The Great Global Warming Blunder: Roy Spencer asserts (and Morano parrots), “I predict that the proposed cure for global warming “ reducing greenhouse gas emissions “ will someday seem as outdated as using leeches to cure human illnesses.”

Uhh, guys, doctors still use medicinal leeches!

Few folks have been as wrong about climate science as Marc Morano and Dr. Roy Spencer.  So it’s no big surprise to see this laughable screaming headline on ClimateDepotted:


Morano apparently couldn’t spend 30 seconds on Google to find the link to Spencer’s post on his new memoir, The Great Global Warming Blunder: How Mother Nature Fooled the Climate Scientist who Wrote this Book.  [Okay, I may have changed the subtitle a little bit, but it’s Spencer who insists on using unintentionally ironic titles for his novels, like Climate Confusion.]

For those who don’t follow the professional disinformers closely, Spencer (and John Christy) famously made a bunch of analytical blunders and spent years pushing the now long-overturned notion that the satellite data didn’t show significant warming (see “Should you believe anything John Christy and Roy Spencer say?“).  Now Spencer is claiming that “When properly interpreted, our satellite observations actually reveal” that the climate system is insensitive to carbon dioxide.  Yes, well, he has the secret recipe for properly mis-interpreting satellite data.

But it’s the leeches stuff that shows he also can’t even be bothered to spend 30 seconds using Google to check his own analogies.  Here’s the screen capture before he edits it:

Spencer post

So many whoppers, so little time.  First, of course, it is simply basic physics that carbon dioxide traps heat — that’s why they call it a greenhouse gas (see, for instance, Exclusive new analysis by climatologist Ken Caldeira explains “the burning of organic carbon warms the Earth about 100,000 times more from climate effects than it does through the release of chemical energy in combustion”).

Second, that human activity is responsible for most (if not essentially all) recent warming is also pretty straightforward physics (see “What percentage of global warming is due to human causes vs. natural causes?“).  If you want to understand why scientists are so certain that CO2 is such a big driver of our climate, you should watch Richard Alley’s lively talk AGU video, explains “The Biggest Control Knob: Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s Climate History.”

Third, to falsify basic climate physics you can’t just float your own unproven idea — you would actually have to come up with a mechanism that would negate the well-understood warming from all that carbon dioxide.  Good luck.

Fourth, the analogy to leeches, of course, shows how little effort Spencer puts into checking what he writes.  I actually thought it was pretty well known that people are still using medicinal leeches.   Google will quickly lead you to a bunch of popular articles and peer-reviewed medical studies.  Here’s the “European medical leech” entry in Wikipedia:

Medicinal leeches are now making a comeback in microsurgery. They provide an effective means to reduce blood coagulation, relieve venous pressure from pooling blood (venous insufficiency), and in reconstructive surgery to stimulate circulation in reattachment operations for organs with critical blood flow, such as eye lids, fingers, and ears.


It is downright bizarre that both Morano and Spencer are proud of an analogy that is so anti-scientific on both ends it actually makes the exact opposite point from the one they are trying to make.

Fifth, and this is a truly egregious whopper, Spencer argues that because “nature is gobbling up 50% of what humanity produces” it is somehow “logical” that “nature “” that life on Earth “” has actually been starved for carbon dioxide.”  Presumably by “nature” he means natural land and ocean sinks (as opposed to the atmosphere).  Yet he is way too clever a guy to be unaware of the fact that “The global oceanic sink removed 26% of all CO2 emissions for the period 2000-2008.”  In short, of the CO2 which Spencer asserts “nature “” that life on Earth” is “gobbling up,” half is going into the ocean and acidifying it, helping to render it inhospitable to marine life (see discussion at Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred).

So Spencer is blatantly misrepresenting the most basic understanding we have of the “natural” CO2 sinks.  There is little doubt that the staggering amounts of CO2 we are pouring into the air aren’t our “friend” — especially if we listen to Spencer and his fellow disinformers and keep doing nothing to restrict emissions.

