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Response to Watt’s Up

By Bill Nye | Published: November 14, 2011 – 9:31 pm

O my friends, I have received numerous messages asking about the voice-over I did for the Climate Reality Project. My voice describes an experiment or demonstration that I’ve performed several times over the last 15 years. You can put pure carbon dioxide in a vessel, illuminate it with a bright hot lamp, and its temperature will be a few degrees warmer than an identical vessel filled with air. (I once did it with pure methane; the temperature rose in that vessel as well.)

The Climate Project people created their own version, but apparently they didn’t test it very well. One of our strident climate change deniers seized on their corner cutting and showed their demonstration didn’t demonstrate anything. I considered this part of healthy discourse: people cut corners; they got called on it and taken to task. Since it was my voice, I was considered to be a co-conspirator in the plot to fool the world into believing that our climate is changing. That’s reasonable in its way.

The Climate Project people used jars with lids that were too thick, the thermometers were not well placed, and the volume of gas in each vessel was greatly diminished by the presence of handsome, but voluminous globes and pedestals. When I’ve done this in the past, my apparatus did not have any of these shortcomings, so I got different results.

As the famous Boeing test pilot Tex Johnston remarked, “One test is worth a thousand expert opinions.” Try it; try your own version, and see if you measure a temperature difference.

One thing to note though, the guy who called us out on this drew an incorrect conclusion, or he made an erroneous claim. He says any change would have been caused by “… a completely different physical mechanism than actually occurs in our atmosphere…” That’s wrong. It is this mechanism. The model has to be set up properly. Keep in mind that our troposphere is several dozen kilometers thick, and it doesn’t comprise pure carbon dioxide. This is a model, a demonstration. Real atmospheric models are astonishingly complex.

Regardless of any shortcomings or shortcuts in the model shown by the Climate Reality Project advocacy group, the world is getting warmer, and we had all better do something about it.

39 Responses to “Response to Watt’s Up”

  1. If your claim is that the wrong set of equipment was used, then that is fair enough. Could you recommend an equipment shopping list where those who want to replicate the warming effect might do it. Surely if a major production cannot do it properly, then you will never convince those who deny that CO2 has any significant impact.

  2. Eric Anderson says:

    Thank, Bill. Can you point us to some links of your experiment details. It looks like from the pictures above that you did a TV show with an experiment. Is that available online?


  3. HalfEmpty says:

    Hi Bill and thanks for the info. Agree with above comments, we need a shopping list and directions to replicate.

    Thanks again!

  4. Kip Hansen says:

    Dear Science Guy,

    So let’s sum it up: You say :

    1. I, The Science Guy, knowingly participated in the faking of a science experiment for Al Gore’s Climate Project. which was shown to the world over the internet. I did a voice over for for an experiment that was not actually taking place, which did not achieve the results it claimed, and which I did not actually observe with my own eyes, yet I spoke as if it were actually taking place. .

    2. Anthony Watts is absolutely correct, the experiment did not and would not have ‘worked’ — and for ‘worked’ we mean shown what I, The Science Guy, said it showed — because the equipment and set-up were not correct. Mr. Watts did not have the wrong equipment and set-up, Al Gore and his Climate Project people did. It is the Climate Project people that performed the faked experiment — it didn’t actually work for them either, of course, they just pretended that it did.

    3. Anthony Watts is correct — the fact that the experiment was faked and didn’t work doesn’t mean that CO2 in the atmnosphere doesn’t cause warming — Mr. Watts readily and freely admits that it does, and, in fact, has never ever said or believed that it doesn’t.

    4. I, the Science Guy, could perform a similar experiment with proper equipment and could have shown that a CO2-enhanced atmosphere does absorb more heat than ‘normal’ air. Despite knowing that the Climate Project’s experiement would fail, due to wrong equipment and set up, I did the voice over anyway.

    We are now waiting for an apology to all the kids who count on you, The Science Guy, to be a real scientist and always strictly follow the Scientific Method and never ever lie or fake results.

  5. Jeff B. says:

    Prove it with a real, repeatable science experiment. Publish the results and how you did the experiment. Either that or change your moniker. It’s not real science if you can’t prove to me, that I can repeat the experiment.

  6. Doug Starfield says:

    A better, more convincing demonstration would be to take the original demo setup that Bill Nye used, and use regular atmospheric air mixture in each. Then, inject CO2 into just one of the cylindrical chambers, and observe the temperatures in both. The process of injecting CO2 into atmospheric air and monitoring the static temperature of that mass of gases would be more realistic than just monitoring temperatures of two different masses of gases. Just my opinion here Monsieur Science Guy. Please post a YouTube video of this suggested test rig setup and show time histories of the temperatures in both cylinders.



