Letter to Plimer: please tell me your sources comparing CO2 emissions?

I firmly believe everyone has a right to defend their views, so rather than simply state Professor Plimer is mistaken, I emailed him this morning to query his statements;

Dear Professor Plimer,

I understand the debate on climate change is a “heated one”, and that you have taken a very public position on the issue.

I agree with sentiments expressed that there should be a robust debate on the issue, and that there is room for dissent in science.

I’d also note that when your book “Telling lies for God” was first published I read and enjoyed it very much. Indeed, it helped me confirm my world view as “sceptical” and alerted me to the dangers of those who would misrepresent science.

I hope you don’t mind me contacting you on above issue, but recently I heard (and read) several public statements made by you comparing the percentage of CO2 emissions of volcanic activity vis-vis human exhalations.

I note the following statements made by you:

An article titled “Climate changing: how global warming lost its science and support”. [IPA Review, Vol62/1 pg 30-31]:

“Humans only contribute to three per cent of the annual exhalation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and it has been shown that this small human addition of CO2 to the atmosphere drives climate change…”

In an interview on Bega 2550 it was reported:

“Professor Plimer says volcanoes emit far more carbon gas into the earth’s atmosphere than human’s 3 per cent annual carbon release….”

I query this, because your statements seem to be at odds with the scientific literature that I have read.

As a consequence, I would politely and humbly ask that you clarify your position on this and cite the appropriate references. As a member of the general public I have an interest in the debate. Though I am not a scientist I firmly believe in the value of good research, as I am sure you do.

I will also note that I maintain a blog that takes a critical view of some of the claims of climate change sceptics. However, I do not wish to simply throw accusations at people or organisations, and that everyone has the right of reply.

The site in question is https://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/

It is my usual practice to publish exchanges, as both sides on the debate have called for honesty and transparency.

If I made any claims which are not factual, I am happy to retract them. However, on the above issue I am concerned that the scientific literature does not support the figure of “only three percent” of C02 emissions

Yours sincerely,

I’m not sure Plimer will reply, but if he does I’ll be curious.


65 thoughts on “Letter to Plimer: please tell me your sources comparing CO2 emissions?

  1. Ken says:

    Ian Wishart has promulgated a similar figure (3.4%) (Fisking Ken Perrott, again).

    I pulled him up on this and he attribute his data to the IPCC reports (3rd and 4th).

    Of course they get this figure by comparing oranges and apples. They are comparing fossil fuel emissions with the total flux of CO2 into the atmosphere from all origins – ignoring the fact that this is balanced by re-absorption into surface pools.

    Ian mumbles to himself trying to explain away the absorption balancing natural emissions (Climategate whitewash excoriated by climate scientists Judith Curry). But the fact is they are both dishonestly playing with the data to produce the type of result they want.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      As I suspected – some monkeying around with data to get a desired result. I’ll be curious if Plimer responds (if at all).

    • Dave McRae says:

      Ahh yes – I’ve hit that chestnut repeated a few times that the ocean puts out far more CO2 than we do – the “yeah but it also absorbs that and more being a net sink” doesn’t deter them in yelling their mantra.

      Nicely worded letter – also curious as to what if any reply you may receive.

    • Dave McRae says:

      Ken – I just popped over to your site – great works.

      I also followed that link to ‘breifingroom’ – what a pack of conspiracy nuts (‘150 years of atmospheric physics is overturned because I’ve made up my facts that include Soros funds Hansen’ of crazy). Scary stuff.

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        Ken’s is a great blog! One of my favorite ones on this topic (mines not bad I guess, but I’d like to aspire to Ken’s achievement) 🙂

  2. Ian Wishart says:

    Well, it’s not actually comparing oranges with apples. Ken’s blithe litte statement overlooks that we don’t actually know the precise natural CO2 flux to the degree of accuracy he assumes for the purposes of his riposte.

    It’s not enough to claim there’s some kind of natural CO2 ‘balance’ with a wave of the hand…we actually have to know how and why before we can use that as a definitive argument.

    As I have gently tried to explain to Ken on previous occasions, the detection of a net change in the CO2 balance doesn’t tell us precisely the mathematics behind it.

    Is the atmospheric CO2 rising primarily because of human emissions, or because humans have deforested the planet significantly impacting on the carbon sinks? Is it a combination of both factors? Where do we decide the balance lies and on what grounds?

    Given the huge variables in CO2 output naturally from year to year, and the fact that the planet appears to have remained largely in balance over recent millennia, it does raise the question about how and why earth was able to remain in balance, and the obvious culprit would appear to be vegetation which can rapidly take up excess CO2 long before it would register in the imprecise ice cores.

    By removing vegetation, there’s an impact that has less to do with how much we emit (which may be less than the decadal natural flux), and more to do with our strangulation of forests.

  3. citizenschallenge says:

    Ian, what about the molecular signature of society produced CO2:

    From RealClimate:
    How do we know that recent CO2 increases are due to human activities?

    “Another, quite independent way that we know that fossil fuel burning and land clearing specifically are responsible for the increase in CO2 in the last 150 years is through the measurement of carbon isotopes. Isotopes are simply different atoms with the same chemical behavior (isotope means “same type”) but with different masses. Carbon is composed of three different isotopes, 14C, 13C and 12C. 12C is the most common. 13C is about 1% of the total. 14C accounts for only about 1 in 1 trillion carbon atoms.

    “CO2 produced from burning fossil fuels or burning forests has quite a different isotopic composition from CO2 (from natural sources) in the atmosphere. . . “

    • Ian Wishart says:

      I accept the fossil fuel isotopic signature, but again with respect that doesn’t address the totality of the problem. It tells me we are seeing an “overflow”, but it doesn’t tell me whether that’s because too much CO2 is being emitted or because we damaged the biosphere’s ability to process it as rapidly as it used to.

      Do you see the distinction? The debate has concentrated too much on the size of the human emission footprint, which may not actually be outside the natural variation, and not enough on the bleedingly obvious issue that if we restored carbon sink capacity to the way it was 300 years ago that might be far more effective.

      In Air Con I recounted a NYT report on how tropical rainforests are re-growing faster than ever before because of the higher CO2 concentrations in the air…they’re soaking the stuff up like lolly water. If we left forests to run riot, how long do you think CO2 problem would remain?

      Traditionally, vegetation has always been the most rapid responder to CO2. It’s easier for plants to grow bigger, and faster, and over larger areas, than it is for the more or less balanced ocean system to respond on the same timescales.

      Having said that, it’s also worth bearing in mind that words like “balance” are artificial. The IPCC admits heat can take centuries to transfer through the oceans, which affects temperature-related CO2 ingassing/outgassing accordingly. At any one moment, one area of ocean may be warmer and another colder, and that’s without the underlying influence of longer term energy cycles. Some years overall are warmer and some colder. I stand to be corrected but I don’t think anyone has done a real-time complete ocean snapshot based on actual observations.

      Balance is acheived over much longer timescales.

      • Ian Wishart says:

        I should add that the isotopic signature of fossil carbon and burnt forest carbon is similar, which means that the act of collapsing one lung has had the dual impact of slowing biospheric uptake, as well as contributing to the human signature.

