Hansen – burning coal prevented global warming

Dr. James Hansen, chief global warming alarmist and head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has a new paper in Environmental Research Letters wherein he says that burning coal has caused the hiatus in global temperature rise for the past 15 to 20 years (see here also).

Hansen attributes this to the fact that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere stimulates plant growth, which, in turn, takes more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. “We suggest that the surge of fossil fuel use, mainly coal, since 2000 is a basic cause of the large increase of carbon uptake by the combined terrestrial and ocean carbon sinks. One mechanism by which fossil fuel emissions increase carbon uptake is by fertilizing the biosphere via provision of nutrients essential for tissue building, especially nitrogen, which plays a critical role in controlling net primary productivity and is limited in many ecosystems.” In Hansen’s figure 3, he notes that even though carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing, the airborne fraction of CO2 [the ratio of observed atmospheric CO2 increase to fossil fuel CO2 emissions] has decreased over the past 50 years, especially after the year 2000.

Hansen-emissions-vs-CO2-fraction

That means that natural processes are compensating for increased emissions. This mechanism is noted in a report by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in which they state: “The productivity of the planet’s terrestrial biosphere, on the whole, has been increasing with time, revealing a great greening of the Earth that extends throughout the entire globe. Satellite-based analyses of net terrestrial primary productivity reveal an increase of around 6-13% since the 1980s.”

Some scientists claim that part of the lack of temperature rise is due to the cooling aerosol effect of sulfur dioxide, also a byproduct of burning coal. Hansen rejects this and is supported by an earlier NASA paperwhich says that sulfur dioxide (SO2) aerosols in the atmosphere are due mainly to increasing volcanic activity, not from burning coal.

Hansen also notes that the effect [forcing] of man-made greenhouse gas emissions has fallen below IPCC projections, despite an increase in man-made CO2 emissions exceeding IPCC projections.

This paper is quite an admission from someone who once said, “The trains carrying coal to power plants are death trains. Coal-fired power plants are factories of death.”

Hansen’s reasoning seems somewhat circular to me. He’s saying that more carbon dioxide is creating less carbon dioxide. He is also ignoring the fact that as the globe warms (such as warming from the Little Ice Age of the 1850s), the oceans exsolve more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. He is assuming that carbon dioxide is the major driver of global temperature, a contention for which there is no physical evidence. More likely, the “hiatus in global temperature rise for the past 15 to 20 years” has been caused by something other than carbon dioxide, such as solar cycles which overwhelm the weak warming force of carbon dioxide acting as a greenhouse gas. It is true, however, that as atmospheric carbon dioxide increased, there has been a great greening of the earth as plants respond to the aerial fertilization.

In spite of all the scary scenarios put forth by IPCC climate models, we see that modeling results are an artifact of modeling inputs; that’s a polite way of saying “garbage in – garbage out.” And perhaps Hansen is now realizing the implications of something he wrote back in 1998: “”The forcings that drive long-term climate change are not known with an accuracy sufficient to define future climate change.”

UPDATE: The New York Times reports that James Hansen will quit his NASA  job this week to become a full-time climate activist.

See also:

Failure of the Anthropogenic Global Warming Hypothesis

Global warming theory fails again

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28 comments

  1. Verrrry interesting! You mean burning coal caused that hiatus in warming? Why don’t we burn more coal and get the temperature to actually go down. Then we won’t need any of those emission control laws because Hansen says emission is good for us.

  2. Most of the warming is via the ocean waters, Dr. Hansen made mentioned of a “dormant’ period that was likely to happen and give a false impression that warming had stopped in his book “Storms of My Grandchildren”. The climate system is so vast and there is a ‘sloshing” that causes these variances.
    Anyway, since 1979 there has been a reduction of Arctic summer sea ice volume of 75% and an area reduction of 43%! That is climate change friends.

