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Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 July 2008

Everyone can probably agree that the climate system is complex. Not only do the vagaries of weather patterns and ocean currents make it hard to see climate changes, but the variability in what are often termed the Earth System components complicates the picture enormously. These components – specifically aerosols (particulates in the air – dust, soot, sulphates, nitrates, pollen etc.) and atmospheric chemistry (ozone, methane) – are both affected by climate and affect climate, since aerosols and ozone can interact, absorb, reflect or scatter solar and thermal radiation. This makes for a rich research environment, but can befuddle the unwary.

I occasionally marvel at the amount of nonsense that is written about climate change in the more excitable parts of the web, and most of the time, I don’t bother to comment. But in relation to the issue of aerosols, chemistry and climate, I read yesterday (h/t Atmoz) probably the most boneheaded article that I have seen in ages (and that’s saying a lot).

The hook for this piece of foolishness were two interesting articles published this week by Ruckstuhl and colleagues and a draft EPA report on the impacts of climate on air quality. First, Ruckstuhl et al found that as aerosols have decreased in Europe over the last few decades (as a result of environmental standards legislation), the amount of solar radiation at the ground has increased while the amount reflected to space has decreased. They hypothesize that this may have helped Europe warm faster in the last few decades than it would have otherwise done. Or equivalently, since the aerosols are anthropogenic, that European temperatures had been subdued due to the cooling effects of the aerosols – and since they are now decreasing, the full effects of the greenhouse gases are starting to be felt. This is just an update to the ‘global brightening‘ story we have touched on before. The EPA report is concerned with the impacts that climate change can have on atmospheric chemistry, and in particular the summertime peaks in urban ground-level ozone which are a well-known and serious health hazard. These are affected by local temperatures, cloudiness, temperature sensitive biogenic emissions and patterns of weather variability. Again, it is a story we have discussed before.

But the NewsBusters article succeeded in getting almost every aspect of these stories wrong. How do I correct thee? Let me count the ways.

  1. Aerosols are not smog:

    First they confuse aerosols with photochemical smog. Both are pollutants, but the first is dominated by sulphate emissions from coal burning power plants, the second from ozone precursors such as NOx, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide mainly emitted from vehicles. (Note that ozone is not directly emitted, but is created by chemical reactions from the precursors with the addition of a bit of photolysis – i.e. sunlight-driven chemistry). The effects on climate are very different: ozone is a greenhouse gas, so increases cause a warming, while sulphate aerosols are reflective, and so increases cause a cooling. The air quality issues in the EPA are almost all focused on ozone.

  2. Europe is not the Globe:

    The next error is to equate changes in temperatures in Europe to the globe. While it would be true that if global aerosol levels declined it would lead to increased global warming, aerosol trends in Asia are increasing strongly, even while those in the US and Europe are dropping. The net effect is possibly a slight drop, but the impact on global temperature is as yet unclear. This regionality matters in both the sulphates case and for ozone. The relevant chemistry is sensitive to water vapour and temperature in varying ways as a function of the pollution level. In remote ocean areas, surface ozone will likely decrease as the globe warms for instance (due to increasing water vapour). In polluted environments increased temperatures and larger temperature-sensitive emissions of isoprene cause enhanced ozone levels.

  3. Surface ozone is not in the stratosphere:

    Next, NewsBusters asserts that the ozone story is confusing because of the

    .. treaty called the Montreal Protocol. This was designed to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and release of a number of substances thought at the time to be depleting ozone.

    Ummm…. those substances (chiefly chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs) are still thought to be depleting the ozone layer – which is in the stratosphere, some 30km above the ground-level ozone that people shouldn’t be breathing. CFCs have no impact on ground-level ozone at all (since their reactive chlorine is only released in the stratosphere).

  4. The final inanity:

    Wouldn’t it be fascinating if such efforts [such as the Montreal Protocol] lead to cleaner air around the world which ended up warming the planet, and that additional warmth is now breaking down the very ozone we thought we could save?

    Every part of this sentence is wrong. The Montreal Protocol had no impact on cleaning the air, it stopped the growth of CFCs which are powerful greenhouse gases (in addition to their role in depleting stratospheric ozone), therefore it slowed global warming, rather than increasing it, and we aren’t trying to save ground-level ozone. Had any of this been true it would indeed have been fascinating.

What should we make of this? Unfortunately one must conclude that no mistake is too dumb for someone, somewhere to make if they think they can spin it into supporting their anti-science agenda. For them complexity is something to be abused rather than a challenge to be understood, underlining quite clearly (again) the difference between science and propaganda.


