Tuesday, June 21, 2016

As the world heats up, Anthony Watts promotes Patrick Moore's conspiratorial ice age fear

Sou | 4:53 PM Go to the first of 5 comments. Add a comment
Willis Eschenbach once wrote of his good friend and conspiracy blogger Anthony Watts that he can't tell good science from bad. He said:
... it is not Anthony’s job to determine whether or not the work of the guest authors will stand the harsh light of public exposure. That’s the job of the peer reviewers, who are you and I and everyone making defensible supported scientific comments. Even if Anthony had a year to analyze and dissect each piece, he couldn’t do that job. ...
Anthony illustrates this inability today, promoting an article by someone called Patrick Moore (archived here, latest here). He's usually touted as being a "co-founder of Greenpeace", which is meant to indicate that he's seen the error of his past and has now become a born-again science denier.

Anthony Watts favours this "Climate Hoax" conspiracy theory from Patrick Moore

The conspiracy theory that Anthony posted from Patrick goes like this:
A powerful convergence of interests among key elites supports and drives the climate catastrophe narrative. Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; scientists and science institutions raise billions in public grants, create whole new institutions, and engage in a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; businesses want to look green and receive huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as large wind farms and solar arrays. Even the Pope of the Catholic Church has weighed in with a religious angle.
Yep, it's got all the ingredients of a good conspiracy worthy of the envy of any right wing authoritarian follower - money, key elites, environmentalists, politicians, the media, scientists and even the Pope of the Catholic Church. They are all part of the climate hoax.

Anthony agrees with Patrick that it's probably the most important paper he will ever write. In case you thought that meant that Anthony doesn't think much of the writing from Patrick Moore, he added:
I highly recommend it as a sensible and practical take on the issue. – Anthony Watts

As Willis Eschenbach said...

Patrick Moore is scared an ice age would've cometh

I've written about Patrick Moore's pseudoscience on previous occasions. Patrick claims that adding huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the air as we are is a "good thing". He's scared of an ice age. He wrote:
As recently as 18,000 years ago, at the height of the most recent major glaciation, CO2 dipped to its lowest level in recorded history at 180 ppm, low enough to stunt plant growth.
I don't know who recorded history 18,000 years ago - does anyone? He's right that in glacial maxima, including the last one 18,000 years or so ago, CO2 dipped to around 180 ppm. That's about the lowest level it has reached in the evolution of land plants. So he's building a strawman when he writes:
This is only 30 ppm above a level that would result in the death of plants due to CO2 starvation.

I don't think that CO2 has been at 150 ppm ever since it got into the earth's atmosphere thousands of millions of years ago. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) It hasn't got that low in 500 million years at least. In any case, while 150 ppm is probably close to a threshold for some C3 plants to survive and reproduce, it is likely that many others would survive this according to a 2010 paper by Gerhart and Ward.

Patrick Moore's "steady decline"

Patrick's knowledge of science is woeful. He wrote:
It is calculated that if the decline in CO2 levels were to continue at the same rate as it has over the past 140 million years, life on Earth would begin to die as soon as two million years from now and would slowly perish almost entirely as carbon continued to be lost to the deep ocean sediments. 
What Patrick must have done was quite silly. I'd say he drew a straight line from very high CO2 levels in the past to those of recent times. That's not science. CO2 was much higher 140 million years ago, and has declined since then. However the decline was not steady at all. It was not a straight line decline. Over the past 140 million years CO2 has gone up and down. 140 million years ago was early in the Cretaceous when the earth was very different and well before humans came on the scene.

In 2006 Dana Royer wrote a seminal paper about the changes in CO2 in this current geological eon, the Phanerozoic, which covers the past 541 million years. Below are two charts showing how CO2 changed over the past 200 million years. The first chart is for the period from 80 million to 200 million years ago.

Figure 1 | CO2 and temperature records for the (B) Jurassic to late Cretaceous (200–80 Ma). The CO2 record is derived from Fig. 1B. Cold periods with strong evidence for geographically widespread ice are marked with dark shaded bands. Cool-to-cold periods with indirect or equivocal evidence for ice (see Section 2 for details) are marked with light shaded bands. The horizontal dashed lines at 1000 and 500 ppm CO2 represent the proposed CO2 thresholds for, respectively, the initiation of globally cool events and full glacials. Source: Royer06 

The second chart is the period from 80 million years ago to the present.

