Dishonor among deniers

Those who deny the reality, human cause, or danger of global warming, don’t always tell outright lies. One of their common tactics is to say what’s technically true, but is also irrelevant, misleading, or more often, both.

An all-too-common example is illustrated by these two panels from a cartoon (you can see the whole cartoon here):

The cartoon is meant to ridicule Sir Paul Nurse (hence the reference to “Sir Paul” and the nurse’s hat). He isn’t a nurse, he’s a nobel-prize-winning geneticist and president of the Royal Society (Britain’s national science academy, as far as I know the oldest and most esteemed such body in the world). The cartoon states that 97% of the CO2 entering the atmosphere is from natural sources, and is clearly meant to imply that the human contribution (a mere 3%) is negligible. The same statement (with the same implication) is presented in this document by Gregg D. Thompson.

While technically correct, the statement is both irrelevant and misleading.

It quite ignores the carbon cycle:

Every year, hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 enter the atmosphere from natural sources like the oceans, land plants, and soil. And — the relevant point — hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 exit the atmosphere, bound for those same natural sources. Until we started burning fossil fuels, the inflow to and outflow from the atmosphere was in balance. That’s why, for 10,000 years, the atmospheric concentration of CO2 was reasonably stable at about 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume).

Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been adding CO2 to the atmosphere which has not been balanced by outflows. We’re presently emitting about 30 billion tonnes of CO2 to the air every year. About half of that actually has been leaving the atmosphere for other reservoirs of the carbon cycle, but the other half has remained in the air. Our excess emissions have accumulated over time, raising the atmosphere’s CO2 level.

To make an analogy, suppose you operated a business with cash reserves of $300,000, an annual net income of a million dollars, and annual expenditures of a million dollars. Input balances output, so the net worth of the company, and your cash reserves, remain stable (while providing employment and services to your community). Then you turn the business over to your idiot son-in-law, who continues to take in a million a year while spending the same million as before, plus an additional $30,000 every year on his annual pleasure trip to Las Vegas.

His Vegas vacation is only a small part of the annual budget — a mere 3%. But it’s all of the deficit. Your company is now losing $30,000 every year, and after ten years your entire cash reserve is gone, you must declare bankruptcy, and your employees are looking for new jobs. When you confront your son-in-law, he whines about his vacation being such a small fraction of the annual budget that its’ negligible.

Although our CO2 emissions are only a small part (about 3%) of the total flow into the atmosphere, they account for all of the excess. And that excess has accumulated, so that since the start of the industrial revolution the CO2 concentration in the air has risen from about 280, to about 390, ppmv.

That’s a 40% increase. And it’s all because of us.

Why, then, do those in denial of reality make such statements? I can only imagine two possible reasons.

First, it’s possible that they actually haven’t figured out how irrelevant and misleading their statements are. If that’s the case — if they have the audacity to deny global warming without even bothering to figure out something as straightforward as the carbon cycle and the human impact on atmospheric CO2, then it’s to their dishonor. How dare they try to influence public opinion and policy, without even bothering to learn the basics?

Second, it’s possible that they do know how irrelevant and misleading are their statements. That’s even worse.

Are these the people you want influencing what kind of world we leave to our kids?


128 responses to “Dishonor among deniers

  1. looks at you guys…the real problemn is that we have shifted all the clerical work to China and India etc… what is there to do if you are not a genius or a trucker? And it i9s starting to cut that way for science too…if it is cheaper to get a resaearch assistant in India or Cambodia…

    [Response: ???]

  2. Or, third, they’re changing the world to suit _their_ kids:

  3. carrot eater

    It isn’t dishonour; it’s simple incompetence. Along with the claim that the greenhouse effect violates the second law, this is among the dumbest of arguments you’ll ever see a ‘sceptic’ make.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      carrot eater, I disagree. They know precisely what they are doing — this isn’t exactly rocket science.

      One problem is that you cannot just call a liar a liar in public without evidence, even if it is obvious. I cannot just say that, e.g., Judith is on the take from the think tanks and Nils-Axel is supplementing his meager Swedish professor’s pension etc., without taking a legal risk — although both are so smart that there is no alternative explanation that wouldn’t insult my intelligence. It’s like using parliamentary language: you don’t accuse a liar of lying, just point out that he is ‘mistaken’. Well, Watts and Josh are seriously ‘mistaken’. But, of course with Watts there is enough stupidity in play to not be quite sure.

      BTW Tamino:
      is better than
      but it really should be, in this case,
      pet peeve ;-)

      • GP & CE,
        In this case, one need not choose between stupidity and malice. The modern anti-science movement is an alliance of the evil and the stupid–the former provide the cash (evil has always been lucrative) and the latter the votes.

      • Its is already possessive. Its’ is possessive squared. It’s its’ fault, may mean it is at fault for its fault?

    • The incompetence would be why Josh made the argument it. The stupidity in every one of his cartoons is mind boggling.

  4. Spot on. Technically true but misleading is a good description of the “humans emit 3% of CO2” crock.

    Technically true but misleading, is bad.

    The opposite, technically false but educational, is good.

    The BBC documentary did make a technically false statement that humans emit more CO2 than various natural sources (may have been a mistake rather than intentional – miswording of net emissions perhaps), but it conveyed the concept that humans are significantly affecting CO2 levels in the atmosphere. And that really is the important take home point. So the audience goes away informed. In fact the whole reason the subject was raised in the documentary was a response to the very skeptic crock!

    I am not surprised climate deniers don’t get this. They conveniently don’t seem to understand that statements that mislead people are bad statements no matter how accurate they are technically. But then they are the ones lining up to do silly audits. Getting fussed over irrelevant technical details is their thing. Quite deliberately I think, it’s the only way they can get traction.

    Anyway the blade on that Hockey Stick is so sharp it probably should be described instead as a reaper’s scythe. It carries even more impact when projected future CO2 is added and more historical data is added. Eg:

  5. Cthulu,

    I watched the BBC documentary and can’t for the life of me recall exactly what Paul Nurse said that would have prompted Josh to make that cartoon. Maybe someone else can remember?

    Anyway, re:
    “Technically true but misleading, is bad.
    The opposite, technically false but educational, is good.”

    Technically true and relevant and educational should be the ultimate aim of course ;-)

  6. Most infuriating is the standard rhetorical scheme: Denier makes the 3% argument (insert other wrongheaded claim at will), you corrent it, and the denier then accuses you of being arrogant and elitist for correcting them. In last week’s EPA hearings, Rep. Griffith of VA did just this…

  7. Rattus Norvegicus

    Not only is Josh wrong, but he’s, to coin a phrase, “not even funny”. A far bigger crime for a cartoonist.

  8. This is #29 @ Skpetical Science..

  9. Nurse did ratify a statement by one of his interviewees, that humans emit more CO2 than natural sources. This is in fact an error. The clueless folks at the BBC didn’t edit it out and should have because it is not correct.

    The error made by Nurse doesn’t mean that the skeptic argument debunked by Tamino is correct.

  10. Which is actually the motivation for the Rabett Churnalist Jihad (TM). These guys never get called on their nonsense.

  11. Don Gisselbeck

    That the do-nothings are reduced to using such bogus arguments makes the threat even more terrifying. I could retain a little hope if they actually provided some rational arguments.

