Huge NYT article on Charles David Keeling, the scientist who first measured the increased carbon in the atmosphere. The Keeling curve, as its now known, shows a steady increase in CO2 concentrations in our air over the past century. Keeling also discovered the seasonal variations of CO2 in the atmosphere.

I thought the biography of the man was quite fascinating. He was a stickler for getting the measurements and the process precisely correct, and his golden rule was “no hanky-panky.

Keeling’s widow said her husband would have been dismayed about how the factual issues had been politicized. “He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”

>

Science . . . It works, Bitches.


>

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, lack of scientific knowledge, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for empirical data. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are anonymous after all.

>
Source:
A Scientist, His Work and a Climate Reckoning
JUSTIN GILLIS
NYT, December 21, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/22/science/earth/22carbon.html

Category: Data Analysis, Quantitative, Science

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

133 Responses to “History of Atmospheric Carbon Changes”

  1. dead hobo says:

    The Past Temp chart implies a new ice age would be coming soon if CO2 were more normal. I vote for CO2.

    ~~~

    BR: By that logic, the next time you need a Heimlich, someone should beat you unconscious.

  2. carrottop says:

    a 30% increase in 50yrs to an almost 390 ppmv of CO2 in the air, or
    drumroll,
    0.04%.

    yes,
    CO2 stands at 0.04% of the air we breathe,
    a rounding error next to 80% N2 and 20% O2.

    im worried,
    but per your chart,
    it’s overbought…

  3. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    That popping sound you hear is the heads of the blindly loyal right wingers exploding.

  4. dss says:

    Everyone knows that the world is only six thousand years old so Keeling is just bogus.

  5. Gatsby says:

    Any notion that there are negative impacts to our weather due to carbon being pumped into the air are absurd. Obviously it is God punishing us for Obama letting gays serve their country, trying to tax the richest 1% of Americans and attempting to re-regulate Wall Street. Only a left-wing pinko doesn’t know that all those things make Jesus cry.

  6. michael-D says:

    i think one of the most confusing and yet interesting items worthy of note is the peculiar [historical] causal correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature. al gore famously revealed the temperature / CO2 charts to have the same dips/peaks but avoided revealing that temperature rises precede CO2 rises. how could this be? obviously the greenies are wrong and that temperature drives CO2, and not vice/versa.

    or we’re witnessing a perfect and natural feedback loop which we have stepped into the middle of. it appears that naturally rising temps caused more CO2 to be released, which in turn drove temperatures higher … until the cycle played itself out and reversed.

    unfortunately for us we came on the scene and industrialized at the top of one of those natural peaks and rather than greenhouse gasses resetting lower, we amplified and continued the trend. one might make the case that we avoided the onset of another cool period [some thousands of years in the future].

    a matter of concern is that that particulates we’ve been pumping into the atmosphere are actually keeping some of the sunlight from reaching the surface. in other words, things could/should be worse than they seem.

    in any case, i look at this sort of thing in the same way that i do the artificially amplified equities markets and faux economic recovery; none of them is likely to end well. unfortunately, i’m too weary of the nonsensical hyperbole to care any more. que sera sera [sp?]

    PS … apologies for not following your instructions barry. i’m sure someone will step up for you and oblige with some hysterical and unprofessional name-calling ;-)

  7. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    carrottop:

    What’s your point? Small increases of an already small quantity can’t wreak havoc in a closed system? Support that with some science.

  8. Hantra says:

    I don’t purport to know much about this topic, but. . .

    Is it really a good idea to measure carbon in the atmosphere. . .from the top of a freaking VOLCANO?!

  9. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    michael-D:

    Happy to oblige.

    Cool, dude! You really showed Al Gore (that, in itself is enough to tell me that you’ve rebutted an agreed-upon scientific opinion uttered by a politician with a political opinion). Now, let’s see you take care of all of the other chemists and climate scientists. I’m sure you’ve done more and better research than they have, what with your deep understanding of how the science behind CO2 and global warming works. One might make any case one wishes to make. Since this is science, please show your work (or the work of others, on which you have based your opinion), so that others might better understand exactly why it is your opinion should count for anything.

  10. gd says:

    “CO2 stands at 0.04% of the air we breathe,
    a rounding error next to 80% N2 and 20% O2.”

    That would cover “lack of scientific knowledge”, “lack of respect for empirical data”, and I’d guess “ability to repeat discredited memes”, but I admit I don’t keep track of the discredited memes. Civil, though.

  11. the Scale on the ‘Temperature”-Time Line is, rather, massive..

    does He account for http://search.yippy.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&v%3Aproject=clusty&query=European+History+Medieval+Warm+Period+ ?
    ~~

    though, the Graph, at the lower right-hand corner, points to much of what needs to be understood..

    from the Comments, here http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/16/china-barack-obama-us-technology , among other good ones..

    “Efficient clean coal technology seems to be about as well developed as self sustaining thermonuclear fusion, a very long way to go. However, as the AGW hypothesis is becoming daily more doubtful it probably does not matter. Forget clean coal with regard to CO2. China needs to move against her real toxic and noxious waste pollution shown in these pictures: http://www.chinahush.com/2009/10/21/amazing-pictures-pollution-in-china/

  12. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Hantra Says:

    Is it really a good idea to measure carbon in the atmosphere. . .from the top of a freaking VOLCANO?!
    ____________

    How many climate scientists work at the top of a volcano? All of them? 10%? I might be wrong, but scientists aren’t that goddamned stupid.

  13. MikeinMass says:

    Barry, here is one FACT that discredits you and the rest of the so-called Global Warming “alarmists”:

    It is presently 32 degrees and flurrying here in Boston right now – ergo “Global Warming” is a hoax.

