Not everything IPCC says or does is wrong gentlemen

Thursday at 11.00 I visited the lecture of atmospheric scientist Murry Salby in Hamburg at the Helmudt Schmidt University, the military academy.

The American Aussie is ‘on tour’ in Europe, lecturing several audiences in Paris, Cambridge and Oslo on his views on the relationship between CO2 and global temperatures on longer ánd shorter timescales, and is hailed by some blogs as a Galileo revolutionizing climate science. My blog is about the Galileo-content, and how to be skeptic on skeptics.

Salby was invited by Fritz Vahrenholt, writer of the succesfull skeptic book ‘Die Kalte Sonne’ warum der klimakatastrophe nicht statt find’. The German European Institue On Climate and Energie EIKE and the University arranged the lecture, having invited arch-sceptic Fred Singer in Hamburg 2 years earlier. Salby-skeptics on CO2 as slave of temperature
The blogosphere is familiar with Salby’s message and conclusions after a youtube-video appeared of one of his lectures. Judith Curry’s blog highlighted this. Some laymen on carbon cycle -that want to deny human influences – even claimed, that Salby ‘proved’ the CO2-temperature relation is upside-down in Climate. CO2 is a slave of temperature on both longer and shorter time-scales.

We on turned into Salby-skeptics after people like dr. Ferdinand Engelbeen on Whattsupwiththat convincingly demonstrated the contrary viewpoint of Salby. As did our homegrown carbon-cycle expert Guido here on from Free University Amsterdam. In our view, Salby is confusing sink rate and source rate, interannual variation and average (upward) trend.

Pick your battles at a military university
In Marcel Crok his succesfull Dutch sceptic climatebook ‘De Staat van het Klimaat’(State of the Climate)- where I contributed on the biology part- the human fingerprint of CO2 was the only indisputable fact of climate science. There’s other nuts to crack, with ‘climate sensitivity’ and attribution being the holy grail.

But i went to Hamburg with an open mind (and because as a nature photographer I wanted to visit Ohlsdorf Cemetery), and see what valid points Salby does have. After all, his pre-retirement publication list in atmospheric physics is impressive. So he must know to some point what he’s doing.

Scientific magazines on human reproduction at the Mensa of Helmud Smidt University

Salby analysed year to year variations in Delta CO2 as measured by satellite. The highest variations are in the tropics above the Amazone and Africa, the most populated areas (with high CO2 emissions) have lower variations. Interannual variations show a discernable temperature effect, where CO2 is lagging temperature.

Salby on Natural C13-sources
Salby also found that the ‘human fingerprint’of CO2- the C13/C12-balance in measured CO2 -on a year to year basis -does not perfectly correlate with the constant rise of human emissions. He found an inverse relation, and thus claims there must be a non-anthopogenic CO2-source distorting the C13/C12-balance. Salby submitted a paper to the Journal of Atmospheric Science on this temperature driven lag of Delta CO2 and the fingerprint but it was rejected.

Paper submitted but rejected by JAS
According to Salby the ‘Remote Sensing’-affair and politics were behind this deciscion. According to JAS there was ‘nothing new’to Salby’s argument. Carbon Cycle-experts have told me as well: next to the average rise in CO2-content caused by anthropogenic emissions- there is interannual variation in Delta CO2 where temperature influences pe vegetation, respiration and soil moisture and thus release/uptake of CO2: but it is assumed natural resources don’t add to the budget (to the contrary, nature acts as a sink) whereas anthropogenic emissions dó.

Ice cores: 8 ppm/degree Celsius by outgassing of oceans
The CO2-contribution of outgassing of CO2 from the oceans with this minimal year to year global temperature differences is negligible according to established opinion. Even 1 degree Celsius of temperature rise – as in last century-would cause only an extra 8 ppm. This can be derived from proxy’s like icecores, where temperature variation of 8-10 degrees did not lead to more than 100 ppm extra CO2 (with a time lag of 850 yrs+, as seen in Vostok Ice Core) .

So, what was new in Hamburg? Salby attacking ice-coredata
To claim that- also in the modern erra- CO2 is a slave of temperature- is problematic in relation to proxy-evidence and everything we now know about the carbon cycle. Salby turns nature- a sink– into a CO2-source.

In Hamburg Salby thus attacked the validity of CO2-measurements in ice cores, which –according to him- are based on the wrong assumptions on conservation of CO2 in ice cores: Salby has submitted this to a journal. Thus the CO2 measured in ice does not reflect the CO2-content of atmosphere in a period. So instead of the meager delta CO2 of 100 ppm seen in the Vostok Ice Core after 8 degrees Celsius of temperature rise, historical CO2-fluctuations could be up to 15 times higher. This leads Salby to conclude that current rise in CO2-content in atmosphere would not be ‘unprecedented’.

And then returning to his earlier points, CO2 can also be a slave of temperature in the modern era, as it was between the ice ages. Salby claims a close correlation. So actually his main point is: ‘where is the natural CO2-source, ultrasensitive to temperature’ increasing the CO2-content in atmosphere with more than 30 percent in over a century?