Figure 2 | CO2 records for the late Cretaceous to present day (80–0 Ma). The CO2 record is derived from Fig. 1B. Cold periods with strong evidence for geographically widespread ice are marked with dark shaded bands. Cool-to-cold periods with indirect or equivocal evidence for ice (see Section 2 for details) are marked with light shaded bands; such periods supported by only weak evidence are annotated with a question mark. The horizontal dashed lines at 1000 and 500 ppm CO2 represent the proposed CO2 thresholds for, respectively, the initiation of globally cool events and full glacials. Source: Royer06

As you can see CO2 was much higher in the past (when the sun was fainter), but the decline hasn't been steady. Instead there are very long periods of fairly steady CO2 punctuated by ups and downs.

Since the last glacial maximum 18,000 years ago, CO2 has risen from a low of around 180 ppm to 280 ppm just before the industrial revolution. Since then, because we've been adding it to the air, CO2 has risen to more than 400 ppm.

The chart below shows how CO2 has risen and fallen over the past 800,000 years. No gradual depletion can be seen. The red line is the latest from the Scripps Keeling Curve as at 19 June 2016: 406.95 ppm. We humans first appeared only around 200,000 years ago. Hover over the chart to see the different levels at different times.
Figure 3 | Atmospheric CO2 for the past 800,000 years. Data sources: EPICA Dome C Ice Core 800KYr Carbon Dioxide Data, Luthi, D., et al.. 2008 and Scripps Keeling Curve

Patrick Moore can't make up his mind: to accept or deny the greenhouse effect

Patrick pussy foots around the greenhouse effect, both accepting it and denying it. He was very wrong when he wrote:
...there is no definitive scientific proof that CO2 is a major factor in influencing climate in the real world
It was demonstrated more than 150 years ago that CO2 is a major factor influencing the climate of Earth. Patrick is clearly a greenhouse effect denier. As Dana Royer wrote in 2006, looking over the very long term, the last 541 million years:
Atmospheric CO2 is positively correlated with globally averaged surface temperatures for most of the Phanerozoic. This pattern has been previously shown at coarse 10-million-year timescales and is demonstrated here at finer resolutions (one million to five million-year timescales). ... 
...Many factors are important in controlling the average surface temperature of the Earth, including solar luminosity, albedo, distribution of continents and vegetation, orbital parameters, and other greenhouse gases. The message of this study is not that atmospheric CO2 is always the dominant forcing (see Section 3.7 for an early Paleogene example). Instead, given the variety of factors that can influence global temperatures, it is striking that such a consistent pattern between CO2 and temperature emerges for many intervals of the Phanerozoic. This correspondence suggests that CO2 can explain in part the patterns of globally averaged temperatures during the Phanerozoic. 

Patrick Moore's questions show him as lazy, incompetent and wrong

Patrick asked some questions at the end, which he was too incompetent or too lazy to research for himself. Here they are, with answers from scientific research:

Patrick asks: What evidence or argument is there that the global climate would not revert to another glacial period in keeping with the Milankovitch cycles as it has done repeatedly during at least the past 800,000 years?

The global climate will have another glacial period. The next big ice age would have been due in around 50,000 years. We'll skip that one because of what we are doing now. Assuming we add 1,000 to 1500 gigatonnes of carbon to the air, we'll probably defer major glaciations for 100,000 years at least.

Patrick asks: What evidence is there that we are not already past the maximum global temperature during this Holocene interglacial period? 

There is ample evidence that we're not already past the maximum global temperature. Heck, we are making new "hottest ever" records all the time. The last two years were both the hottest on record and most probably the hottest in the Holocene. The last eight months were each the hottest ever for those months (the hottest October, hottest November etc). Now that El Nino has finished, there probably won't be new records for the next few months, except that this year will probably be another "hottest year", making it three in a row. The broader evidence is that CO2 keeps increasing. More CO2 means a hotter world. As long as it keeps increasing the world will continue to warm. Below is a chart of consecutive 12 month periods ending in May each year:

Figure 4 | Global mean surface temperature, average of 12 month periods to May each year. Data source: GISS NASA

Patrick asks: How can we be certain that in the absence of human emissions the next cooling period would not be more severe than the recent Little Ice Age?

That's a foolish strawman. The Little Ice Age was largely because of volcanic eruptions. So assuming he's talking about what future volcanic eruptions would have done in the absence of human emissions, then he can look to the past.

