Is the Climate Change CO² Science Right?
A section of this post dealing with an alternative theory on how the Earth warms and cools naturally by re-radiating greenhouse gases was originally included in this post. It attracted sufficient interest to warrant it’s own post here: Alternative Greenhouse Theory.
Science has historically not always got it right despite any “overwhelming proof” in their day.
For almost three decades the IPCC and its advocates have been saying that their scientists are right in declaring human kind responsible for causing dangerous global warming aka AGW – Anthropogenic Global Warming. Not proven, but so near that they agree it IS indeed right. So right in fact that they are squandering literally trillions of dollars around the world still trying to prove it. They believe implicitly that excess CO² greenhouse gases (GHG) produced by mankind are warming the planet higher than natural processes.
According to climate alarm sceptics which include thousands of eminent scientists among them, they believe there is sufficient evidence to at least cast some doubts on the accuracy of many of the IPCC pronouncements, if not throw out the case for AGW completely.
The question is – could the IPCC actually be right? This article will take a look at just a few of the disputed issues that relate to CO² emissions.
The Current Warming Trend
The mainstay of the IPCC argument is that mankind is responsible for the late 20th century warming trend. But it’s important to understand that there is a natural warming phase going on right now anyway.
As we know, the planet goes through cyclical periods of warming and cooling. The Earth is currently on a natural warming trend following on from the last Little Ice Age. Hypothetically, how long this warming cycle would have lasted without mankind’s contributions is anybody’s guess.
A Caution About Global Averages
The term “global average” is often used in public discussions of climate change to demonstrate negative trends such as rising global temperatures or the amounts of global CO² in the atmosphere. But at the end of the day it is merely a statistical figure usually based on different specimens of different data from several different sources. Data is collected and manipulated in any number of legitimate methods by different people with different statistician skills to produce different outcomes – just select the one that suits your argument best.
The IPCC in their Fifth Assessment Report of 2014 (AR5) continuously mentions global averages in respect of temperatures, CO² emissions, sea level rises, precipitation and so on.
To be fair they do acknowledge that temperatures etc at any given region may experience more, or less, or no effects of increased global warming in the future. But it’s a passing sentence and you need to actually read the document rather than just skim through it. It really ought to be flagged more prominently.
But of course temperatures vary widely around the Earth depending on time of year, latitude, ocean and wind currents, For example, the coldest inhabited place on Earth is arguably the village of Oymyakon in Russia where it can reach -45ºC, and the hottest inhabited is probably Death Valley in California USA where it can get up 56.7ºC.
Whether people could actually live independently of outside sources in places like these is another story. But in general, any given place will usually have a hotter or colder climate than the stated global average.
But let’s get back to the overuse of global averages … professional writers know that the written word (and diagrams etc) are often interpreted differently depending on the reader or their level of focus at the time of reading.
It’s not likely to be stretching things too far to say that the constant use by alarmists in using global average figures can lend itself to misconceptions in some lesser educated or inattentive people that it is going to get hotter where they actually live – or that extreme weather events are going to happen in their own region.
The bottom line is that if a media presentation keeps blathering about global averages and how negative it’s going to be, and which does not relate it to your geographical region then please let me suggest you turn it off. Such stuff is neither scientific or even sensible and is more about devotion to an quasi-religious eco-alarmism … or headline seeking.
Uncertainty Errors in CO² Emission Calculations
Scientists generally refer to an “error bar” or “uncertainty range” where an exact figure is not known.
So let’s take a common method of measuring an unknown distance by asking a group of people to give a visual distance estimate and call it a range of uncertainty or as in science, an error bar. Now remove the highest and lowest distances and what’s left is your error bar or range. Somewhere within that range the real distance should be located – hopefully. Now either centre or else average out between the highest and lowest to find what you hope is close to the real distance or to provide a baseline point.
In a very basic sense this is how scientists originally estimated the pre-industrial levels of CO² in the atmosphere as being 280 ppm. And that’s ignoring the many scientifically recorded measurements taken during the 19th and 20th centuries which indicated higher readings. And so it’s been used during pre-industrial times and then accepted by the IPCC when it first formed.
Obviously the methodology was more calculated than that but the principles were most likely basically the same. But let’s stick with 280 ppm because it at least provides a kind of baseline.
If we assume the GHG theory as being correct, there can be little argument that humans have contributed to the current estimate of about 400 ppm of CO² in our atmosphere. Nor do scientists necessarily argue that CO² is at the very least a mild GHG – though of course there is diligent argument whether it is more than that.
Yet doubts have been cast on the previously accepted levels. Examination of glacier data has often been used to determine the levels of CO² concentrations in the atmosphere during the pre-industrial era, and they are also used for important calculations in climate change research. For example, Messrs Jaworowski, Segalstad & Hisdal in their 1992 paper discussed this in their paper, “Atmospheric CO2 and Global Warming – A Critical Review, 2nd Revised Edition 1992″.
