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Claude Allègre: The Climate Imposter

Filed under: — group @ 28 April 2010

Guest Commentary by Georg Hoffmann

In mathematical proofs, it’s a well-known fact that if at some point you divide by zero accidentally or on purpose, then you end up being able to prove absolutely anything you want – for instance, that 2+2=5 or that 1+1=0. The same phenomena appears to govern any number of publications that conclude that climate science is all a fraud – at some point, an impossible calculation is performed and from then on, anything (and everything) can be proven. Critical thinking appears to vanish.

The latest example is that of Claude Allègre – whose recent book “The climate imposture” would have you believe at least six impossible things before breakfast and a great many more before dinner. This is notable because Allègre is one of the most eminent figures in science communication in France, Academie de Sciences member, Crafoord prize winner, former minister of education and research and a fixture on the late night talk shows in France (including a topical satirical version of the ‘muppets’). One might expect a certain degree of rigour from an author with such a pedigree, but on the contrary, nearly every explanation, graphic, or citation in this book is misleading or just plain wrong. If Allègre was not such a high profile figure in France, this nonsense would have been dismissed and ignored, instead, it is regular fodder for the late night talk shows. In my entire career I have never seen so many factual errors in a single publication. It is truly a remarkable work!

It is practically impossible to give a complete overview of what is wrong with the Allègre’s book. However, some people have made a good start: Stephane Foucart, a science journalist at Le Monde, wrote a piece on Le cent-fautes de Claude Allegre (the ‘Hundred Errors’ – this is a play on words, ‘un sans-faute’ (pronounced the same way) means a perfect score) and Sylvestre Huet from the Liberation started a series of debunkings and is now at part five (also in French) and which he has turned into a short book! I started my own list of errors here (in German).

One of the more egregious examples of blatant making stuff up was covered by Science last week (following on from a post by Huet who revealed that Allègre had hand-drawn a continuation of tree-ring data from Hakan Grudd to show cooling over the 21st Century – something of course that no trees could possibly show (at least yet!). Even before Allegre “improved” the data by drawing in an extension more to his liking, the implication that Grudd’s work in any way challenges the prevailing view of unusual large scale warming in recent years was highly misleading. Grudd’s paper (available here, open access) deals solely with summer temperatures at Lake Tornetrask in Northern Sweden, and the paper states clearly that “although the climate of northern Fennoscandia seems to have been significantly warmer during medieval times as compared to the late-twentieth century, the published composite records of northern hemisphere climate (Moberg et al. 2005) do not show a conspicuously warm period around AD 1000.” Once again, Allègre has shown himself willing to jump on any curve “going my way,” regardless of its relevance.

But much of the joy of reading this book is in details – things that it would be trivial to get right without having much impact on the general thesis being put forward, but instead reveal without doubt that the author does not have a single clue about the subject. So let’s start (all translations are mine and reasonably accurate):

  • The first thing one might notice is that almost every non-french scientist has their name spelled wrong: Solansky for Sami Solanki; Usoskiev for Ilya Usoskin and Funkel for Richard Finkel. The most amusing case is during the discussion of tropical cyclones with climate change, where he lists three names of people who have posited a connection: “Wester, Tech and Kerry Emmanuel”. Everyone of course recognizes Kerry Emanuel (despite the incorrect spelling), and “Wester” is (also misspelled) Peter Webster (of Webster et al, 2006). But who was this eminent Hurricane expert Tech? I had no idea until Stephane Foucart lifted the veil. Peter Webster is from the Georgia Institute of Technology, frequently abbreviated to simply “Georgia Tech”. So in his “extensive literature studies” Allègre probably found a line like “Peter Webster, Georgia Tech, thinks that …” and voila! Professor Tech was born!

  • On page 53, in a typical example of his style, Allegre writes that

    ”Jones declares that the global mean temperature raised by 0.6% [sic]. …. How can he claim such a precision with such sampling errors? Nevertheless, Hansen-the-fanatic, without revealing his sources, immediately approves of Jones curve. Those who made statistics based on such shortcomings in sampling are discredited as scientists”.

    Wow. We’re pretty sure that most people measure temperature deviations in degrees, so maybe the ‘%’ was just a simple typo. The characterisation of Hansen is presumably hyperbole (though see below for worse treatment), but given that all of the sources of the GISTEMP temperature record (which was first published in 1987) are available online (along with all the source code, and completely independent replication), the ‘without revealing his sources’ line is a little rich (especially given Allègre’s undocumented ‘extrapolation’ (cough) of the Grudd data series mentioned above.

  • On page 300, the greenhouse effect is explained, but for some reason CO2 is not considered to be a ‘real’ greenhouse gas. He says explicitly there are three such gases, water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane (This is a pretty large simplification since it neglects ozone, N2O, any number of CFCs, and theoretically pretty much any gas with a structure that has three or more atoms). He continues:

    ”It is due to water vapour, and water vapour alone, that the mean temperature at the Earth surface is +15°C and not -18°C”.

    This again is plain wrong. Depending a bit how you weight the overlapping spectral absorptions of the different greenhouse gases the contribution of CO2 to the total greenhouse effect is about 20% (with water vapour giving 50% and 25% for clouds, which we are sure that Allègre realises are made of condensate (liquid water and ice) and not vapour…). And indeed, since water vapour in particular is a feedback to the temperatures, removal of CO2 will certainly lead to cooling and a subsequent reduction in water vapour.