Caldeira has made exquisitely clear that “carbon dioxide is the right villain.”  He says, “I compare CO2 emissions to mugging little old ladies….  Carbon dioxide emissions represent a real threat to humans and natural systems.”

As for Spencer, he keeps getting debunked as fast as he can print his global warming blunders.  Back in 2008, I wrote about RealClimate’s multiple takedowns.  RC utterly skewered one Spencer dis-analysis “” misanalysis doesn’t seem a strong enough word for what he did (see RC’s “How to cook a graph in three easy lessons“). RC calls it “shameless cookery.” If you like semi-technical discussions, then I strongly recommend the post.

Spencer of course was wrong “” dead wrong “” for a very long time, which created one of the most enduring denier myths, that the satellite data didn’t show the global warming that the surface temperature data did. As RealClimate explained:

We now know, of course, that the satellite data set confirms that the climate is warming , and indeed at very nearly the same rate as indicated by the surface temperature records. Now, there’s nothing wrong with making mistakes when pursuing an innovative observational method, but Spencer and Christy sat by for most of a decade allowing “” indeed encouraging “” the use of their data set as an icon for global warming skeptics. They committed serial errors in the data analysis, but insisted they were right and models and thermometers were wrong. They did little or nothing to root out possible sources of errors, and left it to others to clean up the mess, as has now been done.

So after that history, we’re supposed to savor all Roy’s new cookery?

That’s an awful lot to swallow.

Amazingly (or not), the “serial errors in the data analysis” all pushed the (mis)analysis in the same, wrong direction. Coincidence? You decide. But I find it hilarious that the deniers and delayers still quote Christy/Spencer/UAH analysis lovingly, but to this day dismiss the “hockey stick” and anything climatologist Michael Mann writes, when his analysis was in fact vindicated by the august National Academy of Sciences in 2006 and subsequent independent research.

Michael Mann himself recently wrote of Christy and Spencer:

A few years ago, independent teams of scientists got a hold of their satellite data and after repeated questioning of them about their methods found that there were two critical errors in their algorithm.  One of them was a sign error in the diurnal correction term, the other was an algebraic error. Once those errors were corrected by other scientists, the Christy and Spencer claim that satellite data contradict surface evidence of warming evaporated.

Once some serious climatologists look at Spencer’s latest work, it will no doubt turn out to be another great global warming blunder.


21 Responses to The Great Global Warming Blunder: Roy Spencer asserts (and Morano parrots), “I predict that the proposed cure for global warming “ reducing greenhouse gas emissions “ will someday seem as outdated as using leeches to cure human illnesses.”

  1. Dan B says:

    Are these guys motivated by a desire to be noticed, no matter “how” they’re noticed?

    Or are they true believers of the “fossil fuels will never run out and made our civilization possible” types? (And if we use sustainable energy we’ll go back to the Stone Age…)

    It seems incredible that people would not make the connection between climate change from excessive fossil fuel use, combined with Peak Oil, and the transition we’re making to 21st Century clean energy.

  2. mike roddy says:

    One time I got stuck in a car with an engineer after a convention, driving from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. The conversation was all about whether the earth was, in fact, 6,000 years old. He cited studies questioning carbon dating, mentioned revealing photos showing rapid geologic weathering around the time of Noah’s flood- etc. By the time we got to Los Angeles, I was ready for the nuthouse.

    Spencer also believes that the earth is 6,000 years old. His scientific data dwells in the same rabbit hole.

    Climate catastrophe is a win-win for them. They get to go to The Rapture that much sooner, so need not be troubled by “facts”.

    If guys like Spencer (and plenty of them are in Congress and run oil and coal companies) succeed in stalling serious action to control runaway warming, we will have nature’s verdict: humanity is a failed experiment.

  3. Mike says:

    I am just starting to read your post and his. But I found Spencer’s concluding sentence(s) interesting:

    “I am hoping the debate will finally begin.

    Comments are closed.”

