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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. 301
    JiminMpls says:

    #250 Ed – Discussions of nuclear power are supposed to be OT, but since you post anyway, I hope the monitors will allow this brief rebuttal.

    Stop stating that nuclear power is cheap. It may be safe, it may be low carbon, but it is in no way cheap.

    The most current estimates in the US for large scale nuclear power plants are $5-8k per KW. Fuel prices are rising rapidly and are likely to increase another five-fold after 2015, when the supply from Russian reprocessing of nuclear weapons runs out.

    In contrast, onshore wind farms are costing less than $2k/KW and the offshore Cape Wind project is projected at just over $4k/KW- with zero fuel costs. It will be online by 2012 – nearly a decade before any new nuclear power plants.

    I have written my senator and congressman about nuclear power. I am not against federal subsidies for NP, per se, but NO federal subsidies or financing should be provided without full public disclosure of all costs. Toshiba declaring cost projections “proprietary” is absolutely unacceptable.

  2. 302
    Robert Murphy says:

    Mike M said (282):

    “If there was a net positive feedback, (per that being foisted on us as ‘proven climate science’), then the temperature would have just kept increasing and never had come back down again ever.”

    Positive feedback in no way implies a runaway effect. There is a limiting factor factor involved in the Earth system (mainly the Stefan–Boltzmann law). As Wiki put it:

    “Within climate, it is important to remember that a positive feedback subsystem never acts in isolation, but is always embedded within the overall climate system, which itself is always subject to one very powerful negative feedback, the Stefan–Boltzmann law: that emitted radiation rises with the fourth power of temperature. Hence, on earth the gain of the overall system is always less than one, stopping the system from suffering runaway effects. While there may have been periods of time such as the exit from an ice age where the gain was greater than one, this has not lasted long enough for extreme effects such as the evaporation of the oceans as is believed to have happened on Venus.”

  3. 303
    MikeTabony says:

    On a slightly different tack, has anyone calculated the possible additional methane and other light crude gases that will enter the atmosphere from the Gulf oil spill. Because of the hot temperatures of the Gulf Coast and the compostion of a “light Gulf crude”, I would think that a significant amount of the spill will just evaporate, leaving the heavier crude components behind. That evaporation will increase atmospheric greenhouse gases but will it be significant in any way even if the spill continues for months. BP has hinted that the pool of crude spilling into the Gulf may be in the millions of barrels.

    Also, what will be the affect of the crude cover on the evaporation of sea water along the northern Gulf during this summer season? I would guess that evaporation of sea water would be restricted by the oil and that would raise the Gulf water temperature until a new balance were achieved. Would this warmer water be fuel for tropical cyclone formation? Any thoughts?


  4. 304
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mike M., You are confusing positive feedback with runaway warming. They are different. Go back and review infinite series, they converge as long as the terms converge more rapidly than 1/x:

    As to the rest of your post, it is every bit as confused as you picture of positive feedback. Why not learn the actual science rather than argue against a straw man. Do you really think several thousand climate scientists are so stupid as to overlook a divergent feedback in their model?

  5. 305
    Robert D says:

    Sorry Mike M,
    it is you who don’t understand positive feedback. It does not mean runaway feedback, it just means increasing an effect. Do the arithmetic of a 10% positive feedback. the limit of the series is 1 and 1/9th. The negative feedback is the the hotter it gets, the more is radiated away.

  6. 306
    Geoff Wexler says:

    #re 302

    Re: Stefan Boltzmann & feedback gains greater than 1. I have my doubts about that Wikipedia entry, but am too busy to think and read about it properly now.(Its not hard).

    While the conclusion may be true for the Earth, I doubt that it has to be true . The W. entry is a bit confused and even contradictory. The reason is that there are two approaches which are not clearly distinguished, one refers only to temperature, the other to energy balance. Whether you consider the SB equation as a contribution to negative feedback is mainly a matter of definition.

    Someone has mentioned that clouds introduce uncertainty. Raypierre has pointed out that this could have led to runaway although there may have been some unrealistic boundary conditions involved; please don’t tell me that Raypierre does not know about SB ! I think I saw this is in the draft to his forthcoming book (I don’t have it now). Fortunately clouds and the other boundary conditions are understood , well enough to rule out that particular mechanism for the Earth. If my memory is right , then this is one more piece of evidence that the contrarians are closer to the doom mongers than they would be prepared to admit. This applies e.g. to the person who came here with the idea that climate models don’t include the clouds.

