the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Leaps of faith and Conjoined Science

Posted by Jeff Id on September 17, 2010

Do something now, before it’s too late.   The mantra of climate science™ and the IPCC.  To believe that we must act now, there are several leaps of faith one must accept.

Besides the basic and obvious physics, you first have to believe that CO2 causes a positive feedback in the atmosphere and therefore serious warming.  All by a minuscule changes in trace CO2 levels.  The feedback is a difficult and faithful leap when there is little ‘data’ to back it up.

The second leap you must undertake is that which says warming is bad.   Certainly there are plenty of stories about warmer weather which sound scary, but in general, warm weather is more pleasant and more livable.  Things grow in warm weather and die off in cold.  More warm, more things will live, biodiversity will expand, famland will expand.  Of course to assume that CO2 will cause these pleasant effects to happen requires the first leap of faith.  But assuming that several degrees C will cause the massive problems predicted is very very much a leap of faith.

There is a third leap, and this one is actually the hardest.  The belief that somehow we can control the emission of CO2 through ‘green’ energy.   That somehow we can just stop emitting CO2 worldwide and it will all be ok.   Nobody starves, nobody dies, everyone just tightens up a bit and we’re good.   Happy green people on happy cooler earth.

Three leaps and you are almost home, but which ones are based on science.

Leap one, is based on CO2 warming (known true) and moisture feedback to that warming (unproven with quite a bit of contrary data).

Leap two is based on nothing but conjecture, absolutely no damage can be shown from warming.  It is voodoo and fear mongering.  Nobody knows what will actually happen, but they do know how to scare you.  Someone please show me where I’m wrong, because I’ve been at this two years and have found not one thing.  Some have taken advantage of the fact that it is nearly impossible to prove wrong at this point in our understanding.

Leap three is political.  Nothing more, but many of the solutions are based on demonstrably unworkable technologies. Things like biofuel, I liked it until I did some basic calculations.  Biofuel does not work, cannot work and will never work.  It’s a boondoggle industry filled with charlatans and crooks nursing at the public money fountain. Wind, I’ve recently discovered is also very very bad.  Solar power is great, if you want to triple or quadruple your costs and don’t mind covering five states with solar installations. These ‘solutions’ are completely bogus with today’s technology although solar may cross the credibility line in the future (30 years maybe).

Electric cars today– my god we monkeys are gullible. I love electric cars and really can’t wait until they do what I need, but they are nowhere near ready yet.   The torque will be a blast.  Smooth power, open interiors, no transmissions and wheel mounted motors.  That is going to be sweet! And if we don’t chuck our economy to the wind (some pun intended), we might actually get to try one before 30 years.

Still there are those who buy into the concept that a tax can fix everything.  Tax the wealthy, spend on implementation and problem solved.  This is what my new blog friend Bart Verheggen wrote:

Implementation is needed to get started on emission reductions. It’s the cumulative emissions that are of concern, so earlier cuts in emissions are more useful to climate stabilization than similar cuts made later.

Now Bart is an honest scientist in my opinion but we have several disagreements.  His small paragraph makes a point which is oft overlooked in the climate discussion.  The fourth leap of faith required to believe in the emergency of AGW is the centuries long persistence of CO2 in the atmosphere.  CO2 must have an enormous atmospheric lifespan as the IPCC claims, otherwise when bad things start happening, we can just stop making CO2.  If CO2 is quickly reabsorbed, we can simply build nukes when stuff gets bad and 30 years after that, we’ve returned to normal.  There is no need to spend any money today.  Of course this leap is yet another monstrously large  and unproven step which is absolutely core to the AGW case.  Unsurprisingly, there is plenty of data which contradicts leap four also.

Climate scientists often accuse those of us who work in hard science of not understanding uncertainty.  Here, I am making the reverse claim.  Climate science is too soft a science to be demonstrably wrong in the short timeframe in which it has become mainstream.  These guys haven’t been proven wrong enough by the god of climate.  Being human, the hubris and narcissism build on them – source.  Not because they are so good, but rather because of the career long timeframes and lack of feedback involved.  My accusation is that Climate Science has misinterpreted uncertainty.

Finally, in the real world where most of us live, the ‘solution’ to CO2 output is very simple.  It’s blatantly and flatly simple, and what is more – it’s guaranteed to be found.  Nuclear power in its various forms will be the power of the future.  I don’t like some of the dangers because the doom scenario’s are a bit scary, but it IS what it IS.   Coal today and nukes tomorrow.  Why can I make such a claim?  Because that is where GOD put the energy — in matter!  It is NOT my fault.