  4. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Even if Spencer were right and nature was starved for CO2 it still doesn’t follow that more CO2 is good for humans. We developed a civilization in a “CO2 starved” world. Feeding more CO2 into that world will still change things, and with no guarantee that we will like the changes.

    I also find the analogy faulty. Using his logic, the oceans are H-ion starved as they’re gobbling up (buffering) those H-ions as fast as they as they fall in. H ions are beneficial as they’re the ions that are used in the production of ATP in aerobic organisms, including bacteria. So more H ions=more ATP=more energy=more life, so let’s not curtail acid rain….it’s just animal food. ;)

  5. Mike says:

    Spencer’s main claim is that current climate models misrepresent the role of clouds. See:

    Realclimate responded here:

    I haven’t read through all this, so I am not “taking sides” except that it is clear the majority of professional climatologists have considered Spencer’s theory and have not been persuaded.

  6. sod says:

    how he could miss the leeches thing is beyond me. this must be one of the most stupid analogies ever made.

    completely destroys his argument.

  7. Alex says:

    very interesting post..

  8. caerbannog says:

    Folks may wonder why really smart people like engineers, doctors, etc. can still be global-warming deniers…

    Here’s a story that might clear things up a bit.

    A traveling salesman gets a flat tire on his way to a sales appointment. He pulls off to the side of the road right in front of an insane asylum. He gets out of the car (cursing under his breath at his misfortune), looks at the flat tire, opens the trunk and pulls out the jack. He jacks up the car, removes the hubcap from the flat tire, removes the lug-nuts and places them in the hubcap (so as not to lose them). He then walks back around to the trunk to the fetch the spare tire, steps on the hubcap and sends the lug-nuts skittering down the gutter into the storm-drain.

    Realizing what he what he had just done, he launches into a cursing-fit, “What the f&@!# will I do now? Holy f*@^ sh*t! I’ll never make it to my f*&@ing appointment in time!!!

    An inmate in the asylum who was watching the whole event calls out to the salesman, “Why don’t you just remove one lug-nut from each of the other three wheels and use them to install the spare? Then you can swing by a service station, buy three more lug-nuts and you’ll be on your way in no time.”

    The salesman replied, “That’s a terrific idea!” I never would have thought of that in a million years in my current state of mind….”

    The salesman then followed up, “Say, what’s a really smart guy like you doing locked up in a place like that?”

    The inmate replied, “I’m not here because I’m stupid; I’m here because I’m crazy.”

    And that pretty much sums up the high-IQ contingent of the global-warming denial movement.

  9. caerbannog says:

    Of course, that should be *four* more lug-nuts.

  10. Richard Brenne says:

    Putting together Mike Roddy’s great last paragraph (#1) and Caerbannog’s equally great story (#5), was the smart guy in the insane asylum Mike Roddy?

  11. Esop says:

    Spencer is getting more desperate by the day as his UAH data does not show the predicted cooling. Rather the opposite, in fact. No wonder they are coming out with new versions 5.3, 5.4 and so on, all designed to suppress the increasingly more obvious warming signal.

  12. Richard Brenne says:

    Regarding Morano, Spencer and leeches, I guess it takes one to know one.

  13. J Bowers says:

    Dan B: “Or are they true believers of the “fossil fuels will never run out and made our civilization possible” types? (And if we use sustainable energy we’ll go back to the Stone Age…)”

    Download this PDF and note the author names. Be sure to read page 21 (22 in Acrobat Reader):
    A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming

  14. mark says:

    “humanity is a failed experiment.”

    Is there an average, or median time span, for species in general?

    In other words, if Homo Sapiens has existed for two hundred thousand years, is that a typical span for a species to survive?

  15. Chris Dudley says:

    Spencer seems to have a strange interpretation of the Earth’s inability to absorb half the carbon we want to force down its throat. If you are serving dinner and half of the food is left on the plate no matter how much you serve, it is a bit like finding a trout in the milk. The most likely conclusion is that your cooking is atrocious and the diner is only being polite in forcing down what is eaten.