  7. 307
    Robert Murphy says:


    That’s what I get for relying on wiki for something a little over my head. :) Fortunately, the main conclusion is the same: positive feedbacks don’t imply runaway feedbacks.

  8. 308
    J. Bob says:

    #247 Dale, it is also possible that engineers and geologists have to deal with real problems on a daily basis, and are not so much worried about getting a paper published. And as such, they have been “burned” enough to look beyond the hype, to the real state of a situation.

    #283 Edward, if I remember correctly, one of those nuclear pacemakers was put on a plane and flew to Moscow. It was then placed inside one of those who reviewed the parades in Red Square.

  9. 309
    Ike Solem says:

    Solar and wind and photosynthetic fuels – from hydrogen and methanol to algal biofuel and sugarcane ethanol – are true renewables. Uranium is a fossil fuel, coal is a fossil fuel, oil is a fossil fuel, natural gas is a fossil fuel. The extraction costs are very high – witness the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the devastated tar sands, the toxic uranium mine tailings. Water and air pollution are inevitable.

    Now – Ed G. – With nuclear power plants, the hidden costs are immense – they require massive amounts of cooling water, they’re dependent on uranium availability, and the waste disposal costs and decommissioning costs are likewise gigantic. It’s not cutting-edge technology, it’s archaic 1950s technology – just massive steam boilers heated by the decomposition of uranium into a bunch of really nasty daughter products that create permanent headaches for their local communities. If it wasn’t for the giant subsidies, they’d never have been built. Obama is pushing for the $40 billion credit line for nuclear power because no sane investor would commit to it otherwise – and then you have the Price-Anderson liability limitation act which protects investors from having to pay for a Chernobyl event.

    So, yes, like the past government’s energy plan, the current government’s energy plan is a recipe for ecological and economic disaster – from Georgia’ nuclear plans to Canada’s tar sand plans to the offshore oil drilling fiasco that’s threatening to wipe out the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem, and with it the fishing industry, the tourism industry, and a whole lot of marine life.

    I’m not sure why Ed G. is ignoring these issues – maybe’s it’s because he doesn’t have a response to those points? In addition, trying to frame it as “coal vs. nuclear” is nonsense – the biggest coal utilities are often the biggest nuclear utilities, and the holding companies have interests in coal mining, uranium mining, oil drilling, natural gas drilling, as well as in the utilities that consume those fossil fuels. Constellation, Exelon, Southern, Entergy – here’s a sample:

    Entery CEO says coal is the answer to global warming, May 2009 (Entergy operates ten nuclear power plants)

    Exelon Joins Illinois ‘Clean-Coal’ Demonstration Plant (Exelon operates twelve nuclear power plants, including Zion and Three Mile Island)

    Obama’s Southern Company Play: How Much Nuclear Plant for $14.5 Billion, 80% Federally Guaranteed?” (Southern currently runs a system which is 70% coal, 15% nuclear)

    Constellation Energy Commodities Group (A Warren Buffet acquisition) (Constellation produces 44.2% from nuclear, 28.3% from coal, 13.0% from oil, 8.7% from natural gas)

    Now, none of these large utilities or energy holding companies has a plan for going to 30% solar, 30% wind or anything like that – even though the technology already exists to make this transition. Why? From the perspective of a shareholder who owns Southern, Exelon, and Entergy stock as well as coal mines & coal railroads, as well as oil & gas companies – the last thing they want to see is their utilities undermine all their other interests by tapping energy sources – like the sun and the wind – that cannot be easily converted to marketable commodities.
    The same goes for the transportation sector – oil refineries and automobile companies, for example. Electric cars from Ford? There go Exxon’s profits. Is a shareholder with $10 billion in Exxon and $1 billion in Ford going to be happy with a Ford CEO who pushes for electric vehicles? I don’t think so!

    That’s why there’s so much opposition to renewable energy portfolio standards (Southern is the major lobbying force in Washington on energy), feed-in tariffs for solar and wind producers, and the elimination of subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear. However, if you want a real renewable energy-based power system, you have to overcome these vested interests in the nuclear, oil, coal and gas sectors – and they know perfectly well that once renewables take off, people won’t want their dirty old technologies any more – so they have to make sure that renewables are undermined – and they enlist politicians and media outlets to assist them.

    Right, Ed?

  10. 310
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Jim D — 1 May 2010 @ 11:12 PM:

    My confusion comes from my (perhaps incorrect) understanding that a specific component of a system changing toward equilibrium is not normally considered to be a feedback. Thus, I didn’t think that CO2 being transferred from the atmosphere to the ocean toward equilibrium, or heat loss from the atmosphere to space toward equilibrium, were considered to be negative feedbacks in the context of climate science.