      • Dave McRae says:

        And Ian lies regarding carbon isotopes of forest, alive plants, vs fossil or long dead plant material.

        Just in case one may buy his lie, let’s look at carbon dating – plant absorbs CO2, including C14, animal eats plants (or eats animals that eats plants), the food supplies energy and carbon including carbon needed to grow and repair their bones during their life. Upon death, all eating and repairing stops and the carbon within their bones are now not being replenished and that portion of radioactive carbon begins to decay to the stable C12 at a known rate allowing us to measure from the point of death the age of those bones – same “trick” could be used for any organic material. After about 10 half-lives this ‘trick’ becomes too difficult to measure as the amount left over vanishes, ~50,000 years for C14. All fossil fuels have been underground for millions even hundreds of millions of years, and have bugger-all C14. The CO2 that results from burning the C that has zero (or damn close to it) C14 also has zero C14.

        The deniers rave on about C13/C12 ratios to attempt to – you will not be surprised – confuse. Plimer gets away with it on this point by claiming almost all CO2 comes from underwater volcanoes spewing CO2 at 20times our rate – coming from underground the unstable C14 has no solar source to replenish thus zip there. But most other deniers don’t mention it as that scenario is noticeably crazy.

        Yep, C13 is stable thus C13/C12 ratio is same in forests as in coal, but we can still measure that ratio too – we know roughly how much forests contribute as we can see how fast they’re shrinking via satellites such as google earth. And whilst it’s a fair bit, it doesn’t hold a candle to what we burn via coal (Australia ships so much of it every day)

  4. Ian Wishart says:

    Dave, your entire comment still misses the wider point…as the IPCC notes deep in the WG1 report, the actual human contribution to atmospheric CO2 each year is about 3.4% of the total CO2 outgassed by nature. Some years nature coughs up more, sometimes less, and the human contribution is not overly large in the scale of things.

    However, there is no question we have damaged the most rapid-responding of the carbon sinks: the vegetation and forests. Like musical chairs, our CO2 contribution is not being reabsorbed as fast as it would be in an untarnished world.

    The isotopic structure of CO2 that you are raising is irrelevant to my point. I’m working off IPCC figures, I accept that humans are causing CO2 emissions, but I’m telling you that there’s more to the story than simply emissions levels.

    Earth has long had a capacity to absorb CO2 in much bigger fluctuations than the current human dimension…it’s just that we’ve interfered with that.

    • Dave McRae says:

      What a shocker – so you ignore “ingassing” and only mention “outgassing” – damn, that’s a cherrypick without comparison.

      How much do we ingass? How much does the ocean ingass? and vegetation?

      But I know you know the difference between net and gross – I’m gobsmacked you think you can let that rubbish fly past your audience, and doubly astounded it works for your mob.

      (in case someone else is watching – see the image at http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?a=16 called the carbon cycle – the denier is using this image, derived from IPCC figures, but with the arrows that point downwards (the sinks) disregarded.
      I do love it when deniers use IPCC, the very same organisation they claim is wrong in every respect except for the bits the deniers can pick to booster their case – and in this case it does not booster their case, unless they misrepresent it by removing sinks, and misrepresenting is what they do)

  5. citizenschallenge says:

    Ian says: “I accept the fossil fuel isotopic signature, but again with respect that doesn’t address the totality of the problem. It tells me we are seeing an “overflow”, but it doesn’t tell me whether that’s because too much CO2 is being emitted or because we damaged the biosphere’s ability to process it as rapidly as it used to.
    Do you see the distinction?”
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    I do see the distinction, but you are belly button link picking,
    in order to avoid looking at the greater picture.

    • Ian Wishart says:

      Actually, I’d say I was dealing with “the greater picture” in a lot more detail than anyone else in this thread so far.

      Of the total exhalation of planetary CO2 each year, humans are contributing around 3.4%, around half of which is being reabsorbed by the biosphere at any given moment in time.

      Does anyone here have a genuine problem with this from WG-1 of AR4?

      • Watching the Deniers says:

        At this point I’d ask for some references: if not actual links, then at least page and reference numbers.

        You’re making a number of claims Ian, but I think we could all do with specific references in order to assess your claims.

        I believe that is reasonable.

      • Dave McRae says:

        No probs with IPCC AR4 WG-1 http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm nor with the target of your misrepresentation, chapter 7 page515 http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter7.pdf

        Again, if we ignore the absorption, ‘ingassing’, the down arrows, whatever, unless those downarrows are red (ie anthropogenic CO2 absorped by sinks) we can fudge the 3.4% figure.

        Just think about it for a sec – the denialists claim if we weren’t here then outgassing would be 96.6% of current value (100%-3.4%=96.6%) of about 2ppm per year then CO2 must have been completely absent 200 years ago. Or, as many of the denialist mob claim the age of the earth is about 6000 years then the atmosphere would have 12,000ppm at this point in time. I wouldn’t mind a few ounces of what they’ve got.

  6. Ian Wishart says:

    You’ve probably just seen the graph I linked to above, to show Dave nothing is being misrepresented.

    My fisk of Ken Perrott can be found here:


    You might also want to check out my response to Ken in a different thread:

  7. Watching the Deniers says:

    @ Dave

    You said: “Just think about it for a sec – the denialists claim if we weren’t here then outgassing would be 96.6% of current value (100%-3.4%=96.6%) of about 2ppm per year then CO2 must have been completely absent 200 years ago.”

    Now that you put it that way… eh gads!

    @ Ian,

    Appreciate you coming back with something, but I’m more interested research: papers or studies that back your argument, not blog posts by you that paraphrase what you’ve stated here.

  8. Ian Wishart says:

    @WTD…happy to help, but which argument am I making that you need peer reviewed studies for? It’s not controversial that human CO2 emissions equate to 3.4% of planetary exhalation. The issue re the destruction of carbon sinks is uncontroversial, if somewhat obscured in the popular media by too much concentration on the “emissions” from land clearance as opposed to the twin problem of reduced lung capacity.

    @Dave…am I to assume maths was never your strong point? 😉

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks Ian, actually where I believe I can be assisted in the science: I’ve an Arts/IT background not science. As such, having others I can discuss the science with generally helps. Also, when referring to individual research or points about climate change it’s useful to bounce ideas of and ensure I have interpreted correctly.

      One thing I will admit, there is a lot I don’t know. But, with some good pointers I’ll get there.

      Re you points carbon sinks, I understand that well enough. It’s a large complex area, which I find fascinating. It’s not just a chance to beat “sceptics” over the head, learning about the science is fascinating.

      Cheers Mike @ WTD

    • Dave McRae says:

      Let’s do the maths for the bright ones – 2ppm per year is the current measured, not made up but measured, rate of addition of CO2 to the atmosphere.

      Currently we’re at ~390ppm

      96.6% of 2ppm is close enough to 2 – bugger going to decimal places – if you don’t believe me that 96.6% times 2 is close to 2, I welcome you to use the calculator. The current natural rate of CO2 emissions as you claim is then a smidge less than 2ppm.

      Unless something has happened to the Earth over the last 200 years that has altered that rate – it cannot be anthropogenic because you claim it cannot be. So we assume the 2ppm/year rate this decade is the same as the decade before, same as the decade before that.

