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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. 201
    Gilles says:

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

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

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

    yes, because “BAU” is not a scientific assertion at all – it is just a “what if ” scenario and there is no serious reason to think it is realistic – actually it is not a scenario at all because it says nothing about the effects of resource depletion on business, even done as usual. So it cannot be really used for policy decisions – and the current vacuous state of the climate policy is just an experimental proof of this. Second, you just confirmed that the debate around climate science is dominated by its political implications, not by its scientific level.

  2. 202

    EG 176: Nuclear has killed ZERO Americans total.

    BPL: No matter how many times you repeat this, it remains a lie. What’s more, you know it’s a lie, since I’ve posted references to the contrary here before.

    Here it is one more time:

    I count 15 Americans known dead from nuclear power. That may be less than from coal, but it is not “ZERO.” And that total doesn’t count the people that have died from the many, many “unplanned releases” of radioactive material.

  3. 203
    Matthew L says:

    As it is pertinent to the kind of mindset that people like Allegre seem to have, I just thought I would repeat here a post I put up in WUWT where I perennially fight a losing battle trying to convince the unconvinceable:

    I am definitely on a “losing wicket” at WUWT (as we say in England) because the way the average poster’s mind on that blog seems to work as follows:
    1. The temperature records are false so it is probably not warming
    2. Even if it is proved the earth is warming it is not very much because positive feedback is exaggerated
    3. Even if it is proved that the temperatures are rising as fast as predicted, there is no proof that it is caused by CO2. It is all natural, and therefore there is nothing we can do about it.
    4. Even if it is proved that temperatures are rising and that it is caused by CO2, global warming is good for man rather than bad.

    In other words it appears to be possible to hold 4 very different positions on the argument simultaneously. It is very difficult to pin down anybody there on what they actually think is true.

    Point 3 is hauled out to trump anybody pointing out pro AGW evidence. It is impossible to completely counter point 3 because of course there are natural variabilities in the Earth’s climate and it is very difficult to prove the change is not natural because it is almost impossible to prove a negative.

    All I can do is repeat the “fingerprints” of greenhouse gas forced temperature rises that make it different to naturally forced temperature rises.
    – more warming at higher than lower latitudes
    – more warming during the night than during the day
    – more warming in the troposphere than the stratosphere (and in the case of CO2 the stratosphere can cool while the troposphere is warming).
    All these effects are currently being seen.

    Individually, there are other possible causes for each of these effects, however the chances of all of them having alternative causes is pretty low, and taken together they make a pretty compelling case for greenhouse gas forced warming.

    Natural forcings tend to affect all temperatures roughly equally, high and low latitudes, night and day, upper and lower atmosphere.

    I have even seen an article on WUWT that said that the above “fingerprints” are all good anyway – a few warm nights and a warmer Arctic can’t harm can they? And this was from a guy who vociferously argues elsewhere that AGW is not happening! Now either it isn’t happening, or it is happening and it is good – you cannot honestly hold both views at the same time.

    However if somebody is absolutely determined not to agree with the scientific evidence of AGW then it is very difficult to persuade them otherwise. It is a bit like trying to turn a Democrat into a Republican or vice versa. Occasionally it does happen – but it is a rare event.

    I started out as a sceptic as that is my general disposition. But I have gradually over the last couple of years, after reading the science, come to the view that AGW is a real threat. Mind you I was always a “floating voter” and open minded. Many of those at WUWT have resolutely closed minds.

    I still have my issues with “alarmism” (particularly in the media and politics) and the over-attribution of every natural anomaly to global warming. However I think the weight of scientific evidence that AGW is happening is compelling if you look at it as a whole and are not prepared to hold four conflicting views simultaneously.

  4. 204
    Brian Carter says:

    175 Philip Machanick:

    Indeed many other ore minerals will dissolve in, say, sulphuric acid, but groundwater is unlikely to be a problem if the ore is so massive that it has to be cracked to allow circulation, and of course full recovery must be the aim of economic mining. It is worth noting that ore sulphates will yield sulphuric acid on roasting so the acid is recyclable, and of course the other metals recovered at the same time can add to the profits. I suspect that you were showing a knee-jerk reaction.

  5. 205


    Well, the National Academy of Science said that AIT got the science mostly right, IIRC. (Curiously, I couldn’t find a really specific link on that, though I found a few that confirmed the basic fact.)

