This is the new Breaking News page and we hope to discuss recent observations in the Press and Scientific Journals



Patrick Moore is Wrong
JB: An example of too little understanding of the science leading to incorrect opinions and a pretence of authority
2015 Annual GWPF Lecture
Institute of Mechanical Engineers, London 14 October 2015

My Lords and Ladies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you for the opportunity to set out my views on climate change. As I have stated publicly on many occasions, there is no definitive scientific proof, through real-world observation, that carbon dioxide is responsible for any of the slight warming of the global climate that has occurred during the past 300 years, since the peak of the Little Ice Age. If there were such a proof through testing and replication it would have been written down for all to see.
The contention that human emissions are now the dominant influence on climate is simply a hypothesis, rather than a universally accepted scientific theory. It is therefore correct, indeed verging on compulsory in the scientific tradition, to be skeptical of those who express certainty that "the science is settled" and "the debate is over".
But there is certainty beyond any doubt that CO2 is the building block for all life on Earth and that without its presence in the global atmosphere at a sufficient concentration this would be a dead planet. Yet today our children and our publics are taught that CO2 is a toxic pollutant that will destroy life and bring civilization to its knees. Tonight I hope to turn this dangerous human-caused propaganda on its head. Tonight I will demonstrate that human emissions of CO2 have already saved life on our planet from a very untimely end. That in the absence of our emitting some of the carbon back into the atmosphere from whence it came in the first place, most or perhaps all life on Earth would begin to die less than two million years from today.
But first a bit of background.
The Keeling curve of CO2 concentration in the Earth's atmosphere since 1959 is the supposed smoking gun of catastrophic climate change. We presume CO2 was at 280 ppm at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, before human activity could have caused a significant impact. I accept that most of the rise from 280 to 400 ppm is caused by human CO2 emissions with the possibility that some of it is due to outgassing from warming of the oceans.


JB: Moore accepts that the oceans have warmed (for some reason), but they would have to have warmed by about 8°C to explain the 280 to 400 ppmv increase in CO2. For the accepted rise of 0.8°C the increase in CO2 concentration can only have been 8 ppmv; 7% of the observed rise.
Let's begin with our knowledge of the long-term history of the Earth's temperature and of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere. Our best inference from various proxies back indicate that CO2 was higher for the first 4 billion years of Earth's history than it has been since the Cambrian Period until today. I will focus on the past 540 million years since modern life forms evolved. It is glaringly obvious that temperature and CO2 are in an inverse correlation at least as often as they are in any semblance of correlation. Two clear examples of reverse correlation occurred 150 million years and 50 million years ago. At the end of the Jurassic temperature fell dramatically while CO2 spiked. During the Eocene Thermal Maximum, temperature was likely higher than any time in the past 550 million years while CO2 had been on a downward track for 100 million years. This evidence alone sufficient to warrant deep speculation of any claimed lock-step causal relationship between CO2 and temperature.
The Devonian Period beginning 400 million years ago marked the culmination of the invasion of life onto the land. Plants evolved to produce lignin, which in combination with cellulose, created wood which in turn for the first time allowed plants to grow tall, in competition with each other for sunlight. As vast forests spread across the land living biomass increased by orders of magnitude, pulling down carbon as CO2 from the atmosphere to make wood. Lignin is very difficult to break down and no decomposer species possessed the enzymes to digest it. Trees died atop one another until they were 100 metres or more in depth. This was the making of the great coal beds around the world as this huge store of sequestered carbon continued to build for 90 million years. Then, fortunately for the future of life, white rot fungi evolved to produce the enzymes that can digest lignin and coincident with that the coal-making era came to an end.
There was no guarantee that fungi or any other decomposer species would develop the complex of enzymes required to digest lignin. If they had not, CO2, which had already been drawn down for the first time in Earth's history to levels similar to todays, would have continued to decline as trees continued to grow and die. That is until CO2 approached the threshold of 150 ppm below which plants begin first to starve, then stop growing altogether, and then die. Not just woody plants but all plants. This would bring about the extinction of most, if not all, terrestrial species, as animals, insects, and other invertebrates starved for lack of food. And that would be that. The human species would never have existed. This was only the first time that there was a distinct possibility that life would come close to extinguishing itself, due to a shortage of CO2, which is essential for life on Earth.
A well-documented record of global temperature over the past 65 million years shows that we have been in a major cooling period since the Eocene Thermal Maximum 50 million years ago. The Earth was an average 16C warmer then, with most of the increased warmth at the higher latitudes. The entire planet, including the Arctic and Antarctica were ice-free and the land there was covered in forest.
The ancestors of every species on Earth today survived through what may have been the warmest time in the history of life. It makes one wonder about dire predictions that even a 2C rise in temperature from pre-industrial times would cause mass extinctions and the destruction of civilization. Glaciers began to form in Antarctica 30 million years ago and in the northern hemisphere 3 million years ago. Today, even in this interglacial period of the Pleistocene Ice Age, we are experiencing one of the coldest climates in the Earth's history.
Coming closer to the present we have learned from Antarctic ice cores that for the past 800,000 years there have been regular periods of major glaciation followed by interglacial periods in 100,000 year-cycles. These cycles coincide with the Milankovitch cycles that are tied to the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit and its axial tilt. It is highly plausible that these cycles are related to solar intensity and the seasonal distribution of solar heat on the Earth's surface. There is a strong correlation between temperature and the level of atmospheric CO2 during these successive glaciations, indicating a possible cause-effect relationship between the two. CO2 lags temperature by an average of 800 years during the most recent 400,000-year period, indicating that temperature is the cause, as the cause never comes after the effect.
Looking at the past 50,000 years of temperature and CO2 we can see that changes in CO2 follow changes in temperature. This is as one could expect, as the Milankovitch cycles are far more likely to cause a change in temperature than a change in CO2. And a change in the temperature is far more likely to cause a change in CO2 due to outgassing of CO2 from the oceans during warmer times and an ingassing (absorption) of CO2 during colder periods. Yet climate alarmists persist in insisting that CO2 is causing the change in temperature, despite the illogical nature of that assertion.


JB: Apart from the last sentence, all the above is correct; when other factors cause the global temperature to change there is a feedback from its effect on CO2 concentration. If a factor causes an increase in temperature, the ocean releases CO2 and this causes a further rise in temperature. If the factor causes a decrease in global temperature, more CO2 dissolves in the ocean and the atmosphere loses some of the greenhouse effect of the gas. This is all very understandable and has nothing whatsoever to do with our emissions of CO2 that are causing the increase in global temperature since 1880.
It is sobering to consider the magnitude of climate change during the past 20,000 years, since the peak of the last major glaciation. At that time there were 3.3 kilometres of ice on top of what is today the city of Montreal, a city of more than 3 million people. 95% of Canada was covered in a sheet of ice. Even as far south as Chicago there was nearly a kilometre of ice. If the Milankovitch cycle continues to prevail, and there is little reason aside from our CO2 emissions to think otherwise, this will happen gradually again during the next 80,000 years. Will our CO2 emissions stave off another glaciation as James Lovelock has suggested? There doesn't seem to be much hope of that so far, as despite 1/3 of all our CO2 emissions being released during the past 18 years the UK Met Office contends there has been no statistically significant warming during this century.


JB: Again there is a misunderstanding of whether CO2 has a feedback effect to other factors or whether it has a direct effect on global temperature. It acts in both ways and because it is accepted to explain historic changes does not vitiate its present direct warming effect.