      200 years times the almost all natural (your claim) rate of ~2ppm/year is ~400ppm – try that in your calculator 2X200 should be 400

      Thus 200 years ago the atmosphere had no CO2 whatsoever – that’s the ramifications of your (or your voices) claim.

      OT – would you let my attempt to cut you Ian? http://galahs.blogspot.com/2010/04/carbon-dioxide-laser.html

  9. Ian Wishart says:

    Thanks Mike, I agree with you that learning the science is indeed fascinating. One of the reasons that, as an author, I blog is because it’s a form of peer review. When I wrote Air Con I drank the IPCC reports and articles by the climate science community deeply, because I wanted to understand their points properly and address the issues genuinely.

    I quickly became aware that – despite the confident banners in Greenpeace organised street marches – the science behind climate change theory remains incredibly murky. It was far less “settled” than Al Gore, Kevin Rudd or Bill McKibben would have the public believe.

    Climate scientist Judith Curry has said as much:
    “No one really believes that the “science is settled” or that “the debate is over.”  Scientists and others that say this seem to want to advance a particular agenda.  There is nothing more detrimental to public trust than such statements” – Dr Judith Curry, Chair, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Georgia Institute of Technology, Feb 25 2010

    And even Phil Jones has conceded the point in his BBC interview:
    “N – When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?”

    “It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.”

    I’m not trying to sell doubt, merely call the debate back within its real boundaries. But yes, Mike, engagement is good, for all sides.

    @Dave…lovely maths, but you are confusing the net increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration with overall emissions. The two are not directly related.

  10. Dave McRae says:

    390ppm is the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and 2ppm is the amount that is added per year – what portion as a percentage of that yearly 2ppm that is being added to the atmosphere do you claim to be anthropogenic (fossil fuel and altered land) and what is “natural” or non-anthropogenic. How variable are these ‘natural’ sources?

    • Ian Wishart says:

      390 ppm is the net amount left in the atmosphere, not a measurement of total emissions.

      And CO2 molecules last around 8 to 15 years in the atmosphere (residence time) before being taken up again by biosphere.

      • Dave McRae says:

        So the net increase was from 280ppm in pre-industrial to 390ppm now

        I ask again – did we (humans) put the CO2 there (net amount left in the atmosphere – or the difference 390-280=110) and how much of it did something else (non-humans) put it there.

        If the assertion that 8-15 years (did you just make that up then and why bring that up) is true then there should there be no increase in “net amount left in the atmosphere” as all emissions (natural and ours) prior to say 1995 (that’s 2010-15=1995) would’ve been whisked away into the biosphere and a good chunk of emissions prior to 2002 (2010-8) also.

        You cannot answer a straight question – your narrative is rubbish – at least lie straight

  11. Ian Wishart says:

    Boy, such venom Dave! Did I do something to you sometime somewhere in a dark alley that I’ve evidently forgotten about? Surely we can have an adult discussion on the climate change topic.

    You appear to misunderstand the residence time of CO2 because you then assume my argument means “all emissions (natural and ours) prior to say 1995 (that’s 2010-15=1995) would’ve been whisked away into the biosphere and a good chunk of emissions prior to 2002 (2010-8) also”

    No. Now you are ignoring the ongoing outgassing process. There is a continual exchange of CO2 twixt atmosphere and Earth, 24/7.

    I was assuming you had a science background on the basis of your CO2 laser post you referred me to, but apparently you are unaware that the emissions today do not physically hang around in the air for hundreds of years. Today’s exhaust fumes will be in the ocean or growing on a tree somewhere within 15 years.

    See Junge for an explanation of CO2 residence time (he puts it at an average of 10 years) http://www.gps.caltech.edu/classes/ge148c/pdf%20files/Junge1974_Tellus.pdf

    Of course, the more CO2 added to the environment, the more that will be exhaled and inhaled by the planet as part of its natural cycles. C02 in the oceans is used by fish and marine life, but over fishing of the oceans in the past fifty years may have stripped the oceans of one of their primary carbon sinks – thereby causing reduced alkalinity in the sea (the so-called ‘acid ocean’ issue).

    See this Reuters report for a precis of the role fish play in keeping the oceans alkaline: http://spoonfeedin.wordpress.com/2009/01/16/science-fish-digestions-help-keep-the-oceans-healthy/

    Together with the loss of trees on land, the reduction in oceanic fish stocks also has a bearing on how much CO2 is left in short term exchange instead of being locked away by the biosphere for longer periods.

    If fish and forests were returned to their pre-industrial extents then, based on the CO2 residence time calculations, you’d probably start to see the net atmospheric CO2 drop away within two or three decades.

    You ask how much of the net increase in CO2 is directly caused by humans? But to answer that question properly requires knowledge we don’t actually have. For example, has our damage to carbon sinks been confined only to the amount of human emissions (ie, is nature ‘in balance’ and therefore we’ve damaged the sinks to the extent that the human emissions have tipped the balance by 2ppm a year), or have we damaged the sinks beyond the mere human element so that our contribution AND some of the natural exhalation is not being reabsorbed as fast?

    Can you point me to a peer reviewed study that answers that question?

    What I do know is that the human contribution is within the margin of natural variation. Unless you are arguing that CO2 produced by man is somehow special and different from all other CO2, then the same physics applying to the natural flux must apply to the human flux as well – it all goes into the mix and a proportion is left in a short term exchange cycle awating longer-term lock-up by the biosphere.

  12. Dave McRae says:

    You’re the one with the 3.4% assertion – thank you for admitting it was a lie and there is not reference, no basis for that narrative.

    And all human CO2 (whatever amount it is) will be scrubbed out in 8-15 years – that’s a corker too.

    I don’t think we’ll see Mr Plimer, although Mr 3.4% may be his winged monkey

    • Ian Wishart says:

      Gee Dave, and you call me a ‘denialist’?

      3.4% is an IPCC approved figure. If you don’t understand it (clearly you don’t) then perhaps you should go away and do some homework. Like I said, it is not controversial and frankly you are taking on a “throw the toys out of the cot” persona needlessly.

      If you have a problem with the residence time of CO2, I suggest you go back and read the fine print in WG-1 or the Junge study I referred you to, you will find even the IPCC admits CO2 may only last in the atmosphere as little as five years. Hard for them to deny really when a string of peer reviewed studies have reached the same conclusion: http://briefingroom.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c51bc53ef0120a676447f970b-pi

      The residence time is relevant because the quicker the gas is out of the atmosphere, the less long term impact it is going to have and the quicker the biosphere can bring it back into balance (if the natural sinks are restored).

      Would you prefer it if I just recited verses from An Inconvenient Truth, Dave? Because actual scientific studies appear to be wasted on you.

      I don’t mind that you believe in global warming, but for heaven’s sake stump up with at least some intelligent argument instead of your own version of denial.

      I’ve proven to you that anthropogenic contributions are actually relatively tiny in the total planetary CO2 budget. I’ve proven to you that there’s nothing magic about anthropogenic CO2 that makes it react differently from all the natural CO2 being exhaled each year. I’ve proven to you that we have damaged terrestrial carbon sinks through land use changes, and oceanic biota carbon sinks by overfishing, and I’ve pointed out that it’s a logical consequence that this will impact on Earth’s ability to reabsorb CO2 (manmade or natural).

