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John F. Clauser: the latest climate science-denying physicist

Posted on 4 September 2023 by dana1981

It’s a familiar story – the physicist who draws attention for declaring that climate scientists have got climate science all wrong. He (it’s always a ‘he’) was born before color television was invented, usually retired, perhaps having won a Nobel Prize, but with zero climate science research or expertise. William Happer. Ivar Giaever. Roger Cohen. Freeman DysonSteven Koonin. Robert Laughlin. The latest example from this mould is John F. Clauser.

Although Clauser has never published any peer-reviewed climate science research, he has made several climate-related claims whose veracity we will examine below.

Yes, humans are responsible for the increase in CO2

In a July 2023 interview with the Epoch Times, Clauser claimed that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) “may or may not be made by human beings. It doesn't really matter where it comes from.

That's a bit like saying, "I don't know what atoms are made of, but it doesn't really matter. Let me tell you why particle physics is all wrong."

In reality, several lines of evidence have proven the incontrovertible fact that the human combustion of fossil fuels – which today releases nearly 40 billion tons of CO2 per year – is entirely responsible for the 50% increase in Earth’s atmospheric CO2 concentrations since the Industrial Revolution. For example, there’s basic accounting: those 40 billion tons of CO2 have to go somewhere, and Earth’s natural sinks like the oceans and biosphere only absorb about half of those emissions. The other half ends up in the atmosphere, as explained in the Denial101x video below. And atmospheric carbon isotope ratio measurements also demonstrate that the CO2 increase is coming from ancient plant matter, a.k.a. fossil fuels.

Anyone who understands even the most basic aspects of climate science should not question such a simple and thoroughly-established fact.

No, clouds won’t save us

The Epoch Times also wrote of Clauser:

He argues that climate is primarily set by what he refers to as the "cloud cover thermostat," a self-regulating process whereby more clouds start to enshroud the Earth when the temperature is too high and vice-versa.

Clouds play a complicated role in Earth’s climate because they both reflect sunlight, causing a cooling effect, and trap heat, causing a warming effect. Higher clouds tend to have a net warming effect while lower clouds tend to have a net cooling effect. How each type of cloud cover will change as the planet warms will determine whether they dampen or amplify global warming on the whole.

So far, both observational evidence and climate modeling suggest that if anything, changes in cloud cover will act to slightly amplify global warming. Moreover, if cloud cover acted as Earth’s thermostat, then we wouldn’t have seen the large historical swings between ice ages and warm periods, as explained in the Denial101x video below. So, the available evidence strongly contradicts Clauser’s hypothesis.

Climate change worsens extreme weather events

In July 2023, Clauser gave a talk at the event Quantum Korea 2023 in which he claimed, “climate change does not cause extreme weather events.

In fact, climate change increases the intensity and/or frequency of many types of extreme weather. This is basic physics. An increased greenhouse effect traps more heat energy within Earth’s climate system. That increased heat raises temperatures, directly causing more extreme heat waves. It also increases evapotranspiration, amplifying droughts in drought-prone regions, and also wildfires. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor (Clauser should read up on the Clausius–Clapeyron relation), which can amplify extreme precipitation and flooding in flood-prone regions. And warmer ocean waters fuel stronger hurricanes.

The World Weather Attribution group has quantified the climate contribution to a number of extreme weather events, and these general relationships have been established by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC is a great scientific body

In his Quantum Korea talk, Clauser also described the IPCC as “one of the worst sources of dangerous misinformation.

In reality, the IPCC is one of the world’s greatest scientific bodies. It is composed of the world’s foremost climate scientists, who every 5 to 8 years devote tremendous amounts of time and effort to author reports summarizing the latest climate science research, without any remuneration whatsoever. The IPCC reports are in fact the world’s best source of accurate and valuable climate science information.

Energy can come from clean sources

In May of 2023, Clauser joined the board of directors of the climate-denying CO2 Coalition, at which time he stated:

In my opinion, there is no real climate crisis. There is, however, a very real problem with providing a decent standard of living to the world’s large population and an associated energy crisis.

Developing nations do need cost-effective energy sources to reduce the number of people living in poverty. But that energy needn’t come from fossil fuels. Africa, for example, has the largest solar power potential in the world, and also vast wind energy potential. As Andrea Willige has argued, the continent could leapfrog fossil fuel infrastructure in favor of decentralized power generation using renewable energy, just as it leapfrogged fixed-line telecommunication infrastructure to move straight to mass mobile phone use. In the process, it would avoid the detrimental health effects associated with fossil fuel air and water pollution, as well as the resulting climate pollution. Moreover, according to Lazard, the costs of clean technologies have fallen so far that solar energy plus storage is often cheaper today than building new fossil fuel power plants.