  7. John Carter says:

    The demonstration was deliberately faked. How does that, or your spiteful swipe at Anthony Watts, tally with your version of what happened.
    It is very very sad to see how low supposed science has sunk.
    Propaganda and faked experiments to try and convince the public who more and more recognize just what a crock they are being served.
    Come on Science Guy – Try and live up to your name and act in an honest and honorable way.

  8. Applegate says:

    I used to avidly watch Mr. Wizard on TV as a kid. I eventually went into the sciences in college.

    If he was faking his experiments, I never knew about it. I’m glad for that.

  9. John Michna says:

    Bill, I was struck by your final sentence “Regardless of any shortcomings or shortcuts in the model shown by the Climate Reality Project advocacy group, the world is getting warmer, and we had all better do something about it.” What is the optimum temperature for our planet? If you truly believe that AGW/ACC is taking place, and we must “Do Something!” then please tell me “What temperature should the earth be at?”

    What is the ideal temperature for Life on Earth? Are we today at that optimum, or should the earth be cooler, or even warmer, than today? Should the temperature be what it was in 1970, when we were at the end of a 30 year mini-cooling period? Or should the Earth’s temperature be what it was in the 1930s, during the Dust Bowl years? How about 1900, before automobiles and burning of fossil fuels became commonplace? Or 1800, before the majority of Industrial Revolution took place? Or 1500, during the Little Ice Age? Or 1000 A.D.? Some other era?

  10. GLenn Teh unscience Guy says:

    So, it was all fake, and therefore we should listen to the results because they show what is happening to the world? Idiocy. This experiment would be bogus even if it was done properly. Unless you have one jar with the same makeup of air in our atmosphere and another exactly the same, but without CO2 as baseline, then it is a crock. Not to mention there needs to be wind, different temperatures at different points in the jar (lower atmosphere upper atmosphere). You sir are a fraud, yet even now you show no remorse at your fraudulent bahaviour, you just try to justify it. Shame on you.

  11. Ah, Bill, we hardly knew ye!

  12. bob's ur uncle says:

    Mr. Nye has posted how the expreiment was performed above.I Believe that at this point there is no arguing that light can warm co2. Bill has at no point tried to claim that he is recreating the earths atmosphere. He is simply stating that as co2 levels rise in the atmosphere there will continue to be a Temperature increase. Lets all just focus on what we will be able to learn for the discoveries in the artic ranges to tell us about historical climate changes.

  13. bob\'s ur uncle says:

    That said bill. Avoid politics they are a death trap.

  14. [...] Nye was annoyed enough to respond, if you can call this a response. It seems rather science-free compared to what I offered. [...]

  15. George says:

    Bill Nye says, \"Real atmospheric models are astonishingly complex.\"

    An important and accurate statement.

    It would be even more truthful to say the \"Real atmosphere is astonishingly more complex than our most astonishingly complex models\"

    Given your admission of this truth, why do you choose to scare and mislead kids with bogus overly simplistic experiments that claim the science about man-made CO2 causing global warming is all settled?

    Why not be a bit more liberal with the truth? Why not admit that despite research and silly experiments, we still have absolutely NO IDEA what influence man-made CO2 plays on global temperatures? Why not include the caveat that for all we know man-made CO2 may be negligible compared to other natural factors?

    Please stop scaring children unnecessarily.

  16. [...] Nye was annoyed enough to respond, if you can call this a response. It seems rather science-free compared to what I offered. [...]

  17. ferd berple says:

    Heating CO2 in a closed container shows that CO2 has a lower specific heat than air. It has no connection to the greenhouse effect which as a real scientists you should have known.

    Water on the other hand, which is responsible for regulating our planets temperature shows the opposite effect. A container of moist air warms slower than a container of dry air, yet H2O is the dominant greenhouse gas on the planet.

    We know that water is warming the earth through the greenhouse effect. Why then does water vapor in a sealed container act opposite to CO2? Could it be that water in a sealed container takes longer to warm because water actually holds in the heat, while CO2 does the opposite?

  18. Rosco says:

    “You can put pure carbon dioxide in a vessel, illuminate it with a bright hot lamp, and its temperature will be a few degrees warmer than an identical vessel filled with air.”

    So I should be worried about something that is never going to happen in the real world – a few degrees from 100% CO2 ??

