Archive for the ‘CO2’ Category

Inquiring minds?! Wherein the author jumps through hoops for a "skeptic" on the wonders of CO2 (that man has no influence on)

July 3rd, 2008 No comments

An LvMI blogger sent me the following inquiry, which I post here – along with my response – as a public service. 

I note first that I am no climate expert, but someone who doesn`t mind a little scientific or other inquiry.

Question:  “I would like to see your response to this:” [headline: “CO2 rise making the earth greener, more diverse”]

This link brings me to a wepage that quotes ANOTHER webpage, that finally links to a summary of a science article.  The first link consists of the following:


“According to NASA satellite data:

Over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a
whole became more bountiful by a whopping 6.2%. About 25% of the
Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres —
enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines.
When the satellite data zooms in, it finds that each square metre of
land, on average, now produces almost 500 grams of greenery per year.

[A] 2004 study, and other more recent ones, point to the warming of
the planet and the presence of CO2, a gas indispensable to plant life.
CO2 is nature’s fertilizer, bathing the biota with its life-giving
nutrients. Plants take the carbon from CO2 to bulk themselves up —
carbon is the building block of life — and release the oxygen, which
along with the plants, then sustain animal life. As summarized in a
report last month, released along with a petition signed by 32,000 U.
S. scientists who vouched for the benefits of CO2: “Higher CO2 enables
plants to grow faster and larger and to live in drier climates. Plants
provide food for animals, which are thereby also enhanced. The extent
and diversity of plant and animal life have both increased
substantially during the past half-century.”

“Despite the evidence that cutting CO2 would cause environmental destruction and a net loss of bio-diversity,

Amazingly, although the risks of action are arguably at
least as real as the risks of inaction, Canada and other countries are
rushing into Earth-altering carbon schemes with nary a doubt.


My response?:

let me make a few notes about your question (which I may take up in a blog post):
– so man’s emissions of CO2 really DO make a noticeable difference!
– what if I liked my land (plants and animals) the way it was before?  Are those who trumpet the expansion of growth right to assume that notions of global utility (and special interests of emitters) prevail over issues of property and individual rights?
– posts like this are easily shown to be unthinking and one-sided.  This may be deliberate in some cases, but also reflects a subconscious desire not to change one’s mind, as can clearly be seen in the unquestioning, eager snapping up of this on the comment thread (to the linked post). So who’s got religion?
– By “easily shown”, note that your link doesn’t go to the science, but to one guy’s analysis of some (as well as to an editorial by someone at Canada’s Financial Post who proudly announces his denialist credentials).  Did you actually bother to look at the science yourself?  To his credit, the guy at Watt’s Up? at least provides a link:  Click on the link, and it takes you to an article summary that has links to other works that refer to the “CO2 is great” work.  These also show a more complicated picture that futher show how mankind’s mindless mucking is having real effects and presents legitimate cause for concern.
One of these, “Drier summers cancel out the CO2 uptake enhancement induced by warmer springs”, states the following:

the CO2 minimum concentration in late summer (an indicator of net growing-season uptake) showed no positive trend since 1994, indicating that lower net CO2 uptake during summer cancelled out the enhanced uptake during spring. Using a recent satellite normalized difference vegetation index data set and climate data, we show that this lower summer uptake is probably the result of hotter and drier summers in both mid and high latitudes, demonstrating that a warming climate does not necessarily lead to higher CO2 growing-season uptake, …
The seasonal amplitude of atmospheric CO2 (an indicator of biospheric activity) was observed to have increased over the same
period and was linked to the increase in northern hemisphere photosynthetic activity (1). The trend in extratropical terrestrial
photosynthetic activity has been mainly attributed to an observed warming trend
(1). Additional contributions to the trend
include increased precipitation (6), improvement in agricultural practices, and forest regrowth (7). The contributions of CO2
fertilization and nitrogen fertilization to the photosynthetic activity trend were probably small
(7, 8), and changes in radiation [cloud cover] were probably only important in the tropics (5).