Old climate denial

Like so many of his old physicist colleagues before him, Clauser has repeated a number of long-debunked climate myths without providing any supporting evidence whatsoever. Until that changes, there is no reason to lend any credence to this brand of stale, reheated climate denial.  Remember: whenever John F. Clauser and his statements related to climate change get bandied about, it is a prime example of using a fake expert on climate change.

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Comments 51 to 66 out of 66:

  1. I get the variability, it's no different from clinical studies, the challenges of getting good data, running controls and placebos, they, too are all over the map and it takes time for a trend to be identified. At least in those we have millions of patients to experiment with, collect data from and alter course of treatment in a short time frame, but we only have one planetary patient, and the treatments proposed are extremely costly and disruptive, and also unfair to many different minorities, an extreme example being Inuits with ATVs and snow machines expected to either erect a solar farm and electrify them or go back to dog teams. Shouldn't they do their part too?

    I was in the field of medical imaging and informatics, PACS and EHR systems and such, awarded eight patents and founded several startups. I hired brilliant ADHD software developers who were often wrong but never in doubt, when they would have a major system upgrade they wished to perform they would ask if they could do it during their work day. Why? Not because their favorite show was on that night, that show was in front of them 18 hours a day. No, it's because that's when our customers were also busiest, and that way if there was a problem they would discover it much more quickly as every button on my phone lit up with screaming radiologists.

    I would explain to them that our clients are customers, not lab rats, you exist to serve them, they do not exist for you to write perfect code, you will do it at midnight and be prepared roll-back at 5. In the climate debate the client is the people, not the planet, as George Carlin put so well decades ago, the planet will be fine long after we are gone, so as in medicine the first rule is to do no harm.

    What I see going on here is similar, folks who want to move ahead full blast, others like me who wish to see more data and test the models, others who could care less either way, either because they feel they have no say in it anyway or have the wealth to both buy a pair of Teslas AND a second home up north.

    Taking the current models and applying them to some other data set than the one they were developed upon is the right way to test them. Perhaps it is classified, but thermocline levels and or temperatures obtained by submarine or sonobouy, some type of terrestrial sub-surface measurements, well water temperatures, whatever, anything that gets us as far away from the noise of weather and cloud reflectivity, there has to be something else out there we have been measuring for the past and will be for the next fifty years that can show the same trend, no matter how small, no matter the lag. There must be some other canary out there.

    Temperatures above and below the weather would put to rest silly arguments about hurricanes in the East Pacific, which if never making landfall two centuries ago may never have been recorded, let alone measured, and other sensationalism thanks to mass media and competing information leading to mass hysteria.

    Kind of reminds me of the windshield pit fiasco in the Pacific NW back in the fifties when some thought fallout from bomb tests in the Marshall Islands was doing something to their cars, the consensus among the social psychiatrists being that for the first time folks were looking AT their windshields instead of THROUGH them.

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  2. Honestly, TWFA, I cannot decipher what any of this post @51 has to do with anything I just explained to you.

    The broad consensus on anthropogenic climate change isn't like a medical study. Think of it this way, it's probably more like the connection between smoking and lung cancer. It's impossible to isolate the precise mechanism that links cigarette smoke to lung cancer, but study after study shows there is a very clear link. But, the tobacco industry wanted everyone to believe the connection was "too complex" or "too imprecise" or "the product of groupthink" or any of many similar arguments.

    Ironically, it is literally the exact same people who devised the tobacco industry's response campaigns to the overwhelming science on smoking that created the fossil fuels industry's campaign of doubt about climate science.

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  3. TWFA , it is clear from your discursive writing style that you are an intelligent guy.   At the same time it is transparent that you are engaging yourself in Motivated Reasoning ~ you have set your goal, your conclusion, and you have assiduously worked backwards to justify it to yourself.

    I am sure that part of you is aware of that . . . while part of you rejects that insight.   Part of you wishes to test yourself against those damn mainstreamers at SkepticalScience  website ~ maybe "they" will give you added information to resolve your conflict, either by allowing you to be persuaded to the mainstream . . . or by allowing part of you to achieve a (self-assessed) performative triumph of intellectual conquest.

    And maybe part of it is to enjoy the hubris of "not running with the crowd".   But whatever way, it comes back to the exercise of Motivated Reasoning.

    Good luck in your journey to self-understanding.

    (And yes, we all need improvement ! )


    Rob Honeycutt : quite right, the biological sciences field is many orders of magnitude more complex than climate physics.  No comparison !


