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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. 351
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “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?”

    Why is it OK before but not after?

    It’s not like we’ve actually blown up that much in the way of neutrons (that are required to change the isotopic signature of C14).

  2. 352
    Steve Metzler says:

    meteor, hi,

    There is a very nice graph on the Wikipedia page for radiocarbon dating that illustrates the effects of nuclear testing on 14C concentration (indeed, it almost doubled for a short period):

    Even though the graph tails off at 1995, it looks to me that extrapolating forward, it would be back to its pre-testing level by around 2005 at the latest (given that atmospheric nuclear testing has ceased completely). In any case, whatever’s left is accounted for by calibration, which has different offsets for the northern and southern hemispheres.

    Steve Metzler (formerly Steve in Dublin)

  3. 353
    Ike Solem says:

    Let’s try and get back on topic – take CJ Allegre’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro” – which some fossil fuel flack (Inhofe, I’m guessing) in the U.S. Senate conveniently translated into English and posted on the Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee website

    On October 17 [2006], the EPW Majority issued a press release, Decorated Scientist Defects From Belief in Global Warming – Caps Year of Vindication for Skeptics…

    Here’s what Allegre had to say then:

    The argument that builds upon the retreating white cap of Kilimanjaro seems implacable. The retreating white cap is observable, tangible. Indeed, but things are not as straightforward as they seem. The gradual retreat of the snows of Kilimanjaro is often imputed to local phenomena, the main one of these being desertification in East Africa. In a recent issue of Science magazine, French researchers have shown that this desertification was in a large measure due to tectonic activities responsible for the gradual uplift of the African continent, thereby inducing a reorganization of atmospheric circulation. Greenhouse effect plays no significant role in these processes.

    Yes – in the past century, there’s been explosive uplift in Africa, which is causing desertification, leading to the melting of Kilimanjaro icefields – has the man lost his mind? This is the guy that French president Sarkozy wanted to head his science&technology section?

    Now, let’s compare that to the reports by those who’ve actually done a lot of work on Kilimanjaro:

    In 2002, Thompson and his colleagues shocked the scientific community with their prediction that the ice fields capping the mountain would disappear between 2015 and 2020, the victims, at least in part, of global warming. Returning to his campus office last week, he admits that nothing has happened to alter that prediction.

    This falls into the general category of tropical warming trends (as opposed to polar and mid-latitude warming trends) – and there’s been some recent work on that:

    Clement et al. (2010) Climate change: Patterns of tropical warming, Nature Geosciences

    The effect of rising greenhouse-gas emissions on climate is not uniform across the globe. An analysis of the mechanisms behind model-projected changes in ocean temperature gives greater confidence in the pattern of tropical warming and its potential impacts.

    Figure 1: Sea surface temperature change over the twenty-first century, averaged over 22 climate models (mid-range scenario)

    The warming tropical oceans can lead to changes in monsoon patterns, and the overall temperature increase is undeniable – there is no cooling cycle, no “negative phase of the PDO” that will counteract this.

  4. 354
    J. Bob says:

    #328 Ray, did you even read the item, and understand what non-linear effects are? Go back and read the simple example, and get some idea how complicated non-linear systems are. But then, how many real life non-linear models have you had to deal with?

    #334 Steve, let me put it another way for you. IF you have never been in a design process, there is something called “sign off”. That is, the engineer(s) put HIS signature on a document approving the design. In a number of cases, real lives can be involved if the design is wrong (i.e. rudder control servo on a aircraft). If the design was found to be faulty, in a crash, the engineer could be held liable, and all those in the chain that also “signed off”. Or in a much smaller case, a product might have to be recalled (“more modest burn”), but there are some significant consequences of “getting it wrong” vs putting out a journal item.

    Steve on your 2nd pt., I think you are confusing me with another post, I said nothing about “faith”. But the item I referenced might help in your understanding non-linear systems

    #301 JiminMpls, I’ve felt a lot safer inside the nuclear power plant at Prairie Island, then driving there from Mpls. International airport.