Patrick asks: Given that the optimum CO2 level for plant growth is above 1,000 ppm and that CO2 has been above that level for most of the history of life, what sense does it make to call for a reduction in the level of CO2 in the absence of evidence of catastrophic climate change?

Here Patrick is talking about plants growing in greenhouses, not in free air. Even in greenhouses, 1000 ppm is too high for many species, and you don't want it that high both day and night. It's also another strawman. If CO2 rose to 1000 ppm in a matter of decades, as he's proposing, then plants would have a lot more than a rapid rise in CO2 to contend with. In many food-growing regions, plants would suffer major heat stress, drought, floods and storms. Food production would drop hugely and many people would starve to death, those that didn't die from heat-related causes.

Patrick asks: Is there any plausible scenario, in the absence of human emissions, that would end the gradual depletion of CO2 in the atmosphere until it reaches the starvation level for plants, hence for life on earth?

There hasn't been a gradual depletion of CO2. It's been between 180 ppm and 300 ppm for at least the last 800,000 years.

The question he should have asked: What will happen as CO2 rises by much more than it's fallen in the past 800,000 years?

As you can see, Patrick Moore is scared that an ice age will come and end human civilisation as he knows it. What he doesn't tell his fans is that CO2 went from 180 ppm to 300 ppm over the span of major glaciations and interglacials of the last million years or so. That's a difference of 120 ppm. Now it's risen by more than that - from 280 to 408, a difference of 128 ppm and it's still rising.

What Patrick should be asking is: if a drop of 100 to 120 ppm causes a major glaciation then what will a rise of more than 120 ppm bring? What will happen when CO2 doubles to 560 ppm and more? That's what is occupying the best minds in climate science and it should be worrying Patrick Moore and Anthony Watts as well.

Patrick Moore and glyphosate

No article about Patrick Moore would be complete without this YouTube segment :)

From the WUWT comments

Anthony's dim crowd of conspiracy theorists can't tell good science from bad any more than Anthony Watts can. They love Patrick Moore because he tells them what they want to hear. CO2 is plant food and the more the merrier as far as they are concerned. They've never heard of the fact that plant growth is limited by the heat tolerance of plants, or by water availability, or nutrients. They don't know what happens to plants when topsoil is washed away in floods or blown away in droughts.  Here's a sample of the sort of comments that Anthony Watts allows on his blog:

Marcus is over the moon to find an ice age comether, after all this record heat:
June 20, 2016 at 8:40 am
..+ 50 Platinum stars !! Awesome reality…..

TG thinks wrongly that Patrick Moore is "principled". He's no more principled than the unethical Anthony Watts.
June 20, 2016 at 8:42 am
Dr. Patrick Moore is more principled than the whole worldwide network green of activist combined, it’s a pity there aren’t more like him. 

Tom Halla thinks that Patrick Moore doesn't know what he's doing. In fact Patrick is not paying any attention to science, just like all the other activist deniers at WUWT:
June 20, 2016 at 8:49 am
Doesn’t Moore realize that actually paying attention to science is a no-no to an activist?

Carmen likes Patrick's shinning light:
June 20, 2016 at 9:39 am
Now this is a real Canadian scientist! Thank you Dr. Patrick Moore for shinning light on CO2. It is to be celebrated.

Patrick Moore isn't extreme enough for Jay Hope, who probably doesn't know that boats, jet skis, aeroplanes and hang gliders have been around for a while.
June 20, 2016 at 3:02 pm
Is there anything else humans can do, apart from tweaking a chemical compound and changing the climate of a planet that is 4.6 billion years old? Walk on water, maybe??? Turn metal into gold? Dream on Patrick. You’re still a believer! 

stan stendera is a fake sceptic who believes Patrick Moore about plants close to ending. They weren't. He is wrong. Like most deniers stan doesn't bother with fact-checking.
June 20, 2016 at 12:07 pm
Except, as Dr. Moore points out. plant life actually came close to ending 0nly 18.000 years ago. ( A mere blink in the earth’s history) In the whole of earth’s history runaway warming from CO2 never happened.

Patrick Moore (@EcoSenseNow) continues to claim, contrary to evidence, that CO2 "was steadily declining" for 140 million years. He's wrong.
June 20, 2016 at 10:32 am
Higher CO2 also benefits C4 plants (about 5% of plant species). If you read the entire paper you will see that all your points are taken into account. It is the “net” of CO2 up and CO2 down that determines its concentration in the atmosphere, along with the temperature of the oceans. There was no “steady state” of CO2, it was steadily declining for 140 million years and there is no reason to think that trend would have ended had we not come along and burned fossil fuels. 