      1. It has been well established by climate scientists that non-condensing greenhouse gases (particularly Carbon Dioxide)
        ARE the drivers of the Earth’s temperature (see, for example, http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/co2-temperature.html). Even though water vapor is responsible for a greater percentage of the recent warming than CO2, the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is ultimately controlled by the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Think of non-condensing greenhouse gases as the scaffolding that water vapor fits into. Adding more CO2 increases the atmospheric temperature, allowing more water vapor to fit into the scaffolding. This in turn raises the temperature, allowing more water vapor, etc., until an equilibrium temperature is reached. Without CO2, the Earth’s temperature would be about 60 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. The variation in temperature then drives the climate change

      2. You espouse the theory behind the climate models, but fail to provide physical evidence, just an appeal to authority. (The provided link is broken). The non-condensing GHG argument has been shown to be wrong:

        From Curitn, T., 2012, Applying Econometrics to the Carbon Dioxide “Control Knob”, The Scientific World Journal, Volume 2012, Article ID 761473

        This paper tests various propositions underlying claims that observed global temperature change is mostly attributable to anthropogenic noncondensing greenhouse gases, and that although water vapour is recognized to be a dominant contributor to the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) effect, that effect is merely a “feedback” from rising temperatures initially resulting only from “non-condensing” GHGs and not at all from variations in preexisting naturally caused atmospheric water vapour (i.e., [H2O]). However, this paper shows that “initial radiative forcing” is not exclusively attributable to forcings from noncondensing GHG, both because atmospheric water vapour existed before there were any significant increases in GHG concentrations or temperatures and also because there is no evidence that such increases have produced measurably higher [H2O]. The paper distinguishes between forcing and feedback impacts of water vapour and contends that it is the primary forcing agent, at much more than 50% of the total GHG gas effect. That means that controlling atmospheric carbon dioxide is unlikely to be an effective “control knob” as claimed by Lacis et al. (2010).

        The regression results in the previous Section confirm the first null, as there is no statistically significant evidence to show that increases in anthropogenic GHGs account for any, let alone “most,” of observed global temperature change.

      3. Jonathan, have you ever heard of the “greenhouse effect”? Discovered in 1896 by Svante Arrhenius. The concentration of greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, in the atmosphere is causally related to surface temperature.

      4. .Arrhenius assumed that the ratio of carbon dioxide (K) to water vapor (W) in the earth’s atmosphere was K/W where K is 1.5 and W is 0.88, a ratio of 1.7.

        The concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is now thought to be 0.039%. The average concentration of water vapor is not known. Since it varies

        from place to place from 0 to 4% and we take 2% as typical, this means that the ratio of water vapor and carbon dioxide is about 50 to 1.

        So, about 98% of Arrhenius’ figures and calculations, even if soundly based, apply to water vapor and not to carbon dioxide.

      5. The importance of Arrhenius discovery was that the effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere was to allow high wavelength energy (above infrared) to pass through where it is absorbed by the earth’s surface and re-radiated as infrared. The greenhouse gas reflects the infrared, effectively trapping it and raising the temperature of the low atmosphere.
        Since Arrhenius, more sophisticated methods have been developed for accounting for the energy budget of total energy encountered at the surface of the atmosphere in terms of watts/m2, and what is re-radiated as heat. These figures are used to precisely calculate the amount of radiative forcing that is being caused by the greenhouse effect. It is well known that the amount of energy trapped by carbon dioxide is sufficient to account for the recently observed warming.

      6. The above being said, of course, due to feedbacks and the general complexity of the climate system, the “climate sensitivity”, i.e., the amount of change in the observed global average temperature vs. the incremental increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, is very difficult to know exactly. That’s where the problems lie. Although we know with great certainty that the recent (last 150 years) warming has largely been caused by manmade carbon emissions due to fossil fuel combustion, we don’t know exactly how much, we don’t know the rate at which it will increase in the future, and we don’t know how much it will increase against a given increase in atmospheric CO2.

      7. Regarding climate change generally and whether it is caused by humans, again, we have to be very specific here. We have a very long record of global climate change, and we know fairly accurately the global temperature changes going back millions of years. We know there have been Ice Ages, warm periods, etc. However, what is at the root of scientific questions regarding climate change that really began being asked in the early 1970s, is the “temperature anomaly” that began to really show up about 100 years ago, and has accelerated in the last 50 or so years. The global average temperature has been increasing at an unprecedented rate, and is higher (remember global average) than at any time in at least the last 650,000 years. The question that has been asked is, Why is this temperature change occurring? What is causing it. Using techniques called “detection and attribution”, climate scientists have separated and identified the natural drivers of climate that have occurred during this period, and they do not account for the warming.

