the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

My Opinion

Posted by Jeff Id on December 6, 2011

It isn’t often that I have cause to agree with Nick lately but he has put a comment in another thread which I would like to copy here in the middle of climategate just to give some perspective on why I don’t fall in line with the IPCC.

Nick Stokes said

December 6, 2011 at 7:32 am e

My general position is, yes, AGW is happening and will change our world a lot. How bad a rise of 3-4C will be I don’t know, but it’s very likely to happen.

You can’t deny Arrhenius and RTE. What that comes down to is that the IPCC judgment, right at the front of the SPM, that AGW has caused a rise of about 2 W/m2 in incoming radiation, is sound. Then you get to the climate sensitivity, which is more controversial. But even 2C per CO2 doubling has a big effect.

The arithmetic that is very basic, often forgotten, is on total C. We’ve burnt overall about 350 gigatons, and about 200 of that is in the atmosphere now. Rough figures – it’s late night here. There’s at least another 3000 Gtons C we could easily dig up and burn. That puts arguments about whether we’ve only had about 0.7C rise so far in perspective. It’s more than the total C in the atmosphere and biosphere (what was there and what we’ve put there, about 1500-2000 Gtons), and doesn’t allow for unconventional carbon. It’s at least two doublings. And the real question is, can we burn it all? And if not, how will we stop ourselves?

I haven’t mentioned the temp record, or paleo. That’s not part of the case. It’s important because if by now we hadn’t seen a temp rise, there would be legitimate questions. But we have. It isn’t the proof of AGW, but it’s consistent with it. Paleo says that it’s beyond the normal expactation, but that’s even less essential to the basic case.

Now I can’t disagree with any of what Nick has written, this is different than fully agreeing but only because I don’t have as much confidence in his warming numbers.   So if Iam one of the bad-guy skeptics, where does that put the argument?

I’m a skeptic because:

- I beleive climate models are systematically biased through financial and political pressures.  The biasing mechanism is complex.

- I do believe it is still in the bounds of reason that negative feedback is real or <1C of warming per doubling of CO2 is not impossible.

- I believe the models are running warm compared to observations.

- I believe UHI in the temeperature record is being given the gloss over and the dominant historic ocean temps have poorly explained problems.

- I believe that the effects of warming are completely unknown and these particular damage exaggerations of the IPCC are fraudulently biased and disgusting.

- I believe that even if we wanted to stop production of CO2- we can’t because the technologies recommended are fake.

- I believe that Nuclear is our only viable alternate option and it only solves part of the problem.

- I beleive that paleoclimatology is a fungus growing on the backside of the IPCC and they should find an ointment ASAP.

- I beleieve that information which supports the above and contradicts the scientific story the IPCC would tell is being repressed.

- I believe that a lot more of that information would come to light were funding balanced on science rather than politics.

- I believe the media and governments are working actively to cover the above problems up.

So as an engineer, despite my understanding of the basics Nick has stated, I also believe that there isn’t anything we can do to stop CO2 production today anyway.  In the meantime, I am a piss-poor activist.  I don’t care enough to make a concerted attempt to organize as these scientists do.  I don’t collect lists of reporters who are friendly to the cause, because there isn’t a cause – and not many unbiased reporters.   The most activist thing I do is occasionally ask Anthony Watts to post something I’ve written so that it gets read more.

As always, feel free to tell me I’m wrong.

29 Responses to “My Opinion”

  1. Edmh said

    Can this really be true ??

    But the effect of CO2 as a Greenhouse gas becomes ever more marginal with concentration

    Remarkably, IPCC Published reports themselves acknowledge that the effective temperature increase caused by growing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere radically diminishes with increasing concentrations. The effectiveness of CO2 as a greenhouse gas is well understood in the climate science community to reduce logarithmically as concentrations increase: according to the Beer Lambert Law.

    Although the IPCC accepts that this crucial effect exists, it certainly does not promote the fact. The IPCC far from explaining the devastating consequences of this fact in their Summary for Policy Makers. Instead it claims that:

    “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal. Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.”

    Thus any unquestioning, policy making reader is unequivocally lead to assume that all increasing CO2 concentrations are progressively more harmful because of their escalating Greenhouse impact.