    As long as I understand the interactions of the different mechanisms I am a happy camper, but perhaps one of the physicists here would clarify definitions.


  11. 311
    mike Roddy says:

    It was nice of RC to debunk Allegre in detail, but you don’t need to get much further after the first few whoppers.

    It’s pretty obvious what the deal is. The man is crazy.

  12. 312
    Steve Fish says:

    RE-Comment by J. Bob — 2 May 2010 @ 10:35 AM:

    You say- “it is also possible that engineers and geologists have to deal with real problems on a daily basis, and are not so much worried about getting a paper published. And as such, they have been “burned” enough to look beyond the hype, to the real state of a situation.”

    I am curious to know what “hype” in the climate science literature has “burned” engineers and geologists, and how their work is any less demanding than that of scientists.


  13. 313
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Is it impossible for a given isotope of carbon in CO2 from us to be absorbed by a plant then re-released when it decomposes? It would seem to me that whatever CO2 is currently in the atmosphere right now being absorbed by plants is going to recycle the fastest. Is that a bad assumption?”

    Mike M, does that say anything about how Geoff’s point is incorrect?


    No it doesn’t.

    Because that recycling doesn’t stop it having been an increase that we humans produced.

    Then again, since your maths is so terrible, who could expect your logic to be no better?

  14. 314

    EG 285: Yes, I would want to live next door to a nuclear power plant.

    BPL: Better you than me.

  15. 315
    Richard Palm says:

    Dr. Hoffman refers to Allègre’s insulation from facts as dividing by zero. Another way of characterizing it is “circular reasoning,” which is a classic feature of conspiracy theories. It goes like this:

    1. All evidence against the conspiracy is false because all the people supplying it are in on the conspiracy.

    2. The conspiracy theory is true because all evidence against it is false.

  16. 316
    sam says:

    (269) Jim Eager

    “And what about the isotope ratio evidence do you find lacking?”

    Quite frankly it just looks…. flimsy. I mentioned a way to perhaps disprove the theory, but it got no notice. There has to be a way to test this…

    Mike M. posted above about this being a water planet. Isn’t he right? The heat capacity of the a first ten meters of ocean water is probably more then the entire atmosphere! I think the longterm stability or volatility of the atmosphere is really a property of the oceans… not the atmosphere itself.

    Not to mention the oceans probably have 50-100x as much total CO2 (carbonate ions included). It’s no secret that gas solubility varies with temperature (and pressure) so take that concept and look at our oceans…. They are not 2 dimensional or homogenous in temperature and they are not static. The idea that oscillations like PDO could have a dominating effect on CO2 levels is not that crazy. If that lets man off the hook, isn’t that a good thing? The amount of amount CO2 exchanged yearly between the the ocean and atmosphere probably totally dwarfs our contribution — like a CO2 stock market. Anything that perturbs this exchange could lead to changing air CO2 level, correct?

    Do I think it’s especially likely that man is not causing an increase in atmospheric CO2? No. But co-incindences happen all the time and if you don’t test your theories or designs you are setting yourself up for failure.


    [Response: This has been tested over and over again – which is why people have found all sorts of supporting evidence – 14C, 13C, O2 changes, mass budgets for the biosphere and ocean, paleo evidence etc. You are wasting your time challenging the anthropogenic rise in CO2. Science progesses by moving on to more interesting questions as the evidence comes in, it does not continually spend time discussing things which are basically settled and for which no new information has come up since. – gavin]

  17. 317
    CM says:

    Steve Fish (#312) said:

    I didn’t think that CO2 being transferred from the atmosphere to the ocean toward equilibrium, or heat loss from the atmosphere to space toward equilibrium, were considered to be negative feedbacks in the context of climate science.

    Me neither, but I’m just another lay reader. This may not be an important point, but I hate using words wrong, so clarifications are welcome.

    IPCC AR4 offers this definition of “climate feedback”:

    An interaction mechanism between processes in the climate system is called a climate feedback when the result of an initial process triggers changes in a second process that in turn influences the initial one. A positive feedback intensifies the original process, and a negative feedback reduces it.

    …and appears to agree with your intuition, as far as the ocean is concerned:

    With respect to atmospheric pCO2 alone, the inorganic carbon system of the ocean reacts in two ways: (1) seawater re-equilibrates, buffering a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere depending on the water volume exposed to equilibration; and (2) the Revelle factor increases with pCO2 (positive feedback; Figure 7.11). […] While the first [process] is generally considered as a system response, the latter is a feedback process. (WG1,, emphasis added)

  18. 318

    #287 Mike M

    Check the spectra absorption and isotope signatures.