Coming back to the relationship between temperature and CO2 in the modern era we can see that temperature has risen at a steady slow rate in Central England since 1700 while human CO2 emissions were not relevant until 1850 and then began an exponential rise after 1950. This is not indicative of a direct causal relationship between the two. After freezing over regularly during the Little Ice Age the River Thames froze for the last time in 1814, as the Earth moved into what might be called the Modern Warm Period.
The IPCC states it is "extremely likely" that human emissions have been the dominant cause of global warming "since the mid-20th century", that is since 1950. They claim that "extremely" means 95% certain, even though the number 95 was simply plucked from the air like an act of magic. And "likely" is not a scientific word but rather indicative of a judgment, another word for an opinion.
There was a 30-year period of warming from 1910-1940, then a cooling from 1940 to 1970, just as CO2 emissions began to rise exponentially, and then a 30-year warming from 1970-2000 that was very similar in duration and temperature rise to the rise from 1910-1940. One may then ask "what caused the increase in temperature from 1910-1940 if it was not human emissions? And if it was natural factors how do we know that the same natural factors were not responsible for the rise between 1970-2000." You don't need to go back millions of years to find the logical fallacy in the IPCC's certainty that we are the villains in the piece.


JB: If only there was only one factor affecting Earth's global mean temperature!? There is not and there is confusion in the preceding paragraphs. There are indeed times when the global temperature is declining and these decreases are caused by factors not connected with CO2 emissions. The Pacific Decadic Oscillation and the Atlantic Multidecadic Overturning are major factors affecting Earth's mean temperature and they are superimposed upon the general warming trend that is caused by CO2 emissions.

Water is by far the most important greenhouse gas, and is the only molecule that is present in the atmosphere in all three states, gas, liquid, and solid. As a gas, water vapour is a greenhouse gas, but as a liquid and solid it is not. As a liquid water forms clouds, which send solar radiation back into space during the day and hold heat in at night. There is no possibility that computer models can predict the net effect of atmospheric water in a higher CO2 atmosphere. Yet warmists postulate that higher CO2 will result in positive feedback from water, thus magnifying the effect of CO2 alone by 2-3 times. Other scientists believe that water may have a neutral or negative feedback on CO2. The observational evidence from the early years of this century tends to reinforce the latter hypothesis.


JB: A biased conclusion. At least the action of water as a greenhouse gas is acknowledged and implicitly so is that of CO2. Spectroscopic calculations show that the contributions to global warming are water vapour 50%, clouds 25%, CO2 19%, leaving 7% for everything else. Moore has already recognised that warming produces more CO2 to be released from the ocean and warming also produces more cloud.
How many politicians or members of the media or the public are aware of this statement about climate change from the IPCC in 2007?
"we should recognise that we are dealing with a coupled nonlinear chaotic system, and therefore that the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible."
There is a graph showing that the climate models have grossly exaggerated the rate of warming that confirms the IPCC statement. The only trends the computer models seem able to predict accurately are ones that have already occurred.


JB: It is the case that all the models are in error, but most of them agree that there should be general warming as the CO2 concentration increases; that is in line with what is known and understood about the spectroscopic properties of the gas.

Coming to the core of my presentation, CO2 is the currency of life and the most important building block for all life on Earth. All life is carbon-based, including our own. Surely the carbon cycle and its central role in the creation of life should be taught to our children rather than the demonization of CO2, that "carbon" is a "pollutant" that threatens the continuation of life. We know for a fact that CO2 is essential for life and that it must be at a certain level in the atmosphere for the survival of plants, which are the primary food for all the other species alive today. Should we not encourage our citizens, students, teachers, politicians, scientists, and other leaders to celebrate CO2 as the giver of life that it is?


JB: We should all try to understand all the effects of an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. I agree that the gas should not be regarded as a pollutant and it is true that it is the staff of life.
It is a proven fact that plants, including trees and all our food crops, are capable of growing much faster at higher levels of CO2 than present in the atmosphere today. Even at the today's concentration of 400 ppm plants are relatively starved for nutrition. The optimum level of CO2 for plant growth is about 5 times higher, 2000 ppm, yet the alarmists warn it is already too high. They must be challenged every day by every person who knows the truth in this matter. CO2 is the giver of life and we should celebrate CO2 rather than denigrate it as is the fashion today.


JB: Yes, 2000 ppmv CO2 in a real greenhouse produces enhance plant growth providing that all the other essential nutrients are present. Such a concentration in the atmosphere would have deleterious effects from the warming produced. There are deserts on Earth where plant growth is impossible and the upper temperature limits are known for all types of vegetation. As temperature increases the areas on Earth where these limits are exceeded are becoming greater. At present the effect of increased temperature on crop yields is positive, but you can have too much of a good thing and eventually there will be a diminution of crop growth and a diminution of the land area that can support crops.
We are witnessing the "Greening of the Earth" as higher levels of CO2, due to human emissions from the use of fossil fuels, promote increased growth of plants around the world. This has been confirmed by scientists with CSIRO in Australia, in Germany, and in North America. Only half of the CO2 we are emitting from the use of fossil fuels is showing up in the atmosphere. The balance is going somewhere else and the best science says most of it is going into an increase in global plant biomass. And what could be wrong with that, as forests and agricultural crops become more productive?
All the CO2 in the atmosphere has been created by outgassing from the Earth's core during massive volcanic eruptions. This was much more prevalent in the early history of the Earth when the core was hotter than it is today. During the past 150 million years there has not been enough addition of CO2 to the atmosphere to offset the gradual losses due to burial in sediments.


JB: But in the last 130 years there has been more than enough CO2 emitted to the atmosphere to cause its concentration to rise from 280 ppmv to the current 400 ppmv. This is at a rate unprecedented in the past and far far greater than the rate of sedimentation of carbonate minerals.
Let's look at where all the carbon is in the world, and how it is moving around.

Today, at just over 400 ppm CO2 there are 850 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. By comparison, when modern life-forms evolved over 500 million years ago there was nearly 15,000 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere, 17 times today's level. Plants and soils combined contain more than 2,000 billion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as the entire global atmosphere. The oceans contain 38,000 billion tons of dissolved CO2, 45 times as much as in the atmosphere. Fossil fuels, which were made from plants that pulled CO2 from the atmosphere account for 5,000 - 10,000 billion tons of carbon, 6 - 12 times as much carbon as is in the atmosphere.


JB: The factor for converting ppmv into gigatonnes of CARBON is 2.13. 400 ppmv CO2 in the atmosphere equates to 852 gigatonnes of carbon; the amount of carbon dioxide is that figure multiplied by 44/12 giving 3124 gigatonnes of the gas. All Moore's figures are for carbon rather than carbon dioxide.
But the truly stunning number is the amount of carbon that has been sequestered from the atmosphere and turned into carbonaceous rocks. 100,000,000 billion tons, that's one quadrillion tons of carbon, have been turned into stone by marine species that learned to make armour-plating for themselves by combining calcium and carbon into calcium carbonate. Limestone, chalk, and marble are all of life origin and amount to 99.9% of all the carbon ever present in the global atmosphere. The white cliffs of Dover are made of the calcium carbonate skeletons of coccolithophores, tiny marine phytoplankton.
The vast majority of the carbon dioxide that originated in the atmosphere has been sequestered and stored quite permanently in carbonaceous rocks where it cannot be used as food by plants.
Beginning 540 million years ago at the beginning of the Cambrian Period many marine species of invertebrates evolved the ability to control calcification and to build armour plating to protect their soft bodies. Shellfish such as clams and snails, corals, coccolithofores (phytoplankton) and foraminifera (zooplankton) began to combine carbon dioxide with calcium and thus to remove carbon from the life cycle as the shells sank into sediments; 100,000,000 billion tons of carbonaceous sediment. It is ironic that life itself, by devising a protective suit of armour, determined its own eventual demise by continuously removing CO2 from the atmosphere. This is carbon sequestration and storage writ large. These are the carbonaceous sediments that form the shale deposits from which we are fracking gas and oil today. And I add my support to those who say, "OK UK, get fracking".