  5. 355

    BPL @ 347:

    Those look to be retail power rates. Bulk coal power is typically in the $20 to $40 per megawatt-hour range for wholesale pricing. On top of that is profit, distribution expense, regulation expense, etc.

    The fact that you didn’t list all the other power sources — natural gas, oil, hydro, etc. — tells me that they definitely aren’t wholesale prices.

  6. 356
    Didactylos says:

    BPL said “Count with me, my mathematically educated friend:”

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

    NOT nuclear power.

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

    NOT nuclear power.

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

    NOT nuclear power.

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

    NOT nuclear power.

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

    Military nuclear power.

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

    NOT a radiation incident.

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

    NOT a radiation incident.

    So, if you want to take a strict accounting, you have 0 fatalities. If you want to stretch the definition of “nuclear power” a little, you get 2 fatalities. If, instead, you look at commercial nuclear power and consider non-radiation deaths, you get 6 deaths from steam explosions and an unspecified number during construction.

    BPL said “Boy, is my face red. Clearly, EGs contention that “ZERO” Americans have died from nuclear power must be correct”

    Exactly. Glad you agree. Or did I just do a hatchet job with your quote?

    No matter, evidently you are not reasonable on this subject, and neither is that CFU guy.

    The irony here is you completely fail to take into account the majority of nuclear power deaths, those arising during construction. But that would reveal just how ridiculous your whole argument is, wouldn’t it?

  7. 357
    Ray Ladbury says:

    If you are expecting me to run screaming from a problem just because it involves nonlinearities, then I would suggest that you need to re-familiarize yourself with the graduate curriculum in physics. There are well developed techniques for dealing with nonlinearities. And guess what. They work. So, when I come across a blog post where someone whispers under his breath, “The system is nonlinear. Ooga, booga,” I just laugh.

    Thanks, Punkin, but I’ll stick to the peer-reviewed literature–you know, where they actually do deal with real-life nonlinear systems.

  8. 358
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by J. Bob — 3 May 2010 @ 10:46 AM:

    So you are just refusing to answer my questions. What kind of behavior is this? By the way, as I made quite clear, the climate science is faith bit is part of the statement of purpose of the scienceofdoom website you are recommending.


  9. 359
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by Rick Brown — 2 May 2010 @ 7:15 PM:

    Thanks for the reference. Steve

  10. 360
    SecularAnimist says:

    Didactylos wrote: “So, if you want to take a strict accounting, you have 0 fatalities. If you want to stretch the definition of “nuclear power” a little, you get 2 fatalities. If, instead, you look at commercial nuclear power and consider non-radiation deaths, you get 6 deaths from steam explosions and an unspecified number during construction.”

    I notice there is no mention of cancer deaths attributable to uranium mining.

  11. 361
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I notice there is no mention of cancer deaths attributable to uranium mining.”

    Or merely deaths to mining.

    It’s not like it’s magically safe if it’s uranium you’re hauling out of the ground as opposed to coal…

  12. 362
    Dikran Marsupial says:

    Sam@316 “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.”

    It never ceases to amaze me that people think that scientists don’t test their theories or know that co-incidences happen and consider the probability of observing a result happening by chance (e.g. statistical hypothesis testing). Most do little else! ;o)

    In this case the theory is easy to test and has been tested very extensively by a variety of means. Get the data on atmospheric CO2 and anthropogenic emissions (from fossil fuel use and land use changes) from the carbon dioxide information analysis center ( and you will find that the annual growth in atmospheric CO2 is always less than (on average about half) the level of anthropogenic emissions (although there is a lot of variation from one year to the next). This proves that the natural environment is a net sink and hence can’t be responsible for the rise.

