Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change

Post image for Sen. Whitehouse Fumes at ‘Climate Deniers’

In a fiery speech yesterday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) “calls out” “climate deniers.” In the first half of the speech he goes ad hominem, attacking opponents as “front groups” who take payola from “polluters” to “confuse” the public by selling “doubt” as their product.

First a bit of free advice for the good Senator:

Your team has been playing nasty from day one. It didn’t get you cap-and-trade, it didn’t get you Senate ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and it’s not going to get you a carbon tax.  

Vilification doesn’t work because biomass, wind turbines, and solar panels are not up to the challenge of powering a modern economy, and most Americans are too practical to believe otherwise.

So by all means, keep talking trash about your opponents. The shriller your rhetoric, the more skeptical the public will become about your bona fides as an honest broker of “the science.”

Okay, let’s examine Sen. Whitehouse’s argument. He accuses skeptics of peddling “straw man arguments,” such as that “the earth’s climate always changes; it’s been warmer in the past.” Well, it does, and it has! Many studies indicate the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was warmer than the current warm period (CWP). A study published in July in Nature Climate Change concludes the Roman Warm Period (RWP) was warmer than both the MWP and CWP. The Northern Hemisphere was substantially warmer than the present for thousands of years during the Holocene Climate Optimum (~5,000-9,000 years ago). Arctic summer air temperatures were 4-5°C above present temperatures for millennia during the previous interglacial period.

None of this is evidence man-made global warming is not occurring, but Sen. Whitehouse sets up his own straw man by making that the main issue in dispute. What the paleoclimate information does indicate is that the warmth of the past 50 years is not outside the range of natural variability and is no cause for alarm. The greater-than-present warmth of the Holocene Optimum, RWP, and MWP contributed to improvements in human health and welfare[click to continue…]

Post image for Scientists Find No Trend in 370 Years of Tropical Cyclone Data

With Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) citing Hurricane Sandy as a reason to have another go at climate legislation, to say nothing of the media spin depicting Sandy as punishment for our fuelish ways, it’s useful to look at some actual science.

In a study published in the journal Climatic Change, scientists Michael Chenoweth and Dmitry Divine analyze the history of tropical cyclone activity in the Lesser Antilles from 1638 to 2009. The Lesser Antilles are the string of islands lying along the eastern Caribbean Sea.

The Lesser Antilles intersect the “main development region” for Atlantic hurricane formation, making storm data there “our best source for historical variability of tropical cyclones in the tropical Atlantic in the past three centuries,” the researchers explain.

Using instrumental data on wind speeds going back to 1900 plus wind-force and wind-induced damage reports for earlier periods, Chenoweth and Divine estimate the Lesser Antilles Accumulated Cyclone Energy (LACE) for each year along the 61.5°W meridian from 18 to 25° N latitude.

Storms forming in this area include most that do or could make landfall in the U.S. In the researchers’ words: “About 60% of all tropical cyclones moving from waters off of Africa pass through 61.5°W south of 25.0°N, the remaining 40% either moving north of 25.0°N, dying out or re-curving to the east of 61.5°W.” Chenoweth and Divine note that LACE is “highly correlated” with Carribbean basin-wide Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) since 1899.

So what did they find? In their words: “Our record of tropical cyclone activity reveals no trends in LACE in the best-sampled regions for the past 320 years. Likewise, even in the incompletely sampled region north of the Lesser Antilles there is no trend in either numbers or LACE.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Was the Medieval Warm Period Confined to Europe?

That’s what the self-anointed ‘consensus of scientists’ claims. As noted in a previous post this week, right after the IPCC famously declared that the 1990s were likely the warmest decade of the past millennium, they stated: “Evidence does not support the existence of globally synchronous periods of cooling or warming associated with the ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Medieval Warm Period’” (Third Assessment Report, Chap. 2, p. 102).

But those remarkable Idsos, Shirwood, Craig, and Keith, keep reviewing studies that find evidence of the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) not only in Europe but also in Asia, Africa, Australia/New Zealand, North America, South America, the Oceans, and even Antarctica. What’s more, the preponderance of these studies indicate that the MWP was warmer than the current warm period (CWP). The Idsos divide these studies into two categories, Level 1 Studies, which attempt to quantify the difference between MWP peak temperatures and CWP peak temperatures, and Level 2 Studies, which indicate whether the MWP peak temperatures were higher than, lower than, or the same as CWP peak temperatures.

This week on their Web site, CO2Science.Org, the Idsos review a study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, that attempts to reconstruct the temperature history of the Antarctic Peninsula from ikaite crystals (an icy version of limestone) in marine sediments. [click to continue…]

Post image for Is Today’s Climate Warmer than the Medieval and Roman Warm Periods?

In 2001, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) featured a graph of Northern Hemisphere temperature history from a 1999 study by Profs. Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes. Because of its shape, the graph became known as the “hockey stick.” From A.D. 1,000 to about 1915, the graph depicts a gradual decline in Northern Hemisphere temperatures (the hockey stick handle) followed by an abrupt upturn in hemispheric temperatures during the remainder of the 20th century (the blade).