356 Responses to “Aerosols, Chemistry and Climate”

  1. 51
    Ike Solem says:

    Re#44 &#46, The IPCC 4th report has a very detailed section on aerosols and their effects, from both modeling and measurement perspectives (2.4.4):

    “…the results summarised in Table 2.6 and Figure 2.13, together with the estimates of nitrate and mineral dust RF combined with the measurement-based estimates, provide an estimate for the combined aerosol direct RF of –0.50 ± 0.40 W m–2. The progress in both global modelling and measurements of the direct RF of aerosol leads to a medium-low level of scientific understanding.”

    For sulphate aerosols, the IPCC (2.4.4) reports that the main sources of sulphate aerosol are via SO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning (72%), biomass burning (2%), marine plankton (19%), and volcanic emissions (7%). They also describe organic carbon aerosols, black carbon aerosols, biomass burning aerosols, mineral and nitrate aerosols, and mixtures thereof – all backed up by detailed discussion and piles of studies and references.

    Regarding the fact that aerosols are usually combinations of sub-types see also (2.4.4.)- “The role of nonlinear processes of aerosol dynamics in RF has been recently studied in global aerosol models that account for the internally mixed nature of aerosol particles.”

    The Asian brown clouds seem to show these effects nicely – see http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/102/15/5326.pdf (Ramanthan et al 2005, modeling atmospheric brown clouds). There, the organic carbon aerosol content plays a major role. It also shows aerosol influence via both direct radiative forcing and indirect cloud-precipitation effects.

    Regarding Zhang et al – their methods section is what I was looking at. What I was getting at was that they were not attempting to measure global distributions of aerosols and their compositions – their datasets and previous work focus on the fate of hydrocarbon-rich industrial aerosols after emission (see http://www.asrc.cestm.albany.edu/qz/Pittsburgh_HOAOOA.pdf for example). Their results seem to have some implications for how models treat aerosols, but they don’t change the overall picture or the IPCC summation. Regional variation matters – aerosols over California now are of the biomass burning variety, for example (is that anthropogenic or not?) – but the basic conclusions seem reliable.

    How does all this affect the “clean coal” discussion? “Clean coal” is an oxymoron that means that the only emission products are carbon dioxide and water – all the mercury, arsenic, nitrogen and sulfur components of coal have been removed (to your local rivers and groundwater via coal slurry effluent runoff) either before or after combustion (and also the combustion is more complete – less partially oxidized hydrocarbons and particulates) – but not the CO2. With “clean coal” we’ll continue to reduce anthropogenic aerosol emissions while also increasing atmospheric CO2 – meaning that spending billions to retrofit coal plants with “clean coal technology” will do nothing to slow the rate of global warming. To do that, you’d want to replace coal plants with wind and solar generation systems.

    Shipping is another major problem. Sulfur content of boiler fuel is at 4.5% (the proposed global cap) and some regions want lower 1.5% content. Cleaning up shipping along the “clean coal” lines will result in much higher tranportation costs, and no CO2 emission reduction – but figuring out how to do global transport of goods without access to fossil fuels? That’s a tough one. Wind-powered ships and camel caravans?

  2. 52
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ike Solem wrote: “… figuring out how to do global transport of goods without access to fossil fuels? That’s a tough one. Wind-powered ships and camel caravans?”

    Global transport of goods is dependent not only on access to fossil fuels, but on access to cheap, abundant fossil fuels. And the era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels is coming to its inevitable end, whether or not we voluntarily reduce fossil fuel use to address global warming. And the era of large-scale global transport of goods will end with it. In the future most material goods will be produced locally and regionally, for local and regional use. In my view, this new era of local and regional self-reliance — in which human societies will adapt living within the carrying capacity of the bioregion within which they exist — will be a good thing.

  3. 53
    Nigel Williams says:

    One of the many things that impresses me about Hansen is his ability to maintain a publicly optimistic view that we will be able to divert from Business as Usual in time to avoid dangerous climate change. This is I think the key to his effectiveness.

    But. But as he notes, with CO2 already at 386ppm and the safe level now identified as below 350ppm (probably 300) most countries will I believe simply join the stampede to build as much infrastructure as fast as they can to lever themselves up on the other guy’s shoulders so that when it all falls over they have an edge – their nose above water – so to speak. BAU was more of the same, while I see exponential growth of emissions until we hit the wall.

    Simple things point this way – like Texas crude takes about 1.5 barrels of oil to yield a barrel of petrol, while shale oil takes almost 6. To produce petrol from coal China is building gassification plants – but they have to build another coal-fired power plant to provide the energy for the gasification plant. Goodness knows with the CO2 multiplier is on that deal! So even with a steady-state BAU we are seeing constant ramp up of emissions. Compound that with the development of the less-developed world – with giving every Indian and Chinese family a car and I’m sure that the only way CO2 is ever going to get back to below 350ppm will be by weathering of rocks in a post-human world.