      8. The only way the anomalous warming can be explained is to take into account the radiative forcing due to the human-caused increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. There is no controversy about this. It is fully explained by well-known principles of physics and chemistry. The explanatory principle regarding the warming is known as Occam’s Razor.

      9. What anomalous warming? Temperatures have been within the range of natural variation.

      10. From IPCC AR4:

        Centennial-resolution palaeoclimatic records provide evidence for regional and transient pre-industrial warm periods over the last 10 kyr, but it is unlikely that any of these commonly cited periods were globally synchronous. Similarly, although individual decadal-resolution interglacial palaeoclimatic records support the existence of regional quasi-periodic climate variability, it is unlikely that any of these regional signals were coherent at the global scale, or are capable of explaining the majority of global warming of the last 100 years.

      11. And this:

        The TAR pointed to the ‘exceptional warmth of the late 20th century, relative to the past 1,000 years’. Subsequent evidence has strengthened this conclusion. It is very likely that average Northern Hemisphere temperatures during the second half of the 20th century were higher than for any other 50-year period in the last 500 years. It is also likely that this 50-year period was the warmest Northern Hemisphere period in the last 1.3 kyr, and that this warmth was more widespread than during any other 50-year period in the last 1.3 kyr. These conclusions are most robust for summer in extratropical land areas, and for more recent periods because of poor early data coverage.

      12. So again, the question is, what is causing this? Can it be attributed to natural drivers? How much can be attributed to the observed increase in atmospheric CO2?

      13. In the interests of fairness, you could also provide me with the specific physical evidence that CO2 does not account for the majority of the recent warming, and instead offer an alternative theory, backed up with credible supporting data on what does account for it. Alternatively, tell me what you would consider to be “specific physical evidence that CO2 is the major driver of global temperatures?” (other than the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and the energy budget calculations of forcing due to CO2 account for the temperature increase?) Actually, I didn’t say that CO2 is the major driver of global temperatures, and that’s not what the science says. The scientific finding is that the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2 is the major contributor to recently observed warming. The science also says that as long as humans continue to increase the atmospheric CO2 concentration, warming will continue.

      14. The 1930s were warmer than the late 20th century and nice cherry picking – the Medieval Warm period is just beyond 1000 years ago and it was warmer than the late 20th century.
        Again David, what is your specific physical evidence that CO2 is the major driver of global temperatures? You have used “likely” and “unlikely” but presented no hard evidence, just supposition.

      15. Jonathan, as I stated, the increase in atmospheric CO2 accounts for the majority of the recent warming according to detection and attribution studies. This is based on the inability of natural climate drivers to account for the warming. The physical evidence is the increase in temperatures and the increase in CO2, along with the calculated radiative forcing due to CO2, along with the lack of a reasonable alternative explanation for the warming.
        BTW, the quote was not intended to cherry pick. Read the recent study by Marcott et al. The proxy reconstructions only go back with high confidence about the last 1500-2000 years.

      16. From Curitn, T., 2012, Applying Econometrics to the Carbon Dioxide “Control Knob”, The Scientific World Journal, Volume 2012, Article ID 761473

        This paper tests various propositions underlying claims that observed global temperature change is mostly attributable to anthropogenic noncondensing greenhouse gases, and that although water vapour is recognized to be a dominant contributor to the overall greenhouse gas (GHG) effect, that effect is merely a “feedback” from rising temperatures initially resulting only from “non-condensing” GHGs and not at all from variations in preexisting naturally caused atmospheric water vapour (i.e., [H2O]). However, this paper shows that “initial radiative forcing” is not exclusively attributable to forcings from noncondensing GHG, both because atmospheric water vapour existed before there were any significant increases in GHG concentrations or temperatures and also because there is no evidence that such increases have produced measurably higher [H2O]. The paper distinguishes between forcing and feedback impacts of water vapour and contends that it is the primary forcing agent, at much more than 50% of the total GHG gas effect. That means that controlling atmospheric carbon dioxide is unlikely to be an effective “control knob” as claimed by Lacis et al. (2010).