  • Unsurprisingly, Allègre is of course very sceptical about the use of computer models, and thinks they are taking up all the money available for research (an error that would be easily corrected by looking at NASA’s budget for instance) and so his preference for ‘true’ observations is clear. Take the last interglacial period for instance (also known as the Eemian), around 125,000 years ago. He compares (see figure above) something called the “Gore curve” with something called the “true curve” (la courbe veritable). Al Gore actually shows the temperature and CO2 evolution from Epica Dome C for the last 600.000 years. So let’s assume that this is in fact what Allègre means. Amusingly, this image from the movie shows that Allègre’s hand drawn version of the bottom curve (the reconstructed temperature in East Antarctica) is profoundly different (in the relative warmth at the Eemian, and the number of cycles), but let’s move on…

    Skipping past the inconsistency in the text where he says that until now the best estimate for the last interglacial temperature in Antarctica was +3°C (compared to present) while his “Gore curve” has a zero anomaly compared to today, let’s look at the justification for the new ‘true’ estimate of +6°C warmer. This is referenced to a paper by Sine et al, 2007 in Science (note that every piece of that reference is wrong: as usual, the name is misspelled (it’s Louise Sime, not Sine), the year was 2009 and the publication was in Nature – easy mistakes, I guess).

    Ice core temperature reconstructions such as Dome C are based on the isotopic composition of the ice. This isotope signal needs careful calibration and Louise Sime and colleagues make the point that under warm climate conditions such as the Eemian the calibration developed for cold climate conditions might be different – in fact isotopes during warm periods might be less sensitive to temperature, and so applying the cold-climate calibration might underestimate actual temperatures. However, their results would therefore only concern the time period at the peak of the ultimate interglacial, and does not have any implications for the cold climate values. Note however, that Allègre’s ‘one true curve’ seems to have had a warm trend imposed from 125,000 years ago to the present. I contacted Louise Sime and asked if she thought this was a good use of her paper. She made it clear that she’d not had any exchange with Claude Allègre and that her paper does not discuss the temperature reconstruction over the entire glacial-interglacial period at all (that would be a ‘no’).

    In summary, Allègre presents a ‘true curve’ which is hand-drawn, in which an Antarctic temperature record is described as a global mean, on which he imposes a long term trend which is credited to Sime and colleagues who completely disown it. And the irony of ironies? Sime’s results are based on a climate model.

  • The phase relation between CO2 and temperatures in the Antarctic ice cores is a frequent source of confusion, and Allègre doesn’t attempt to miss this opportunity to confuse further. As is well known, both temperature and CO2 are correlated to the Milankovitch cycles in complex ways – with both climate acting on the carbon cycle and with the CO2 level changing climate through it’s role as a greenhouse gas. The changes over time have been described as a “chicken and egg” situation in which changes in one component affect the other – however the first one was changed initially (Lorius et al, 1990). Thus the leads and lags involved doesn’t have any impact on climate sensitivity calculations, but it is important for understanding carbon cycle feedbacks which might affect future concentrations of CO2. Allègre makes the standard (and illogical) contrarian argument that if eggs follow chickens then chickens cannot follow eggs, and highlights the paper by Caillon et al, 2003 that constrained the CO2 lag to about 800 years (though with large uncertainties) based on work from his PhD. According to Allègre, Caillon was then ‘punished’ by his institute (which is mine too) for publishing this paper. So I called Nicolas to ask about this ‘punishment’. Once he stopped laughing, he pointed out that he is doing exactly what he wants to be doing (developing measuring technologies) and is very happy with his permanent (tenured) position at CNRS. I’m sure more people would love to be punished like that!
  • It is a very common technique in debating to try and suggest that your argument is correct by claiming that more and more important people are agreeing with it. Allègre makes frequent use of this tactic, but Sylvestre Huet made the effort to call some of these alleged “heretics” and “insurgents” and found that they didn’t agreed with Allègre’s position at all. Allègre additionally claims (p138) that there is even numerical proof for this reversal in the opinion among “american specialists of climate”. However, the source for this claim was a 2009 survey among American TV weather presenters. In a further effort to round up some support, he cites Bill Ruddiman’s hypothesis that human land use change was an important climate forcing over the last few thousand years. But Ruddiman’s theory works via the influence of prehistoric man on the global methane and carbon cycle and needs their greenhouse effects to work! [RC note: Allègre isn’t the only contrarian to have mistakenly dragooned Ruddiman to their cause – see this earlier example!]

Overall, the book is as full with conspiracy theories and insults against climate scientists as any blog you might find on the wilder shores of the internet. However I have never seen something as bad as this from someone who is a leading member of a National Academy of Science. Lindzen (a member of US National Academy) writes articles that are a model of scientific decorum in comparison! In describing the history of the different IPCC reports Allègre introduces the different participants as “religious fanatics”, “Marxists” in search for new arguments to destroy the civil society, “greedy” and “mediocre scientists” (all literal expressions from the manuscript). The list of accusations against Jim Hansen for example is nearly unbelievable. Among other things Allègre makes the astonishing claim that during the last 15 years Hansen has done no scientific work and that he has forced his collaborators to put his name on the publications. Over that period, Hansen has listed 68 publications with 37 as first author – thus the scale of his perfidy would need to have been immense! I asked Gavin whether GISS is really the slave camp implied, and he just laughed. Hansen presumably can’t be bothered to deal with this kind of accusation, but Allègre’s claim is almost certainly libelous.

