By Jan Jekielek and Mimi Nguyen Ly
Nobel Prize laureate John Clauser has recently been in the spotlight for challenging prevailing climate models, which he says have ignored a key variable.
Mr. Clauser, who recently became a recipient of the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contributions to quantum mechanics, holds degrees from Caltech and Columbia University. He served in roles at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the University of California, Berkeley. In 2010, he was honored with a portion of the Wolf Prize in Physics.
Recently, Mr. Clauser joined another Nobel laureate and over 1,600 professionals in signing the World Climate Declaration (WCD) organized by Climate Intelligence (CLINTEL). This declaration asserts that there is no “climate emergency,” that climate change science is not conclusive, and that the earth’s history over thousands of years shows a consistently changing climate.
The WCD highlights the limitations of current climate models, stating they overemphasize the impact of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). “In addition, [climate models] ignore the fact that enriching the atmosphere with CO2 is beneficial,” the WCD reads, in part.
The declaration further notes that both natural and human activities contribute to climate change and the actual warming observed is less than as predicted by the climate models, revealing our incomplete understanding of climate change.
In an interview with The Epoch Times’s “American Thought Leaders,” Mr. Clauser voiced his reservations about current climate research quality and contends that U.S. climate policies are misguided.
Prominent climate reports, such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), National Academy of Sciences, and the Royal Society, emphasize the role of CO2 but miss the mark on the critical role of clouds in the climate system, according to Mr. Clauser.
His curiosity about clouds began as a sailboat racer. He recalled, “I raced across the Pacific Ocean at least a dozen times. I had set up the boat with solar panels to charge the batteries. … I had an ammeter on the power output from the solar panels, and I noticed every time we sailed under a cloud, the output from the solar panels dropped by 50 percent to half of its value that it was, and then we came out from behind the cloud and boom, their power went back up. And I thought, ‘I wonder why it’s just about a factor of two.'”
“This is how I became very curious as to how clouds work. When the climate issues came along, I very quickly realized that cloud cover has a profound effect on the earth’s heat input that the clouds are reflecting a massive amount of light back out into space.
“And so I read all of the various IPCC reports, National Academy reports on this,” he continued. “As a physicist, I’d worked at some excellent institutions— Caltech, Columbia, Cal Berkeley—where very careful science needed to be done. And reading these reports, I was appalled at how sloppy the work was. And in particular, it was very obvious, even in the earliest reports, and all carried on through to the present, that clouds were not at all understood. … It’s just simply bad science.”
Mr. Clauser highlighted insights from former President Barack Obama’s science adviser, Steve Koonin. In Mr. Koonin’s book, “Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters,” the author noted the inconsistency of the IPCC’s 40 computer models, emphasizing their inability to explain the past century’s climate and suggesting that these models lack a crucial piece of physics.
‘The Missing Piece’
Mr. Clauser said he believes he has identified a significant oversight in prevailing climate models.
“I believe I have the missing piece of the puzzle that has been left out in virtually all of these computer programs,” he stated. “And that is the effect of clouds.”
While many theories of anthropogenic climate change focus primarily on the impact of human-produced CO2, Mr. Clauser argues that these models overlook the significance of cloud dynamics.
He referenced the 2003 National Academy report, which, he said, “totally admitted” its lack of understanding about clouds, and made “a whole series of mistaken statements regarding the effects of clouds.”
Drawing attention to Al Gore’s film, “The Inconvenient Truth,” Mr. Clauser noted, “Mr. Gore insists on talking about a cloud-free earth … That’s a totally artificial Earth.” According to Mr. Clauser, this cloudless portrayal of the earth reflects the approach taken by many in the climate science community.
“That’s a totally artificial Earth. It is a totally artificial case for using a model, and this is pretty much what the IPCC and others use—a cloud free earth.”
Emphasizing the real-world dynamics, Mr. Clauser pointed out that satellite images consistently show wide variances in cloud cover, which can span anywhere from five to 95 percent of the Earth’s surface.
“The cloud cover fraction fluctuates quite dramatically on daily weekly timescales. We call this weather. You can’t have weather without having clouds,” he said.
Effect of Clouds Compared to CO2
Clouds play a paramount role in regulating the Earth’s temperature, serving as a “cloud-sunlight-reflectivity thermostat” that “controls the climate, controls the temperature of the earth, and stabilizes it very powerfully and very dramatically,” asserts Mr. Clauser.
With two-thirds of the Earth being oceanic, the ocean becomes instrumental in cloud formation, he said.
