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Monday, August 11, 2014

Ed Hoskins' pseudo-science claptrap brings out all the nutters at WUWT

Sou | 4:17 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment

Ed Hoskins is a science disinformer who pops up from time to time at WUWT. He's tried a few different things out to tempt deniers. This time he catches a big fish, as far as WUWT goes, snaffling Steven Mosher, That might surprise some people - not me though. A leopard doesn't change it's spots.

This time Ed Hoskins writes a lot of wrong about carbon dioxide (archived here). In the past, he's trotted out "an ice age cometh" and more wrong about carbon dioxide. He can't make up his mind between "an ice age cometh", "it's not happening" and "it won't be bad".

Increasing CO2 raises surface temperature

According to the IPCC, doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial times will raise global surface temperature from between 1.5°C and 4.5°C. Doubling it again will raise it from between 3°C and 9°C. If the latter, it will mean that a lot of Earth becomes uninhabitable because it will be hotter than mammals (like humans) can physiologically tolerate. Here is a chart from the IPCC showing cumulative emissions and the impact on global temperature. Click to see it larger.

Figure SPM.10 from IPCC AR5 WG1 with my annotation

About the logarithmic relationship of CO2

Before going any further, it will pay to go back to the logarithmic relationship between atmospheric CO2 and global surface temperature. In short, what it means is that for every doubling of atmospheric CO2, the surface temperature will rise by the same fixed amount, between 1.5°C and 4.5°C, probably by around 3°C over the medium term (centuries). Many deniers think it means that for every doubling of CO2, temperature will rise much less, but that's wrong. It will go up by roughly the same amount when CO2 doubles (at foreseeable levels). The typical science denier doesn't do maths.

Ed Hoskins' pseudo-scientific claptrap

Ed's article is all over the place like a dog's breakfast, but his main very wrong message is that CO2 can rise to 1000 ppm without any bad consequences. That's just not so.

Ed's argument is that because the effect of CO2 on temperature is logarithmic, it will only have a tiny impact as it increases. The first part is true. The relationship is logarithmic. However the second part is relative. What might seem a "tiny impact" for, say, a diurnal temperature variation would have an enormous impact if it were an increase in average surface temperature over the entire world. From our perspective, the impact on climate and ocean acidification and rising sea levels will be hugely damaging as more and more CO2 is emitted.

A rise in atmospheric CO2 from pre-industrial times (say 280 ppm) to 1000 ppm would mean an increase of 3.5 times. That would mean a rise in global surface temperature of somewhere between around 2.8°C and 8°C degrees or more.

According to an analysis by Steven C. Sherwood and Matthew Huber, a rise of 7°C in average surface temperature would result in a wet bulb temperature of more than 35°C in much of the world, which would stretch our physiological limits beyond tolerance. We wouldn't be able to maintain our core body temperature and would overheat. People die from heat stroke every year as it is, without a wet bulb temperature of 35°C. We cannot survive temperatures above a certain level and humidity. We can't sweat it out.

Ed Hoskins misrepresent the science

I wondered how Ed Hoskins came up with his magical thinking. He went back to the third assessment report of the IPCC for some reason, back thirteen years to 2001.  He wrote:
IPCC Published reports, (TAR3), acknowledge that the effective temperature increase caused by growing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere radically diminishes with increasing concentrations. This information has been presented in the IPCC reports. It is well disguised for any lay reader, (Chapter 6. Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: section 6.3.4 Total Well-Mixed Greenhouse Gas Forcing Estimate) [1]. It is a crucial fact, but not acknowledged in the IPCC summary for Policy Makers[2].

He thinks that something "is well disguised".  Well, it looks as if it is so "well-disguised" that Ed himself cannot understand it. Thing is, it doesn't "radically diminish". He wrote about the IPCC publishing views about the effect of CO2 up to 1000 ppm, but doesn't show it. Instead he shows charts from denier Steve Milloy who admits that what he writes is junk science. (That's the name of his blog.)