The report is believed to be the first critical review of CO² trapped in air bubbles in glaciers. It reveals several errors in methodology and incorrect scientific assumptions which question the very validity of the AGW hypothesis. Some of the issues discussed include:
- the subjective manner in which the value of 290 (sic) ppm was originally decided;
- the siting of some of the observatories near volcanic activity and the methods used to edit the results;
- the instrumentation and methods used to record historic thermometer temperatures; and
- a new discovery of liquid found still trapped in air bubbles in ice under -73C that can significantly enrich or deplete CO² compared to an original atmosphere.
|The projections of man-made climate change through burning of fossil carbon fuels (coal, gas, oil) to CO² gas are based mainly on interpretations of measured CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and in glacier ice. These measurements and interpretations are subject to serious uncertainties…
Jaworowski et.al 1992
The Uncertainty Range of Volcano Effects
There have been some very big volcanic eruptions in recent decades causing all sorts of problems spewing out volcanic dust and CO². Major fractures, hot springs and geysers also vent CO². Over the last 10,000 years or so there have been around 1500 land volcanoes active.
Let’s take just one example. The Kilauyea Volcano in Hawaii has been active for a long time erupting on average about once per three years or so and is among the most watched in the world. Until recently it was thought to be emitting around 2,800 tons of CO² per day. In 2001 it was thought to be more accurately amended to 8,800 tons/CO2/day. In 2008 the USGS – the US Geological Survey changed it again to 4,000 tons/CO²/day. That all makes for an uncertainty error bar of between 100% to 300%.
But compared to land volcanoes, not so much is known about sub-sea volcanoes which make up the majority on the planet. There are literally thousands of them. CO² is the most common gas found in their volcanic hydro-thermals but rarely is it found in liquid form as well.
In 2006 the Champagne volcanic site in the Mariana Trench was found to be discharging a 103°C gas rich fluid and droplets at less then 4°C of mainly liquid CO2 were also discovered. The hot fluid at a molecular level of 2.7 moles/kg of CO² was the highest ever reported. The droplets contained 98% CO². All of this CO² was being absorbed into the ocean before it had risen less than 200m. This site alone is estimated to be contributing 0.1% of the “global carbon flux” i.e. from all natural sources being sent into the atmosphere – and that’s a lot.
Following the Champagne discovery there have been suggestions that perhaps sub-sea volcanoes may be contributing more to the global carbon flux than previously realized. With so much uncertainty on volcanoes generally and other forcing (CO² adding) agents, how can the IPCC be so certain on the extent of mankind’s contributions of CO² compared to natural sources?
The bottom line is they can’t really know. Very little of it is yet known. They are forced to make calculated, educated guesses and produce results that include error bars of uncertainty about accuracy. And the ranges of those error bars are also under attack by sceptics.
CO2 “Residence” Time in the Atmosphere
As of 2010 there was an estimated 780Gt of CO² of which about 210 Gt (25%) was believed to be exchanged between the oceans and land “sinks” e.g. plants etc. So how long does the remainder stay up there?
The IPCC estimates the “residence time” i.e. the time that CO² elements remain in the atmosphere before being reabsorbed or emitted to space is anywhere between 5 and 200 years or more. That’s quite a error bar range of uncertainty. I have read where one alarmist advocate stated that the rates of absorption of CO² into the Earth varied widely depending on how it’s being absorbed e.g. by the oceans, land or sea biota. Maybe that is possible.
See also: Working Group I: The Scientific Basis: https://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/016.htm
Other non-IPCC aligned scientists generally estimate a CO² residence time of between 5 to 10 years.
And the observed decrease in the radioactive carbon 14C in the atmosphere following the cessation of atmospheric nuclear testing in 1963 has confirmed the half life of CO² in the atmosphere at less than 10 years. Incidentally, the 14C radioactive element can also be present naturally.
Source: Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide
Unfortunately the IPCC tends to rely on a longer residence time in their computer models which consistently produce a higher global average temperature result by a given time e.g. 2020.
Also read: Don Aitkin – How Long Does Carbon Dioxide Remain in the Atmosphere.
So if the non-IPCC aligned scientists and educated others are right, then the future temperatures following the currently observed trend is going to be more likely correct?
Both the sceptic and alarmist sides of the climate change debate are prone to making exaggerated and implausible claims. So much so that it’s sometimes difficult to find the real truth about the alleged dangerous global warming being caused by humans aka AGW.
This site is about trying to find that truth. However, these pages may at first appear to be on the sceptic side – but that is not entirely true. Information in support of AGW that can be proven from sources outside the IPCC will be accepted.
The information here is believed to be correct at time of writing. Comments to the contrary which can prove otherwise are welcome. Only comments from rational people who can discuss AGW issues dispassionately and with common courtesy will be considered.
1. Climate: The Counter Consensus, Professor Robert M. Carter 2010.
2. IPCC Fifth Assessment Report 2014
3. Other Links as indicated in the text.