    /sarcasm off/

  14. thetruthseeker says:

    Why doesn’t he also show a graph of temperatures alongside solar activity? And then, show temperatures on Mars alongside solar activity? Funny how they have both been going up. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen an SUVs on Mars, unless you are talking about the Mars rover. Oh wait, that is solar powered. Nevermind.

    ~~~

    BR: Thank you for following our commenting suggestions precisely

  15. curbyourrisk says:

    Damn Barry….just when we were starting to get along you go and print this. CYCLES…..it is all about cycles. As for carbon trading? My company (the parent) is deeply invested in seeing this WORK. I have long told them it was garbage and junk. I told them not to waste their time. They have spent excessively in my opinion in Japan on establishing themselves in the market.

    “The Keeling curve, as its now known, shows a steady increase in CO2 concentrations in our air over the past century.” And how does this century compaed to centuries, such as the one that saw Krakatowa explode and black out the sun. Everything about Global Warming, climate change….what ever you are calling it can be argued away and argued for. That being said, Global warming WILL NEVER BE MORE THAN A THEORY. To consider it or any of the related a SCIENCE is nothing more than an insult to REAL SCIENTISTS.

  16. curbyourrisk says:

    By the way. I know I disagreed with you in a major way about the housing crisis recently and said we still had away to go on the downside….have you read this yet???

    http://dallasfed.org/research/eclett/2010/el1014.html

  17. Sarge says:

    Gee Barry, where’s your spirit of Festivus?

  18. louiswi says:

    Great post Barry–”some of the comments not so much so.

  19. Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, lack of scientific knowledge, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for empirical data. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are anonymous after all.

  20. curbyourrisk says:

    I could spend the next 4 days linking charts and articles by scientists discrediting global warming…..BUT, the only scientists that matter, the only ones that are right, the only ones to believe….are the one that chose Global Warming as their religion. It is not worth my time to debate your facts with mine. It is as effective as both of us pissing into the wind, facing uphill and seeing which one of us gets more wet.

    ~~~

    BR: Please ignore the 97% of the peer reviewed literature, and focus on the fringe.

  21. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    curbyourrisk Says:
    “. . .Global warming WILL NEVER BE MORE THAN A THEORY.”

    Same can be said for most of science. That don’t make it false.

    “To consider it or any of the related a SCIENCE is nothing more than an insult to REAL SCIENTISTS.”

    Puh-freekin’-leeze. You talking about “real scientists” like Rush Limbaugh?

    Start here, and keep the scientific method in mind as you do some BASIC research on this topic:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

  22. Soylent Green Is People says:

    What has been demonstrated that increased CO2 alone is in part or in whole responsible for temperature increases? Are the higher CO2 readings and higher average temperatures simple parallel charts that have nothing in common with each other? Might higher temperatures be caused by suburban sprawl for example – miles of black top and other heat retaining changes to our landscape must have some impact on temperatures. Deforestation in one part of the world, and re-forestation in others also has a measured impact on local temperatures. I live in Southern California – for all intents and purposes a dry, scrub brush landscape, now covered in some areas with an urban forest. We’ve terrascaped this area to the point where it would be unrecognizable by most 19th century explorers. My guess is that these kinds of changes, increased global population, water resource misuse, and other factors are accumulated we get the results we’re seeing today with a measure of average temperature increase.

    It’s a tired meme for some, but when NASA tells us that planets in our solar system have also heated up over the last few decades, it’s hard to lay all the blame on human caused CO2 buildup here on earth.

    My .02c

    Soylent Green Is People.

  23. rsadj says:

    Bitches, I have a couple points, and one comment:

    1) The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere only shifts 3-9 PPM during the time when all the plants in the northern hemisphere stop eating it for the winter. That gives you an idea of the scale of the man-made CO2 inputs.

    2) If you take a test plot of agriculturally important crops, jack up the CO2 level, you will be surprised to see what happens. What we are doing to the planet is a big, uncontrolled experiment.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/105/6/1781.full.pdf+html
    http://soyface.illinois.edu/

    Final point, has anyone else noticed that often the same people who get upset about monetary policy are the ones who don’t care about CO2. How come they can grasp the problem of printing too much money, but not about spewing too much carbon? What’s up with that.

  24. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    curbyourrisk Says:

    “I could spend the next 4 days linking charts and articles by scientists discrediting global warming…..{

    Please do. In fact, I’d like to see an hour’s worth.

    “. . . the only scientists that matter, the only ones that are right, the only ones to believe….are the one that chose Global Warming as their religion.”

    Name one. In fact, I’d say the only “scientists” who DON’T agree with the consensus are those who subordinate their scientific minds to their religious minds. Are you saying that scientists specializing in climate are the ones we should ignore? if so, if you ever have a heart attack, I suggest you immediately make an appointment with your dentist.

    “It is not worth my time to debate your facts with mine.”

    I’ll bet you can’t produce any facts. As you said, above, it’s all theory (except for the measurement, re-measurement, experiments with repeatable results, and peer review).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method

  25. Soylent,

    re: w/: “…when NASA tells us that planets in our solar system have also heated up over the last few decades, it’s hard to lay all the blame on human caused CO2 buildup here on earth…”

    remember, NASA=”Rush Limbaugh” (Petey, WakeTF Up.)
    ~~
    curb,

    w/ “…BUT, the only scientists that matter, the only ones that are right, the only ones to believe….are the one that chose Global Warming as their religion…”

    no kidding..it’s like http://search.yippy.com/search?input-form=clusty-simple&v%3Asources=webplus&v%3Aproject=clusty&query=Global+Warming+Lysenkoism+for+the+21st+Century

  26. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Thank You, rsadj.

