Open Mind

Do you believe Ian Plimer?

August 13, 2009 · 109 Comments

Ian Plimer has a new opinion piece in the Australian media. It includes this statement:


Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic cough can do this in a day.

I have a question for Plimer: When has that happened? What’s your source for this information?

I don’t expect him to answer.


“One part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere” is 100 ppm (parts per million). That’s roughly the change in atmospheric CO2 caused by human activity — the burning of fossil fuels. We can put this in perspective by plotting the variation of atmospheric CO2 over the last 800,000 years, as determined by data from the Vostok, EPICA dome-C, Byrd, and Law Dome ice cores, and from direct measurements at the Mauna Loa atmospheric observatory:

co2

Plainly the recent behavior, the human-induced increase, has brought CO2 levels to heights unseen for the last 800,000 years and perhaps for the last 20,000,000 years. Clearly the recent behavior, the human-induced increase, has happened extremely rapidly on the geologic time scale.

But what about the other changes in atmospheric CO2? Are any of them the result of “one volcanic cough?” Have we got evidence of a time when “One volcanic cough can do this in a day.”?

The phrase “one volcanic cough” implies that routine volcanic activity, the kind of thing that happens regularly, is sufficient to alter atmospheric CO2 dramatically. Let’s take a look, not at the effect on atmospheric CO2 of routine, regular, plain-old ordinary volcanic activity throughout the last 800,000 years. Let’s look at the impact of supervolcanoes.

A supervolcano is a volcanic eruption which is substantially larger than any volcano in historic times (generally accepted to be greater than 1,000 cubic kilometers or 240 cubic miles). These are eruptions with a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 8 (VEI-8), colossal events that throw out at least 1,000 km3 Dense Rock Equivalent (DRE) of ejecta. They’re not routine, everyday, every-year, or even every-millenium events. These are the big boys, the monsters of volcanic eruptions.

There have been four supervolcanic eruptions during the last 800,000 years, the time for which we have precise atmospheric CO2 data. The biggest of these was Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia, some time between 67,500 and 75,500 years ago. It was possibly the largest explosive volcanic eruption within the last twenty-five million years — that’s one helluva “cough.” Here’s what happened to atmospheric CO2 concentration during that time:

toba

Hmm.

Where’s that 100ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 in “a day.”? There doesn’t seem to be any noticeable effect of the Toba eruption on atmospheric CO2, unless you count the rather slow increase that took several thousand years and amounts to a total range of CO2 variation during this time interval of a mere 23 ppm.

The Toba eruption did inject enough aerosols into the atmosphere to cause global cooling; in fact some anthropologists and archeologists believe that it killed most humans then alive, creating a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today. But its effect on atmospheric CO2 is barely noticeable, if at all.

The most recent supervolcano was Lake Taupo, North Island, New Zealand – Oruanui eruption ~26,500 years ago. Here’s the CO2 record from that time:

oruanni

Next is the explosion at Whakamaru, North Island, New Zealand – Whakamaru gnimbrite/Mount Curl Tephra ~254,000 years ago. What was its impact on CO2?

whakamaru

Some of you may have heard of the supervolcanic eruption of Yellowstone Caldera, Wyoming, United States – 640,000 years ago.

yellowstone

NONE of these supervolcanic eruptions caused an increase in atmospheric CO2 of 100 ppm, on any time scale, let alone “in a day.” None of them even comes close. In fact, it’s hard to note any definitive effect of supervolcanic eruptions on atmospheric CO2.

Ian Plimer: you got some ’splainin’ to do.

Categories: Global Warming
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109 responses so far ↓

  • Dano // August 13, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Reply

    Come now. We all know such phrases are designed to enter into the popular discussion and get distributed about by the message force multipliers. Factual basis has nothing to do with the distribution of talking points.

    But the effort to enter facts into the record is appreciated.

    Best,

    D

  • Marcus // August 13, 2009 at 7:49 pm | Reply

    So, I definitely agree with you that Plimer is just making stuff up again.

    But just to play devil’s advocate: what is the temporal resolution of an ice core? Say it is 100 years due to diffusion in the firn*. 100 ppm in a day would, using the standard Bern cycle approximation (not that Plimer believes in carbon cycle models, but…) be about 38 ppm in 100 years, with a mean concentration of about 47 ppm over the century. Now, if we take into account the increased uptake of the ocean due to stratospheric sulfate cooling, and the increased uptake by ecosystems due to increased diffuse radiation, and ignore any possibility of massive ecosystem failure, then we might (by stretching really really far) be able to justify only seeing a 10 ppm spike in the record…

    *I don’t actually know what this number should be. I think it is decadal for the past couple thousand years, so I made a guess for older time periods. And the IPCC doesn’t quite entirely rule out the possibility of a high CO2 peak between 600,000 and 50,000 years ago, eg: “The data resolution is sufficient to exclude with very high confidence a peak similar to the anthropogenic rise for the past 50 kyr for CO2, for the past 80 kyr for CH4 and for the past 16 kyr for N2O.”