    BTW, look up ad hominem. Attacking an idea from a person is not the same as attacking the person.

    Also, in Sam’s post #260 he says he has read about the isotope ratio changes but the says something else could have done it? One really needs a more definite attribution other than “what if”.

    Besides the ratio changes, you and Sam might want to check into this:

    You might think I’m being inappropriate, but I make mistakes too, plenty, but when I catch myself or someone else points out that I missed something. I correct it.

    I can call myself an idiot, even thought that is ad hominem (against myself), because I know I’m not incredibly knowledgeable on all the wondrous depth of understanding in multiple fields of science. And as I have stated in the past, I really don’t know that much in the world of knowledge.

    Think about this. Einstein said imagination is more important than knowledge. Think about his context.

    I think open mindedness is more important than intelligence, but think about the context. High intelligence can be trumped by an open mind.

    I’m not hung up on any theory, but substance is what gives me ground upon which to see that a foundation has been laid.

    If you want to crack that foundation, you really do need substance, not ‘what it’. Otherwise you are merely hypothesizing, which is sort of the scientific equivalent of daydreaming. Not that that is bad either, just that daydreams do not shake the foundations of science, whereas substance can.

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  19. 319
    David B. Benson says:

    Mike M — A positive feedback means a feedback which amplifies the effect of the input, irrespective of whethr the input is rising or falling. If the feedback is less than unity, we have a gain of

    1 + f + f^2 + f^3 + … = 1/(1-f)

    The water vapor feedback is of this form, approximately doubling the original input, called a forcing in climatology. So in that case f is close to 1/2.

  20. 320

    #283 Edward Greisch

    Your recycling point is well taken, but that is not what is happening right now either.

    My concern at this time is that we have serious waste costs, that don’t seem to be built in to the cost of the energy source. We also have some containment problems and those will have associated costs, possibly not just monetary, as those costs could leak into the bio economies.

    My main point, that I am trying to make is that we have other considerations that really do deserve serious thought.

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  21. 321
    J. Bob says:

    #312 Steve, slow down and re-read the item. Never equated “burned” engineer and geologists with climate “science”, nor said one is more demanding then the other, but there are differences in the outcome of their work.

    But you could wander over to .
    They have an interesting item on non-linearity, and the atmosphere:
    “The Strange Case of Stratospheric Water Vapor, Non-linearities and Groceries”
    It gives a good discussion of how complex this beast is.

  22. 322
    Didactylos says:


    Do you have any evidence for these figures you quote? Any source at all?

    And to what do these figures apply? Obviously they are not global. Studies have shown that globally, nuclear power is competitive with coal, and significantly cheaper than current wind generation.

    “It’s expensive” is really one of the silliest arguments made against nuclear power. You didn’t make that argument against wind when wind was ridiculously expensive, did you? I don’t hear you making that argument against solar power, either – even though currently it is painfully expensive.

    Obviously nuclear power is expensive. Obviously it is cheap enough to be competitive in the many regions of the world where nuclear power has a significant market share.

    The US is not the entire world.


    It disgusts me that every time nuclear power comes up, you repeat the same lies. Isn’t that one of the hallmarks of a denier? You said “I count 15 Americans known dead from nuclear power.” This is a LIE. You know it is not true, since you compiled the list yourself, and you can presumably read. Yes, I have lost patience with you and your double standards.

    Even if your lie was true (it isn’t, obviously) 15 deaths in over 50 years is an incredible safety record when compared with other forms of power.

    Summary of Wind Turbine Incidents (December 2008):
    • 41 Worker Fatalities, 16 Public- Includes falling from turbine towers and transporting turbines on the highway.
    • 39 Incidents of Blade Failure- Failed blades have been known to travel over a quarter mile, killing any unfortunate bystanders within its path of destruction.
    • 110 Incidents of Fire- When a wind turbine fire occurs, local fire departments can do little but watch due to the 30-story height of these turbine units. The falling debris are then carried across the distance and cause new fires.
    • 60 Incidents of Structural Failure- As turbines become more prevalent, these breakages will become more common in public areas, thereby causing more deaths and dismemberment’s from falling debris.
    • 24 incidents of “hurling ice”- Ice forms on these giant blades and is reportedly hurled at deathly speeds in all directions. Author reports that some 880 ice incidents of this nature have occurred over Germany’s 13-years of harnessing wind power.