  12. Dear Tamino,
    Thanks a lot for your blog, always very interesting!
    I think your business analogy fail to illustrate a crucial point of the issue, which is that co2 released by plants and animal are part of a short cycle, while co2 from human burning oil come from a much slower cycle: in your example, it looks like there is 2 ways of bringing back the balance: either cutting the expense of the son in law, or reducing from 3% the overall expenses. The second approach could be justified in some cases: after all, maybe vegas trip is good for client relationship, while the usual budget is bloated with unnecessary expense. In term of AGW, it could be argued that our need for producing CO2 is worth 3% reduction of natural source; I don’t like cockroach so much after all…in this sense, an expense is an expense, and a tonne of CO2 is a tonne of CO2, whatever its source, and all contribute to the imbalance.
    But the choice is not like that. Even if we try hard to make other natural producer of Co2 go the way of the dodo, literally, this won’t make a change in the unbalance, at least in the short term. That’s because animals and plants belong to the carbon “short” cycle. They are not so much releasing new co2 in the atmosphere, but rather, reimbursing a debt: the co2 they release was taken from the atmosphere a short time ago. They won’t increase the co2 in the atmosphere over a full cycle, no more that we will fill the sink by taking water on the left hand side of it, and pulling it on the right hand side. On the opposite, we would prefer more carbon to be “borrowed” this way and stored temporary into life form, that would mean less of it in the atmosphere.
    The CO2 human industries releases however come from a longer, slower cycle. It takes ages to form the reservoir of oil and gas we are now burning, so at our time scale, this time we are really taking water from the bath tube to pour into the sink, and we will quickly overflow it.
    So I would suggest to make your example more precise: let say it is a small not for profit bank, loaning money for 3 month without interest, 250 000$ at a time. On one year, we have a money outflow of 1million $ and a money inflow of 1 million $, and this two amounts are by construction always the same: if we reduce the outflow (that is the amount we loan), then we reduce the inflow by as much (that is, the amount that is reimbursed to us). In this case, the expense from the son in law are indeed the only cause of deficit.
    To take another example: I have seen no one seriously worrying about the ocean rising due to rain: rain that fall in the ocean was ultimately taken from the ocean; it is a big bath tube, but it is no more than pouring on the left hand side the water we took on the right hand side. Melting continental ice however is a real worry, even if it amount to much less than the total amount of rain in a year, as it adds water that was initially contained outside the ocean.

    • Just have to say that despite your slight difficulty with the English language, this is the best explanation I have reads so far on this topic. I will remember the “taking water from one side of a sink and putting it back in the other” vs “taking water from the bath and putting it in the sink” analogy and use it in future chats with my confused (rather than sceptical) friends. Thanks!

  13. Thanks for that, Tamino: it’s another great example of the power of analogy. It should be used more as it creates an effective bridge between technical and everyday matters.

    Cheers – John

  14. Tamino, many thanks for checking the cartoon and for the additional perspective above.

    The idea came from  a BBC Horizon programme titled ‘Science Under Attack’ where the following exchange took place.

    Bob Bindschadler: We know how much fossil fuel we take out of the ground. We know how much we sell. We know how much we burn. And that is a huge amount of carbon dioxide. It’s about seven gigatons per year right now.

    Paul Nurse: And is that enough to explain…?

    Bob Bindschadler: Natural causes only can produce – yes, there are volcanoes popping off and things like that, and coming out of the ocean, only about one gigaton per year. So there’s just no question that human activity is producing a massively large proportion of the carbon dioxide.

    Paul Nurse: So seven times more.

    Bob Bindschadler: That’s right.

    [Response: The contribution from volcanoes is quite a bit less than a Gt/yr. The flow into and out of the oceans is far more — but if Bindschadler was was referring to the net (not the gross) contribution (the oceans are a net absorber, not a net emitter) his claim is actually an understatement.

    Nothing can justify your implying that the human contribution to atmospheric CO2 is negligible (not the only technically correct, but misleading, statement in your cartoon). Which is exactly what you did. Human activity is responsible for a 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 since pre-industrial times.

    Did you know this or not? It’s a yes-or-no question.]

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      It is obvious that Bindschadler is referring to net releases — and understating. And it is obvious that net numbers are what matters. Refusing to see that is dishonest, and dishonourable. Yes Josh, I’m looking at you.

      • If CO2 has been basically stable for thousands of years then doesn’t that imply 100% of the net is man’s?

        [Response: What? Are you trying to be logical?

        Indeed it implies (and it is completely true, not just “technically” so) that the increase in CO2 is entirely due to human activity: the burning of fossil fuels, and deforestation.

        But those who want to mislead you will point out that human emissions are only 3% of the flux. Another “technically true” statement which epitomizes dishonesty.]

      • OK – that’s what I thought. I was trying to square that with Bindschadler’s statement that the humans’ net CO2 contribution was 7x nature’s.
        That 7x should be closer to “infinityx”

        [Response: Basically, yes. On very long time scales the situation can be more complicated, but over the last several thousand years we’re responsible for *all* of the increase.]

    • I confirm that Josh, above, gives a correct transcript of the statement by Bob Bindschadler, Senior Research Earth Scientist, NASA, concerning the human and natural contributions of CO2, from the Horizon programme, “Science Under Attack”. This is still available (in the UK at least) at:

      The above Bindschadler quote starts at 16min10sec into the programme.

      Bindschadler’s makes (at least) a couple of errors in his statement:
      1. He (apparently) confuses gigatons of carbon with gigatons of carbon dioxide (7 gigatons C = 25.7 gigatons CO2). He should have said, “It’s about twenty seven gigatons per year right now.” (even that, from IPCC AR4) is now somewhat out of date.

      2. His figure of 1000 millions tons CO2 for volcanic contributions is far too high. The British Geological Survey gives a total figure from terrestrial and submarine volcanic sources of around 300 million tons per year:

      The US Geological Survey gives a lower figure of around 130 millions tons per year.

      An article in Earth Magazine, July 2010 states:

      “Published estimates based on research findings of the past 30 years for present-day global emission rates of carbon dioxide from subaerial and submarine volcanoes range from about 150 million to 270 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, with an average of about 200 million metric tons,
      These global volcanic estimates are utterly dwarfed by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning, cement production, gas flaring and land use changes; these emissions accounted for some 36,300 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2008, according to an international study published in the December 2009 issue of Nature Geoscience. Even if you take the highest estimate of volcanic carbon dioxide emissions, at 270 million metric tons per year, human-emitted carbon dioxide levels are more than 130 times higher than volcanic emissions.” see;

      So, it is correct for Josh to point out that errors were made in the Horizon programme (and pretty basic ones at that – I nearly fell off my proverbial chair when I observed Bindschadler’s gaffe, and Paul Nurse’s lack of correction ), BUT Bindschadler’s error UNDERestimated the human contribution.
      However, Josh’s cartoon is completely dishonest since it firstly implies that Paul Nurse in the Horizon programme OVERestimated the human contribution and then gives the 3% figure, which as you correctly state is completely irrelevant and misleading when asking the question “what is the human contribution to atmospheric CO2?”

    • Josh, can we assume that you being a honorable and honest fellow, that you are going to correct the public record and apologize to Sir Paul? I mean that is what you would expect of the scientists that you are trying to mock right? Maybe you could do a follow-up making fun of your own gaffe (with you and Watts wearing a dunce hats).

      Now had you pointed out the actual errors as noted by Tamino and Slioch, you would have had a valid point …Oh, but that would have meant conceding they were in fact being conservative. Never mind….

  15. Dishonor among denialists??? Say it ain’t so, Joe! Say it ain’t so!

  16. Another, and I think better, way of describing this is to to say, yes, there is a lot of carbon moving in and out of the atmosphere but those flows are not relevant because it is the total amount of carbon in the biosphere (air, animals, plants, soil and dissolved in the top layer of the ocean) which matters. The quantities other than in the atmosphere aren’t very “elastic” so they only absorb roughly half of what we emit, the remainder goes in the atmosphere.