The truly astonishing thing though is how hermetically sealed and impervious to fact Allègre’s whole argument is. No-one is honest, every result is fraudulent (excepting of course, Allègre’s ‘true curves’), no-one is without an agenda (except Allègre of course, and possibly Michael Crichton) and any scientist espousing the mainstream view or journalist questioning him is a Stalinist. Any contradiction of his arguments is simply proof that you are part of the conspiracy. It is this error that is the equivalent of ‘dividing by zero’ – once you have convinced yourself that only your own opinion matters, you can prove absolutely anything to your own satisfaction – but, unfortunately, to no-one else’s.

462 Responses to “Claude Allègre: The Climate Imposter”

  1. 151
    Frank Giger says:

    Ike, my point was that this book will have zero impact on policy, either in Europe or in the USA.

    Indeed, I think the policy momentum is so great that nothing is able to really alter it.

  2. 152
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Ike Solem: YOU are working for the coal industry whether you know it or not.”

    Nope.

    Unless he’s saying “we have to use coal”, he’s not.

    ‘cos it could be “don’t use nuclear” also means “use less energy” (therefore you can CLOSE coal power stations) and also means “use more renewables” (therefore you don’t need coal power stations).

    But you’re working for the nuclear industry.

    And we know it.

    PS when you come out with BS like “Nuclear power makes LESS CO2 THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY.” you’re not only working for nuclear industry, you’re also working to dumb down the entire human race.

  3. 153
    wilt says:

    Grypo (#137) asked me several questions related to a discussion about CO2 release from the soil. I will try to answer them one at a time.
    “Wilt, are you aware that this study is discussing the amount of positive feedback? Not negative feedback”
    Both studies that I mentioned before (#131) basically suggest that there is hardly any positive feedback upon increasing the temperature. I have not claimed that there would be negative feedback
    “And that it has an initial large feedback before settling back into one that is at the lower end of net feedbacks”. Once again, read the abstract of the Nature Geoscience article (that is the least you can do when starting a discussion on this subject): “ .. the carbon dioxide loss from soils tends to decline to control levels within a few years.” So that is not ‘lower end of net feedbacks’, but: decline to control levels.
    “ … and that the experiment raises temperature models at 5C?”
    Are you suggesting that a 5 degrees temperature rise induces a strong decrease in the microbes’ efficiency to release CO2 but a 3 degrees rise would induce a strong increase?? Well, almost everything is possible (especially when you believe hard enough) but if you know anything about biochemistry and microbes you will realise that this is very unlikely.
    “ I’m unsure of what exactly your point is in highlighting this study”. Essentially the study casts serious doubt whether there really is a substantial positive feedback from soil carbon. This has previously been assumed to be the case (see for instance the Guardian article discussed before #131).

  4. 154
    Ed says:

    It is simply a rushed editing job to get the book on the shelves before the Crisis cools. His sin is not letting the publishers push his release prematurely.

  5. 155
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I don’t think that “the wealthy and powerful” categorically or particularly regard “rationality and science” as “a threat to the established socio-economic order.””

    However, there’s a lot of manipulative wealthy and powerful. And the more educated you are, the easier it is for the educated and powerful to manipulate you.

    See, for example, Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that you should leave high school. Why? It doesn’t make sense. Nowadays if you don’t go to college, you’re going to be flipping burgers.

    See also the new hype over “Unschooling”. “My kids will pick up a book on chemistry if they need to learn it to go to college”…?

    Assuredly it’s not a LARGE fraction of the rich and powerful who hate education (of “lesser” people), but there’s a big hate-on for “the elitists” (see Sarah Palin and her supporters positively *revelling* in their lack of knowledge because “she’s not an elite, she’s just like us…”) and a lot of manipulation that would not work if the people they were preaching to were a little more educated (which helps you learn to educate yourself).

    And there’s not a huge call for the rich and powerful to actively push for education.

    So a small fraction of powerful people (who have easy access to a widely available public pulpit) are heard trying to shove anti-education on to a population. A much, much smaller fraction of powerful people saying it’s important to get educated. And a majority who aren’t saying anything.

    Well, you don’t know when someone is not saying something.

    So the *appearance* is a vast majority of rich and powerful moving against education.

  6. 156
    Completely Fed Up says:

    On the size of a solar power plant for replacing 100% of the world’s current power needs, I just did a small calculation. Someone had said that such an undertaking would be the largest engineering feat undertaken by man.

    But if you have a look at the size of the US Highways *alone* you already looking at 75,000km x 50m or a rough square of 75kmx50km.

    Not including smaller roads, the cities or any other country.

    Just the highways of the US.

    But nobody complains that the highway system is a huge engineering feat…

  7. 157
    Walter Manny says:

    (146) “International Union of Concerned Conservative Housewives”

    Wow. So somebody decides to do the reading, and her reward is a sexist slap in the face? How’d this one sneak past the moderators?

  8. 158
    arch stanton says:

    @154 (29 April 2010 at 2:59 PM)

    I try hard not to respond to CFU…

    But in this case…

    Nice post CFU.

  9. 159
    Gilles says:

    “Gilles wrote: “The problem is that this science is NOT characterized by a very high level of accuracy of the theories, a very high level of the quality of data (including agreement between independent measurements), or a very high level of agreement between models and observations – all normal standards in science.”

    All of those assertions are blatantly false.”

    aree you considering that estimating a sensitivity between “2 and 5 °C” is a high level of accuracy ? that proxy reconstructions and temperature measurements offer a very high quality of data and a great homogeneity of results ? that models are very precisely confirmed, compared with other fields of science ?

    I mean, I don’t blame climate science of dealing with a complex and ill-understood object. But your defense is obviously more motivated by politics than by scientific judgement -,just illustrating what I said.

  10. 160
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote to Ike Solem: “My guess is that you are a coal industry shill.”