    Even if CO2 emissions increase indefinitely from the present position of a atmospheric CO2 concentration of ~390 ppmv, there is only ~12% of the effectiveness of CO2 as a Greenhouse Gas remaining. As the further effectiveness of CO2 is now limited to only ~12%, the widely held alarmist policy ambition to constrain Man-made temperature increase to 2°C could never be attained, however much more Man-made CO2 was emitted.

    So that stated policy ambition of limiting further Man-made temperature increase to just 2°C has to be nonsensical.

    And there is a very large hole in the bottom of the CAGW boat

  2. Leonard Weinstein said

    It appears even the IPCC has hinted to expect the next couple of decades to likely be cooling AT A TIME OF MAXIMUM CO2 LEVEL AND INCREASE. In addition it has been intimated that natural variation seems to be dominating the human caused effects. If this does not put the stake in the heart of CAGW, I do not know what will. We all admit human activity has some effect, and local regional effects can be significant. The claim of 2C or more rise has no data justification. The theory dos not show there will be a rise, only that CO2 by itself can cause a small effect, and the rest is due to feedback, which now appears to be dominated by negative cloud feedback.

  3. Fred N. said

    IMHO, land use/cover change has to have had a significant effect on albedo, atmospheric circulations and the carbon cycle. Just think of the millions of acres of forest that have been cleared for farm use and urbanization in the Americas (north central and south) and Asia that has happened over the past 150 years, coincidentaly with the rise in GMSTs. I know Pielke Sr. has been banging this drum for a long time and has been critical of the single minded focus on carbon emissions from fossil fuel use.
    Secondly, we need to ensure our oceans stay healthy as they are a major contributor to the carbon cycle.

  4. M. Simon said


    Tree cover in America has been rebounding since 1900. We no longer need so much land for farming – despite a population increase of about 3X. Thanks to coal and oil.

  5. Fred N. said

    @ M. Simon. Unfortunately one can’t say the same about South America (eg. Brazil) and Asia.

  6. Neil said

    I liked Jeff’s list so I modified it my own beliefs.

    I’m a skeptic because:

    - I believe climate models are only tools that can provide some insight to a complex, dynamic system via the provision of a consistent framework, but the mechanism are so complex and so incompletely understood that the margin of error more than likely dominates the answer. There is also evidence that they are systematically biased through confirmation bias, financial and political pressures.

    - I do believe it is still in the bounds of reason that negative feedback is real or <1C of warming per doubling of CO2 is not impossible.

    - I believe that there is no such thing as the right or correct temperature for the earth, but there is definitely a good range for humans. How many humans and other species survive at the extremes is a different question.

    - I believe the models are running warm compared to observations and that some of the observations themselves have been adjusted to be warmer.

    - I believe UHI in the temperature record is being given the gloss over and the dominant historic ocean temps have poorly explained problems and that the overall dynamics of the oceans, land and atmosphere are poorly understood.

    - I believe that the effects of warming are not well understood due to the complexity of micro systems and that this compounds the errors in the macro perspective/models.

    - The use of fear and exaggerations by the IPCC is fraudulent and plays to a fundamental fear within humans of the environment and what it can do to us.

    - I believe that even if we wanted to stop production of CO2- we can’t without so affecting the lives of billions today and in the future and that the cure is currently worse than the problem

    - I believe that there is no one energy source that is the solution. Picking winners and subsidising technologies is merely income redistribution in drag. Governments are notoriously poor at picking future solutions and should leave it to the market while ensuring appropriate regulatory and legal frameworks are in place and evolve with knowledge and understanding.

    - I believe that many green/carbon tax/cap and trade supporters believe that there are too many humans on the earth and that only solution is to reduce our numbers, but they won't say this. They see humans as a virus on the earth that needs to be removed, rather than that we are of/from this earth. They want to preserve teh earth for its own sake, not for the benefit oh humans.The need to remove themselves is not considered because they are at one with the earth and protecting it from the rest of us capitalist exploiters.

  7. Will Delson said


    I notice that you didn’t include anything about sol. Is this an oversight or do you not believe there is any solar connection to the recent warming?

  8. Jeff Id said


    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sun actually warmed the earth. I don’t trust the proxies, that’s for sure.

  9. Carrick said

    Will, it is looking more likely that solar variability is not a good candidate for explaining climate change over 100-year intervals (namely it has been much more constant over these periods than previously thought).