    Gavin is correct to say that the anthropogenic origin of the post-industrial rise in CO2, however, the large exchange fluxes do mean that it is quite easy to come up with arguments to show that man is not responsible, that while apparently reasonable are nevertheless false. For instance

    “The amount of amount CO2 exchanged yearly between the the ocean and atmosphere probably totally dwarfs our contribution”

    Did you test your theory? ;o)

    That statement is absolutely true, but tells you nothing about the long term rise as it is the difference in total emissions and total uptake, rather than the total magnitude of the flux that matters.

    I guess the point is that there is little there left for the scientists to bother talking about, but there are plenty of intelligent members of the general public that don’t understand the issues or history, so questions like this are not going to go away.

  13. 363
    Walt Bennett says:

    Gee how I hate to bring this up, BUT:

    If you still have to write posts such as this in 2010 (AIT+4, I believe??), and then we have this news:

    UN: No comprehensive climate deal this year

    …are we starting to understand what time it is?

  14. 364
    Holly Stick says:

    @338 Ike Solem:

    I don’t know why you expect me to comment on this firing in 2008; I don’t watch CNN and don’t know much about it. Here in Canada we have our own problems with dishonest and inadequate media, and the reduction of good reporting by corporate owners pushing their own interests.

    Newspapers and probably TV stations have shrinking pools of reporters; and there are probably few that have time to learn enough to understand what they are writing about. It’s not just a problem with science reporting, but with any complicated issue.

    There’s some debate now about why rightwingers get more TV time. Their advantage may be that they are loud and entertaining; and in my opinion the leftwingers are hampered by respect for the truth and a general sense of decency.

  15. 365
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Uranium enrichment device explosion and radiation release. 2 fatalities.

    NOT nuclear power.”

    Uh, don’t you have to enrich uranium for power stations?

  16. 366
    Rod B says:

    BPL, you’re going to stick to that wind power for 9c/kWhr in California until the cows come home, aren’t you?

  17. 367

    #337 Edward Greisch

    Are you predicting that we can predict the future solely based on the past?

    Quoting a wiki page on background radiation from human sources does not address the future risks.

    We are not recycling nuclear waste, we are storing it.

    No one can predict the costs and dangers of such storage in the future.

    My concerns, from a security perspective revolve around the economics, containment degradation, and potentials for materials to be used by terrorists.

    As you know, we have a little problem with global warming. The national security reports indicate that this is not healthy for maintaining functioning governments.

    It’s pretty simple.

    Terrorism: The risks are high that materials can end up in hands that will not recycle the material, but rather use such material for more nefarious means.

    Economics: handling costs are high and containment degradation potentials are already apparent in some instances. I can’t yet predict the future but expect further degradation, and if the national security reports are reasonable, expect economic, thus government breakdown of various levels over various time scales. We may not be able to afford to recycle the waste.

    You nor I, nor anyone else can guarantee we will be able to constrain these problems reasonably. I am not against nuclear power, I am for serious consideration of the consequences in relation to economic capacity to address potential problems.

    There are indications that thorium reactors resolve many of these problems. There are indications that in the end, thorium plants are cheaper to build and maintain. There are indications that thorium reactors have a smaller footprint.

    My advice to policy makers would be to immediately drive toward the thorium solution because form a risk reward ration analysis it is reasonable to see that the advantages and cost savings outweigh the risks and cost sof additional 2nd gen plants.

    Take the cost of a single 2nd gen plant and maybe, just maybe we would arrive and the 4th gen solution. I don’t think success is out of the realm of possibility here. We as a human race can be quite innovation when we focus on a problem.

    A Climate Minute The Greenhouse EffectHistory of Climate ScienceArctic Ice Melt

    ‘Fee & Dividend’ Our best chance for a better future –
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  18. 368

    Did 356: did I just do a hatchet job with your quote?

    BPL: No, you just defined your way out of the problem by excluding all the nuclear-related deaths that didn’t match some bizarrely narrow criterion. It reminds me of the way the nukies used to say “There has never been a civilian death from nuclear power in the US,” because they defined “civilian” to exclude power plant workers.