    The reason I prefer this approach is that it doesn’t get involved with the “balance” of the flows. Gaia-like thinking might otherwise lead people to the idea that the flows would otherwise adjust to match our emissions without realising that the non-atmospheric stores of carbon, though large, do not have much capacity to store the extra and, perhaps more importantly, they (particularly the ocean) need the higher partial pressure of CO₂ in the atmosphere to do that storage.

    • If I am not mistaken, what’s most important is that we are taking the carbon from the deepest store where it will take the longest to return. Other stores (or “pools”) will in time grow to take a larger proportion of the atmospheric carbon.

      But first it appears they will pass through a period in which the release more carbon dioxide than what they take in. Plant productivity has actually decreased over the past decade — largely due to droughts in the Southern Hemisphere, permafrost is now releasing carbon, some regions of the ocean are now sources rather than sinks, etc.. And atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide will remain elevated until roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide is mineralized as what we have taken “out of the ground.”

      There have been earlier periods of greenhouse gas enhanced global warming. For example,

      55 Mya, Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (one of the lesser extinction events) – North Atlantic Basalts
      65 Mya, the end-Cretaceous extinction event — resulting from a supervolcano that gave rise to the Deccan basalts in India as it collided with Asia at the time of the formation of the Himalayas
      183 Mya, Toracian Turnover (a lesser warming and extinction event in the Early Jurassic period) – Karoo Basalts (Africa)
      201 Mya, End Triassic Extinction – Central Atlantic Magmatic Province
      251 Mya, Permian-Triassic Extinction that resulted from a supervolcano that left behind the Siberian basalts during the breakup of Pangaea.
      360-375 Mya, Late Devonian Extinction – Viluy Traps (Eastern Siberia, more tentative according to Rampino below)

      For a more extensive list, please see:

      Vincent E. Courtillot and Paul R. Renne (2003) On the ages of flood basalt events, C. R. Geoscience 335, 113–140

      Click to access CourtRenne2003.pdf

      However, in those earlier periods they had vast fields of flood basalt rock left behind by the very same supervolcanoes that injected so much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The flood basalt was just waiting to be weathered so that it could hasten the mineralization atmospheric carbon dioxide and return it to the deepest of stores.

      We won’t be quite so fortunate. Nevertheless, with the strengthening of the hydrological cycle we can expect the sort of flash floods that will carry away rich topsoil and lay bare rock to be weathered. One of the more important negative feedbacks we will have working in our favor — but it carries a rather high price.

  17. <q cite="Although our CO2 emissions are only a small part (about 3%) of the total flow into the atmosphere, they account for all of the excess.

    This is only 99 point something percent true. There are also the volcanic emissions adding “fossil” carbon to the atmosphere. It’s the balance between those and the weathering and various sedimentation routes out of the biosphere which we are upsetting.

    [Response: I disagree. Those two processes involve the same carbon reservoirs; the lithosphere. Volcanoes move carbon from lithosphere to atmosphere, weathering of rocks moves it back.

    There’s an argument to be made for both our perspectives. None of which alters the fact that humans are responsible for a substantial CO2 increase.]

  18. This particular fallacy, where global warming “skeptics” consider what nature is putting into the atmosphere but not what it is taking out and that the two processes are roughly in balance always reminds me of a Young Earth Creationist (Old Earth “skeptics”?) argument involving the oceans.

    From Talk Origins, Common Young-Earth “Dating Methods”:

    4. Accumulation of metals into the oceans
    In 1965, Chemical Oceanography published a list of some metals’ “residency times” in the ocean. This calculation was performed by dividing the amount of various metals in the oceans by the rate at which rivers bring the metals into the oceans.

    Several creationists have reproduced this table of numbers, claiming that these numbers gave “upper limits” for the age of the oceans (therefore the Earth) because the numbers represented the amount of time that it would take for the oceans to “fill up” to their present level of these various metals from zero. [Included in the table are silicon at 8,000 years and nickel at 9,000.]

    Now, let us critically examine this method as a method of finding an age for the Earth.

    The method ignores known mechanisms which remove metals from the oceans:

    Many of the listed metals are in fact known to be at or near equilibrium; that is, the rates for their entering and leaving the ocean are the same to within uncertainty of measurement. (Some of the chemistry of the ocean floor is not well-understood, which unfortunately leaves a fairly large uncertainty.) One cannot derive a date from a process where equilibrium is within the range of uncertainty — it could go on forever without changing concentration of the ocean.

    Even the metals which are not known to be at equilibrium are known to be relatively close to it…

    Common Young-Earth “Dating Methods”: Accumulation of metals into the oceans

    Gee, the argument that the greenhouse effect violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics — just like evolution — and now this! Something is beginning to look rather suspicious….

  19. Horatio Algeranon

    Dishonor among deniers

    Among diners, too.

    Knights have honor and actually earned their titles.

    Lords, not so much (excluding the “Lord of Lords”, of course)

  20. [edit]

    [Response: I can certainly understand why you want to talk about anything but your own conduct. Answer the question. When you made your cartoon, did you or did you not know full well that the 3% figure is irrelevant and misleading to assessing the human contribution to atmospheric CO2?

    Yes or No?]

  21. This is how I normally respond to the 3%ers and their ilk that I come across in the shadier corners of the internet:

    “1. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations are accurately known from ice-cores (which agree with one another from various places and from modern atmospheric measurements, hence we know they are reasonably accurate). The oldest ice core (Dome C, Antarctica) goes back 800,000 years. During ALL of those 800,000 years atmospheric CO2:
    a. never exceeded 300ppmv
    b. never increased at a rate of more than 30ppmv in 1000 years (Eric Wolff, British Antarctic Survey)

    … until 1750 when CO2 began to increase above the c.280ppmv level, (to which it had been close for many thousands of years) to the present level of c.390ppmv (measured at Mauna Loa and other observatories).

    Atmospheric CO2 is now increasing at a rate of 30ppmv in 16 years, more than SIXTY times faster than ever recorded in all those 800,000 years.

    As for human emissions: Between 1850 and 2000 the total recorded human caused emissions of CO2 amounted to 1620 billion tons CO2. The increase in atmospheric CO2 was 640 billion tons. Thus, human emissions are more than able to account for all of the rise in atmospheric CO2 in that time, figures from:

  22. “The opposite, technically false but educational, is good.” It is also high risk as if people find out they tend to lose trust in the source. Which is what the programme was about.

    • It’s also standard.

      Nearly everything you learn in school is “technically false but educational”. It’s a simplified version of the truth as we actually know it – a version that can fit into our heads at that age, and help our understanding. Terry Pratchett calls it “lies for children”.

      When you eventually understand the basics, then we can move on and explain the technical simplifications.

  23. Josh, will you be making a correction?

  24. Jeffrey Davis

    I’ve come to believe that there are some of our plutocrats who want the destruction of our political system that an AGW calamity will bring. They yearn to be a local Robert Mugabe type and to hold sway.

    “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”

  25. Will Josh be making a correction?
    Hardly, as Josh is one whose other recent cartoon showed a taped up “broken” hockey stick. Oh wait a minute – that’s a false assertion as well and still uncorrected.
    It’s regrettable that Josh and the Bishop and their ilk suffer under the delusion that parsing language till they go cross-eyed à la McIntyre is a wothwhile substitute for gaining an understanding some science.

  26. This particular denialist trope was invented by Andrew Montford . He ought to get your businessman-takes-a holiday-in-Vegas analogy, he is an accountant by trade ! He also refuses to publish his supporting correspondence with Dr Bindschadler, figures it is ‘inappropriate’.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      Ah, but the picture explains what happened! Dr Bindschadler clearly took the question to be that of the relative effects on atmospheric concentration of burning fossil fuels versus ‘everything else’ — and as ‘net’ quantities, of course, as that is what sane folks are interested in. Then, ‘everything else’ is completely dominated by land-use changes, actually the small imbalance between outgoing and incoming CO2 from/to land vegetation.

