Gerard Rennick and the Dunning-Kruger Effect 3

I promise this will be the last examination of the idiocy of Gerard Rennick, at least for a while. The first effort in dealing with his idiocy was stuff that was available in the media1, while the second was an examination of his speech in parliament on the Climate Change Bill 20222. This third instalment is a continuation of the latter, as Rennick’s speech3 was too long and the instances of idiocy too numerous to cover in an essay of reasonable length. So, here we go again.

Rennick starts on carbon dioxide itself in the latter part of his speech. He said: “Carbon dioxide, ironically enough, actually absorbs energy only at certain frequencies. One of those frequencies happens to be 2.8 microns [this is a measure of wavelength, not frequency], which is incoming radiation. Another frequency it absorbs at [sic] is 14.8 microns, which just happens to be outgoing long-wave radiation”3. To call this silly is to a disservice to silly people. The main absorption lines (the wavelengths of light absorbed) by carbon dioxide are at wavelengths of 14.9, 4.3, 2.7, and 2 μm (microns). For him to say that incoming radiation is at 2.8 microns is incorrect insofar as it is incomplete. Incoming radiation from the sun extends from ultraviolet to near infrared with wavelengths mostly extending from 0.3 μm to 3.5 μm. The absorption lines for carbon dioxide in this interval (i.e. those at 2 and 2.7 μm) are relatively weak. So, while carbon dioxide absorbs some incoming solar radiation, it pales into insignificance when compared to water vapour which has five fairly strong absorption lines between 0.9 μm and 3 μm. Once the solar radiation hits the earth, a proportion of it is reflected at longer wavelengths (3.5 μm to 70 μm) back into the atmosphere, and almost at the maximum of this is where the strongest absorption line (14.9 μm) of carbon dioxide lies4.

The greenhouse effect results from difference in incoming solar radiation and ‘upgoing’ thermal radiation. Solar radiation is absorbed, scattered and transmitted through the atmosphere and absorbed by the Earth’s surface. Upgoing infrared radiation from the Earth’s surface can be absorbed by carbon dioxide, water vapor and other greenhouse gases in different wavelength bands. The major atmospheric gases, oxygen and nitrogen are transparent to infrared radiation (i.e. do not absorb it).

Rennick then states that by applying Planck’s Law*, which he says is E=hv (it isn’t*), then “the energy consumed by carbon dioxide on the way in is actually five times stronger than the energy absorbed by carbon dioxide on the way out. They never want to tell you that”3. The energy is absorbed by carbon dioxide, not “consumed”. Absorbing energy increases the temperature of the carbon dioxide and therefore the atmosphere. And the proportion of energy absorbed by carbon dioxide on the way in or way out doesn’t matter. It is the fact that the balance which has operated to keep the planet habitable, is now being upset by humanity pumping billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Rennick poses the question “What you [sic] think slows down the adiabatic lapse rate?”3  The adiabatic lapse rate is the rate at which the temperature of an air parcel changes in response to compression or expansion associated with altitude change, assuming no heat exchange occurs between the given air parcel and its surroundings. This has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect, as adiabatic compression is the reason a bicycle tyre pump warms up when you pump up a tyre. This is Rennick simply sticking some ‘sciency’ words together, much as Michael Mann suggested when Rennick drivelled on about ‘gravity stopping convection’ as reminiscent of “monkeys typing on a typewriter”1.

Rennick then launches into even worse drivel. He said “If it wasn’t for the greenhouse gases—we know this because the maximum temperature in Singapore is about 34 degrees. It has been proven that the H2O, the water vapour, actually cools. If you go to places in outback Queensland or Australia, you get 50 degrees in the summer. In Singapore, you won’t get that, because the humidity actually stops the incoming solar radiation from getting too hot. It gets very muggy, but that’s the water, not the radiation”3. How anyone could write such mindless crap, beggars belief.