  27. w says:

    You seem to have lost all objectivity about this. Anyway, here’s something that might be of interest, for what it’s worth:
    http://www.smh.com.au/environment/weather/theres-a-mini-ice-age-coming-says-man-who-beats-weather-experts-20101221-1945a.html

    ~~~

    BR: Your response to 60 years of meticulously prepared data is to offer up a forecast from Australia?

  28. eightnine2718281828mu5 says:


    a 30% increase in 50yrs to an almost 390 ppmv of CO2 in the air, or
    drumroll,
    0.04%.

    Then you wouldn’t object to taking 0.04% of your body weight in cyanide?

  29. Woof says:

    I’d like to have a strong science-based opinion, but I find it hard to arrive at one with all the shouting from both sides. I’m least convinced about the potency of the causal relation between CO2 and global mean temperature, more convinced about human contribution to global CO2 levels.

    I am always struck when others, whose opinions I respect in fields outisde of science, take contray stands. Just for example, James Altucher, the author of the post that followed this one on the BP blog. Makes me question the well-established consensus of scientific opinion, though perhaps it should not.

    On the other hand, many or most of the solutions to the threat of global warming seem, to me, to have other evident benefits economically, environmentally, and strategically for the US.

    None-the-less, I don’t seem to muster the passion for the name-calling and sarcasm that seem to be required if one wants to participate in this ‘debate’.

    Not even sure why I feel compelled to post this. Many of you may be asking yourselves the same question, if you’ve bothered to read it.

  30. curbyourrisk says:

    Peteywheatstraw…

    So…wikipedia is writeen by scientists? never seen a WIKI article that wasn’t writtne with one slant or another.
    NASA?? didn’t they outright admit to fudging data????

    ABC NEWS??? Do I really need to speak about organizations like that?

    Jeez…. Sometimes I think Barry throws this topic out there just to get us at each other throats.
    You are right about one thing….. IT IS A SHIT LOAD…..

  31. tagyoureit says:

    I would have opted for the blissful ignorance of hanky-panky.

    Mouna Loa is not an active volcano. Kilauea, now that is a different story.

  32. dead hobo says:

    OK, when the next ice age blows in soon, how many of you are going to miss that sweet sweet warming comforting CO2?

    ~~~

    BR: When the next ice age blows in, the odds are that everyone reading this will be dead for centuries . . .

  33. RW says:

    Modeling all the relevant associations in climate change is supercomputer stuff and the marriage of multiple disciplines necessary to interpret the models pretty much assures that the simplifications typical of political debate won’t illuminate. Better to focus on what being wrong means and that’s easy because the logic of precaution is very simple: If the consequences of being wrong are much greater than the cost of insurance you buy the insurance; e.g., the cost of replacing a burned down home is a quite a bit greater than the yearly price of coverage against that loss so you buy the policy.

    The consequences of doing nothing or even too little WRT climate change if global warming is true ultimately results in a damaged and possibly unlivable home with even greater future costs to follow; e.g., a +3 degree change leads to extensive species extinctions, rising sea levels and loss of land area, forced human migrations and more extreme weather. Many people could probably survive at considerable expense but a larger change on the order of +8 degrees means the house figuratively burns with billions of people trapped inside while those with sufficient means flee to Antarctica to make their last stand.

    The consequences of responding adequately if climate change is bullshit? Some money wasted, sure, possibly quite a bit along with a bunch of dinosaur industries but with promising future value due to generation of new enterprise, useful innovations and investment themes, infrastructure, reduced unemployment, etc. And of course folks will get to say “I told you so” to those idiot climate scientists which some might consider priceless.

    It’s really not that tough a call.

    Frankly this is one of those cases where burden of proof is on those who argue for inaction rather than those who argue for action.

  34. Let me anticipate the false statement sure to come from someone that there is no scientific consensus:

  35. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    curbyourrisk:

    “So…wikipedia is writeen by scientists?”

    Intellectually dishonest and rhetorically ignorant.

    http://outreach.wikimedia.org/wiki/FAQ_For_Librarians

    other sources and explanations of how wikipedia works are available.

    Don’t trust ABC News? Did you read the article, or is that too much for you to stomach? What with all of their lies and lack of professionalism, nothing they report can be true. In case you don’t understand the difference between reporting and research, ABC reported something, if you want to rebut it, you’ll have to rebut their sources (who did the research and reached conclusions based thereon), not their report. (The difference between scientific opinion and any other opinion seems to be lost on you, so the difference between reporting and source credibility contained within a report might also be).

    I’m still waiting for an hour’s worth of facts from you.

  36. michael-D says:

    RW: well stated

    petey: you’ve got your poles reversed … or maybe you have mine reversed … or perhaps both

    barry: you’d make a fine politician. divide the electorate and then conquer the 2% – 4% needed for your win.

    bernanke: if you’re listening/reading, you do NOT have the consent of the governed

    gore: get off my side

  37. Tulm says:

    What I like is the “Past Temperature” figure and what that’s showing. Interesting. Especially the timing of the peaks. Funny how that hasn’t been mentioned yet. That figure is a powerful one.

  38. RadioFlyer says:

    @tagyoureit, This is OT, but while Mauna Loa hasn’t erupted in a few decades, the nice folks at the USGS would be surprised to hear that it’s inactive:

    “Mauna Loa is among Earth’s most active volcanoes, having erupted 33 times since its first well-documented historical eruption in 1843. Its most recent eruption was in 1984. Mauna Loa is certain to erupt again, and we carefully monitor the volcano for signs of unrest.”

    http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/maunaloa/

    FWIW, it’s also considered the largest volcano on the planet.