      Only, land use changes are also anthropogenic…

      My guess is that Bindschadler got confused by a question that didn’t make sense to him, and proceeded to answer a different one that did. Very human.

      • That graph explains nothing. It does though serve a purpose in muddying the waters a little, Andrew Montford (for whom muddying the waters is a stock-in-trade) will explain here: “Dr Bindschadler has agreed that this the graph therefore doesn’t support the claim he made in the Horizon programme.” Where??? I’ve asked Montford to publish the supporting correspondence , but he wont. The only relevance is that Montford says Bindschadler says it supports the seven times greater claim. It’s convoluted yes, but it provides a suitable prologue for then introducing the 1:27 (or 1:32) claim. So a 7:1 ratio is transformed into 1:27, implying the question how could climate scientists get it so wrong ? Answer: they haven’t , we have just witnessed a sleight-of-hand with the conjuror only showing us one half of the carbon cycle . Readers here wont need me to point out that the real implication is that GHG concentrations are rising , unlike popular understanding of climate .

        PS this trope has been repeated by Booker and GWPF at least

  27. The Horizon programme would have been editted together from hours of footage. The ‘gaffe’ in should have been picked up in editting. Sir Paul wasn’t responsible for the edit.

    As for Josh – ignorance can be forgiven, but wilful ignorance can’t be forgiven.

  28. The volcanoes topic is #54 at Skeptical Science, i.e., it is a common wrong meme that volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans.

    Thus, there are 2 distinct arguments:
    1) Net versus exchanges. Humans contribute to net.
    2) Volcanoes do contribute to the net addition … jsut not much in comparison with humans.

  29. Nice y-axis and x-axis scales! Those’d make Edward Tufte blush, then burst into laughter.

    • I’m holding my nose to agree with you here; I hate charts that don’t show the real base, in this case zero. Perhaps this is a more honest depiction (from NOAA, feel free to discount the “predicted” part of the chart): 800k year CO2 concentrations. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look any more reassuring.

      Nice to see Josh’s mendacious and insipid cartoons called out, but not in the slightest surprising that he’s trying to slip away.

      [Response: I disagree with the belief that there’s something inherently wrong with a chart which doesn’t include the value zero.

      Do all your temperature graphs extent down to zero Kelvins?]

      • Tamino: Yes, my temperature graphs start at 0K and boy do I go through a lot of paper! :-) I take your point, but I think it’s wise to reflect the full “meaningful” range of data. Of course this isn’t always a simple choice and I have to say that on reflection I’m amazed that denialists haven’t tried to visually minimize climate variation by using such “deep” x-axes as 0K.

        But this is all off-topic, driven by Diogenes’ misdirection. Funny how the inter-webs work.

      • Rattus Norvegicus

        If people all started their graphs at 0 then they might look like this. Does this look like a problem to you?

  30. Dishonest or dumb, that is the question. The ability of the mind to rationalize is amazing. I have confronted students for copying answers from solution manuals. They are often convinced that they were learning from the solutions manual and not just copying. In one case I had four students redo one the steps: tan 2t = -1.732 => t =60. All of them got t =-30. None remembered how to shift quadrants. It was then that they realized they were cheating.

    Josh has now been asked a simple yes or no question. It is telling that he won’t answer. I believe we are witnessing a case of stupidity morphing into dishonesty.

  31. Josh has folded his tent quietly and stolen away in the night.

  32. Is there a difference between “technically true” and really true?

    • It is technically true that falling will not hurt you. If someone asks you if it’s safe to jump off a 100 story building without a parachute is safe or not, telling them “falling will not hurt you” would be … narrow-minded at best.

      • Yes–if memory serves, Voltaire used this image to describe his experience at the court of Frederick the Great–like that of a man falling from a great height, it had been a pleasant experience ‘so far.’

      • So the difference between “technically true” and really true is to answer another question?
        Q. parachute is safe or not
        A. falling will not hurt you

        Or is it time dependent “falling from a great height, it had been a pleasant experience ‘so far.’ ” ?

        Is something true or not?

      • The essential difference between “technically true” and just “true,” it seems to me, is that the latter is not severed from relevant context whereas the former–pretty much implicitly–does.

        Relevant context may be time-dependent (the example of falling), or may be space-dependent (as in the example of Gerhard & Tscheusner’s bogus ‘2nd law’ analysis which–among other things–fails to consider the full extent of the physical system under consideration), or may be dependent upon numerical domain (as in the topic of this post, where the cartoon considers natural sources but not natural sinks.)

        Red Jeff asks: Is something true or not?

        A deep epistemological question indeed, and I’m not sure how seriously it’s meant. I have no reasoned answer to it, but I’m going to assert, purely on gut feeling, that the answer is yes: ‘something’ is true–or not.

      • Oops! Make that “the former–pretty much implicitly–is.

      • So then “technically true” and “true” are the same thing.

        [Response: Only if “clueless” and “argumentative” are the same thing.]

      • I’m simply asking is the cartoonist’s statement true or not. If it is true it may be unpalitable but it is true none-the-less. If the statement is a lie, it is false.

        I may not be smart enough to understand the nuances of global warming but I do completely understand the difference between truth and a lie.

        Also, as clueless and argumentative are not the same so “technically true” and “true” must not be the same either.
        Thank you for an understandable response.

        [Response: Do you really not see the difference between “true and giving an honest perspective” and “technically true but deliberately and exceedingly misleading”?

        If you can’t even admit to yourself that deliberately misleading people is dishonest, every bit as bad as what is “technically” a lie, then you are to be pitied.]

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        It’s the intent to deceive that makes the difference. For you too, Red Jeff.

      • Gavin's Pussycat

        > I’m simply asking is the cartoonist’s statement true or not.

        In the sense ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but’, it is a lie. What’s your standard of truth?

      • Jeff, please review my statement regarding context as a necessary condition for ‘something’–which I take to mean ‘some (arbitrarily chosen) assertion’–to be true without qualification.

        Also note that ‘something’ is not the same as ‘everything.’

        If you want to play philosophical/logical/semantic games, I’m pretty sure I can hang with you.

        But please be aware that we risk bringing Timothy Chase into this, and he has the philosophical background to kick both our butts–from now until the effects of climate change bring rolling blackouts to a grid near you.

        (Or until our noble host rules us hopelessly off topic–whichever comes first.)

      • Thank you all for your replies. To be clear I believe something “technically true” is “true”, without exception. Whether I like it or not is another matter.

        Take care…. Jeff

        [Response: Then I’ll stand by my earlier statement: you are to be pitied.]

      • So, Jeff – when you use something that is true to imply something that is false, does it matter? Is it still “true”?

        What about when there is another fact, equally “technically true”, that casts light on the question rather than clouding it in misdirection.

        Oh, this is a silly game. The deniers have been playing the “technically true but implying something else” game for years, and since it’s the closest they can ever come to objective truth, they have totally deluded themselves. They believe their own lies.

        Yes, they’re idiots. Lying idiots. Lying idiots in an oblivious state of denial.

        And yes, pointing this out doesn’t help anyone. But the lies and liars are just so tiresome, that sometimes it needs to be said.

  33. Josh has reposted his snipped comment over at Bishop Hill’s blog for those that are interested.

    He has hardly “folded his tent and stolen away in the night.”

    [Response: Neither has he answered the question.

    That would involve admitting either that he he was astoundingly ignorant of his chosen topic, or that his deceptiveness was deliberate.]

  34. People who think charts have to have zeroes are either clueless about presentation graphics or know better.

    An effective chart needs to show the *relevant* variability, with origins that avoid being misleading, and scales that show enough detail, but not too much.
    People often have to use non-zero origins, and choose between linear and log-scales.