    However, the Texas state climatologist, John W. Nielson-Gammon, submitted this report on AIT to GeoJournal back in 2007:

    His take is critical, but grants somewhat grudging approval (as I read it at least):

    “The movie An Inconvenient Truth is a powerful portrayal of global warming and
    its impacts. The main scientific argument presented in the movie is for the most part
    consistent with the weight of scientific evidence,
    but with some of the main points
    needing updating, correction, or qualification. The detailed argument relies almost
    entirely on past and current evidence and neglects almost all information that can be
    gained from computer models, perhaps because such information would be difficult for a
    lay audience to grasp, believe, or connect with emotionally. This places an undue weight
    on current events as signs of ongoing climate change. . .”

    (From the abstract.)

    Even the most critical reading of this puts AIT orders of magnitude (OK, OK, that’s a metaphor) above the Allegre book we’re discussing on this thread.

  6. 206
    Nick Gotts says:

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

    Are you really ignorant of the distinction between accuracy and precision? If not, you are being deliberately deceitful.

  7. 207
    Bill Ruddiman says:

    Regarding: #90, 106, 128, and 165: Rohling and colleagues published a paper in EPSL early this year showing that the true stage 11 interglacial (with sea level as high as today) lasted less than 10,000 years, not the 26,000 years claimed by the EPICA group and by Broecker and Stocker. Rohling et al also show that those papers completely misaligned that interglacial and the current one. Their abstract concludes: “…the end of Holocene conditions might have been expected 2.0-2.5 ky ago”. So — as I have been saying in print since 2005, stage 11 does not contradict my claim that a new glaciation is overdue, and in fact it supports it.

  8. 208
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “yes, because “BAU” is not a scientific assertion at all ”

    How is it not a scientific assertion?

    Does business as normally conducted now not produce lots of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and other anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gasses?

    And if you can prove business doesn’t do this, this is still a scientific assertion.

    Or are you using the Bill Gates Defence (“it depends what you mean by “is””)?

  9. 209
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “BPL: Wind? Solar? Geothermal? I tend to doubt they make MORE CO2 than nuclear. Nuclear, if nothing else, gives off a lot of CO2 when all that concrete sets.”

    Also, how do you mine the uranium? How do you move the uranium from the place where it’s mined to the processing plant? How do you power the processing? How do you get it to the power station? How do you get the waste out? …

    Lots of transport, lots of power, wasted just to produce nuclear energy and currently most of these produce CO2.

  10. 210
    Completely Fed Up says:

    ““what did it add?”

    -’nuff said.”

    Well, not really. Because if it didn’t actually add anything (you didn’t say it added anything, though you had the chance and took it to NOT say it added anything), it would actually be MORE than enough said. As in you could have said less and THAT would be ’nuff said.

  11. 211

    BR 207: stage 11 does not contradict my claim that a new glaciation is overdue, and in fact it supports it.

    BPL: Orbital mechanics doesn’t. Milankovic Cycles aren’t something we have to guess it. Orbital mechanics has been a very, very precise branch of astronomy since the 19th century. The next stade is in 20,000 years, not “overdue.” And it will be a shallow one. The one after that is 50,000 years from now.

    Can you do matrix math? If so, you can calculate where the Milankovic cycles will be at any given time, millions of years into the past or future.

  12. 212
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks Bill Ruddiman; here’s that cite and a newer one apparently related — grist for a whole new thread I hope! Another good example of how science grows at the interesting ends wherever they go.

    Rohling, E.J., et al., Comparison between Holocene and Marine Isotope Stage-11 sea-level histories. Earth and Planetary Science Letters

    Interesting ‘related’ link: (press release from UCSB):

    Links between eccentricity forcing and the 100,000-year glacial cycle

  13. 213
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    re:201 “and the current vacuous state of the climate policy is just an experimental proof of this.”

    Adjectives aren’t science. They aren’t even argument.

    Elsewhere you complain about the quality of the data in climate science, and you don’t provide a critique of what you mean by quality. It sounds suspiciously like you equate “quality” with the number of decimals.

  14. 214
    J. Bob says:

    Steve in Dublin, the post was meant to be, as we say on this side of the pond, “tongue in cheek”, or not taken seriously.

    However your response would indicate a definite lack of scientific analysis. That is, one makes use of ALL relevant information in searching for the “truth”. Those “goat herd myths” (i.e. Icelandic/Scandinavian sagas, the Bible, or Epic of Gilgamesh), overlay a body of real information. These include Viking settlements in Newfoundland, or the pre-Ur flood discovered by archaeologist Sir Charles Wooley.