(emphasis added)

Clicking on the various article summaries takes you to other relevant and interesting summaries (and the full papers, many of which are free).  Since you are actively concerned about this, I imagine that you have already been clicking through these, in order to learn (and consider) as directly as possible, rather than relying solely on the echo chamber of those who insist that man can’t possibly affect GHG levels/ he can, but it can’t possibly have any effect/ it does have an effect, but it’s great!

Note to readers:  I`m  always happy to help those who profess to love reason to exercise theirs. 

Any more questions out there?

Categories: AGW, climate change, CO2, science Tags:

Jim Hansen: As CO2 climbs, what are the long-term warming effects of CURRENT CO2 levels?

April 7th, 2008 No comments

What do climate scientists say that recently obtained data about our past climate tells us about the consequences of long-term increases in atmospheric CO2 (and other GHGs)?  They tell us that we are already at levels that, if sustained (and at current sink rates it seems that CO2 has an atmospheric half-life of fifty years or so), the result will be an Earth without ice caps if we are about 350 ppm – which we already are, and heading north rapidly.

At the December 2007 meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), according to the Washington Post NASA’s Jim Hansen “offered a simple, straightforward and mind-blowing bottom line for the planet: 350, as in parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”.  The WaPo report provided further background:

Twenty years ago, Hansen kicked off this issue by testifying before Congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. At the time, we could only guess how much warming it would take to put us in real danger. Since the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was roughly 275 parts per million, scientists and policymakers focused on what would happen if that number doubled — 550 was a crude and mythical red line, but politicians and economists set about trying to see if we could stop short of that point. The answer was: not easily, but it could be done.

In the past five years, though, scientists began to worry that the planet was reacting more quickly than they had expected to the relatively small temperature increases we’ve already seen. The rapid melt of most glacial systems, for instance, convinced many that 450 parts per million was a more prudent target. That’s what the European Union and many of the big environmental groups have been proposing in recent years, and the economic modeling makes clear that achieving it is still possible, though the chances diminish with every new coal-fired power plant.

But the data just keep getting worse. The news this fall that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean make even 450 look too high. Consider: We’re already at 383 parts per million, and it’s knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways. So, what does that mean?

It means, Hansen says, that we’ve gone too far. “The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high — that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm,” he said after his presentation. Hansen has reams of paleo-climatic data to support his statements (as do other scientists who presented papers at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this month). The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees Celsius — which is what 450 parts per million implies — sea levels rose by tens of meters, something that would shake the foundations of the human enterprise should it happen again.

Hansen later released a paper online that discusses his views (including his policy suggestions, which I reserve for later – but readers should feel free to take a peek).  The paper is posted at Hansen’s Columbia University webpage (along with others of possible interest):

What does Hansen conclude?  Here are some key excerpts:

  • The approximate equilibrium characterizing most of Earth’s history is unlike the current situation, in which GHGs are rising at a rate much faster than the coupled climate system can respond.
  • Paleoclimate data show that long-term climate has high sensitivity to climate forcings and that the present global mean CO2, 385 ppm, is already in the dangerous zone (including substantial effects that are “built-in” but yet to be felt).
  • Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and icefree Antarctica.
  • No additional forcing is required to raise global temperature to at least the level of the Pliocene, 2-3 million years ago, a degree of warming that would surely yield ‘dangerous’ climate impacts.
  • If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm.  If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects. 
  • Stabilizing atmospheric CO2 and climate requires that net CO2 emissions approach zero, because of the long lifetime of CO2.