    Take your shameless industry shilling somewhere else. It’s a reasonable position that the dangers of nuclear are less than the dangers of coal. It is NOT a reasonable position that there are ZERO dangers. It’s reasonable to say nuclear hasn’t caused as many deaths as fossil fuels. It is NOT reasonable to say it has caused NO deaths. Quit lying by omission.

  19. 369

    RodB 366: BPL, you’re going to stick to that wind power for 9c/kWhr in California until the cows come home, aren’t you?

    BPL: Well, I’d prefer it to drop radically, of course.

  20. 370
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    OT (shock!) but there doesn’t seem to be an active open thread.

    Who is the anonymous physicist pushing denial on kids?

    Not to mention some of the other rot at DeSmog. Of course RC can’t deal with all of it and I will be happy to see more science here. But can’t knowledgeable commentors give DeSmog some love? Besides, I hope some of you can ID the physicist.

  21. 371
    Frank Giger says:

    CFU had this gem:

    “361.“I notice there is no mention of cancer deaths attributable to uranium mining.”

    Or merely deaths to mining.

    It’s not like it’s magically safe if it’s uranium you’re hauling out of the ground as opposed to coal…”

    Or getting cancer and dying from simply being out in the sun.

    Your magical pure, free engergy source is a killer, CFU.

    Shall we compare cancer deaths due to solar radiation against aluminum mining fatalities?

    Do you really want to go there?

  22. 372
    J. Bob says:

    #357 Ray, Ray, no one ever said non-linear problems were impossible, so no “spinning”. However they are generally more difficult then constant coefficient linear differential equations. Nor do they lend themselves to nice, closed form solutions, which is where digital, and yes, even analog computers, offer insights into a system through modeling. This is especially true, in a system as complicated as the earth.
    Since it sounds like you are knowledgeable about non-linear systems, let me repeat my question above, how many non-linear systems have you had to develop, analyze and compare real data to? Remember, not just reading articles, but actually building them up from “scratch”, including numerical precision, and iteration methods and step size.

    #358 Steve, I answered your question. I assume you are capable of reading an article, digesting it, and coming to your own conclusion, without worrying so much about what the source is. Besides if you are that confident of your “faith”, then reading what the opposition has, should strengthen your “faith”, since your “faith” has been tested.

  23. 373
    John E. Pearson says:

    370: no idea who funded it but I found the notion of a “3000 year old plot” that they mentioned in the video to be pretty interesting. I always thought de Cartes came up with the notion of Cartesian coordinates but apparently I was misinformed.

  24. 374
    Hank Roberts says:

    > is there a method to use [C14] …

    Adjustment for the C14 spike (the first link under Science in the right sidebar on each page of RC, a good place to begin)

  25. 375
    Edward Greisch says:

    Public Input Sought on Adapting to Climate Change:
    Interim Report Released
    Comments due by mid-June

    In October 2009, an Executive Order established an Inter-agency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. The Task Force is developing Federal recommendations for adapting to climate change impacts both domestically and internationally.

    The final recommendations are due in October of this year and the Task Force is seeking public input.

    Interim Progress Report
    On March 16, 2010, the Task Force released an Interim Progress Report which outlines the Task Force’s progress to date and recommends key components to include in a national strategy on climate change adaptation. These six components include:
    1) Integration of Science into Adaptation Decisions and Policy
    2) Communications and Capacity-building
    3) Coordination and Collaboration
    4) Prioritization
    5) A Flexible Framework for Agencies
    6) Evaluation

    State stakeholders who have an understanding of climate change issues are especially encouraged to submit comments.

    The Interim Progress Report is available for 60 days of public comment. Submit your comment at:

    The comment period will end in mid-June, 2010.