    Many of these old chronicles are getting a 2nd look as we get more climate info from these earlier times. In fact these old epics, or sagas, by their cadence, preserve informative accuracy. Similar to the error detect and correction methods used in Internet “packets”.

    So Steve, beware of the “ancient goat herd curse”, where the fleas of a 1000 goats enter your brain. Then you will beseech St. Brendan and the spirit of Old Bushmills, to banish the fleas, purge your ignorance of Science, and sweeten your tongue.

  15. 215
    J. Bob says:

    A classic definition of system feed back is:
    if the output of the systems increases the input, it’s positive
    if the output of the system decreases the input it’s negative.

  16. 216
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “The next stade is in 20,000 years, not “overdue.” And it will be a shallow one. The one after that is 50,000 years from now”

    And if the ice age happens early, that would point to a higher climate sensitivity to a change in the energy balance.

    This doesn’t seem to bother those wanting to make out everything is hunkey-dorey.

  17. 217
    Hugh Laue says:

    #159 Gilles (and responses to your “And it reveals a fundamental problem in climate science. The problem is that this science is NOT characterized by a very high level of accuracy of the theories, ” by my post #122 and Secular/Animist #136).

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

    Of course it is – as shown by hindsight modelling of the observed warming trend. Accuracy is always relative, never absolute. Why, therefore, compare climate theory accuracy (accuracy of what anyway?) to other fields of science and create a false sense of uncertainty – compare apples with apples.
    As I said before, compared with the lack of ANY alternative theory with ANY predictive value the level of accuracy in AGW is — well — infinite.
    Again YOU demonstrate a lack of understanding of climate science in particular and science in general.
    Playing political speak again.

  18. 218
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I still have my issues with “alarmism” (particularly in the media and politics) and the over-attribution of every natural anomaly to global warming”

    You’ll note that this is done mostly in editorial phrasing in media.

    Likewise, they’ll fluff up over-confidence in a statement that *could* possibly be construed as showing AGW is false.

    Controversy, like [edit-lets keep it clean!], sells newspapers.

  19. 219

    J’accuse le manque de comparer! Again and again, contrarians, even French ones, lack expertise, experience, actual field work tactile learning. Hansen et al. with the help of computers predict correctly world global temperatures going on for 20 years. Et Monsieur Allegre? Destroys the very essence of correct science, which is , recognizing successful theories from the failed ones. From there he is lost in the pseudo scientific wilderness world, which as it seems has a great deal of followers, book buyers, tour attendees, TV appearances. In essence fame. Plait-il d’etre un buffon fameux? I recognize the allure, the noose of fame, tantalizing and yet never quenched for no one dares exactness more
    than those who despise it.

  20. 220
    Rod B says:

    Kevin McKinney (205), the National Academy of Science assessed Gore’s movie?? Can you verify that? That’s a bigger waste of my taxpayer money than some military toilet seats!

  21. 221

    #181: CSS by carbonate mineral production
    If I understand correctly, this is exactly the line Vincent Courtillot and co-workers are exploring (in their research for a faster way to do that carbonation). As a former speleologists this form of CSS makes me more comfortable than injecting liquefied CO2 into the underground (even if this will be done at depths I never risk caving into :-)

  22. 222
    Rick Brown says:

    RE: Sam #168 – how is the term feedback used in climate studies?

    You may find it helpful to look at G. Roe 2009. Feedbacks, Timescales,
    and Seeing Red. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2009. 37:93–115

    Available here

  23. 223
    Gilles says:

    ““yes, because “BAU” is not a scientific assertion at all ”

    How is it not a scientific assertion?

    Does business as normally conducted now not produce lots of CO2 from burning fossil fuels and other anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gasses?”

    a-) What do you call “business” ? were the communist economies during the Soviet empire also “business”? because they were burning a lot of hydrocarbons – much more per unit GDP than western ones actually.
    b-) considering the change in the society for 100 years, I don’t think that “as usual” refers to a precise situation.
    Nick Gott : if you want to enter semantic discussions, GCM predictions are neither accurate, nor precise.

  24. 224
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    On the microbe issue. There is a line in the third paragraph from the end of the press release which states:

    “But if microbes manage to adapt to the warmth – for instance, through increased enzyme activity – emissions could intensify.”

    My money is on evolution, especially for microbes which can adapt with amazing speed.

  25. 225

    Regarding the alignment of MIS11 and Holocene, there are several options depending if you consider that the main driver of past climate changes is precession or obliquity. This is discusssed in
    Note that MIS11 is not a good analogue of the present day orbital context because of a different phase between obliquity and precession.
    MIS19 (800 000 years ago) is a closer orbital analogue, albeit occurring with a weaker obliquity amplitude.