The Early Eocene was a lot warmer when CO2 was higher

So does the IPCC publish views about the effect of CO2 up to 1000 ppm?  There were only four mentions of the words "1000 ppm" in the latest IPCC report, and three of them referred to the same period in Earth's history, the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum. (The other was a reference to stomata.) Here are two of them:
During the Early Eocene (52 to 48 million years ago), atmospheric CO2 concentration exceeded ~1000 ppm when global mean surface temperature was 9°C to 14°C higher (medium confidence) than for pre-industrial conditions. [IPCC AR5 WG1: TS.2.8 Changes in Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles]
The EECO [Early Eocence Climatic Optimum] represents the last time atmospheric CO2 concentrations may have reached a level of ~1000 ppm (Section There were no substantial polar ice sheets, and oceanic and continental configurations, vegetation type and distribution were significantly different from today. Whereas simulated SAT are in reasonable agreement with reconstructions (Huber and Caballero, 2011; Lunt et al., 2012) (Box 5.1, Figure 1d), there are still significant discrepancies between simulated and reconstructed mean annual SST, which are reduced if seasonal biases in some of the marine proxies are considered for the high-latitude sites (Hollis et al., 2012; Lunt et al., 2012). Medium confidence is placed on the reconstructed global mean surface temperature anomaly estimate of 8°C–14°C. [IPCC AR5 WG1: 5.3.1 High CO2 Worlds and Temperature]

In other words, the last time when the atmospheric concentration was 1000 ppm or more was 52 to 48 million years ago and the global mean surface temperature was 9°C to 14°C higher than it was in pre-industrial times in this modern era. Does that seem like a tiny effect to you? Does it strike you as inconsequential that vast areas of land would become uninhabitable because the wet bulb temperature would be intolerable for humans?

Ed Hoskins' logical fallacy of personal incredulity

After a lot of recourse to science deniers, Ed moves onto the logical fallacy of personal incredulity. He writes:
It has to be questioned whether it is plausible that CO2, a minor trace gas in the atmosphere, currently at the level of ~400ppmv, 0.04% up to 0.10% achieves such radical control of Global temperature, when compared to the substantial and powerful Greenhouse Effect of water vapour and clouds in the atmosphere?

Someone tell Ed that it has been questioned. Not only questioned but answered. Gavin A. Schmidt, Reto A. Ruedy, Ron L. Miller and Andy A. Lacis wrote a paper that showed the relative contributions to the greenhouse effect. That is, to the greenhouse effect itself, not to global warming. What they found was that in "all sky" conditions (taking clouds into account), the contributions are as follows:
...we find that water vapor is the dominant contributor (∼50% of the effect), followed by clouds (∼25%) and then CO2 with ∼20%. All other absorbers play only minor roles. In a doubled CO2 scenario, this allocation is essentially unchanged, even though the magnitude of the total greenhouse effect is significantly larger than the initial radiative forcing, underscoring the importance of feedbacks from water vapor and clouds to climate sensitivity.

When fake sceptics diverge from science

Ed Hoskins then goes on to write wrongly:
There are the clearly divergent views of the amount of warming that can result from additional CO2 in future, but even in a worst case scenario whatever change that may happen can only ever have a marginal future effect on global temperature.

The divergence is between science deniers like Ed Hoskins and scientists. And no, it's not a marginal effect, Ed. Carbon dioxide on it's own contributes around 20% of the greenhouse effect. When CO2 is increased, the world gets hotter and more water evaporates. That means that there is more water vapour in the atmosphere. Water vapour contributes around 50% of the greenhouse effect. Between them they account for around 70% of the greenhouse effect. Adding more of both means a big "future effect" not a marginal "future effect" on global temperature.

Ed Hoskin's ideology is showing

Finally Ed reveals the reason he is disinforming his readers. He is against any concerted action to mitigate. He's an ideological denier. He wrote:
Whatever political efforts are made to de-carbonize economies or to reduce man-made CO2 emissions, (and to be effective at temperature control those efforts would have to be universal and worldwide), those efforts can only now affect at most ~13% of the future warming potential of CO2 up to the currently unthinkably high level of 1000ppmv.

