CO2 and the IPCC - What's the evidence?
There are two ways to address the issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW): describing the IPCC’s rationale or proof of its case, or describing the real conditions, principles, and science of the Earth and its climate and how it disagrees with AGW.
So, initially I will address the IPCC’s basis for the idea that man-made CO2 is warming the planet. There is no empirical order in which they need to be presented as they add up to their argument of AGW, but I will try to put it in a logical order regarding their needs to support AGW.
First, the IPCC makes the unsupported and unfounded assumption that CO2 in the atmosphere determines our climate. They say that, until man-made CO2 began to accumulate, the climate was ruled by natural factors and even solar influences. But, they also assume that the introduction of man made CO2 with the industrial revolution has swamped all natural factors and CO2 now drives the climate.
The concept, or more accurately musing, that CO2 in the atmosphere could warm the planet goes back almost 180 years. Gerlich & Tscheuschner summarize the situation nicely:
“The atmospheric greenhouse effect, an idea that authors trace back to the traditional works of Fourier 1824, Tyndall 1861, and Arrhenius 1896, and which is still supported in global climatology, essentially describes a fictitious mechanism, in which a planetary atmosphere acts as a heat pump driven by an environment that is radiatively interacting with but radiatively equilibrated to the atmospheric system. According to the second law of thermodynamics such a planetary machine can never exist. Nevertheless, in almost all texts of global climatology and in a widespread secondary literature it is taken for granted that such mechanism is real and stands on a firm scientific foundation."
. . . and . . .
"Although the arguments of Arrhenius were falsified by his contemporaries they were picked up by Callendar (1938) and Keeling (1960), the founders of the modern greenhouse hypothesis.(. .) Interestingly, this hypothesis has been vague ever since it has been used.”
- G Gerlich and RD Tscheuschner, Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics, Ver. 3.0, 11 Sept 2007. (In the latter quote, the reference numbers of Callendar and Keeling were replaced with the year of the first publication by each.)
This concept has never been confirmed as it is fundamentally flawed. It is true that atmospheric water vapor (at 2.7%, 27,000 ppm) and CO2 (currently at 0.000380%, 380 ppm) keep our planet warmer than it would be without them. However, the first 20 ppm of CO2 had the lion’s share of its effect long ago and higher levels yield diminishing returns, such that roughly 90-95% of its ability to warm has already been realized. Furthermore, water vapor has a much broader absorption spectrum than CO2 and overlaps a significant portion of CO2’s absorption spectrum, such that CO2’s effect is compromised. Water vapor, averaging 70 times the concentration of CO2 and with a broader absorption spectrum, definitely dominates the atmosphere.
Despite the unfounded nature of this concept, it is an important part of the IPCC’s case as, if it is simply assumed to be true, then they can focus on CO2 and its origins to explain global warming. As you hopefully will understand below, none of their stipulations or assumptions have any real scientific merit.
Second, the IPCC needed to show that CO2 was historically low and is now high and increasing in an abnormal way. There are two types of data regarding historical CO2 levels: direct chemical measurements and indirect measurements.
There are thousands of direct chemical measurements of atmospheric CO2 from publications going back to 1810 (180 Years of atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods by Ernst-Georg Beck), long before the start of CO2 monitoring at Mauna Loa in 1950. Most of these used valid and reproducible methods. Only a couple of studies used a recognizably inferior sulfuric acid extraction technique which typically yields under-measurements of CO2 concentrations.
Now, it must be mentioned here that the IPCC case needs to show that CO2 has been historically low and steady until the Industrial Revolution. However, direct chemical measurements showed that atmospheric CO2 levels had varied quite widely over time (from 252 to over 550 ppm), going back to 1810, long before man made CO2 could be an influence.
This obviously did not suit the IPCC’s needs. So, with the unfounded assumption based on their opinion or feeling that CO2 was around 280 ppm in the 1800’s, they discounted as too variable almost all of the direct measurement publications, some done by Nobel laureates, and lauded as wonderfully accurate two French papers, which used the deficient sulfuric acid method mentioned above, for their valid (low) results.
But, how did the IPCC arrive at or support their low CO2 in the past? They found support in a graph by Callendar (shown below) in which CO2 values from 1810-1955 were shown and a selection of low values were taken from 1865-1938 and averaged to create a value of 292 ppm for historical CO2 levels. This is cherry-picking of the data and yields a patently invalid result. The real average for this time period is 335 ppm, 43 ppm or 15% higher.