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    click through for the whole paper, but it’s worthwhile looking at a bit more from the abstract; they’re talking about how different (or not) MIS-11 was, and whether its differences are sufficient to assume the Holocene would go longer than otherwise might be expected, or not:

    “… . Comparison of the ends of MIS-11 and the Holocene based on timings relative to their respective maxima in mean 21 June insolation at 65°N suggests that the end of Holocene conditions might have been expected 2.0–2.5ky ago. Instead, interglacial conditions have continued, with CO2, temperature, and sea level remaining high or increasing. This apparent discrepancy highlights the need to consider that: (a) comparisons may need to focus on other orbital control indices, in which case the discrepancy can vanish; and/or (b) the feedback mechanisms that dominate the planetary energy balance may have become decoupled from insolation during the past 2 millennia.”

    The ‘shifting baselines’ work reminds us that the whole biological side of the carbon cycle — trophic balance, disappearance of top predators — had gone way out of whack before science even started. So what the early scientists found wasn’t a baseline, it was already a trend in progress.. Look at Jeremy Jackson’s work at Scripps. By the time science _began_ we’d already drastically changed life on the planet, far more than we realized. Many people don’t know about this yet, it’s rather new news in science.

    A reminder that the science isn’t, erm, settled, or it wouldn’t be science. Complications surprise.

  27. 227
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Matthew L says: 30 April 2010 at 6:15 AM

    1. The temperature records are false so it is probably not warming

    Ask rejectionists and they’ll tell you any record leading to an otherwise inescapable and inconvenient conclusion is false. All data, all observational methods, even much of what we thought we knew of physics, if they’re somehow related to climate they have in common the strange coincidence of being flawed in the same direction. Odds-defying, sure, but you -have- to believe it. If you don’t, you have to believe something else and that surely won’t do.

  28. 228
    Valerie Masson-Delmotte says:

    There are limits to the orbital analogies between the current and past interglacials. The alignemnts of Holocene and MIS11 depend on the orbital target (obliquity or precession). In fact, MIS11 is not a good orbital analog because it has a different phasing between obliquity and precession than the current interglacial. The other close analogue can be found earlier (MIS19, 800 000 years ago) but at that time the magnitude of obliquity variations were smaller.
    The limits to aligning the Holocene and MIS11 are discussed in Masson-Delmotte et al Climate of the Past 2006, available online at :


  29. 229
    Doug Bostrom says:

    This discussion on recent research into public argument seems useful in the context of Professor Allègre.

    How to win friends and crush your enemies into the dust

  30. 230
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “I have no connection with the nuclear power industry.”

    I’ll take your word on that.

    Meanwhile, you still owe a public apology for calling Ike Solem a “coal industry shill”.

  31. 231
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “a-) What do you call “business” ?”

    What everyone else calls business.

    Yup, gullible is going for the insanity plea.

  32. 232
    Completely Fed Up says:

    J. Bob says:
    30 April 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Steve in Dublin, the post was meant to be, as we say on this side of the pond, “tongue in cheek”, or not taken seriously. ”

    Ah, so J Bob shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    Got it.

    Everyone! When J Bob says something, its meant to be stupid, so we should ignore him.


  33. 233

    I’ve found people to be very impressed with numbers, stats, equations, & graphs. That makes the climate denial urban legends all that more believable, esp for those searching for some way to deny climate change.

    I actually stumbled on that (dare I say) trick by accident. I was preparing for a town council meeting on whether or not to have a recycling center some 15 years ago. I thought it best to memorize some stats that I could use (I forget what they were, but they were valid stats to my recollection). When I got up to speak, I spit out the stats, and it’s like I bowled the audience and aldermen over with them. Wow, the power of stats. These could have been bogus stats, and they would have been bowled over just the same.

    It’s sort of like “please don’t make me take a stat or science course, I believe you.”

    Like when I was hauled in by the IRS 30 yrs ago, and they wanted to have proof of our house price. I had the big box with me brimming full of receipts. I dumped in on the IRS officer’s desk, and said, “We built our own home.” She pushed the pile back toward me, waving it away, and said, “I believe you.” And to think we could have given some bogus price, or at least just roughly estimated instead of spending hours calculating it…

  34. 234
    Ike Solem says:

    Gavin’s topical comments are well taken – so let’s take a look at how various media outlets are giving a megaphone to Allegre’s unsupported claims:

    The Wall Street Journal, Bret Stephens, Apr 26 2010: “In France, a book titled “L’imposture climatique” is a runaway bestseller: Its author, Claude Allegre, is one of the country’s most acclaimed scientists and a former minister of education…”

    The French government itself, May 27 2009 via Fox News: “Sarkozy wants to bring Claude Allegre, a former advocate of the theory of man-made climate change who now says global warming is not really caused by human activity, into his cabinet to head the super-ministry of industry and innovation.”