    The times of the Holocene were truly halcyon days, the Anthropocene will be short and brutal.

  4. 54

    how to do global transport of goods without access to fossil fuels? That’s a tough one. Wind-powered ships and camel caravans?

    Learn from the example of Greenpeace researchers Lonnie Dupre and Eric Larsen.

  5. 55
    paulm says:

    Can the rate of melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) be obtained?

    Can this be used to extrapolate what the temperature rise rate is for the NH? And possible infer from it, what the expected accelerated temperature rise will be?

  6. 56
    Robin Johnson says:

    RE: Shipping.

    I know its somewhat counter-intuitive but ship transport is actually ridiculously energy efficient per mile per kilogram of good. Followed by rail. Then truck. The “last mile” of the suburban consumer driving to the store typically costs more energy per kilogram of good than the entire ocean transport. The problem of globalization is that America has exported its lifestyle to the rest of the world. Oops.

    Robin

  7. 57
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paulm, I doubt it and don’t see why you’d try. Why would one try to figure out a global temperature number from one local measurement of the current Greenland melt rate? The models (you can read at the Start Here link, top of page) are trying to work out these answers using an enormous variety of different pieces of information.

    There are hints — look at the paleo work, read about past climate change. I noted one science newsletter comment about this kind of question a while back, here:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-06/uoca-gic061808.php

  8. 58
    paulm says:

    NOAA: Warm June for U.S. with Wet and Dry Extremes,
    Eighth Warmest June on Record for Globe

    Can we expect extreme weather events to help moderate temperature rise due to dissipation of energy?

  9. 59
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist (52), No more international or intranational trade, very little intrastate exchange, folks in upper midwest and lower Canada are the only ones in the western hemisphere that can make and eat bread, e.g: how you visually this as a good thing per se is mind boggling.

    Robin (56), interesting observation (efficiency of marine shipping) but it doesn’t answer the question. With diesel gone, would it still be efficient if every ship needs tons of batteries? Or is it conceivable (and still efficient) to refurbish all (large, at least??) ships with nuclear engines?

    Anyone: is the two-word spam gate case sensitive?

  10. 60
    Masood says:

    That cartoon is perfect… I would like to use it on my site!

  11. 61
    Chuck Booth says:

    Perhaps its time for refresher on “scientific facts”:

    http://www.acme.com/jef/singing_science/scientific_fact-160.mp3

    From: Singing Science Records: http://www.acme.com/jef/singing_science/

  12. 62
    Robin Johnson says:

    Rob B (59)

    Well. Diesel engines don’t have to run on petroleum diesel – so obviously “biologically-derived” diesel fuel would certainly work.

    Modern sailing ships which can go faster than most rust-bucket freighters might be an interesting alternative for certain goods – particularly those with high value to weigh ratios. It would require a specialized port for automated loading and unloading (perfectly feasible).

  13. 63
    David B. Benson says:

    Read about Beluga Shipping for wind assisted diesel ships. About 10% from wind.

  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    Paulm:

    Locally, obviously yes. A nice thunderstorm can break up a heat wave for a while.

    Globally, I doubt it. Can you think of an extreme weather event that would transfer of heat energy away from the planet? Weather doesn’t reach that high.

    Are you basing your question on something you read, or do you have a theory?

  15. 65
    Richard Wakefield says:

    http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/200807/upload/july08.pdf

    Climate Sensitivity Reconsidered

    Conclusion
    Even if temperature had risen above natural variability, the recent solar Grand Maximum may have been chiefly responsible.
    Even if the sun were not chiefly to blame for the past half-century’s warming, the IPCC has not demonstrated that, since CO2 occupies only one-ten-thousandth part more of the atmosphere that it did in 1750, it has contributed more than a small fraction of the warming. Even if carbon dioxide were chiefly responsible for the warming that ceased in 1998 and may not resume until 2015, the distinctive, projected fingerprint
    of anthropogenic “greenhouse-gas” warming is entirely absent from the observed record. Even if the fingerprint were present, computer models are long proven to be inherently incapable of providing projections of the future state of the climate that are sound enough for policymaking. Even if per impossibile the models could ever become reliable, the present paper demonstrates that it is not at all likely that the world will warm as much as the IPCC imagines. Even if the world were to warm that much, the overwhelming majority of the scientific, peer-reviewed literature does not predict that catastrophe would ensue. Even if catastrophe might ensue, even the most drastic proposals to mitigate future climate change by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide would make very little difference to the climate. Even if mitigation were likely to be effective, it would do more harm than good: already
    millions face starvation as the dash for biofuels takes agricultural land out of essential food production: a warning that taking precautions, “just in case”, can do untold harm unless there is a sound, scientific basis for them. Finally, even if mitigation might do more good than harm, adaptation as (and if) necessary would be far more cost-effective and less likely to be harmful.
    In short, we must get the science right, or we shall get the policy wrong. If the concluding equation in this analysis (Eqn. 30) is correct, the IPCC’s estimates of climate sensitivity must have been very much exaggerated. There may, therefore, be a good reason why, contrary to the projections of the models on which the IPCC relies, temperatures have not risen for a decade and have been falling since the phase-transition in global temperature trends that occurred in late 2001. Perhaps real-world climate sensitivity is very much below the IPCC’s estimates. Perhaps, therefore, there is no “climate crisis” at all. At present, then, in policy terms there is no case for doing anything. The correct policy approach to a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.