JB: Fracking supplements natural gas, they have the same energy content, but contribute CO2 to the atmosphere with the usual consequences.
The past 150 million years has seen a steady drawing down of CO2 from the atmosphere. There are many components to this but what matters is the net effect, a removal on average of 37,000 tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year for 150 million years. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere was reduced by about 90% during this period. This means that volcanic emissions of CO2 have been outweighed by the loss of carbon to calcium carbonate sediments on a multi-million year basis.
If this trend continues CO2 will inevitably fall to levels that threaten the survival of plants, which require a minimum of 150 ppm to survive. If plants die all the animals, insects, and other invertebrates that depend on plants for their survival will also die.
How long will it be at the present level of CO2 depletion until most or all of life on Earth is threatened with extinction by lack of CO2 in the atmosphere?


JB: The 'minimum' of 150 ppmv CO2 was only achieved when other factors caused a cooling of the Earth leading to a loss of CO2 from the atmosphere as it dissolved in the ocean; a feedback process. After many millions of years the level of 280 ppmv CO2 was the steady state value for the global mean temperature in the pre-industrial age. The external factors affecting the Earth's orbital characteristics are many millions of years away from producing the cooling associated with a CO2 concentration of 150 ppmv.
During this Pleistocene Ice Age, CO2 tends to reach a minimum level when the successive glaciations reach their peak. During the last glaciation, which peaked 18,000 years ago, CO2 bottomed out at 180 ppm, extremely likely the lowest level CO2 has been in the history of the Earth. This is only 30 ppm above the level that plants begin to die. Paleontological research has demonstrated that even at 180 ppm there was a severe restriction of growth as plants began to starve. With the onset of the warmer interglacial period CO2 rebounded to 280 ppm.  But even today, with human emissions causing CO2 to reach 400 ppm plants are still restricted in their growth rate, which would be much higher if CO2 were at 1000-2000 ppm.
Here is the shocking news. If humans had not begun to unlock some of the carbon stored as fossil fuels, all of which had been in the atmosphere as CO2 before sequestration by plants and animals, life on Earth would have soon been starved of this essential nutrient and would begin to die. Given the present trends of glaciations and interglacial periods this would likely have occurred less than 2 million years from today, a blink in nature's eye, 0.05% of the 3.5 billion-year history of life.
No other species could have accomplished the task of putting some of the carbon back into the atmosphere that was taken out and locked in the Earth's crust by plants and animals over the millennia. This is why I honour James Lovelock in my lecture this evening. Jim was for many years of the belief that humans are the one-and-only rogue species on Gaia, destined to cause catastrophic global warming. I enjoy the Gaia hypothesis but I am not religious about it and for me this was too much like original sin. It was as if humans were the only evil species on the Earth.
But James Lovelock has seen the light and realized that humans may be part of Gaia's plan, and he has good reason to do so. And I honour him because it takes courage to change your mind after investing so much of your reputation on the opposite opinion. Rather than seeing humans as the enemies of Gaia, Lovelock now sees that we may be working with Gaia to "stave of another ice age", or major glaciation. This is much more plausible than the climate doom-and gloom scenario because our release of CO2 back into the atmosphere has definitely reversed the steady downward slide of this essential food for life, and hopefully may reduce the chance that the climate will slide into another period of major glaciation. We can be certain that higher levels of CO2 will result in increased plant growth and biomass. We really don't know whether or not higher levels of CO2 will prevent or reduce the eventual slide into another major glaciation. Personally I am not hopeful for this because the long-term history just doesn't support a strong correlation between CO2 and temperature.
It does boggle the mind in the face of our knowledge that the level of CO2 has been steadily falling that human CO2 emissions are not universally acclaimed as a miracle of salvation. From direct observation we already know that the extreme predictions of CO2's impact on global temperature are highly unlikely given that about one-third of all our CO2 emissions have been discharged during the past 18 years and there has been no statistically significant warming. And even if there were some additional warming that would surely be preferable to the extermination of all or most species on the planet.
You heard it here. "Human emissions of carbon dioxide have saved life on Earth from inevitable starvation and extinction due to lack of CO2". To use the analogy of the Atomic Clock, if the Earth were 24 hours old we were at 38 seconds to midnight when we reversed the trend towards the End Times. If that isn't good news I don't know what is. You don't get to stave off Armageddon every day.

I issue a challenge to anyone to provide a compelling argument that counters my analysis of the historical record and the prediction of CO2 starvation based on the 150 million year trend. Ad hominem arguments about "deniers" need not apply. I submit that much of society has been collectively misled into believing that global CO2 and temperature are too high when the opposite is true for both. Does anyone deny that below 150 ppm CO2 that plants will die? Does anyone deny that the Earth has been in a 50 million-year cooling period and that this Pleistocene Ice Age is one of the coldest periods in the history of the planet?


JB: I've mentioned the dual roles of CO2 in my comments. If other factors alter the Earth's mean temperature there is a feedback effect on the CO2 concentration. Higher temperature produces more CO2 and that causes more warming. Lower temperature allows more CO2 to dissolve in the ocean and its warming effect is lost. A direct injection of CO2 into the atmosphere produces warming that is approximately logarithmic. The warming never levels off. Humans have been affecting the CO2 levels since farming began about 8000 years ago, mainly by deforestation, but only since we started burning fossil fuels has the level increased more rapidly and caused the atmosphere to warm up. Left to its own without human intervention the various states of carbon would approach equilibrium and that might very well be the loss of CO2 from the atmosphere with the eventual production of more carbonate sediments. These processes involved in these transformations are extremely slow and have been overwhelmed by human intervention.
If we assume human emissions have to date added some 200 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, even if we ceased using fossil fuels today we have already bought another 5 million years for life on earth. But we will not stop using fossil fuels to power our civilization so it is likely that we can forestall plant starvation for lack of CO2 by at least 65 million years. Even when the fossil fuels have become scarce we have the quadrillion tons of carbon in carbonaceous rocks, which we can transform into lime and CO2 for the manufacture of cement. And we already know how to do that with solar energy or nuclear energy. This alone, regardless of fossil fuel consumption, will more than offset the loss of CO2 due to calcium carbonate burial in marine sediments. Without a doubt the human species has made it possible to prolong the survival of life on Earth for more than 100 million years. We are not the enemy of nature but its salvation.
As a postscript I would like to make a few comments about the other side of the alleged dangerous climate change coin, our energy policy, in particular the much maligned fossil fuels; coal, oil, and natural gas.
Depending how it's tallied, fossil fuels account for between 85-88% of global energy consumption and more than 95% of energy for the transport of people and goods, including our food.
Earlier this year the leaders of the G7 countries agreed that fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100, a most bizarre development to say the least. Of course no intelligent person really believes this will happen but it is a testament to the power of the elites that have converged around the catastrophic human-caused climate change that so many alleged world leaders must participate in the charade. How might we convince them to celebrate CO2 rather than to denigrate it?

A lot of nasty things are said about fossil fuels even though they are largely responsible for our longevity, our prosperity, and our comfortable lifestyles.