  39. MV says:

    Barry — love your blog. However, consider your criticism of Tony Robbins and Marc Cuban from earlier this year. You wrote:

    “I don’t doubt the business acumen of either of these gentlemen; Each is wildly successful in their chosen fields. However, I cannot help but note that neither of their fields involve analyzing the data that goes into determining economic or market collapses.”

    I find these climate change posts strange, not because your points may or may not be valid, but because it seems a bit out of your area. Couldn’t someone say, “I don’t doubt the acumen of Ritholtz, but I cannot help but note that his field does not involve analyzing the data that goes into determining the causes or effects of climate change or the climate models used by scientists.”? You seem to be arguing with your own (blind right-wing anti-science radical) straw man. What’s the point?

    If you do have training in climate science and have developed your own model, I take it all back. If not, maybe Cuban or Robbins can add to this climate discussion, as they have as much expertise as you do in the area.

    Link to Cuban / Robbins Post:
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/08/celebs-billionaires-economic-warnings/

  40. MV:

    Please identify the opinion I offer in this post . . . ?

  41. Tulm says:

    Whatever happened to the scientific evidence that eggs are bad for you… wait, they’re good for you?? Bad for you???

  42. Tulm,

    Like all good scientific theories, it is subject to constant testing and revision . . .

  43. carrottop says:

    plz understand that im NOT discussing the fact that global warming is real.

    to eightnineEmous :
    “Then you wouldn’t object to taking 0.04% of your body weight in cyanide?”

    not a fair question,:
    rephrase it to “not objecting to a 30% increase in cyanide intake over 50 yrs to 0.04%”.

    to Petey Wheatstraw :

    “What’s your point? Small increases of an already small quantity can’t wreak havoc in a closed system? Support that with some science.”

    the point is it’s a 30% increase in a really small quantity over 50yrs.
    the obvious answer is,
    yes it can,
    but we can’t model it reliably yet.

    ~~~

    BR: You are comparing a 50 year increase in a climatological issue on earth — a 3.5 billion year old planet, whose longer cycles last millions of years — with 50 “Earth” years in a human life span?

    Fail

  44. Agnotology says:

    Is global warming caused by humans? Is Barack Obama a Christian? Is evolution a well-supported theory?

    You might think these questions have been incontrovertibly answered in the affirmative, proven by settled facts. But for a lot of Americans, they haven’t. Among Republicans, belief in anthropogenic global warming declined from 52 percent to 42 percent between 2003 and 2008. Just days before the election, nearly a quarter of respondents in one Texas poll were convinced that Obama is a Muslim. And the proportion of Americans who believe God did not guide evolution? It’s 14 percent today, a two-point decline since the ’90s, according to Gallup.

    What’s going on? Normally, we expect society to progress, amassing deeper scientific understanding and basic facts every year. Knowledge only increases, right?

    Robert Proctor doesn’t think so. A historian of science at Stanford, Proctor points out that when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases.

    He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

  45. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Barry Ritholtz Says:

    “Please identify the opinion I offer in this post . . . ?”
    ______________

    BR: I think it’s the heresy that science works (bitchez). How foolish a statement.

  46. eightnineEmous says:


    consider your criticism of Tony Robbins and Marc Cuban from earlier this year

    Barry didn’t just criticize them because they were out of their area of expertise, he also criticized their analysis as suffering from recency effects.

    On the other hand, you haven’t criticized the data presented or the underlying analysis, so your equivalence fails at that point.

  47. Sarge says:

    Disengenuous BR. It’s not very becoming.

    Why even post this and then say “Science …it works Bitches” implying the very thing the MV says. That’s basically YOU saying anyone who questions AGW is a “blind right-wing anti-science radical”. Total nonsense. There are plenty of climate scientists who question the models and their predictions.

    Maybe I’m wrong.

  48. makingmoney says:

    Before 1950 all measurements are taken from Antarctica ice. After 1950 all are taken at Mauna Loa.

    Why not continue to take all samples from 1950 on from Antarctic ice samples to be consistent?

    Or has this been proven to produce exactly the same result, and scientists like to stay warm?

    Still CO2 being 0.04% of the air seems tiny compared to H2O, and real pollutants.
    Anyone remember global dimming?

  49. ZedLoch says:

    carrottop:

    At the end of the day, you still have 0.04% cyanide in your body, good luck with that. Do you think you will magically build up some resistance to cyanide if you get it slowly over 50 years? Care to demonstrate for us?

    There is still 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere right now. 250 ppm is the avg needed to support life on Earth. We may very likely double that by the end of the century.

    I’ve read some right wing websites saying that since we’re all Carbon based life forms, CO2 pollution is a GOOD thing: “They call it pollution. We call it life.”

    Human life cannot exist without water, the body is 60% H20. So why don’t you all go drown yourselves in a lake, surrounded by all that life?

  50. eightnineEmous says:


    rephrase it to “not objecting to a 30% increase in cyanide intake over 50 yrs to 0.04%”.

    That’s fine with me; you can take 0.03% of your body weight in cyanide today and increase it to 0.04% over 50 years.

    I’m guessing the results will be quite the same.

    -eightnine2718281828mu5

  51. ZedLoch says:

    “Still CO2 being 0.04% of the air seems tiny compared to H2O, and real pollutants.”

    That is the most ridiculous argument I’ve ever heard!

    A .44 magnum is tiny compared to a hand grenade, and real weapons like nuclear bombs.