When a few hundred tons of matter can replace all the fossil fuel in between every grain of sand on earth, it is pretty hard to deny.  Yet with all the blatant knowledge about energy,  we get comments like Barts which say — do something now.  He doesn’t say — do nuclear now, in fact that is probably the hardest item to find on the IPCC list of recommendations yet nuclear is the ONLY something, the singular ONLY thing that works to eliminate CO2.

The ugly stepchild, nuclear energy.

I’m feeling inspired.


Cold, fission

If we the science minded are to make the uncertain leaps of faith

____and climate change is truly the greatest  pollution

_________then climate science must recognize with grace

_______________that there is little uncertainty in the solution

43 Responses to “Leaps of faith and Conjoined Science”

  1. Jeff Id said

    of course, I’m not terribly afraid of CO2 so a couple hundred coal plants wouldn’t freak me out either.

  2. I agree with you, Jeff.

    Modern climatology is little more than well-paid scaremongering.

    The nucleus is where most of the mass and the energy of each atom is stored.

    Electrons are rearranged in chemical reactions like combustion, and typically release ~0.001% of the energy released in nuclear reactions.

    If the US Department of Energy Secretary Dr. Steven Chu were seriously concerned about future energy needs, he would immediately order DOE to fund a few nuclear scientists to confirm or deny reports that neutron repulsion is the largest known source of energy:

    “Neutron emission may release up to 1.1%–2.4% of the nuclear rest mass as energy. By comparison, 0.8% of the rest mass is converted to energy in hydrogen fusion and 0.1% is converted to energy in fission.” See abstract of “Neutron repulsion confirmed as energy source”, JOURNAL OF FUSION ENERGY 20 (2001) 197-201 .

    Until that happens you can be certain that the politicians, science editors, the Royal Society, the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the agencies it controls through budget review (DOE, NASA, EPA, etc) are not seriously interested in reducing the amount of CO2 generated from combustion reactions. There is another purpose for their scaremongering.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  3. DeWitt Payne said

    The persistence of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is dependent on the size of the sinks relative to the size of the atmosphere and the rate constants for transfer between sinks. Everything is equilibrium in the end. Increase the amount of CO2 in the ocean and the equilibrium CO2 concentration (the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere that would still be there if anthropogenic emissions ceased entirely and several hundred years passed) in the atmosphere goes up. The same goes for terrestrial biomass. The largest sink/source, the geologic carbon cycle, is thought, with good reason, to be very slow, on the order of hundreds of thousands or millions of years. If the sinks with the shortest time constants, on the order of decades or less, were several orders of magnitude larger than the atmosphere, then the near term equilibrium concentration would only be slightly higher than the pre-industrial level. But the observed kinetics of the increase in atmospheric concentration compared to the amount released makes it look like these sinks are less than an order of magnitude larger than the atmosphere. That means the equilibrium concentration could be 10 to 20% higher than the pre-industrial level for centuries or millenia. And that’s only if emissions return to pre-industrial levels.

    Not holding my breath on that one. I agree with Pielke, Jr. on the politics. We’re not going to stop, or even significantly reduce, our use of fossil fuels until either they get so expensive, not just in monetary terms but in energy returned/energy invested terms, that the economy collapses or economical substitutes can be found. There’s a problem with timing also. There’s lots of possibilities on the nuclear front, but it will take decades after they’re successfully demonstrated to get them deployed. The pessimists on fossil fuel supplies say we don’t have decades. Their arguments cannot be dismissed out of hand.

  4. Geoff Sherrington said

    Re nuclear power, the suggestion is to subscribe online to World Nuclear News to receive news as it happens. Then have a special look at what is happening in China. There is no talk there of decades for deployment. The Chinese as a group are a bit more intelligent than most and they are getting on with a massive no-frills, low cost, adequate saftety, government-encouraged program. They should also be given more recognition for the significance of their one child per family policy. Indeed, there might even be merit in the swift way in which dissident greenies are sent on their ways – because it is the lead in the saddle of the greenies that has overburdened nuclear power costs for decades.

    Since the start of the CO2 ademonisation, I have persistently maintained that the case in favour of nuclear power should stand alone – as it does, economically, when stripped of the lead. It’s not required to compare it with fossil fuel or alt energy, to justify it. The arguments against nuclear continue to run in proportion to the ignorance of the opposition, which can be frightening and which needs to be managed for some decades yet to allow it to decay to realism.

  5. max said

    The pessimists on fossil fuel supplies say we don’t have decades. Their arguments cannot be dismissed out of hand.

    yes they can and they have been dismissible for about 15 years now. on the scale of decades with new power supplies coming in, fossil fuel supplies are enormous, proven reserves are sufficient for about 200 years at current levels of use without any new discoveries. that’s zero new discoveries, not peak oil.

  6. Guido Botteri said

    @DeWitt Payne
    please read this:
    …are you really sure that pessimists are right on fossil fuel supplies ? Decades ?