The graph appears in the IPCC 2001 report’s Summary for Policymakers, Technical Summary, and chapter 2 on Observed Climate Variability and Change. Based on the Mann-Bradley-Hughes (MBH) study, the IPCC famously concluded that, “The 1990s are likely to have been the warmest decade of the millennium in the Northern Hemisphere and 1998 is likely to have been the warmest year” (chapter 2, p. 102). The IPCC also asserted that, “Evidence does not support the existence of globally synchronous periods of cooling or warming associated with the ‘Little Ice Age’ and ‘Medieval Warm Period’.” The hockey stick instantly became the poster child for pro-Kyoto advocacy, touted as seeing-is-believing evidence that late 20th century warmth was unprecedented during the past 1,000 years, and that mankind’s fuelish ways must be to blame.

Soon after its PR boost from the IPCC, the hockey stick became embroiled in a controversy that persists to this day. Books both pro and con have been written on the subject. Two leading critics, mining consultant Steve McIntyre and economist Ross McKitrick, argued that MBH’s computer program generates hockey stick-shaped graphs from random data. As for the IPCC’s dismissal of the Medieval Warm Period as a European phenomenon, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change maintains a large and growing archive of studies indicating that the Medieval Warm Period was global and/or warmer than recent decades.

A recent study published in Nature Climate Change further undermines the credibility of the hockey stick. The study, “Orbital forcing of tree-ring data,” by Jan Esper of Johannes Gutenberg University, in Germany, and colleagues from Germany, Switzerland, Finland, and Scotland, used X rays to measure changes in the cell-wall density of trees in Northern Finland over the past 2,000 years. The analysis examined both “living and subfossil pine (Pinus sylvestris) trees from 14 lakes and 3 lakeshore sites.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Antarctica: New Evidence Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age Were Global

Did the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) and Little Ice Age (LIA) occur only in Europe, or were they global in scope?

This is a hotly debated question, because it is harder to make the case that the warmth of recent decades is “unusual,” “extraordinary,” or “unprecedented” and therefore something to stress about if global climate oscillates naturally between warming and cooling periods. The catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) crowd tend to write off the MWP (~1000-1200 A.D.) and LIA (~1300-1850 A.D.) as regional phenomena, largely confined to Northern Europe. A new study finds evidence of the MWP and LIA in a region 10,000 miles south of Northern Europe: the Antarctic Peninsula. [click to continue…]

Post image for Is Flood Magnitude in the USA Correlated with Global CO2 Levels?

No — or, more precisely, not  yet — conclude R.M. Hirsch and K.R. Ryberg of the U.S. Geological Survey in a recent study published in Hydrological Sciences Journal.

“One of the anticipated hydrological impacts of increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere is an increase in the magnitude of floods,” note Hirsch and Ryberg. Righto! Google “global warming” and “flood predictions,” and you’ll find more than 2.7 million sites where this hypothesis is affirmed or at least discussed. The researchers explain:

Greenhouse gases change the energy balance of the atmosphere and lead to atmospheric warming, which increases the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere, which in turn, potentially changes the amount of precipitable water.

Sounds plausible, but all weather is local or regional, and a lot more goes into making weather than average global temperature.  In addition, all flooding is local or regional, and a lot more goes into determining flood risk than local or regional weather patterns.

As Hirsch and Ryberg point out, “human influences associated with large numbers of very small impoundments and changes in land use also could play a role in changing flood magnitude,” and “at time scales on the order of a century it is difficult to make a quantitative assessment of the changes in these factors over time.”

That, however, did not stop good ol’ Al Gore from claiming that global warming is responsible for a decade-by-decade increase in the number of large floods around the world (An Inconvenient Truth, p. 106). Gore’s source was a chart from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Figure 16.5, p. 448): [click to continue…]

The Myth of Oil Addiction

by Marlo Lewis on September 1, 2011

in Blog, Features

Post image for The Myth of Oil Addiction

It’s a trick employed by rhetoricians from time immemorial. When their case against an opponent is unpersuasive on the merits, they invoke the image of something their target audience fears or hates. Thus, for example, political pleaders have asserted that money, Dick Cheney, or Zionism “is a cancer on the body politic.”

Perhaps the most influential use of this tactic in modern times is the attack on carbon dioxide (CO2) as “global warming pollution” and on CO2 emitters as “polluters.” Many who know better, including highly credentialed scientists, routinely couple the words “carbon” and “pollution” in their public discourse.

In reality, CO2 — like water vapor, the atmosphere’s main greenhouse gas — is a natural constituent of clean air. Colorless, odorless, and non-toxic to humans at 30 times ambient concentrations, CO2 is an essential building block of the planetary food chain. The increase in the air’s CO2 content since the dawn of the industrial revolution — from 280 to 390 parts per million – boosts the water-use efficiency of trees, crops, and other plants; helps protect green things from the damaging effects of smog and UV-B radiation; and helps make food more plentiful and nutritious. The many health and welfare benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment make CO2 unlike any other substance ever previously regulated as a “pollutant.”

A closely related abuse of the English languge is the oft-repeated claim that America is “addicted to oil.” Although popularized by a Texas oil man, former President G.W. Bush, the phrase is a rhetorical staple of the same folks who inveigh against “carbon pollution.” NASA scientist James Hansen, arguably the world’s most famous carbonophobe besides Al Gore, recently denounced the Keystone XL Pipeline as a “dirty needle” that, if approved, would feed our supposed oil addiction. [click to continue…]