But, the IPCC needed to support Callendar’s spurious, artificial average or it would be instantly shot down. So, they turned to ice core data with the stipulation or excuse that they had to since direct chemical data was too variable (it did not fit their opinion of what CO2 levels should be; they could not have it going up and down over time at the reported levels). Thus, the basically ordained that indirect data was much more reliable.
They adopted Antarctic ice core data which is composed of fairly low CO2 results (185-300 ppm) and goes back 400 thousand years. It fit their need nicely for there to have been consistently low CO2 in the past. In passing, it should be noted that these CO2 data were often below 200 ppm during actual ice ages. Plants are in serious distress at such concentrations. They thrive in higher concentrations - it is plant food. (Greenhouse growers often use 1000 ppm to enhance plant growth. Humans become uncomfortable at levels above 2000 ppm.)
Unfortunately, ice core data is useless for recent times as it takes nearly a hundred years for ice to consolidate and trap air bubbles in its structure. Thus, ice core data ends about 1890, leaving a 60 year gap between the ice core data and the beginning of the Mauna Loa data in 1950 (graph shown below). In addition, the 1890 ice core data showed CO2 levels at about 330 ppm, equal to Mauna Loa data in 1960, part of the “frightening” rise in CO2 that is ongoing today.
The IPCC had a problem. How do you join these two data sets and how do you disappear the 1880 high CO2 levels? Their cure was to adjust the ice core data by moving it 83 years into the future until it overlapped the Mauna Loa data (graph shown below). Viola, problem solved. They simply did some creative editing and it was gone!
Not only is this mixing of data sets from entirely different origins, indeed opposite ends of the world, and methods completely invalid, but moving the timeline of the ice core data is fraudulent and scientifically dishonest. But it served the purposes of the IPCC to a “T”.
I have already indicated that direct chemical CO2 data shows that CO2 has fluctuated quite a lot over the last 180 years. Beck has put this huge body of data together (180 Years of atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods by Ernst-Georg Beck) (graph shown below).
This shows very nicely why the IPCC just had to make this direct chemical data go away by discounting it as too variable. Obviously man did not cause these variations.
In contradiction to the IPCC's adoption of raw ice core data as blindingly accurate measurements of past CO2 levels, Jaworowski, an expert in ice core analysis, published detailed descriptions of problems with ice core data. He has described the factors that dictate that, at depth and high pressure, the original bubbles have collapsed to form solid ice containing water complexed gas molecules (“clathrates”). During the drilling for retrieving ice cores, the pressure change allows the ice to expand and undergo dense cracking and “sheeting”, generate new bubbles, and suffer significant gas loss to the driller tube and the atmosphere. In addition, even at -78 deg C ice contains uncrystallized water which allows CO2 to dissolve out of the newly formed bubbles, further increasing CO2 losses. He concluded that ice core concentration measurements of CO2 are 30-50% low and that ice core data may be good for observing trends but should not be used for determining absolute CO2 values.
If one takes the values observed in the ice core data and Jaworowski's estimates of error, the adjusted values are as high or higher than the CO2 values we have today, even during the actual ice age periods. These adjusted values also match the range of CO2 levels reported by Beck from the direct chemical measurements. This completely negates the utility of ice core data for the IPCC’s claim that CO2 has been low for many thousands of years and is unusually high today. (Climate Change: Incorrect information on pre-industrial CO2 by Zbigniew Jaworowski)
Very telling from Jaworowski’s work is his observation that the Siple ice core data, used in the graphs shown above to show pre-industrial CO2 levels, do not show previous atmospheric CO2 levels at all, but more precisely “show a clear inverse correlation between the decreasing CO2 concentrations, and the load-pressure increasing with depth.” That is to say, that the deeper you go, the greater the CO2 losses.
