Qing-Bin Lu revives debunked claims about cosmic rays and CFCs

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A new paper by Qing-Bin Lu in the International Journal of Modern Physics B is gaining coverage for its claim that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), not CO2, is causing global warming. This sensationalist headline is often repeated with little mention that Lu’s claims are not new, and have not held up to scientific scrutiny in the past. 

The following is a guest post by Climate Nexus. Text in PDF format here.

Qing-Bin Lu Revives Debunked Claims About Cosmic Rays and CFCs

A new paper by Qing-Bin Lu in the International Journal of Modern Physics B is gaining coverage for its claim that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), not CO2, is causing global warming. This sensationalist headline is often repeated with little mention that Lu’s claims are not new, and have not held up to scientific scrutiny in the past. In fact, Lu has been promoting his theories about CFCs for years, and mainstream scientists have found no merit in them. Critics have said Lu makes a fundamental scientific error by confusing correlation with causation, and does not effectively challenge the physical evidence of the warming effects of CO2, a body of knowledge built up over 150 years.

The claim:

Lu argues that CFCs are responsible for causing global warming. He uses a complicated chain of logic starting with the premise that it is cosmic rays, not UV rays as most scientists think, that break down CFCs, and ending with the finding that after his calculations, the estimated warming impact of CFCs matches up closely with actual measured surface temperatures. He concludes that it must be CFCs, not CO2, that are causing surface temperatures to rise.

The facts:

-       This theory has been considered and dismissed before. A 2010 report by the National Academies of Science was commissioned by Congress to examine all the evidence surrounding global warming including the theory that cosmic rays might influence Earth’s climate. It concluded that “a plausible physical mechanism… has not been demonstrated” and “cosmic rays are not regarded as an important climate forcing.”

-       In 2011, a peer-reviewed paper found that Lu’s conclusions “are based solely on correlation… do not have a physical basis… and the findings of the IPCC… remain unchallenged.”

-       In response to Lu’s most recent publication, several different scientists interviewed by the Vancouver Sun each said that Lu’s conclusions “[go] against 150 years of very fundamental physics.”

-       Critics point out that Lu’s paper fails to make the leap from correlation to causation, one of the most basic and most common scientific failings. This error is simply illustrated in the classic fable of the rooster who believes the sun rises because he crows. Two things may happen at the same time, but this does not mean one causes the other. A “physical mechanism” by which the two events are connected must be known, in order to fully understand causation.

-       In contrast, there is strong experimental evidence of the physical mechanism by which CO2 warms the planet, evidence that (as scientists have mentioned already in response to Lu) dates back 150 years.

*    *    *

Also see: Response by Qing-Bin Lu to “Qing-Bin Lu revives debunked claims about cosmic rays and CFCs” (June 5)

Earlier guest posts by Climate Nexus:

House Science Committee chair twists climate science in Washington Post

Global warming misconceptions on BBC radio

Tired, disproven argument on “benefits” of CO2 resurfaces in Wall Street Journal

Drought study misses underlying climate connections

Setting the Temperature Record Straight: The Last 11,300 Years Explained

Pielke Jr. implies conspiracy over routine journal procedure

James Taylor misinterprets study by 180 degrees

James Taylor's deceptive attempt to discredit National Climate Assessment experts

In Wall Street Journal op-ed, Bjorn Lomborg urges delay with misleading stats

On floods and climate change

Scientists respond to the Wall Street Journal's latest junk-science climate predictions

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14 Responses to Qing-Bin Lu revives debunked claims about cosmic rays and CFCs

  1. John says:

    1. Unfortunately, the 2011 peer-reviewed paper by Müller and Grooß, mentioned in the guest post, has been found that the authors used fabricated data. After this scientific misconduct was revealed [see, arXiv:1210.1498 (2012)], Müller and Grooß has yielded that "The months for which the data were shown were not correctly indicated. ... the data do not cover this complete latitude range especially they do not extend to the South Pole" [J.-W. Grooß and R. Müller, Atmos. Environ. 68, 350 (2013)].