    Source: Treehugger

    Please note: despite the death rate, we must continue with adding as much wind power to the grid as we possibly can. Have you seen the fatalities from coal?

  23. 323
    Jim D says:

    Re: 310 Steve
    Maybe it is semantics, but I consider that when there is a forcing, e.g. man-made release of CO2 into the atmosphere, there is a potential of a response that may be proportional to the forcing. To me, that response is a feedback.

    [Response: This is definitely a possible confusion. The response to a radiative forcing is only a feedback if it ‘feeds back’ into the radiation calculation. For instance, a change in CO2 that changes temperature which impacts ice cream sales is simply a response – not a feedback. But a change in CO2 that impacts water evaporation and thus the amount of water vapour in the air which also affects the radiation is a feedback. – gavin]

  24. 324
    Rod B says:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) (281), I may be missing the main point here, but there have been many times in paleoclimate history where CO2 GREATLY exceeded 300ppm. Don’t recall if it was within last 5 million years though.

  25. 325
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Another member of the denialist club. “Nearly on topic”

    The X industry’s annual turnover is several billion dollars and it has no plans to downsize. Thus in advance of the new US guidelines articles have appeared in the New York Times and elsewhere claiming that the evidence for reducing X is not clear-cut.

    This controversy is fake. The evidence for X reduction is clear and consistent. Most of the “contradictory research” comes from a very small number of scientists , most of whom are linked to the X industry. However it takes skill to spot misinformation and subterfuge. And so the confusion is successfully promulgated.

    X is my notation. In to-day’s article it stands for salt. It actually belongs to an ever widening set which includes,asbestos, CFC’s ,DDT (I think), tobacco and of course CO2.

    The actual quote comes below the pay wall. Sorry but at least the New Scientist is easy to find.

  26. 326

    #324 Rod B

    Yes, that is why I constrained the time to 5 million. Though I must admit I should have said one million, I’m not real up on Pliocene CO2 concentrations, so my mistake. Although I believe my general contextual point was appropriate regarding the post I was responding too.

    There are many reasons in the distant past where CO2 has been higher than 300ppm as evidenced in the paleo records.

    But context is key. The system seems to have literally settled down into our current range over about the last 7 million years coming out of the Eocene.

    Plate tectonic positions were different. The heat flow in the oceans were different at least as far back as 3 million years ago because the Atlantic and Pacific were sharing more.

    Context is key. We are talking about, not just the cycles of the recent million years, but more importantly the modern infrastructure of both the Holocene as well as the industrial age in context to the human society.

    Radiative changes this powerful will have impacts on the capacity pertaining to current infrastructure and resource capacity. That is what is so different and why we need to understand the potentials. It’s the context.

    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

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

  27. 327
    Geoff Wexler says:

    Correction to my last comment.

    Re:Paywall.Please ignore or delete last two lines.

  28. 328
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Your reference is utterly clueless–as could be anticipated by the fact that he quites “The American Thinker.”

  29. 329
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Sam@316, You claim that the isotopic evidence seems “flimsy,” and yet you do not elaborate, cite any evidence or even a convincing mechanism.

    Fact: Humans have emitted about twice as much CO2 as is represented by the increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Fact: The decreasing ratio of C-13 to C-12 indicates a fossil source of CO2 is largely responsible for the increase.

    Fact: Fossil fuels are by far the largest source of increasing fossil carbon.

    If you choose to ignore those facts, you are in denail. Period.

  30. 330
    JiminMpls says:

    #322 Didact

    Hmmmm…interesting. The applications for new nuclear power plants USED TO BE readily available on the NRC site. They are no longer there – at least I can’t find them.

    Yet another example of the true costs of new nuclear power plant being hidden from the public.

  31. 331
    JiminMpls says:

    I found the Turkey Point application. See 1A-1 for cost projections.

    Now see page 1A-1 for Southern Power’s Vogtle plant for estimated construction costs. Here you’ll find:

    “The estimated total construction cost for VEGP Units 3 and 4 is considered proprietary
    information and was provided with Revision 0 of the COL application under separate
    cover (Reference SNC letter AR-08-0436, dated March 28, 2008).”

    Really sweet, considering US taxpayers have already shelled out $3 billion in subsidies and another $8 bill in lo-an guarantees.^PBNTAD01&ID=093580166

    But I’ve cited the actual applications many times before on RC. Some people just choose to remain misinformed because it suits their political agenda.

  32. 332
    Rick Brown says:

    Steve Fish and CM regarding “I didn’t think that . . . heat loss from the atmosphere to space toward equilibrium, were considered to be negative feedbacks in the context of climate science.”