  • Deep Climate // August 13, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Reply

    I left a comment there, too, pointing out that error, as well as this one:

    Since 1850, there has been temperature increase (1860-1880, 1910-1940, 1976-1998) and decrease (1880-1910, 1940-1976,1998-present) and the rate of the three periods of temperature increase has been the same.

    For one thing, the “rate” of “temperature increase” is markedly greater from 1976-1998, than from 1910-1940. Not to mention all the misleading talk of “cooling” from 1998 to present.

    I also commented that while Plimer has the right to express his opinions, no matter how cretinous or ill-informed they may be, propagation of obvious falsehoods is unacceptable. So the (Australian) ABC has a duty to correct any clear errors of fact, even in an opinion piece.

    Normally, responsible media organizations distinguish between factual errors and merely (!) misleading or deceptive statements. The latter are still considered in the area of opinion and will usually not result in a correction or retraction.

    In this case, though, the “volcanic cough” statement is clearly an egregious error, and I would submit, so is the claim of “same” rate of temperature increase in the period 1976-1998 as in 1910-1940.

    It’s 6 am in Australia now, so it will probably take a while for the comments to show up.

    I’ll try and see if ABC has a journalistic code of conduct posted that would cover this situation.

    By the way, I’ve had a running battle with the Canadian National Post on the issue of corrections. See, for instance:

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/03/05/lorne-gunter-on-global-cooling-part-1/

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/03/10/fact-checking-national-post-style-lorne-gunter-on-global-cooling-part-2/

  • Alex // August 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Reply

    Well, I’m a complete novice when it comes to volcanoes and geologic timespans, but it seems to me that the resolution of your charts is around 1000 years at best, and that’s a helluva long time when it comes to natural processes maintaining balance. Increased forest growth (observed at the present time), increased solution in seawater and increased growth of marine biota, and so on. Should be easy to hide a volcanic burp in 1000 years.

    But what do I know – I’m not a climate scientist!

    [Response: Resolution of the ice cores since before the Toba eruption is considerably better than 1000 years. A spike in atmospheric CO2 of 100 ppm or more would persist for quite a bit longer than 1000 years. If it had happened, it would be completely obvious.

    It didn't happen.]

  • jl // August 13, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Reply

    Tamino I didn’t see you mention that the volcano would need to “burn” at least 20 cubic miles of coal to raise CO2 100 ppm.. though you might want to know

  • TrueSceptic // August 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Reply

    Tamino,

    You have looked at supervolcanoes.

    Did Plimer mention any such stipulation? Unless he did, we need look only at recent volcanoes, for which we have much more precise evidence.

    What do we see in the CO2 record for Tambora or Krakatoa?

    How about eruptions during the time of accurate real-time CO2 measurements: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Pinatubo, just for starters? I believe the CO2 blips are visible in the CO2 record but are still minute compared with the consistent increase caused by human activity.

    [Response: I see no sign at all of any CO2 impact from Mt. St. Helens, or el Chicon, or Mt. Pinatubo. Nothing.]

  • Michael hauber // August 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Reply

    I bet a volcano could increase Co2 by 100ppm in a day if you take a measurement close enough to the volcano. Take this fact, add a small dose of chinse whispers and you could get Plimer’s claim.

  • David B. Benson // August 13, 2009 at 11:25 pm | Reply

    Mt. Toba super-eruption also caused a genetic narrowing (near extinction) for Bengal Tigers.

  • John Cook // August 13, 2009 at 11:33 pm | Reply

    Good post, I’ve added it to the Further Reading section of my page debunking the “Volcanoes are causing global warming” argument.

  • Deep Climate // August 14, 2009 at 12:09 am | Reply

    Recent comments are up, including one from myself and one from Chris Colose (no URLs for individual comments, though):

    http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2655036.htm

    I’ve also filed a complaint with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, as seen here:

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/08/14/complaint-to-the-australian-broadcasting-company-regarding-plimer/

  • Gareth // August 14, 2009 at 12:15 am | Reply

    Thanks T. Makes living in NZ feel a little more risky… but it does wonders for our geothermal resource.