    And how does CO2 cause warmer air temperatures if the majority of the atmosphere, being almost transparent to infrared, isn’t heated ?

    Are you implying the majority of the atmosphere is actually stone cold whilst less than 2% – water vapour and CO2 provide all the warmth ?

    Isn’t it more realistic that the atmosphere warms through contact with the surface and the warmed air rises and convects away from the surface ?

    And talking physics – evaporating water absorbs thousands of times the energy required to heat CO2 by a degree – it has always seemed unscientific that a trace gas with a low specific heat capacity is considered to be driving a substance which undergoes phase changes at ambient temperatures found on earth requiring much larger energy inputs and releases than CO2 – and the specific heat of water is some 4 times that of CO2 AND the mass of the oceans is some hundreds of times that of the atmosphere AND the partial pressure of water vapour is some 60 times that of CO2.

    The analogy I see is an ant carrying an elephant around.

  19. MSlay says:


    I love your work but your use of the word “denier” to describe Mr. Watts was unfortunate.

    Mr. Watts may have given you too much blame for Gore’s flawed experiment, and this may have stung, but your response fit a counter-productive stereotype.

    The rhetoric on both sides of the climate change debate is off-putting, but your side has been worse. I suspect that using terms like “denier” is a key reason you are losing in the court of public opinion. Mr. Watts doesn’t deny anything. He’s a skeptic, or possibly even a cynic. Calling him a denier is, at best, a distraction from the science.

    This has consequences. Climate scientists have done a breathtakingly bad job of convincing the public that climate change is an impending crisis. The result is that nothing is being done to deal with the threat.

    You can’t win a scientific debate by name calling. In fact, it seems to be a pretty good way to lose.

  20. Greg Davis says:

    I was disappointed that you knowingly associated with a false experiment, with manufactured results, and held it up as good science for the younger generation.

    I was appalled when after being challenged, you laughed it off, spread blame, denigrated your accuser, and claimed that the end justified the means. That was not science. You are not a science teacher when you behave this way.

    Please remember that honesty and integrity really do matter, as does the scientific method and be more careful and thoughtful in the future.

  21. Matthew Gilpatrick says:

    I just wanted to say I’m astounded at the number of people on here that fail to understand the purpose of the experiment. It’s to heat up a gas. If you don’t have the right setup, you will have confounding variables, and that’s what Bill is addressing. That people are taking this to mean that Bill’s setup is the only correct way to do it, and that this misinterpreted contention is an example of liberal conspiracy propaganda, is disturbing.

    Also, calling people “deniers” who refute the fact that global warming is happening is not petty rhetoric: it’s accurate. It has been extensively documented by hundreds of independently conducted experiments for decades, and no academic body of national or international standing disagrees with the results. To put it bluntly, if you don’t believe in climate change, you don’t matter.

    Bill, I heard you came to Atlanta in November and regretfully I wasn’t able to attend. I grew up with your show, and I have to say it’s at least a small comfort to me in this still misguided world that you continue to champion the scientific education of children. Hopefully our future generations will be more enlightened because of the efforts of people like you. Keep it up.

  22. DSL says:

    Bill, you clearly didn’t understand what kind of hornet’s nest you were stirring up when you engaged with WUWT. Watts is like the pied piper, and his little mice do whatever he needs them to do. The reactionary quality of the comment stream here is par for the course at WUWT. There is no attempt to read the CRP piece in its context. No analysis that comes to the conclusion that no robustly designed experiment would ever be squeezed into brief video clip. 95% of the “science” being done in children’s TV shows does not have a robust methodology.

    And, of course, there’s no attempt to take the attack to its logical conclusion. Ok, so the experiment in the video was for display purposes only. You admit that CO2 absorbs and emits within the range that the sun-warmed Earth emits. Now what? Is anyone actually lying about the science here?

    What is hypocritical of Watts is that he may never state that he doesn’t believe that CO2 isn’t warming the planet, but he certainly won’t correct anyone who says that it isn’t on his blog. Given the subject at hand and the faux controversy surrounding it, that unwillingness to take out the garbage should be read as a deliberate attempt to misinform, and, if Watts’ hit counter is working properly, a practice which is on much more ethically shaky ground than Nye here.