    Edward, you “guess” that Ike Solem — who writes forcefully, eloquently, substantively, repeatedly and often enough to sometimes annoy people — AGAINST coal, and AGAINST bogus “clean coal” and CCS projects that support the continued use of coal — is “a coal industry shill”?

    No, actually you don’t “guess” any such thing. You are just copying and pasting the same mechanical, verbatim, boilerplate insult that you fling at anyone and everyone who disagrees with you on the merits of nuclear power.

    You should be ashamed of yourself and you owe Ike Solem a public apology.

    As for your pro-nuclear ranting, it’s just silly. You say that “large-scale wind and solar coupled to energy storage and distribution systems are simply pie in the sky” when in fact such systems are already coming online, and when in fact wind accounts for most of the new electricity generating capacity being built in the USA today, and utility-scale concentrating solar (both thermal and PV) is attracting huge investment and is poised for explosive growth. Meanwhile you tout “4th Generation” nuclear reactors as “THE” solution when in fact no such things even exist, let alone have a proven track record of being built and operated at scale.

    You are rejecting mature and powerful technologies that are already being deployed all over the world — and are in fact the fastest growing new sources of energy in the world — as “pie in the sky”, and instead you embrace technologies that are little more than science fiction.

  11. 161
    Russell Seitz says:

    Lest we forget, the land of biodynamic winemaking has also produced a Nobel laureate in Chemistry who went on to self publish a qhole book on the biological transmutation of iron into manganese.

  12. 162
    Grypo says:

    Wilt,
    “I have not claimed that there would be negative feedback”
    I know, you said,
    “It seems to me that in view of the large contribution of soil microbes to total CO2 emission, this finding may have important consequences”

    “So that is not ‘lower end of net feedbacks’, but: decline to control levels.”
    So are claiming that the initial rise in carbon release does not effect the net feedback? If so, Why?

    “Are you suggesting that a 5 degrees temperature rise induces a strong decrease in the microbes’ efficiency to release CO2 but a 3 degrees rise would induce a strong increase?”
    No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m suggesting that knowing what happens at the upper limit used, as stated in an abstract tells us very little about what happens before that increase and what the net feedback will be. Which is why I asked you if you read the whole study.

    “Essentially the study casts serious doubt whether there really is a substantial positive feedback from soil carbon”
    Yes, it is rather specific to that claim and may or may not behave the same in other types of microbes, ie. permafrost, etc. The absence of soil microbes not causing a “tipping point” does not preclude the danger of CO2 and does not in any way cancel out the carbon being introduced in toe atmosphere from humans. That is my point, really. And you should go read that gamma study post that Gavin linked to on #127.

  13. 163
    Completely Fed Up says:

    arch, ta.

    But was there any point to “I resist responding to cfu”?

    What did it add?

    f all.

  14. 164
    Completely Fed Up says:

    basically, do or do not. There is no try.

    Hell, I’ve answered people who 99% of the time I disagree with when I agree with them. But I just agree with them.

    I don’t point out (except here, and only as an example of this message) that I normally disagree with them, but…

    Why? Because when you agree with someone after that, it’s rather like giving someone who is hungry a sandwich you picked up off the floor.

  15. 165
    David B. Benson says:

    Ken Pite (106) — W.F. Ruddiman’s early anthopogenic influences on climate hypothesis appears sound to me; his “Plows, Plagues and Petoleum” was the first book on climate I read and I still find the general thrust correct. However, subsequent work on the nature of orbital forcing shows that even without any antthropogenic influences the next attempt at a stade is not for another 20,000+ years. The Holocene is a long interglacial, rather like that during MIS 11 and so Ruddiman’s postulated “ice age” needs to be replaced by “cold interval”. How cold? Well, somewhat colder than during LIA but not cold enough for the massive northern ice sheets to begin the reform (except maybe some in Northern Canada).

    In any case, that future will not come to pass due to the massive amounts of excess CO2 added to the atmosphere by human activities. These might well be enough so that the next attempt at a stade fails and so the next possible time is 50,000 years from now.

    In the meantime we have quite a serious and immediate problem; too much CO2 with more on its way.

  16. 166
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “There is no way wind, solar, geothermal and wave power can replace coal, and they know it. ”

    They probably do.

    However, what they don’t know is they’re wrong.

    What do YOU know, Eddie?

  17. 167
    Frank Giger says:

    Well, I’m not a shill for coal or nuclear power companies, but I still think we’re gonna need on-demand power supplies. Wind and solar won’t get us there alone; we need a backstop for when the statistical noise of night and low winds happen against the average.

    I’ll definately thow a vote behind nuclear power. It is far safer than the naysayers would say.

    On nuclear, however, someone commented about re-processing nuclear fuel, and I’m gonna throw a flag on the field.

    It can be done. It makes sense. It is both effective and efficient. It will never be done by the USA or European countries.

    Reprocessing nuclear fuel rods for power uses is dual use, as it also makes for fine nuclear weapons fuel. NPT becomes moot the second we reprocess fuel for civilian power, as it will provide cover for every nation that does the same.

    Which brings us to the real objection for nuclear power. I’ve not met a single person that wasn’t strongly against nuclear power that wasn’t an anti-nuke nut. Real “Day After Tommorrow” loving sign holder types.

    Can we leave Sarah Palin out of this, btw? Don’t mistake anti-elitism for anti-education stances. It makes one look like one who reads bumper stickers instead of books.

  18. 168
    sam says:

    Gavin says: “WUWT doesn’t even know what ‘negative feedback’ means.”

    What is the standard definition of negative feedback related to climate? Would it act something like a thermostat? Could it (or does it) cause a detectable oscillation signature?