  • Doug Clover // August 14, 2009 at 12:52 am | Reply

    On a personal note I was born 10 miles from the Whakamaru crater and 30 miles from the Taupo crater.

    As a child the area seemed quite boring :-)

  • Robert Grumbine // August 14, 2009 at 1:23 am | Reply

    The volcanoes are an old and known source. The comments here, trying to ’save’ them as the source are wrong in at least two different ways. First, as several have noted, volcanoes just have not been putting out that much CO2. This is observed. Second is, the volcanic source of CO2 is depleted in 14C, but not in 13C. The source of the CO2 rise is fully depleted in 14C, but is also depleted (some, a large amount as these things go) in 13C … i.e., it is very (greater than 50 ky) old carbon from a biological source (fossil fuels, carbonate rocks).

    Jan Schloerer wrote up, more than a decade ago, the CO2 Rise FAQ. Jan also managed to write a faq on the topic that is readable by nonprofessionals.

    While much work has been done in the last 10-15 years, it does not change the basic picture he documented back then (follow up his citations to the professional literature). The basics of this case were established in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Keeling’s first papers on observing CO2 included the isotopic composition for just this reason.

  • Nick Stokes // August 14, 2009 at 2:09 am | Reply

    Just one more volcano data point – the USGS says:
    Comparison of CO2 emissions from volcanoes vs. human activities.
    Scientists have calculated that volcanoes emit between about 130-230 million tonnes (145-255 million tons) of CO2 into the atmosphere every year (Gerlach, 1999, 1991). This estimate includes both subaerial and submarine volcanoes, about in equal amounts. Emissions of CO2 by human activities, including fossil fuel burning, cement production, and gas flaring, amount to about 27 billion tonnes per year (30 billion tons) [ ( Marland, et al., 2006) - The reference gives the amount of released carbon (C), rather than CO2, through 2003.]. Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes–the equivalent of more than 8,000 additional volcanoes like Kilauea (Kilauea emits about 3.3 million tonnes/year)! (Gerlach et. al., 2002)

  • frankis // August 14, 2009 at 2:11 am | Reply

    Tamino, Plimer has some explaining to do?

    No for him it’s ex cathedra pontification or ……. nothing.

  • Craig Allen // August 14, 2009 at 2:51 am | Reply

    Plimer also states “Five of the six major ice ages occurred when the atmospheric CO2 content was up to 1,000 times higher than at present … ”

    Surely that isn’t true.

    • Gavin's Pussycat // August 21, 2009 at 7:09 pm | Reply

      Craig, actually in perverted way it is almost true. If by those five out of six ice ages he means the precambrian “snowball Earth” episodes, and the sixth would be the recent sequence of glaciations and interglacials, then he could be referring to the coming-out-of-the-snowball event. Which was due to CO2 slowly building up to very high levels (thousands of ppmv — certainly not up to a thousand times present), and produced a “hellhouse Earth”, until the CO2 settled out as cap carbonates.

      Yeah, stretching it.

  • Deep Climate // August 14, 2009 at 4:26 am | Reply

    Craig Allen said:

    Plimer also states “Five of the six major ice ages occurred when the atmospheric CO2 content was up to 1,000 times higher than at present … ”

    Surely that isn’t true.

    As I said in my official complaint to ABC:

    Indeed, the entire piece contains not a single sentence free of error or misleading information.

    Counterexample anyone?

  • Bernard J. // August 14, 2009 at 6:47 am | Reply

    Tamino.

    As I explained on Chris Colose’s thread on the same subject, Plimer’s statement that:

    “Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere.”

    if read grammatically, says that humans have added ‘just’ one part of CO2 for every 10,000 parts of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    Whilst I am not sure that Plimer intends for this to be the interpretation that is used amongst scientists (he knows that he couldn’t get away with it), I am sure that he realises that most lay folk will read it in this fashion.

    This is a an egregious and cynical manipulation by Plimer of the general public, and whilst he might be able to say, hand on heart, that he was speaking of “1 in 10,000″ being 100ppm CO2 in the total gas content of the atmosphere, he must know full-well that the average joe will go away thinking that Plimer has shown that humans are contributing only 1 of every 10 000 CO2 molecules, to the atmosphere.

    In my mind this makes him a liar at least by grammatical interpretation, if not by intent.

    • Glenn Tamblyn // August 21, 2009 at 6:25 am | Reply

      I made much the same point on the ABC’s blog following Ian’s piece. I referred to him a a magician following the basic tenet that magic is all about misdirection . Don’t forget that Ian has a book to promote and any publicity is good publicity.

