We know that the sun's output can vary by about 1 Watt per square meter during a solar cycle. So try computing the temperature with 1368 instead of 1367. Try again with 1366. How much difference does that make? I get about 0.05 K (0.09 F). That's a pretty small number. We'd be hard-pressed to get a thermometer to record it.
How about the albedo? I find about a 1 K change (0.9) for a 0.01 change in albedo. Such a change in albedo (or to increase it by this much) is plausible for the earth, though 0.10 would be a wild value, not expected by anybody I know of. Quick sanity check ... why is the albedo so much more important than solar term? Albedo multiplies the solar constant. The natural variation is 1 Watt per square meter. The 0.01 change in albedo means a 13.67 Watt per square meter change in energy entering the climate system, so we expect it to be much larger. (project: why is it 19 times more important rather than just 13.67?)
The mean distance from the earth to the sun does change -- on a long enough time scale. Changes in the earth's orbital eccentricity (how circular vs. how oval-shaped) can give changes in average distance of something like 0.001 AU. This translates to about 0.18 K (0.32 F) variations in earth's temperature to space. (These are Milankovitch variations in eccentricity, with the fastest time scale of change being 100,000 years; some are over 2 million years).
If we take those sizes of temperature change and divide by how fast they occur, we get a sense of which is most important for thinking about climate change on our time scale of interest. The sun's output changes along a solar cycle of about 11 years. The earth's albedo changes with the seasonal cycle, so 1 year. And the eccentricity is 100,000 years. Looking at degrees per year, we then have:
- Albedo 1 degree per year
- Solar cycle 0.005 degrees per year
- Eccentricity 0.000002 degrees per year
Variations in solar output and the earth's orbit are not part of the climate system itself, and the orbit can be predicted to very high accuracy for a very long time into the future. In terms of understanding the climate system, both the solar and orbit factors are good -- given these non-climate terms, we can compute a climate. If we know the albedo.
But what is albedo? It's the bouncing of energy from the sun back to space. Now what does that bouncing? Well, everything in the climate system -- clouds, gas molecules, ocean surface, trees, grass, desert, dirt, glaciers, snow cover, ice packs, ... The gas molecule term depends little on the climate, and, if I remember correctly, would bounce about 15% of the solar input even if the earth's surface were a perfect solar absorber (perfectly black). But it isn't; even the ocean, which is about the darkest part of the earth's surface, reflects at least 6% of the sun's energy (that reaches it), and that figure increases as the sun gets low in the sky.
If none of these things changed their albedo as the climate got colder or warmer, we'd only have an annoyance -- can't give a climate figure without looking at the system. But the extent of deserts, ice sheets, sea ice, ... does change depending on climate temperatures. That 'about 0.30' albedo is correct for recent times. It may not be correct in an ice age earth or an even warming than present earth. Consequently, while we can use this model to understand some points about the climate system, we can't use it to predict full climate responses. We're not surprised, since we're much warmer at the surface than the blackbody temperature. But this is an additional reason we're going to want a more complex model down the road.
On the other hand, it does help us understand the system -- we know now that albedo is very important, and how much it and solar input could be expected, on a simple basis, to affect climate.
We also, it turns out, have a tool for identifying unreliable sources. I was surprised to see this be the case, but Steve Milloy at junkscience(dot-com)/Greenhouse assumes that if there were no clouds, the earth's albedo would be zero. Even knowing nothing about the details of albedo, you know this has to be wrong. If the earth's albedo, aside from clouds, were zero, you couldn't see the earth except for the clouds. As this image reminds us, you can indeed see the earth from space. His writing where he makes the error says:
We should note that devoid of atmosphere Earth would actually be a less-cold -1 °C (272 K) because the first calculation strangely includes 31% reflection of solar radiation by clouds
He also seems to be calculating the solar constant rather than taking an observed value, and using odd values for the his calculation.
Project: what would be better values for each figure, and how would using them affect his results?