  7. Chuckles said


    Another leap of faith is that you also have to believe that the rest of the world, in particular the developing world and third world, care about the solutions proposed for them by arrogant first world, middle class activists.
    They don’t, unless it involves the transfer to them of large sums of money, with no reciprocal obligations.

  8. Ed said

    The FUTILITY of Mankind trying to Control Climate

    On average world temperature is +15 deg C. This is sustained by the atmospheric Greenhouse Effect 33 deg C. Without the Greenhouse Effect the planet would be un-inhabitable at -18 deg C. The Biosphere and Mankind need the Greenhouse Effect.

    Just running the numbers by translating the agents causing the Greenhouse Effect into degrees centigrade:
    • Greenhouse Effect = 33.00 deg C
    • Water Vapour accounts for about 95% of the Greenhouse Effect = + 31.35 deg C
    • Other Greenhouse Gases GHGs account for 5% = ~1.65 deg C
    • CO2 is 75% of the effect of all accounting fort the enhanced effects of Methane and Nitrous Oxide GHGs = ~1.24 deg C
    • Most CO2 in the atmosphere is natural, more than 93%
    • Man-made CO2 is less than 7% of total atmospheric CO2 = 0.087 deg C
    • the UK contribution to CO2 is 2% equals = 1740 millionths deg C
    As closing carbon economies of the Whole World could only ever achieve a virtually undetectable less than 0.01deg C. How can the Green movement and their supporting politicians think that their remedial actions can limit warming to only + 2.00 deg C?

    So the probability is that any current global warming is not man-made and in any case such warming could be not be influenced by any remedial action taken by mankind however drastic.

    As this is so, the prospect should be greeted with Unmitigated Joy:
    • concern over CO2 as a man-made pollutant can be discounted.
    • it is not necessary to damage the world’s economy to no purpose.
    • if warming were happening, it would lead to a more benign and healthy climate for all mankind.
    • any extra CO2 is already increasing the fertility and reducing water needs of all plant life and thus enhancing world food production.
    • a warmer climate, within natural variation, would provide a future of greater opportunity and prosperity for human development. This has been well proven in the past and would now especially benefit the third world.

    Nonetheless, this is not to say that the world should not be seeking more efficient ways of generating its energy, conserving its energy use and stopping damaging its environments. And there is a real need to wean the world off the continued use of fossil fuels simply on the grounds of:
    • security of supply
    • increasing scarcity
    • rising costs
    • their use as the feedstock for industry rather than simply burning them.

    The French long-term energy strategy with its massive commitment to nuclear power is impressive, (85% of electricity generation). Even if one is concerned about CO2, Nuclear Energy pays off, French CO2 emissions / head are the lowest in the developed world.

    However in the light of the state of the current solar cycle, it seems that there is a real prospect of damaging cooling occurring in the near future for several decades. And as power stations face closure the lights may well go out by the winter 2016.

    All because CO2 based Man-made Global Warming has become a state sponsored religion.

  9. J Anthony said

    I like the solar info in your post. I was looking for a solution for a project and I think I just found it.

  10. BDAABAT said

    Sort of surprised that you’re so willing to put a lot of eggs into the pro nuke basket. Yes, nuke works and works well. But like all things, the devil is in the details. Nukes work well in France because it’s a relatively small country (compared to the US) that has neighbors close by. The problem of nukes isn’t the waste. The problems with large percentages of your base electricity generation being from nuclear power is that they run wide open all the time. There’s little opportunity to rapidly create power when needed and then rapidly dial it back when it’s not needed. Without adequate storage options for that power, what do you do when there’s too much compared to the demand?? In France, they sell the excess to their neighbors, and do so at a profit. We don’t have that situation in the US.

    Yes, we do need more energy sources in the US. Yes, nuclear should be part of that mix of new energy sources. But assuming that just building more nuke plants to achieve 85% of base power from nukes will solve our energy problems misses a big problem.


  11. Geoff Sherrington said

    BDABABAT says “Sort of surprised that you’re so willing to put a lot of eggs into the pro nuke basket.”

    Surprise = past propaganda working. It’s an emotion, not an analysis.

    Reality is for people who can’t handle surprise. Do read #4 again.

  12. Chuckles said

    @BDAABAT, I think you are misinformed. Yes, nukes are often used for baseload, particularly and obviously when designed and built to be so used e.g. PWR designs. This does not mean that they can only be used for baseload, but this was mostly true for the earlier generations of nuke stations.
    Modern designs have no such problems, although some technologies are more suited than others.
    Chicago uses some of it’s BWR nukes for load following, and the French PWR plants are designed for load following and are constantly used in load following mode. They are designed run from 30-100% rated output.

