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Matt Ridley’s 2016 Annual GWPF Lecture

October 18, 2016

By Paul Homewood 




Matt Ridley has given the 2016 Annual GWPF lecture at the Royal Society. I strongly suggest you bookmark it, as it is a comprehensive condemnation of current climate policies:



I am a passionate champion of science.

I have devoted most of my career to celebrating and chronicling scientific discovery. I think the scientific method is humankind’s greatest achievement, and that there is no higher calling.

So what I am about to say this evening about the state of climate science is not in any sense anti-science. It is anti the distortion and betrayal of science.

I am still in love with science as a philosophy; I greatly admire and like the vast majority of scientists I meet; but I am increasingly disaffected from science as an institution.

The way it handles climate change is a big part of the reason.

After covering global warming debates as a journalist on and off for almost 30 years, with initial credulity, then growing skepticism, I have come to the conclusion that the risk of dangerous global warming, now and in the future, has been greatly exaggerated while the policies enacted to mitigate the risk have done more harm than good, both economically and environmentally, and will continue to do so.

And I am treated as some kind of pariah for coming to this conclusion.

Why do I think the risk from global warming is being exaggerated? For four principal reasons.

1. All environmental predictions of doom always are;
2. the models have been consistently wrong for more than 30 years;
3. the best evidence indicates that climate sensitivity is relatively low;
4. the climate science establishment has a vested interest in alarm.


Global greening

I will come to those four points in a moment. But first I want to talk about global greening, the gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet.

I think this is one of the most momentous discoveries of recent years and one that transforms the scientific background to climate policy, though you would never know it from the way it has been reported. And it is a story in which I have been both vilified and vindicated.

In December 2012, the environmental scientist Jesse Ausubel of Rockefeller University drew my attention to a video online of a lecture given by Ranga Myneni of Boston University.

In this lecture Myneni presented ingenious analysis of data from satellites proving that much of the vegetated area of the planet was getting greener, only a little bit was getting browner, and that overall in 30 years there had been a roughly 14% increase in green vegetation on planet Earth.

In this slide he argued that this was occurring in all vegetation types – tropical rain forests, subarctic taiga, grasslands, semi-deserts, farmland, everywhere.

What is more, Myneni argued that by various means he could calculate that about half of this greening was a direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, rather than the application of agricultural fertiliser, irrigation, warmer temperatures or increased rainfall.

Carbon dioxide, along with water, is the raw material that plants use to make carbohydrates, with the help of sunlight, so it stands to reason that raising its concentration should help plants grow.

I was startled by Myneni’s data. I knew that there had been thousands of so-called free-air concentration (FACE) experiments, in which levels of CO2 had been increased over crops or wild ecosystems to find out if it boosted their growth (it did), and that commercial greenhouse owners now routinely maintain CO2 levels in their greenhouses at more than double ambient levels – because it makes their tomatoes grow faster.

But the global effect of CO2 levels on the quantity of vegetation had not, as far as I could tell, been measured till now.

Other lines of evidence also pointed to this global greening:

* the increased rate of growth of forest trees,

* the increased amplitude of seasonal carbon dioxide variation measured in Hawaii and elsewhere,

* photographic surveys of vegetation,

* the increased growth rate of phytoplankton, marine plants and some corals, and so on.

I published an article in the Wall Street Journal in January 2013 on these various lines of evidence, including Myneni’s satellite analysis, pointing to the increase in green vegetation.

This was probably the very first article in the mainstream media on the satellite evidence for global greening.

For this I was subjected online to withering scorn by the usual climate spin doctors, but even they had to admit I was “factually accurate”.

Six months later  Randall Donohue and colleagues in Australia published a paper using satellite data to conclude that the arid parts of the planet, such as western Australia and the Sahel region, had seen a net greening of 11% over 30 years – similar results to Myneni’s.

Myneni’s results, however, remained unpublished. I was puzzled by this. Then I realized that one of the IPCC’s periodic assessment reports was in preparation, and that probably Dr Myneni and colleagues might delay the publication of their results until after that report was published, lest “the skeptics have a field day” with it.

That last phrase, by the way, is from one of the Climategate emails, the one on 22 September 1999 in which Dr Michael Mann approves the deletion of inconvenient data.

Sure enough, Myneni’s results were eventually published three years later in April 2016 in a paper in Nature Climate Change, with 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries – when the IPCC report was safely in the public domain and the great Paris climate jamboree was over.

His results were now even stronger than he had concluded in his 2012 lecture. Now he said that 70% of the cause of greening was carbon dioxide – up from half.

As Myneni’s co-author Zaichun Zhu, of Beijing University, puts it, it’s equivalent to adding a green continent twice the size of mainland USA.

