Semi-professional climate disinformer Patrick Moore gave a talk to UK climate science deniers the other day. Anthony Watts posted it under a headline: "Greenpeace founder delivers powerful annual lecture, praises carbon dioxide – full text" (archived here). Powerful? No. Pseudo-scientific rubbish? Yes. I don't know what the audience in general thought of his nonsense. It probably didn't register with many of them. All they wanted was to hear someone they felt was on "their side". The people who invited him most likely knew he would spout a load of nonsense, and couldn't get anyone more credible to talk. Well, who is left these days?
Patrick spent the first part of his talk on himself. He's a hero in his own mind. A born-again denier. I cannot imagine that he believes the words that come out of his mouth, but they help him earn a crust in his chosen field. Science denial.
The basis of his claim was that without CO2 the planet would be dead, therefore the more we have the better. That's like saying to a drowning woman - without water we'd all be dead so suck it up.
Warning: this is a long article, but it covers a lot of ground
Patrick Moore rejects physics
He effectively denies ocean acidification:
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.Nope. There's no possibility that "some of it is due to outgassing of the oceans". The oceans are absorbing about 26% of what we are pouring into the air. They are getting more acidic as a result. The reason is that the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at such a rate that the oceans are absorbing CO2 even as temperatures rise.
Patrick Moore denies the greenhouse effect
Then Patrick somehow takes it on himself to claim that NASA is wasting money and there was never any life on Mars. He wrote:
NASA tells us that “Carbon Dioxide Controls Earth’s Temperature” in child-like denial of the many other factors involved in climate change. This is reminiscent of NASA’s contention that there might be life on Mars. Decades after it was demonstrated that there was no life on Mars, NASA continues to use it as a hook to raise public funding for more expeditions to the Red Planet. The promulgation of fear of Climate Change now serves the same purpose. As Bob Dylan prophetically pointed out, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears”, even in one of the most admired science organizations in the world.What makes him think there wasn't? He doesn't say. It's not as if he's any sort of expert. He's just a pseudo-scientific crank who's taken up science denial for a living. In any case, he's a bit late to the party and must have missed the press release about the probably finding of water. The first pre-requisite to determining if there ever was life.
You'll note the logical fallacy - the second telltale technique of climate science denial. The fact that one thing might or might not be true doesn't impact in any way on an unrelated fact.
CO2 is the control knob of temperature. Patrick Moore is also rejecting the greenhouse effect. You can't be a bigger climate crank than that.
Patrick Moore denies renewable energy
Next he seems to be saying that you cannot get energy from the sun, the wind or heat in the inner earth. He wrote:
On the political front the leaders of the G7 plan to “end extreme poverty and hunger” by phasing out 85% of the world’s energy supply including 98% of the energy used to transport people and goods, including food. The Emperors of the world appear clothed in the photo taken at the close of the meeting but it was obviously Photo-shopped. They should be required to stand naked for making such a foolish statement.What a luddite. If he was around in the 19th century, he'd be claiming that James Watt was going to ruin the world and send everyone to the poorhouse by removing horses.
Patrick Moore has no time for experts
He moves from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, complaining that the world's leading organisations on climate and weather are run by the world's leading experts on climate and weather. He said:
The world’s top climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, is hopelessly conflicted by its makeup and it mandate. The Panel is composed solely of the World Meteorological Organization, weather forecasters, and the United Nations Environment Program, environmentalists.Who does he want running climate, weather and environmental programs, pray tell?
Patrick Moore's strawman: pre-industrial bliss or post-industrial thriving?
There are lots of strawmen in Patrick's world. For example, he claimed:
Scientific certainty, political pandering, a hopelessly conflicted IPCC, and now the Pope, spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, in a bold move to reinforce the concept of original sin, says the Earth looks like “an immense pile of filth” and we must go back to pre-industrial bliss, or is that squalor?That's upside down and back to front. It's the Patrick Moore's of the world who want squalor, civil unrest, drought, fires, floods and rising seas. He is wrong. The people who understand science want the world to move to clean energy and away from the dreadful health problems caused by environmental damage and dirty power production.
More greenhouse effect denial from Patrick Moore
Patrick Moore isn't just a climate science denier he is a greenhouse effect denier. That's about as far into science denial you can get, short of believing the earth is flat. Oddly, he does "believe" the earth is older than 6,000 years. He does seem to accept that there was a world before the earliest books in the Judeo-Christian bible. He doesn't know much about that world, but he does seem to accept it existed.
He said he was going to go back 540 million years. What he was trying on this time was again a logical fallacy. He was saying that because CO2 was higher in the past, it means something or the other about the present. Which it does. But not what Patrick Moore would have his audience believe. His speech went into what can only be described as a Gish Gallop at this point, jumping from:
- the Cambrian (541.0 ± 1.0 Ma to 485.4 ± 1.9 Ma - million years ago) to the
- end of the Jurassic (145± 4 Ma) to the
- Eocene Thermal Maximum (55.8 Ma) to the
- Devonian Period (419.2 ± 3.2 Ma)
What he was arguing was, as I said, that CO2 was higher in the past therefore it cannot control climate. What he's not letting his audience know is that what happened in the past supports the theory behind the greenhouse effect. He doesn't mention how the sun has become stronger as time goes by, or how the configuration of land masses has changed over the past 500 million years.
