Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Blockbuster: Planetary temperature controls CO2 levels — not humans

There goes another “fingerprint”…

It’s not just that man-made emissions don’t control the climate, they don’t even control global CO2 levels.

Judging by the speech gave at the Sydney Institute, there’s a blockbuster paper coming soon.

Listen to the speech: “Global Emission of Carbon Dioxide: The Contribution from Natural Sources”

Professor Murry Salby is Chair of Climate Science at Macquarie University. He’s been a visiting professorships at Paris, Stockholm, Jerusalem, and Kyoto, and he’s spent time at the Bureau of Meterology in Australia.

Over the last two years he has been looking at C12 and C13 ratios and CO2 levels around the world, and has come to the conclusion that man-made emissions have only a small effect on global CO2 levels. It’s not just that man-made emissions don’t control the climate, they don’t even control global CO2 levels.

CO2 variations do not correlate with man-made emissions. Peaks and falls correlate with hot years (e.g. 1998) and cold years (1991-92). No graphs are available from Salby's speech or paper yet. This graph comes from Tom Quirk's related work (see below).

The higher levels of CO2 in recent decades appear to be mostly due to natural sources. He presented this research at the IUGG conference in Melbourne recently, causing great discussion and shocking a few people. Word reached the Sydney Institute, which rushed to arrange for him to speak, given the importance of this work in the current Australian political climate.

The ratio of C13 to C12 (two isotopes of carbon) in our atmosphere has been declining, which is usually viewed as a signature of man-made CO2 emissions. C12 makes up 99% of carbon in the atmosphere (nearly all atmospheric carbon is in the form of CO2). C13 is much rarer — about 1%. Plants don’t like the rarer C13 type as much; photosynthesis works best on the C12 -type -of-CO2 and not the C13-type when absorbing CO2 from the air.

Prof Salby points out that while fossil fuels are richer in C12 than the atmosphere, so too is plant life on Earth, and there isn’t a lot of difference (just 2.6%) in the ratios of C13 to C12 in plants versus fossil fuels. (Fossil fuels are, after all, made in theory from plants, so it’s not surprising that it’s hard to tell their “signatures” apart). So if the C13 to C12 ratio is falling (as more C12 rich carbon is put into the air by burning fossil fuels) then we can’t know if it’s due to man-made CO2 or natural CO2 from plants.

Essentially we can measure man-made emissions reasonably well, but we can’t measure the natural emissions and sequestrations of CO2 at all precisely — the error bars are huge. Humans emits 5Gt or so per annum, but the oceans emit about 90Gt and the land-plants about 60Gt, for a total of maybe 150Gt. Many scientists have assumed that the net flows of carbon to and from natural sinks and sources of CO2 cancel each other out, but there is no real data to confirm this and it’s just a convenient assumption. The problem is that even small fractional changes in natural emissions or sequestrations swamp the human emissions.

UPDATE Inserted: E.M.Smith covered this point well in 2009


“It is often asserted that we can measure the human contribution of CO2 to the air by looking at the ratio of C12 to C13. The theory is that plants absorb more C12 than C13 (by about 2%, not a big signature), so we can look at the air and know which came from plants and which came from volcanos and which came from fossil fuels, via us. Plants are `deficient' in C13, and so, then, ought to be our fossil fuel derived CO2.

The implication is that since coal and oil were from plants, that "plant signature" means "human via fossil fuels". But it just isn't that simple. Take a look at the above chart. We are 5.5 and plants are putting 121.6 into the air each year (not counting ocean plants). There is a lot of carbon slopping back and forth between sinks and sources. Exactly how closely do we know the rate of soil evolution of CO2, for example?”

Chiefio also found some interesting quotes pointing out that corn (a C4 plant) absorbs more C13, and our mass fields of corn might just muck up the stats… (it’s a good post).

The sources of CO2 don’t seem to be industrialized areas

Suspiciously, when satellites record atmospheric CO2 levels around the globe they find that the sources don’t appear to be concentrated in the places we’d expect — industry or population concentrations like western Europe, the Ohio Valley, or China. Instead the sources appear to be in places like the Amazon Basin, southeast Asia, and tropical Africa — not so much the places with large human emissions of CO2!

But CO2 is a well mixed gas so it’s not possible to definitively sort out the sources or sinks with CO2 measurements around the globe. The differences are only of the order of 5%.

Instead the way to unravel the puzzle is to look at the one long recording we have (at Mauna Loa, in Hawaii, going back to 1959) and graph the changes in CO2 and in C13 from year to year. Some years from January to January there may be a rise of 0 ppmv (ie no change), some years up to 3 ppmv. If those changes were due to man-made CO2 then we should see more of those rapid increases in recent times as man-made emissions increased faster.

What Salby found though, was nothing like what was expected

The largest increases year-to-year occurred when the world warmed fastest due to El Nino conditions. The smallest increases correlated with volcanoes which pump dust up into the atmosphere and keep the world cooler for a while. In other words, temperature controls CO2 levels on a yearly time-scale, and according to Salby, man-made emissions have little effect.