Further background discussion includes the following:

  • Paleoclimate data and ongoing global changes indicate that ‘slow’ climate feedback processes not included in most climate models, such as ice sheet disintegration, vegetation migration, and GHG release from soils, tundra or ocean sediments, may begin to come into play on time scales as short as centuries or less.
  • Rapid on-going climate changes and realization that Earth is out of energy balance, imply that more warming is ‘in the pipeline’, add urgency to investigation of the dangerous level of GHGs.
  • GHG and surface albedo changes are mechanisms causing the large global climate changes in Fig. 1, but they do not initiate these large climate swings. Instead changes of GHGs and sea level (a measure of ice sheet size) lag temperature change by typically several hundred years.  GHG and surface albedo changes are positive climate feedbacks. Major glacial-interglacial climate swings are instigated by slow changes of Earth’s orbit, especially the tilt of Earth’s spinaxis relative to the orbital plane and the precession of the equinoxes that influences the intensity of summer insolation. Global radiative forcing due to orbital changes is small, but ice sheet size is affected by changes of geographical and seasonal insolation [e.g., ice melts at both poles when the spin-axis tilt increases, and ice melts at one pole when perihelion, the closest approach to the sun, occurs in late spring]. Also a warming climate causes net release of
    GHGs. The most effective GHG feedback is release of CO2 by the ocean, due partly to temperature dependence of CO2 solubility but mostly to increased ocean mixing in a warmer climate, which acts to flush out deep ocean CO2 and alters ocean biological productivity. GHG and surface albedo feedbacks respond and contribute to temperature change caused by any climate forcing, natural or human-made, given sufficient time.
  • Paleoclimate data permit evaluation of long-term sensitivity to specified GHG change. Plotting GHG forcing from ice core data against temperature shows that global climate sensitivity including the slow surface albedo feedback is 1.5°C per W/m2 or 6°C for doubled CO2 (Fig. 2), twice as large as the Charney fast-feedback sensitivity.  This long-term climate sensitivity is relevant to GHGs that remain airborne for centuries-tomillennia. GHG amounts will decline if emissions decrease enough, but, on the other hand, if the globe warms much further, carbon cycle models and empirical data find a positive GHG feedback. Amplification of GHGs is moderate if warming is kept within the range of recent interglacial periods, but larger warming risks greater release of CH4 and CO2 from methane
    hydrates in tundra and ocean sediments.
  • Human-made global climate forcings now prevail over natural forcings. Earth may have entered the Anthropocene era 6-8 ky ago, but the net human-made forcing was small, perhaps slightly negative, prior to the industrial era. GHG forcing overwhelmed
    natural and negative human-made forcings only in the past quarter century.
  • How long does it take to reach equilibrium temperature? Response is slowed by ocean thermal inertia and the time needed for ice sheets to disintegrate.
  • The expanded time scale for the industrial era (Fig. 2) reveals a growing gap between actual global temperature (purple curve) and equilibrium (long-term) temperature response based on the net estimated forcing (black curve). Ocean and ice sheet response times together account for this gap, which is now 2.0°C.  Climate models, which include only fast feedbacks, have additional warming of
    ~0.6°C in the pipeline today because of ocean thermal inertia.  The remaining gap between equilibrium temperature for current atmospheric composition and actual global temperature is ~1.4°C. This further 1.4°C warming to come is due to the slow surface albedo feedback, specifically ice sheet disintegration and vegetation change.
  • Present-day observations of Greenland and Antarctica show increasing surface melt, loss of buttressing ice shelves, accelerating ice streams, and increasing overall mass loss. These rapid changes do not occur in existing ice sheet models, which are missing critical
    physics of ice sheet disintegration. Sea level changes of several meters per century occur in the paleoclimate record, in response to forcings slower and weaker than the present human-made forcing. It seems likely that large ice sheet response will occur within centuries, if human-made forcings continue to increase. Once ice sheet disintegration is underway, decadal changes of sea level may be substantial.
  • GHGs other than CO2 cause climate forcing comparable to that of CO2, but growth of non-CO2 GHGs is falling below IPCC scenarios and the GHG climate forcing change is determined mainly by CO2. Net human-made forcing is comparable to the CO2
    forcing, as non-CO2 GHGs tend to offset negative ice-free aerosol forcing.
  • Theory and models indicate that subtropical regions expand poleward with global warming. Data reveal a 4-degree latitudinal shift already, larger than model predictions, yielding increased aridity in southern United States, the Mediterranean region, Australia and parts of Africa. Impacts of this climate shift support the conclusion that 385 ppm CO2 is already deleterious.
  • Alpine glaciers are in near-global retreat. After a flush of fresh water, glacier loss foretells long summers of frequently dry rivers, including rivers originating in the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains that now supply water to hundreds of millions of people. Present glacier retreat, and warming in the pipeline, indicate that 385 ppm CO2 is already a threat.
  • Equilibrium sea level rise for today’s 385 ppm CO2 is at least several meters, judging from paleoclimate history. Accelerating mass losses from Greenland and West Antarctica heighten concerns about ice sheet stability.
  • Stabilization of Arctic sea ice cover requires restoration of planetary energy balance. Climate models driven by known forcings yield a present planetary energy imbalance of +0.5-1 W/m2, a result supported by observed increasing ocean heat content. CO2 amount must be reduced to 325-355 ppm to increase outgoing flux 0.5-1 W/m2, if other forcings are unchanged. A further reduced flux, by ~0.5 W/m2, and thus CO2 ~300-325 ppm, may be needed to restore sea ice to its area of 25 years ago.
  • Coral reefs are suffering from multiple stresses, with ocean acidification and ocean warming principal among them. Given additional warming ‘in-the-pipeline’, 385 ppm CO2 is already deleterious.