Hydrocarbons, the energy components of fossil fuels, are 100% organic, as in organic chemistry. They were produced by solar energy in ancient seas and forests. When they are burned for energy the main products are water and CO2, the two most essential foods for life. And fossil fuels are by far the largest storage battery of direct solar energy on Earth. Nothing else comes close except nuclear fuel, which is also solar in the sense that it was produced in dying stars.
Today, Greenpeace protests Russian and American oil rigs with 3000 HP diesel-powered ships and uses 200 HP outboard motors to board the rigs and hang anti-oil plastic banners made with fossil fuels. Then they issue a media release telling us we must "end our addiction to oil". I wouldn't mind so much if Greenpeace rode bicycles to their sailing ships and rowed their little boats into the rigs to hang organic cotton banners. We didn't have an H-bomb on board the boat that sailed on the first Greenpeace campaign against nuclear testing.
Some of the world's oil comes from my native country in the Canadian oil sands of northern Alberta. I had never worked with fossil fuel interests until I became incensed with the lies being spread about my country's oil production in the capitals of our allies around the world. I visited the oil sands operations to find out for myself what was happening there.
It is true it's not a pretty sight when the land is stripped bare to get at the sand so the oil can be removed from it. Canada is actually cleaning up the biggest natural oil spill in history, and making a profit from it. The oil was brought to the surface when the Rocky Mountains were thrust up by the colliding Pacific Plate. When the sand is returned back to the land 99% of the so-called "toxic oil" has been removed from it.
Anti-oil activists say the oil-sands operations are destroying the boreal forest of Canada. Canada's boreal forest accounts for 10% of all the world's forests and the oil-sands area is like a pimple on an elephant by comparison. By law, every square inch of land disturbed by oil-sands extraction must be returned to native boreal forest. When will cities like London, Brussels, and New York that have laid waste to the natural environment be returned to their native ecosystems?
The art and science of ecological restoration, or reclamation as it is called in the mining industry, is a well-established practice. The land is re-contoured, the original soil is put back, and native species of plants and trees are established. It is possible, by creating depressions where the land was flat, to increase biodiversity by making ponds and lakes where wetland plants, insects, and waterfowl can become established in the reclaimed landscape.
The tailings ponds where the cleaned sand is returned look ugly for a few years but are eventually reclaimed into grasslands. The Fort McKay First Nation is under contract to manage a herd of bison on a reclaimed tailings pond. Every tailings pond will be reclaimed in a similar manner when operations have been completed.

As an ecologist and environmentalist for more than 45 years this is good enough for me. The land is disturbed for a blink of an eye in geological time and is then returned to a sustainable boreal forest ecosystem with cleaner sand. And as a bonus we get the fuel to power our weed-eaters, scooters, motorcycles, cars, trucks, buses, trains, and aircraft.
To conclude, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is the stuff of life, the staff of life, the currency of life, indeed the backbone of life on Earth.


JB: Agreed, but it's only half the story. More CO2 produces atmospheric warming and produces more rapid plant growth. There are limits to the temperature tolerance of plants and more warming from more CO2 will eventually exceed these limits. The enhancement of growth currently will depend upon the availability of the other essential nutrients in the soil; the production of these nutrients is dependent upon the rate of weathering of rocks and that is an extremely slow process. A lack of these nutrients will eventually slow down plant growth.

I am honoured to have been chosen to deliver your annual lecture.
Thank you for listening to me this evening.
I hope you have seen CO2 from a new perspective and will join with me to Celebrate CO2!


JB: Hurrah for CO2! It promotes plant growth (for now), but, Oh dear, it might make the Earth too warm and the rate of plant growth might decline as a result.



How to lie with Statistics or to misunderstand the effect of CO2 concentration on the temperature of the Earth's surface and lower troposphere


An author from Australia posted this article recently (March 2015) and JB's comments are interspersed in italics.


Atmospheric CO2: temperature relationship


    Proof as to what has happened in the Earth's atmosphere is sitting in the records of the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases. There are 368 locations on the web site for the World Data Centre for Greenhouse Gases which each contain files of past atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Taken together with 36 years of satellite temperature measurements these give us a clear insight into what has actually been happening in the Earth's atmosphere.

    Linear regression analysis applied to the historic data has revealed that both the monthly and annual changes in each of the CO2 concentration and the satellite lower tropospheric temperature generate insignificant correlation coefficients with a high probability that the coefficients are zero.

    An example is the Scripps Institute data from the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii [1]. The correlation between the monthly CO2 change and the monthly temperature change was 0.02 with 64% probability that the value could be zero. The correlation between the annual CO2 change and the annual temperature change was 0.11 with 2% probability that the value could be zero. The Tropics Land satellite lower tropospheric temperature data from University of Alabama, Huntsville [2], was used for these calculations.

    Another example is from CSIRO data, Cape Grim, NW Tasmania [3], where the monthly correlation between the variables was -0.01 with 80% probability of being zero and the annual correlation was -0.05 with 32% probability of being zero from comparison with the UAH Global satellite lower tropospheric temperature [2].

    Hence there is no causal relationship between changes in both CO2 concentration and satellite lower tropospheric temperature. CO2 does not cause global warming.


JB: A completely wrong conclusion. It is based on the correlation or otherwise between changes in monthly CO2 concentrations and changes in monthly temperature anomalies. All these changes are extremely small and since they are subject to errors, the exercise of seeking the regression between the two sets of data is the same as that between two normally distributed variables. The result of such a calculation is a correlation coefficient of zero. It is not surprising that the wrong conclusion has been reached!

    However, regression analysis has revealed that there is a high correlation between the annual average temperature and the annual increment in CO2. At Mauna Loa this correlation coefficient was 0.69 with negligible probability that the correlation is zero.


Other examples of the correlation between the annual average temperature, [2], and the annual increment in CO2 are:
Alert, N. Canada, ground station [4], 0.16 ,
Barrow, Alaska, ground station [5], 0.54 ,
Izanz (Tenerife, Spain) [6], 0.54,
Cape Kumukahi [7], 0.67,
NOAA/ESRA Pacific Ocean (00N) [8], 0.62,
Ascension Island [9], 0.54,
Cape Grim [3], 0.64,
Macquarie Island, Southern Ocean [10], 0.73,
South Pole [11], 0.22,
all with negligible probability that the coefficient was zero.

JB: This is better! Now the attempted correlation is between much larger changes and good results are produced.

    Clearly the temperature level drives the rate of change in CO2 concentration for reasons which may have been discovered long ago if the IPCC had not restricted itself to studying only "human-induced climate change".


JB: This is not at all clear and is another totally wrong conclusion. Physics determines that increasing concentrations of CO2 causes warming of the Earth's surface and the lower troposphere and cooling of the lower stratosphere. It is true that an increase of temperature will reduce the solubility of CO2 in the ocean, but to cause the observed increase in the atmosphere would require a temperature rise of about 8°C and that has not happened!

    This explains why the CO2 concentration has been continually increasing for the past 58 years of recording at the Mauna Loa Observatory but the rate of increase in CO2 concentration has now reached a plateau. In the first 5 years of recording at Mauna Loa, the CO2 concentration was rising at a rate of 0.7 ppm per annum. This rate has continually increased to reach a plateau of almost 2.1 ppm per annum for the most recent 15 years. The IPCC now have to explain a plateau in each of two variables, namely temperature and rate of increase in CO2 concentration.


JB: More nonsense. The rate of increase has not reached a plateau and neither will it do so as long as fossil fuels are being burned. The annual increases are dependent upon the fossil fuel emissions and the ocean surface temperature, both varying over the time scale of observations. Reasons for the 'pause' in global mean temperature, really a much reduced positive trend, are to be found in studies of natural cycles such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. The roughly constant rate of increase in the CO2 concentration (regarded as a plateau by the author) is expected from the roughly constant rate of fossil fuel emissions.

    To conclude, the natural rise in temperature since the Little Ice Age has most likely caused the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration since then, regardless of mankind.


JB: Rubbish! The article is an example of how not to use statistics and to obtain false conclusions that agree with prejudiced ideas.

[4] , ,





by IPCC Expert Reviewer Vincent Gray


AUGUST  28th 2013


The whole environmentalist movement has been conned into believing that emissions of carbon dioxide harm the climate. There is no evidence for this claim, which is merely asserted by self-styled "experts. The fact that global temperatures have not changed for 17 years despite a continuing increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide proves that the two are not related.