      Your response to all this is to stick your fingers in your ears, stamp your foot and shout ‘nya nya nya, I can’t hear you!’.

      You’re not Ken Perrott by any chance, are you? 🙂

  13. Watching the Deniers says:

    I’m going to jump in here with a Skeptical Science reference. Here’s the claim, if I may paraphrase SScience:

    “The oceans contain 37,400 billion tons (GT) of suspended carbon, land biomass has 2000-3000 GT. The atmosphere contains 720 billion tons of CO2 and humans contribute only 6 GT. The oceans, land and atmosphere exchange CO2 continuously so the additional load by humans is incredibly small. A small shift in the balance between oceans and air would cause a much more severe rise than anything we could produce.”

    Which I believe is reasonably close to Ian’s argument.


    I quote:

    “Manmade CO2 emissions are much smaller than natural emissions. Consumption of vegetation by animals & microbes accounts for about 220 gigatonnes of CO2 per year. Respiration by vegetation emits around 220 gigatonnes. The ocean releases about 332 gigatonnes. In contrast, when you combine the effect of fossil fuel burning and changes in land use, human CO2 emissions are only around 29 gigatonnes per year. However, natural CO2 emissions (from the ocean and vegetation) are balanced by natural absorptions (again by the ocean and vegetation). Land plants absorb about 450 gigatonnes of CO2 per year and the ocean absorbs about 338 gigatonnes. This keeps atmospheric CO2 levels in rough balance. Human CO2 emissions upsets the natural balance…”

    “About 40% of human CO2 emissions are being absorbed, mostly by vegetation and the oceans. The rest remains in the atmosphere. As a consequence, atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 15 to 20 million years (Tripati 2009). A natural change of 100ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20.000 years. The recent increase of 100ppm has taken just 120 years.”

    See accompanying citations and references.

  14. Ian Wishart says:

    Thanks Mike, yes, that is pretty much what I am saying, although I would highlight this:

    The oceans, land and atmosphere exchange CO2 continuously so the additional load by humans is incredibly small. A small shift in the balance between oceans and air would cause a much more severe rise than anything we could produce.”

    Because if the natural component dwarfs humanity’s, and it can vary from decade to decade, is it not far more likely that our troubles:

    “A natural change of 100ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20.000 years. The recent increase of 100ppm has taken just 120 years.”

    Are related to damaging the sinks during industrialisation, rather than adding a fairly small amount to the overall load?

    That, I think, is the point I am trying to ask everyone to think about.

    Different sides of the same coin, but if we spend all our money and resources trying to lower emissions, possibly needlessly, instead of protecting the environment by reinforcing Earth’s natural carbon processing mechanisms, then we are always going to be pushing the proverbial up hill.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      @ Ian

      I think the important thing to note is that the natural carbon cycle is well understood. It has not been denied, hidden or obfuscated by the IPCC or climate scientists. It is well understood.

      Your second point is where I you get into trouble.

      The addition of CO2 to the atmosphere via industrial processes – in addition to that added to atmosphere by “natural processes” – is the cause of increased temperature. This attribution is well understood.

      The issue is that of climate sensitivity.

      Lindzen et.al is well known for stating that the earth will (in effect) balance human CO2 emissions, so that we will reach an equilibrium, thus nullifying any serious warming. In his view clouds will do this. However he is yet to convincingly demonstrate this. I’d note Lindzen is a true outlier on this issue.

      What the study of the paleoclimate has revealed is just how sensitive the climate is to changes wrought by the addition or subtraction of CO2/C02e gases (aka ‘climate sensitivity’). This pace of change has been measured in thousands of years, centuries.

      CO2 concentrations have risen sharply over the past <100 years.

      Unless you want to discount CO2 as a driver of climate temperatures as WUWT has just done…

      Steve Goddard has made the ludicrous claim that the temperature of Venus is due to the “pressure” of the gas. It’s argument that attempts to wave away the well understood heat trapping properties of CO2 (constituting more than 90% of the Venusian atmosphere).

      WUWT has just gone even deeper into denialism by waving away not just climate science, but physics, astronomy and geology.

      It’s madness. Is that the path you are prepared to tread? Are you prepared to wave away all science to make a point as WUWT has done?

      Forget the economic debate, or claims that climate change is somehow a secret green agenda. The physics are well understood.

      I could go on to discuss tipping points wrought by positive feedback loops (i.e. the release of gigatons of CH4 trapped in Siberian tundra), reduced albedo effect etc. But then we will get into more denial.

  15. Dave McRae says:

    Thanks WTD – my debating skills and ability not to get frustrated at distortions and lies are very poor.

    To quickly recap the distortions – 3.4% can only be arrived at if one used the net human emissions (gross CO2 released via fossil fuels and land use emissions less those ~40% of human emissions absorbed by ocean+plants). This number is then divided by the gross outgassing of oceans and vegetation and denialist claim 3.4% is stuff all we can continue as we are.

    As illustrated a few posts later, the sinks of the ocean and vegetation are very powerful and these account for all of the outgassing (in balance, who would’ve thunk – if it wasn’t then the billions of years the planet’s been here then all of the atmosphere would be CO2 if there was ONLY outgassing) – it even removes ~40% (but could be decreasing) of our output – the only significant output that is adding to the total CO2 in the atmosphere.

    I do think Mr 3.4% knows enough about the well established carbon cycle but is distorting it to manufacture claims.

    And unfortunately, I am not equipped to argue well against that sort of misrepresentation – so salute to you WTD.

    I wish the misrepresenter would allow me to cut him. (But he knows the CO2 laser works)

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks Dave, I think your points are correct. Plimer et.al cherry pick some facts and then distort them. The addition of of CO2 by human activities is the crucial factor – even seemingly small quantities of additional CO2/CO2e overwhelms the “balance” normally achieved by the carbon cycle.

      Where Plimer gets into further trouble – and what I’m hoping he can answer – is his statement that the CO2 emissions of volcanoes are *greater* than human emissions. That claim is patently false (as demonstrated in my previous articles).

      Its a very specific claim, and one that he should as a scientist should be able to back up with research or data.

      In my opinion, Plimer tires to marry one “fact” about total human CO2 emissions (vis-a-vis the out-gassing we attribute to the the planet’s carbon cycle) with emissions attributed to volcanoes.

      Basic argument of Plimer reduced to elementary logic:

      A + B = D

      A = human CO2 emissions are only X% of total out-gassing (fact)
      B = volcanic CO2 emissions are > than human induced emissions (non-fact)
      D = therefore AGW is false (non-fact)

      The first premise is factually correct. The second premise of his argument is false, therefore his conclusion is in error (a non-sequitur “It does not follow”).

      It’s a false move, but one he keeps making.

      It’s also a tactic employed by nearly every other anti-science movement: take fact (“A”), marry it to incorrect statement or fact (“B”) and you get “D”.

  16. Ian Wishart says:

    Hopeless Dave…utterly hopeless.