  13. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Nobody really knows the half-life of CO2 added to the atmosphere. The best data available suggests that about half of all emissions have been taken up by a combination of ocean absorption (about 30%), and increased biomass production (about 20%), although the partitioning between these is uncertain. What is clear is that predictions of declining sink capacity are completely unsupported by data, so there is every reason to believe the sinks have capacity which is far larger than emissions to date. The ocean (including the deep) has for certain huge ultimate capacity, though the instantaneous rate is not clearly known.

    There is little urgency for draconian action, but there is need for action in the longer term: fossil fuels are finite, and will be mainly depleted within a century. This is a real problem that needs to be addressed. The change to nuclear is inevitable if humanity wants to maintain economic growth, and at the same time enhance the quality of life of the people who live in poor and developing countries. We need 150 new breeder plants worldwide every year for the next 40 years.

    And the loony left and the loony greens be damned.

  14. Jeff Id said

    I wasn’t trying to say we can only use nukes. I was saying that if CO2 is really so very bad, nukes are the only answer we currently have that can make much difference. The rest of this ‘renewable’ nonsense is just sucking the blood out of the economy. Personally, I think it is pretty clear the coal will be burned either way,we might as well burn the coal in clean US plants.

  15. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Guido Botteri (Sep 18 03:21),

    Go to the actual USGS report. The amounts are two orders of magnitude less, 3.65 Gbbl not 500 Gbbl, than in that puff piece you linked. It will cost a lot to recover that oil as well, as it’s not in one or a few pools, but dispersed over a wide area. A similar formation, the Austin Chalk does produce significant amounts of oil, but it’s still a drop in the bucket. Anadarko Petroleum, which produces about 45% of the total petroleum from the Austin Chalk produces 17,000 bbl/day. US consumption is 20,000,000 bbl/day. Let’s say that you could actually get 50% of the USGS estimate over the life of the field (and the USGS is notoriously optimistic about oil reserves). That would be ~2E9 bbl or ~100 days of consumption. I’m not impressed.

  16. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Steve Fitzpatrick (Sep 18 09:17),

    What is clear is that predictions of declining sink capacity are completely unsupported by data, so there is every reason to believe the sinks have capacity which is far larger than emissions to date. The ocean (including the deep) has for certain huge ultimate capacity, though the instantaneous rate is not clearly known.

    When you’re talking about the ocean, the phrase ‘declining sink capacity’ doesn’t really make much sense. CO2 dissolves in sea water in proportion to it’s partial pressure in the atmosphere. It’s then removed by biological and chemical processes that are also concentration dependent. The biological processes may be rate limited by the availability of some trace nutrient like iron, but that doesn’t mean the capacity declines.

    The three time constant Bern model in AR4 actually does a pretty good job of modeling the atmospheric CO2 concentration using CO2 produced by fossil fuel consumption and land use changes as inputs. That model assumes that ~20% of the emitted CO2 will be in the atmosphere ‘forever’, i.e. with a time constant much longer than 200 years. There does appear to be a sink that’s not included in the model. See:

    The math on equilibrium:

    Suppose you have only one sink with 10 times the effective volume of the atmosphere. At equilibrium the ratio of the concentrations in each sink is a constant. Now lets add CO2 and have half of it go into the atmosphere and half go into the other sink and let the equilibrium constant be equal to 1. We’ll add sufficient CO2 to double the concentration in the atmosphere. But the concentration in the other sink has gone up by only 10%. If we stop adding, then the system is not in equilibrium and CO2 will be drawn out of the atmosphere into the sink. When equilibrium is reached again, the atmosphere and the sink will contain 19% more CO2 than the initial values. If we have multiple sinks with different capacities, the proportion that goes into each sink depends on the time constant of the sink and its capacity. If there were a sink with 100 or more times the capacity of the atmosphere, then it must have a very long time constant (greater than 1000 years) or it would be seen to have an effect on the current rate of accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  17. Tom Fuller said

    It is not common to see a post on this subject that is both good and important. Jeff, you’ve outdone yourself.

    I intend to steal most of this more than once. I do hope I remember to give you credit 😉

    More like this, please.

  18. Alan McIntire said

    I see where Hansen gets his figures:

    He assumes a feedback of 1.6 for water vapor, 1.3 for clouds, and 1.1
    for ice/albedo effects.

    I think the feedback factors are overestimated, but take a look at
    #10 and #12. Anyone should be able to figure out that they’re
    obviously wrong.

    For a multiplier of 1.6, lambda must be 0.375 for water vapor, since 1/
    (1-0.375) = 1.6.
    likewise, lambda must be 0.231 for clouds and 0.091 for ice/albedo
    feedback, using Hansen’s figures.