JB: This is typical extremist sceptical non-think. The global mean temperature data between 1940 and 1976 was almost trendless and showed some cooling. That also would have fired up Vincent to claim that CO2 and global temperature are unconnected. Any short period of data taken from the whole record from 1850 to the present time could be used to prove or disprove the connection depending upon the author's attitude or preconception. But, over the whole period there has been an upward trend in temperature that can be linked to the ever increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. The best equation for the trend is:

Temperature anomaly = 2.66 ln (CO2/ppmv) - 15.454

When the annual values given by this equation are removed from the whole record there remain data that show zero trend, but with considerable increases and decreases in the temperature anomaly. These residual variations can be associated with major 'natural' oscillations such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation. There are also smaller oscillations with lower maxima and minima, but none shows any trend other than zero.

This topic is discussed in detail in my e-book: Global Warming: The Human Contribution by Jack Barrett, Amazon, £1.97

‒ A Lukewarmer's Ten Tests

What It Would Take To Persuade Me That Current Climate Policy Makes Sense


By Matt Ridley (with JB's comments in italics)


I have written about climate change and energy policy for more than 25 years. I have come to the conclusion that current energy and climate policy is probably more dangerous, both economically and ecologically, than climate change itself. This is not the same as arguing that climate has not changed or that mankind is not partly responsible. That the climate has changed because of man-made carbon dioxide I fully accept. What I do not accept is that the change is or will be damaging, or that current policy would prevent it.

For the benefit of supporters of climate change policy who feel frustrated by the reluctance of people like me to accept their assurances, here is what they would need to do to change my mind.

1.      I need persuading that the urban heat island effect has been fully purged from the surface temperature record. Satellites are showing less warming than the surface thermometers, and there is evidence that local warming of growing cities, and poor siting of thermometers, is still contaminating the global record1. I also need to be convinced that the adjustments made by those who compile the global temperature records are justified. Since 2008 alone, NASA has added about 0.1°C of warming to the trend by unexplained "adjustments" to old records2. It is not reassuring that one of the main surface temperature records is produced by an extremist prepared to get himself arrested (James Hansen).

Over the 33 years of satellite data the rising temperature trend has been insignificantly different from the terrestrial records.


2.      Despite these two contaminating factors, the temperature trend remains modest: not much more than 0.1°C per decade since 1979. So I would need persuading that water vapour will amplify CO2's effect threefold in the future but has not done so yet. This is what the models assume despite evidence that clouds formed from water vapour are more likely to moderate than amplify any warming3.

This is a good point; all the temperature records are pretty well in agreement and show no signs of any acceleration due to the supposed water vapour feedback.


3.      Nor am I convinced that sulphate aerosols and ocean heat uptake can explain the gap between model predictions and actual observations over the last 34 years. Both are now well understood and provide insufficient excuse for such an underperformance. Negative cloud feedback, leading to total feedbacks being modest, is the more plausible explanation4.

Sulphate aerosols were first proposed by climatologists to explain the negative trend of temperature between 1940 and 1976. A much more scientific explanation is that the temperature reduction was because the Atlantic Meridional Overturning cycle was in its cooling phase.

4.         The one trend that has been worse than expected - Arctic sea ice - is plausibly explained by black carbon (soot), not carbon dioxide. Soot from dirty diesel engines and coal-fired power stations is now reckoned to be a far greater factor in climate change than before; it is a short-lived pollutant, easily dealt with by local rather than global action5. So you would need to persuade me that this finding, by explaining some recent climate change, does not further reduce the likely sensitivity of the atmosphere to carbon dioxide. Certainly, it "buys time"6.

Global warming is expected to cause warming at both poles and has been observed only in the Arctic.


5.      Even the Met Office admits that the failure of the models to predict the temperature standstill of the last 16 years is evidence that natural factors can match man-made ones. We now know there is nothing unprecedented about the level and rate of change of temperature today compared with Medieval, Roman, Holocene Optimum and other post-glacial periods, when carbon dioxide levels did not change significantly, but temperatures did7. I would need persuading that natural factors cannot continue to match man-made ones.

Agreed that natural 'cycles' have their warming and cooling phases and can either enhance or enfeeble the warming associated with the increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2.

6.      Given that we know that the warming so far has increased global vegetation cover, increased precipitation, lengthened growing seasons, cause minimal ecological change and had no impact on extreme weather events, I need persuading that future warming will be fast enough and large enough to do net harm rather than net good. Unless water-vapour-supercharged, the models suggest a high probability of temperatures changing less than 2C°, which almost everybody agrees will do net good8.

Agreed, there is much evidence that this is the case. The fourth IPCC report has much of the evidence that shows that warming of at least 4°C would have a deleterious effect on most vegetation, both natural and farmed.


7. Nor is it clear that ecosystems and people will fail to adapt, for there is clear evidence that adaptation has already vastly reduced damage from the existing climate - there has been a 98% reduction in the probability of death from drought, flood or storm since the 1920s9, for example, and malaria retreated rapidly even as the temperature rose during the twentieth century.

8. So I cannot see why this relatively poor generation should bear the cost of damage that will not become apparent until the time of a far richer future generation, any more than people in 1900 should have borne sacrifices to make people today slightly richer. Or why today's poor should subsidise, through their electricity bills, today's rich who receive subsidies for wind farms, which produce less than 0.5% of the country's energy10.

It has been reported that the top 100 rich people have sufficient funds to remove the peoples of the Earth from abject poverty.

9. Indeed I will need persuading that dashing to renewables can cut emissions rather than make them worse; this is by no means certain given that the increased use of bioenergy, such as wood or corn ethanol, driven by climate policies, is indeed making them worse11. Meanwhile shale gas use in the USA has led to a far greater cut in emissions than any other technology, yet it is opposed every step of the way by climate alarmists.


Shale gas, like any other natural fuel gas does lead to the production of energy with a relatively smaller extent of CO2 emission than the more carbon-based fossil fuels, but nevertheless contributes to the increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2. Only nuclear power stations produce energy without any emissions deleterious to the atmosphere.


10. Finally, you might make the argument that even a very small probability of a very large and dangerous change in the climate justifies drastic action. But I would reply that a very small probability of a very large and dangerous effect from the adoption of large-scale renewable energy reduced economic growth through carbon taxes or geo-engineering also justifies extreme caution. Pascal's wager cuts both ways12.


We need to distinguish between climate change and dangerous climate change, the latter has been overemphasized by organizations and individuals opposed to the very idea of human contributions to global warming. The positive trend in global temperature of 0.14°C per decade is not dangerous, but is real. Since 1850 there has been no natural effect that has been identified as the cause of the trend. The gradually increasing atmospheric concentration of CO2 is the main cause.


At the moment, it seems highly likely that the cure is worse than disease. We are taking chemotherapy for a cold.


It would seem that some countries are damaging their economies by imposing carbon taxes and expecting the rest of the world to follow; a very doubtful expectation. However, if fossil fuel burning continues at its present rate the day will arrive when the atmospheric concentration of CO2 could become high enough to cause some negative effects and to avoid these should be a serious consideration. A discussion of the beneficial and possibly detrimental effects of increases in CO2 concentration is contained by JB's ebook: Global Warming: The Human Contribution.


With regard to the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of the CO2 concentration from 300 ppmv to 600 ppmv the IPCC 'best' value is 2.9°C, Matt has the opinion that the value is 1.9°C and my value, as derived in Appendix 4 of my ebook, is 1.8°C.














Reported on the website:


Yes, the Ocean Has Warmed; No, It's Not 'Global Warming'

by Dr. Robert E. Stevenson

The atmosphere cannot warm until the underlying surface warms first. The lower atmosphere is transparent to direct solar radiation, preventing it from being significantly warmed by sunlight alone. The surface atmosphere thus gets its warmth in three ways: from direct contact with the oceans; from infrared radiation off the ocean surface; and, from the removal of latent heat from the ocean by evaporation. Consequently, the temperature of the lower atmosphere is largely determined by the temperature of the ocean.