    For instance, tamino’s graph makes one point on CO2. This one shows some of the same data. See the red part of the line, which is one of the quickest drops of CO2 in the last few thousand years, obvious on that chart, not so obvious on tamino’s, and invisible on an 800ky chart. That period is actually a subject of active research, since some think that drop was partially caused by the massive die-off and reforestration in the Americas, ~1550-1625. The chart also shows that the 200 years 1600-1800 had the lowest CO2 in the millenium, and that might have been a partial cause of the LIA (in Europe, more so than nearer Equator, perhaps). using zero-origin makes all this impossible to see., but put another way, evan modest differences of CO2 can make a difference (just as tamino’s accountancy example does.)

    For a superb illustration of using relevant scales, see the 3-minute animation of CO2 from NOAA. It starts ~1980, works its way forward, then turns around and goes back, eventually 800ky. Different insights are gained at different scales.

    • Gavin's Pussycat

      John, that NOAA youtube is fantastic… who was saying scientists cannot communicate?

  35. Steve Metzler

    Late to the party, damn. ‘Net’ is the only word missing from that Bindschadler/Nurse exchange. The carbon cycle diagramme that tamino shows (and Watts, inevitably, because lower numbers always suit his cause, of course) is from 1996, when we were only emitting 5.5 GTc. That’s 15 years ago! Why, dammit, can we not quote present figures when we look at these issues? 15 years is a long time in climate science, considering how massively we are continuing to contribute to the demise of our ecosphere. The source of the original diagramme is here, and you can clearly see from the attributions that the data is from 1996:

    The present carbon cycle

    Nowadays, we are emitting ~8 GTc/yr. What the deniers (Josh, I’m looking at you) *deliberately* fail to consider, and I’m not quite sure this has been specifically addressed anywhere in the comments above, is that there are *sources and sinks* of CO2. Roughly, the sinks win out a bit if you go by the figures in the outdated diagramme, to the tune of -2GTc/yr. But what’s 8 – 2? 6. So we’re *net* contributors of at least 6GTc to the atmosphere per year lately. Not far off 7, is it? So, in spirit, the figure of 7GTc/year wasn’t far off. They were only missing the word ‘net’.

    Josh’s misguided ‘comic’ is, I’m afraid, in the ‘not even wrong’ category. Pathetic.

  36. Cartoons by Josh always comes across as someone desperately needed for approval and validation from a chosen peer group. It is haigographizing (in some cases literally) those he seeks approval from to the point of obsequiousness and demonizing those they are arguing with in a manner so manicheaen that it is the artist that has become the caricature.

    Good social commentary cartoons you find in the broad sheets tend to use their cartoons to lampoon all who would set themselves as important irrespective of affiliation but our little boy cannot bear to criticize his little gang. This is one of the reasons they are so poor in quality. A child bringing this sort of thing to you would be someone you would want to monitor closely for signs of being bullied or some other authority demeaning them and they expressing this by projecting that sense of frustration into the subject narrative of their cartoons (inverting it to be the hero and the winner).

    I find the most revealing of the series to be the leitmotif for Dr Curry as the matriarchal protector of the skeptics, so often armored, invincible and protecting.

    This is no great satire in the footsteps of Swift and Hogarth, there is nothing here for people to learn from. Only the inner day dreams of someone who wants attention and affection.

    But it is a very strong reflection of the ‘skeptic’ world view. This is not a debate about science, this is a battle between them as the light and the nasty evil scientists (the ones doing the mountains of data capture and analysis) as being corrupt and victory to come through exposing them as people to ridicule not the science to better analysis.

    I cannot think of any skeptic blogger who views themselves as holding a minority position in an honorable debate. Compare with some of the other fierce science debates of the recent past such as Multiregional vs Out of Africa (human evolution) where there was all kinds of heat over the same evidence but I simply don’t recall the sense of the other side being ‘evil’. Wrong, bone headed may be but never evil. And yet all the skeptics have this default position that AGW is run by nefarious motivations (and there are a few who will even agree with the science but still get into conspiracies about the motivation of any scientists who comes to prominence).

  37. The only piece of “humor” in the cartoon was putting nurse in a nurse outfit, which is humor for kids. The rest of the cartoon consisted of denialist paraphernalia.

  38. From Bishop Hill

    “Tamino has written an article about Josh, criticising his Paul Nurse cartoon. He fully admits that Josh is correct, but apparently he’s a bad man for mentioning it. I can only describe this argument as, well, Taminoesque.”

    I don’t see ‘admission’ that Josh is correct. Bishop Hill is lying.

  39. Tony O'Brien

    A half truth is a whole lie. – Yiddish Proverb
    Half a truth is often a great lie. – Benjamin Franklin

    Quotes that fit

  40. Gavin's Pussycat

    Tamino, the Puss thinks there is an even better metaphor, one that will also be appreciated by business people: monetary inflation.

    There is a reason why we are not allowed our own printing presses for banknotes: all that printing would cause inflation, literally a ‘swelling up’ of the volume of money circulating in the economy. It’s the same with the Earth’s carbon economy: the atmosphere, the ocean, and the Earth’s soils together form a single closed system, the total volume of carbon in which changes only very slowly, on the geological time scale, due to geological processes like volcanism and rock weathering.

    Individual molecules circulate very rapidly within this system, jumping in and out of its sub-reservoirs on a time scale of mere years, but the total doesn’t change — that is, until we came around and started pumping carbon into the system from outside it, on a time scale several orders of magnitude faster.

    The argument the deniers present is like saying “why shouldn’t I print my own money? Look at the billions of dollars that get spend every day, in all parts of the economy; surely nobody will notice if I add a few self-printed dollar bills, say to the tune of 3% of the GDP per year…” — and, in fact, that’s precisely how counterfeiters operate: they slip their product into the huge stream of valid banknotes getting spent every day, hoping no-one will notice.

    Burning fossil fuels is like counterfeiting money, and similarly a victimless crime — not. Those having a problem with the latter, should explain why they don’t have the same problem with the former. Well, except that it’s formally legal in most countries. And that’s the problem, isn’t it?

  41. Horatio Algeranon

    Science is all about context.

    Taking things out of context is not science.

  42. Notice how all the commenter’s on Bishops Hill blog are stridently defending Josh. The fact is many of them must realize the argument in that cartoon would mislead people into thinking human emissions are insignificant.

    Looks like they are “circling the wagons”. They certainly don’t practice what they preach about being “open”.

  43. Fielding Mellish

    But…but Nurse, the doctors told me 97% of my tissue is normal, and that malignant tumor thing is only 3%. That means I’m fit and healthy, right? Soooo, why are you trying to give me these fancy expensive drugs and therapy and stuff?

  44. Pete Dunkelberg

    CO2 from volcanoes? I read somewhere that the recent troublesome Icelandic volcano had a negative CO2 footprint due to the jet flights that were canceled during the eruption. Can any one confirm this?

    • Confirm is a big word, but this is the picture that has been made based on some ‘model’ calculations:
      -50,000 tons of CO2 per day…

    • Pete Dunkelberg

      The Guardian says

      “A larger effect on the atmosphere, though still small in global terms, comes from the mass-grounding of European flights over the past few days. According to the Environmental Transport Association, by the end of today the flight ban will have prevented the emission of some 2.8m tonnes of carbon dioxide [no link] since the first flights were grounded.

      The volcanic eruption has released carbon dioxide, but the amount is dwarfed by the savings. Based on readings taken by scientists during the first phase of Eyjafjallajokull activity last month, the website Information is Beautiful calculated the volcano has emitted about 150,000 tonnes of CO2 each day. Worldwide, the US Geological Survey says volcanoes produce about 200m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.”