    Hansen plugged in 1/(1 -.375-.231-.091) and got a multiplier effect of
    3.3 total times the original increase of around 1.2 C.

    Using Hansen’s equation, with 3 multiplier effects of 0.333… each, you
    get a multiplier effect of
    1/(1 – .333… -.333…-.333…)= infinity.

    Using 4 feedbacks with lambda of 0.333, each, you get a multiplier of
    1/(-.333) = MINUS 3, so instead of an increase of 1.2 C, you plug in
    that -3 multiplier and get a DROP of 3.6 C – obviously the equation is
    flawed badly.

    Obviously, with independent feedback factors with multipliers 1/(1-f1), 1/(1-f2), you don’t
    combine them as 1/(1-f1-f2), you combine them as 1/(1-f1-f2+f1*f2) as any high school student who has taken algebra knows.

  19. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    Hi DeWitt.

    I think that the Bern model predicted that there would already be a significant drop in CO2 uptake by the ocean, because the model assigns a significant fraction of the uptake to a relative shallow surface layer, while that expected drop-off is nowhere evident in the data. After having looked at the Bern model, it seems to me to basically be a curve-fit exercise that makes certain assumptions about the relative sizes of different ‘sinks’ and then fits the transfer rates into the assumed sinks to match historical data. My personal guess is that the contribution of the ‘fast absorbing’ ocean surface layer (well mixed layer plus upper thermocline) is in fact far less than the Bern model suggests, and that the net ocean CO2 absorption is actually dominated by slow turn-over, with out-gassing of CO2 at low latitudes due to upwelling/warming at a constant rate (set by the “historical” CO2 level of about 285 PPM), and absorption of CO2 by very cold water at high latitudes in winter at a rate which increases in proportion to the atmospheric partial pressure of CO2. Which of course makes the expected net uptake of the ocean increase in proportion to the increase in atmospheric concentration over the historical atmospheric level of ~285 PPM. So I expect we will not see a significant drop-off in ocean uptake capacity for a very long time; on the order of the 1,000 year ocean turnover period. A simple turn-over dominated model of the ocean absorption matches the evolution of atmospheric CO2 concentration almost perfectly. One interesting implication is that CO2 being sequested by sinking cold water will eventually up-well and out-gas, and so contribute to atmospheric CO2, but this will not happen until long after the ‘age of carbon’ is over; in other words, there seems to me be the possibility of a modest ‘rebound’ of atmospheric CO2 many hundreds of years from now.

    An interesting question is why the Bern model has the structure it does. I think that is related to a mis-interpretation of how upwelling of deep water actually takes place. The global average upwelling rate is at least an order of magnitude greater than the measured vertical upwelling in the open ocean (studies done with tracer compounds); most of the total upwelling is localized, and very little takes place over the open ocean. The near ‘exponential decay’ shape of the thermocline is controlled by the net vertical (upwelling) motion and the rate of simultaneous eddy-driven vertical down-mixing of surface water into the thermocline. If you assume a higher than correct open-ocean upwelling rate, then the measured shape of the thermocline requires a fairly high rate of vertical down-mixing. This leads to a) a large assumed contribution of the upper thermocline to CO2 absorption and b)a comparably large assumed thermal uptake by the upper thermocline (that is, 20+ years of ‘in the pipeline warming’) when radiative forcing increases surface temperatures.

    I think ARGO ocean heat content data helps to verify the problems with the Bern model. Unless a major problem is discovered with ARGO data, it is difficult to argue that the upper thermocline is absorbing lots of heat. As has been noted many times by many people, the measured ocean heat content in the upper 750 meters was nearly constant from 2003 to 2008 (and probably to 2009), during a period of nearly constant average surface temperatures, but following a rapid rise in average surface temperatures from the late 1980’s to ~2000. If the Bern model were correct, then we would expect to see substantial continuing heat accumulation in the ARGO data after 2003 attributable to the late 1980’s – 2000 warming. The absence of this expected accumulation of heat suggests that the Bern model substantially overstates the rate of vertical down-mixing into the thermocline.

    All of which tells a consistent story: The ocean circulation models are overstating down-mixing rates, which leads to overstated ocean lags, overstated climate sensitivity values, and overstated in-the-pipeline warming.

  20. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    Sorry, that was supposed to be #16, not #18…

  21. Kan said

    #4 Geoff Sherrington

    “The Chinese as a group….adequately safe…”

    To the Chinese “adequately safe” is orders of magnitudes different than to the western world. Something like 100,000 versus 1 casualties per event as a threshold.

    The funny thing with nuclear power is that it has met the threshold of the western world. Coal kills far more people in a year than nuclear power (electrical generation) ever has.