Jean Parisot was partly right. Patrick Moore is not a climate scientist, credentialed or otherwise:
June 20, 2016 at 11:48 am
He’s probably not a credentialed climate scientist.

Chuck Wiese complains that people rightly point out that most deniers aren't climate scientists. Chuck isn't a climate scientist, he's a science denier and meteorologist:
June 20, 2016 at 3:50 pm
Hi Patrick: If she is then my mistake and apology.. BUT….you know this is a typical response from those who disagree with the environmental religion of AGW….”you’re not credentialed or qualified to comment or write papers about “climate science””. I see it all the time. 

Bruce Cobb promotes a previous HotWhopper article about Patrick Moore's pseudo-science. I don't know what bits he regards as being flecked with spittle:
June 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm
The imbeciles and liars at Hot Whoppers are predictably in a spittle-flecked fury about it:

Gary Pearse is a hard-core climate science denier, not even accepting the greenhouse effect.
June 20, 2016 at 5:15 pm (excerpt)
Bravo Dr. Moore. Regarding CO2 and the greening of the planet, there is one part of the idea that adding CO2 in the atmosphere causes a certain quantum of warming that is simply, unequivocally, untrue. Proponents of warming unwittingly, I suspect, assume ‘ceteris paribus’ conditions (meaning all other factors held constant). With greening, along with being a sink for CO2 is also a sink for energy – which is taken out of circulation. That is to say, that from the sterile equation for warming due to CO2 must be subtracted the energy ‘sunk’ in new living matter.

References and further reading

Royer, Dana L. "CO 2-forced climate thresholds during the Phanerozoic." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 70, no. 23 (2006): 5665-5675. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2005.11.031 (pdf here)

Zahnle, Kevin, Laura Schaefer, and Bruce Fegley. "Earth’s earliest atmospheres." Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology 2, no. 10 (2010): a004895. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a004895 (open access)

Sleep, Norman H., and Kevin Zahnle. "Carbon dioxide cycling and implications for climate on ancient Earth." Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets 106, no. E1 (2001): 1373-1399. DOI: 10.1029/2000JE001247 (open access)

Gerhart, Laci M., and Joy K. Ward. "Plant responses to low CO2 of the past." New Phytologist 188, no. 3 (2010): 674-695. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8137.2010.03441.x (open access)

Miller, Gifford H., Áslaug Geirsdóttir, Yafang Zhong, Darren J. Larsen, Bette L. Otto‐Bliesner, Marika M. Holland, David A. Bailey et al. "Abrupt onset of the Little Ice Age triggered by volcanism and sustained by sea‐ice/ocean feedbacks." Geophysical Research Letters 39, no. 2 (2012). DOI: 10.1029/2011GL050168 (open access)

Ganopolski, Andrey, Ricarda Winkelmann, and Hans Joachim Schellnhuber. "Critical insolation–CO2 relation for diagnosing past and future glacial inception." Nature 529, no. 7585 (2016): 200-203. doi:10.1038/nature16494

The Bakerian Lecture.-On the Absorption and Radiation of Heat by Gases and Vapours, and on the Physical Connexion of Radiation, Absorption, and Conduction. By John Tyndall 1861
Carbon Dioxide In Greenhouses - article on the website of Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs talking about CO2 and the effect or otherwise of raising CO2 levels for different crops (and how it's only of benefit in daytime)

From the HotWhopper archives


  1. Quick note: Figure 3; 'Humans first appeared' - it's easy to assume that this label is associated with the horizontal CO2 concentration line.

    1. Thanks Bill. I thought the text explained the chart. Still, I've changed the chart notation a bit just to make sure :)

  2. "Imbeciles and liars at HotWhopper" :) That just made my day.

  3. Moore says this:"
    ..there is no definitive scientific proof that CO2 is a major factor in influencing climate in the real world"

    Then asks:
    "How can we be certain that in the absence of human emissions the next cooling period would not be more severe than the recent Little Ice Age?"

    That's the kind of incoherence that gets the WUWT audience in raptures? No wonder they lap up his blithering ignorance of the carbon cycle.

    1. Exactly my thought when I read it. hahaaa


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