  19. 169
    MarkB says:

    “Game Changer!” declares a global warming contrarian. WUWT reminds me of someone declaring “Game Changer” when their basketball team, down by 30 in the 4th quarter, gets a pity call from an official after someone flops, and makes one of two free throws.

  20. 170
    Mike of Oz says:

    @76. Thanks for the extra info Raypierre, and that’s an excellent reference I’ll chase up.

    Of course, I figured the “moon” comment was ridiculous anyway. My response was somewhat tongue-in-cheek! Though it’s getting very difficult to tell which “sceptical” arguments one should take seriously. ;)

  21. 171
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good post, CFU.

    Education is revolutionary.

    ———

    “… Whatever wisdom constituently is, it is like a seedless plant; it may be reared when it appears, but it cannot be voluntarily produced. There is always a sufficiency somewhere in the general mass of society for all purposes; but with respect to the parts of society, it is continually changing its place. It rises in one to-day, in another to-morrow, and has most probably visited in rotation every family of the earth, and again withdrawn.

    “As this is in the order of nature, the order of government must necessarily follow it, or government will, as we see it does, degenerate into ignorance.

    ” … by giving to genius a fair and universal chance; … by collecting wisdom from where it can be found.

    “… As it is to the advantage of society that the whole of its faculties should be employed, the construction of government ought to be such as to bring forward, by a quiet and regular operation, all that extent of capacity which never fails to appear in revolutions.”
    —————————————–

    Tom Paine, The Rights of Man
    http://www.ushistory.org/Paine/rights/c2-03.htm

    Why is there no statue of Tom Paine in Washington DC?
    http://www.nellbrinkley.net/tompaine.htm

  22. 172
    Keith says:

    If you think of this book as a sort-of inverse “An Inconvenient Truth” it might make more sense. Neither are meant to be science, they are designed to win over Jo Public

  23. 173
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sam, A negative feedback is something that works to increase energy loss as you add energy to the system. The best example is outgoing IR radiation–as you add energy, temperature increases, and the blackbody radiation increases as the 4th power of the temperature. This is the chief negative feedback. Think of it as sources and sinks–if a source gets bigger, it causes a sink to also increase. Make sense?

  24. 174
    David B. Benson says:

    sam (168) — Negative feedback in climatology is the same negative feedback used in other sciences and engineering. Radiation out to space is an example.

    There are various atmospheric and oceanic oscillations. I suppose ENSO might be considered to be the result of a negative feedback, but at least one component of ENSO is a North Pacfic Kevin/Rossby wave and usually studied via the appropriate wave equations.

  25. 175

    Edward Greisch #150: In-situ leaching results in exactly how much pollution? What does it do to the groundwater? What you don’t mention is the volume of potentially toxic chemicals (sulfuric acid etc.) you have to pump into the ground to do the extraction, and where those chemicals go afterwards (noting not only uranium will dissolve in the leachate).

    Nuclear is only an option if you go to technologies not yet deployed commercially; the uranium fuel cycle is too inefficient, and we’ll burn through all the known reserves pretty fast if we go to a much higher fraction of power generated by nuclear.

  26. 176
    Edward Greisch says:

    152 Completely Fed Up: Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear
    power.

    Page 13 has a chart of greenhouse gas emissions from electricity production. Nuclear power produces less greenhouse gas [CO2] than any other source, including coal, natural gas, hydro, solar and wind. Building wind turbines and towers also involve industrial processes such as concrete and steel making.

    Wind turbines produce a total of 58 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Nuclear power plants produce a total of 30 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour, the lowest.

    Coal plants produce the most, between 966 and 1306 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Solar power produces between 100 and 280 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Hydro power produces 240 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Natural gas produces between 439 and 688 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour.

    Remember the total is the sum of direct emissions from burning fuel and indirect emissions from the life cycle, which means the industrial processes required to build it. Again, nuclear comes in the lowest. Nuclear would produce even less CO2 per kilowatt hour if the safety were lowered to the same level as other sources
    of electricity. Switching from coal to nuclear is a 97% reduction in electricity’s 40% of our CO2 output.

    Page 17: Coal kills 24000 Americans and 400000 Chinese every year. Nuclear has killed ZERO Americans total. Hydro has killed 1000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Chinese.

    And YES Ike is working for the coal industry because he is trying to say nuclear is dangerous. Nuclear power is the safest kind, bar none, for everybody. Ike has been misled by coal industry propaganda.

    Deaths per terrawatt year [twy] for energy industries, including Chernobyl. terra=mega mega [There are zero sources of energy that cause zero deaths, but not having the electricity causes the far more deaths because not having electricity is a form of poverty.]

    fuel……… ……..fatalities… …..who……… …….deaths per twy
    coal……… ………6400…… ……workers……….. ………342
    natural gas….. ..1200…… …..workers and public… …85
    hydro…….. …….4000….. …….public………… …………883
    nuclear…….. ………31…… ……workers………… ………….8

    Nuclear power is proven to be the safest. Source: “The Revenge of Gaia” by James Lovelock page 102. As you can see, psychological problems are preventing the wider use of nuclear power. Chernobyl is included.

    I have no connection with the nuclear power industry. I have never had any connection with the nuclear power industry. I am not being paid by anyone to say this. My sole motive is to avoid death in the collapse of civilization and to avoid
    extinction due to global warming.

  27. 177
    Steve Fish says:

    RE: Comment by Keith — 29 April 2010 @ 7:46 PM:

    You say- “If you think of this book as a sort-of inverse “An Inconvenient Truth” it might make more sense.”