Minimal clouds result in heightened sunlight exposure to the ocean, triggering increased evaporation and subsequent cloud formation, resulting in more clouds. On the contrary, abundant clouds reduce this sunlight, thus curbing evaporation rates and cloud formation, resulting in fewer clouds, Mr. Clauser explains.
This balance acts like a natural thermostat for the earth’s temperature, he said.
Mr. Clauser contends that this “thermostat” mechanism has a vastly greater influence on Earth’s temperature than the effect of CO2 or methane. He presented to The Epoch Times preliminary calculations that suggest that the impact of this cloud-reflectivity mechanism might overshadow CO2’s influence by more than 100 or even 200 times.
All clouds, irrespective of their altitude or type, appear bright white when viewed from the direction of the sun, according to Mr. Clauser. They typically reflect almost 90 percent of incoming sunlight, he said. The reflectivity fraction is referred to as albedo. The albedo has been inaccurately kept constant in various climate models, Mr. Clauser argues.
He finds it baffling how these significant variations, ranging from five to 95 percent cloud cover, have been overlooked.
Mr. Clauser further underscores that clouds are integral to weather dynamics, and yet, current climate models, whose authors “admit upfront that their models cannot predict weather,” have been wielded to foretell drastic climatic shifts, including “climate crisis apocalypse.”
The term “climate” refers to long-term, typically 30 years or more, weather condition averages. While reliable weather forecasts are limited to about a week with standard weather prediction models, which take into account the role of clouds, Mr. Clauser points out a contradiction noted in Mr. Koonin’s book: just a 5 percent rise in cloud cover can largely counterbalance the temperature effect of doubling atmospheric CO2. Despite such nuances, according to Mr. Clauser, the IPCC’s models persistently assume constant albedo, and ignore the vast cloud cover variations.
‘Very Dishonest Disinformation’
Mr. Clauser observed that the drive to address human-induced climate change is increasingly shaping political agendas and influencing the strategic direction of entire nations.
“The whole world is doing all of this. A lot of the pressure is actually coming from Europe, all of these various world conferences” he said, speculating much of this push might have its roots in Mr. Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” which he feels has incorporated inaccurate science.
Mr. Gore’s film claims that humanity is triggering a dire climate crisis that necessitates global action. But Mr. Clauser contends: “‘Climate change’ is actually very dishonest disinformation that has been presented by various politicians.”
He pinpoints a 2013 Physics Today article (pdf) by Jane Lubchenco and Thomas Karl as pivotal in shaping the narrative, especially during the period when “global warming” was being rebranded as “climate change.”
“The reason that was given was ‘well, because it’s really more than just warming,'” he said. The article champions a “U.S. Climate Extremes Index,” claiming that anthropogenic climate change led to a significant increase in extreme weather events over the past three decades ending in 2012.
The index is supposedly backed by a century’s worth of data from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and is said to combine various metrics including floods, hurricanes, and droughts.
Curiously, Mr. Clauser noted, the index leaves out the frequency of EF3+ tornadoes—perhaps because, as highlighted by Mr. Koonin in his book, those were on a noticeable decline. “This, in my opinion, is a rather egregious breach of honesty by the U.S. government by NOAA,” Mr. Clauser said.
He used data from the article and plotted it chronologically and also in reverse. From this, Mr. Clauser observed that the two plots were virtually indistinguishable, challenging the assertion of an obvious rise in the index.
“Are you really willing to bet trillions of dollars that you know which plot is right? … Is it really increasing? It is clearly not,” he said.
“Not only, as I understand it, are these extreme weather events not increasing, but our ability to mitigate them has increased. So they’re just not as much of an issue,” Mr. Clauser said, adding later, “This worry about CO2, the worry about methane, the worry about global warming, is all a total fabrication by shocked journalists and or dishonest politicians.”
On the contrary, Mr. Clauser agrees with the CO2 Coalition, which argues that CO2 is a beneficial gas.
“Historically, for example, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the CO2 levels were 10 times bigger than what we are experiencing right now,” he said. “Dinosaurs couldn’t have survived on this earth with this low CO2 level today, because you don’t grow trees fast enough and foliage fast enough to feed them.”
“Promoting CO2 as being actually a beneficial gas, as far as I can tell, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “And in particular, as I have just mentioned earlier, it is not at all significant in controlling the earth’s climate.”
Mr. Clauser criticized U.S. government efforts to reduce CO2 and methane as a colossal misuse of resources better allocated for humanitarian endeavors. Such initiatives, he argues, “should be stopped immediately.”
“It’s a total waste of money and time and effort. It is strangling industry,” he said.
But Mr. Clauser is not holding his breath.
“My suspicion is what I am saying here will be totally ignored because people don’t like being told that they’ve made big mistakes of this magnitude,” he said.