    I don’t generally recommend relying on me as a source for such things, but I find:

    It is also worth mentioning that what even counts as a feedback depends on the definition of the reference system. For example, the Stefan-Boltzman relation is often described as a negative climate feedback acting to regulate temperature anomalies. In fact, for a blackbody planet, which is the simplest imaginable reference system for the climate that is still meaningful, the Stefan-Boltzman relation is part of the reference system and therefore not a feedback at all. These are not semantic or esoteric issues—the quantitative intercomparison of different feedbacks can be done only when the reference system is defined and held constant.

    on p. 111 in Roe, G. 2009. Feedbacks, Timescales, and Seeing Red. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 37: 93-115.

    Available here

  33. 333
    Sam says:

    I still think there could be some unknown process that is changing the isotope ratio…  The change is really slight.  The basic argument about the CO2 isotope proof is that plant based CO2, (which includes CO2 from fossil fuels) is increasing in the atmosphere. Plant based CO2 has a different C12/C13 ratio and this in turn changes the C12/C13 ratio in the air.  So it seems like plants (the living kind) could have a part in this isotope change no?  What If through our massive agriculture, deforestation, and planting of different trees and grasses we have introduced plants that have a different CO2 metabolisms?  Could that shift the ratio?

  34. 334
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by J. Bob — 2 May 2010 @ 3:39 PM:

    OK, I very slowly re-read the posts and found the following. Dale Powers (30 April 2010 @ 9:11 PM) was wondering why geologists and some engineers don’t seem to understand that they make simple errors while speculating outside of their area of expertise. You responded (2 May 2010 @ 10:35 AM) that because they have to deal with real problems, apparently unlike climate scientists, and have been “burned,” look beyond “hype” and have come to a real understanding (also apparently unlike climate scientists). So I repeat, how have they been “burned” and what “hype” have they looked beyond? I suggest that you slow down and re-read what you have said.

    You suggested that I check out a site where there is no indication of expertise in climate science that states in its “About this blog” section that some “aspects of current Climate Science have become more like a faith.” Do you agree with this? If so, please explain which aspects are like a faith? Please be specific.

    Methinks that you are exhibiting the same kind of Allègre thinking that this whole thread is about. Steve

  35. 335
    Edward Greisch says:

    310 JiminMpls: You are wrong. Nuclear is the cheapest per kilowatt HOUR over 40 years. That is not the same as original equipment cost.

    Reference: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”, by B. Comby
    English edition, 2001, 345 pp. (soft cover), 38 Euros
    TNR Editions, 266 avenue Daumesnil, 75012 Paris, France;
    ISBN 2-914190-02-6
    You will not find it elsewhere.
    According to Comby, nuclear is 30% cheaper than the second cheapest, which is coal.

    Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Page 211: “In 2005, the production cost of electricity:
    from nuclear power on average cost 1.72 cents per kilowatt-hour;
    from coal-fired plants 2.21;
    from natural gas 7.5,
    and from oil 8.09.
    American nuclear power reactors operated that year around the clock at about 90 percent capacity, whereas coal-fired plants operated at about 73 percent, hydroelectric plants at 29 percent, natural gas from 16 to 38 percent, wind at 27 percent, solar at 19 percent, and geothermal at 75 percent. … The costs per kilowatt hour for solar and wind are 600 or more times the cost for coal, and that is in sunny and windy places, respectively.”

    NOTE: Both Comby and Cravens included ALL life cycle costs.

    I did not start the nuclear thread. Somebody else did. It was another anti-nuclear person.

  36. 336
    Edward Greisch says:

    309 Ike Solem: You are completely WRONG. Gavin should have edited your first dissing of nuclear. How much is some coal company paying you to tell those lies? I have already covered/responded to all of them. There are ZERO costs that I have not included.

    Gavin: Please edit Ike Solem’s attempts to derail the discussion after this.

  37. 337
    Edward Greisch says:

    308 J. Bob: Thanks.

    320 John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) See:

    322Didactylos: THANK YOU very much.

  38. 338
    Ike Solem says:

    @Sam, you haven’t responded to Carl Wunsch’s rebuttal of your Channel 4-inspired hypothesis – why not?

    CARL WUNSCH: There are a number of issues. There’s one point in the film where I was attempting to explain that the ocean contains a very large amount of carbon dioxide that is there naturally. It’s one of the great reservoirs of carbon dioxide in the world. And what I was trying to explain was that if you make the ocean warmer, as one likely would do under a global warming scenario, that much of that carbon dioxide now resident in the ocean could be released into the atmosphere with very serious effects.