    Allègre and Gore may have both been trying to influence public opinion, but Gore pretty much got the science correct. This is not an insignificant difference.

    Steve

  28. 178
    Steve Fish says:

    Another comment on positive and negative feedback:

    There is some confusion about this concept because of what one thinks of as positive or negative in the driver. A positive feedback enhances a “driving force” whether it is “positive” or “negative” in some sense. Thus, CO2 is a positive feedback to Milankovitch cycle warming, as an ice age is ending, because it outgases from the warming ocean and the greenhouse effect causes more warming. It is also a positive feedback to Milankovitch cycle cooling when it dissolves more readily in cooling oceans and enhances cooling because of a reduced greenhouse effect.

    Negative feedbacks are just the inverse of this in that they oppose, instead of enhancing, the “driving force” regardless of the perceived direction of this force. There may be feedback mechanisms that can be both positive and negative relative to a forcing, but I can’t readily think of one. Perhaps someone here can enlighten me.

    Steve

  29. 179
    Holly Stick says:

    The National Post’s Financial Post (a Canadian newspaper infested with denialists which is now being sued for libel by Andrew Weaver) had an article by Lawrence Solomon on April 3, 2010 stating that the National Academy of France is going to have an official debate on climate change next October, with Allegre.

    http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fpcomment/archive/2010/04/03/lawrence-solomon-france-to-hold-official-debate-on-climate-change.aspx

    Aroudn April 3, I googled quite a bit looking for more information about it when it was newly published, but there was nothing about this debate on any English-language websites, except for a few blogs which linked to Solomon’s piece.

    Is an official debate really to be held?

    [Response: Google Masson-Delmotte and you’ll get links to where she debates Allegre. It’s all in French, but you don’t have to know much French to know she won the debate.–eric]

  30. 180
    Keith says:

    Steve – Gore pretty much got the science correct – surely you jest

    [Response: Actually, Gore pretty much got the science correct. Comparing Gore and Allegre is like comparing well,.. Gore and Allegre. No contest.–eric]

  31. 181
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 114 Edward Greisch – at least two proposed ways of sequestering CO2 would not risk such catastrophic releases at all.

    1. biochar

    2. carbonate mineral production

    Which is not to say that they are necessarily good solutions; I suspect one or both would be good solutions at least up to a point where they are limited by resources or compete too much with other demands for resources, etc.

    “As long as you keep messing around with wind, solar, geothermal and wave power, the coal industry is safe. There is no way wind, solar, geothermal and wave power can replace coal, and they know it.”

    I didn’t have the time just now to review the entirety of your exchange with Ike; I disagree with Ike about whether or not certain policies will be effective; I am ambivalent about nuclear power, which is in part because I don’t know as much about it compared to what I know about solar power, etc. Maybe nuclear power could do most of the heavy lifting. But solar and wind, and continued use of present hydroelectric power, and geothermal and ‘smart’ biofuel (not so much corn ethanol – more along the lines of peanut shells, used coffee grounds, used napkins, banana peels, spoiled and damaged crops and food, sewage, manure, algae…) – these at least combined can do a lot; solar in particular has much promise – I mean realistic promise. Coal and oil and ultimately, natural gas, can be and will be and must be larely replaced by some combination of these.

  32. 182
    Bryson Brown says:

    @ 172: Another absurd claim of symmetry. Gore’s work was not perfect, but it did a very good job of setting out the state of the science. Allegre’s approach is to ignore and distort the science. Both do aim at public advocacy– but one is a serious effort at public education, while the other is dishonest and deceptive.

  33. 183
    Daniel J. Andrews says:

    OT, feel free to delete…
    Edward G (55)

    Even “better” reasoning I heard 3 days ago: “GW can’t happen because it isn’t predicted in the Bible.”
    :) :)
    Laughing Out Loud!

    Sure it’s predicted. See the book of Revelation–lots of the troubles there would result from global warming. ;) I had someone say a similar thing to me a year back so I went through Revelation and mostly tongue-in-cheek showed how it was ‘predicting’ global warming.

  34. 184
    RaymondT says:

    To Barton Paul Levenson says:
    29 April 2010 at 12:15 PM
    RaymondT (107): By focusing on the HYPOTHETICAL problem of global warming

    BPL: Which part of “temperatures have risen for 160 years and areas in drought have increased 150% since 1970″ do you not understand? This isn’t hypothetical. It’s measured.

    Droughts are very much affected by multi-decadal oscillations in ocean temperature. The real question to ask is how have the areas in drought increased in the last 160 years where multi-decadal effects are less important ? How reliable are the drought measurements 160 years ago ?

  35. 185
    Frank Giger says:

    Hey, CFU made an unitentional reference to something I wrote in another thread in post #156 – that getting us onto solar and wind is comparable in scope to the interstate system.

    And it is. And should be discussed in such terms.

    (btw, loads of people complain about the Interstate system’s routing and environmental impact)

    Steve, the feedback you’re looking for might be the heat on a tire as it relates to traction. There are lots of factors that determine a tire’s traction – contact surface area, composition of rubber, etc., but one of the biggest is heat. NASCAR drivers don’t do the snakey track on the pace lap just to be part of the in crowd – they’re putting friction on them to warm the rubber. Warm tires grip better than cold ones, as the rubber is softer and ‘stickier.’ However, it the tire gets too hot, the tire begins to loose traction as the rubber becomes so soft it begins to shed.

    What’s the sweet spot of heat forcing (positive versus negative) for a tire? Guys make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year figuring it out. Crew chiefs monitor temps by computerized sensors on practice runs and work out air pressures to the psi and the tire for best traction versus durability for the race.