What about in the Austral winter where Singapore is still in the low thirties (and humid) while central Australia is in the low twenties and as dry as a dead dingo? Or does Singapore’s humidity only work in the Australian Summer? It took me a few minutes to find out the real story which makes it clear that Rennick is incapable of using a web browser, or thinks that his brain farts are facts. If Rennick had bothered, he could have found this out. It goes like this: Away from the tropics, regular changes in air mass occur when frontal systems (e.g. cold fronts) move through, causing large changes in wind direction and speed. The systems can cause winds to change from northerly (from near the tropics) to southerly (e.g. from the Southern Ocean and Antarctica) in only a few hours. This can see the hot dry air mass being replaced by one that is cold and moist. However, in the tropics the lack of frontal systems means air-mass changes happen much less frequently. The same prevailing winds may operate for months at a time. Persistent winds (northwesterly during the monsoon and southeasterly during the dry season), ensure that the tropics remain in a similar air mass for prolonged periods. This means that variations in temperature are primarily due to the changes in cloud cover, rainfall and humidity. With the exception of significant monsoonal rainfall events, these effects are of only a few degrees and likely to be short lived, with conditions soon returning to average5.

After this he states that “we’ve basically broken E = mc2 … and we’ve now also broken Planck’s law ….then we go on to Wien’s law**. Wien’s law calculates the temperature at which carbon dioxide will emit any energy it absorbs. We know that that’s what’s called—I did have to print this off; I can’t remember this—the constant of proportionality, and that’s 2.898 centimetres [it’s millimetres, not centimetres]. If you put that over the wavelength that carbon dioxide absorbs, 14.8 microns, that will give you 192 degrees Kelvin. Now, 192 degrees Kelvin, for those of you who don’t know your Kelvin scale, is minus 80 Celsius in real life. In other words, carbon dioxide emits heat only at minus 80 degrees. So if want carbon dioxide to supposedly trap heat, as you guys like to claim, you’ll need to go either to the bottom of Antarctica or about 10 kilometres up into the troposphere to start getting carbon dioxide to emit heat.”3

Wien’s law does nothing of the sort. Wien’s law is used to determine the temperature of a blackbody when the wavelength of the light emitted from it is measured. The shorter the wavelength, the higher the temperature. How Rennick could construe this to have something to do with the greenhouse effect, only he will know. I suspect it is him believing his own brain farts again. While it is true that carbon dioxide does absorb light in several wavelengths (14.9, 4.3, 2.7, and 2 μm), the 14.9 μm is in the infrared part of the spectrum and it is this infrared radiation which comes from the surface of the earth. As CO2 soaks up this infrared energy, it vibrates and re-emits the infrared energy back in all directions. About half of that energy goes out into space, and about half of it returns to Earth as heat, contributing to the ‘greenhouse effect.’ By measuring the wavelengths of infrared radiation that reaches the surface, it is known that carbon dioxide, ozone, and methane are the most significant contributors to rising global temperatures, with carbon dioxide being by far the most powerful6.

I have had enough of chasing this moron’s drivel, and I will do no more unless he gets my dander up again. The problem with people like Rennick spouting such abject bullshit, is that it takes effort to find out the facts, and it just goes to show that the adage by Jonathan Swift: “Falsehood flies, and the Truth comes limping after it” is very close to the mark. Its modern incarnation is “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on”7.

Rennick’s lying in parliament need to be brought to the attention of the senate, and he needs to retract all these lies or face some sort of sanction. I am not a climate scientist, but there are many reputable sources of information out there that I had to look up, and did. No doubt a climate scientist’s professional knowledge would allow them to know the extent of Rennick’s lies, and allow them to counter the lies off the top of their head. Maybe scientific organisations need to institute a ‘moron watch’ system where a group of a few scientists can keep watch on liars like Rennick and pull him up immediately, perhaps by SMS to other members of parliament.