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  4. TWFA:

    Do you realizr how rediculous your claim that if you wait long enough a bigger hurricane will strike the Pacific coast?   We have 500 years of records for that part of the world.  Those records clearly show that hurricanes have become stronger the past 20 years.  If we look at the entire world the record is longer and there are a lot more hurricanes to compare.  The worldwide record conclusively demonstrates to anyone who loois at it that hurricanes are increasing dramatically in strength, spin up much more rapidly than they used to and cause much more damage because they are more powerful.  The fact that you have not learned about hurricanes does not mean that they have not become more powerful.  

    Your entire argument is based on the fact that you are  completely uninformed about the dramatic changes that were predicted in advance by scientists and have now been measured worldwide.

    It is impossible to counter an argument based on ignorance.  You will neve rconvince anyone here about anything.  We have followed the changes you deny.

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  5. Michael, the claim was that the hurricane was the most powerful ever in the East Pacific, not the most powerful recorded or obseved, and frankly I don't know who was recording hurricanes in that region 200 or 500 years ago that never made landfall or how they were measured.

    The climate would and will continue warming at this phase even if man never existed, and with warming comes more weather and stronger weather. I assume all here consider NASA to be a creditable source, in this article last year, while making the usual predictions about what will happen when things get warmer, they cite a single study from 2019 that suggests that the current activity may be outside the natural variability:

    Since the 1980s, the hurricane record has shown a more active period in the North Atlantic Ocean. On average, there have been more storms, stronger hurricanes, and an increase in hurricanes that rapidly intensify. Thus far, most of these increases are from natural climate variations. However, one recent study suggests that the latest increase in the proportion of North Atlantic hurricanes undergoing rapid intensification is a bit too large to be explained by natural variability alone. This could be the beginning of detecting the impact of climate change on hurricanes, the paper states. In contrast, the frequency of hurricanes making U.S. landfall (a subset of North Atlantic hurricanes) has not increased since 1900, despite significant global warming and the heating of the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

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  6. Re - TWFA #55: "The climate would and will continue warming at this phase even if man never existed"

    For that to happen a cause is required. Care to set that out with references?

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  7. TWFA... "The climate would and will continue warming at this phase even if man never existed..."

    Here, yet again, you literally have no clue what you're talking about but present something as if it were fact.

    If you look at the paleo record it is very clear that the Earth was entering a cooling phase due to slow changes in orbital forcings. It's only when humans started burning fossil fuels and substantially altering surface albedo (deforestation, farming, etc) that the planet abruptly changed and entered a steep warming trend.

    Real Climate, Marcott 2013

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  8. TWFA... re: Hurricanes

    This is another example of the limits of your understanding and your proclivity for motivated reasoning. If you were to actually spend time reading the research on hurricanes you'd find a lot of interesting aspects to this issue. 

    1) Cyclonic activity has two effects that work somewhat in opposition to each other. Warming oceans provide more energy to spin up large cyclones, but upper winds tend to tamp them down. That physical element of the processes introduce a lot of uncertainty into the natural vs man-made issue.

    2) Cyclone data is a real bear to wrestle. Older data is sparse due to the fact that the only information comes from early seafaring vessels and areas with low populations. Even 20th century data lacks a great deal of information about size and intensity of storms. Only in the past 10-15 years have scientists been able to track the total energy contained within individual storms.

    The result:

    Yes, cyclonic activity is increasing as human activities warm the planet.

    Yes, storms are spinning up faster and covering larger expanses when they do.

    No, a statistically significant increase in the number of landfall storms isn't yet being obsevered. 

    Once again, there are a number of well written articles on Skeptical Science on precisely this topic by people better informed on this subject than me. I would highly suggest you take the time to read a few of them before continuing on this topic.

    Also, if you have questions or obsevations on that topic, please post in the thread for that article in order to keep your discussion on-topic.

    Thusfar, we have gish-gallopped around quite a few topics here in this thread that is supposed to be relevant to Clauser. 

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  9. Rob Honeycutt @58  [re your final sentence and "gish-gallopped"] ~

    Indeed, poor Dr Clauser seemingly has left the building.

    To confess, I did briefly ponder that TWFA's expansive postings were perhaps the product of one of the newer generations of Chat-GPT.    However ~ the topics raised were too discursive, inapt, and self-oriented to be other than of human origin.  The depth of knowledge was also not up to Chat-GPT's level.

    And the picture formed, of a modern Laocoon (minus sons) struggling with the many large serpents of Global Warming.

    TWFA , please struggle with only one serpent at a time (per one thread).   Other serpents await you on other threads, in accordance with the house rules of SkepticalScience  website.   I admire your confidence in tackling your new career of amateur snake-catcher.

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  10. Gavin Schmidt, over at RealClimate, has posted a take-down of Clauser's claims.