Frankly, I think this is big news. A new continent’s worth of green vegetation in a single human generation.

At the end of 2015, when his paper had been under peer review for eight months so he knew these results were coming, Dr Myneni, criticized me specifically, saying on a green blog that “[Ridley] falsely claims that CO2 fertilisation is responsible for the greening of the earth”. Yet a few months later he himself published evidence that “CO2 fertilisation explains 70% of the greening trend”.

In the press release accompanying the article in April 2016 he once again referred to me by name:

[“The beneficial aspect of CO2 fertilization in promoting plant growth has been used by contrarians, notably Lord Ridley…to argue against cuts in carbon emissions to mitigate climate change…"]

As Richard Tol commented: “The new paper vindicates what Matt Ridley and others have been saying all along — yet they apparently deserve to be kicked nonetheless.”

I wrote to Dr Myneni politely asking him to justify his criticism of me with specific examples. He was unable to do so. “There are no ‘up-sides’ to having too much CO2 in the air,” was all he said.

In the very same issue of the same journal was another paper from an international team about a further benefit of global greening, which concluded that CO2 fertilisation is likely to increase crop water productivity throughout the world, for example by up to 48% for rain-fed wheat in arid areas, and that “If realized in the fields, the effects of elevated [CO2] could considerably mitigate global yield losses whilst reducing agricultural consumptive water use (4–17%).”

Their chart shows that without CO2 fertilisation, crops will become more water-stressed during the current century; with it they will become LESS water-stressed.

These are huge benefits for the earth and for people. The CO2 fertilisation effect is already worth trillions of dollars, according to detailed calculations by Craig Idso.

At this point Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit drew attention to my vindication on twitter. Richard Betts, the Met Office’s twitter frequenter, protested that global greening was well known and had been referred to in the IPCC’s report.

This was misleading at best and false at worst. The Summary for Policy Makers of Working Group 2 refers to global greening not at all. The full report of WG2, produced six months after the Summary for Policy Makers in that reprehensible fashion so beloved of the IPCC, does very gently hint at there being some evidence of greening, but in a dismissive way, and far too late to catch the attention of journalists. These are the only mentions I could find:

[“Satellite observations from 1982–2010 show an 11% increase in green foliage cover in warm, arid environments…Higher CO2 concentrations enhance photosynthesis and growth (up to a point) and reduce water use by the plant…these effects are mostly beneficial; however, high CO2 also has negative effects.”

“In summary, there is high confidence that net terrestrial ecosystem productivity at the global scale has increased relative to the preindustrial era. There is low confidence in attribution of these trends to climate change. Most studies speculate that rising CO2 concentrations are contributing to this trend through stimulation of photosynthesis but there is no clear, consistent signal of a climate change contribution.”]

If that’s a clear and prominent statement that carbon dioxide emissions have increased green vegetation on the planet by 14% and are significantly reducing the water requirements of agriculture, then I’m the Queen of Sheba.

Back in 1908 Svante Arrhenius, the father of the greenhouse theory, said the following:

“By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates.”

It appears he was not wrong.

The consensus

Now let me back to global warming.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and UN Special representative on Climate Change, said in a speech in 2007 that “it is irresponsible, reckless and deeply immoral to question the seriousness of the situation. The time for diagnosis is over. Now it is time to act”.

I disagree. It is irresponsible not to challenge the evidence properly, especially if the policies pursued in its name are causing suffering.

Increasingly, many people would like to outlaw, suppress, prosecute and censor all discussion of what they call “the science” rather than engage in debate.

“We will not, at any time, debate the science of climate change,” said three professors at the University of Colorado in an email to their students recently.

Shamefully, much of the scientific establishment and the media are prepared to go along with that program. And to bully any academic or journalist who steps out of line.

This coercion was displayed all too vividly when the distinguished scientist Lennart Bengtsson was bullied into resigning from the academic advisory council of GWPF in 2014 by colleagues’ threats. He even began to “worry about my health and safety…”

And when Philippe Verdier was sacked as weather forecaster in France for writing an honest book. And when Roger Pielke was dropped by the 538 website for telling the truth about storms.

No wonder that I talk frequently to scientists who are skeptical, but dare not say so openly. That is a ridiculous state of affairs.


The full speech can be read here.

  1. AlecM permalink
    October 18, 2016 6:01 pm

    Well blow me down: Joanna Haigh advised that the RS should not ban this talk for fear it would show up the RS in a bad light.

    How many more prominent supporters of this fake physics** will start to distance theirselves?