Categories: AGW, climate change, CO2, hansen Tags:

Rudimentary climate science; the role of CO2, oceans and volcanoes

April 7th, 2008 No comments

I am posting here a brief summary that I just sent to a Mises Blog contributor, in response to an inquiry I received:

Thanks for your email. 

First, I’m no expert but simply read. With that as background, let me respond on a few points.
  • I think that the general scientific view is that CO2 is a GHG, so that increases in atmospheric CO2 increase the radiative forcing effect of CO2.
  • In the pre-industrial past,  warmings were typically initiated by other factors – chiefly wobbles of the Earth on its axis and in its solar orbit – but as these other factors warmed the oceans, that led to greater releases of CO2 from the oceans and an increase in atmospheric CO2, which reinforced the warming initiated by other factors.  The CO2 warming led to further warming of the oceans, etc., until other factors kicked in that initiated a cooling, which led to an uptake of CO2 by the oceans, etc.  Thus, in the past CO2 had a supportive (but still important) role.
  • Occasional volcanoes (either land or submarine) do not appear to release enough CO2 or warmth to significantly affect the climate, other than the short-tern (one – two year) cooling effect of dust and aerosols.
  • Presently, CO2 releases by volcanoes is orders of magnitude less than releases from fossil fuel combustion – volcanoes like Pinatubo do not even make a blip on the charts of climbing CO2 levels (which clear show season cycles), and there is no evidence of any general increase (or decrease) in volcanic activity.
  • However, there does seem to be evidence of rare cases in the past where massive and long-lasting vocanic eruptions (the Deccan traps and the Siberian traps) have severely affected climate – even being closely related to mass extinction events.
  • Presently, the oceans are absorbing carbon, leading to increase in ocead acidity (reduction of alkalinity).  This will eventually slow the further ocean uptake of CO2.  In the meanwhile, scientists are very, very concerned about the effect that relatively rapid pH change will have on corals and other critters that use calcium (including diatoms).
Here are a few links that might be helpful.


“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman


Categories: AGW, climate change, CO2, ocean, volcanoes Tags:

Reducing CO2 vs. expanding energy needs

December 15th, 2007 2 comments

Ron Bailey of Reason, reporting from Bali, has an interesting post up summarizing the discussion by James Connaughton, director of President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, on one small aspect of the climate conundrum, namely, what would be actually involved in meeting the energy shortfall implict in targets to reduce CO2 emissions by half by mid-century.