    3.4% is the gross human contribution, of which the IPCC says about half (between 40 and 60%) is removed from the atmosphere, leaving a net human contribution.

    No one else is distorting the carbon cycle…you’ve done that quite successfully all on your little confused ownsome.

    Deal with my argument, not your strawman caricature of it. We have damaged the carbon sinks. This will impact how fast planet re-absorbs CO2. This is not rocket science, but apparently is beyond you.

    @WTD…have a magazine deadline but will offer some comment on your points when I can. Cheers.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      I like to think of it is this way:

      Imagine a series of super-volcanoes went “off” over a period of time.

      Volcanoes emit particles that can have a dramatic effect on the climate – the Mt. Pinatubo eruption being the case in point, being the clear cause of a decline in temperatures:


      “This very large stratospheric injection resulted in a reduction in the normal amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface by roughly 10% (see figure). This led to a decrease in northern hemisphere average temperatures of 0.5–0.6 °C (0.9–1.1 °F), and a global fall of about 0.4 °C (0.7 °F). At the same time, the temperature in the stratosphere rose to several degrees higher than normal, due to absorption of radiation by the aerosols. The stratospheric cloud from the eruption persisted in the atmosphere for three years after the eruption.”

      I note the particles where in the atmosphere for three years.

      No one is disputing that – not even the majority of climate change sceptics.

      Now, imagine if ONE super volcano went off EVERY YEAR for 100 years?

      What would that do the the climate? The constant ejection of material into the atmosphere would have an effect on the climate. Yes/no?

      Yes, it would. The injection of these materials would overwhelm the system and tip climate and temperature in another direction (up/down whatever).

      Please bear with my analogy…

      The annual quantum of CO2/C02e emissions from power generation, transport and land clearance (etc.) are in effect like thousands and thousands of tiny “volcanoes” emitting particles into the atmosphere. We have been doing so for well over 100 years.


      > C02’s heat trapping properties are well understood
      > It has been ejected into the atmosphere by our “artificial” volcanoes such as power stations etc. for over a century
      > The result would be… (dot, dot, dot)

      In effect, we have been conducting an intentional experiment, mimicking the activities of volcanoes and other out-gassing effects.

      How it happens – natural or human – is relevant as far as the CO2 atom is concerned. It will absorb long wave radition.

      More C02/CO2e, more heat trapped.

    • Dave McRae says:

      Shorter Ian 3.4% Wishart:

      The IPCC is correct only in those few places I say it is correct, it is wrong everywhere else.

  17. Ian Wishart says:


    Thanks Dave, I think your points are correct. Plimer et.al cherry pick some facts and then distort them. The addition of of CO2 by human activities is the crucial factor – even seemingly small quantities of additional CO2/CO2e overwhelms the “balance” normally achieved by the carbon cycle.

    Ahem. Do we all accept that damage to carbon sinks, compared with their natural state 300 years ago, will also affect the “balance”?

    And do we all accept that there is no difference in the physical behaviour of fossil fuel CO2 vis-a-vis naturally exhaled CO2?

    And if we accept that all the CO2, natures 96.6% and our 3.4%, goes into one great big atmospheric melting pot which Earth’s carbon sinks then try to process, do we also see that concentrating on only one side of the ledger (emissions) might be a little silly?

    You cannot actually state that human “emissions” are tipping the balance, unless you have proven that human damage to the sinks has had no effect.

    And I remind you, there is no peer reviewed study I am aware of that makes that claim.

    An analogy.

    Imagine no industrial emissions over the past 150 years at all, but nonetheless humans wiping out as much forests, fish and wildlife as we have, regardless.

    Does everyone accept that such a scenario might also have resulted in a steadily rising CO2 concentration in the air because of damage to the sinks, or am I playing the role of Alice at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party here?

    You have no scientific basis for your collective “emissions only” argument.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Again, the analogy of Mt. Pinatubo: one volcanic eruption altered the climate significantly. Ergo, climate sensitivity.

      Note: from what I can tell yours a subtraction model: remove sinks therefore CO2 ppm goes up. However you state/believe that the human addition of C02 to the atmosphere is too negligible to factor in? Am I reading that correctly?

      My question is: do you accept the heat trapping properties of C02 and equivalent gases?

      • Ian Wishart says:

        I’m not arguing that a subtraction model is the “total’ explanation, but I’m saying it is far more likely to be the dominant factor in a 100ppm rise in 150 years, than an emissions only approach.

        We’re talking about an increase in emissions of only a few percent, well within natural variation, but we’ve gone from 1 billion to 7 billion people and we’ve cleared a lot of forests for farming and accomodation, and we’ve strip-mined the oceans of fish.

        If we accept the the natural system previously balanced (roughly), then all it takes is for a reduction in sink capacity of greater than 2% relative to pre-industrial times to explain the rise in atomspheric CO2 concentration.

        We know, as a matter of record, we have removed more than just two percent of pre-industrial forests and fisheries.

        Any worldview on climate change that doesn’t factor this in is fatally flawed, in my view.

        As for CO2’s heat trapping properties…yes, and I make that point in Air Con. However, I don’t accept that a laboratory experiment with CO2 is the perfect basis to hypothesise how CO2 will definitely behave in the wild.

        The falling temperature anomalies of the past decade whilst CO2 continues to rise show that chaotic natural forces can and do outgun the lab-proven properties of CO2.

        Despite all of industrialisation, the IPCC only thinks it can detect a human CO2 signature in warming post 1970. There is not yet a peer reviewed study based on observational data that has proven atmospheric CO2 concentrations are, actually, causing warming. It’s all based on models.

        Additionally, there are a growing number of peer reviewed studies showing natural forcings are having greater impact on climate than CO2.

        Unlike a greenhouse, Earth doesn’t have a roof and has proven remarkably efficient at allowing thermal energy to escape into space. There is too much that we still don’t know about climate processes, and what bugs me is the level of “certainty” being promoted by global warming believers when the science just doesn’t support going that far.

  18. Ian Wishart says:

    Good volcano analogy, as it applies to the emissions side of things. But let me give you an alternative construction.

    You and I and SkepSci basically agree that human contribution is a tiny fraction of the overall carbon cycle taking place at any one time, and we agree that variations in the natural flux can outpunch anything humans are doing.

    Those big variations don’t show up in ice core records because they are balanced out too quickly by the biosphere.

    Imagine a big rainwater tank with a six inch intake pipe and a six inch outflow pipe, getting around 50 litres a minute (plus or minus variations of up to 2 litres a minute into it. Under natural balance, the 50 litres a minute simply pushes the same amount out the other side.

    But imagine you come along and replace the six inch outlet pipe with a one inch pipe, incapable of processing the water as fast. What happens?

    Get the picture?

    The tank was previously capable of handling the inflow, including variations of up to 4%…quite happily…but playing with its mechanisms has thrown it out of kilter.

    Your argument appears to be that the human contribution, say 2 litres a minute, is causing extra pressure.

    Well, yes it is, but normally the system would handle such pressure with no problem, just as it did in the past.

    You cannot separate sink damage from the equation regarding rising CO2 levels.

  19. Watching the Deniers says:

    @ Ian

    Let’s return to your water tank analogy, which is a false one.

    It has nothing to do with pressure.