    Do an experiment: shoot yourself with a Smith and Wesson and see how ineffectual it is at killing you relative to the other two.

  52. mrjuice says:

    This weirdly fits in the BP. As chart porn…the Keeling Curve joins many others of an economic nature.
    So many charts today show these steep changes and unsustainable trends. CO2, sovereign debt, money supply.
    Looking at them you can’t help but wonder what it means for the future. (CO2, debt, money supply). Big experiments are underway with no assured outcome.
    But, its probably better to take precautions since the future outcomes are so uncertain and fraught with risk. I find it hard to side with the do-nothings.

  53. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    Sarge Says:

    “There are plenty of climate scientists who question the models and their predictions.”
    ________________

    Name some.

  54. eightnineEmous says:


    There are plenty of climate scientists

    Tobacco companies also had plenty of science claiming that you couldn’t prove that smoking caused cancer.

    Isn’t it odd how commercial interests are prone to getting the science wrong when it interferes with their business model?

    -eightnine2718281828mu5

  55. Tulm says:

    Zed – that’s an apple to orange comparison. Assuming CO2 has the same effect in the atmosphere as cyanide in our body is a stretch. Here’s an example.

    “Probably no one has labored longer and harder to convince the public that the dangers of nuclear power are being exaggerated than Dr. Bernard Cohen, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Pittsburgh. In the 1970s and 1980s, Dr. Cohen worked tirelessly to refute the exaggerated claims of critics, both through careful research and through popular articles. He also had a flair for the dramatic. On “The Tonight Show” he offered to eat as much plutonium on camera as Ralph Nader would eat caffeine. Nader never took the challenge.”

  56. Petey Wheatstraw says:

    makingmoney Says:

    “Before 1950 all measurements are taken from Antarctica ice. After 1950 all are taken at Mauna Loa.”
    ______________

    got a source for that? I’ll bet there are scientists measuring the CO2 in polar ice samples right now, for the purpose of CHALLENGING THEIR OWN DATA.

  57. name some?

    http://www.c3headlines.com/quotes-from-global-warming-critics-skeptics-sceptics.html

    Note: Only 52 scientists agreed to IPCC 2007 summary report linking human CO2 to global warming. In contrast, 650 scientists have publicly announced their disagreement with the theory of man-made global warming. In addition, 31,000 American scientists/researchers have signed the Oregon Petition stating their direct opposition to the Kyoto global warming agreement. Approximately 17,000 signers have a PhD or a M.S. (additional details of signers listed here).

    (If you are interested in an analysis of IPCC scientists who support man-made global warming theory, visit here.)

  58. RW says:

    “Before 1950 all measurements are taken from Antarctica ice. After 1950 all are taken at Mauna Loa.”

    WTF? Cite source on this. AFAIK measurements from Antarctic ice continue unabated with mountain sites such as Mauna Loa, oceanic measurements, etc added more recently to improve detection of differences at altitude, oceanic sequestration, etc.

    As to very small changes in minute quantities, a longitudinal record of impact can help a lot; e.g., it is well known that 0.3 ppm of naturally occurring arsenic trioxide in drinking water will eventually prove lethal but not before it causes your wife to miscarry or prevent you from adequately digesting food. Drop that level 0.1 ppm and you, your wife and your progeny will probably make it.

  59. curbyourrisk says:

    Since 2009 more than 238 physicists including Nobel Prize winner Ivar Giaever and professors from Harvard, MIT, Princeton, UCLA and dozens of other top universities and research institutions have signed an open letter addressed to the Council of the American Physical Society saying the scientific data did not support the conclusion that increased CO2 concentrations are responsible for global warming.

    In 2009 over 700 international scientists, including many current and former UN IPCC members, joined with Senator Inhofe in a Senate Minority Report to express their doubts over man-made global warming claims.

    In the report U.S. Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg was quoted as saying “It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.”

    In the largest effort to date to document global warming dissent in the scientific community, 31,486 Americans with university degrees in science – including 9,029 PhD, 7,157 MS, 2,586 MD and DVM, and 12,714 BS or equivalent – have signed on with the Global Warming Petition Project to state “the human-caused global warming hypothesis is without scientific validity.”

    Many of the best and brightest minds in the United States and around the world are in total agreement: The so-called global warming “scientific consensus” is a complete fabrication and does not exist.

    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/22624

    ~~~

    BR: Out of 12 million climate scientists/physicists/chemists, you found 31,486 dissenting scientists — 0.0026% — willing to sign a document questioning the consensus?

    Awesome.

    By many, you mean “A tiny percentage”
    Statistics: Scientific Consensus on Climate Change?

    FAIL

  60. makingmoney says:

    Petey Wheatstraw Says:

    makingmoney Says:

    “Before 1950 all measurements are taken from Antarctica ice. After 1950 all are taken at Mauna Loa.”
    ______________

    got a source for that? I’ll bet there are scientists measuring the CO2 in polar ice samples right now, for the purpose of CHALLENGING THEIR OWN DATA.

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    My source is the chart Barry provided. Look in the blue rectangle for Mauna Loa info, and above the graph for Antarctica info.

  61. DG_Allen says:

    BR, you need to post one of these stories weekly. The comments are a riot!!!

    You people make my day!

  62. eightnineEmous says:

    You know when conservatives will accept global warming?

    Once they discover that they can blame it on asians and protect decent white folk from ‘the CO2 gap’.

    -eightnine2718281828mu5

  63. eren says:

    this is worrying.

    i am surprised at the # of boneheads that are reading your blog, lol.

  64. eren says:

    this is worrying too, another lol.