    One of the oddities of the GCMs is they choose to accept in solar variability for the first half of the century (needed to help model and data agree for that period) using out-dated solar forcing histories (h/t to Steven Mosher on that), but not for the second half, for which there is much more data.

    Edmh, all I can say to address your concerns, is climate is based on mathematical not intuitive arguments, and if you go through the science and mathematical theory correctly, the approximately logarithmic nature of CO2 forcing does not prevent increases of greater than 2°C/doubling of CO2, once you include water vapor feedback. (CO2 forcing by itself leads to a direct warming of roughly 1°C/doubling.)

  10. stan said

    I’m a skeptic because of the poor quality of the work and the poor quality of the scientists. In climate science, no one audits or replicates anyone else’s work. When there isn’t any accountability, there shouldn’t be any trust. Venture capitalists tell us that half to 2/3 of published studies that they try to replicate are bad. These are studies by academics who KNOW their work will be replicated. And yet they still succumb to the siren song of believing too strongly in their own BS and desiring too much the fame such that they end up wrong most of the time.

    If those academic scientists who know and expect that their work will be replicated still screw up most of the time, what should we expect of those academics who expect that their work and their data will remain secret? I’d bet the percentage is far worse. And what we have seen from Jones, Briffa, Mann, Rahmstorf, Steig, et al in the work that people have been able to check supports that supposition.

    Given what we know of the IPCC and the corruption and incompetence of many in the climate science field, why would anyone trust anything they claim they know? They are not trustworthy witnesses. They lack credibility. And no one checks their work. As such, I don’t believe anything they say.

    I don’t have any idea what the science will ultimately prove. But I know a good bit about witnesses, and evidence, and credibility and trust. Those who flunk the necessary standards are not worthy of having their opinions relied upon. And certainly not for policy purposes.

  11. Nick Stokes suggests that we can dig up and burn 3,000 Giga-tonnes of carbon and this could cause two more doublings of CO2.

    Has the CO2 concentration ever been as high as 1,600 ppm in the past? Yes!!!! The present CO2 concentration is unusually low. For a little perspective check out:

    If Scotese is right, global temperatures have been much higher for most of the past 600 million years. We are currently in an Ice Age and people like Nick Stokes want to make it COOLER.


  12. mrsean2k said

    Arrhenius is often cited as confirmation in this way, like a bit of a trump card.

    But context is everything, it’s one player in a complex system with multiple feedbacks of sometimes uncertain sign and magnitude.

    Now if this argument was being held on Kandor – – I may be more sympathetic to the call for immediate action

  13. GC #11,
    Notice something about those lovely warm times? There were no humans. Now we have 7 billion of them to think about. It might be great for camels.

  14. kim said

    We are cooling, Nick; for how long even kim doesn’t know.

  15. Niels A Nielsen said

    Nick: “Notice something about those lovely warm times? There were no humans. Now we have 7 billion of them to think about. It might be great for camels.”

    Well, it might be great for most humans too. In fact I think it would. But before we set your hopes too high we should keep in mind that the warming effect of CO2 might be smaller than expected by Nick and the IPCC. A lot smaller.

  16. david said

    A small point in future CO2 uptake senarios.

    Could plant and tree growth be a lag factor in CO2 uptake. If a tree lives 100 years, and CO2 increases 200 ppm overnight, assuming other conditions are the same, would not the accelerated growth and CO2 uptake require time to fully manifest?

    Overall I am a sceptic because the warming is thus far at the bottom end of all projections (even at the bottom to peak portion of a 60 year cycle), the benefits of additional CO2 are known, the harm is theoretical and failing to manifest, the scientific proponets behave very badly, the paleo studies are piss poor and politics have polluted the science.