  26. 376
    Ike Solem says:

    @Holly Stick – energy and climate issues are not left/right issues, rather they are basic economic and ecological issues. Regardless of ideology, everyone needs food, water, light, heating, cooling, transportation, and hospitable living conditions free from infectious diseases, correct? Leftwingers and rightwingers are both worse than useless when it comes to replacing fossil fuels with renewables – they just don’t seem to do their homework.

    For example, “leftwingers” were happy when Obama announced an ARPA-E initiative to boost renewable energy technology (at least that’s what it sounded like). “Rightwingers” were happy when George W. Bush announced a “zero-emissions clean coal initiative” in what, 2002? What is actually going on here?

    Codexis Awarded ARPA-E Grant for Carbon Capture Clean Air Technology

    REDWOOD CITY, Calif., May 3 Codexis, Inc. (Nasdaq: CDXS) today announced that the company has been selected to receive up to a $4.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for development of innovative technology to remove carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plant emissions. This is the company’s first grant under the ARPA-E Recovery Act program. The grant supports development of biocatalysts for more efficient carbon capture from coal-fired power plants…

    The problem with coal combustion streams is that they’re very dirty, and that’s before you even capture any CO2. All that sulfur, arsenic, mercury and so on has to go somewhere – but it’s toxic waste, and there’s no good disposal system – look at the TVA ash spill, if you want an example. Even capturing all the CO2 from a pure stream of 10% CO2 in air is difficult enough, energy wise – and storage of all the captured CO2 is itself implausible. Three strikes, but it’s still sucking up billions in federal funding – and both the Bush and Obama Administrations have thrown their political weight behind the coal-to-gasoline plants, I mean the zero-emission coal gasification plants, haven’t they?

    Left-wing coal boosters and right-wing coal boosters – I suppose that with two wings, it’s easier to get the dirty coal bird off the ground? Is that how it works? We’re also seeing bipartisan support for Canadian tar sand imports… I’m not sure which is dirtier, coal-to-gasoline or tar sand-to-gasoline? Neck and neck?

    Another problem with ARPA-E is that the money only goes to private comapanies – and how are they selecting them? NSF and NIH grants are put through an independent peer review process, but the DOE selection? How does that work? Furthermore, who ends up controlling the patents generated with these taxpayer dollars?

    If you really want to build a globally competitive renewable energy research base in this country, first you need to finance public university R&D departments – which ARPA-E doesn’t do – so that you can build up a base of professors who will train graduate students in cutting edge technology & research. Most of those graduate students will end up in private industry – that’s the Silicon Valley model, from the 1970s onwards, and it was extremely successful.

    What you need, therefore, are renewable energy research divisions at major universities – solar, wind, photosynthetic fuels, energy storage & distribution, etc. – and they’ll need federal funding. Consider that university-based medical research institutes are widespread, and they’re funded by the NIH (some $30 billion a year, I believe) but the DOE, a highly politicized & privatized organization, refuses to make such funds available – unless you’re doing coal or nuclear research. Take a look at their most recent budget request, if you don’t believe me:

    That’s why the science funding agencies need to be one step removed from the political circus – so that the fossil fuel and nuclear interests can’t set the research agendas by decree.

  27. 377
    Steve Fish says:

    RE- Comment by J. Bob — 3 May 2010 @ 8:07 PM:

    In fact, you have not answered any of my questions and are trying very hard to conflate the claims of your preferred website ( that climate scientist’s are making faith based claims with what I have said. So please answer what critics of climate science have been “burned” by what “hype,” what truths have they been able to determine, and what is faith based in climate science.

    Besides learning more about climate science, one of my motivations for reading here is to study how the pseudoskeptics deliberately try to prevent any confidence in good scientific information. My interaction with J.Bob here is a prime example of how to employ web trolling in this cause. For anybody wishing to see how this troll works, here is the series of posts to look at. You can highlight the name and date/time below and hit CTRL + f to search for the posts, but I am also putting in post numbers even though they may change a little because of the way that this site enters posts.