    We are altering the chemistry.

    Let me extend your analogy a little.

    Imagine if I added a cup of strychnine into the inflow every couple of hours. There may be some “natural” strychnine from the environment that makes it way into the tank, but the key thing is I’m adding it.

    The water, once drinkable, will eventually become toxic and poisonous. In fact the “taste” of strychnine is so bitter it is detectable at 1 ppm. Yep, one parts per million. It’s highly toxic in small doses…


    So let’s continue with your analogy: we reduce the outlet pipe (out-gassing if you will) but I continue to add strychnine. Toxicity continues to build, the water becomes even more deadly.

    That’s the problem with your argument: you assume all greenhouses gases are equal, and that their concentrations and the heat trapping properties of H20, CO2, CH4 etc are irrelevant.

    Sure water and strychnine are “liquids” in the tank, but their effect is very different. Which one is safe for human consumption?

    But the atmosphere is essentially a chemical soup that envelopes our planet. Volume is not the issue, chemical composition is. Same silly mistake Goddard on WUWT makes.

    We are adding more CO2 to the soup: in your/my analogy this is the strychnine.

    Flow, schmoo… the point is the natural carbon cycle is being overwhelmed by the addition of anthropogenic C02/CO2e emissions. A few more “drops” do matter.

    Let me state one thing emphatically: the heat trapping properties of C02 and other CO2e have been understood for over 100 years. Your argument about “wild” and “lab” Co2 is facetious.

    Split an atom in a lab OR in the middle of the desert and it will still cause and chain reaction and thus a very, very big bang.

    Theoretical (ahem) models predicted that matter and energy are equivalent (some Einstein dude), ergo a big bang called a nuclear explosion.

    Your only recourse is to point out errors in the methodology of scientific experiments that tested the theory that CO2 etc. traps heat (i.e. some variable that contaminated the results).

    However we have over 100 years of repeatable, verifiable research on the issue.

    See here for list of papers proving heat trapping of other non-CO2 gases:


    See here for list of papers proving heat trapping properties of C02:


    Or perhaps a list of papers onging back to 1896 that discuss the absorption properties of CO2 and its effect on temperature/climate:


    Sorry mate, but in order to make your point you have to wave away the entire scientific body of evidence across multiple disciplines for the last 100 years or so.

    So, has the AGW scam been carried on for 100 years, or did science actually get it right from the start and you won’t accept the decades and decades of research?

  20. Ian Wishart says:


    Imagine if I added a cup of strychnine into the inflow every couple of hours. There may be some “natural” strychnine from the environment that makes it way into the tank, but the key thing is I’m adding it.

    I made the point yesterday that we’ve added to the CO2 mix, my water tank analogy is more to do with the capacity of the sinks to remove it. The 50 litres in was purely CO2 – the tank is not an analogy for the complete mix of atmospheric gases, just the exchange cycle.

    The “harmful” place for CO2 to be is the atmosphere, so screwing with sinks that help remove it from the atmosphere is a negative thing.

    The water tank analogy perfectly illustrates how a system can become unbalanced in this way. The carbon removed from the atmosphere and transferred to tree trunks, grasslands and animals is not left to warm the atmosphere in the immediate future. At the moment the CO2 is left in short term recirculation cycles (the tank) because the better sinks have been reduced in capacity.

    Your replacement analogy is flawed, because strychnine is a problem no matter what portion of the loop it is in. Carbon isn’t.

    Yes, we are adding more CO2 to the atmospheric soup, but if you followed the examples I gave you will accept that in the past nature has added much bigger amounts from year to year. It is just that in the past the extra CO2 has been reabsorbed effectively, leaving the net balance unchanged.

    Earth, for the record, has enjoyed much higher levels of CO2 over much longer periods than the modern era, so I don’t accept that rising CO2 is the end of life as we know it (your poison analogy).

    I have no disagreement with the lab studies on CO2 trapping heat, so I’m not sure why it’s being waved around as some kind of trump card. It isn’t.

    Show me a study based on actual empirical data in the wild that shows CO2 is causing excessive warming in an open, chaotic system.

    I don’t have to wave away the scientific songbook at all, I just have to look at the other factors that may be affecting climate. CO2 does not exist in isolation and, with respect, it doesn’t have superpowers.

    I’m not a fan of Goddard’s pressure take on Venus, although it may be a partial factor. Far more significant, I suspect, than CO2 is Venus’ orbital cycle, a 30% increase in solar radiation, rampant vulcanism and catastrophic convective displacement.

    Earth is unique in its plate tectonics and lunar influences (see http://www.spacedaily.com/news/life-01×1.html ) and Venus is not really comparable.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Replace strychnine with iron.

      A little iron is necessary for our bodies. But too much is harmful.

      I’ll come back to in the wild studies of which we have many.

      Re paleoclimate and historical CO2 levels. Yes, life survived – but they coincide with massive extinction events.

      I have no doubt life will survive rising temps. It is our complex industrial civilisation which is the question. Our food and logistical networks are global, thin and subject to disruption. People will survive, but in a different world (that’s the risk at least).


  21. Ian Wishart says:


    Replace strychnine with iron.

    A little iron is necessary for our bodies. But too much is harmful.

    Only if it stays where it shouldn’t, which is exactly my point. Replace iron with Vitamin C. Under normal conditions, the excess is excreted no matter how much you have. If something goes wrong with your Vitamin C processing, however, you have a probem.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Now your just being contrary, waving away anything that might upset your analogy.

      I’ll then say “mercury” then you’ll say “cheese”. You miss the point, which is strangely how denial works: change or wave away facts that don’t suit.

      It’s how cognitive dissonance is maintained.

      And BTW, too much Vitamin C can have adverse effects:


      “Relatively large doses of vitamin C may cause indigestion, particularly when taken on an empty stomach. When taken in large doses, vitamin C causes diarrhea in healthy subjects. In one trial in 1936, doses up to 6 grams of ascorbic acid were given to 29 infants, 93 children of preschool and school age, and 20 adults for more than 1400 days. With the higher doses, toxic manifestations were observed in five adults and four infants. The signs and symptoms in adults were nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, flushing of the face, headache, fatigue and disturbed sleep. The main toxic reactions in the infants were skin rashes…”

      I think my point stands: it is about the chemistry, or make up not the volume and pressue. You seem to not grasp the point.

  22. Ian Wishart says:


    Actually, don’t disagree with you, I just don’t think you have grasped my point. My water tank example was not a measurement of the toxicity level. If it’s easier, just assume for the example it is 50 litres petrol coming in a minute, plus or minus a couple of litres.

    While one could use this as an example of pressure, the analogy also suffices to explain any dynamic system with an intake and outlet and things happening in the middle. The water tank represents CO2 in the atmosphere, the outlet pipe delivers to the sea and trees etc. If the outlet is not processing as fast as the inlet delivers the stuff, then there will be a buildup of CO2 in the tank.

    The chemistry and physics of CO2 will apply to anything stuck inside the tank, we all agree on this.

    The amount of CO2 coming through the intake pipe includes natural and human product, and it will fluctuate as it does from year to year.