 The crux?

Connaughton offered an interesting thought experiment. The major economies emit 22 gigatons (1 billion tons) of CO2 annually. In one reference case, those emissions would rise to 37 gigatons by 2050. So, Connaughton says, assume that we need to reduce current emissions by half from current emission—by 11 gigatons—to stabilize CO2 atmospheric concentrations. That means that the world would have to find the equivalent energy that producing 25 gigatons of emissions would have produced in 2050.

To get a handle on what this might mean, Connaughton asked, “How big is a gigaton?” One gigaton is equivalent to 273 coal-fired electric generation plants with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Of course, there are only a few demonstration plants now, and 273 plants represent 7 percent of the world’s current coal-fired generation capacity. Estimates of how much CCS might cost range between $150 to $250 per ton of carbon (or $50 to $80 per ton of CO2). By one estimate CCS would raise the cost of electricity to 25 to 40 percent; others suggest that the increase could be as much as 85 percent.

Connaughton also pointed out that avoiding the emission of a gigaton of CO2 implies building 135 new nuclear power plants. The world has 400 now. In addition, a gigaton is equivalent to 270,000 windmills which is 4-times more than are currently operating. Growing enough biofuels to reduce a gigaton of emissions would take an area twice the size of the United Kingdom. Of course, such projections rely on the deployment of near-term technologies. It’s impossible to tell what new technologies a higher price on carbon fuels might call forth from the world’s laboratories.

Categories: AGW, bali, bush, climate, CO2, Ron Bailey, targets Tags:

Richard Tol and Marty Weitzman on The Costs of Ignoring Carbon

December 15th, 2007 No comments

There is a new paper out by economist Richard Tol that summarizes all of the economic work on climate change over the past two decades, in light of recent analyses, particularly the ground-breaking new work by Harvard’s Marty Weitzman on how the “fat tail” of climate risk affects cost-benefit analysis.  Tol is attached to the Economic and Social Research Institute (Dublin), the Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam), and the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University.


 Tol`s conclusions?

There are three implications.

Firstly, greenhouse gas emission reduction today is justified. The median of the Fisher-Tippett kernel density for peer-reviewed estimates with a 3% pure rate of time preference and without equity weights, is $20/tC. This compares to a future price of carbon permits of $8/tC in the European Union (and a spot price of ¢3/tC).  The case for intensification of climate policy can be made with conservative assumptions. One does not have to rely on dodgy analysis as in Schneider et al. (2007) and Stern et al. (2006).

Secondly, the uncertainty is so large that a considerable risk premium is warranted. With the conservative assumptions above, the mean equals $23/tC and the certainty-equivalent $25/tC. More importantly, there is a 1% probability that the social cost of carbon is greater than $78/tC. This number rapidly increases if we use a lower discount rate – as may well be appropriate for a problem with such a long time horizon – and if we allow for the possibility that there is some truth in the scare-mongering of the gray literature.

Thirdly, more research is needed into the economic impacts of climate change – to eliminate that part of the uncertainty that is due to lack of study, and to separate the truly scary impacts from the scare-mongering. Papers often conclude with a call for more research, and often this is a call for funding for the authors or a justification for further papers by the authors. In this case, however, quality research by newcomers in the field would be particularly welcome.

Tol drew these conclusions from the principal results of his research, which were as follows:

Besides more data and more advanced statistical analysis, this paper offers four results.

Firstly, there is a downward trend in the estimates of the social cost of carbon – even if the IPCC (Schneider et al., 2007) would like to believe the opposite.

Secondly, the Stern Review (Stern et al., 2006) is an outlier – and its impact estimates are pessimistic even when compared to other studies in the gray literature and other estimates that use low discount rates.

Thirdly, the uncertainty about the social cost of carbon is so large that the tails of the distribution may dominate the conclusions (Weitzman, 2007) – even though many of the high estimates have not been peer-reviewed and use unacceptably low discount rates.