  36. 186
    davidp says:

    Edward Greisch, your “4th Generation reactors” are fantasy-ware. They don’t yet exist, so like the next military devices they have all desirable characteristics – like the F35 fighter that was going to be affordable, stealthy, effective, reliable, but has gone massibely up in price, down in effectiveness, and delayed in delivery.

    You mix up real data and industry talking points into propaganda.

    E.g. The Hyperion Small Modular Reactor is currently only a concept. Its a small non-4th generation reactor (25MW – one 40th of the output of the coal power plants near my home city), so “A nuclear power plant can be installed in weeks” is theoretically true, but doubly deceptive. A big question for this sort of reactor is “what will it cost for the second refueling in 20 years” since it is return to manufacturer.

    “the coal mine has to be about 1 Million times as large as the uranium mine” ignores the quality of the ore base – coal can be quite thick, shallow seams of near pure coal ; Uraniam ore bodies can be so diffuse as to require In-situ leaching.

    Decommissioning costs are real – stuff is radioactive after years of exposure to neutron fluxes. Even the cooling water is radioactive. Recycling the physical material is an insignificant saving.

    Chernobyl factor – you’re right, except that building safe nuclear power plants takes special skills, materials and techniques- even the Finns mucked up the concrete for a new plant – fourtunately their inspectors were skilled and not corrupt. I dread to think how the Chinese quality management works. That’s why things like the Small Modular Reactor are a good idea – keep the safety critical pieces localised in a place with the necessary expertise and commitment to quality.

    I want nuclear as a part of the solution. Coal must be wound back and CCS is also vapourware. I don’t think we should buy the vapourware or ignore the future costs.

    [Response: Please, please, please – can we have one thread that doesn’t discuss nuclear power? I am deleting all further posts on this. Everyone, please stay on topic. – gavin]

  37. 187
    Leonard Evens says:

    Sam asks “What is the standard definition of negative feedback related to climate? Would it act something like a thermostat? Could it (or does it) cause a detectable oscillation signature?”

    CO_2 leads to a warmer atmosphere. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor. Since water vapor is a greenhousegas, that leads to an even warmer atmosphere, ad infinitum. So water vapor porvides a positive feedback to CO_2 induced warming.

    In some circumstances a positive feedback feedback can lead to oscillation. But that is not necessary. In the above example, there is no oscillation, just an increase in the total warming.

  38. 188
    Chris Colose says:

    # 168, Sam

    The term “feedback” in climate science can take on different meanings, depending on whether you’re talking about a carbon feedback or a radiative feedback. Generally when you see the terms used in discussions of radiative forcing, feedback, sensitivity, etc the term “feedback” is used to refer to those things which amplify or dampen the Planck response to a perturbation of the Earth’s energy balance. For a planet that cools as a blackbody and no feedbacks acting (e.g., we ignore the dependence of albedo on temperature), the sensitivity parameter is inversely proportional to the third power of the emission temperature of the planet (see my post on this here). You can see in the post that in a no-feedback scenario, you get about 1/4 of a degree C change in temperature per 1 W/m2 forcing (so about a degree for the 4 W/m2 that a doubling of CO2 gives you). The climate system would be said to be dominated by positive feedbacks if the actual temperature change were greater than this ~ 1 degree C/2xCO2 value, and negative feedbacks if the resultant temperature change was less than 1 degree C/2xCO2 (note that the CO2 itself is irrelevant, the response is to the radiative forcing and temperature change, so one can equally apply this idea to changes in solar irradiance or volcanic eruptions).

    In the carbon cycle feedback case, positive and negative feedbacks can refer to the drawdown/amplification of CO2 concentration relative to some initial change in temperature. Thus in a global warming scenario, this would be positive if the CO2 concentration in the air went up faster than just what you would expect from anthropogenic release, say if the oceans or terrestrial biosphere became a better net source. I’m not sure this distinction is heavily appreciated, but it’s one reason why you can use a benchmark like “by a doubling of CO2” instead of a time benchmark like “by 2100.” The latter includes all the uncertainty in socio-economic evolution (how emissions will change in time), whether CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is enhanced or reduced in the coming century by natural processes in addition to the anthropogenic input, as well as the actual sensitivity of the planet (the change in temperature per unit radiative forcing). However, by specifying a set CO2 concentration (e.g., the first doubling), you’re only dealing with the last uncertainty, because you’re not longer asking how you got to that value.

    I think in the engineering sense of the word, or at least in some other fields, the term “feedback” might mean that an initial change in CO2 led to further increases in CO2 (pos feedback) or reduction in CO2 back to the initial concentration (neg feedback). This isn’t really what it means in climate science, generally because very little in the feedback world cares about the CO2 change itself, but rather the temperature change that comes from that CO2.

  39. 189

    #109 Ron Broberg

    I understand your concern. However, the only reason I write in RC is to help educate people, that might be misled, about the critical reality of human caused global warming. Otherwise I would not post here.

    So, while I understand that periodic machine gun fire might look annoying to you, and possibly others that are regulars here. My hope is that the signature will give more people access to what I see as the most important petition on the planet, along with the one minute videos, which are designed to instruct.

    If Fee & Dividend is not quickly adopted, I believe we can expect a more rapid degradation of the economic system and consequent loss of standards of living and quality of life, worldwide, along with increased stressors on multiple global resource economies that will domino, amplify, and accelerate magnitudes, as well as diminish capacity to recover any and all such capacities without severe ramifications to the human population and the capability of maintaining, or retrieving capacity for civilized society. Rapid action on the other hand gives us at least a better chance.