Recently, a treatment of ice core data by JJ Drake presented a simple correction process which takes into account that the above problems described by Jaworowski would be directly related to the age (or depth and pressure) of an ice core sample. The greater the age, the greater the losses due to the decompression damage. His correction produces corrected CO2 values completely in accordance with Jaworowski’s conclusion - values no different from today or higher. The resulting graph still shows the ice ages and interglacial periods, but shows higher values also in line with Beck's range. (A Simple Method to Correct Carbon Dioxide Concentrations in Ice Core Data for Ice / Gas Age Difference Perturbations, 17 May 2008)
These corrected values are also in line with the great probability that the biosphere in the warmer latitudes was probably thriving during the ice ages, as well as the interglacial periods (see graph below; remember that plants do not do well at CO2 levels less than 200 ppm). Our tropical biodiversity contradicts the CO2 stressed values indicated by the raw ice core data.
To return to more modern times, Beck’s data show that CO2 was above 440 ppm in the 1940’s, significantly higher than today’s 380 ppm. At the current CO2 rate of increase, we would not reach this level until about 2060, or later as recently the rate has been slowing. I completely fail to see that there is anything unusual about the atmospheric CO2 levels we have today or might have in the next 50 years.
Another problem the IPCC had was to establish manmade CO2 is responsible for the recent rise in CO2. In other words, they contend that CO2 from the warming of the oceans is not the problem. They want to maintain that manmade CO2 comprises most of the CO2 which has been added to the atmosphere in the last half century. I will pretend to believe the Siple/Mauna Loa Curve and explain their position.
They discount that the oceans can absorb much CO2 despite the huge solubility of CO2 in such a relatively alkaline solution. This means that, as CO2 dissolves, it the forms carbonic acid (H2CO2) which goes to bicarbonate (HCO3-) and then even to carbonate (CO3-2), further enhancing absorption of more CO2. Anyhow, their major ploy, without going into their complicated model of CO2 flow through the various natural systems, is that CO2 has a 200 year half-life in the atmosphere. With this unfounded assumption - entirely unproven - they could now claim that manmade CO2 from even as far back as the 1800’s has been accumulating in the atmosphere. Otherwise - are you ready? - we have not emitted enough CO2 to explain the actual rise in the atmosphere. They effectively discount the oceans as having a role in outgassing or absorbing CO2 as they change in temperature. Talk about spreading the blame. Remember the goal here: it has to be all our fault.
Unfortunately, making up numbers out of thin air rarely yields valid results. Actual analyses using isotopic distributions have shown the half-life to be 5-6 years (5.4 years, T. V. Segalstad), a much shorter time indicating a rather dynamic turnover rate and a very active exchange rate with the oceans and plants.
The oceans are a major CO2 sink; they contain much more CO2 than the atmosphere (35,000 versus 700 gigatons). When the oceans warm, they outgas CO2 according to Henry’s Law, the way a soda pop gives off CO2 as it warms. When the oceans cool, they soak up CO2, and with such a short half-life, that means it is a rather rapid process, on the order of years to decades. This huge sink and its rapid exchange does not materially bother the IPCC's position; they give it a minor role, as they do all natural factors.
In fact, that is another of their unfounded assumptions. They assume that CO2 in the atmosphere and, more specifically, manmade CO2 added in the last 50-200 years has now overwhelmed all natural climate processes and drives the climate.
So, that’s the CO2 picture of the IPCC and CO2. I find no credible evidence that the CO2 levels we have now or might have in the future to be at all unusual. Furthermore, with the oceans' ability to absorb CO2, a good argument could be made that there is not enough fossil fuel on Earth to double the CO2 in the atmosphere. As the oceans appear to be cooling, CO2 stands a good chance to decrease in the not too distant future.
It should not go unsaid that it is ingenuous to pretend that we will keep emitting CO2 at current rates for many decades to come, let alone until 2100. We do not do things like that; we are forever changing our technology and it uses. Conserving our carbon resources in the future will be important for making pharmaceuticals and plastics and, more immediately, for not sending a large proportion of our money overseas to foreign oil producers. The recent spike in the price of crude oil created the largest mass transfer of wealth in the history of the world. We do not want that to happen again.
The remainder of the IPCC's world view is filled out by their climate model fixation, their almost religious belief in the ability of these inadequate programs to predict the future, and insisting that the predictions are coming true regardless of the real facts. Their predictions have to come true or they have to admit either a colossal waste of time and money, a monumental scam, or unbelievable stupidity and gullibility.
The issue of global warming and, in particular, anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (AGW), the link between temperature and CO2 levels, and the issue of solar influence on climate will be discussed in later postings.