  22. kdk33 said

    “fossil fuels are finite… a real problem that needs to be addressed. ”

    Actually not. Did fossil fuels come about because someone/some-government said “gosh, energy is scarce, we need to do something or we can’t invent the automobile”. I don’t think so. Fossil fuels came about because someone was trying to make a buck!

    Now, fossil fuels will run out, but there not gonna run out overnight. As they run out, the price will go up. Remember that, even today, folk are still trying to make a buck; there’ll be no shortage of schemes to sell new energy options. And that’s how it should be. Entrepreneurs will bring to the market many many options, and the market will pick the winners.

    Big oil companies, having oodles and oodles of capital, and probably being the first to know when the oil is (actually, for real) gonna run out, will be among the first to redepoly capital into new energy. This, by the way, is why the Bil-Oil-Disinformation-Campaign meme is so ridiculous – Big Oil has not very much to fear.

    The only thing WE have to do is: 1) create and preserve a free market and 2) get the hell out of the way.

    Unless you’re a creative entripreneur, in which case: start figurin’ out how to get rich.

  23. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    Speaking as a creative entrepreneur, I am quite aware of what is involved in addressing market needs. But that being said, we need to recognize that certain market responses to energy needs (nuclear power for example) are and will remain under tight control of governments. This being the case, nuclear power is limited by political choices, not by it’s economic attraction (or lack thereof). “Get the hell out of the way” in this case is not simply a question of allowing energy prices to rise as fossil fuels become more dear. As Jeff points out, all current alternatives except nuclear have serious problems, and nuclear power is the only currently practical alternative to fossil fuels. Whe the market is constrained by politics, only a political change will allow the market to function correctly.

  24. kim said

    Traces of gases
    Churn deep and mysterious.
    Unsettling science.

  25. kdk33 said


    ““Get the hell out of the way” in this case is not simply a question of allowing energy prices to rise as fossil fuels become more dear. ”

    I never said it was. I said as the price went up, the market would provide the best alternatives

    “nuclear power is limited by political choices”

    So… are you suggesting that government ought not be interfering in the free market? or are you suggesting the government force nuclear energy, market forces be damned.

    If the former, then you’ve convinced me; I agree :-). If the later, then no.

    The energy choices in 100 years will be different than todays. Where nuclear is cheapest, the market will so choose. (And the market can choose which flavor of nuclear it prefers – I understand there are several) Forcing a politically preferred incarnation of nuclear on to the market may look as dumb, in 100 years, as barring it from the market looks today.

    Sure, government has some safety oversight role (as they do in other industries) and may want to restrict technology transfer to unfriendlies (of course, it’s not like it can’t be got somewhere else). Nuclear should be an energy choice not “limited by politics”.

    Government ought create and preserve a free market and allow the market as many choices as possible. Government ought not be choosing.

  26. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    The Hansen paper is something of a hoot. 4.2 degrees per doubling?!? Right. The entire paper is tilted and contorted with selective use of data to ensure a high calculated sensitivity. Take a look at the assumed ocean heat accumulation rates in the paper and how they compare to ARGO data…. huge versus tiny. The assumed thermocline down-mix rates needed to get this level of heat accumulation are 5 times or more than the measured values. Only by averaging the mixing rates from deep convective areas (where water near 0C is sinking to the deep) with non-convective stable areas can you get the paper’s very high down-mix value. I’m not sure how anybody can say ~0C water is going to carry heat down from the surface, but that’s what the paper seems to say!

  27. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    “Government ought create and preserve a free market and allow the market as many choices as possible. Government ought not be choosing.”

    I agree, but in the case of nuclear power government effectively does and will continue to choose if nuclear power is practical, not the market. Utilities that have build nuclear power plants, at least in the USA, have most of the time been badly bloodied by the (very political, and nearly endless) process of site approvals, permits, local protests, etc, etc. Not to mention the issue of the lack of political will to allow storage of radioactive waste materials…. anywhere. For nuclear power to get a fair economic evaluation the political climate has to change…. and change a lot more than CO2 will change the Earth’s climate!

  28. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Steve Fitzpatrick (Sep 18 16:28),

    It’s even funnier when they say that the ‘missing’ heat is below 700 m. Even if it were there, that pipeline is really, really long.

    A simple turnover model that uses just the Mauna Loa data does fit fairly well, but it drastically under predicts the pre-industrial concentration unless you ignore CO2 from land use changes entirely. OTOH, the Bern model, or the empirical fit to it, does very well pre-1940 but over estimates current levels. A new sink with a threshold CO2 level with the Bern model is, to me, a simpler explanation than trying to explain why pre-industrial levels don’t fit a turnover model.