Fourthly, if everyone were to pay a carbon tax equal to the social cost of carbon (but not reduce emissions), there is a fair chance that annual taxes would exceed annual income for many people.

(emphasis added)

The recent Marty Weitzman paper that Tol refers to is here:

Marty Weitzman: “On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change”, December 5, 2007 [Update: Weitzman has revised; the latest version is dated Februaru 8, 2008];

Categories: AGW, carbon pricing, climate, CO2, Tol, Weitzman Tags:

Bali: Murdoch & 149 Other Top Vile Collectivists/Capitalists Call for Global Poverty …

December 3rd, 2007 5 comments

and for a legally binding UN framework to tackle climate change.  Just who are these vile collectivists, red enviros, misanthropes, and others caught up in the totally groundless AGW hysteria?

[Snark Alert!]

Let’s go to FOX News – which headlines “Top Corporations Demand Action on Global Warming”  Fox says that “more than 150 global companies — worth nearly $4 trillion in market capitalization — have signed a petition urging “strong, early action on climate change””.  Amazingly, the news report ends with a disclainer:  “ is owned and operated by News Corporation, which is among the signatories of the Bali Communiqué.”,2933,314224,00.html

Just what the heck is going on?

On November 30, UK and EU Corporate Leaders Groups on Climate Change (spearheaded by the Prince of Wales) published the “Bali Communiqué”, by which leaders of 150 global companies encouraged world leaders to work for a comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change.

The Bali Communiqué calls for:

  • “a comprehensive, legally binding United Nations framework to tackle climate change”;
  • “emission reduction targets to be guided primarily by science”;
  • “those countries that have already industrialised to make the greatest effort”; and
  • “world leaders to seize the window of opportunity and agree a work plan of negotiations to ensure an agreement can come into force post 2012 (when the existing Kyoto Protocol expires)”

The vile collectivists provided the following business case:

“The scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Climate change presents very serious global social, environmental and economic risks and it demands an urgent global response.

“As business leaders, it is our belief that the benefits of strong, early action on climate change outweigh the costs of not acting:

“The economic and geopolitical costs of unabated climate change could be very severe and globally disruptive. All countries and economies will be affected, but it will be the poorest countries that will suffer earliest and the most

  • The costs of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change are manageable, especially if guided by a common international vision
  • Each year we delay action to control global emissions increases the risk of unavoidable consequences that will likely necessitate even steeper reductions in the future, causing potentially greater economic, environmental and social disruption.
  • The shift to a low-carbon economy will create significant business opportunities. New markets for low carbon technologies and products, worth billions of dollars, will be created if the world acts on the scale required

“In summary, we believe that tackling climate change is the pro-growth strategy. Ignoring it will ultimately undermine economic growth.

“It is our view that a sufficiently ambitious, international and comprehensive legally-binding United Nations agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will provide business with the certainty it needs to scale up global investment in low-carbon technologies. We believe that an enhanced and extended carbon market needs to be part of this framework as it offers the necessary flexibility, allows for a cost-effective transition and provides financial support to developing countries.”

Companies supporting the communiqué included the following:

US-based: Coca-Cola, Dupont, Gap, GE, Johnson and Johnson, Nike, Pacific Gas and Electric, Sun Microsystems and United Technologies.

European-based:  Anglo-American, British Airways, F&C Asset Management, Ferrovial, Nestle, Nokia, Rolls Royce, Shell, Tesco, Virgin and Volkswagen.

Australian-based: Insurance Australia Group, Macquarie, National Australia Bank, News Corporation and Westpac.

Chinese: Shanghai Electric, Zhufeng Technology and Suntech.

More here:

Well, it’s clear that they are all deluded and don’t care about impoverishing the rest of the world.  They certainly know nothing about science, economics or the potential difficulties that their companies might confront in facing the challenges that they allege.  They’re just sycophants and fellow-travellers of the evil, misanthropic “watermelon” enviros.

 In other words, there’s nothing here folks; move along.