BBC: This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the basic science. The atmosphere is warmed from above by absorbing 67 W m-2 (according to the Kiehl/Trenberth energy budget, see our page 9) of which 57 W m-2 are absorbed in the troposphere. The lower atmosphere is very far from being transparent to solar radiation. It is transparent to the visible portion, but about 50% of solar radiation lies in the near infrared region where water vapour in particular absorbs strongly. The atmosphere is certainly warmed from below as radiation is emitted from the surface and the non-radiative mechanisms of convection and water evaporation transport energy upwards. Stevenson ignores the effects of solar radiation balance. The temperatures of the lower atmosphere and the ocean are both determined by the balancing between the rates of incoming and outgoing radiation.

Stevenson again: How the Oceans Get Warm

Warming the ocean is not a simple matter, not like heating a small glass of water. The first thing to remember is that the ocean is not warmed by the overlying air.

BBC: The ocean is in physical contact with the overlying air and normal thermal equilibrium thermodynamics applies and there really is downward radiation that is absorbed by liquid water.

Stevenson: Let's begin with radiant energy from two sources: sunlight, and infrared radiation, the latter emitted from the "greenhouse" gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and various others) in the lower atmosphere. Sunlight penetrates the water surface readily, and directly heats the ocean up to a certain depth. Around 3 percent of the radiation from the Sun reaches a depth of about 100 meters.

The top layer of the ocean to that depth warms up easily under sunlight. Below 100 meters, however, little radiant energy remains. The ocean becomes progressively darker and colder as the depth increases. (It is typical for the ocean temperature in Hawaii to be 26°C (78°F) at the surface, and 15°C (59°F) at a depth of 150 meters.

The infrared radiation penetrates but a few millimeters into the ocean. This means that the greenhouse radiation from the atmosphere affects only the top few millimeters of the ocean. Water just a few centimeters deep receives none of the direct effect of the infrared thermal energy from the atmosphere! Further, it is in those top few millimeters in which evaporation takes places. So whatever infrared energy may reach the ocean as a result of the greenhouse effect is soon dissipated.

BBC: This ignores water circulation and is wrong; the absorbed energy is continually distributed amongst the top ~100 m.

Stevenson: The concept proposed in some predictive models is that any anomalous heat in the mixed layer of the ocean (the upper 100 meters) might be lost to the deep ocean. There have been a number of studies in which this process has been addressed (Nakamura 1997; Tanimoto 1993; Trenberth 1994; Watanabi 1994; and White 1998). It is clear that solar-related variations in mixed-layer temperatures penetrate to between 80 to 160 meters, the average depth of the main pycnocline (density discontinuity) in the global ocean. Below these depths, temperature fluctuations become uncorrelated with solar signals, deeper penetration being restrained by the stratified barrier of the pycnocline. Consequently, anomalous heat associated with changing solar irradiance is stored in the upper 100 meters. The heat balance is maintained by heat loss to the atmosphere, not to the deep ocean.

BBC: Surely the heat balance is maintained by heat losses to the atmosphere and to the deeper ocean, both are in contact with the top layer and normal thermodynamic mechanisms pertain. The heat loss to deeper levels occurs by diffusion and eddy mixing since convection is not possible. The ocean cannot warm independently of the atmosphere; the warming of both depends on the balance between incoming and outgoing radiation at the top of the atmosphere and the various mechanisms that combine to achieve this balance.

Stevenson: Inland locations are less restrained by the oceans, so the surface air experiences a wider temperature range than it does over the oceans. Land cannot store heat for long, which is why hot days are quickly followed by cold nights in desert regions. For most of the Earth, however, the more dominant ocean temperatures fix the air temperature.

BBC: Indeed, and the oceans provide the equivalent of a flywheel or a governor. That does not mean that they cannot change their temperature distribution around the globe and react to changes in radiation balance. If an increase in CO2 concentration occurs, the climate is forced to change until radiation balance with space is restored. That means the system generally must warm up.


From the New Statesman

Why is Boris Johnson promoting climate change "sceptics"?

The Mayor of London's championing of Matt Ridley raises questions over his commitment to science.


On Thursday (already in the past), Boris Johnson will host the second of the Mayor of London 2012 Debates, which he claims are "London's intellectual contribution to the [Olympic] Games", and "will help define London's vision for the next
15-20 years".

The title of the second debate is The Environment Imperative, and the Mayor's website introduces it with the question: "How can London develop approaches to climate mitigation [sic] either as an economic response or in shaping the climate for investment in technological responses?" This is an important question. But the Mayor has made a bizarre choice of individual to answer it. The keynote speaker is Dr Matt Ridley, whom the website describes as "a renowned science writer, journalist, biologist, and businessman".

Dr Ridley is all of these, but the website neglects to mention a few other important attributes of the speaker. The first is that his primary experience as a businessman was acquired as Chairman of Northern Rock bank, until his resignation in October 2007 in the wake of its catastrophic failure.

So Dr Ridley's track record of dealing with the risks facing a business hardly gives cause for confidence in his expert advice about managing the global threat of climate change. Even more disconcerting is Dr Ridley's affiliation to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the pressure group set up by Nigel Lawson to campaign against the government's climate and energy policies. Dr Ridley is a member of the Foundation's Academic Advisory Committee, and wrote a report for it which hyped the potential of shale gas.

Dr Ridley has been a very enthusiastic promoter of shale gas, but has been prone to exaggerating its contribution to recent falls in greenhouse gas emissions by the United States. He also hates wind power with a passion. In a recent polemic for the Spectator, Boris Johnson's former stomping ground, Dr Ridley falsely alleged that wind farms may increase greenhouse gas emissions. He then went on to announce that he was offering £8,500 a year from his personal wealth, not to compensate those who were left out of pocket by the Northern Rock fiasco, but instead to sponsor a new award, administered by the magazine, for "environmental heresy".

Not only is Dr Ridley profoundly opposed to some, if not all, of the renewable technologies that might help London reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but he also plays down the risks that climate change poses. For instance, in a Times column last month, he suggested that global warming has so far had relatively little impact on the UK. But he failed to acknowledge that seven of the warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001, or that by the time we can statistically detect the effect on extreme weather, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to reduce the elevated concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are responsible. It seems Dr Ridley does not realise that a responsible and effective approach to managing risks requires action in advance to avoid the most damaging consequences.

At the very least, Johnson is missing a massive opportunity to stimulate public debate about how London might lead on climate change, which his strategy seeks to deliver. At the worst, it is a sign that the Mayor is in thrall to a very small band of climate change "sceptics", who could fill his head with inaccurate and misleading nonsense. Dr Ridley's recruitment as a keynote speaker is not the only sign of this. Last month, the Mayor used his Telegraph column to promote the views of his friend Piers Corbyn, who has a small business offering weather forecasts. Corbyn is also a staunch climate change "sceptic", who denies that greenhouse gases are causing global warming.

BBC: Piers is wrong, his opinion is anti-physics. Any increase in concentration of any greenhouse gas causes some warming of the surface/troposphere system and some cooling of the stratosphere.

London is home to many businesses and academic institutions that host genuinely world-class experts on climate change. Why is the Mayor not seeking their counsel instead of a fringe group of "sceptics"?

BBC: Boris is showing his bias in the matter of global warming in his choice of participants. Bob Ward promotes the IPCC stance and could have explained this. We would be pleased to show that there is a third way that tones down the IPCC predictions, but nevertheless notes the inevitable temperature increase that follows increased concentration of cabon dioxide.



A new study of terrestrial climate data awaits publication. A report follows; it contains no surprises!

Climate change: Study by global warming sceptics confirms that global temperatures are rising

Yet another study finds that the earth is getting warmer. But does the Berkeley Earth data show anything new?

A new, independent, comprehensive review of long-term weather records has concluded, in agreement with previous findings, that global temperatures are rising, to the tune of about 1°C in the last 50 years. What separates this study from previous investigations? It has been funded and spearheaded, in part, by scientists and organisations that have in the past been sceptical about the global warming phenomenon, particularly in the wake of ClimateGate.