I haven't figured out where he gets his "13% of future warming potential" from. A 3.5-fold increase in atmospheric CO2 doesn't seem to have any relation to "13% of future warming potential".  Ed also wrote, in bold just in case his deniers missed it:
Importantly as the future temperature effect of increasing CO2 emissions can only be so minor, there is no possibility of ever attaining the much vaunted political target of less than +2.0°C by the control of CO2 emissions.

Well, as you've seen that's flat out wrong. In the Eocene Climatic Optimum when CO2 was 1000 ppm, the global surface temperature was between 9°C and 14°C higher than in the 1700s. That's a heck of a lot more than Ed's *impossible* 2.0°C.

Ed adds another denialism just to satisfy the mob at WUWT. He wrote:
Global Warming advocates always assert that all increases in the concentration of CO2 are solely man-made. This is not necessarily so, as the biosphere and slightly warming oceans will also outgas CO2. 
He's wrong again. The oceans are a net absorber of CO2 at the present time. If it wasn't, then the global surface temperature would already be much higher because it's absorbing something like 30% of all the extra CO2 we've been tossing into the air.

Sure, if all else were equal and the oceans were warming without atmospheric CO2 increasing, then the oceans would be a net emitter of CO2. Thing is at the moment the partial pressure of CO2 is so high and increasing that the oceans are absorbing more and more CO2 each year, not less. This shows up as a drop in pH. The oceans are getting more acidic (or, for the deniers out there, they are getting less alkaline).

Ed gets worse and worse. Now he's making up stuff out of thin (CO2-heavy) air. He wrote:
In any event at ~3% of the total[4] Man-made CO2 at its maximum is only a minor part of the CO2 transport within the atmosphere. The recent IPCC report now admits that currently increasing CO2 levels are probably only ~50% man-made.

Here he refers to the short term carbon cycle. But even there he's wrong. Since 30% of the current amount of atmospheric CO2 is only there because of human activity, it's got to be 30% of the CO2 transport within the atmosphere that's "man-made". As for the second sentence, Ed just made that up. All the additional atmospheric CO2 is from human activity. Mostly from burning fossil fuels but also from land use changes and other activities like the making of cement. More than half of what we've emitted has been absorbed on land an in the oceans. The rest is adding to what was already in the air. If it wasn't for us, then atmospheric CO2 would probably be around 270 ppm or less. Instead it's hitting 400 ppm.

It was a very mixed up article, full of faked up pseudo-scientific claptrap. A lot of what he wrote was ideological opposition to mitigation of global warming. That's clearly why Ed Hoskins wrote so much nonsense.

From the WUWT comments

The deniers at WUWT didn't understand Ed's particular brand of ideological pseudo-science, but they know what they like.  Some deniers used the article as an excuse to post their own wacky notions. Here are some comments.

dp has it about right and says:
August 10, 2014 at 8:05 am
CO2 alone has never been the claimed problem – it was always supposed to be the knock-on affects of CO2 such as increased water vapor and and wretched Republican lifestyles that amplify the feeble CO2 effect.

Steven Mosher gets it very wrong when he says:
August 10, 2014 at 8:08 am
notice how the author makes his case from WITHIN the accepted science.
Notice how effective the case is when you start INSIDE the accepted science..
notice that he doesnt have to resort to saying wacky stuff about the sun.
notice how he doesnt have to engage in numerology about the planets
he takes the science as given ( much like Nic Lewis does) and works from the inside 

Just because Ed Hoskins mentioned the IPCC a lot didn't mean he reported it properly. Or at all. He didn't. He just mentioned the IPCC a lot but substituted denier garbage.

cnxtim says something unintelligible as usual:
August 10, 2014 at 8:10 am
Is this anything more than a “face saving” exit plan for all the CAGW evangelists?
“Yo wagons ho!, thar be the real … (insert what you will here).

RobW sums up why many deniers reject science and says:
August 10, 2014 at 8:12 am
Facts, we don’t need no stickin facts. We have FEAR to sell.