      Also, he cut his teeth in fights with Creationists so he knows a bit about how to fight slippery.

      In Australian Politics, something like this is called Dog Whistle Politics – using messages that will be taken one way by some people but quite differently by the audience you are actually targetting.

      Ian is definitely on the Dark Side but whether this is ‘Pay for Say’ or ‘Fading Old Professors Ego Syndrome’ is hard to tell.

  • PeteB // August 14, 2009 at 8:21 am | Reply

    Pilmer seems to have gone beyond parody.

    I seriously think at some point he will announce it was all a big joke just to show how credulous the ‘delusionists’ are.

  • Andrew Dodds // August 14, 2009 at 9:25 am | Reply

    Actually, if (for no reason whatsoever) you shift the various arrows in the diagrams to the nearest CO2 increase, you could put a very poor case for a ~5ppm hike asociated with supervolcano eruptions. So perhaps there has been a supervolcano eruption going on 20 times the size of the Yellowstone events and we just haven’t noticed.

    Deep Climate/Craig:

    - Previous ice ages probably happened with CO2 over 1000ppm, pilmer is merely making a gross error here. Plus the late precambrian maga-ice-ages may have seen CO2 1000 times that of today as part of a ice age/greenhouse cycle. Remember that the sun gradually gets hotter over geological time, and it appears that there is a long term relationship between atmospheric CO2 and solar irradience, which keeps the Earth at a reasonable temperature.

    If you were incredably generous to Pilmer, you’d call this an innocent mistake that any geology undergraduate might make.

  • ken // August 14, 2009 at 11:37 am | Reply

    How about looking at data from reasonably objective measurements:

    Per the US Geological Survey (USGS) Mammoth Mountain discharges about 300 tons of CO2 in a day, daily–enough to be killing trees in the immediate vicinity. That works out to about 109,500 tons/year (see: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs172-96/)

    Fossil Fuel Combustion, per the EPA, discharges 5637.9 teragrams annually, or about 6,214,720,939.9 tons annually (see: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/co2_human.html, for 2006 data).

    That means some 56,755 volcanoes comparable to Mammoth Mountion would be required to just match fossil fuel combustion. THAT is not happenening (not even close)…and the EPA lists a lot of other activities humans do that add a lot of CO2 into the air, so fossil fuel combution is a major contributor, but only one of many contributors.

    So based on the above rough comparisons the ‘volcanic hiccup’ versus human activity assertion is disproven, or at least seriously undermined.

    Or, just refer to the USGS own analysis summarized at: http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/volcanowatch/2007/07_02_15.html, where they say:

    Thus, not only does volcanic CO2 not dwarf that of human activity, it actually comprises less than 1 percent of that value.

    In reviewing the above links, one will note much mention of sulfur-dioxide (SO2) emissions from volcanoes, which leads to smog & acid rain. Perhaps THAT is what I. Plimer meant to refer to, in which case his “CO2″ reference with volcanoes is just a typo for “SO2″? Not having checked the relative outputs of SO2 between human activity & volcanoes I don’t know if this offsets his remark….

    That aside, given how easy this was to verify, and given that this I. Plimer didn’t, won’t [, whatever] acknowedge the point (or its a plausible typo), it seems that picking on him as a representative “denier” is probably an example of “cherry picking” for a particularly weak & unrepresentative opponent.

    [Response: Plimer is the author of a best-selling book. It's every bit as dishonest and misleading as his editorial, which appears on the website of Australia's national broadcasting network. That makes him one of the loudest denialist voices, as well as one of the most obnoxious.

    But what's most unflattering to the so-called "skeptic" side is that Plimer IS actually a representative opponent.]

  • Frank O'Dwyer // August 14, 2009 at 11:53 am | Reply

    Perhaps the weasel word here is ‘can’ – as opposed to ‘did’, or ‘will’ or ‘is likely to’. And then of course there is the novel measurement unit of ‘cough’ – which is some unspecified amount designed to sound small while still evading any upper bound.

    Given that, could a volcanic ‘cough’ raise CO2 by 100ppm? I guess it could, but the planet on which that could happen would not resemble earth. Even we are talking about some hypothetical enormous volcano with one hell of a smoker’s cough.

    Unfortunately this kind of talking point will be lapped up by those with a prior belief that the notion that humans can affect(*) the climate is ‘arrogant’ because the weather is the domain of nature/god and humans are puny by comparison.

    (*) except by prayer

  • Robert Grumbine // August 14, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Reply

    I just love that modifier ‘up to’. It is true whether CO2 levels were ever any higher than present. 1.1 times present is somewhere ‘up to’ 1000. It’s also ‘up to’ 1,000,000.