    Carbon cycle feedbacks are in response to global warming – and one of the leading questions right now is this: What’s the carbon cycle sensitivity to a a given increase in global average temperature? On land, the problem is compounded by the fact that the carbon cycle is at least as sensitive to changes in precipitation and evaporation as it is to temperature – and there are complex ecological factors (insect life cycles in temperate forests, say) – but again, it’s all a response to increased atmospheric forcing.

    Edward Greisch – you have some record on realclimate, you know that? Really, now… wind and solar are hundreds of times more expensive than nuclear? That’s irrational… but it’s not exactly the only one.

    Edward Greich’s [edit] statement that Chernobyl killed only 52 people speaks for itself. Nuclear power is NOT cheaper, the French plants ARE old and in trouble, and, [edit] – Comment by Marion Delgado

    Most people in the U.S. are simply saying that no new power plants should be built – perhaps you should save your venom for the Germans – did you know that the Hun is actually trying to close down all the nuclear power plants in Germany? Yes, it’s terrible – I know – go get ’em!

    @Holly Stick – No response on CNN’s decision to fire their entire science team, after they ran some unbiased articles on the ecological effects of Arctic ice melt? I think it demonstrates a serious lack of integrity at CNN.

  39. 339
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Sam, Sam, Sam (#333)… please sit back and look at yourself. Are you seriously proposing that the folks that were smart enough to develop these isotope techniques weren’t smart enough to think of this themselves? I’m not one for argument by authority, but don’t you feel you should at least yourself study the science a little before starting to play these mind games?

    Hint: there’s a third carbon isotope, C14. With fascinating properties…

  40. 340
    CM says:

    Rick Brown (#332), thanks! Very helpful.

  41. 341
    CM says:

    Nukies and anti-nukies, the host asked you to drop the subject. No, it’s not good manners to continue holding forth about it as long as the host does not physically throw you out of the party.

    Edward Greisch (#336), you’re one of the people here most often responsible for derailing any discussion onto the nuclear issue. You have some nerve telling the moderators to edit others.

  42. 342
    Hugh Laue says:

    #335 “Nuclear is the cheapest per kilowatt HOUR over 40 years.”
    and #336 “There are ZERO costs that I have not included.”

    All this debate over nuclear vs coal vs renewables as to which is “cheapest” seems to have become a shouting match because key assumptions assumptions are not being spelled out in order to make fair comparisons.
    In any business plan investors want to see, or at least have high confidence, that all the assumptions upon which the proposal is based have been validated AND that all critical issues that could affect the success of the business have been addressed AND that risks that could sink the business have been identified and mitigation plans to deal with those are in place.
    The financial model needs to include all of this, assumptions clearly stated. Then the investor can play with the model and see what will happen under various scenarios. Most investors are looking for a payback within 5 years and will determine the potential value of the business on its NPV at 10 years on the basis that the business is then closed and scrapped. Cradle to grave economics should be applied. Privatization of profits and socialization of costs, as happens presently, cannot be allowed to continue. Can we even use these old economic modelling tools that still assume unlimited growth? Scientifically we know that unlimited growth is unsustainable. Do we all hav ea common understanding of what we mean by unsustainable?
    So, 40 years is a long, long time to have any degree of confidence that one’s assumptions that far forward are realistic.
    So, unless all the assumptions are out in the open everything becomes opinion based on belief in one’s own chosen favored technology (for whatever reason)and for which there will be a tendency towards “confirmation bias” to select any “evidence” that supports it.
    For example: what do we assume regarding cost of CO2 emissions? If carbon tax with dividend (that seems to be the simplest, fairest and most viable approach to drive reduction in emissions) is legislated what will this cost look like projected into the future? How will this affect the relevant business models?
    The difficulty here is that the ECONOMICS, TECHNOLOGIES and thus business models of ENERGY generation businesses are not available for honest comparison and evaluation. This is very unlike climate science where confidence in the theory of climate change has been developed over years of research and publications in the peer reviewed literature, and is still being refined, AND, despite the unethical anti-science attempts by denialists to imply otherwise, has been conducted openly and transparently.
    Take note of what JiminMpls is saying at #330 and #331, especially “Yet another example of the true costs of new nuclear power plant being hidden from the public.”
    So this site is really not appropriate to discuss these issues, is it? But it is a very important that the public be involved and properly informed.
    So Edward, Ike, is there not some other place where this can be discussed? The subject matter is too complex to make any progress on a blog, isn’t it?
    Is there a way to set up a “credibility spectrum” (as Greg Craven did for climate science) for authorities in these areas? Business and political vested interests are massive in the energy field. Who do we believe and why?