    As for the claims of CO2 not doing what it’s supposed to be doing: get a grip on the science. Most of the atmosphere does not absorb/emit within the range that the sun-warmed Earth emits/absorbs at. N2 does not. O2 does, but just a relative nibble. Those two gases make up about 95% of the atmosphere. So what else is left to keep the Earth from radiating away its energy almost as soon as it arrives? Head scratch. It must be magic. It couldn’t be those insignificant trace gases–H20, CO2, CH4, etc. H20 is the heavy lifter, but it also has a short residence time in the atmosphere — about 9 days — so it can’t be responsible by itself for long-term trends. The atmosphere holds more water vapor when it increases in temp. The next most powerful GHG is CO2, which, as it turns out, does have a much, much longer residence time than CO2 and does have enough range to “control” the more powerful H20.

    It’s been said thousands of times before: if you don’t have the time, energy, means, and/or training to understand the science, then you MUST ask yourself upon what basis do you value the opinion of person X over person Y? And if the situation is important enough to spend time spouting off in a comment stream and accusing tens of thousands of people (directly or indirectly) of engaging in fraud, then maybe you should take the time to understand the science–and in an open-minded, questioning, engaging way rather than a way that suggests your mind is frozen by ideology and you have a handle on absolute truth (something that no scientist would ever claim).

  23. Robert says:

    you should never give up. I have composed a little song to help you in your quest for a scientifically literate society:
    Bill is cool
    he rocks
    i like doing reports on him.
    good luck!

  24. Bevuhlee says:

    I love you, Bill!

  25. Ben says:

    Wow, really got those Watt’s folks upset. Keep up the good work Bill. You’ve done more for the advancement of science than most.

  26. Jeff says:

    The experiment was done correctly and the issue settled in the first half of the 19th century. All other things equal, increasing the concentration of CO2 in an atmosphere will cause it to warm.

  27. Max™ says:

    I thought the problem was that the jars were switched, how did Feynman say it?

    “One example of the principle is this: If you’ve made up your mind
    to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should
    always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only
    publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look
    good. We must publish both kinds of results.” ~Richard Feynman

  28. Megan says:

    1. Bill’s experiment was not to prove that CO2 is the one and only cause of global warming, nor to try and say we will some time reach a 100% CO2 atmosphere. Nor to identically model how our atmospheric system works. It was only a demonstration to explain in more layman’s terms, and on a level that those that are not as scientifically inclined can appreciate, how carbon dioxide could be contributing to global warming.

    2. Who says that Bill Nye knew the experiment was flawed beforehand? Did he know the results were faked? Were they actually faked? Just because he did the voice over does NOT mean that he performed the experiment himself. Until you know the exact facts, it is not fair to jump to conclusions and throw around the horrible accusations and names that you are (which is exactly what some of you have accused him of doing…hypocritical much?).

    3. You cannot, just because he messed up this one time, discount this man’s entire career! How logical is it to think “Well, he endorsed (NOT performed) this one failed experiment, therefore everything he’s ever done must be wrong and fake and bogus.” That’s just ludicrous and irrational.

    4. TRY IT YOURSELF, YOU BIG BABIES! Bill isn’t saying he’s right and everybody’s wrong. He says if you don’t believe him, go out and figure it out yourself so you can see it with your own eyes. Until you do it yourself, the way you’re supposed to, without anyone else’s ill-planning as a scape goat, you cannot flatly deny that this experiment wouldn’t work.

    You have to be reasonable. No one’s perfect, and it is unreasonable for you to fling around such awful accusations (“propaganda and faked experiments”, “bogus”, “crock”, and my favorite: “scaring children unnecessarily”), especially when you have no idea how it actually went down. There are reasonable, intelligent scientists on both sides of this argument, so stop politicizing the issue and realize that just because someone is on the other side does not make them a horrible person. As DSL said above, do some research yourself and form your own opinion, don’t let others do it for you and present their filtered, overly-dramatic, overly-simplified rant to you as evidence. Bill Nye has always encouraged us to go out and do the actual scientific experiments ourselves so we can see first-hand the verity of the principles, so why don’t you do the same for this issue?

  29. WorldOfTanks says:

    ^What’s with the above poster?!^

    Bill Nye, keep going with your stuff! You’re awesome and always will be! Keep it up.

  30. Marcus says:

    Dear Bill,

    First: I’m definitely a fan of yours – I even met you very briefly at a Caltech commencement day back in the late 90s, I think.

    Second: I think climate change is a major problem, and I agree with the IPCC assessment that the majority of the warming in the past 50 years is due to an anthropogenic increase in greenhouse gas concentrations (if anything, I think the AR4 statement was not sufficiently confident, inasmuch as I think it is actually likely that increases in GHGs explain more warming than has been observed, canceled out by natural variability and cooling aerosols… the draft AR5 statements I’ve seen have been better).