      ‘”There was more reduction in CO2 from airplanes not flying all week than in the amount that came from the volcano,” says Alan Robock, an environmental scientist and volcanologist at Rutgers University.’

      “The eruption [of Eyjafjallajökull] may have affected atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by fertilizing oceans with iron. According to the Nordic Volcanological Center at the University of Iceland ash samples contained 8 to 12% iron oxide.[147] Observations at the Mauna Loa Observatory show increased carbon dioxide absorption for each of the three months following the eruption compared to the 30 year mean for the same months. Over May, June and July 2010 atmospheric carbon dioxide decreased by a total of 2.40 ppm.[148] The thirty year mean for the same months is 1.66 ppm with a standard deviation of 0.52ppm. The probability of a chance result is less than 8%.”
      [148] =

  45. Lars Karlsson

    Note that in the continuation of the cartoon, Josh claims that CO2 is just 3% of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which might be correct if you look near the surface (but not for the full atmosphere) and consider volume and not contribution to greenhouse effect. But then he multiplies the 3% CO2 from human emissions with the 3% CO2 of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and shows this stack of tiles where the human contribution is just 0.1% (“man adds”). Of what, must we ask. He is mixing emissions and atmosphere contents. It is completely bonkers!

  46. Tamino: You ask “How dare they try to influence public opinion and policy, without even bothering to learn the basics?”

    Mi impression is that they know, but they don’t mind. They are not stupid, they have lots of interests. They are wicked people.

  47. Tony O’Brien wrote:

    A half truth is a whole lie. – Yiddish Proverb
    Half a truth is often a great lie. – Benjamin Franklin

    Quotes that fit

    Quite right.

    The truth is that nature puts a great deal of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a great deal more than we do. And what we put up there is paltry by comparison. This is the truth that Josh told. But nature takes out almost exactly the same amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it puts in. That is the other half of the truth. And it is that which Josh omitted. What he told was a half truth, not just figuratively but almost exactly, literally so.

    Like a young earth creationist telling you that given the rate at which silicon is entering the ocean and how much is currently in there, at this rate it would have take 8000 years to put as much silicon in there as what we currently find in there. But the creationist refuses to point out that nature is taking silicon out of the ocean at almost exactly the same rate as it puts in.

    The Earth is 4.5 billion years old. Not 6,000 or 10,000. And we are putting into the atmosphere carbon dioxide without taking any out while the current net effects of the natural carbon cycle would actually be reducing the amount of carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Our emissions explain the nearly 50% increase in atmospheric concentrations.

    In fact, what we have been putting into the atmosphere more than explains the extent to which atmospheric concentrations have risen — it also explains the acidification that will make increasingly difficult for organisms to form shells. And then impossible, starting with organisms in the Arctic Ocean within only a few decades. Nearly equal amounts of the carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere stays there as what ends up in the ocean. That is the other half of the story which often doesn’t get told.

  48. Denialists often like to pontificate about how CO2 is “plant food” and that we are living in a CO2 starved atmosphere compared to some times in the extremely distant past. If all the plants were so desperately starved for CO2, you’d think they would be hoovering up all we could emit. Yet CO2 steadily increases and isotopically it looks like the excess over the normal balance is down to us digging up the carbon and burning it. Clearly the natural cycles can’t keep up with us.

    No doubt the denialists are sort of right that, over the extremely long term, increasing CO2 will lead to a planet with far more plant and animal life, just like it was when the sun was a lot fainter 100s of millions of years ago. All we’ll have to do is a little bit of “solengineering” to the sun to turn down the TSI 20 % or so and then we can let the SUV’s rip until we get back to a nice healthy plant-favouring 3000 ppm or so. After a while the ocean life will no doubt adapt to the more acid conditions and new species will evolve to replace the majority of those we currently know which wouldn’t make it.

    Once all that change and adaptation malarkey is out the way we will have finally got to a paradise on earth and our descendants will look back at stories of the silly alarmists and thumb their noses at them whilst raising a glass to the clear sighted St Anthony of the Wattsup who was one of those who took the really long view in the early 21st Century

    • Right. Well, nitrogen and phosphorus are plant food, too, and just as natural. But right now, the lower Great Lakes are strangling on phosphorus–again.

      Rather like rich, creamy butter–human food! Doesn’t that mean we can eat just as much as we want without consequences?

    • Steve Metzler

      All we’ll have to do is a little bit of “solengineering” to the sun to turn down the TSI 20 % or so and then we can let the SUV’s rip until we get back to a nice healthy plant-favouring 3000 ppm or so.

      My kind of sarcasm. Very classy, Mr. Palmer.

      • Here I go again… from 280 to 390 the Wheat nutritional value dropped by about 6%. Also plant stomati start closing, causing plants to suffer from bloat, which breaks up the vapor cycle on top… whatever plant like 3000 ppmv, it’s not the ones that our crops take kindly to and then this link

        (can’t remember which blog I picked up this link from)

        Oh wait, rapid evolution will correct that of course, that is if the denialists accept that evolution will come to the rescue and else it can be GMed real quick and the big 12 holding the sterilized seedlings, so each year farmers will have to buy new stocks to sow. The prospect is appealing, not.

    • Just to clarify in case anyone misunderstood my satire. I really think the “CO2 is plant food” meme is one of the stupider ones. Clearly the deceivers want people to assume that because there was a lot of vegetation, pole to pole, way back in prehistory, that increasing CO2 will gently and linearly increase plant productivity until we get back to that (according to the denier mentality) paradisiacal state. They “accidentally” leave out all the unpleasantness and disruption that no doubt would exist between now and then.

      • Actually, Nick, I think you are too generous to the denier ‘expectations’–I think they just want to push something that sounds as if it ought to be harmless. Not much thought required–and that’s not accidental, IMO. One of the dynamics of denialism is a cynical pandering to the natural desire of the naive for justification not to think about the threat AGW poses.

  49. Lars Karlsson

    More about the latter part of the cartoon: if 3% of CO2 emissions are antropogenic, then you would eventually get 3% of CO2 in the atmosphere that come directly from human emissions. But you would also have an steadily increasing amount of CO2 that was emitted from ocean surface, vegetation and soil but which originally came from human emissions. So what we see in the last panel of the cartoon is a massive laundry operation where CO2 which originally “man adds” are relabelled to “nature adds” once it starts circulating in the coal cycle.

  50. I don’t know anything about climate science but I know which one to believe. I remember the professor advised Delingpole to seek the highest authority in very the same program. Paul Nurse is a science Nobel prizewinner and Josh is a cartoonist so I’m sticking with Nurse’s version. Don’t worry, I’m telling all my friends to do likewise.

  51. The real issue is the lack of good science education in primary and secondary school. An educated public cannot be so easily fooled. Paul Nurse has also looked at the resistance against GM foods, and he found that the most common argument why people reject it is: “I don’t want food with genes in it”. :)

    • Well, in a way it’s an advance on “I don’t want food with chemicals in it.”

    • I have followed the debate about GM foods in the UK for several years and have never heard the argument “I don’t want food with genes in it”. Paul Nurse loses a lot of credence when he makes such a claim.

      • Andrew Dodds

        That’s fair enough. I’ve also followed said debate and I’ve barely heard a coherent argument for or against GM.. mostly either people wearing NBC suits for no sane reason and tearing up research crops, or stuffed PR suits who clearly have no clue what GM *is* telling us it’s all fine.

        This is what passes for informed debate on complex scientific subjects of high importance to society these days.

  52. I’m sure there’s a rich biosphere on many a planet throughout the galaxy with 2 or 3 g surface acceleration. Nonetheless, if Earth’s gravity suddenly increased to 2 or 3 g, we’d be in trouble.

  53. “So what’s is made of? Neutrinos?”