  16. 66
    llewelly says:

    Hank Roberts:

    Can you think of an extreme weather event that would transfer of heat energy away from the planet? Weather doesn’t reach that high.

    If snow falls on dark ground, and covers it, the albedo of that part of the Earth greatly increases. Until the snow melts, the snow will be reflecting energy, thus transferring it away from the planet. Similar thinking applies to the formation of sea ice. This is in part why some people are concerned about shrinking snow cover, shrinking sea ice, and so forth. So there are weather events that transfer heat energy way from the planet. But they become either less common or less effective, or both, as the Earth gets warmer.

  17. 67
    paulm says:

    Hank Roberts,

    Ok, NH temperature rise.

    If the rate of melt occurring across the whole of green land can be estimated then then we have much more than a local measurement.

    This could give us more idea on the inertia of the temperature rise in the NH. It could be one more approach in the variety used in the models.

    It is also a very direct indication of the rate of average temperature rise, like the melting of the permafrost. Seasonal and yearly temp variations don’t influence it to any extent.

  18. 68
    paulm says:

    Hank Roberts:
    Are you basing your question on something you read, or do you have a theory?

    No theory. Just brain storming.

    We are having more than average strong storms and extreme precipitation across the globe. Presumably more clouds and dust too. I am just wondering about the energy dynamics and the effect on temperatures.

  19. 69
    dhogaza says:

    Shorter Monckton:

    Even IF the science is right, the policy is right, everything is right, right on down the line…

    YOU ARE STILL WRONG.

  20. 70

    Richard Wakefield posts:

    Even if temperature had risen above natural variability, the recent solar Grand Maximum may have been chiefly responsible.

    The Solar constant has not gone appreciably up or down for 50 years. A flat level of illumination can’t account for the sharp upturn in global warming of the past 30 years.

    Even if the sun were not chiefly to blame for the past half-century’s warming,

    It isn’t.

    the IPCC has not demonstrated that, since CO2 occupies only one-ten-thousandth part more of the atmosphere that it did in 1750, it has contributed more than a small fraction of the warming.

    That much extra carbon dioxide represents 1600 grams for every square meter of Earth’s surface, more than enough to make a difference. 100 ppm may not seem like much to you, but 0.1 ppm of fluorine will kill you. Small proportions aren’t always relevant, and certainly they aren’t in this case.

    Even if carbon dioxide were chiefly responsible for the warming that ceased in 1998

    It didn’t:

    Why Tim Ball is Wrong

    Why Tilo Reber is Wrong

    The rest of your screed being based on the above mistakes, your conclusions do not follow.

  21. 71
    san quintin says:

    Re: 65. In other words, Monckton doesn’t want us to do anything. Clearly he doesn’t understand risk management! I’m also intrigued to know why he doesn’t publish this in the peer-reviewed literature if he thinks he’s right.

  22. 72
    spilgard says:

    Re 65: Wow! Monckton manages to cycle through the standard loop without skipping a beat:

    It’s not happening.
    And if it is, it’s the sun doing it.
    And if it isn’t the sun, it’s not CO2.
    And if it is CO2, it’s not happening anyway.
    And if it is happening, computer models are stupid.
    And if they’re not stupid, it doesn’t matter because it’s not happening.
    And if it is happening, it’s not a big deal.
    And if it is a big deal, there’s nothing can be done.
    And if anything can be done, it will destroy civilization.
    And if it won’t destroy civilization, it still doesn’t matter.
    And besides, it’s not happening.
    (repeat)

  23. 73
    tamino says:

    Gavin:

    I think that since APS has decided to give airtime to Monckton, and since this is getting a lot of play in the denialosphere, it would be well worth the effort to compose a proper reply.