  65. jwagner says:

    I used to sell BIG computer systems to scientists and climatologists and spent a lot of time talking to them. This (and being a reality-based engineer) has resulted in my thoroughly believing that we humans are causing global warming. But I wouldn’t be rude enough to push my view on anyone else since they already know “the truth” and I don’t want to perturb them.

    It doesn’t matter anyway. With the pervasive corruption in our political system and corporate takeover of the republic, pending massive oil shortages, and the other axes hanging over our necks, the party is coming to an end. My apologies to the kids. I think I’ll open another bottle of cab and toast another year of decline (both mine and the world).
    Happy new year.
    Jim

  66. anjan says:

    Barry – do you have any financial interest to declare in this matter?

    Over a geological timescale (hundreds of millions of years) temperature and CO2 concentrations have been much higher than currently, except for temperatures plunging during Ice Ages. During those freezing times, CO2 remained at elevated concentrations (often > 1000 ppm) without any correlation to temperature (source: C R Scotese, R A Berner 2001)

    Science… It works, Bitch

  67. CentralIowaFarmer says:

    I’m planning on Yellowstone blowing a hole in the roof/atmosphere before the next serious ice age and/or polar cap melt. Sometimes I go to the website that looks at geological activity in Yellowstone park. I worry less about the global warming debate.

  68. nofoulsontheplayground says:

    Whenever people talk about climate change, I say, yes, it is always changing. Climate that does not change would be something go be alarmed about.

    7,500 years ago much of North America was covered in a sheet of glacial ice, some parts over a mile high. It has been postulated a comet hit where Lake Erie is now located, eventually melting the North American glaciers while creating the Great Lakes.

    Historically on earth there has been a great extinction about every 75,000 years due to natural events. The last one was about….75,000 years ago. 99% of every species that has ever lived on earth has been wiped out, so let’s just admit the truth. Extinction is normal. Climate change on a massive scale is fairly normal. Furthermore, caring for the earth for the sake of the earth is a crock. It’s been here for 4.6 billion years and has done just fine without us. Care for the earth because you care for yourself and want to sustain your own life. The earth doesn’t give a rip about us. In fact, it’s trying to kill us every day of the week (storms, natural disasters, etc).

  69. gordo365 says:

    Is that real or nominal temp? Shouldn’t the chart be log scale?

    Oops – I’m using the usual stock chart questions…

  70. gordo365 says:

    The environment isn’t static for sure. Co2 and temp fluctuate. ie volcanos, ice age, sun spots.

    I guess the underlying question is – “Is it possible that humans can affect the earth’s environment to the point that it drastically changes to our detriment?” If you think no – consider asking the guy who cut down the last tree on Easter Island.

    If yes – then it’s worth considering we may be doing that now.

  71. metphd23 says:

    The majority of climate scientists who publish (in peer reviewed journals) agree that AGW is real. The debate is on how much uncertainty exists in the model(s) inputs/outputs/feedback mehanisms (will it be catastrophic or not) and on which policy instruments ought to be implemented to handle “decarbonization” without halting economic growth ( a tough nut to crack.)

  72. Patrick Neid says:

    Warming arguments aside the real debate is about the mentioned solutions. From MTBE’S, ethanol and the hokum of alternative energy schemes to the trillions mentioned in attempting to lower a 100 year temperature target by .6 of a degree this is where the lunacy resides. More absurd is the reality that the .6 increase will happen anyway–we are just putting it off for a decade or so. For added measure throw in the fact that 50% of earth’s population refuses to join the party. However there is something reassuring that the gist of Cap and Trade was designed by Enron.

    All that aside, if given the choice, I’ll take warming over cooling. Cooling, when it comes, will probably kill by the tens of millions as growing seasons shorten a couple of weeks and millions of acres of farmland lie fallow. Food surplus stocks will quickly disappear.

    It is interesting to see correlation = causation when it comes to CO2, politically speaking.

  73. jeg3 says:

    For understanding climate change in geologic time:
    “USGS Public Lecture Series: Climate Change 101″
    http://gallery.usgs.gov/videos/179

    Why measuring CO2 is important.
    [For those unfamiliar with high school chemistry, fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas) are also called Hydrocarbons and when burned in an oxygen atmosphere produce Energy + CO2 + H2O+other products (unburned hydrocarbons, heavy metals).]
    Which leads to why measuring CO2 is important:
    “CO2: The Thermostat that Controls Earth’s Temperature”
    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/lacis_01/

    And also important to understand the effects of Human Induced Climate Change:
    “Energy and climate books I read in 2010″ Also see 2009.
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/12/21/energy-and-climate-books-i-read-in-2010/
    and
    “The Weather of the Future: Heat Waves, Extreme Storms, and Other Scenes from a Climate-Changed Planet”
    http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9780061726880-2

    There was a time when being an American meant taking responsibility for your actions,
    and not being an Ignorant, Jingoistic, “Crass Philistine”.

  74. mros says:

    I think an interesting question to ask is what should our response be if there is a POSSIBILITY that global warming is real. In my opinion, a good reference point would be Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine regarding terrorism.

    Ron Suskind author of “The One Percent Doctrine,” describes the idea as follows : “Even if there’s just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It’s not about ‘our analysis,’ as Cheney said. It’s about ‘our response.’ … Justified or not, fact-based or not, ‘our response’ is what matters. As to ‘evidence,’ the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn’t apply.”

    The unimaginable thought of another terrorist attack after 9/11 has led us to spend $1.1 trillion fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If there’s a 1% chance that global warming is real, and that the effects could to catastrophic shouldn’t we at least treat that threat seriously? I am not calling for $1.1 trillion to be thrown at the problem, but some small fraction of that could go a long way in helping this (potential) issue.