The climate models assume that most of the rise in CO2 (from 280 ppmv in1780 to 392 ppmv today) was due to industrialization and fossil fuel use. But the globe has been warming during that period (in fact since the depths of the Little Ice Age around 1680), so warmer conditions could be the reason that CO2 has been rising.

Salby does not dispute that some of the rise in CO2 levels is due to man-made emissions, but found that temperature alone explains about 80% of the variation in CO2 levels.

The up and coming paper with all the graphs will be released in about six weeks. It has passed peer review, and sounds like it has been a long time coming. Salby says he sat on the results for six months wondering if there was any other interpretation he could arrive at, and then, when he invited scientists he trusted and admired to comment on the paper, they also sat on it for half a year. His speech created waves at the IUGG conference, and word is spreading.

A book will be released later this year: Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate.


Professor inadvertently explains why greenhouse theory is wrong

Professor David Archer of the University of Chicago has posted You-tube videos of his 10 week lecture series for non-science majors on climate change. In lecture 5, The Greenhouse Effect, Archer uses the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to calculate the supposed temperatures of Venus, Earth, and Mars with and without a greenhouse effect. Archer's calculations show the greenhouse effect on Venus is wildly underestimated by 415C and wildly overestimated on both Earth (by 23C) and on Mars (by 19C) in comparison to actual observed temperatures. This is despite the fact that CO2 levels are very high and virtually the same on Venus and Mars (around 96%) and only trace (0.039%) on Earth. Archer says in the lecture that one would have to assume the Venus atmosphere behaves like multiple panes of glass in order to obtain an answer near the observed temperature, yet on both Earth and Mars one would have to assume the atmospheres behave like much less than one pane of glass. Leaving aside the fact that no atmosphere behaves like a pane of glass, climate scientists cannot claim that the greenhouse theory comes close to a unified explanation of temperature on any of these 3 planets. The simple fact is the adiabatic lapse rate (effect of pressure with altitude) fully explains the temperature profiles on all 3 planets without any need to invoke a supposed 'greenhouse effect.' See Shattering the Greenhouse Effect and Venus: No Greenhouse Effect.

H/T Professor Claes Johnson, who explains why Archer also uses the Stefan-Boltzmann equation incorrectly (and here)

The table below is reproduced from Archer's lecture 5 near the end (around 40 minutes in), with temperatures converted from Kelvin to Celsius, and the differences between observed and calculated temperatures added to the table, along with atmospheric CO2 levels.
Legend for the table (Kelvins converted to Celsius):

Column 1: Average solar insolation over the entire planet in W/m2
Column 2: Albedo (% of incoming solar energy reflected from the atmosphere)
Column 3: Observed 'average' temperature of each planet
Column 4: Archer's calculated temperature of each planet without an atmosphere
Column 5: Archer's calculated temperature of each planet assuming the atmospheres act like a single pane of glass
Column 6: The difference in degrees C between observed temperatures and Archer's calculated 'greenhouse effect'
Column 7: The % CO2 in each atmosphere


It's not the banks or the speculators starving the poor

I'm afraid that this all makes me rather angry. There are innumerable fools out there screaming that speculation, the banksters, the Vampire Squid, futures markets, are starving the poor by making food too expensive.

The true blame lies elsewhere:

A new report by the Committee on World Food Security found that using grains like corn and wheat to create bioethanol, often blended with gasoline to create transport fuel, has added 0.5 percentage points to the growth in world cereal demand, pushing it to 1.8% a year from 1.3%.

In vegetable oils, which are used to make biodiesel and dominate Europe's market, growth has been even more pronounced. While their use for food slowed down between the 1990s and 2000s, from 4.4% to 3.3% a year, industrial use soared, so that in the decade to 2010 it grew from 11% to 24% of world use.

It really is the entirely stupid, damn fool, biofuels movement which is causing the food price rises. That US and EU politicians have insisted that all fuel used must be made of a certain percentage of plant derived material. It really is the entirely stupid, damn fool, laws, passed by our entirely stupid, damn fool, Lords and Masters which is killing the poor as we put food into cars not people.

The speculators, the commodity traders, the futures, options, the deep and liquid markets do their best to mitigate the effects of this damn foolery but the reason the poor are dying for lack of food is the actions of our own politicians.

That the proposed solution is for those politicians to be given more power over the food system moves me from rather to incandescently angry.

Could we all, please, just agree that biofuels are a damnably stupid idea that kill people and so just stop making or using them?



Activist Scientists expensive for Society

By Anthony J. Sadar, a certified consulting meteorologist specializing in air-quality issues

Perhaps it's simply a consequence of modern society or an outworking of today's educational philosophy on professionals, but progressive activism is making its mark and taking its toll on the U.S.

There are activist judges who impose their brand of "justice" on the rest of us, progressive congressmen who represent only themselves and limit our choices to their choices, and unelected czars who dominantly project their vision of the future on the citizenry's reality, so why not scientists who engage in the same kind of activism with their "science"? Such activist scientists believe they have a lofty knowledge of, say, the workings of nature and humans' culpability in its destruction. Then, imbued with some sort of terrestrial spirit, they are energized to practice their science that seeks support for their planetary doctrines and that documents reasons for their imposition of their position on the less suffused.

