Beck to the future

During Callendar’s time the exact numbers and processes involved in regional low-altitude CO2 measurements were not yet precisely known. Nevertheless, he made a careful selection of reliable data depending on the methodology used and, in particular, depending on the wind direction since he correctly assumed that North Atlantic marine air represents much better something like a Northern Hemisphere background value. Callendar published his results first 1938 and finally (in 1958) gave a “best value” of 289ppm for the late 19th century amazingly confirmed by subsequent ice core work (see Figure 1).

Recently an article by E-G. Beck has been wafting through the Internet and has now been ‘published’ by Energy and Environment which challenges all these findings or, more precisely, ignores the last 50 years of carbon cycle research [Curiously, this journal always seems happy to ennoble even the strangest idea with the scientific label: "peer reviewed"]. Beck’s approach is very simple: He decided from the beginning that Keeling and Callendar obviously are ideological fanatics and that finally all chemical measurements in the 19th and early 20th century actually were fine. Great news of course!

So what does the new CO2 “reconstruction” look like? For example, within 15 years CO2 levels rose from about 290ppm (1925) to about 470ppm (1942). Worse, within only 10 years these huge CO2 levels were absorbed again and came back to boring mainstream values of about 300ppm.

The list of arguments against such variability in the carbon cycle is too long even for a post on RC but here are a few of the main ones:

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