    2. In his new paper, Dr. Lu did not simply use "correlation" to draw his conclusions. On the contrary, he made not only in-depth statistical analyses of observed data but also detailed calculations of the IPCC "greenhouse effect" of CO2 (assuming no saturation in the greenhouse effect of CO2 in spite of the extremely high CO2 concentrations nearly 400 ppm) and of the real greenhouse effect of CFCs.

    3. The peer reviewers of Lu's paper allowed Dr. Lu to write "These results provide SOLID evidence that recent global warming was indeed caused by the greenhouse effect of anthropogenic halogenated gases. Thus, a slow reversal of global temperature to the 1950 value is predicted for coming 5~7 decades. ... All the observed, analytical and theoretical results presented lead to a CONVINCING conclusion that both the CRE mechanism and the CFC-warming mechanism not only provide new fundamental understandings of the O3 hole and global climate change but have superior predictive capabilities, compared with the conventional models." (see even just the abstract of Lu's new paper).

    Therefore, the "guest post" is totally misleading!!!

    • Hunter Cutting, Climate Nexus says:

      Point #1 by the commenter is factually wrong. Müller and Grooß stand by their debunking of Lu's attempt to link cosmic rays to global warming. The error cited by the commenter amounted to incorrect figure titles. In their published correction Müller and Grooß write: "We apologize for any confusion that may have been caused by the incorrect figure titles. We note, however, that all conclusions of the paper remain unchanged." They also note that "the number of data points has increased slightly, due to additional ACE-FTS observations that have become available since the submission" which further bolsters their debunking of Lu's prior work . The 2013 correction can be found in full at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231012010837

      Regarding Point #2, in this context, "in depth statistical analysis" is just another way of saying correlation.

      Regarding Point #3: It is indeed disturbing that this paper was published after peer review, particularly given the history of this particular line of research. However, it happens that some papers passed through peer review are later overturned. And indeed, Qing-Bin Lu's prior papers on this subject have been debunked. This is exactly why authoritative review and assessment of ALL the research on a particular topic is necessary. And in this case the National Academies of Science conducted just such an assessment and found no merit to the idea that cosmic rays cause global warming. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12782. In this context, it is worth noting that the journal that printed this paper (International Journal of Modern Physics B Condensed Matter Physics; Statistical Physics; Applied Physics) is the lowest ranked of all the physics journals in publication, by quite a large margin: http://kofegeek.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/list-of-physics-journals-impact-factors-2011/

  2. dan says:

    Both theories are founded on first principles as well as correlation, but where CFC's have started to drop out of the atmospheric equation, correlated with the recent 10-15 year flattening of the temperature curve, CO2 levels have steadily risen, requiring an ad hoc hypothesis-fiddling that the oceans and ice are a heat-sink buffer, an idea that should have been factored into predictive algorithms many years ago.

    The CFC-cosmic ray correlation would have been adequately debunked in previous years, yes, but the thermal stasis that has now dawned on CO2—> Thermal theorists makes it worth objective re-consideration.

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      See Kevin Trenberth today for a brief discussion of ocean heat and surface temperatures:

      http://climatecrocks.com/2013/06/01/the-weekend-wonk-trenberth-on-ocean-heat-and-surface-temps/

      • dan says:

        I'd prefer he drew his horizontal through the ~1997—2013 period, but I suppose his point was to arbitrarily make a decadal comparison. Obviously 'the warmest decade' plays well in the press, but any set of decades of late separated by 10 years is going to end in a 'warmest' decade.

    • jsam says:

      Ad hoc hypothesis fiddle? Damn those scientists for continuing to discover new things. Why can't they just discover everything the once and be done with it?

      • Guille says:

        It's not 'discovering new things,' the problem is making modifications to an otherwise set-in-stone theory. It's not quite a simple correction factor, but an entire addition to explain the phenomenon while continuing to use the same previous line of reasoning. While I don't deny it could be right, typically, as Occam's Razor states, the simplest case is the correct one.

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  4. Carolyn says:

    Ouch...I would not want to be this scientist. Having these statements said about my research would be beyond humiliating

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