  75. Moss says:

    “He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”

    What makes it a political issue in the U.S.?
    The ROW seems to be mindful of the implications.

  76. Lyle says:

    Geological history demonstrates a linkage between warm periods and high CO2 levels, such as before the cenozoic ice ages the temps were warmer and CO2 levels where warmer. Now what causal relationship exists between the two is not shown in the record.
    So to follow mros lets try to get a premium on the policy to avoid the bad consequences of the potential global climate change. So first we have to agree on a discount rate, because the long time frame means that choice makes all the difference in the net present value of the costs of it happening. For example using net present value theory says that if a metor were to strike the earth in 1000 years, and wipe humanity out, the amount to spend on a premium on it today would be vanishingly small.
    Then get a gaggle of economists to come up with a cost of climate change occuring, and the costs of mitigating/preventing, and we can make an insurance decision, do the risks justify the premium?

  77. dss says:

    @Barry,

    What I want to know is why this paragraph is not in your standard disclosure as it pretty much covers 1-5 or you could just use it as your signature on every post. The only thing left out is to not yell at Invictus thinking it is you…

    “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, lack of scientific knowledge, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for empirical data. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are anonymous after all.”

    ~~~

    BR: hehh heh — I already asked my programmer to see if that could be a footer at the end of every post, before the comment section!

  78. GerhardWMagnus says:

    Science is not an elitist debating society in which people sit around debating “theories.” What real scientists say is, “Lets go through the figures…” (the graphs and tables in a paper) or “Let’s have a look at your data.”

  79. GeorgeMB says:

    Lot’s of interesting comments here.

    The comments to the article itself in the Times are also worth reviewing. Some good points on both sides, even by the bitches.

    Science works, Barry, but I would note two aspects of science that aren’t always appreciated:

    1) Skepticism is at the heart of science. It’s only by continued questioning that we learn more or increase our confidence in what we think we know.

    2) There is no such thing as “settled science”, any more than there is settled literature or settled music.

    I have worked with complex computer models using well-established physics, reliable material properties, and the most accurate data I could obtain, and still there were surprise results that conflicted with empirical data taken when the model was applied to an new scenario and asked to tell us beforehand what that data would be.

    Assuming the physics is valid, the only conclusion can be that the data were inadequate or the structure of the model (the application of the physics) was flawed. Both errors are common.

    I’m not a contrarian or a denier, but I am not convinced our models are as complete and reliable as we would like for making massive and expensive policy decisions with the usual unintended consequences–assuming the larger world community works in harmony on this.

    As an example of what I have heard little or no discussion about is the role of clouds (ie, water vapor, another “greenhouse gas”), which constitutes an ENORMOUS component of our atmosphere, absorbs radiated energy from the sun, but can also act at times as a” parasol”, or heat reflector, depending on the type of clouds.

    Anyone have any info on discussions of that?

    ~~~

    BR: Totally agree with you on the skepticism — Newton explained gravity, until Einstein came along. Now string theory is raising some interesting questions about Einstein’s theories.

    The problem is, we have the pope/flat earthers demanding equal time/credibility. Sorry, that does not work for me.

  80. eightnineEmous says:


    1) Skepticism is at the heart of science.

    And since manipulating public sentiment is at the heart of business, it’s even more important to be skeptical of narratives promoted by business.

    -eightnine2718281828mu5

  81. eightnineEmous says:


    I have heard little or no discussion about is the role of clouds

    If you google “global warming” “water vapor”, you get over 2 million hits, so there’s plenty of research on that topic.

  82. BDW says:

    Since using his name seems to quantify the minority view legitimate when those in this minority don’t actually study the subject:
    http://issuepedia.org/Ivar_Giaever/climate

    Also, a THEORY is a proven FACT based on the following of logical and direct connections of other TRUE statements. A CONJECTURE is an assumption based on observation. Climate change, evolution, and gravity are theories that follow mathematical logic. (takes math teacher hat off).

    Also, the theory of climate change says that extreme weather of all nature will become the norm. The snow in Australia, the hurricane level storm in minnesota a while ago, or the cold in Florida etc, follow the theory perfectly, not disprove it.

  83. V says:

    It amazes me how ‘sure’ of things we can be, often without sound theoretical or practical understanding.

    Take lightning for example, happens routinely enough, but look into how and why it forms, there is still considerable debate.

    If we can’t successfully model the behaviour of a CDO, how can we possibly believe we can model the worlds climate system?

  84. Bill W says:

    I’m a believer in protecting the environment, but I think the jury is still out on Global Warming. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in the “Robust Earth” theory either. The fact of the matter is, the earth is a complex system that we don’t really understand. So lets not f**k it up.

    I thought conservatives were against change. If we continue to pump CO2, or any other gas, into to our atmosphere, we are going to change a system that has evolved over billions of years. We have no idea how delicate it is, and what the new equilibrium will look like.

  85. FrancoisT says:

    “If we can’t successfully model the behaviour of a CDO, how can we possibly believe we can model the worlds climate system?”

    Ahem! In the case of CDO, perhaps there is this little thingie called human behavior that kinda exponentially complicate the matter.

  86. Theba says:

    Barry Ritholtz Says:
    December 22nd, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    “Like all good scientific theories, it is subject to constant testing and revision . . .”

    Exactly, science doesn’t operate on consensus; it sets up a model and then sets to work on refining the model.