*Planck’s Law: More correctly, this is termed Planck’s radiation law. This is a mathematical relationship formulated in 1900 by German physicist Max Planck to explain the spectral-energy distribution of radiation emitted by a blackbody (a hypothetical body that completely absorbs all radiant energy falling upon it, reaches some equilibrium temperature, and then reemits that energy as quickly as it absorbs it). Planck assumed that the sources of radiation are atoms in a state of oscillation and that the vibrational energy of each oscillator may have any of a series of discrete values but never any value between. Planck further assumed that when an oscillator changes from a state of energy E1 to a state of lower energy E2, the discrete amount of energy E1 − E2, or quantum of radiation, is equal to the product of the frequency of the radiation, symbolised by the Greek letter  and a constant h, now called Planck’s constant, that he determined from blackbody radiation data; i.e., E1 − E2 = hv  [ I presume this is where Rennick got his bogus E = hv]. Planck’s law for the energy Eλ radiated per unit volume by a cavity of a blackbody in the wavelength interval λ to λ + Δλ (Δλ denotes an increment of wavelength) can be written in terms of Planck’s constant (h), the speed of light (c), the Boltzmann constant (k), and the absolute temperature (T)8: Eλ = [8πhc/λ5] x [1/exp(hc/kT λ) -1]

**Wien’s displacement law: This is also called Wien’s law, and determines the relationship between the temperature of a blackbody (an ideal substance that emits and absorbs all frequencies of light) and the wavelength at which it emits the most light. It is named after German physicist Wilhelm Wien9. Measurement of the maximum wavelength of the radiation from a blackbody allows the determination of its temperature using Wien’s law. Surprisingly, stars approximate blackbody radiators and their visible colour depends upon the temperature of the star. The hotter the star the more the maximum wavelength of the emitted radiation is displaced towards the blue end of the spectrum (i.e. is shorter and of higher energy), the cooler the star, the more the maximum wavelength is displaced towards the red end of the spectrum (i.e. is longer and of lower energy). Wien’s law is:


where b is Wien’s displacement constant: 2.898 × 10-3 metre Kelvin (m K) and T is the object’s temperature in Kelvin (K)10.




  • JON says:

    The conceit and sheer hide of this puerile, tyre-kicking charlatan is breathtaking. That he thinks he knows more than thousands of highly qualified and experienced climate experts who study, quantify, model and publish on a huge range of climate science related topics is stupidity and arrogance personified.

    “It has been proven that the H2O, the water vapour, actually cools.” Proven by whom exactly Rennick? Sheer unadulterated bullshit. One of climate science’s fundamentals is that water vapor is, overall, a significant HEATING amplifier in the atmosphere, not a cooling effect. It is not a major CAUSE of warming however, as these simple explanations show:

    Climate scientists aren’t a bunch of generalists with broad knowledge of climate, they are quite often specialists in the maths, modelling, interactions etc of VERY specific climate/temperature influences (eg water vapour, albedo etc). This should be obvious to Rennick from the numerous IPCC Reports he either hasn’t bothered to read or has failed to understand. It is why specialists teams were used for various topics in those reports. For people like me that reality quickly became as plain as Rennick’s ever growing Pinocchio nose from the very real and serious online discussions and debates over the last 20 years plus. One didn’t need to understand the specifics to get the gist of such discussions, and it was pretty easy to sort the pseudo experts from the actual experts. The depth of knowledge of many of the scientists was highly impressive, as was their ability to concisely dissect and correct “inaccurate” assertions (often invented or using misquoted data/information). Their comments were also regularly littered with quotes and numbers from the latest published papers and data.

    • admin says:

      People like Rennick disgust me. Professional climate scientists need to get on his case at a personal level.

      • JON says:

        Doubt any would want to waste their time and energy on such an irrelevant dolt. Nor would they want to elevate his status to someone worthy of a public response. Best to deprive him of the attention he obviously craves. I agree his inanities deserve public derision though. Such anti-science tosh is a serious risk to democracy if left unchecked.