        The regression results in the previous Section confirm the first null, as there is no statistically significant evidence to show that increases in anthropogenic GHGs account for any, let alone “most,” of observed global temperature change.

      17. Jonathan, thanks for providing the cite. I found an interesting rebuttal, here: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/tc-and-dw/

        In it, Tim Curtin and “Tamino” Grant Foster, discuss the statistical methodology used by Curtin in this paper. Tamino points out fundamental errors in the statistics calculations, which completely invalidate Curtin’s conclusion. In the exchange, Curtin says the following after being unable to explain his errors: “Tamino, you are of course quite right, I was not at my best yesterday and misread the text and tables you sent me. I apologise, and will make due corrections to my paper when I get the chance.” (I don’t think he made the corrections. Would you check this Jonathan?)
        Curtin apparently wrote this paper in response to a paper by NASA Goddard scientists, including Gavin Schmidt, where they show that CO2 is the primary explanatory forcing for the currently observed warming.
        Curtin is an economist with a master’s degree in economics. As far as I can tell from his bio on his website, he has no background in climate science.
        From my standpoint, there is unequivocal evidence that the increased CO2 concentration is causing the warming. Curtin’s paper was simply wrong.

  3. Climate change is caused by the heat emitted from our energy use, not the CO2 by-product from fossil fuel combustion. The evidence of the effect of heat lies in the trillion tons per year of melting glaciers, which prevents the atmospheric temperature to rise significantly. Were it not for the glacial melting, atmospheric temperatures would rise by almost 0.2*F per year. Nuclear power adds to the heat by a factor of two times the heat from its electrical output.

    1. Where does the figure of 1 trillion tons of glacial ice melting each year come from?

  4. Climate change is always happening. Whether human actions can actually affect climate on a global scale remains to be proven with any verifiable certainty.

    IMO, I’m not convinced that a slightly warmer world is a bad thing, regardless of what causes it. Global warming has happened more than once in the Earth’s past history, and life went on. A warmer world would have longer growing seasons for farmers, and more food across the board as a result, and hopefully, fewer starving people. A warmer planet would mean less fuel required during winter months for heating. That should please those with CO2 emission fears. Less fuel would be required for autos in a warmer world as well. Less clothing would be required by humans to keep warm, and as a result less energy required to run clothing factories to make those winter clothes. Seems to me a slightly warmer world is not all that bad. Of the two options, I would guess a warmer planet would be more beneficial to life than a colder one.

  5. Jonathan,
    As a result of the research that I did on the Curtin cite, I actually took the time to read some earlier blog posts of yours. The comments on these posts included numerous contributions by a “Dr. John Parsons” were he presented many of the same arguments on basic climate science that I am. Interestingly enough, you offered many of the identical arguments that you are offering here. You are repeating yourself, and it seems that you have nothing new or interesting to say. Your blog posts are nothing but confused rehashes of thoroughly debunked arguments put forth by the usual suspects.
    So I respectfully decline to engage in any further wheel-spinning with you, which “John Parsons” did so admirably a year or so ago. Good luck trying to find another sucker who will engage with you. Goodbye.
    Best,
    Dave

    1. Bye, both you and he have failed to provide any convincing physical evidence to support the AGW position.

    2. Warministas like David and the former Dr. John Parsons simply
      move on to the next blog to harass and intimidate skeptics of global warming junkscience. Their scripted and repetitious arguments make
      you wonder whose payroll they are on.

      1. I wouldn’t call debunking spurious claims and bad science/math (like the Curtin paper or Jonathon’s blog post here) “harassment and intimidation.” But whatever. I do have to say that comments such as yours lead absolutely nowhere, not that you are at all open to changing your opinion, or finding out whether your beliefs are actually true or not. I am. I am open to that. FYI, I do not “move on to the next blog.” I actually have better things to do. I responded to Jonathan because it seemed like he might actually be open to discussing science, although I see now that he, and you, are not. Good day.

      2. David, since you are all for good science, what is your single best piece of physical evidence that supports the contention that our carbon dioxide emissions are the major driver of global temperature. If that’s too hard, what is the evidence that our carbon dioxide emissions are a significant driver to global temperature?

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