    I was trying to illustrate that restricting the outlet capacity (damaging the carbon sinks) will leave more CO2 in the atmosphere, just as increasing emissions might.

    However, I tried to point out to you that given the human contribution is actually within the natural deviation, which Earth has coped with perfectly happily in the past, is it not more likely that the sudden rise in CO2 is a result of damaged carbon sinks.

    Oui? Can you point me to any peer reviewed research that proves the opposite?

    The IPCC is correct only in those few places I say it is correct, it is wrong everywhere else,

    The IPCC process of meta-analysis was a little bit like the work of the discredited “Jesus Seminar” with their voting beads. I have accepted the data side of the IPCC’s work (unless proven to be wrong), but paid no heed to the voting beads side (likely, very likely etc), because science is not about consensus, as Galilleo could attest.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Oh dear the Galileo gambit… for every Galileo, there are 10,000 cranks:

      For every Galileo shown the instruments of torture for advocating scientific truth, there are a thousand (or ten thousand) unknowns whose ‘truths’ never pass scientific muster with other scientists. The scientific community cannot be expected to test every fanstastic claim that comes along, especially when so many are logically inconsistent.

      Why do people believe wierd things? Michael Shermer

      Classic association fallacy (i.e. logical fallacy):


      Premise A is a B
      Premise A is also a C
      Conclusion Therefore, all Bs are Cs

      To wit:

      Galileo was against the mainstream opinion
      So is climate change denial
      Therefore climate change denial is like heliocentrism…

      Or try this:

      Galileo was against the mainstream opinion
      So is the view the earth is flat
      Therefore flat earthism is like heliocentrism…

      Or this

      Galileo was against the mainstream opinion
      So is the anti vaccination movement
      Therefore the case against vaccination is like heliocentrism…

      Again and again I see deniers fall into the same logical fallacies. Denialism is sloppy thinking.

  23. Ian Wishart says:

    Science has never been determined by consensus. That’s the role of politics.

    See Judith Curry’s comments above, or even Phil Jones admission that the science is not settled.

    You don’t like Galilleo as an example, try Alfred Wegener.

    I’m sorry, but if you guys buy into the spin that somehow the truth of science is determined by a vote, then you are abandoning the scientific method and any claim to a sceptical approach.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Jones quote is classic quote mining. He said no such thing, and you know it.

      It’s not a vote, consensus is a different thing. It’s not 50/50.

      Wegener Gambit then. All you’ve done is change the name. The flawed logic remains:

      Wegener was against the mainstream opinion
      So is the view the earth is flat
      Therefore flat earthism is like plate tectonics…

      It is no coincidence that both creationists and climate deniers invoke the same two names… I wonder why?

      You keep squirming and chasing *different* factoids to try and make the argurement work, but the underlying logic is seriously flawed.

      How much would it take to crack you wall of epistemic closure?

  24. Ian Wishart says:

    Mike, futher up in comments I wrote:

    And even Phil Jones has conceded the point in his BBC interview:
    “N – When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?”

    “It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.”

    You’ve just claimed, firstly, that this is “classic quotemining, he said no such thing and you know it.”

    Oh really? Read the full BBC interview yourself – my quote (I’m a journalist, that’s what we do, quote people) is entirely in context and misses out nothing. I gave the whole question he was asked, and the whole answer. You can read it yourself here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8511670.stm

    You, it seems, are the one in denial. All of it, apparently to try and wriggle out of conceding the obvious point that a damage to carbon sinks could affect CO2 concentrations in the air as much or more than an increase in emissions.

    I say it again, you are in denial. Where’s your peer reviewed research that proves my point wrong?, and will you concede you were wrong about the Jones quote?

  25. Ian Wishart says:

    Premise 1: Scientific theories believed by a majority consensus can still be wrong
    Premise 2: Galileo and Wegener both challenged the majority scientific consensus and proved to be right
    Conclusion: Therefore, there is no valid reason to trust that AGW theory is correct simply on the basis of majority consensus

  26. Ian Wishart says:

    Or, alternatively:

    Premise 1: Scientific theories believed by a majority consensus can still be wrong
    Premise 2: Galileo and Wegener both challenged the majority scientific consensus and proved to be right
    Conclusion: Majority consensus is not a valid method for determining the truth of a scientific theory

  27. Adam says:

    Galileo challenged the churchs view, not science. Science picked up on it very quickly and adopted it. Read your history.

    The parallel here with climate science is that Galileo is acting as a scientist, the same as our existing scientists. The church is represented by those who work only on faith, the folks who made their mind up on ideological grounds and will not behave like true sceptics and base conclusions on reasonable evidence.

    The myth is that people of science, the true sceptics in this world held fast to the old order. They didn’t. They recognised the improved ideas.

    • Ian Wishart says:

      I feel like I’m trapped in a bad game of scrabble. Back in the day, virtually all scientists were Christians. Other ‘scientists’, learned men, whatever you want to call them, had a consensus view that the Ptolemaic system was correct. Even the Catholic church had bought into that construct of the solar system, although it wasn’t required to in a biblical sense – it merely found the Ptolemaic version useful for its own theological reasons.

      Ptolemy, for the record, is not believed to have been a Christian.

      So, the dominant scientific consensus, adopted by the Church as a fact, was challenged by Galileo who was then persecuted by the Church.

      And it would be nice if someone could actually show where my logic is wrong or, better still, give me a peer reviewed study destroying my claim about damaged carbon sinks.

      Instead, I’m dealing with hair-splitters firing off on tangents in order to avoid the elephant in the room.

      Like I said, you call me a “denier”? 🙂

  28. Ian Wishart says:

    Still, because it is entertaining, I just googled challenged Galileo and found this essay:

    Copernicus had delayed the publication of his book for years because he feared, not the censure of the Church, but the mockery of academics. It was the hide-bound Aristotelians in the schools who offered the fiercest resistance to the new science. Aristotle was the Master of Those Who Know; perusal of his texts was regarded as almost superior to the study of nature itself. The Aristotelian universe comprised two worlds, the superlunary and the sublunary. The former consisted of the moon and everything beyond; it was perfect and imperishable. The latter was the terrestrial globe and its atmosphere, subject to generation and decay, the slag heap of the cosmos.

    Ptolemy’s methodizing of Aristotle to explain the motion of the stars was part of this academic baggage. And it made perfect empirical sense; by using it, ships were able to navigate the seas and astronomers were able to predict eclipses. So why give up this time-honored system for a new, unproved cosmology which not only contradicted common sense (as no less an authority than Francis Bacon averred), but also the apparent meaning of Scripture?

    Galileo’s telescope

    Such was the scientific mind of Europe when Galileo burst on the scene in 1610 with his startling telescopic discoveries. Up to that point, the forty-six year-old Galileo had been interested mainly in physics, not astronomy. His most famous accomplishment had been the formulation of the laws of falling bodies. (Contrary to legend, he never dropped anything from the Tower of Pisa.) Galileo was a gifted tinkerer, and when he heard about the invention of the telescope in Holland, he immediately built one for himself, characteristically taking full credit for the invention.