    And by “proper,” I mean a complete expose not only of how Monckton is dead wrong, but how utterly infantile his analysis is and how utterly foolish it was to allow it on APS in the first place. His “paper” should be squashed — Bambi meets Godzilla. In fact, the right response will put an end to this malarkey from APS once and for all.

    And the right person to do it is: you.

    I know it’s work, I know you’re busy — but your planet needs you.

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.aps.org/
    APS Climate Change Statement
    APS Position Remains Unchanged

    The American Physical Society reaffirms the following position on climate change, adopted by its governing body, the APS Council, on November 18, 2007:

    “Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate.”

    An article at odds with this statement recently appeared in an online newsletter of the APS Forum on Physics and Society, one of 39 units of APS. The header of this newsletter carries the statement that “Opinions expressed are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the APS or of the Forum.” This newsletter is not a journal of the APS and it is not peer reviewed.

  25. 75
    Ken Feldman says:

    The Monckton paper is hysterical. On the first page he states, “The models heavily relied upon by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had not projected this multidecadal stasis in “global warming”;

    Then, he shows figure 2, which shows scenario B from Dr. Hansen’s 1988 model runs. It clearly shows a 7 year period from 2010 to 2017 with stable and even declinging temperatures! The bozo contradicts himself in one page.

    Go to the denialist websites and they’re hyping this paper as the end of the global warming consensus. The lack of scientific understanding and the ability to read critically is their biggest problem.

  26. 76
    dhogaza says:

    Magically, this has appeared as a preface to Monckton’s paper:

    The following article has not undergone any scientific peer review. Its conclusions are in disagreement with the overwhelming opinion of the world scientific community. The Council of the American Physical Society disagrees with this article’s conclusions.

    I’d guess that the editor, who invited Monckton and two physicists to post opposing viewpoints, while coyly stating “we need to stick to the science”, has been informed by the APS leadership that Monckton’s crap doesn’t quite fit that ground rule …

    Editor gone wild! Embarrassing the APS. I’d say that’s the best read on it, at the moment.

  27. 77
    a beautiful person says:

    mr sheppard has generated quite a scathing rebuttal to this article.
    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2008/07/17/nasa-climate-alarmist-attacks-newsbusters-sheppard#comment-664086

    my apologies for not using my real name on this comment. i disagree with the writers at NEWSBUSTERS.ORG on a regular basis, i am bullied regularly and have been threatened in the past by its users. (they can be a nasty lot.) you will be able to identify my comments by my pseudonym: a beautiful person.

    [Response: Thanks for stepping in. If you go back you might want to point out the irony of a journalist not actually recognising what the source material for his original post was. A little fact checking might go a long way. – gavin]

  28. 78
    Rob Zerona says:

    regarding “fossil fuels”. Everyone here needs to take a freshmen chemistry class over again. It has been proven that you can take inorganic materials and make organic alkanes other than methane using heat and pressure. A thorough analysis of phase diagrams would be in order. Sandia National Labs has a method to generate methane using inorganic materials and a solar concentrator. Changing conditons yields other products. All from INORGANIC MATERIALS. This confirms previous experiments and theory (backed by the laws of physics and thermodynamics)and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Belief that fossil fuels derive from plants and dinosaurs is for stupid people. The only thing you can generate from decaying plant matter, even under anerobic conditions within 200 feet of the earths surface is…Methane. Wise up, folks.

  29. 79
    Arch Stanton says:

    Hi a beautiful person,

    I tried to join Newsbusters last week and they have not let me in. I suspect they do not accept folks from here in order to maintain the illusion of an honest debate over there.

  30. 80
    Clear Thinker says:

    Follow-up to the post above…

    I am a long time member of News Busters and can assure you that ‘a beautiful person’ has never been threatened. The problem is that whenever abp is asked a question, we only get insults as a reply. But I will admit, once a person like abp starts with the insults we are sure to do likewise. It’s only natural that people will defend themself and we are no different than you in that regard.

    Anyone willing to debate the science of, or the media response to AGW is welcomed, but keep in mind that NB’s focus is bias in the media.

    As an aside, NB has a wonderful archive, and if you really want to question Noel Sheppards arguments I suggest you review the archives because he has written a mountains worth of info. The only reason people don’t like his findings is they go against the present day alarmism that is AGW, Climate Crisis, or whatever the heck it’s called nowadays.

    Thanks for listening.

    [Response: Umm…as the target for the latest smear, I’ll withhold comment on your site’s penchant for character assassination in lieu of fact-based argument. But on the off chance you are serious, stick around here and see how discussions can actually evolve without people resorting to ad homs. – gavin]

  31. 81
    Chris Colose says:

    Clear thinker,

    the entire tone of that article is to bash Gavin and play semantical games when science says “smog” and “aerosols” mean different things. Given that we have to scroll half way down the page to find any semblance of a scientific point, you should reconsider who is dedicated to truth, and who to ad homs.