RMB says he has to keep repeating his nonsense for some weird reason:
August 10, 2014 at 8:23 am
I’ve got to keep saying this until somebody listens. Co2 is innocent. If you fire heated gas at the surface of water the water will not accept the heat indeed even the surface itself is not affected by the heat, so the story that heat can be stored on this planet or that evaporation can be increased by the heat leaving the atmosphere doesn’t stand up to testing. Heat will not pass through the surface of water by means of convection because it is blocked by surface tension.
Surface tension is not a powerful force but is enough to get the job done so you cannot put additional heat into the ocean and the good news is you can’t boil the ocean away. AGW is utter rubbish.

JimS doesn't just confuse logarithms with algorithms (probably has "algore" on the brain), he doesn't understand that it's science that shows the logarithmic relationship. He says:
August 10, 2014 at 8:28 am
I have found that your average AGWer will not admit to the Pause for the last 17 years. Nor will they accept the concept that CO2 follows temperature shown in the historical record via the ice core data. Therefore, your average AGWer will never, ever accept the fact of CO2 having an algorithmic impact on global temperatures. Any information coming from a “denier” website is instantly dismissed.

AlecM uses the article to post his own particular brand of pseudo-science - which he copies and pastes a lot. He says (excerpt):
August 10, 2014 at 8:36 am
There is no enhanced GHE; that hypothesis relies on juvenile physics; any professional scientist or engineer sees almost immediately that it is a Perpetual Motion Machine of the 2nd Kind.

mpainter isn't aware of the current observations, nor the large field of paleoclimatology and says:
August 10, 2014 at 8:51 am
But in fact the so called “climate sensitivity” is
a theoretical construct relying on the tenuous assumption that lab data can be applied to the atmosphere with valid results. This assumption is looking ever more dubious. I do not think that the present flat temp trend will end before the whole of AGW theory is discredited in the eyes of all, excepting a few diehards. 

Mike Smith says:
August 10, 2014 at 9:00 am
Excellent essay. I really think this information needs to be repeated over and over. The facts (and IPCC’s blatant attempt to bury them) are very revealing.
If CO2 was ever a problem, it is now at worst a logarithmically decreasing problem.

A lot of the rest is denier to and fro about nonsense by a chap called Ferenc Miskolczi, and heat and energy and down-welling infrared radiation and hairdryers warming baths full of water or not, and similar stuff.

They are a pack of utter nutters at WUWT. They would do anything for it to be anything but CO2.

Sherwood, Steven C., and Matthew Huber. "An adaptability limit to climate change due to heat stress." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107, no. 21 (2010): 9552-9555. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0913352107

Schmidt, Gavin A., Reto A. Ruedy, Ron L. Miller, and Andy A. Lacis. "Attribution of the present‐day total greenhouse effect." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984–2012) 115, no. D20 (2010). doi:10.1029/2010JD014287


  1. I love the language used by Hoskins to emphasise how weak the CO2 effect is. It does not just follow a logarithmic curve. No, it does it "radically" or "rapidly" and it is a "diminution" effect.

    This is great:

    The rapid logarithmic diminution effect is an inconvenient fact for Global Warming advocates ..."

    Oh no, that radical, rapid, logarithmic diminution is just so inconvenient. And to cap it all, it is a fact.

  2. Sou, there is a natural logarithm component in the radiative forcing of CO2.

    It is defined by following equation
    delta F = alpha * ln(C/C0) where alpha is 5.35, C is the variable of CO2, and C0 is 280.

    There are also a number of other formulas
    (This is the page that is 'hidden')

    If you plot this on Excel, it produces a line which diminishes as CO2 increases. This is the formula that deniers will look at and say that it diminishes.

    It is true that the radiative forcing of CO2 diminishes as the concentration increases, but from one doubling, to the next, the value is about 10%.

    To compute the effect on temperature, the forcing is then multiplied by 0.8, which gives about 3K for a doubling from 280ppm. So the next doubling would be slightly less, at about 2.7K. But really, once you get to about 6K, to quibble over 0.3K is quite pointless. At 5.7K or 6K, the effect will be quite disastrous, yet this is the argument that deniers try to project.