    Daily Telegraph, Oct 13 2007: “A sour note was sounded by a leading French climate skeptic, former education minister and award-winning geochemist Claude Allegre. He brushed off today’s announcement as ‘a political gimmick’ and said climatology ‘is not a discipline, it doesn’t exist.'”

    People may be perplexed by this – but let me explain something about academics. You can generally find stubborn old contrarians in the nether regions of every Earth science department who refuse to accept new ideas – plate tectonics had its share of diehard naysayers, and you can still find those who refuse to accept the existence of an asteroid impact at the K-T boundary. The difference, however, is that these people are usually gently tolerated as well as roundly ignored by their peers. They’re never called on by science journalists or given media platforms on PBS NOVA or Discovery science programs – or invited to advise government bodies on science policy.

    The reason the Allegre crowd is atypical is that various fossil fuel PR groups have made efforts to develop ‘a body of media experts’ intended to give oil and coal interests a ‘independent third-party voice’ for use in their efforts to manipulate public opinion on climate and energy issues. These methods have been in use ever since the global warming issue was first raised in the early 1980s, and have been exposed time and time again – try this article, for example:

    Industrial group plans to battle climate treaty, Apr 26 1998 NYT

    Among their ideas is a campaign to recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain…

    More recently, the major U.S. media organizations, whose primary investors are dependent on fossil fuel cash flows, have apparently instituted a policy of firing reporters who offer unbiased assessments of global warming – seen most spectacularly in CNN’s firing of its entire science, technology and environment staff – after they ran an accurate series of articles on the ecological effects of global warming in the Arctic.

    “We want to integrate environmental, science and technology reporting into the general editorial structure rather than have a stand alone unit,” said CNN spokesperson Barbara Levin.

    Translation: “We want to be able to spike stories that upset our owners.” Why? Well, CNN is a TimeWarner subsidiary, and Time Warners investors all have major holdings in the coal, oil, and natural gas sectors. Notice, thus, that if automobiles and electric utilities shift to non-fossil fuel energy sources, these large investors will have to abandon their fossil fuel holdings, and that would also mean an end to coal mining and oil & gas drilling. Take just one example of personal interest, State Street Corporation, which manages many California pension funds, has $1.2 billion in Time Warner. The sum of holdings in Exxon, Chevron, Conoco, Peabody Coal, and Southern Co. alone comes to $24.36 billion.

    The solution? Perhaps an independent media is important enough to require new rules for media organizations – such as tenured positions for editors and reporters, or allowing the media employees to actually elect their bosses from among their own ranks?

    Notice, however, that the Stone Age did not end due to a shortage of stones – better technologies came along – even if they were occasionally suppressed by the vested interests of their day.

  35. 235

    #220–Actually, Rod, I was not able to confirm that, as I mentioned in the original post. Quite possibly I’m mistaken–perhaps confusing Gore’s reception by NAS with a formal assessment?

    But either way, it probably didn’t cost you as taxpayer:

    “Since 1863, the nation’s leaders have often turned to the National Academies for advice on the scientific and technological issues that frequently pervade policy decisions. Most of the institution’s science policy and technical work is conducted by its operating arm, the National Research Council, created expressly for this purpose. These non-profit organizations provide a public service by working outside the framework of government to ensure independent advice on matters of science, technology, and medicine. They enlist committees of the nation’s top scientists, engineers, and other experts, all of whom volunteer their time to study specific concerns.”

  36. 236

    RE “Hansen presumably can’t be bothered to deal with this kind of accusation, but Allègre’s claim is almost certainly libelous.”

    I don’t know about legal matters but I’m wondering if other people, like an org, could sue him for libel against the various persons he lambasts. I’d be willing to contribute to such a lawsuit. Maybe a class action lawsuit.

    Now I’ve taken on a new fight, against anti-environmentalism & climate denialism in the Catholic Church ( ), which is really interesting, because popes and bishops have been admonishing people to mitigate climate change for over 20 years. So the Catholic denialists (many linked to orgs funded by Exxon & Koch Industries) have to be careful not to go against the magesterium (teachings) of the Church (tho they do that too).