    And remember the smart kids from high school….

    http://www.skepticsfieldguide.net/2010/11/remember-smart-kids-in-high-school.html

  87. river says:

    I was thinking how best to reply to this, and then it occurred to me. Global warming is like the new “abortion” arguments of the 21st century. First, it instantaneously stirs deep EMOTIONS on BOTH sides (myself included). Those of a conservative or contrarian persuasion obviously get riled up, but Barry basically egging all of his conservative readers to put their tin foil hats on would seem to me to be pretty emotional. Second, what the two sides argue about ends up having a much smaller effect on our actual lives than what all the spilled text and heated debates would indicate (at least so far). I have been conscience of ‘global warming’ as an issue my entire life (born in 1976, James Hansen’s speech to congress occurred in 1988? when I was in sixth grade), Kyoto Protocal was signed 1997 was it? I was a junior in college. Since 1988, we have had 12 years of republican administrations and will have had 12 years of democratic administrations, and there has really been no significant movement on any kind of solution for global warming short of token or symbolic measures. Think about that, and that we have had two wars in the middle east in these last 22 years, Exxon Valdez, September 11th, oil price spikes to over $4 a gallon assisting to bring on the great recession, gulf Oil Spill, and there is every reason in the world to get off of our oil habit. Al Gore claims to have studied under one of the global warming trail blazing scientists, and was a vice president of the most powerful country in the world for eight years, and basically did nothing besides signing america to a flawed Kyoto treaty that the congress rejected. Even worse, during the Clinton presidency was eight years where gas guzzling SUV’s became very prominent, yet they didn’t even strive to change the mileage standards.

    I could go on and on at how ridiculous this whole argument is on both sides, but it doesn’t matter. Barry wants to laugh at all the conservative kooks and their tin-foil conspiracies, yet he has the biggest carbon footprint of any of us. The fact of the matter is that if global warming is a real issue and is as bad as the alarmists claim, we are all doomed unless a technological advancement solves our problem. If global warming is not a real issue and hyped up by alarmists, we are probably all still doomed due to any number of issues – undersaved retirees, over-population, peak oil, etc.

  88. Joe Friday says:

    BR,

    “Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, lack of scientific knowledge, ability to repeat discredited memes, and lack of respect for empirical data. Also, be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor even implied. Any irrelevancies you can mention will also be appreciated.”

    Truly sad that a scientific topic necessitates even making such a preemptive missive.

  89. Be sure to seethe 10 part video series posted

    Climate Change: The Scientific Debate
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/07/climate-change-the-scientific-debate/

    The Scientific Debate on Climate Change: Part 4, 5, 6
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/07/the-scientific-debate-on-climate-change-part-4-5-6/

    The Scientific Debate on Climate Change: Part 7, 8, 8a
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/08/the-scientific-debate-on-climate-change-part-7-8-9/

    The Scientific Debate on Climate Change: Part 9, 10
    http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/08/the-scientific-debate-on-climate-change-part-9-10/

  90. CO2 levels increasing?

    Latest dispatch from trees:

    Sucks to be you humans

  91. GeorgeMB says:

    To eightnineEmous’s replies to me:

    1) If one interprets your caution to “be even more skeptical of the narratives of business” reduced to the tried and proved “follow the money” discovery process, you will find that the dollars going to grants and careers supported by MMGW far outweigh what the nascent MMGW used to accuse business of spending against it. And have you noticed that the business narrative these days is to be “on the bus”, not standing in front of it. From GE, Exxon, GM, etc. etc. So what part of the “business narrative” are you skeptical about?

    2) Yes, there are two million hits on “water vapor”. Tell me what they mean. I know how to enter a simple search term. What I’m looking for is a relevant analysis supported by experimental data and sound physics. I”m still looking for it. Why don’t you help me out and tell me what YOU know about it.

  92. gordonq says:

    Water vapor is the most potent greenhouse gas and there is no way to historically measure it. As temperatures rise there is a positive feedback loop that inserts more water vapor into the atmosphere. CO2 is 0.04% and water vapor at the surface is 1 – 4% of the atmosphere. Irrigation has added to the amount of water vapor, e.g. rivers that no longer reach the sea.

    As for scientists being totally objective, how many scientists in the 50′s and 60′s maintained that diet had no significant effect on health. Witness all the rot that people consume today because of the perpetuation of these beliefs. Scientists are subject to group-think because it makes their jobs easier and the masses will just believe what they say anyway if they stick together. As long as they stick together they still get to play with fascinating toys and hone their math skills. And, climatologists are mostly government employees which are the most likely types to avoid sticking their necks out; that’s why they went for the job in the first place.

  93. jaysan says:

    As Britain is buried under another blanket of snow, here is a prediction made in 2000 from a “scientist” :

    According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia, within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event.”

    “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/snowfalls-are-now-just-a-thing-of-the-past-724017.html

  94. gordonq says:

    It’s interesting to note that all the coal and oil reservoirs of carbon were once in the atmosphere albeit originally in the form of methane (note to self: find out how the oxygen got here). Also it’s interesting to note that global changes wrought by human activity is very conducive to economic activity. Moving beachfront houses and roads higher will make some folks rich. Rebuilding after hurricanes and floods will be an economic stimulus. Fortifying structures to withstand these onslaughts will reduce unemployment and draw people closer together in combating the hazards. Government cajoling or strong-arming just divides – heck look what Barry posted just as bait to enter his blog. I’m thinking it’s all going to turn out just fine. Liberals are so afraid.

  95. BTW, I am not changing my behavior — I don’t drive less, dont drive smaller cars or boats. I have V8s and 6s, and as soon as I can get a V10 or 12, I will.

    But that does not mean I need to ignore science; I wont fabricate a false narrative denying Global Weather Volatility, or somehow pretend that burning fossil fuels won’t impact the overall climate.