Skeptical Science has a good article about CO2 and past climates. And it also hosts this video:
Richard Alley, who is one of the world's leading geologists and glaciology experts, and who knows much more than Patrick Moore could ever know about past climates, delivered the Bjerknes Lecture at the AGU Fall Conference a few years back. His talk is still one of the best around.
Patrick Moore and Milankovitch cycles
Patrick at one point got something right. He said:
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.
But then he spoilt his brief sojourn into science and said:
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.That's not so. First of all, he missed out on the latest science about "CO2 lags", which indicates the lag was much shorter than 800 years.
And is last phrase is plain wrong. Another logical fallacy. Just because CO2 was not always the thing that caused warming in the past (when it was a feedback, not a forcing), doesn't mean it cannot be the prime cause at other times. Look at what's happening today. CO2 is causing the surface temperature to rise. Both are increasing at an alarming rate, as I showed in a previous article.
|Fig.1 | Atmospheric CO2 and surface temperature. |
Data sources: Scripps and GISS/NASA
And for a dramatic example from the past, go back to the Permian-Triassic extinction, around 252 million years ago, which in what may have been a very short period of time geologically speaking (60,000 years or so) wiped out "more than 96 percent of marine species and 70 percent of life on land".
Patrick's very wide of the mark when he claims:
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.He's wrong. The forcing from slight changes in orbit or tilt of the earth is relatively small. What happens is that they sun hits the earth at different angles, which means more or less light is reflected back to space from the ice caps. This can be large enough to precipitate climate change, but on it's own it, without feedbacks, would never be enough to shift the planet into or out of an ice age. It's the flow on effects that make the difference, the feedbacks. A small drop in temperature means that the oceans suck up more CO2, which causes a bigger drop in temperature, and less water evaporates, which causes a greater drop in temperature, and more ice forms, which means that more sunlight is reflected back to space, which causes a greater drop in temperature.
If Patrick thinks that an itty bitty orbital change can cause an ice age on its own, he's woefully mistaken. He knows he's wrong. Lots of people have told him so. He refuses to accept science. It conflicts with his ideology and his new-found career of science denial.
Here's Richard Alley again, on Milankovitch cycles, courtesy of National Geographic (you may have to wait 30 seconds for the advert, it's worth the wait):
Denying the evidence
Not able to leave well enough alone, Patrick decides to confront science head on and reject it, just on a whim. He doesn't provide any basis for his rejection. He said:
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.Why isn't it indicative? Patrick doesn't say. The fact that this is what is predicted by physics carries no weight with deniers.
Apparently he approves of the greenhouse effect when it comes to water vapour. He only rejects the notion that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Which is weird. They are both greenhouse gases for the same reason. He said:
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.
Sorry mate. Clouds can prevent long wave energy from shooting to space in the daytime as well as at night. And who are these "other scientists" he mentions? I don't know of any reputable scientist who doesn't accept that more water evaporates as it gets hotter. Calling on imaginary "experts" can probably be grouped under telltale technique No. 1 of climate science denial. And what observational evidence is he talking about? None that I know of. Here is what's happened over the early years of this century. The surface temperature has risen at a rate of almost 0.14 °C/decade:
|Fig 2 | Global Mean Surface Temperature from 2000 to 2015 YTD.|
Data source: GISS NASA
|Fig 3 | Global Mean Surface Temperature from 2000 to 2015 YTD.|
Data source: GISS NASA
How does Patrick Moore explain global warming? He doesn't
If you've been waiting for the punchline. If you've been hanging out to see how Patrick Moore explains the extremely fast rise in surface temperature, you'll be waiting forever. He doesn't. He doesn't even try.
All he does is proclaim that all the world's top experts are wrong and he, denier extraordinaire is right - but right about nothing. Because he can't explain what's happening, so he doesn't.
Delving into gobbledook
If you want to read any more nonsense, you can. From here on in Patrick shifts from denial to gobbledegook. He thinks that pouring waste CO2 into the air is saving humanity and the planet. He's nuts. (In case you haven't figured that out for yourself.) Or you might prefer to think of him as one of those despicable disinformation propagandists. That is, you might think that he knows that he's spouting crap but does it for the money, or ideology, or transient fame, or another reason probably not even known to himself.
As is not uncommon with science deniers and disinformers, after going back 500 million years, Patrick rests his case on the past 18 years of surface temperature change. 18 years. And only surface temperature. Not the ocean warming, or the melting ice, or the rising seas, or the acidifying oceans. Only on surface temperature. It's called cherry-picking and is telltale technique No. 4 of climate science denial. I don't know if he showed anyone a chart of the past eighteen years (when there was a big spike in surface temperature from the super-El Nino).