  32. 82
    John Mashey says:

    re: #76

    This stuff didn’t just start with the July 2008 issue, as mixed in with quite reasonable articles are others:

    The April issue has an article by Gerald Marsh (retired Argonne (nuclear?) physicist:
    Climate Stability and Policy
    , which says:

    “In this essay, however, I will argue that humanity faces a much greater danger from the glaciation associated with the next Ice Age, and that the carbon dioxide increases that we have seen during the past two hundred years are not sufficient to avert such glaciation and its associated disruptions to the biosphere and civilization as we know it.”

    “Thus, while an enduring temperature rise of similar magnitude over the next century would cause humanity to face some changes that would undoubtedly be within our spectrum of adaptability (we have done so in the past), entering a new ice age would be catastrophic for the preservation of modern civilization.”

    ====

    It will be interesting to see what happens to that Forum, as it is certainly clear that the APS powers-that-be are well aware of the issue.

  33. 83
    Phil Scadden says:

    #78
    You must be reading the most incredibly selective selection of papers to be still going with this model. You are implying you have more than freshman chemistry? Then I suggest you try modern papers on oil generation – google for Braun and Burnham for instance. I build computer models for oil and gas generation from organic source rock, based solidly on laboratory experiments for kerogen kinetics kilometers down in the earth’s crust. Also make use of biomarkers for sorting out the types of source – eg various coal type versus planktonic ooze. While an inorganic source is possible for methane, so far it appears to be very very small.

  34. 84
    Figen Mekik says:

    Newsbusters is an atrocious site. How does calling people names or an “if you insult me, Ill insult you back” attitude further any understanding of global warming or bias in the media about it?

  35. 85
    Kris says:

    Does multidecadel not mean “spanning more than one decade”. Am I wrong or is 10, 20, 30 yeras etc not more than 7? Check my math on this but I am prety sure that 7 years is not “multidecadel”

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, er, insult, er … well read before you post

    [Response: Yes. But that is the term used by Monckton – gavin]

  36. 86
    David says:

    Sorry for off-topic question.
    And sorry for bringing up a topic that should be dead and buried by now..

    Regarding the correlation between atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and air temperature determined from the Vostok Antarctica ice core, Caillon et al. 2003 stated that:

    “the radiative forcing due to CO2 may serve as an amplifier of initial orbital forcing, which is then further amplified by fast atmospheric feedbacks that are also at work for the present day and future climate”

    The data shows that CO2 did not cause the first 800 years of warming, out of the 5000 year trend (the infamous lag).

    The data are tightly correlated together. In other words, one on top of the other, horizontally and vertically, they fit nicely, with max r value after 800 year shift.

    So where is the initial warming without CO2? There’s no difference in the vertical (between CO2 and temp)

    The feedback mechanism best explains my question, however, I was expecting at least some difference in the vertical.

  37. 87
    Boris says:

    “But I will admit, once a person like abp starts with the insults we are sure to do likewise.”

    The latest Newsbusters thread is filled with insults and juvenile comments about people’s appearence. The commenters remind me of junior high school children both in their demeanor and in their understanding of science and the scientific method. One key difference: I have hope that the junior high schoolers will one day grow up.

  38. 88
    Poptech says:

    Gavin, can you show me where Noel used the word ‘Photochemical’ in his post.

    [Response: I, unlike, Mr. Sheppard read the EPA report that the media piece was based on (linked above). It is a report about about ozone and photochemical smog. I would advise you and Mr. Sheppard to check your sources before pontificating. – gavin]

  39. 89
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mr. News Buster believes ‘any publicity is good publicity’ and is claiming that he was cited by RC and Dot Earth so he’s now serious news.
    Eschew! http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=NewsBusters

  40. 90
    Hank Roberts says:

    David, “orbital forcing” +Vostok +”ice core” are the search terms you might find useful. Try a few of these and see if it helps:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22orbital+forcing%22+%2BVostok+%2B%22ice+core%22&hl=en&lr=&scoring=r&as_ylo=2003

  41. 91

    Everyone here needs to take a freshmen chemistry class over again. It has been proven that you can take inorganic materials and make organic alkanes other than methane using heat and pressure.

    So you think that carbon bearing materials can be synthesized from non carbon bearing materials, outside of stellar nucleosynthesis. That would be a neat trick.

    The renaissance era awaits you!

  42. 92
    Eli Rabett says:

    David (#86) The initial warming is from orbital changes which bring the earth a bit closer to the sun and/or change the tilt. These are called Milankovich cycles

  43. 93
    Eli Rabett says:

    Rob (#78) you would be hard pressed to explain the generation of methane in garbage dumps and from mulch piles. People are actually using this for heating and transportation fuel.

