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Claim: ‘CO2 warming will be worse than feared’ Reality Check: ‘Oh, no it won’t’

From The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

And still the scare stories keep coming. A paper in Nature Geoscience, published “coincidentally” just before the collapsed Copenhagen climate change conference, suggests that long-term temperature feedbacks in response to warming induced by anthropogenic CO2 emissions will be 30-50% higher than the already enormous estimates of the UN’s climate panel.

The British authors said the “more-than-expected” warming would unfold over a matter of hundreds of years, rather than this century. The findings do not mean that the predictions for temperature rise by 2100, established notably by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), should be rewritten, they said.

One of the authors came out with the now rather tired argument that “CO2 hangs around a long time in the atmosphere”. Actually, direct measurement – rather than the modeling on which (as usual) the latest paper is entirely based – establishes that half of the CO2 we emit is taken up by plants and the oceans immediately, and dozens of papers in the peer-reviewed literature establish that the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 7 years.

The paper was based on a test of a widely-used climate model on the mid-Pleiocene warm period, 3 million years ago, when the Earth warmed in response to natural processes. Cores drilled from ocean sediment provide some evidence for atmospheric carbon levels and temperature at the time.

The team found that at that era, although CO2 levels were close to today’s 388 parts per million by volume, global temperature was 3 C° (5.5 F°) warmer than today. The paper assumes – without evidence – that the difference can only be fully explained by the long-term loss of ice sheets and changes in vegetation that caused the Earth’s surface to absorb more solar radiation. One of the authors said that today’s CO2 concentration of 388 ppmv might already be too high to prevent more than 2 C° (3.5 F°) of warming compared with pre-industrial times – the limit agreed as an aspiration by the recent Copenhagen accord.

Previously, says the report, a CO2 concentration of less than 450 ppmv had been thought necessary to keep the warming no greater than 2 C°. However, the author said: “Our work says that at 400 ppmv you are looking at more than 2 C°.” At the present growth rate of CO2 concentration, 400 ppmv will be reached in 2015.

However, the UN’s formula for the maximum warming to be expected at 400 ppmv CO2 concentration compared with the pre-industrial CO2 concentration of 278 ppmv is as follows:

  • 5.7 ln(400/278) = 2.1 C°.

So the UN’s climate panel had already estimated that warming compared with pre-industrial times might prove to be more than 2 C°.

In short, there is nothing new whatsoever in the result that was published with such fanfare just before Copenhagen. This paper was merely another in a long line that came out just before the conference, predicting doom unless the economies of the West were shut down immediately and more or less completely.

Using the UN’s upper estimate, we can work out how much the temperature should have changed since 1750, its reference date for the beginning of the industrial era. The answer is:

  • 5.7 ln(388/278) = 1.9 C°.

Of this, 1.4 C° would be expected to have come through already: around 0.3 C° from 1750-1800; 0.5 C° from 1800-1900; and 0.7 C° from 1900-2000. The remaining 0.5 C° is what the UN calls “locked-in” warming that it imagines will emerge even if we stabilize CO2 emissions today.

On this basis, not only the Western economies but all the economies of the world would have to be shut down immediately to prevent eventual warming from rising by just 0.1 C° so as to reach the nonsensical and scientifically-unjustifiable 2 C° aspiration of the “world leaders” at the Copenhagen conference.

However, the Copenhagen Accord would in practice achieve no more than – at the very most – a 30% cut in Western CO2 emissions by 2020. This represents an average cut over the next decade of just 15% of only half the world’s emissions – say, 7.5% tops.

Our emissions account for just 2 ppmv a year, or 20 ppmv over the next decade, of which 7.5% is just 1.5 ppmv. So, how much “global warming” will the Copenhagen Accord forestall? The answer lies in the following sum, still based on the UN’s high-end estimate of the warming effect of CO2:

  • No cuts in emissions: 4.7 ln(408.0/388) = 0.29 C° = 0.51 F°.
  • Copenhagen cuts: 4.7 ln(406.5/388) = 0.27 C° = 0.48 F°.
  • Copenhagen cooling: 0.02 C° = 0.035 F°.

That cooling – or, rather, warming forestalled – would be so small that our instruments would not be able to detect it. Yet the cost of achieving it would run into the trillions.

Fortunately, no action at all is necessary, because the UN has overestimated sixfold the effect of CO2 on temperature. We can burn all the fossil fuels we like, and very little warming will occur.

It will eventually dawn on the scientific community that its exaggerations and downright lies about CO2 and the climate are wrecking the reputation of science – very nearly all of which is funded by taxpayers – at a time when funding from taxpayers can no longer be guaranteed.

If scientists across all disciplines want to retain what little respect is left after the damage done by their climatological colleagues, they should rein those colleagues in and tell them that the exaggerations and distortions that have until now increased their funding at the hands of scientifically-illiterate politicians will soon have the opposite effect.

As the world continues to fail to warm as predicted (or, for the past 15 years, at all), fewer and fewer will believe the exaggerations, and more and more will resent the trillions of dollars that have been wasted on bogus research providing bogus backing for what is now visibly a bogus scare.