    The ultimate fast food. . .

  54. I’ve never been here before, so have been reading the stuff on CO2 sources and sinks with interest.

    Of course, what is so troubling is the perceived relationship between between CO2 levels (or changes in level) and some measure of the surface temperature of the Earth. CO2 is easy to measure. Global average temperature is decidedly not. Thus we have to resort to clever and often time-consuming methods to generate values that are believed to be plausible representations of the climate (temperature!) that we are currently experiencing on a global scale, and those for climates of the past years and centuries. Only by this sort of academic effort can we hope to come to some sort of reasonable idea of how things are changing (if they are) and how they have changed in the past.

    One of the first, and certainly the most famous, of these efforts was published in 1998 (in Nature, by Mann, Bradley and Hughes, whose full reference you will probably know). They used values from a substantial number of sources that they could reasonably believe to be directly related to temperatures prevailing at the time that their sources indicated, from identification of tree rings, ice core records, actual temperatures or simple transformations of such temperature records, some precipitation records, tree line data, and some statistically computed information from assemblies of records, which were referred to as Principal Components, or PCs. In all, 112 records were used, and eventually entered the public domain, so that we can all access them. (At least, this was possible several years ago – haven’t tried recently.

    This impressive array of numbers, up to 583 rows (years) I seem to remember, was used by Mann et al to produce the famous paper, and in particular the remarkable “hockey stick” graph, with which we are all familiar.

    What I would strongly advocate is that you do as I did about six years ago, which was to look in detail at these records, as individual records and as assemblies, such as all the tree ring data, all the actual temperature data, all the coral data, and so on. A word of advice now. The data columns have a huge variety of scales, in both magnitude and variance, so to do anything sensible you will have to standardise every column before doing any assembling them into groups.

    Now get cracking with plotting the data. It will take some time unless you are a whizz with a powerful programmable statistical package, but it can all be done in Excel.

    The objective is of course to to display the hockey stick shape /by your own efforts/ with this carefully assembled data set. To do this you’d use the observation year as the x-axis. You might also try using CO2 concentration (ppm), if you have the detailed data available.

    I shall be very interested in what you find, just in case I’ve made any mistakes in my calculations.

    I’ll look again at the site from time to time, to check your diligence and my arithmetic!

    Have fun!


    [Response: I’ve already done so.

    The hockey stick is a robust result of the analysis. You don’t need to use PCA to get it. When you eliminate proxy records which are hand-picked by those who want to make the hockey stick shape go away — it still persists. When certain *types* of proxy records which have been objected to by those who want to make the hockey stick shape go away (like data from bristlecone pines, or even all tree ring data) are eliminated, it still persists. And the paleotemperature reconstruction of Mann, Bradley, and Hughes (1998) is only one of a half-dozen or more legitimate efforts by climate scientists, all of which have come to the same conclusion: hockey stick. The fact is, that in spite of extreme efforts by those who have tried everything they can think of to make the hockey stick disappear (because they so desperately want to deny the reality of man-made global warming), it still persists because it’s firmly imprinted on the data.

    As for measuring global temperature during the era of instrumental records (the last century and a half or so), it’s not nearly so uncertain as you portray.]

    • Robin, I bet your grandma loves being told how to suck eggs.

    • Horatio Algeranon

      Horatio has discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of the proposition that the hockey stick is bunk, but alas, this little comment box is too small to contain it (the graph alone extends well beyond the monitor into the next room).

    • Robin,

      What does this have to do with the current topic? Perhaps you failed to read the OP? You do know it concerns a cartoon misrepresenting human contributions to CO2 in the atmosphere?

  55. Robin:

    That was a typical denialist hit and run comment. Care to stick around and defend yourself?

  56. So, Robin: why don’tt you actually do some work and contribute something, rather than demanding he do work of your choice?
    Since he omitted it, here was his analysis:
    “There’s a reason for that: the hockey-stick shaped pattern is in the data, and it’s not just noise it’s signal. Montford’s book makes it obvious that MM actually do have a selection rule of their own devising: if it looks like a hockey stick, get rid of it.”

    You may also be interested to know that McIntyre&McKitrick generated simulated hockey sticks:
    a) using wrong parameters for the series
    b) then picked an example from the 1% of the data selected to show positive hockey sticks.

    Wegman&co did worse: they showed 12 examples from the top 1%, as though they were a reasonable sample. One of the reviewers todl them to be fair:
    “3. In Figure 4.4, MM showed the hockey stick to bend upwards in all their (well chosen) realizations. In fairness, you should show
    some realizations where it bends downwards too.”
    See SSWR p.58 for context.

    • Steve Metzler

      John Mashey, hi,

      It has been my experience over the past few months that you can’t even get a denier to *read* Deep Climate’s excellent Replication and due diligence, Wegman style, or if they did, to acknowledge that they read it for comprehension. That article presents a severe challenge to the cognitive dissonance of all but the staunchest McIntyre fans. It blows MM05 (and by association, the Wegman Report) out of the water. McIntyre’s archived code (using overly-persistent ARFIMA to generate the red noise samples instead of AR1(.2) as Wegman thought) and cherry-picked hockey sticks are even there for all to see.

  57. Well, IMO Robin may have just written the most condescending comment ever seen on this site.

    “Get cracking. . . unless you’re a whiz. . . I’ll check your diligence. . .”

    Please! Or rather, puh-leeze.

    The even-handed tone and fact-centered content of the response are notable (and praiseworthy.)

  58. John Brookes

    I’m just gobsmacked! Up to now I’d thought that WUWT and like minded sites were full of noble truth seeking individuals who would never deliberately try and mislead. Now you are telling me that they say things which they know are wrong? Or worse still, they say things which are wrong, and they are too stupid to know they are wrong…

    This can’t be true. Next you’ll be saying that these scoundrels are being represented by some bug-eyed faux British aristocrat who gets to present his “technically correct but rather misleading” information to the US government.

    • Steady on, there. Monckton is a genuine peer, and he only ever says anything that is technically correct by accident. He is a master of nonsense.

      If he wasn’t such a damaging, nasty piece of work, then we would view him affectionately as a kooky old english eccentric. But he’s not. He does untold damage, and seems to take great pleasure in it.


  59. Philippe Chantreau

    Thanks for that link to DeepClimate post. I knew there were issues with both MM05 and the Wegman report. I had no realized it was that bad. Although a lot of the mathematical/statistics discussion is beyond me, what is at play is still painfully clear.
    Robin would be well inspired to use his energy looking into that kind of stuff , rather than giving stat lesson to the stat practitioner.
    Incredible stuff. McIntyre, McKitrick and Wegman have got NOTHING, zilch, nada. only illustration of their incompetence of deceptiveness. Even that is kinda botched, as if they got lazy at some point.

  60. Ignoring Josh’s deception for a moment, why is anyone saying only 3%? Does no one else find it at all worrying that we are able to contribute as much as 3% of the huge natural flux? Why would anyone think that that was a negligible amount unlikely to have any effect?

  61. Philippe Chantreau

    That’s a good point TS. I remember having a discussion once with a guy who kept on bringing examples of cataclysmic events through geological times. I asked why we should even consider comparing the effects of human activity to those of a cataclysmic event.

    • 3% this year + 3% next year + 3% the year after and only 50% of that currently coming out, and that percent coming out is declining… the ocean surface acidification going forward relentlessly. How we know Josh, the willful misleader or is it willful ignorant? It’s those isotopic signatures of fossil fuel is how we know.

  62. If I’m not mistaken, there is also an amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. What percentage of the total amount removed is being removed by human activity?

    • Steve Metzler

      What percentage of the total amount removed is being removed by human activity?