  29. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Steve Fitzpatrick (Sep 18 16:49),

    As far as waste disposal or storage, the Carter era argument that reprocessing leads to proliferation doesn’t hold water any more. France has reprocessed successfully for decades now. The total waste volume is quite small and decays relatively rapidly. It’s really easy to build a uranium fission bomb and really hard to build a plutonium bomb. It’s also become relatively easy to build a uranium enrichment plant. Centrifuge technology is a lot simpler than gaseous diffusion or large scale magnetic sector isotope ion separation. Burying fuel rods that still contain lots of uranium that could be converted to plutonium and burned in a reactor never made any economic sense. Not to mention all that bomb grade plutonium that needs to be burned as well.

  30. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    Yep, the ocean heat accumulation models are nutty, starting at least as early as the Hansen et al paper referenced by commenter #18 above. Oh well, eventually the ARGO data will be difficult to ignore, and some physical oceanographers will start to “rethink” the assumptions that go into the projections of vast ‘heat in the pipeline” projections. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 5-10 years. My experience says it is almost always unwise to insist theoretical predictions are correct and clearly conflicting measurements are wrong. This odd insistence is typical of a field that will soon undergo a substantial paradigm shift. I expect the oceanographers will eventually drag the climatologists (kicking and screaming!) to a more reasonable analysis of the impact of rising CO2 on temperatures. But it will take a while.

    The most recent publications I have seen on CO2 emissions seem to back off on the estimates of very large contributions from land use changes, so a simple turn-over model may not be so bad, even for the pre-Mauna Loa period. The Bern model assumes a log-functional increase in plant growth rates with increasing CO2, but my guess is that this is not right, since there has to be a combination of an increase from a longer growing season with rising temperatures as well as a growth rate increase due to CO2. So the bio-sequestration rate is probably more sensitive to CO2 than the Bern model predicts as well; maybe a linear increase with CO2 increase over the ‘base’ level of ~285 PPM is about right.

    WRT breeders and re-processing: One of the things that many people seem to not appreciate is how an incompetent person in a position of authority (like POTUS) can do enormous harm that goes on for multiple decades after they are no longer in the picture. Jimmy Carter did more stupid, wasteful, and economically damaging things in a single term in office than George W. Bush could accomplish in two terms (and W did LOTS of stupid and damaging things!). Carter was just a terrible president, and the world still suffers the consequences.

  31. kim said

    We look and we see
    The unexpected, horrors.
    A travesty, he says.

  32. Geoff Sherrington said

    This sub-discipline of emerging climate science continues to make the mistake of assuming a conclusion before the foundations are secure.

    Several posts above non-critically accept a pre-industrial CO2 level of about 285 ppm in the atmosphere. This does not rest on a firm base. Estimates as high as 380 ppm are available and some make credible reading. Besides, there is a tendency to relate so much back to the high altitude and well-mixed region atop Mauna Loa, which is not closely connected to (say) a low, closed wooded valley or the air above the central region of an ocean, or downstream from a fossil fuel plant.

    To use a poor analogy, it’s a bit like saying that rainfall at Mauna Loa is X mm per year and that we can use this figure as a basis for deriving mechanisms about rainfall elsewhere on the globe.

    Enthusiasm for a cause is an understandable human trait, but it has to be replaced by accurate measurement and replication applicable to the actual system before science proceeds.

  33. Steve Fitzpatrick said


    I completely disagree. There are of course lots of historical (wet) chemical measurements of atmospheric CO2, but most are very questionable due to poor sample collection locations… close to local CO2 sources. These wet determinations have enormous variability over short periods, which is inconsistent with any reasonable estimate of how CO2 varies in the free atmosphere, and inconsistent with with the relatively low variation seen in both the ice core record and all instrument data since the start of the Mauma Loa record. Ice core data is remarkably consistent across core samples and locations (virtually identical CO2 variations in Greenland as in Antartica, even though they are ~16,000 Km apart). The ice core record also shows the expected temperature driven CO2 rise during the MWP and drop during the LIA. See for example:

    Holocene carbon-cycle dynamics based on CO2 trapped in ice at Taylor Dome, Antarctica
    A. IndermuÈ hle*, T. F. Stocker*, F. Joos*, H. Fischer², H. J. Smith², M. Wahlen², B. Deck², D. Mastroianni²,
    J. Tschumi*, T. Blunier*, R.Meyer* & B. Stauffer*

    The suggestion that there have been brief periods of uniform very high atmospheric CO2 during the Holocene is simply not credible.

    There are of course locals where CO2 is much higher than in the free atmosphere (like the office where I sit as I write this), but you should remember that the only CO2 concentration that much matters for radiative balance is the concentration high in the troposphere and above. The lower troposphere is opaque to infrared light at CO2’s absorption wavelength, pretty much independent of the local CO2 concentration. Absorption by CO2 at and above the effective emitting level of the atmosphere (say ~5 Km altitude and up) is where the concentration of CO2 influences the radiative balance.