    So what do they mainly do is mount broad-brush red herring attacks (witch hunts :)) on environmentalists in general for being neopagan-pantheist-anti-human-atheists. To them that is the real problem, much more serious than environmental problems. Unfortunately the popes have addressed dangers such environmentalism (such as considering people the scum of the earth) in their environmental writings, so these Catholic anti-environmentalists are not so much violating the letter of the teachings, as much as the spirit of them.

    I wish I could sue them in the name of slandering all environmentalists, but the most I can do is expose their devious fallacies, red herrings, and strawmen.

  37. 237
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ike Solem wrote: “… the Stone Age did not end due to a shortage of stones …”

    Actually, in a sense, the Stone Age never ended.

    We still use plenty of stone today — in fact we probably use more stone in a year than all of humanity used throughout the entire “Stone Age”.

    The use of stone was not a threat to the survival of the human species such that a complete and rapid phase-out of stone was required, as is the case with fossil fuels.

    It would be nice if we could just wait for advances in the development, deployment and cost of alternative energy technologies to bring about a “natural” market-driven transition from a fossil-fuel energy economy to one based on harvesting an abundant, endless supply of free wind and solar energy. And I am inclined to think that such a “natural” transition might happen a lot faster than most people think, in spite of fossil fuel industry obstruction.

    But even so, I think that still would not be fast enough to avoid horrific consequences from AGW, hence the need for strong government policies to aggressively accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels and speed the development & deployment of renewables … unless perhaps the parapsychologists make some breakthrough in applied retrocausality so we can start the “natural” transition 30 years ago.

  38. 238
    Bill Ruddiman says:

    Re #212: This is not the first time someone on RC has suggested an updated piece on the current state of the early anthropogenic hypothesis. I am willing to do one later this year, after several articles now in review go online (assuming that Gavin et al think that it appropriate). There have been several very important new developments in this debate.

    Re #225: I fully agree with Valerie that stage 11 is not a good analog to stage 1 and have made that very point several times in my recent papers. But that does not in any way contradict my conclusion that the former ‘type example’ of a long interglacial is no longer valid.

    Re #228: I also fully agree with Valerie that interglacial stage 19 is a better insolation analog to the current interglacial because the tilt/precession alignments are nearly identical. But I see this as yet more support for the early anthropogenic hypothesis. Stage 19 was another short (<10,000 year) interglacial, which means this one should be at an end. And CO2 and CH4 values were headed downwards during the interval in stage 19 that can be unequivocally aligned with the (anomalous = anthropogenic) gas increases of the last several thousand years. Those GHG decreases in stage 19 are consistent with what the hypothesis predicted should have occurred during this one.

    Re #211: Barton, you may want to take a little time off from your 24/7 posting on RC to read what I have published on orbital issues and also to check what Rohling et al said). Orbital changes are integral to my hypothesis and to Rohling's analysis.

    Side note but on topic — a 4/28/10 World Climate Report favorably cited a recent paper by my Wisconsin colleagues and me about how much colder it would be today without early agricultural or industrial-era GHG's. I would have though that Pat Michaels was too clever to fall into "Bill's Trojan horse trap", but I guess not. The trap: if you accept the conclusions of model analyses from Ruddiman and his Wisconsin colleagues, you are also acknowledging the validity of mainstream model estimates of climate sensitivity. Michaels now joins not just Claude Allegre but also Benny Peiser and Fred Singer. After apparently recognizing the actual contents of the Trojan horse, Peiser and SInger abruptly stopped referring to the issue. Anyway, I hope all RC members will join me in welcoming Pat Michaels to the mainstream view on global warming, however briefly.

  39. 239
    David B. Benson says:

    Chris Colose (188) — As I understand it, near equilibrium adding CO2 lead to more CO2 via

    Added CO2 –> warming ocean
    Warming ocean —> outgases CO2

    So just considering the CO2 (orelse just the temperature), there is an amplifying feedback with an s-plane system transfer function of

    T(s) = 1/(1 – k/(s+b)) = (s+b)/(s + (b-k))

    for suitable constants k and b. The impulse response (to a delta function) in the time domain is
    T(t) = k.exp(-(b-k)t)
    for b greater than k; the system is unstable for b less than k.

  40. 240
    Ike Solem says:

    Lynn V says: “I don’t know about legal matters but I’m wondering if other people, like an org, could sue him for libel against the various persons he lambasts. I’d be willing to contribute to such a lawsuit. Maybe a class action lawsuit.”

