not just one article by one axe-grinding, hired-and-paid for government shill, it’s Lots of people in Lots of articles who are trying to explain to people that Yes, the world is warming and Yes, we are part of the reason for that.
        Conversely, you apparently are scratching your head over what I’m concluding. So, I offer you a virtual handshake. Let’s both keep reading and exploring. Maybe in a year or so one or the other of us will have come to a different view. Maybe the scientific opinion in general will have shifted one way or another.
        I wish you well. Keep blogging!

      • Jack

        The Scandinavian comment was not a red herring or dead end. It was making a point. I could have pointed out that the Antarctic has record sea ice. I could have used many different situational anomalies. But I would never have made either your Alaska or my Scandinavia comment and be expected to be taken seriously.

        And once again you reject 1000 skeptic scientist, “not withstanding”, and go back to your major hangup—Patrick Moore. It suggests that if he is the only skeptic you encounter, your reading list is very limited. Might I invite you to “WUWT” blog. Look along the right margin of that blog. The author lists warmers, luke-warmers and skeptic blogs. You could broaden your horizons and maybe begin to see our side.

        The scientist I mentioned? Do you mean Michael Mann, Gavin Schmidt and Jim Hanson? You didn’t see them in the Popular Technology list?

        I leave with two things. You haven’t answered my question to you, to give me a description of a climate scientist. And I believe I know why.

        And lastly, I am a skeptic because I believe in data not abstract generalizations and long range predictions. My CV is a person who was responsible, as an engineer and a manager, for design and construction and operation of very costly chemical plants where being right was the only acceptable answer. And that answer did not come at some way off date, it came the day we would turn on the facility. People’s safety, money issues, the environment all had to be satisfied. In the company I worked for, peoples safety always came first.
        Not some vague in twenty, no 80 years we will find out. Its Data that counts.

        Incidentally, the people I hang out with mostly had experience similar to mine and we all are skeptics. We believe in data and we believe the data is on our side. Why is it there are 61 (at last count) new theories, by the warmer scientist trying to explain why the global temperature has seen no statistically significant warming for nearly twenty years. Even if you don’t recognize this piece of global temperature data, a whole lot of your bona fide climate scientist do. Go pick out one of the theories if you wish and you are able to make a informed choice, but recognize that there are 60 other bona fide climate scientist who will say you picked the wrong one. The globe has been warming for over 11,000+ years since the demise of the last glaciation period—-“Naturally”. Glaciers have been melting, sea level has been rising, floods have happened, etc. for millenia. The theory you hold dear insists that CO2 (a second class greenhouse gas by the way–compared to water vapor which IPCC insists has twice the temperature effect that CO2 does–I’m sure your study of the IPCC reports has made you aware of that fact.) is causing global temperatures to rise. Well, what has happened? The CO2 keeps rising and the temperature does not keep up with the climate model predictions.
        DATA does not support the computer predictions—The computers programs are not skilled. The entire premise of CAGW is predicated on rapidly rising temperatures. Naturally rising temperatures won’t cut it for sustaining the CAGW theory.

        Ok, I accept your virtual handshake.

      • Jack it has been fun. Thanks. Wishing you and your wife good times.

      • Sorry, to add this. I forgot to mention: Scandinavia. No scientist I’ve heard of has concluded that “global sea level is falling dramatically” based on the example of Scandinavia. The reason? CB… The land there is uplifting! These are the kinds of red herrings and dead ends skeptics keep offering. Anyway, hope your day goes well. JD

  2. Pingback: John Kerry Again Proves His Ignorance | Climate Change Sanity

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