    Looking through his new spyglass, he made some discoveries which shook the foundations of the Aristotelian cosmos. First, he saw that the moon was not a perfect sphere, but pocked with mountains and valleys like the earth. Second, and more astonishing, Jupiter had at least four satellites. No longer could it be said that heavenly bodies revolve exclusively around the earth. Finally, he observed the phases of Venus, the only explanation of which is that Venus moves around the sun and not the earth.

    The response to these discoveries ranged from enthusiastic to downright hostile. The leading Jesuit astronomer of the day, Christopher Clavius, was skeptical; but once the Roman college acquired an improved telescope, he saw for himself that Galileo was right about Jupiter’s moons, and the Jesuits subsequently confirmed the phases of Venus. These men were not ready to jump on the Copernican bandwagon, however; they adopted as a half-way measure the system of Tycho Brahe, which had all the planets except the earth orbiting the sun. This accounted quite satisfactorily for Galileo’s discoveries. Still, Galileo was the man of the hour; in 1611 he made a triumphant visit to Rome, where he was feted by cardinals and granted a private audience by Pope Paul V, who assured him of his support and good will.

    Galileo returned to Florence, where he might have been expected to continue his scientific research. But for about two decades after 1611, pure science ceased to be his main concern. Instead, he became obsessed with converting public opinion to the Copernican system. He was an early instance of that very modern type, the cultural politician. All of Europe, starting with the Church, had to buy into Copernicus. This crusade would never have ended in the offices of the Inquisition had Galileo possessed a modicum of discretion, not to mention charity. But he was not a tactful person; he loved to score off people and make them look ridiculous. And he would make no allowance for human nature, which does not easily shuck off an old cosmology to embrace a new one which seems to contradict both sense and tradition…

    More here

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      A pro-Catholic website that downplays that distorts history? Really? Fascinating… yes.

      First you claim Galileo challenged the Church, then you imply something else. You are looking for facts to suit your argument.

      Logic is not hair splitting – it is the basis of the scientific method and any investigation into history, economics etc.

  29. Ian Wishart says:

    First you claim Galileo challenged the Church, then you imply something else. You are looking for facts to suit your argument

    I really am at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Find one comment on this page where I have primarily [first] made the case for Galileo challenging the church as the key issue, then implied something else. One comment.

    Logic is not hair splitting – it is the basis of the scientific method and any investigation into history, economics etc

    I agree, so why haven’t you deconstructed my logical argument instead of setting up and attacking straw men on points I’m not arguing?

    Last time I looked this site was called Watching the Deniers. Last time I looked I was the author of a previous #1 climate bestseller on Amazon US and UK. You have a ‘denier’ caught in the trap, and yet I’m waiting for the gate to snap shut, apparently in vain.

    Damage to carbon sinks can affect concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, yes or no?

    Its. That. Simple.

  30. Fielding Norris says:

    You know, thinking about the ‘bigger picture’… what if Ian is right? What action is being taken to address deforestation?

    The best arguments I’ve seen so far for reducing CO2 emissions boil down to some probability that the models are right, and that we should be risk averse and not gamble on our kids’ future etc. Using logic you must also accede a possibility that Ian is right, and perhaps the vast taxes that are to be incurred to reduce CO2 might actually be better focused on increasing vegetation and fish stocks.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      These are not bad questions, however I’d note a few things:

      – Ian’s argument is that rising Co2 levels are due to the damages to the carbon sink, not form human emissions (correct me if I’m wrong Ian). Hence his water tank analogy. I argue that may be correct to an extent, however he ignores the chemistry of the “water”.

      – Re your second point, a good question. Personally I don’t think the these issues should be ignored. Deforestation is an issue for a range of issues. Fish stocks are nearing collapse. I’d argue for action on all of them. There has been government and NGO attempts to address with varying succcess. I’d argue for action on all. It’s not either/or.

      Logic does not preclude that only one answer or choice can be right: this is known as the fallacy of the false dilemma (or false choice):


      “The logical fallacy of false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy) involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options. Closely related are failing to consider a range of options and the tendency to think in extremes, called black-and-white thinking. Strictly speaking, the prefix “di” in “dilemma” means “two”. When a list of more than two choices is offered, but there are other choices not mentioned, then the fallacy is called the fallacy of false choice, or the fallacy of exhaustive hypotheses.”

      So yes to addressing CO2 emissions, fish stocks and deforestation. How you cut the pie to distribute is a policy issue which is not something I could resolve in a single post 😉

      The “vast taxes” issue… Surely an ETS or direct CO2 tax could include the possibility of redistributing funds for reforestation initiatives? Trees – lots of them – are great carbon sinks. Lot’s more I say! 🙂

      As the Gulf of Mexico tragdedy shows us, ignoring vital warnings results in greater costs. Imagine the billions this will cost industries in the Gulf. And they had lots of warning. It’s a good analogy.

      It’s not just about the kids. It’s also about the economy. And national security. And the cost to clean up the mess.

      My argument is that climate change will hurt national economies and industry more than the percieved “tax burden” which the denail movement is so bizzarely fixated on. Climate change will impose additional costs on business and government – less profits and more taxation, the very thing they fear.

      This is why the insurance industry has been screaming from the roof tops for someone to do something about AGW and that it will hurt industry:


      “…We see raising claims due to natural catastrophes and have a vested interest in reducing global warming,” says Allianz board member Clement Booth. “Our industry has been at the forefront of this debate for a long time.”

      Climate change is one of the great challenges that the insurance business has to meet. Small wonder that some of the most-detailed scenarios for the future of our planet are commissioned by insurance companies.”

      These companies take the long view, and thus are concerned. Its prudent business.

      @ Ian. Your question, I shall return to it.

      Mike @ WTD

  31. Ken says:

    You have to laugh – don’t you.?

    This from Wishart:
    “I agree with you that learning the science is indeed fascinating. One of the reasons that, as an author, I blog is because it’s a form of peer review. When I wrote Air Con I drank the IPCC reports and articles by the climate science community deeply, because I wanted to understand their points properly and address the issues genuinely.”

    Readers need to be aware this is the guy who made an official complaint to the NZ Minister of science because blogging NZ scientists were crticising the arguments being used by deniers like him. Science bloggers were standing up for science. They were defending the integrity of NZ scientists who were being slandered by him by his mates. (Included in this list are the ACT party, the NZ Center of Political Research (a local think tank allied with The Heartland Institute in the US) and local denier groups like The NZ Climate science Coalition.

    (The minister replied politely – more or less along the lines of “piss off.” And NZ science bloggers continue to criticise the claims of deniers like Wishart and his mates).

    Wishart is a well known local conspiracy theorist and promoter of creationism/intelligent design. So much for this hypocritical statement about his “love of science.”

    He actually loves to distort science. And this 3.4% figure is a typical example. His hand waving to dismiss information from isotope ratios another. His book is full of such silly manouvres. Its full of childish attacks on honest scientists while baldly quoting sources such as denier blogs, even comments on blogs, to support “scientific” claims he makes.

    To him Monckton is an expert on climate science!

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks Ken, I’d like to reply personally to Ian as well, as I’ve been pulling together the info. Sick wife and bub at home slowly down blogging efforts 🙂

      • Ken says:

        That’s a coincidence. My partner is also ill – having chem – which helps to put this sort of thing, and people like Wishart, into context.

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