Friday, August 05, 2011


Shaking Ones Firm Beliefs

Although I knew that only about 3 to 4% of the CO2 placed into the atmosphere each year was of human origin, mainly from fossil fuel burning, but some from land use change, I didn't doubt that the nearly two century rise in CO2 was caused almost exclusively by man. Warmie website Real Climate said it was 100% ours. QED. The pre-industrial "ideal" of 280 ppm of atmospheric CO2 was said to exist in 1840 and before; and now it's 396 ppm a mere 171 years later (a 41% increase). All ours because we burned safely sequestered oil, gas and coal (all dead plant derived fuels) and all that carbon went up into the atmosphere where it added to the CO2 up there and recycling between plants, the soil and the ocean in equilibrium. All our fault.

Well, hold on there, kitty cat.

We can calculate how much we put into the atmosphere each year. See below. It's a lot more difficult to calculate what is coming from the land and the sea. The actual amount in gigatons of CO2 we humans put into the atmosphere varies between 6 and 35. That's a lot of variation. However, there is the same sort of variation in the amount of CO2 thought to come from the land and the sea--it varies between 150 gigs and 770 gigs. Precise, and of one mind, these climate scientists are not. However, the ones who have the human contribution high, in the 20s and 30s, also have high estimates of the land and sea contributions. Dividing the human contributions by the entire yearly contributions of man, sea and land generally gives a percentage of human contribution between 2.57% and 4.10%. Lets go consensus and call it 3.33%.

It turns out there are two isotopes of carbon in CO2 which catch our fancy, C12 and C13. C12, which plants like, is 99% of the CO2 in the atmosphere while only 1% is C13. The ratios of these two isotopes fluctuate a little and can give us a signal to determine origin in the ratios and what's going on in the atmosphere vis a vis CO2 from changes in the ratios over time. The signal of plant derived CO2 is very similar to the signal fossil fuel CO2, as you might expect as fossil fuel comes almost entirely from plants.

So the Aussie scientists, Murray Salby, has been looking at the C12/C13 ratio signals for the past few years and comes to this conclusion, according to Jo Nova, 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."

He gets that by looking of the ratios of the isotopes and their changes. He thinks that most of the warming recently has caused more CO2 rather than the other way around. Of the 192 ppm climb over the last two centuries, he believes humans have caused only a fifth. The rest is outgassing of more CO2 from warmer oceans. The oceans got warmer because we have been climbing out of a minor ice age in the past two centuries not because the CO2 level has been climbing. The Warmies have put the cart before the horse and mistaken the cause and effect here. The peer reviewed paper is due in a few weeks.

I have to say this all makes some sense on second thought. First, there is the delay evident between warming (first) and CO2 level climb in the Vostok ice cores. The delay is on average 800 years in those ice core records but a two or three hundred year period is within the parameters. If the reaction of CO2 to warming has been clearly going on for 600,000 years, why would we believe it's stopped now? There is no reason to believe it's stopped now.

Also we have a mirror measurement of the Hawaiian Mona Loa CO2 record at our base at the South Pole. We also have the undeniable fact that there are more people and industry (and coal burning power plants) in the northern hemisphere than in parts of South America and Africa and the thin layer of Asia below the equator, oh, and Australia. If the north is putting out five to 20 times as much CO2 as the south, then there should be a delay between measurement of atmospheric CO2 in Hawaii and the South Pole measurements of CO2. It should take months at least for the north's huge excess of the gas to get mixed in and migrate all the way south to the pole. But there is no such delay. Thus, it is logical to believe the bulk of the CO2 being measured at both sites has a global source other than from humans distributed very unevenly about the world. How about from the oceans? They are distributed fairly evenly global.

So practically nothing the Warmies say is true. Other than 69% of the population, who would have thought that?


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