    1. Thanks, Dave. I've added a couple of modifiers to the paragraph in question to clarify this.

  3. The irony of all this is that the logarithmic it makes CO2 at low concentrations compared with H2O that much more significant than it would be if the relationship were linear.

  4. I read the article, and it basically references this image.

    I decided to check the references, and this is what I found.
    For Charnock & Shine it goes all the way back to this letter.
    which then references this paper from 1991.

    And the other
    Kondratjew & Moskalenko doesn't seem to actually reference any paper, but is referenced in a 1984 book "The Global Climate" edited by John Houghton.

    The 13th chapter is actually written by K. Ya. Kondratyev & N. I. Moskalenko, and the particular section is here.
    (What is it with deniers always getting the author spelling wrong)

    That's where they get the 7.2K from, the rest is just a fiction.

    Interesting isn't it. You will often hear deniers say that the 'science isn't settled', but that is science that they don't like. Denier science on the other was 'settled' sometime late last century. (What is it with deniers and their inability to grasp the latest science. They will often cite the 1969 Lamb paper for Medieval Climate, but all the papers done over the last 20 years, well that's just blasphemous.)

    If these were the references for a graduate science paper, they would fail dismally. To any deniers reading this. There are these things called journals, where scientists publish the latest research. Oh, and another thing. There is this new invention called Google. Google it!!

    1. "jew" and "yev" are two transliterations of the same syllable.

      But indeed, deniers like to claim that science stopped sometime around the Apollo program; everything since is just garbage. It's a sentiment I've heard expressed by a number of people I know who grew up during that program, or wish they had.

    2. For deniers, science stopped at some point after The Bomb but before the US Surgeon General's report on smoking in 1964.

  5. Mosher seems to play "it's the sun" late in the archived comments. Strange; I thought he was now keeping up with the science, except for a vendetta against Mann.

    1. Usually Steve does keep up with the science to some degree. I think in the case you're referring to, he was just responding to someone who claimed that he thinks that the sun doesn't affect climate at all. Deniers have a tendency to see everything in black and white, all or nothing. They are not very cluey.

    2. Americans in general tend to be binary thinkers, in my experience -- much more so than Europeans anyway. At least, "in general" among the people I've met.

      My favourite example was a NYT story about turning the heat down in winter, or up in summer. So they go and interview people who decided to switch from warming to 80 F down to 65 F, and found it a bitter pill to swallow...

  6. Sou, there was an easy target you missed here,

    3 Guesses for who wrote it.

    Ok, it was Heartland Expert, Craig Loehle.

    His very simple model missed one thing. Aerosols.

    And what prestigious journal did it get published in. Nature, Science?

    Naa, Ecological Modelling

    And how did he get it published?

    Well he's on the Editorial Advisory Board of course.

    I know, What a crooked dope.

    1. Thanks for that little gem.

    2. There is a lot more wrong with Loehle's paper than just missing Aerosols.

      FWIW, it isn't the first paper he has published in Ecological Modeling about cyclic models

      that has been the subject of criticism

  7. For all the discussion of the logarithmic forcing of CO2 increases, there is not a single mention of the fact that currently CO2 levels are rising at or faster than exponentially - meaning that the CO2 forcing is increasing at least linearly at present. Hardly a cause for celebration.

    The cognitive biases shown at WUWT seem to preclude high school math...

  8. The bit I liked was "It is certainly not much discussed."

    The logarithmic nature of CO2 radiative forcing is climate change 101 material, there is a good reason why it is not much discussed, which is that nobody disagrees with it (outside skeptic [sic] blogs), and anybody who has looked into the science to any degree ought to know it.

    There is also the point that the logarithmic nature of the forcing is implicitly mentioned whenever climate sensitivity is discussed (and that IS "much discussed") as climate sensitivity is generally expressed in terms of the expected warming per doubling of CO2 and (for the mathematically literate) that is equivalent to saying that the relationship is logarithmic.

    "This diminution effect is probably the reason there was no runaway greenhouse warming caused by CO2 in earlier eons when CO2 levels were known to be at levels of several thousands ppmv."

    obviously never hear of the "feint young sun paradox".


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