    Comment by Dale Power — 30 April 2010 @ 9:11 PM
    #247. Dale asks why some professionals, who have the training that should help them to understand, instead make fantastic claims about climate science.

    Comment by J. Bob — 2 May 2010 @ 10:35 AM
    #308. J.Bob claims that, unlike climate scientists, some geologists and engineers “deal with real world problems” and “have been burned enough to look beyond the hype, to the real state.”

    Comment by Steve Fish — 2 May 2010 @ 11:56 AM
    #312. I ask for a factual explanation of the burned and hype claim.

    Comment by J. Bob — 2 May 2010 @ 3:39 PM
    #321. J.Bob ducks the question and recommends a pseudoscience website that claims that climate science is faith based.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 2 May 2010 @ 7:33 PM
    #334. I ask again for an explanation of “burned,” “hype,” and what in climate science is faith based.

    Comment by J. Bob — 3 May 2010 @ 10:46 AM
    #354. J.Bob offers a bunch of unresponsive text intended to confuse.

    Comment by Steve Fish — 3 May 2010 @ 12:12 PM
    #358. I try to clarify and redirect the questions.

    Comment by J. Bob — 3 May 2010 @ 8:07 PM
    #372, J.Bob continues to try to avoid and confuse.

    I find these people to be fascinating. If you are interested in this denialist phenomenon, read through this sequence, if you haven’t already done so.


  28. 378
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Frank’s a wit (or halfway there): “Or getting cancer and dying from simply being out in the sun.”

    Yah, I’m afraid that you don’t work out under the sun. You work under a roof. The sun has a bit of a job getting through that.

    Frank, stop trying to be clever, you haven’t got the equipment.

    PS most solar caused cancers are from people sitting out in the sun deliberately to get tanned. I don’t know that many people who mine uranium on their summer holidays.

    But maybe you do, being so in to nuclear power, hmm?

  29. 379
    Sam says:

    (339) Martin Vermeer,

    I am not trying to play “mind games”! Also if you or someone else would like to explain how C14 proves CO2 rise is due to humans, please go ahead.

  30. 380
    Sam says:

    (362) Dikran Marsupial,

    “That statement is absolutely true, but tells you nothing about the long term rise as it is the difference in total emissions and total uptake, rather than the total magnitude of the flux that matters.”

    Yes emissions and uptake are important, but couldn’t even a small alteration in the huge exchange of CO2 to and from the oceans perturb the overall level of CO2 in the air?

  31. 381

    Frank Giger #371:

    Or getting cancer and dying from simply being out in the sun.

    Your magical pure, free engergy source is a killer, CFU

    As a mining advocate maybe you have difficulty knowing when you’re plumbing the depths but that’s really feeble. You don’t have to use solar power to suffer skin cancer. If no one used nuclear power, there would be no nuclear power-related fatalities.

    This is all a pretty pointless argument anyway. Stationary power is the easy problem to solve. Replacing oil-based mobile energy sources is a much harder problem.

  32. 382

    Frank Giger #371:

    Or getting cancer and dying from simply being out in the sun.

    Your magical pure, free engergy source is a killer, CFU

    As a mining advocate maybe you have difficulty knowing when you’re plumbing the depths but that’s really feeble. You don’t have to use solar power to suffer skin cancer. If no one used nuclear power, there would be no nuclear power-related fatalities.

    This is all a pretty pointless argument anyway. Stationary power is the easy problem to solve. Replacing oil-based mobile energy sources is a much harder problem.

    When an argument gets to the point where even the people I agree with are sounding silly it’s time to stop and move on.

  33. 383
    Ray Ladbury says:

    JBob, Your question is ill-posed. What do you mean by, “from scratch”. Under some interpretations, nearly every homework problem solved in a nonlinear methods class would count! Certainly 3D simulations of a heavy-ion strike to the drain of a transistor would count. The term “nonlinear” is tossed around by wannabes like you as if it should strike terror into our hearts. Physicists have been treating nonlinear systems since the 1600s. Difficult does not equate to impossible.