The essence of Patrick's wrong argument is that CO2 is removed from the atmosphere faster than it is replenished and so us putting it back there is making sure there's enough food for plants. It's another example of pseudo-science. To support his claim he travels back 150 million years and claims there has been "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."
He's wrong. There has been no "steady drawdown". And 37,000 tons a year? Heck. Each year we're tossing around 10 billion tonnes of carbon to the air. That's around 270,000 times as much as Patrick's "average". That means that each year, if we continue at the same rate, we're making up more than a quarter of a million years of his "steady drawdown". Look at the numbers:
Patrick's comparing today to the late Jurassic. Back in the Jurassic, there was around five times as much CO2 in the air as their is today. The land masses were different and the sun was fainter. And it was quite a bit hotter. This is another example of idiots who are wanting to "bring back the dinosaurs".
"The last time carbon dioxide levels were apparently as high as they are today — and were sustained at those levels — global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher than they are today, the sea level was approximately 75 to 120 feet higher than today, there was no permanent sea ice cap in the Arctic and very little ice on Antarctica and Greenland,"And that's just 400 ppm. What's going to happen when it gets to 450 ppm and higher? Well, it will be hotter than it is now, that's for sure.
Patrick says: "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."
He's probably right if those words are taken in isolation. Thing is, he seems to think the trend has been falling. It hasn't. Not in recent times. This is the trend, but not the one Patrick's thinking of. The trend is sharply up:
|Fig 5 | Atmospheric CO2 for the past 800,000 years, showing the sharp upward trend of recent years.|
The reality is...
Patrick asks: "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?"
What CO2 depletion? There's no depletion. CO2 is higher than it's been in 15 million years. It's a long-lived greenhouse gas. If we suddenly stopped adding CO2 to the air, it would take a very long time before it got back to pre-industrial levels. As David Archer said back in 2005, at realclimate.org:
The reality is that the CO2 from a gallon out of every tank of gas will continue to affect climate for tens and even hundreds of thousands of years into the future.The chart below is getting older now. CO2 is already quite a bit higher. The principle holds though.
|Fig 6 | Projected temperature change with CO2 action. The top red line is if we only emitted as much as is removed from the air each year. The middle blue line is what happens if we stop emitting altogether. The bottom line is what happens with zero emissions under the Bern2 SCC model. Source: RealClimate.org|
From the WUWT comments
October 15, 2015 at 10:00 am
That is powerful stuff. I’ve forwarded this link to some who frown at my skepticism.
William Gitchell (@wmgitchell) is delighted that Patrick wrote about geological time. He didn't remark on the fact that Patrick hung his rejection of CO2 warming on just the last 18 of his 500 million years. Or that his claims fell at the first hurdle. Or that atmospheric CO2 isn't falling, it's rising at a faster rate than it has in probably hundreds of millions of years.
October 15, 2015 at 10:02 am
Finally someone discussing geological time instead of a few paltry thousands of years.
cd153 wants to appoint a piddly little science denier as head of the US EPA.
October 15, 2015 at 10:14 am
I’ve said this before and I say it again: I sure wish Dr. Moore was American instead of Canadian because he would make a great choice as the next head of the EPA. A huge improvement over Gina McCarthy.
fobdangerclose notices that Patrick's main theme was the worn out denier meme that "CO2 is plant food". Never mind that plants can only make use of it if nothing else is lacking, like water and nitrogen. Or that excess heat will kill plants, no matter how much CO2 there is:
October 15, 2015 at 10:15 am (excerpt)
Long way of saying, “CO2 is a fine plant food.”.
Alcheson wonders where all the normal people have gone. Seriously? Anthony bans normal people from commenting. The few strays who came upon the blog soon left in disgust at the pseudo-science. Anyone else who tried to inject reality would have given up on WUWT and it's weird conspiracy nuttery long ago. It's no more than deniers patting each other on the back and saying if they can find other deniers who agree with them, then that means the flat earthers must be right and all the experts are wrong.
October 15, 2015 at 10:47 am
Have yet to see any of the frequent cAGW types commenting on this article yet, telling us it is all lies and fabrications and that indeed CO2 is pollution and humanity (at least billions if not all) will perish by 2100 if we don’t reduce CO2 back to 350ppm or lower. Hard to argue with the obvious and common sense, so I suspect they will just choose to ignore it.
References and further reading
- Last time carbon dioxide levels were this high: 15 million years ago, scientists report - article from UCLA Newsroom
The Carbon Cycle - from NASA
- If we cut CO2 emissions today...or Dunning and Kruger visit WUWT again - September 2013
- WUWT Sticky: Patrick Moore yearns for the "good old days" 500 million years ago - February 2014
- Another con job: the Galileo Movement put their hand out for Patrick Moore in Australia - August 2014
- CO2 is at 400 ppm and rising - and Bob Tisdale thinks we can reduce it easily! - June 2015
- A near-perfect example of a CO2 denierism at WUWT - April 2015
- Danley Wolfe continues the long, drawn out hiatus of scepticism at WUWT - April 2015
- Confirming (again) the CO2 greenhouse effect - but WUWT doesn't like it - February 2015