Logically contradictive: if CO2 is slave of temperature, then why is CO2 now going up?
Salby also mentioned the fact that in last century, only in the 20-30’s ánd the late ‘70s to the ‘90’s the rise in temperature was distinct. But this- following Salby’s logic- contradicts his argument. If CO2-rise is constantly going up, and CO2 is slave of temperature, how to explain that CO2 is still rising fast while global temperatures have reached a plateau for many years?

Only one reason to neglect anthropogenic source: some people just don’t want it
Why should we look for an other CO2-source, when the obvious one is adding 8 gigatonnes of carbon (and counting) every year to the BUDGET, and even one coal plant adds more CO2 per year then the mega-eruption of Mount St Helens? Because we do not want to be fooled by others, there is no reason to instead start fooling ourselves. And what is the mystery CO2-source, if people so desperately don’t want it to be anthropogenic?

Turning plant biology upside down; difference between cycle and budget
Knowing a little on the biology of plants, it is unlikely that a small rise of average global temperature makes them a net CO2-source by enhancing respiration, a mistake many climate alarmists also make. Respiration is more influenced by drought than temperature, and temperature rise is highest in northern latitudes: here it is unlikely that average temperature will exceed the optimum for photosynthesis of C3-plants.

Instead, the speed and efficiency of photosynthesis of both C3 (optimum 25 degrees Celsius) and C4-plants is likely to be enhanced by higher average temperature, especially on northern latitudes where Delta T is highest. With the CO2 added to the atmosphere, it is thus likely that the amount of carbon IN the carboncycle of vegetation is enhanced and the speed with which it is transmitted, but not the BUDGET. It is more likely that natural sink capacity is enhanced, if carbon release from permafrost does not overrule this. Nature as CO2-source also seems to contradict the powerfull fertilisation effects observed both in laboratory experiments and field trials (FACE)

    Salby had no answer, but the usual ‘there are many uncertainties’. This made me more uncertain of the validity of his arguments.

Lay audience and personal testimonies
Unfortunately, only laymen visited the EIKE-lecture. Though EIKE invited climate scientists like Mojib Latif who refused to come. So we ended up with the usual sorry bunch at ‘skeptic’-meetings: non-professionals motivated by politics, and annoyed by climate claptrap by journalists in popular media which most of the time is their only source on climate matters. In my view the greatest problem lies with my (lazy) colleagues, science journalists: this should be a theme of a conference.

So we had Laymen and this time a woman, who use question-time as a chance to have their testimony heard in public, in this event someone worried about her schoolgoing daughter. Other people mixed up several other debates, the one on climate sensitivity and sources of CO2. They are suspiciously motivated by one reason: we don’t care what the cause is and if it is logically sound, as long as it’s not humans. Which degrades any debate into a waste of time.

This is a pity, as

  • a. Members of EIKE are well qualified and have valid points that are needed for a more rational debate on climate, both scientific and in the science-policy-interface
  • b. parts of Salby’s work might enhance our understanding of the CO2-temperature relation, CO2-sinks and sources and carbon fluxes.
  • The German Focus Magazine took pictures of Salby in front of the mensa

      The Post Retirement Galileo Complex
      Somehow, we find a high diversity of academic havebeens with a Galileo Complex in the skeptosphere. They believe- since time is an infinite resource after retirement- it is time to crack the nut in a field of science that has not been theirs in their professional carreer.

      With their fresh senior mind and look at the subject they turn all the bookshelves and Isi Web of Science of their chosen part of climate science. In this habitat, they one day meet ‘the uncertainty monster’; the fact that in every field there are many unknowns and assumptions. No perfect relations or correlations. Scientists also happen to be fallible human beings with a mortgage, obeying to academic fashion, prestige, politics and academic group think. There is álways a chance they have been burning academic time and government money on a flogiston-theory or Piltdown man.

      So what happens if the retired Galileo fights the uncertainty monster, and emerges concluding: they must all be wrong! Statistically, every year from now the chances rise that something on some day múst come out of this enterprise. The whole babyboom-generation in academia is now entering the age of retirement, the largest population of high educated people in Western history.

      If we don’t want to be fooled by others, let’s not instead fool ourselves
      But this fact also means the bullshit-diversity will increase exponentially, since even retired academics did not leave their human weaknesses at the faculty. Some fake-skeptics embrace everyone with academic credentials as long as the message is ‘humans are not the cause’. So how to distinguish between both?

    If Salby publishes his work, and it passes the review, this should be the test and we will see. So let’s not resort to the ‘politization’-meme too often as many skeptical scientists like Christy and Lindzen have found no difficulty in having their views published. Still the event was stimulating, and I thank EIKE and prof dr. Herman Harde for their kindness and hospitality.

    I had a great day at Ohlsdorf photographing the great horned owls, proving nature’s resilience between tombstones and 2 million visitors per year in the middle of Hamburg.