        • admin says:

          Yep it is a risk. But doing nothing allows his parliamentary speeches go unchallenged. Maybe getting into his local community/newspaper is the way to go.

  • Arthur Baker says:

    “Rennick’s speech was too long and the instances of idiocy too numerous to cover in an essay of reasonable length. So, here we go again.”

    And therein, I suggest, lies the reason Rennick manages to persuade some (perhaps many) people to his viewpoint. His verbal diatribes are an instance of the Gish Gallop, and his written contributions are so full of pseudo-tech-speak that the uneducated casual reader might easily be fooled into thinking “hey, this guy seems to have done his research and it looks like he knows what he’s talking about”.

    And here we come to the crunch. On this subject, and on just about any climate-emergency-related topic, I myself am an uneducated casual reader. That doesn’t mean I’m stupid (although some readers of this blog, and even its owner, may disagree). It’s just that I am university-educated in an entirely different discipline (it happens to be Linguistics), and NO amount of learning at my advanced age will, or would, enable me to get remotely close to understanding the scientific stuff you’ve written in your three anti-Rennick articles.

    I read your scientific arguments above, and in the previous two articles on Rennick, and my brain becomes a foggy day. I simply cannot grasp it, and years, possibly decades. of further study would be necessary for me to properly evaluate its truth value.

    The same would be true, I suggest, for most of Australia’s and the world’s population. We simply can’t understand what you and climate experts are talking about, and have to make a judgment along the lines of “do we respect education, research and expertise, or do we not?”.

    My answer is yes, I do. If a climate scientist with years of proven experience tells me the warming of the planet is an existential threat, I’ll tend to believe that. But my decision is based not on any knowledge of that scientist’s field, but on respect for his or her education, research and expertise.

    Unfortunately, many people don’t respect expert opinion. To the contrary, in recent years expert opinion has been specifically targeted by right-wing politicians who demonise what they call “elites” who are “telling us what to do”, and mock academic knowledge.

    Rennick obviously is aware of this. And as a politician he’s in the right place to get his opinions published and repeated. So he churns it out in bucket-loads, just like one of the old religious Gish-Gallopers. He rolls it out, faster than anyone (including the BlotReport) can cope with. He churns out those factoids, safe in the knowledge that he has the microphone, and you don’t.

    To your average punter, Rennick’s stuff looks detailed, and researched, and educated, and authoritative, and knowledgeable. and reliable, and credible, and scientific … … I could go on all night.

    In the general public perception, the only difference between Rennick’s bullshit and your refutation of it is that he’s a Senator and you’re not. He knows that, and that knowledge may just be the proof that, although his climatic claims are allegedly idiotic he may not be as stupid as you suggest. He has the conch (as in Lord of the Flies), and you don’t. He’s harvesting the crop he sowed by getting himself into parliament, and you can’t.

    • admin says:

      I cannot really diagree with any of that. Rennick is in parliament and the rest of us here are not. He spouts abject bullshit and no journalists or even climate scientists pull him up on it. That is the concern I have; nobody takes him to task. So, I did.

  • Arthur Baker says:

    “Renegade Queensland senator Gerard Rennick dumped from winnable spot on LNP ticket”.
    Even the so-called “Liberals” seem to be sick of the idiot now.

    • admin says:

      That is music to my ears. Morons should not be pre-selected.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        if they ruled morons out, they’d be struggling to put anyone on the LNP ticket. That could be quite a good thing. But then again, since the people who put the ticket together are also probably morons, I can’t imagine that happening. Maybe ruling Rennick out was just a random happenstance. You know, a bit like the drivelling random gobshite which tumbles out of Barnaby Joyce’s mouth.

    • JON says:

      Good news travels slowly.

      Fears of Rennick ‘going rogue’? Roflmao. He probably represents the ignorance of certain segments
      of the backwards state of Qld but he can hardly get much further from reality – unless he happens to spend a few days with Morrison I suppose.

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