    The closing summary:

    So where does this leave us? Effectively, we have an overconfident Nobel Prize winner, who hasn’t done their homework in an area outside their field, who makes very obvious errors, and whose fame is being capitalized on by the forces of denial. Not really an original story (c.f. Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, etc.), but still a bit of a shame.

    Plus ca change...

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  11. Plus c'est la meme chose...

    Interestingly, Alain Aspect, who is one of the co-recipients of that physics Nobel prize for demonstrating quantum entanglement, has a very different take from Clauser on climate change

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  12. Almost all Nobel Laureates and National Academy of Sciences members have different different views than the handful of outliers that get a lot of outsized attention. 

    In 2015 and 2016, 76 Nobel Laureates signed the Mainau Declaration on Climate Change with an urgent warning about the consequences of climate change.

    I have scoured the internet looking for NAS members who appear to be climate change skeptics, contrarians or deniers.  I have found 7 living members, two of which are Nobel Laureates, Ivar Giaever and Robert Laughlin.  The other five are Claude Alegre, John Dewey, William Happer, Richard Linzen and Steven Koonin.  As of 2022 there were 2493 NAS members.  These seven are all over 70 and represent 0.3%. If I'm off by a factor of 3, they will still represent less than 1%. 

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  13. I quote from the article introduction:

    "It’s a familiar story – the physicist who draws attention for declaring that climate scientists have got climate science all wrong. He (it’s always a ‘he’) was born before color television was invented, usually retired, perhaps having won a Nobel Prize, but with zero climate science research or expertise. William Happer."

    I don't know if the writer of the article is a scientist or not but it starts with some rather unscientific viewpoints, namely by suggesting that male, retired physicists are not qualified to comment on climate matters. What does it matter what sex they are or how old they are? In relation to physicists, I don't know about the others in the list given, but William Happer would, I would have thought, certainly qualify to comment on the global warming debate given that if you have watched any of his presentations on this topic, you'll know that his field of research was the absorption of infra-red radiation by CO2 molecular stretches and bends - very apt in the climate debate I would have thought, given that it is precisely CO2 that is being posited as the culprit in current global warming trends. He also openly admits that he was once a climate alarmist until his work led him to believe he was wrong. 
    I am not a climate scientist- my background is chemistry- but there are certain apparent facts that appear to be ignored in the current debate, namely that we know the earth warmed before about 1000 years ago in the medieval warming period and again about 2000 years ago in the Roman period. These warmings cannot have been due to human activity given that there were no combustion engines or factories around and world population was vastly lower than today. I believe it's also true that in the last ice age the level of atmospheric CO2 was at least 10 times current levels - which according to IPCC thinking ought to have produced a blisteringly hot climate - yet there was an ice age. Whilst not denying that CO2 is x greenhouse gas, these facts do tend to cast doubt on just how potent a greenhouse gas CO2 really is. I believe Dr Roy Spencer, who is a meteorologist not a physicist and also not retired ( though he is male) has similar views to the listed physicists. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] If there is going to be further discussion of past warm periods, please use the search function to find more suitable places for discussion. Eg for mediaval warm period, see

    Happer and Spencer seem to have stuck priors, and credibility only with those who dont know climate science but like their conclusions. See for instance. Search function will find other discussion of Happer's misinformed claims and errors.

  14. Re #63: " I believe it's also true that in the last ice age the level of atmospheric CO2 was at least 10 times current levels - which according to IPCC thinking ought to have produced a blisteringly hot climate - yet there was an ice age. "

    You believe incorrectly unless by "last ice age" you are referring to something hundreds of millions of years ago.

    During the last glacial maximum of the Quaternary, ca. 23,000 years ago, CO2 was around 180 ppm.

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  15. AB19:

    Both the midieval warming period and the Roman period you mention were local warming events and not global events.  The current warming is global.  The Globe cooled from about 8,000 years ago until about 200 years ago, when the industrial period of burning a lot of fossil fuels started.

    temperature last 12,000 years 

    source There is an arrow that indicates 2016, since then the temperature has risen about 0.3 C.  The temperature is currently about 1.3 C above the zero point.  There is no significant rise to support your claims.

    When you have the basic facts incorrect your conclusions are also incorrect.  You appear to be sadly misinformed. I recommend that you try reading more scientific web sites and less denier information.  SkS is a good place to start.  

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  16. AB19:

    In support of John Mason at 64, here is the carbon dioxide graph:

    carbon dioxide graph

    The graph is from the Royal Society CO2 concentrations from ice cores go back about 800,000 years.  As you can see, the last 200 years are completely exceptional.  The antarctic temperature has not yet responded as much as global temperatures above.

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