    Dr. Andrew Weaver, one of the most respected climate scientists in Canada and one of the best climate modellers in the world, has launched a libel suit against the National Post newspaper and its publisher, editors and three writer: Terence Corcoran, Peter Foster and Kevin Libin.

    The 48-page Statement of Claim (download the PDF version here) sets out a National Post pattern of reporting critical and erroneous material about Weaver and, in recent times, refusing to retract or correct when inaccuracies are brought to the paper’s attention. An obvious example was an allegation that Weaver had (or was about to) quit his Nobel-winning role in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – an allegation Weaver dismissed out of hand.

    I actually do not think this is the right approach, since libel laws can also be abused by vested fossil fuel interests (very typical in Britain, for example). For example, do I have to put up with a libel lawsuit from Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi – or George Will – because I claimed they were either completely ignorant of basic scientific facts – or blatantly dishonest? Claude Allegre can likewise say what he wants – it’s called free speech – and yes, he’s free to display his ignorannt vitriolic nonsense to the world. Sue him? Why not just point out the inconsistencies in his arguments?

    I’d push instead for the independence of reporters and editors, and for special rules for all media organizations that ban ownership by holding companies and require long-tern contracts for editors and reporters – essentially, something like a tenure system for media. Why? Look into the CNN firing of the entire science & technology team – along with six executive producers – and you’ll see why some kind of reform is needed.

    I’d also suggest a more democratic system in media companies, in which in-house elections for CEOs are held – as they are in the better academic institutes (Chancellors instead of CEOs, perhaps?).

    Accurate information is the bottom line – and external control by vested fossil fuel interests will only result in disinformation and worse.

  41. 241
    David B. Benson says:

    Bill Ruddiman (238) — Well stated, thanks.

    I take it that the issue of whether there is currently a skipped start into a stade due solely to anthropogenic influences or whether the particular pattern of Milankovitch cycles suffice to explain the skipped descent is still not completely settled. We have “Astronomical calculations show that 65N summer insolation should increase gradually over the next 25,000 years, and that no 65N summer insolation declines sufficient to cause an ice age are expected in the next 50,000 – 100,000 years ( Hollan 2000, Berger 2002).” from

  42. 242
    Geoff Wexler says:


    The vast majority of genuine scientists will see through the BS

    I’m not sure. The validity of the above remark depends on another doubtful proposition i.e that most scientists are well informed outside their own specialty. I know several exceptions and the mechanism is obvious, that they owe a part of their success to a single minded determination to concentrate intensely on a narrow area connected with their work.

    Most sensible professionals in this position keep a modest silence when in foreign territory , but some compensate by substituting prejudice for knowledge. This further restricts their reading so as to amplify their ignorance, a form of positive feedback. Its a pity that people like Allegre and Plimer can’t be subjected to a public examination to check their knowledge of the subject which they like to attack.

  43. 243
    Chris Colose says:

    David Benson (239),

    This may very well be the case, but as I pointed out, the additional CO2 rise is not from the CO2…it’s from some change in the climate regime that the initial radiative forcing from CO2 caused. This is where one needs to be careful in identifying what exactly a “feedback” means in the atmospheric science sense. Perhaps the root cause of the extra CO2 is warming ocean waters and decreasing solubility (this does not turn out to be the biggest factor over glacial-interglacial transitions, and is partially offset by salinity effects), or perhaps a shift in the westerlies and changed upwelling in the ocean (see the Sigman and Boyle paper) for a review of various mechanisms of CO2 change over the glacia-interglacial transitions and my post on the topic here and the associated paper from Bob Anderson). There is really no strict physical mandate that a warming world must be associated with higher CO2 levels (in the sense there is a physical mandate that higher CO2 must lead to a warmer world in the absence of other negative forcings), but it does tend to be the case on timescales shorter than silicate-weathering dominance.

  44. 244
    David B. Benson says:

    Chris Colose (243) — I ind it a superior explanation for beginners to start directly with the idea that CO2 in the atmosphere leads to more CO2 in the atmosphere and then fill in some of the details later.

    The remainder of your comment was enlightening to me. Thank you.