How did the modern activist-scientist attitude develop? Its origin and growth likely stem from long-term progressive nurturing. From grade school through graduate school, one of the constant "facts" inculcated in students is that people are destroying the planet and time is running out to rescue the globe. Consequently, pupils are instructed to do their part to tread lightly upon the terra firma, or at least urged to worry about their and their parents' selfish use of nature's resources. Man's destruction of his environment is not debatable. The time to act is now.

In college and graduate school, some students sufficiently indoctrinated may devote their academic careers to redemption of the earth. They get plenty of encouragement and resources to carry on the good fight. The one thing the eager students typically do not get, however, is a perspective on the environmental issues they have chosen to tackle, unless they are in an engineering or physics program.

In general, environmental science, issues, and policy programs tend to be more qualitative and subject to hand-waving arguments, hyperbole, and unsupported extrapolations. In addition, these fields lend themselves more to science based on emotion rather than on reason. The results are graduates with a narrow view of our world and our place in it that unduly limits the thoughtful use of resources and actions that improve the condition of all humans and their surroundings. Graduates tend to be, at least in mindset, minions of the activist progressive environmental groups that are fueled largely by political wood, hay, and stubble, rather than a desire to preserve and cultivate the most precious part of nature -- people.

Meanwhile, we are assured by an elite group of mainly academic scientists, operating with lavish government funding, that weather disasters await us unless drastic and enormously expensive measures are taken to reset the future climate charts. But, a ship that sets sail with a boatload of cash into the unchartable climate is susceptible to the storms of reality. Such tempests carry not only unknowable meteorological conditions, but also known tendencies to keep the ship laden and steady with its valuable cargo.

The future global climate 10, 50, 100 years out is unknowable at any practical level, and therefore maps displaying temperature and precipitation conditions at those future times are pure fantasy. Yet billions of dollars are spent not only to research such conditions (which is fair enough from a need to enrich our knowledge base), but to also rework societies because super-endowed mortals have magically seen the future. And, those who bestow endowments are happy to keep the cash stream flowing as long as the prognostications substantiate government largesse and largeness.

Ultimately, activism in the name of science takes its expensive toll on society. Trillions of our dollars may soon be given away to the United Nations and others because of those who believe that, when it comes to the mysteries of nature, they are brilliant. But, rather than brilliant, the science luminaries have only at best a dim enlightenment. And, unfortunately for the rest of us, we will likely see the global politicians wastefully use the money to continue the entrenchment of their own power and as usual will ignore the planet's needy as more cash will be diverted to address future climate chimeras.


Tree ring proxies are misleading

No wonder they had to “hide the decline”. It appears that trees are a proxy for just about everything, except ancient temperatures. Rings from a particular tree are more likely to tell you whether:

it was wetter there;
there was more CO2 in the atmosphere;
the local bear population decided to use it as a shithouse.

And now it appears that trees actually grow less in warmer temperatures:

"They found that a 2C (3.6F) increase resulted in the average maximum height of trees shrinking by 11%, while a 2C decrease in the nation’s average temperature saw a 13% increase in the predicted maximum height of trees."

So I think we can consign tree rings and the whole dodgy discipline of dendrochronology to the dustbin of climatological history.


The chief Warmist of the NYT "not worried"

For more than a decade, I’ve been probing changes in Arctic climate and sea ice and their implications for the species that make up northern ecosystems and for human communities there.

There are big changes afoot, with more to come should greenhouse gases continue to build unabated in the atmosphere. There will be impacts on human affairs in the Arctic, for worse and better, as we explored extensively in 2005 and I’ve followed here since.

But even as I push for an energy quest that limits climate risk, I’m not worried about the resilience of Arctic ecosystems and not worried about the system tipping into an irreversibly slushy state on time scales relevant to today’s policy debates. This is one reason I don’t go for descriptions of the system being in a “death spiral.”

The main source of my Arctic comfort level — besides what I learned while camped with scientists on the North Pole sea ice — is the growing body of work on past variations* in sea ice conditions in the Arctic. The latest evidence comes in a study in the current issue of Science. The paper, combining evidence of driftwood accumulation and beach formation in northern Greenland with evidence of past sea-ice extent in parts of Canada, concludes that Arctic sea ice appears to have retreated far more in some spans since the end of the last ice age than it has in recent years.

There’s more on the paper below from the lead author, Svend Funder of the University of Copenhagen, and some independent ice scientists I queried about the work. The paper builds on earlier research finding evidence of open water and wave-splashed beaches in parts of Greenland that are now more typically locked in ice. Here’s more previous analysis of Arctic ice patterns during the Holocene, the span since the end of the last ice age.

When considered alongside research on past shifts in Arctic flora and fauna, a picture emerges of a physical system that amplifies warm or cool jogs and a biological system attuned to such changes.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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