  16. PurpleOzone says:

    I think carbon dioxide is dangerous. Answer me this: what’s happened to almost all of the people who have been inhaling it for a century or more?

  17. catman306 says:

    Mark asks: In other words, if Homo Sapiens has existed for two hundred thousand years, is that a typical span for a species to survive?
    I’ll answer a slightly different question: ‘How long does a typical species survive before extinction.’

    It all depends… on many, many factors. But the one we’re most interested in here at ClimateProgress is: how stable is the climate and for how long has it been stable.

    Every time the climate changes many species go extinct. If the climate is stable locally or worldwide for many millions of years, many new species will evolve to fill every conceivable niche often creating new niches to be filled by even more species. Stability of climate builds diversity. Lack of climate stability causes mass extinctions and only a few species are able to survive leading to a lack of bio-diversity. A high altitude desert is an example of limited bio-diversity. A rain forest is an example of great species bio-diversity.

  18. Richard Brenne says:

    Mark (#14), you ask one of the greatest and most meaningful questions about the possible life span of humanity. I’m researching and addressing this in my forthcoming book.

    This can be answered on many levels, starting with the most optimistic and going to the most pessimistic.

    Generalists and omnivores that are supremely adaptable have often done well and with various changes have evolved in various incarnations for millions, tens of millions and in some cases a couple of hundred million years and generalists and omnivores include cockroaches, rats, crows and us.

    Climate change is hardest on specialists, and they’re dying off at perhaps a thousand times the natural background rate of extinction due to these human causes: Habitat loss due to agriculture and other human development, introduction of non-native species that predate or out-compete native species, overhunting and overfishing, pollution of all kinds, and climate change. Climate change will climb to the top of that list over time.

    Large mammals seem to average about four million years, all other things being equal. We might be tempted to say “Woo-Hoo! We’re only 200,000 years old!” but if you count our homo erectus ancestors we might be 1.8 million years old and if we count hominids at the time of the separation from chimpanzees we go back seven million years and then we might instead say “D-Oh!” because we’d be about three million years overdue. Of course if we’re Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee everything happened within about six thousand years and then the evolution of at least intelligence appears to have stopped altogether.

    As the most sentient of all species in Earth’s history we might be able to change our course of destruction.

    But we’re often the stupidest of all species. What predator goes hunting and expects to sustain itself with a probability of success like winning a lottery? We seem susceptible to becoming mind-numbingly stupid.

    The Fermi Paradox asks why we don’t hear from anyone else in the Universe via radio waves that travel at the speed of light. The most obvious answer appears to be that civilizations that develop enough sophistication like ours inevitably destroy themselves through nuclear weapons or changing their climate: The former is still possible and we’re doing the latter. Thus they kill themselves or at least advanced technology before we hear from them.

    If we listen to advertising, corporations and the current conservative, Republican right it appears virtually certain that we’ll destroy ourselves in just some small number of centuries at most. James Lovelock thinks a tiny fraction of us could survive (contrary to our lottery mentality, if 999 out of every thousand people die, no, you or I probably won’t be among the survivors) while James Hansen thinks we’re creating a dead planet like Venus. For my money those are the two greatest experts on the subject.

    But if we listen to Lincoln’s “Better angels of our natures” I feel any amount of good is possible, no matter how unseen it might currently seem. Because we can’t control anyone else (despite our best efforts to educate them), we need to listen to these better angels ourselves, and one by one help others to do the same.

  19. Chester says:

    Spencer is a creationist. That tells you everything you need to know about him as a scientist.

  20. Some call me Tim says:

    And who funds this junk science propaganda?

  21. mike roddy says:

    Nice food for thought today, Richard Brenne, and the book you describe is needed.

    I’ve been called worse than the smart guy in the insane asylum. Since you’re movie literate, you probably know Lilith, with Warren Beatty and Jean Seberg- a very underrated movie about insanity.