      What?! Humans are net *contributors* to the CO2 surplus in the atmosphere, mostly through fossil fuel consumption, but also through land use changes. If we weren’t so obviously a net contributor, there wouldn’t be all this fuss.

      As I alluded to in an earlier comment, the carbon cycle figures in the diagramme supplied by tamino in the original article are 15 years out-of-date. More modern figures may be found here (though they are expressed in terms of CO2 rather than in terms of just C. Bearing in mind that 29Gt of CO2 ~= 8Gt of C, because the molecular weight of CO2 is 44, and that of C is 12):

      How do human CO2 emissions compare to natural CO2 emissions?

      If you add up all those numbers, you will see that humankind is a net contributor of about 12Gt CO2/yr to the atmosphere. And those numbers are getting worse over time. Also, the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of having to continually absorb more CO2 than is generated by natural causes.

      We have upset a delicate natural balance since the start of the industrial revolution. That transgression does not come without consequences. It’s akin to saying an individual can smoke all the cigarettes they like without increasing the risk of contracting lung cancer, or that they can eat all the junk food they like without increasing the risk of becoming obese. For some reason, a large portion of humanity seems to (conveniently) imagine there is a free lunch with respect to polluting the atmosphere. Sooner or later, if we continue with Business As Usual, we are going to have to ‘pay the piper’.

      • The real worry is that the oceans are currently net absorbers of CO2. This reduces as temperature increases until they become net contributors. Does anyone know at what temperature that happens, what the pH will be, and when we are likely to reach that assuming BAU?

        PS I don’t think that Pough was saying that we are not net contributors, just asking if we are playing any part in the absorption part of the cycle. My guess is that some agriculture might absorb more CO2 than the natural vegetation it replaces, especially where we irrigate (although that has huge long-term consequences of its own as population increases and water shortages become more serious).

  63. Martin Smith

    The denialist movement continues to tout the “hide the decline” fiasco, and they like to show an animation consisting of Mann’s graph repeatedly switching to the graph including the data Mann did not use. I have never seen a clear explanation of what Mann actually did to construct the part of the graph that the “hide the decline” fiasco is about, nor an explanation of why what Mann did is more scientifically correct than using the data he chose not to use. If there exists a good explanation for this, will someone post a link to it? If not, maybe Tamino could write one here?

  64. Martin,
    The whole purpose of the proxy data is to obtain a reconstruction of temperatures prior to the period where we had direct measurements of it. So why would you use the reconstruction numbers–which are bound to have larger errors than instrumental readings–for the instrumental period?

    What is more, there are good reasons (e.g. environmental stresses, drought, etc.) to believe that several of the proxies do not follow temperature trends in the modern era (post-1960). There is good reason to include the overlap of instrumental and proxy data prior to 1960, because that demonstrates the correlation. Moreover, there are independent corroborations of the proxy reconstruction over the early instrumental and most of the proxy period–e.g. borehole measurements, speleothermal measurements…
    The fact of the matter is that there is no REAL decline to hide, and in omitting the post-1960 data, the graph omits no REAL information.

    What is more, this result is nearly a decade and a half old now! The science has moved far past it. The fact that the denialists have not merely demonstrates how little they have to offer.

  65. Martin Smith

    Thanks for that explanation. It is the best I’ve read. If I understand correctly then, the fact that the post-1960 proxy data diverged the wrong way from the instrument data is not the reason that the post-1960 proxy data was not used. The post-1960 proxy data was not used because the instrument data for the post-1960 period is known to be correct. IOW, the recent post-1960 proxy data would not have been used even if it had shown even more warming than the instrument data.

    Second, there have been environmental stresses throughout the post-1960 period that are known to cause several of the proxy sources to behave in ways that result in the divergent proxy data that was discarded. IOW, the divergence in the post-1960 proxy data was expected, not an inconvenience. If the same environmental conditions occurred before the instrument data period, were the proxies for those periods also discarded?

    You say there is good reason to include the overlap of instrumental and proxy data prior to 1960, but what is that reason? If the post-1960 instrument data was used alone, why not use instrument data exclusively for the entire period it is available?

    I appreciate that the hockey stick graph is an old result now, but denialists are still using it effectively because it is always published without a link to a clear explanation of how its construction evolved. More important, I think the hockey stick graph remains as the main entry point to climate science for the layman (including me), so it should not be dismissed as an old result. What would be useful for the layman, I think, is a paper showing the history of the graph itself, explaining how proxies were found, why some were kept and others discarded, how reanalyses of different proxies and instrument data have changed the graph, and what has changed since Mann’s original work. The denialists always seem to attack Mann’s original graph. If the science has moved past it, what does the graph look like now?

  66. Martin Smith:

    First thing to keep in mind is that not *all* of the tree ring data shows divergence over the last few decades, so they’re really focusing on a subset of the data over a subset of time.

    The post-1960 proxy data was not used because the instrument data for the post-1960 period is known to be correct. IOW, the recent post-1960 proxy data would not have been used even if it had shown even more warming than the instrument data.

    This is a great comment, one that seems to be entirely missed by the denialsphere. If proxies showed a recent steep upward departure from the instrumental data, you are correct, it most likely would not be used.

    And of course the denialsphere would be screaming about “hide the incline!!!” – oh, wait, probably not.

    Second, there have been environmental stresses throughout the post-1960 period that are known to cause several of the proxy sources to behave in ways that result in the divergent proxy data that was discarded.

    This statement is too strong – “suspected”, not “known”, would be appropriate. We do know that anthropogenic activities far above and beyond simply dumping CO2 in the atmosphere are having noticeable effects on the biosphere, so the suspicion isn’t simply speculation.

    However, thus far, no one has nailed down precisely what has caused the change in response.

    It’s an active area of research. Scientists in the field, of course, aren’t pleased with the untidiness the divergence problem causes.

    IOW, the divergence in the post-1960 proxy data was expected, not an inconvenience. If the same environmental conditions occurred before the instrument data period, were the proxies for those periods also discarded?

    The same kinds and levels of pollutants would not have existed in the past. If the problem has to do with microclimate responses to temperature (humidity, rainfall, etc) then there might be similar divergence in the past.

    However, the proxies have been calibrated against other proxies, and the results are presented with quite large error bars which express the uncertainty behind proxy reconstructions (denialists tend to present the hockey stick without the error bars, making the results appear to be more precise than any scientists, including M,B, and H, would ever claim).

    So there’s really little doubt that, given the different proxies that from a general “hockey stick” shape, that the general picture – if you understand they come with error bounds reflecting uncertainty! – is correct.

    You say there is good reason to include the overlap of instrumental and proxy data prior to 1960, but what is that reason? If the post-1960 instrument data was used alone, why not use instrument data exclusively for the entire period it is available?

    Presumably to show that the tree ring proxy temperatures calibrate well both with other proxies and the instrumental record over the vast majority of the period of time for which such calibration data exists …

    Keep in mind that, as far as the science goes, graphical presentations are given to help one visualize the paper results. So one might write in a paper “this is what we did”, along with a discussion of the divergence problem and why it was felt reasonable to ignore that period of data, and then present a graph of the *result* of the analysis which, as the paper describes, leaves out that data.

    Some people act as though it’s the diagram in the paper, rather than the detailed discussion in the paper, that’s important. That’s crap.

    Now, in terms of the cover art for the WMO report that Jones’s “hide the decline” statement referred to, that was … cover art.

  67. Here’s a public dishonor (wait, let me spell that in Canadian: “dishonour”) for denialist Tim Ball (cross-posted on RC):

    Rather a delicious counterpoint to the climatechangedispatch cutline: “Because the debate is NOT over!”

    Perhaps it is, in Dr. Weaver’s libel suit against Ball. Haven’t confirmed what the status of the suit is, though. . . just speculating there.