    Third: However, I do have an objection to this particular experiment. I suggest you read the paper by Wagoner et al,, “Climate Change in a Shoebox: Right result, wrong physics”, which performs a key control experiment, which is to use argon rather than carbon dioxide. Basically, when you change a gas in your container, you are changing multiple properties of the gas in addition to IR absorption. Using an argon control allows you to test to see if a gas with no IR absorption can also change the temperature in the bottle.

    Thank you for your attention,


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  32. Dwayne says:

    Bill, This fraudulent video must be retracted. You put yourself up as a scientific example to be followed by young people then you promote an experiment that doesn’t work? You don’t even get the fact that infrared light doesn’t penetrate glass, the very reason garden greenhouses work. I like your statement “Regardless of any shortcomings or shortcuts … the world is getting warmer, and we had all better do something about it.” In other words, “Don’t worry about my erroneous “facts” just blindly obey me”. This is exactly the same as your stance on the untestable fairy tale of molecules to man evolution you promote.

  33. Amalgovinus says:

    Watts is just in it for a paycheck–pretty unprincipled. Yay Bill.

  34. Tom says:

    Let me guess when Bill normally does this experiment the bottles are open. When the bottles are open the CO2 cant convect away because its heavier than air but the hot air can. So the CO2 bottle is warmer. In Gores experiment they caped both bottles so convection cannot occur in either bottle, so neither can convect away and they are roughly the same temperature.

    This experiment has always been a fake and is just an example of convection.

  35. freeboulder says:

    With all due respect, using a politically charged ad hominem like “climate change deniers” in your opening discredits you as a scientist and does nothing to convince others who may honestly disagree with you at times. climate change deniers

  36. LOLCopter says:

    ” One of our strident climate change deniers seized on their corner cutting… “

    Lets get clear on this- it wasnt ‘corner cutting’. Their experiment set up didnt work and therefore they FAKED the results. Is there any escaping the fact that FAKED data and tried to claim the mantel of a scientific demonstration?

    Why are you not clearly repudiating this kind of fast-and-loose fraud?

    If this was a high school science lab and the kid “knew” what the results were supposed to be and therefor threw out his results and faked in the “correct” data what would you tell him? Shut up the people asking questions? This isnt just corner cutting- its undermining of the scientific process.

    The bigger issue is that the tone of the video is to shun and shout down anyone who voices a dissenting view:
    - unplugging televisions
    - “end the debate”
    -”dont listen to…”

    How is this helpful? How can you say “I considered this part of healthy discourse” and not repudiate the very through line of the video that the audience shoudnt listen to people who ask asking questions? What “healthy discourse” is this video allowing for. None.

  37. Steve Morris says:


    The issue that I have with this experiment helping the case of Global Warming Believers is that Convection is not available for cooling.

    We know CO2 absorbs a few IR bands whilst N2 and O2 do not. However CO2 only makes up a fraction of a percent of our Atmosphere AND Convection is available to cool the Troposphere.

    By trapping the CO2 in a Sealed Bottle you have created a REAL Greenhouse (which works by preventing convection not by preventing radiation). The Greenhouse ‘Effect’ is a misnomer at best and fraud at worst.

    Perhaps you can explain how the rate of convection is diminished in tandem with so-called ‘trapping’ radiation. If you trap radiation and increase the temp for that region, are you not encouraging the energy to transfer to a region with less heat via convection? Less of course you create a real Greenhouse and prevent Convection altogether. Recall that the Earth’s Atmosphere is Elastic. The height of the Tropopause is variable due to differences in the amount of energy from Pole to Equator.

    You just beat up Ham for using ‘Historical’ Science, are you not using ‘Climate’ Science in lieu of just plain and simple Science?

    CO2 causing the observable changes to temps here on Earth is not tenable, are you prepared to throw it away as you just explained to Ham?

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  39. Merrick says:

    So, and I take your statements to be truthful, you were unaware when you provided narration for the video that you were fooled into believing the experiment was done properly and produced a legitimate result, but you now know that the experiment was improperly planned, improperly executed, and fraudulently edited after the fact to pretend it worked as intended. And now that you know this, and with the video still prominently featured on the “Climate Reality” website, you feel no responsibility to have your voice-over removed or to make a larger public statement regarding this?

    And, in your own words: “If you want you can replicate this effect yourself in a simple lab experiment. Here’s how…” – leading into what you admit here is a fraud on multiple levels – and it’s prominently featured, at tax payer expense, on the Smithsonian website:

    And you still feel no need to correct this more publicly? This fraud is good to go?

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