  34. kim said

    SteveF, forget for the moment that there is an anthropogenic signature in the present CO2 rise, and consider that the temperature recovery from the LIA is causal in Julio’s graph, as you apparently think it was for ‘the expected temperature driven CO2 rise during the MWP’. What then about climate sensitivity to CO2, as derived from Julio’s graph?

  35. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Steve Fitzpatrick (Sep 19 10:39),

    Absorption by CO2 at and above the effective emitting level of the atmosphere (say ~5 Km altitude and up) is where the concentration of CO2 influences the radiative balance.

    The effective emitting level of the atmosphere is a construct that has little meaning. It’s the altitude where the temperature equals the black body temperature of the planet. Most emission actually comes from much lower. In the window from ~700-1300 cm-1, it’s within 1 km of the surface. Most CO2 emission comes from much higher, near the tropopause.

  36. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    #35, Dewitt

    You quibble details my friend. The point is that CO2 concentration near the surface has little to do with radiative heat loss from the Earth. I hope we agree on that. 😉

    The incorrect suggestion that wet chemical (ground level) historical results for CO2 concentration are in some way representative of the whole atmosphere is what I was trying to address.

  37. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    #34 Kim,

    As I was very careful to point out to Julio, the graph he presented is not a reasonable way to estimate climate sensitivity (for those who did not see this exchange, it was at Lucia’s blog, the Hot Pepper thread). I also noted to Julio that total radiative forcing was a far more reasonable variable to relate to warming than CO2 concentration. And if you recall, we discussed the parallel issues of aerosol cooling effects and ocean heat uptake rates, and how these impact the estimated climate sensitivity to radiative forcing.

    As I pointed out in that thread, the assumed sensitivity depends (of course) on what, if any, attribution to post 1900 warming you to assign to recovery from the LIA (and any other natural sources, like solar cycle effects). Now if there is evidence that recovery for the LIA was a significant contributor, then please do point to that evidence. The assignment of all post-1900 warming to radiative forcing represents a ‘worst case’ estimate of climate sensitivity… but to claim that the sensitivity is in fact much lower than this worst case estimate you must provide appropriate supporting data. So far, I have not seen it.

  38. kim said

    Yes, SteveF, quite lucidly explained, and you are right, the only evidence I have is centennial to millenial variations as seen in the warming and cooling episodes of the last few millenia, presumably from concatenations of natural cycles.

    I continue to believe that climate sensitivity to CO2 is quite small, and even, slightly conceivably, to be negative. There is no sure signature yet to be seen that our anthropogenic aliquot has had an iota of causal effect on temperature or climate.

  39. Eric Anderson said

    Jeff, there is another leap that is needed, namely that even if the warming is bad, you have to make the leap that we would be better off trying to prevent the warming, rather than adapting to it.

  40. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Steve Fitzpatrick (Sep 19 12:55),

    Don’t get me started on Beck again. There’s lots of comments on that in earlier thread here. I forget which one. There’s good reason why Climate Audit put that topic on the banned list.

  41. kim said

    Beck, Peck, Peck. Something is rotten in the state of CO2 climate science and you can’t smell it over here either.

  42. Alan D McIntire said

    As to earlier measurements of CO2 addressed earlier on this thread, I thought the following was of interest:

    “Over most of an entire year (315 days), we obtained 1-min averages of near-surface (2-m height) atmospheric CO2 concentration, temperature and wind speed in a residential area of a suburb of Phoenix, AZ. Daily minimum CO2 concentrations, which occurred during the afternoon, were nearly invariant over the year, averaging 390.2±0.2 ppm. Daily maximum CO2 concentrations, however, which occurred at night, varied seasonally with the air temperature, exhibiting a mean peak of 490.6 ppm about 2 h before midnight during the coldest part of the year (December–January) and 424.3 ppm just before sunrise during the warmest part of the year (July–August). Reevaluating prior assessments of the strength of the urban CO2 dome at the center of Phoenix, our results suggest a mean cold-season maximum there of 619.3 ppm, which is 67.4% greater than the rural background value. At our residential site, however, the mean cold-season maximum was only 32.6% greater than the surrounding rural mean. Averaged over the entire night, this enhancement dropped to 25.4% in the cold season and 10.9% in the warm season, while over the daylight period it averaged 10.5% and 10.1% in the cold and warm seasons, respectively. CO2 concentrations were greater on weekdays than on weekends from 0415 to 0830 in the warm season and from 0445 to 1045 in the cold season. During peak morning traffic, the maximum weekday–weekend CO2 differential was 35.9 ppm in the cold season and 22.0 ppm in the warm season.”

  43. kim said

    Hmmmm. Discussion of Beck is Wanted: Dead or Alive.

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