    Here’s a hint, JBob. You can keep screaming “nonlinear” and running around in circles until you collapse into a panting pile. You can claim that it’s impossible to understand climate because its “nonlinear”. Meanwhile, real scientists will be investingating the system, making sense of it and proving you wrong. I will leave it to you to decide which is the more productive activity.

  34. 384
    Jaydee says:

    Is there any response to Watts story about METAR data?

    [Response: What exactly do you want? It is well known that databases are imperfect and that errors sometimes creep in. That’s why the people who look at these things do cross checks against nearby stations, perform homogeneity adjustments and look out for outliers. The METAR data aren’t what are used in the monthly data put together by GHCN, GISTEMP or HadCRUT so that specific problem is not relevant for any of the analyses we discuss here. Obviously it is a good thing to find errors in these data, and any errors that are spotted should be reported so they can be fixed, but these are not likely to matter very much to any large-scale analysis. – gavin]

  35. 385

    Ike, #376–

    Among the budget tables you linked to, the summary table, at least, doesn’t seem to reflect your conclusion.

    For example:

    Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: 2,156,865 16,771,907 2,242,500 2,355,473 +112,973 +5.0%

    (The numbers are: FY ’09, FY ’09 “recovery” funding, FY ’10, FY ’11, ’10-’11 delta, and ’10-’11 % delta.)

    Contrast with:

    Subtotal, Fossil Energy Programs: 1,097,003 3,398,607 951,133 760,358 -190,775 -20.1%

    If I’m missing something here, please enlighten me.


  36. 386
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “but couldn’t even a small alteration in the huge exchange of CO2 to and from the oceans perturb the overall level of CO2 in the air?”

    It could.

    But it isn’t.

    As shown by the atmospheric CO2 increasing.

    And it wouldn’t be a small alteration, it would be a huge alteration. Just because the Carbon cycle is even huger, doesn’t make the required alteration small.

  37. 387
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Also if you or someone else would like to explain how C14 proves CO2 rise is due to humans, please go ahead.”

    Already tried several times with several people.

    You didn’t listen, though.

  38. 388
    Eli Rabett says:

    Sam also has to account for the decline in oxygen mixing ratio due to combustion (google Ralph Keeling)

  39. 389
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Sam #379, you could start here.

  40. 390
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote to Ike Solem: “How much is some coal company paying you to tell those lies?”

    I respectfully suggest to the moderators, that repeatedly accusing another commenter of being a paid liar, without offering any evidence whatsoever that that commenter is either (1) paid by anyone to comment here or (2) has in fact “lied” at all, should be considered unacceptable.

    Edward, if you have evidence that someone is paying Ike Solem to post comments here, let’s see it.

    If you have evidence that Ike Solem is “lying” — i.e. deliberately posting what he knows to be falsehoods, as opposed to posting readily verifiable statements of fact, often documented with links to the original source, that happen to be “inconvenient” to your enthusiasm for nuclear power — then let’s see it.

    Otherwise, I respectfully suggest that you stop embarrassing yourself this way.

  41. 391
    Stephen Baines says:

    @Sam #380. “but couldn’t even a small alteration in the huge exchange of CO2 to and from the oceans perturb the overall level of CO2 in the air?”

    Let me try, perhaps naively considering the previous posts.

    Because pCO2 in surface waters is increasing and pH is decreasing in the ocean, we know with about as much certainty as is possible that the net flux of CO2 is INTO the oceans from the atmosphere. This net movement is occurring despite the fact that warming of the ocean should have the opposite effect because warm water holds less CO2. The change in C-13/C-12 ratios in atmospheric CO2 also indicate that the increasing CO2 is coming from burnt or respired organic material produced by plants, and NOT from the dissolved inorganic carbon reservoirs in the ocean. Basically, the evidence for net flux of CO2 into the ocean is incontrovertible.