  45. 245
    Edward Greisch says:

    202 Barton Paul Levenson: You included military and foreign uses of nuclear in your list of deaths due to things nuclear. You included incidents that were strictly concerned with bomb making and people fooling around with bomb parts. No fair counting foreign and military with US civilian power. I see 6 deaths from steam explosions possibly linked to commercial power reactors in the US in your confused list. Since steam explosions can and do happen in coal fired power plants, there are zero deaths of Americans that are directly attributable to the fact of nuclear power in your list. Steam explosions have always happened in all kinds of steam engines, especially wood and coal fired steam engines.
    The release of heavy hydrogen, such as at 3 mile island, poses ZERO hazard to people because hydrogen and helium are so light that they go straight up and leave the Earth forever. Earth has insufficient gravity to hold any isotope of hydrogen or helium. The maximum allowed exposure to the public from a nuclear power plant is 15 millirem/year. A coal fired power plant routinely gives you 100 to 400 times that: 1500 to 6000 millirems/year.

    Reference: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007
    Page 98: There is a table of millirems per year from the natural background in a list of inhabited places.
    Chernobyl: 490 millirem/year [natural + accidental]
    Guarapari, Brazil: 3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India: 5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran: 8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Zero excess cancer deaths are recorded. All are natural except for Chernobyl.

    This is a long article referencing some UN documents on natural background radiation.

  46. 246
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 244 David B. Benson – Well I can understand that it can be tricky for beginners, but actually

    Starting before climate response – additions to or subtractions from C anywhere within the ocean+atmosphere+biomass+soil tend to get redistributed, on various timescales (longest for the deep ocean), with rapid responses between the atmosphere and ocean limited by the supply of ions and slow oceanic overturning.

    With the climate response – short to long term – changes in biomass and soil, CO2 solubility in water (temperature and salinity dependence), changes in oceanic circulation and photosynthesis within the ocean (PS if C sinks down into the ocean into water masses that take longer to resurface, then oceanic C will tend to increase; if upwelling water contains more dissolved CO3(-2), then it can take more CO2 from the air (in a reaction that produces bicarbonate ions), maybe some other things…

    very long term – changes in climate tend (depending on alignment of precipitation and topography and mineral types) to cause a negative feedback (via chemical weathering and subsequent supply of ions to the ocean) such that a warmer climate tends to pull CO2 out of the air faster – this stabilizes the CO2 level (allowing a finite change in CO2 and climate, as opposed to continual change in one direction) in response to changes in geologic CO2 emissions, and offers a negative feedback to other forced climate changes; however, glaciations can in some ways increase the chemical weathering (by supplying greater surface area of material that can be chemically weathered in warmer conditions found downstream, or perhaps during interglacials within a generally cold period (?), or during glaciations due to lowered sea level); changes in climate may also affect geologic emission via weathering of rocks containing C, and climate, geography, and evolution will affect organic C burial.

  47. 247
    Dale Power says:

    My question is this:

    Do those speaking against Climate science and data actually know they are wrong, or do they believe they are right simply because they don’t have the depth of understanding needed to see that they are lacking information and skill in the area of Climate Science?

    Related to this question, I have to wonder about the Geologists and to a lesser extent the engineers that keep putting themselves forward as Climate Experts, or at least seeing the “errors” in Climate Science, missing what seems to me to be simple errors in their own statements. Are they unable to understand that experts in another field, just may know more about what they are doing in that specific area than someone from a different discipline?

    I think it is clear that most “regular” people are coming to the same conclusion, and that the Climate “Debate” is being won by those with actual data, not just rhetoric.

  48. 248
    Elias says:


    I appreciate all of the work you guys put into debunking this sort of nonsense, but you really should get back to highlighting some of papers and findings that are coming out right now.

  49. 249
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Ruddiman ” Anyway, I hope all RC members will join me in welcoming Pat Michaels to the mainstream view on global warming, however briefly.”

    Very funny! I’ll welcome him with you.

  50. 250
    Edward Greisch says:

    Right now is an ideal time to call our senators and say: “Look how dangerous those fossil fuels are! Pass a strong climate bill now! We have just had 2 coal mine disasters and an oil mine disaster. The coal mine disasters killed 29 plus 2 coal miners and the oil mine disaster killed 11 oil miners and created an environmental disaster that will cost us umpteen jobs and who knows how much wildlife.” Instead, you are wasting time dissing the cheap easy option that can maintain our lifestyle and cut our CO2 emissions by 39%. That cheap easy option is nuclear power. [Yes it is! Yes we can!] Some of you are acting like fossil fuel stockholders. Quit acting like fossil fuel stockholders and act like climate scientists.

    We won’t have another opportunity this “good” to get a strong climate bill until an agricultural disaster happens. That is an “opportunity” we would rather not have to “need.”