  44. 94
    zap123 says:

    Hansen mentioned in Soros Foundation 2006 Annual Report

    http://www.soros.org/resources/articles_publications/publications/annual_20070731/a_complete.pdf

    Scientist Protests NASA’s Censorship Attempts James E. Hansen, the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, protested attempts to silence him after officials at NASA ordered him to refer press inquiries to the public affairs office and required the presence of a public affairs representative at any interview. The Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organization and OSI grantee, came to Hansen’s defense by providing legal and media advice. The campaign on Hansen’s behalf resulted in a decision by NASA to revisit its media policy.

    [Response: Your point? If you want more details about Jim Hansen, see here, but I fail to see how relevant this is to Noel Sheppard’s inability to tell the troposphere from the stratosphere or my pointing out of the fact. – gavin]

  45. 95
    johninoregon says:

    I too am a member of NewsBusters. My principal goal in belonging is to probe conservative thought processes and come to understand why people on the far right—and that’s what NewsBusters represents—work so hard to deny global warming.

    One observation: Anything that suggests that humans may be having an adverse impact on the environment threatens the extreme free-market worship that these people engage in. After all, free markets are supposed to lead to POSITIVE outcomes, so suggesting that market choices can sometimes do otherwise is a sacrilege.

    A second observation: these people lack self awareness. Commentators there self-righteously bash liberal sites for nasty comments, but they can be incredibly nasty themselves.

    As for Noel Sheppard, he is an extreme idealogue who is determined to hold onto his preconceptions no matter what. Having determined in his own mind that global warming is just a bunch of hooey cooked up by Al Gore and other leftists, he’ll go to ridiculous lengths to highlight some quote or factoid that seems to call the whole thing into question. He reminds me a cult member in serious need of deprogramming.

  46. 96
    David B. Benson says:

    David (86) — In somewhat more detail, marine cores from the Pacific Warm Pool show that the temperature rise from LGM to HCO, ending the last ‘ice age’, was initiated by temperature increases in the deep ocean. Later the surface waters warmed and then the CO2 concentration began to rise.

    The warming of the deep ocean is not yet fully understood, but is hypothesised to be from orbital forcing in Antarctica.

  47. 97
    Lawrence Brown says:

    In his July 18 rebuttal to this topic, Noel Sheppard places himself in the company of George Will,a pundit, James Inhofe, a Senator, Michael Crichton, a sci fi writer, and Fox News, a news orgaization,among others Noble professions all, but are they in the sciences?

    He quotes Roger Pielke Jr. as follows:
    “The site’s(RealClimate) focus has been exclusively on attacking those who invoke science as the basis for their opposition to action on climate change, folks such as George Will, Senator James Inhofe, Michael Crichton, McIntyre and McKitrick, Fox News, and Myron Ebell. Whether intended or not, the site has clearly aligned itself squarely with one political position on climate change.”

    He then goes on to say that that puts him in good company.
    What can one say.Birds of a feather deny together.

  48. 98
    Roly says:

    I’ve learnt a huge amount from rc and I can feel your frustration with the nonsense/misinformation spouted by the likes of monckton and sheppard. But I think most right-headed individuals that are likely to look at rc and listen will already have made their own judgements about a site with a tagline ‘exposing & combating the liberal media bias’ (for a start I don’t see much in the mainstream US media I would call liberal….libertarian maybe). I’ve just read the predictable response from sheppard and engaging with them only seems to force them to the next level of nonsense and mendacity.

  49. 99
    Poptech says:

    Gavin, you seem to be confused with the multiple definitions of some words. By admitting aerosols are pollution then you are admitting that when aerosols are present in the air and restrict light they can be defined as smog as defined by NOAA:

    Smog: “Originally smog meant a mixture of smoke and fog. Now, it means air that has restricted visibility due to pollution” – NOAA.

    Thus your statement that “Aerosols are not smog” is not truthful.

    [Response: I’m sure you are holding NB to as high a definitional standard. But literally you are confused. Aerosols are any atmospheric particle – sulphates, nitrates, dust, pollen, organics, sea salt etc. – they are not exclusive to anthropogenic sources and for the most part are not pollution (sea salt in the southern ocean? dust in the Atlantic?), though of course they can be (especially in Beijing now, Pittsburgh in the 1950s etc). Smog, as all the definitions state, is an amorphous mix but it isn’t specifically aerosols and in the context of the original press report referred specifically to ozone. The confusion is not mine but Sheppard’s who took a paper about sulphate reductions in Europe and a report about ozone in the US and thought they were the same thing. My statement is literally true – Sheppard’s very confused. How about acknowledging that before accusing me of lying? – gavin]

  50. 100

    Re #80 Clear Thinker

    First, what is your real name? Do you work for NB in any way shape or form? If so at least have the integrity of honor and use your real name. Even if you don’t work for them, I’d like to know who you are.