    Unwittingly, you touch on an issue of grave concern. The continued ability of the ocean to suck up 1/3 or more of the CO2 we emit is one of the things helping us out now and one of the main uncertainties about the future (perhaps at the expense of calcifying marine organisms!). Increased stratification, decreased ventiliation, greater surface warming, and lower pH all tend to reduce the ocean’s capacity to take up CO2. That would leave more of what we produce in the atmosphere. So, yes, we do worry about whether the net flux of CO2 into the oceans will change over time.

    Hope that helps.

  42. 392
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Sam also has to account for the decline in oxygen mixing ratio due to combustion (google Ralph Keeling)”

    Which would require the oceans to split the carbon out and let it go whilst keeping the oxygen locked up somewhere else.

    Maybe Abyss was a documentary..?

  43. 393
    Edward Greisch says:

    From the interagency task force on adaptation to climate change:

    “The Task Force has found that climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, nearly every aspect of our society and the environment. Some of the impacts are increased severity of floods, droughts, and heat waves, increased wildfires, and sea level rise. Climate change impacts are pervasive, wide-ranging and affect the core systems of our society: transportation, ecosystems, agriculture, business, infrastructure, water, and energy, among others. Climate change already is affecting the ability of Federal agencies to fulfill their missions.”

    Claude Allègre cannot explain the floods in Kentucky or any of the other incidents of “The rain moved” that happened over the past few years. Let’s start talking to people about floods and droughts.

  44. 394
    Jim Eager says:

    Folks, Sam is desperately grasping at straws. Any straw will do as long as it might let humans off the hook. It’s pointless to engage him further.

  45. 395
    Steve Metzler says:

    Folks, Sam is desperately grasping at straws. Any straw will do as long as it might let humans off the hook. It’s pointless to engage him further.

    Agreed. Time to stop feeding this troll. He’s not reading anything we point him at, at least not for comprehension. Just keeps dragging up the same old already debunked points from denialist sites, or keeps JAQing off with stuff he makes up out of of his head.

  46. 396
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Okay, so I’m the only one that took Sam’s question at face value… I confess, hopelessly naive. But if there’s anybody else wondering what’s the deal with 14C, it’s this: this unstable isotope is being continually produced in the atmosphere by cosmic ray bombardment, and gets incorporated into living plants.

    The atmospheric 13C/12C ratio tells us that the additional carbon found in the atmosphere — and going into the ocean — comes from plants, not volcanoes. What it doesn’t tell us is when those plants lived: recently — deforestation; or a long, long time ago — fossil fuels. Atmospheric 14C tells us this: recent plants still contain the 14C they absorbed from the atmosphere, and release it back on decay. In fossil fuels, the 14C decayed long ago (half-life 5730 years), so burning them doesn’t release any. That’s the story. The nuclear tests in the atmosphere starting late 1940s are an unfortunate complication.

  47. 397
    Stephen Baines says:

    As a long time lurker, I was actually thinking of those invisible masses that are browsing rather than Sam the troll. (They are out there…I know they are.) And personally, I like it when someone grasps at straws and the whole hayloft falls on them. It’s good slapstick.

    But I will defer to wiser heads.

  48. 398
    Hank Roberts says:

    Martin, I did suggest Sam look at
    (don’t know if he did look at it or not, but it’s a good start)

  49. 399
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Okay, so I’m the only one that took Sam’s question at face value… I confess, hopelessly naive”

    I think several people took his earlier questions at face value.

    Sam didn’t listen.

    Therefore they stopped taking his questions at face value.

    By Your Works Shall Ye Be Known.

  50. 400
    Jim Eager says:

    Stephen Baines @397, we engaged Sam, some of us specifically for the benefit of those lurking here to learn. It’s just that the teaching moment has passed and become the tiresome game of whack-a-mole with a wooden fence post.