  17. david_in_ct said

    I am a skeptic because i can not find a single alarmist to take a bet that by all their modeling is hugely in their favor.
    As nick says above, according to the rock solid physics temps should be rising minimally by 2c per century higher if you believe the feedback stuff. Amplification of temps in the troposphere is put at about 1.4x as per gavin &co. So trop atmos temps should be rising minimally by 1.4 * 2 or 2.8c per century or .28 per decade. Thats a rock solid physics bottom right?
    So how come no one will step up to the plate and take wager that repeats every year for 20 years that pays off if RSS temps rise by .2c over the year 10 years previous. So if the rock solid baseline undisputed physics is right if 2012 is .2c higher than 2002 you win one unit. If 2013 is .2 higher than 2003 you win again and so on for 20 years.
    According to the models this should be an absolute layup, probably something like at least 5:1 on any given year. If someone offered me even money on a 5:1 proposition I’d belly up to the bar big time.
    What say you Nick?

  18. Anonymous said

    I notice you didn’t pick up on the perfect irony of the JAXA IBUKI results, showing that the West is a major CO2 sink, and the underdeveloped nations a major source.

    Two options: if CO2 is bad, the udn owe the West big bucks and must be forced to industrialize PDQ; or, if CO2 is beneficial, the West owes the udn big bucks for contributing to its productive agriculture, the the udn should be prevented from industrializing.

    Also, please make up your mind; how do you want to spell it? Beleive, believe, or beleieve? Only one is correct. >:P

  19. Anonymous said

    typo: “and the udn should be prevented from industrializing”.

  20. Brian H said

    Sorry, forgot that my cookies got wiped, and need to be recreated. The anonymuses above are I.

  21. Jeff Id said

    #19 . I believe that I wish my typing were as good as yours. Try 1500 posts with an average of 1500 words each. My editor is an ass though.

    As far as picking up on the west vs east sink, I am perfectly aware of the result and completely unconvinced. Who cares anyway. It is the net gain that we are supposed to worry about.

  22. steven mosher said

    I agree with Nick. you dont need paleo or the temp record to understand that putting carbon
    in the atmosphere is a huge risk.
    And I agree with Jeff, we are going to do it.
    my precautionary principle says adapt.

  23. Niels A Nielsen said

    Mosher, Isn’t some part of you content that “we are going to do it” and we thus may live to see science get a firmer grip on CO2 sensitivity and the effects, good and bad, of putting carbon in the air? I know a good part of me is.

  24. gallopingcamel said

    Nick Stokes @13,

    As you correctly point out there were no humans during those warm times so we cannot be sure know how humans will fare when it gets much warmer.

    We do know how mammals in general fared during the late Eocene; their numbers exploded and camels made their debut.

    We also know how humans fared during the “Dark Ages” and during the “Little Ice Age” from historical records. I strongly recommend that you watch the History Channel documentary called “Little Ice Age…Big Chill”.

  25. Espen said

    Jeff, I agree with almost all your points. Only difference: I think paleoclimatology may be a disaster in its current cult-supporting form, but there’s nothing wrong with the subject per se, just the conclusions drawn.

    Nick: Why the camel comment? A warmer world would be a moister world, not a more desert-like world. In fact, a warmer world would probably have capacity for more humans than the current world even if deserts would grow into current semi-arid areas, since enormous land areas in Siberia and Canada would become much more suitable for agriculture.

    In general I think we know close to nothing about what would happen if we raised the atmosphere’s CO2 content to 1000ppm, except for one thing: If the next glaciation starts despite of such a high concentration of CO2, the whole world will be a much nicer place to be during that glaciation, since land plants wouldn’t be as CO2-starved as during the previous glaciations. Some times I think Mother Earth was just extremely lucky that humans started returning all that CO2 to her air ;-)

  26. Jeff Id said


    I do think there is a very high probability that a high CO2 world would be more comfortable.

  27. Espen @25,

    Nick was referring to this camel (the galloping one) but please don’t assume that camels only existed in deserts. The early camels were quite small. More like dogs than today’s camels:

  28. I agree with Jeff that a higher level of CO2 would be a wonderful thing given that many plants cannot survive when the CO2 concentration drops below 150 ppm.

    If one could believe people like David Archer, high CO2 concentrations will postpone the next Ice Age indefinitely. See Figure 3. at this URL:

    If only it were that easy! I would buy a larger SUV so as to fulfil my duty to the human race by increasing my carbon footprint.

  29. Brian H said

    Net gain? But if the West is already doing the negative net gain thing, the only significant way to cut is to reduce the positive udn gain thing.

    But I actually think we should encourage the udn to pump as much as possible. I have qualms about encouraging them to remain undeveloped to achieve this, though.

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