    Being that the current estimate at the UN, on our current course of action (BAU) for dead and dying humans is 1.8 billion by 2080, which is quite possibly, or even likely, a conservative estimate, I believe there is an onus of responsibility for all that are reasonably informed on the reality of this global warming event and its very real potentials to unwind the progress of the last century, is to do all that is possible in raising awareness. So while I understand your frustration, I will not remove the signature. I have however tried to make it easier to look at. Otherwise, if it does continue to bother you, please feel free to ignore it.

    PS Irritating as it may be to some, I encourage everyone that agrees with ‘Fee & Dividend’ to include it in every post they make, everywhere they can, as often as possible, including in their emails. We are going to need a lot more than a hundred signatures to let policy makers know that we need this policy.


    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt


    ‘Fee & Dividend’ Our best chance for a better future – climatelobby.com
    Learn the Issue & Sign the Petition

  40. 190
    Web Hub Tel says:

    So I spend quite a bit of time wandering around “complexity science” circles trying to find anything I can simplify.

    In the last week, I have been on a climate science kick. Here is a post on the fat-tail on CO2 residence time:
    http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com/2010/04/fat-tail-in-co2-persistence.html

    And a few days before that, I posted on cloud ice crystal size distributions:
    http://mobjectivist.blogspot.com/2010/04/dispersive-and-non-dispersive-growth-in.html

    Nothing peer reviewed but it’s really entertaining thinking about this stuff and trying to simplify it!

  41. 191
    CM says:

    Keith,

    > If you think of this book as a sort-of inverse “An Inconvenient Truth”
    > it might make more sense.

    Gore tells an inconvenient truth.
    Allègre tells the inverse: a convenient untruth.

    Yes, that does make sense.

  42. 192
    Completeley Fed Up says:

    “How reliable are the drought measurements 160 years ago ?”

    Pretty good, since irrigation was less advanced and farming more important. People cared more about these things 160 years ago and wrote them down.

  43. 193
    Sam says:

    Ray #173,

    ” increase energy loss as you add energy to the system”

    Great way to explain that. Blackbody radiation energy increasing with temp is something I hadn’t thought of as a causing a negative feedback. (or the effective equivalent of it anyway). I personally visualize feedbacks mostly in the electronic sense but I think that only has a limited usefulness when trying to apply this to climate. Or maybe it’s just me.

  44. 194
    Completeley Fed Up says:

    “aree you considering that estimating a sensitivity between “2 and 5 °C” is a high level of accuracy ? ”

    Are you saying that between 2 and 5 is too innaccurate to make policy decisions?

    Because 2C per doubling is still a catastrophe under BAU.

  45. 195
    Sam says:

    ” Gore pretty much got the science correct”

    Oh boy. Really?! I watched his movie, and I have to say that his 3d animation of the polar bear drowning [edit–you want to provide some serious points of rebuttal, go ahead. sliming Al Gore won’t cut it]

  46. 196
    Sam says:

    Chris Colose #188

    “I think in the engineering sense of the word, or at least in some other fields, the term “feedback” might mean that an initial change in CO2 led to further increases in CO2 (pos feedback) or reduction in CO2 back to the initial concentration (neg feedback). This isn’t really what it means in climate science, generally because very little in the feedback world cares about the CO2 change itself, but rather the temperature change that comes from that CO2.”

    Funny but this is the exact problem I had when I was thinking about this at first. Took me a little while to remember that you have define exactly what the input and output are before thinking about anything else! Best to draw a diagram sometimes.

    Typing on Ipad btw is not ideal…..

  47. 197
    CM says:

    This, and certain other anti-AGW books I’ve seen, reminds me of a short story I once read (sorry, can’t remember the title nor the author): A UFO skeptic writes a book about his meeting with an alien visitor (from Venus I think) as a hoax intended to demonstrate just how gullible UFO believers are. He fills it with patent nonsense from end to end (one nice touch was how the aliens report flying around in their cities with backpacks filled with helium, highly compressed for lift). He even puts in an acrostic spelling out that this book is a fraud. The UFO milieu laps it up, and he is made the keynote speaker at a big convention of theirs, where he plans to reveal all and watch them get egg all over their faces.

    You have to wonder if this is Allègre’s game too…

    But then it would probably backfire. In the short story, the audience refuses to believe that the alien visit was a hoax, even though he tells them he made it up. They are able to rationalize away every clue he’s left in the book. All he has achieved is to add another alien visit to their belief structure.

  48. 198
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sam,the feedback in electronics is similar. If you’ve ever done recording, you know that often the recording engineer will add carefully controlled feedback to a particular signal. The thing to remember is that infinite series are stable as long as each successive term in the series converges to zero rapidly enough–that is, you get a finite factor of amplification.

  49. 199
    arch stanton says:

    “what did it add?”

    -’nuff said.

  50. 200

    EG 150: Ike Solem: YOU are working for the coal industry whether you know it or not. My guess is that you are a coal industry shill.

    BPL: Crap! Ike Solem has been the toughest critic of the coal industry on this blog, which you’d know if you’d been reading carefully. Your “it has to be either coal or nuclear” is just wrong, always has been wrong, always will be wrong.

    EG: Nuclear power makes LESS CO2 THAN ANY OTHER SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY.

    BPL: Wind? Solar? Geothermal? I tend to doubt they make MORE CO2 than nuclear. Nuclear, if nothing else, gives off a lot of CO2 when all that concrete sets. Then there’s the fossil fuels used in mining and transportation of fuel. You don’t need either process for wind, solar, or geo.