    I am a long time member of News Busters and can assure you that ‘a beautiful person’ has never been threatened. The problem is that whenever abp is asked a question, we only get insults as a reply. But I will admit, once a person like abp starts with the insults we are sure to do likewise. It’s only natural that people will defend themself and we are no different than you in that regard.

    I watched news buster a couple of times and the overall tone is designed to be comedy while degrading something someone said or in the case of AGW a scientifically sound point. This is done by saying the point is wrong and typically in an insulting manner. Sort of Rodney Dangerfield like I suppose, but to represent it in any way shape or form as a news site is an insult to truth.

    Anyone willing to debate the science of, or the media response to AGW is welcomed, but keep in mind that NB’s focus is bias in the media.

    Newsbusters is the last place anyone should go to debate science. It is obviously not interested in science. It is a specific type of media that targets a particular type of base to espouse pontificated malarky in the name of truth. Rush Limbaugh and many others do this. You market to your base and you get to make money, the more specifically targeted, the more you solidify the audience. Truth has nothing to do with such efforts, it’s about the money and the malarky generally speaking.

    NB is a political attack site on liberals and while I don’t agree with many policies born of political inbred policy formation that come from either side of the aisle that cater to special interests, I disagree with the method of attack NB uses which is derogatory.

    “We are under attack!” – A Primer on Political Spin
    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2006/under-attack-political-spin/

    Does hot air from politicians contribute to global warming?
    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2006/hot-air-politicians/

    Hot Air in the Media Contributes to Global Warming!
    http://www.uscentrist.org/news/2007/hot-air-in-media/

    If someone actually believes things that you have not fact checked, well, that’s just naivete or ignorance, meaning to ignore the relevant context and data. The best defense NB can use is to just say hey we’re not news, were comedy. That’s supposed to get them off the hook for not representing the science in context. No, this is serious stuff and they are part of a the disinformation campaign now, probably by their own choosing.

    Misleading the public on the science of global warming is easily understood as unethical when all ramifications are considered. I would add that it is also immoral. Conservatives have long claimed to have the moral high ground, and while that is arguable, they have no moral ground whatsoever on the science of global warming.

    I say this as a conservative. And when I say conservative I mean the kind of conservative my father was in that he raised us all to always shut of the water, close the door, to not waste energy etc. He was a die hard republican all the way. I am a centrist, but that does not mean I am not a conservative. it’s not a political word to me, it’s an ideal.

    If you want to debate science you have to have some science first to debate. The news busters site pertaining to the AGW argument simply doesn’t have any science. No surprise though.

    You are stating that NB’s focus in bias in the media. That is funny, you are not a news site and you are using bias to make your points. It is not possible to be more obtuse or contradictory in your statement.

    The very first sentence in the NB about page is

    “Welcome to NewsBusters, a project of the Media Research Center (MRC), the leader in documenting, exposing and neutralizing liberal media bias.”

    So the NB focus is not ‘bias in the media’, it is bias against liberal media. If you are unable to differentiate that then you are likely overly biased in the sense that you are conservative and don’t like liberal bias ,but prefer conservative bias. That is a silly argument.

    As an aside, NB has a wonderful archive, and if you really want to question Noel Sheppards arguments I suggest you review the archives because he has written a mountains worth of info. The only reason people don’t like his findings is they go against the present day alarmism that is AGW, Climate Crisis, or whatever the heck it’s called nowadays.

    Your idea of a wonderful archive is a subjective claim. If you are saying there is a wonderful archive of attempts to be comedic while espousing disinformation without fact checking that is biased against liberals or liberal thinking, that is a different argument. Or, if you don’t think it is disinformation, then espousing incorrect information and representing it as truth; then I may very well agree with you that NB has a wonderful archive of incorrect information and are representing it as truth.

    If you are saying that the archive is full of relevant contextual well founded stories that have been fact checked and are accurate and fair in their presentation… Well, if you believe that… I’ve got some lovely stable ice sheets in the Arctic I’d like to sell you. Wonderful ice flow views and they will be there for a long, long time so you don’t have to worry about any house you might build up there falling into the ocean.

    Taking little shards of truth and purposefully spinning them out of context or claiming that what is scientifically known and well understood about global warming is ‘not the truth of the matter’…, especially while catering to a specific base or supporting political bias over truth is dishonest. It does not matter if you call it entertainment or not.


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