    **An excusable mistake in the aerosol optical physics of clouds in 1967, accepted by Hansen in 1969. An inexcusable ‘mistake’ by R D Cess in 1976 then science fraud by a GISS team in a modelling paper that same year, the use of ‘negative convection’ which cannot exist to offset the inherent 40% rise over reality that is derived from Cess’ incorrect conclusions. The 3-D models use the incorrect cloud physics to purport imaginary ‘back radiation’ and artificial ‘positive feedback’ in the 3-D models. However, the origin of this bad science is to fail to understand that Planck’s derivation of bidirectional radiant energy transfer, also the 1923 Bose analysis of the same by what is now Bose-Einstein statistics, only applies to a vacuum.

    • October 19, 2016 6:39 am

      AlecM – Good to see you back again. It would seem that you, I and a few others were a bit rich for the Telegraph.


    • Gerry, England permalink
      October 19, 2016 12:51 pm

      She wasn’t distancing herself from this but concerned that the adverse publicity would benefit our cause not hers. And insultingly she went on to say that the contents of the lecture would need to be checked for factual accuracy. A bit rich when she has no concept of the facts.

      • October 19, 2016 1:43 pm

        She has been Co-Director of the Grantham Institute at Imperial College since 2014. US Hedge fund billionaire Jeremy Grantham, funded two Grantham Institutes in 2008, with £10M each, one at LSE, run by Nicholas Stern and the other one at Imperial, run by Brian Hoskins. Grantham is still funding.

        Both have the same advisory board, check it out, some very familiar names and they share the same attack dog, Bob Ward:

        Fankhauser and Hoskins are both on the Climate Change Committee. There are two US enviro CEO’s on there, Krupp and Roberts, plus Schellnhuber from Potsdam. Add in people like Paul Nurse and Lord Rees and you have a nice little cabal.

      • AlecM permalink
        October 19, 2016 3:22 pm

        Imperial College has plenty of top grade scientists and engineers. NO professional can accept the ‘physics’ used in climate models to model the heating of the atmosphere by surface IR.

        Ultimately, they assume that the output on the front panel meter of their Pyrgeometer, an IR radiometer, is a real energy flux. It isn’t; it outputs via calibration against a black body emitter, potential energy flux from the emitter in its view angle to a perfect radiation sink at Absolute Zero.

        This is basic instrumental physics. Because the back of the sensor is shielded, it equilibrates radiatively with the emitter in its view angle. This typically gives a small temperature difference, either from radiant equilibrium against the internal reference (pyrgeometer), or temperature drop across a known thermal resistance (bolometer). Photosensitive resistors (used in satellites), give change in resistance calibrated wrt a black body. To do this, satellites point the detector to empty space at 2.7 deg, K.

        Amusingly, the bidirectional photon diffusion model used in Climate Alchemy is explained by the numpties as photons impacting the Pyrgeometer’s thermopile, converting directly to electricity. That is bollox: most of the signal is artificial from a chip computing via the S-B equation radiant exitance of the internal black body reference. The sensed signal is just a few% of this value.

        Individual radiant exitances have never been proven by calorimetry to exist. Engineers always use the difference of the 4th powers of the source and sink temperature, corrected for emissivity. Planck and Bose’s analysis only applies to a vacuum with equal temperature ‘black body’ emitters in radiant equilibrium in a vacuum, i.e., a resonant situation which in Maxwell’s equations is a standing wave at each instant of time for each wavelength. You can argue that this means equal and opposite photon motion, but it’s the same thing – zero net energy transfer.

        Real scientists and engineers always use caveats to protect themselves and science. The climate morons have forgotten how to be scientific.

  2. John F. Hultquist permalink
    October 18, 2016 6:10 pm

    Carbon dioxide, along with water, is the raw material that plants use to make carbohydrates, …

    Can we assume that Matt Ridley assumes that members of the Royal Society do not have a clue about what “carbo + hydrates” means? Science is hard.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      October 18, 2016 9:57 pm

      “Science is hard.”

      Too hard for some members of the Royal Society, apparently.

      “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.”

      Lord Kelvin, 1900.

      “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”

      Lord Kelvin, 1896.

      Birds seem to manage all right and progressive naval architects were similarly criticised by the scientific establishment when they proposed building iron ships, because iron doesn’t float.

      “I remember Lord May leaning over and assuring me: “I am the President of the Royal Society, and I am telling you the debate on climate change is over.”

  3. October 18, 2016 7:16 pm

    Calling “Climate Change Action” snake oil is an insult to the snake oil profession, a highly honourable one compared with those who promote “The Transition”. Snake oil was offered to anyone who had a genuine problem, people were free to choose whether or not to buy it, and most of it was harmless. “The Transition” is addressed at no obvious problem, is forced on people whether they want it or not, and is harming most people, and aspects of the environment.