  43. 343
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I still think there could be some unknown process that is changing the isotope ratio…”

    Yes, it could be the Centarum have built a jump gate near earth and this is affecting our carbon!!!!

    Sam, I think you’re nuts. If all you need to prove a point is think it’s right, then you are.

  44. 344
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “NOTE: Both Comby and Cravens included ALL life cycle costs.”

    Funny, because that’s not the cost the people actually running nuclear power stations are paying to produce it.

    You’d’ve thought they would know how much THEY are paying to produce, wouldn’t you.

  45. 345
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ““It’s expensive” is really one of the silliest arguments made against nuclear power. You didn’t make that argument against wind when wind was ridiculously expensive, did you?”

    Wind was expensive when it was still early and not considered useful for replacement.

    Now wind isn’t expensive and it is being considered for replacement.

    This is why that arguemnt wasn’t made: it didn’t apply.

    And if expense is a silly reason, then we can ignore cost.

    So we have nuclear power vs wind.

    Wind wins. There’s far far more wind power available than there is nuclear power available and wind doesn’t run out.

  46. 346

    Did 322: It disgusts me that every time nuclear power comes up, you repeat the same lies. Isn’t that one of the hallmarks of a denier? You said “I count 15 Americans known dead from nuclear power.” This is a LIE.

    BPL: By gosh, you’re right and I’m wrong! I miscounted. It’s only *** 14 *** deaths.

    Count with me, my mathematically educated friend:

    09/02/1944. Manhattan Project, Nevada, USA. Uranium enrichment device explosion and radiation release. 2 fatalities.

    08/21/1945. Manhattan Project, Nevada, USA. Hand pile assembly accident. 1 fatality.

    04/??/1946. Manhattan Project, Nevada, USA. Hand pile assembly accident. 1 fatality (8 workers contaminated).

    12/30/1958. Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, NM, USA. Criticality accident in plutonium recovery operation. 1 fatality.

    01/03/1961. National Reactor Testing Station SL-1 military research reactor, Arco, ID, USA. NRC attributes this to sabotage. 3 fatalities.

    07/27/1972. Surry Unit 2 commercial reactor, Virginia, USA. Steam explosion. 2 fatalities.

    12/09/1986. Surry Unit 2 commercial reactor, Virginia, USA. Steam explosion (again). 4 fatalities.

    2 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 4 = 14, by golly!

    Boy, is my face red. Clearly, EGs contention that “ZERO” Americans have died from nuclear power must be correct, since, as we all know, 14 = 0.

  47. 347

    EG: The costs per kilowatt hour for solar and wind are 600 or more times the cost for coal

    BPL: California costs for coal power are 10 cents per kWh. Apparently you maintain that the cost for wind and solar electricity is $60.00 per kWh.

    Of course, the cost for wind electricity there is 9 cents per kWh. So are you, instead, maintaining that the cost of coal electricity is 0.015 cent per kWh?


    [Explosion of ticker tape, band plays “Three Cheers for the Red White and Blue,” crowd goes wild]

  48. 348
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Edward Greisch says:
    2 May 2010 at 8:35 PM

    309 Ike Solem: …How much is some coal company paying you to tell those lies? ”

    How much is GE’s nuclear arm paying you and didactylos to tell your lies and smear others with such transparent BS?
    If it’s not GE, please tell us which nuclear arm it is.

    Or do you work for the nuclear military?

  49. 349
    meteor says:

    Hi Gavin

    the origin of the added 100 ppm of CO2 is not a problem for me.
    It is essentially anthropogenic (if we except maybe about 5-10 ppm from température?)
    But I have a problem with 14C isotope.
    I’s OK before nuclear weapons but is there a method to use this it with relative accuracy after the 60s-70s?

  50. 350
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, let me see if I’ve got this straight: so there must be “some process” that is responsible for the temperature rise other than CO2–this, even though we know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and warming was predicted nearly a century before it was observed. And there must be “some process” that is responsible for the increase in CO2 other than burning of fossil fuel–this, even though we know that humans have produced about twice as much CO2 as is needed to account for the atmospheric increase, and fossil fuels have the right isotopic signature and the oceans are acidifying as well….

    Sam, shouldn’t it tell you something when you have to try so hard to explain things and all you can come up with is–it must be something else, I know not what. Sam, sometimes you just have to believe what all the evidence is telling you. It’s part of being a responsible adult. It’s part of not being a clownshoe.