The study, from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, specifically aimed to reassess the available data, and address the issues that climate change sceptics have criticised in the past. So does this latest development in the climate war finally put an end to the debate, or does the study offer no new conclusions?

Converting the sceptics. Lead author Richard Muller hoped the data will "win over those people who are properly sceptical", reported Nature. Muller made a distinction between "sceptics" and flat-out "deniers", who are unwilling to listen to reason. The study shows that the urban heat island effect, which causes temperatures in cities to be higher than rural areas, and which sceptics have claimed could contaminate temperature data, has no statistical effect on the temperature trends. The study also sought to deal with concerns of data fiddling and data "cherry picking", which has in the past been accused of climate scientists.

Nothing new. Peter Cox, a professor at Exeter University, was quoted in The Guardian called the results "not exactly a surprise", and dismissed the excitement over the study, which only confirms what most scientists already believed.

"It is surprising, however, that the authors believe that this news is so significant that they can't wait for peer review, especially when their conclusions aren't exactly revolutionary", quipped Cox.

No peer-review. The peer review process is a cornerstone of scientific integrity, but BEST have released their findings publicly before they are subjected to the lengthy process. Muller defended this decision, saying it was "part of a long-standing academic tradition", and hoping to get "much more feedback from making these papers public before publication."

Missing the point. The New Scientist spoke to some prominent critics of climate science, and the general criticism was that this study is "concentrating on the wrong question." There is increasingly little resistance to the idea that the planet is warming up, with most sceptics not disagreeing that the climate is changing, but just that it is humans that are causing it. David Whitehouse, science advice to Nigel Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation (an institution that Bob Ward of The Guardian has some serious problems with) said, "Everybody agrees that the temperature has warmed." The debate, it seems, will continue.

Details of the Berkeley Project are available at and the following chart shows the decadal land-surface average temperature using a 10-year moving average of surface temperatures over land. Anomalies are relative to the Jan 1950 - December 1979 mean. The grey band indicates 95% statistical and spatial uncertainty interval.



Criticism of the BBC's reporting of climate change science

This is a compilation of various reports that have been published in the press.

An independent review of the BBC's coverage of science, commissioned by the BBC Trust, has found it to be of high quality and accurate. But it also identifies a number of weaknesses, including providing a platform for marginal opinions with little scientific merit. In response, the BBC has announced it will appoint a science editor and create a BBC science forum to share information.

The review contains a report by Steve Jones, emeritus professor of genetics at University College London, UK, and content analysis by Imperial College London. 'In general, [BBC] output is of a high quality, widely praised for its breadth and depth, its professionalism, and its clear, accurate and impartial manner,' Jones says. But he warns that the BBC must take special care distinguishing well-established fact from opinion, and communicating this distinction to audiences. Sometimes an over-rigid application of BBC editorial guidelines on impartiality fails to allow for the non-contentious nature of some stories and gives undue attention to marginal opinion, for example, over safety of the MMR vaccine and GM crops.

Content analysis by the Imperial team found that 75 per cent of broadcast news items came from the source institution's press release and only one out of eight broadcast news items and two out of five online news items included comment from scientists unconnected with the research.

Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, is pleased that the need to separate opinion from evidence has been recognized. 'It is important to have debate but, marginal opinion, prominently expressed but not well based on evidence, can mislead the audience.'

Bob Ward of the London School of Economics comments that 'The BBC should make stronger efforts to challenge the inaccurate and misleading claims of bloggers, campaigners and politicians who reject and deny the findings of mainstream science for ideological reasons. It is time for editors and presenters to stop giving an easy ride to those who mislead the public.'

Felicity Mellor, who led the Imperial team, noticed that reporters mostly talk to the academic behind the research, but don't provide a balancing viewpoint. 'Where there is an alternative voice, it tends to come from someone challenging broad values surrounding the field, rather than exploring elements of a particular study.'

B & B Reaction

The report and the reactions of Steve Jones and Paul Nurse are consistent with our approach in this web-site. Too many extreme views are being aired and these are not just politically driven. Some are scientifically wrong and challenge the basic physics of climate change. The 'only game in town' is the accurate estimation of the effect on global mean temperature of CO2doubling; the sensitivity of the atmosphere. The IPCC's 'best estimate' is 2.9°C based on the varied output from 20 or so general circulation models. We have a new estimate based on empirical observations and which will be placed on this site soon. It is 1.84 ± 0.11°C that overlaps with another empirically based estimate expressed in the form (1.7, 2.9, 4.9) where the 1.7°C and 4.9°C values represent limits of 5% probability, with 2.9°C being the median estimate in agreement with the IPCC's computers. Another account of Steve Jones' comments follows.

Andrew Turnbull: Even Darwin And Galileo Would Fail The BBC's Latest Science Test

The Sunday Times, 31 July 2011

New reporting guidelines published in a recent BBC Trust report risk turning scientific debate into a popularity contest

The BBC Trust recently published the report it commissioned from Professor Steve Jones on the quality of the BBC's science programming. One difficult issue that Jones addressed was how to apply the corporation's long-standing principle of impartiality to science: this is a doctrine which is valid in the area of political belief - where there is no absolute truth - but it does not work when applied to science. How can one be impartial in the MMR controversy, for instance, between Andrew Wakefield, who claimed to have linked the vaccine to autism, and the chief medical officer, backed by evidence from around the world?

Before the report was complete the BBC Trust modified its guidance, so that it now talks about "due weight" and states that "minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus". But there are dangers in this approach, too, if "due weight" means giving an easy ride to the consensus while marginalising those who challenge it. Science cannot be a popularity contest like Strictly Come Dancing.

There are many examples of an orthodoxy being challenged and eventually overturned. Malaria was once believed to be a marsh fever carried by "bad air"; peptic ulcers were once believed to be caused by stress but the main cause is now accepted as the bacterium H pylori.

B & B: Some are, not all.

One can imagine how consensus as the measure of "due weight" might have been applied in history. A knighthood for Charles Darwin? Sorry, public opinion is strongly against your theory of evolution. (He never did receive a knighthood.) Signor Galileo? We cannot permit publication of your work on the solar system as it flies in the face of centuries of Christian teaching.

B & B: The difference between Darwin and Galileo and the extreme sceptics that are getting too much reportage is that they were right and the extreme sceptics are wrong!

The correct approach for determining whether minority views are reported or ignored is first to examine whether the consensus opinion is as solid as its spokesmen claim and then to examine rigorously the arguments and evidence of the minority. They should not be dismissed simply because they are in a minority. The guiding principle should be the motto of the Royal Society, "nullius in verba", which roughly translates as "take nobody's word for it".

To do this effectively the BBC's analysts and reporters need the ability to distinguish between good and bad science. The BBC Trust has acknowledged Jones's concerns and belatedly decided to appoint a science editor for BBC News.

Those who do not accept the whole of the global warming narrative developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have expressed concerns about the way the new "due weight" principle will be applied. On that subject, the danger is that the BBC is too trusting of the current consensus.

In his report Jones sets up a false dichotomy between the consensus and "climate change deniers". I know of none. The climate has been changing for thousands, even millions of years. Nor do I know of any serious observers who deny that the planet has warmed over the past 150 years. Most scientists accept that on its own CO2 has greenhouse properties. The real debate is not about whether the planet has warmed, but about the climate change sensitivity, ie the coefficient linking CO2 and temperature, the strength of feedback mechanisms such as water vapour and the relative contributions of mankind and nature - sun, oceans, clouds and so on.

Jones's report was accompanied by a commentary by Alison Hastings, chairwoman of the trust's editorial standards committee. Her message on the BBC website starts with the statement: "Climate change is 90% likely to have been caused by humans. That was the conclusion of the influential IPCC."