    The BBC radio today was totally shameless, it allowed an entirely irrelevant marketing pitch for “The Transition” on a farming programme (Costing the Earth), and is now actively promoting Swansea Bay tidal power on “File on 4” and the seemingly compelling desire to “Meet our renewable targets”.

  4. October 18, 2016 7:46 pm

    Reblogged this on Tallbloke's Talkshop and commented:
    Matt Ridley runs through some of climate science’s main weaknesses, to put it politely.

    • johnmarshall permalink
      October 19, 2016 8:59 am

      But his main weakness, belief in the GHE, is still used by him as being true. Not the sign of a true skeptic.

      • October 19, 2016 1:50 pm

        Exactly, as he says himself, he is a luke warmer. I think they see the latest graphs from GISS and think, “Well they look warmer”.

      • Keitho permalink
        October 19, 2016 3:39 pm

        Perhaps, but it is a jolly good essay on the subject. For that I applaud him.

  5. October 18, 2016 8:48 pm

    There are no up-sides to having ‘too much’ of anything…..Obviously.

    To say this about CO2, as Myneni does to Matt, isn’t science….It’s politics. The whole area of discussion is about what is ‘too much’, and what would be beneficial.

  6. Wellers permalink
    October 18, 2016 9:04 pm

    BBC File on 4 was dire. The girl reporter clearly didn’t have a clue about the energy market or power generation, and wilfully lapped up the drivel spouted by various rent seekers, deluded politicians and spin doctors without any challenge whatsoever. She totally accepted the assertion that hydrogen gas from the electrolysis of water is a zero carbon fuel. A serious breach of the BBC’s Charter requirement for balanced reporting.

  7. Dave Wheatley permalink
    October 18, 2016 11:10 pm

    Completely agree. I came to the conclusion a few years ago that Science is worthy of worship, but Scientists are just people; with all their weaknesses and faults. AGW is now a dogma, and you can’t criticise a dogma, much less change the person’s mind on it. Another point is that only the models predict catastrophic change, the reality is that any change is normal and less than has happened in the past.

  8. October 19, 2016 12:34 am

    Reblogged this on Jaffer's blog.

  9. johnmarshall permalink
    October 19, 2016 8:54 am

    Good talk but his knowledge of physics leaves a lot to be desired.

    • AlecM permalink
      October 19, 2016 9:19 am

      CO2-induced accelerated vegetation growth in arid areas is a strong negative biofeedback. For short plants it works by reducing transpiration because stomata can be smaller for a given CO2 flux thus reducing opposite direction H2O flux.

      For tall plants it works by allowing greater CO2 concentration lower down in the canopy, hence viable plant density per unit area can rapidly increase. A factor of ~3 transient increase in temperate forest biomass has been suggested.

      PS the problem with IPCC fantasy physics is the assumption that the planet’s surface emits IR to be ‘trapped’ in the lower atmosphere. This is ultimately based on failure to understand that the Pyrgeometer instrument does not measure a real energy flux.

      Manufacturers are careful to point out that only the difference of up and down fluxes is real, and on average all of that goes to space, either directly or indirectly via clouds. The Russian version of the Pyrgeometer rotates the detector up and down to measure that net flux.

      Russian, Chinese and Indian climate scientists know full well that Western climate science is bad science propped up by data fraud. Zoologist Ridley with a good degree and PhD is competent enough to work that out as well.

  10. Coeur de Lion permalink
    October 19, 2016 4:51 pm

    Do you think that the Royal Society, in allowing this lecture, is on the way to restoring Nullius In Verba after a lapse in a tradition lasting three centuries?

    • AlecM permalink
      October 19, 2016 5:02 pm

      Yes: the new President is a scientist, not an activist.

      Also a previous President, Lord Rees, warned last year that the RS had to remain open-minded, i.e the IPCC claim to ‘settled science’ may not be correct.

      This is because the IPCC has got the basic radiative physics badly wrong by misinterpreting Planck and Bose.

      • johnmarshall permalink
        October 20, 2016 8:52 am

        Perhaps they need to get the definitions of heat. thermal energy and temperature sorted out.

      • AlecM permalink
        October 20, 2016 10:07 am

        It’s simpler than that. Bose and Planck’s analyses are based on the free space energy that exists between two radiant emitters in a vacuum, the origin of the bidirectional photon diffusion argument in Climate Alchemy.

        However, in the case of condensed matter in contact with the atmosphere, assuming unit emissivity/absorptivity for the solid/liquid, so long as the temperatures are the same the interface disappears for every fully self-absorbed GHG IR band. This results from the definition of IR self-absorption.

        No interface, no volume to contain photons, no radiant heating or cooling, QED1. The Alchemists desperately hang onto the mantra that the Pyrgeometer proves bidirectional energy transfer: it doesn’t, QED2.

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