As well as being absurd - does this mean there would be no climate without human activity? - it is also an inaccurate transcription of what the IPCC said. The issue is not whether humans have caused climate change, but what are the relative contributions of man and nature in the observed warming.

There is also the issue of whether the consensus is as solid as is claimed by the IPCC. Its governance procedures have been criticised for failing to take adequate account of the full range of scientific opinion. The "climategate" emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia reveal a culture of denying information to rivals and seeking to prevent their views from being adopted.

A number of observers have commented on the changing nature of scientific research, which is increasingly being funded by governments to support their policy stance. Those who hold pole position have every incentive to portray themselves as the consensus in order to hang on to their funding and to dress up review by like-minded colleagues as genuine peer review.

The BBC's watchwords may be due weight, but both sides in the argument have to earn that weight.

Finally, can the BBC give us a sophisticated account of the climate change debate, not Jones's Janet and John version?

B & B: A very biased and sneering account of the reporters own views; to be ignored.


Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation is spreading errors

The former chancellor is an avowed climate sceptic - and the 'facts' he repeats are demonstrably inaccurate

Lord Lawson has repeated several 'facts' that are demonstrably innaccurate.

Lord Lawson of Blaby has enjoyed a massive boost to his public profile over the past couple of years following the launch of his Global Warming Policy Foundation in November 2009.

Many parts of the media now feel obliged to include the views of Lawson and other representatives of the foundation in reports about climate change issues in order to "balance" the statements made by mainstream researchers and policymakers.

Given that the foundation's accounts suggest it only has about 80 members, it has been gaining an impressive amount of publicity in the media, particularly in the Telegraph, Mail and Express, newspapers that have adopted climate change scepticism as an editorial line.

But Lord Lawson is still not happy, as he pointed out in an op-ed in last week's Sunday Times. Not only did he complain that he and other representatives of the foundation were not getting the media coverage they deserve, but he also revealed that he has threatened the BBC Trust with legal action because it suggested that the broadcaster had allowed him to "make statements that are not supported by the facts".

As the foundation is a registered charity, and Lawson is therefore a trustee, he has to comply with the Charity Commission's guidance on campaigning and political activity, which states:

"A charity can campaign using emotive or controversial material, where this is lawful and justifiable in the context of the campaign. Such material must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base."

However, there are multiple examples of Lord Lawson making statements, including in BBC interviews and parliamentary debates, which are not consistent with the most up-to-date evidence and research.

One example is Lawson's appearance on Newsnight on 7 July 2010, the transcript of which is featured on the foundation's website.

During the programme, Lawson said:

"And the IPCC's [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] - and this helps us to get this in perspective - the IPCC's, if you take their worst estimate of the warming, the highest end of the warming, their worst economic scenario, they still say that all the consequence will be, is that living standards in the developing world, in a hundred years' time, instead of being a little more than nine times as high as they are today, will only be a little more than eight times as high as they are today."

This statement is demonstrably inaccurate.

Lawson was seemingly referring to the IPCC's fourth assessment report, published in 2007 in three major volumes, plus a synthesis report. Table 4.6 here shows income per capita in developing countries will rise by a factor of about 66, which is far greater than the nine-fold increase claimed by Lawson.

Furthermore, this IPCC report contains no estimate of how this increase in the income per capita in developing countries might be affected by climate change. Therefore, Lord Lawson's claim that the IPCC indicated wealth in developing countries would be limited to an eight-fold increase due to climate change under this scenario is entirely wrong. Indeed, his line of reasoning is fundamentally faulty because he assumes that the impacts of unchecked climate change would only ever have a marginal effect on future rates of economic growth.

This erroneous claim about the IPCC's findings has been made by Lawson many times, including in his book An Appeal to Reason and in speeches in the House of Lords. It is central to his overall argument that even the worst unmitigated rises in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases would have little harmful effect, but it is completely at odds with the conclusions of the IPCC report.

However Lawson's inaccurate statements on climate change have not been restricted to economics. He made several wrong assertions about the science of global warming in 2010 during a head-to-head BBC Radio debate with Prof Kevin Anderson, the director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

Throughout the programme, Lawson disputed statements made by Prof Anderson about the scientific evidence for climate change. Yet, Lord Lawson did not cite any research to back up his claims, and when compared with the available scientific literature, it is clear that they were not supported by the facts.

For instance, Lord Lawson stated that the total amount of ice in Antarctica is "not going down". But this does not accord with the results of scientific research, such as a 2009 paper in Geophysical Research Letters and another in Nature Geoscience in 2009, both based on satellite measurements.

Lawson even repeated the statement during the BBC radio programme after its veracity was challenged by Prof Anderson.

Later on in the same programme, Lawson claimed:

"What is interesting is that in the second half of the 20th century, when there were huge increase [sic] in carbon emissions, so far from there being a greater increase in sea level, the official figures show that, if anything, there was a slightly smaller increase in sea level in the second half of the 20th century than in the first half."

This statement is also contrary to the most up-to-date results of scientific research. A group of leading researchers on sea level rise presented an overview of the state of knowledge in 2009, clearly showing that a bigger rise in sea level occurred after 1950 than before it. These results were also presented in a review paper on 'Contemporary sea level rise' by Anny Cazenave and William Llovel, published early in 2010 in the journal Annual Review of Marine Science . This work shows that Lord Lawson's statement was not consistent with the latest research.

And Lord Lawson's errors have not been limited just to the science and economics of climate change, but also extend to his attacks on government policies.

For instance, on 12 July this year, he spoke in the House of Lords following a statement by Lord Marland on electricity market reform, and claimed that "the Treasury has estimated that the carbon floor price alone will lead to an increase in electricity prices of between 60 and 70% by 2030, to the great detriment of the consumer, British industry and the British economy, which-goodness-knows-is in a fragile condition as it is" (Hansard, Column 670, 7:34 pm).

Yet the Regulatory Impact Assessment for the carbon floor price, published on the Treasury website, indicates on pages 20 and 21 that for all three modelled scenarios, the average household annual electricity bill would be between 3 and 7% lower in 2030 than the baseline scenario in which there is no carbon floor price.

In addition, in an article published in the Daily Mail on 11 June 2011, Lord Lawson complained about the cost of climate change policies, stating that "electricity suppliers should be made to reveal in our utility bills the extent of this hidden tax element, which is costing families an average of £200 more a year". But Ofgem estimates that the combined cost of the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, the Community Energy Saving Programme, the Renewables Obligation, and the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is only about £100 of an average annual dual fuel bill for a household customer of £1300.

All of these errors may have been accidental, the result of Lord Lawson not knowing enough to recognise mistakes. However, they fit a consistent pattern of underestimating the potential risks of climate change and exaggerating the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Perhaps it is time for the Charity Commission to review the campaigning and political activities of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and its trustees?

• Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


No warming since 1979

There have been claims that there has been no global warming since 1979 when satellite measurments began. It is our opinion that such claims have no basis. The figure below shows the monthly records from the UAH [Spencer & Christy satellite] and from the HADCRUT3 terrestrial measurements.




There is very little difference between the two sets of data and they show a correlation coefficient of 0.82 between them. The UAH data give a decadal temperature trend of 0.13 C, a value very similar to the 0.14 C one given by UAH. Yet, Roy Spencer and others  claims there has been no warming. There clearly has been warming, although purists would possibly object to drawing straight lines through the data. Linear plots over 32 years data are reasonably satisfactory for such a short period and their replacement by polynomial plots is very unsatisfactory. Such plots cannot be extrapolated meaningfully, much less so than any linear plot and could give rise to thoughts of cyclic factors that are impossible to explain.

      As is discussed in some detail on page 53, the modest positive temperature trends given by the plots in the above figure hide the considerably larger trends for parts of the Northern Hemisphere that require serious consideration.