    In any case, some of you are thinking about the wrong sort of ice age (compared to Plimer’s probable intent). One scale of ice age is ‘lots of ice in North America’, in which case we’ve had them every 100 ky for the last 700 ky, and every 41 ky for the 2 million years before that. But those are small ice ages to a geologist or glaciologist. Major ice age (periods) are when you have significant ice anywhere on the planet. We’ve been in a major ice age for the last 34 million years (ever since Antarctica glaciated).

    Even with that, ice ages are uncommon and, geologically speaking, short lived. Probably less than 10% of earth history has been ice age conditions. On the other hand, it does Plimer no good to realize that the ends of the major ice ages, particularly the end of the ’snowball earth’ ca. 700 Mya, correspond to periods of increasing CO2.

    I’ve taken a quick look at google scholar, and it confirmed an impression — that we don’t have good numbers before the Phanerozoic (last ca. 600 million years). Top levels were 25-30 times present. Before that, relative concentrations (higher/lower), but hard to support figures quantitatively. … except by trusting climate models and seeing how much CO2 is needed to keep the earth from freezing (faint young sun problem). With CO2 as the working gas, something like 1000x does arise. But then Plimer would have to trust climate models.

    1000x is supportable geologically — that would be 300 parts per thousand of the atmosphere, 0.3 bars. Venus has 90 bars of mostly CO2 for an atmosphere. Ours wound up as carbonate rocks instead.

  • Deech56 // August 14, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Reply

    If so much is emitted by one theoretical cough of a volcano (by Plimer’s reckoning), do we now have a unit of measurement? Would the emissions of a supervolcano be in the centicough range? Hmmm….the “cc” abbreviation is already taken. Maybe it should be a cp (centiplimer).

  • Deep Climate // August 14, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Reply

    “Everything he wrote is a lie, including ‘a” and the’.”

    - Paraphrase of Mary McCarthy

  • Deep Climate // August 14, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Reply

    Note to Bernard:

    You left that comment at my website (Deep Climate), not with Chris Colose. Chris’s latest post on “Plimer’s questions” is well worthwhile:

    http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2009/08/12/ian-plimers-questions-to-george-monbiot/

  • Philippe Chantreau // August 14, 2009 at 5:43 pm | Reply

    Actually Deech, that should be an hectocough (centi would be one hundredth of a cough), even possibly a kilocough. Perhaps hc and kc are available…

  • Deech56 // August 14, 2009 at 10:58 pm | Reply

    I dunno Philippe Chantreau – I was thinking that a Plimer volcanic cough is pretty huge, since the CO2 it emits in one day is as much as what humans have emitted throughout industrial history.

    It’s tough being at the cutting edge of science, especially on a Friday afternoon.

    Friends, has the level of denial discourse really become this hysterical? In a rational world, how can statements like those made in the aforementioned editorial have any traction?

  • Hank Roberts // August 14, 2009 at 11:41 pm | Reply

    Deech, they don’t need traction, they’re spin, their job is to throw mud and prevent movement.

    Notice the Australian Senate just voted down their chance to control CO2 emissions.

    Betcha it’s “Mission Accomplished” party time at Plimmer’s place.

    If he can keep the climate bloggers occupied even longer, that’s just gravy.

  • Deech56 // August 15, 2009 at 1:27 am | Reply

    Hank, as Democratic Senators start caving on cap and trade, I guess my one hope is that our (U.S., that is) leaders will fight all the harder after Labor Day, when people start paying attention again. There is a whole network of supporters who have yet to be tapped. Of course, the side of science is bound by the truth, which can be quite a disadvantage.

    Joe Romm has written that the opportunities for a climate bill are better in 2010. Dunno that this will happen, but we shall see.

    And h/t to Robert Grumbine who linked to this at Greenfyre’s place. Describes the Monbiot/Plimer “debate” perfectly. Been chuckling over this quite a bit.

  • Lank // August 15, 2009 at 2:33 am | Reply

    “The Toba eruption did inject enough aerosols into the atmosphere to cause global cooling; in fact some anthropologists and archeologists (sic) believe that it killed most humans then alive”……

    Then what have we got to fear from CO2 when the world will suffer a very long chill and much of mankind will perish when the next Toba look alike blows?

    [Response: This makes about as much sense as "Why quite smoking when you could get hit by a bus and killed crossing the street?"]

    Supervolcanoes not only contributed volcanic gasses but huge volumes of ash, sulphur and dust which buried and obliterated huge tracts of forest and animal life over large parts of the world. Since photosynthesis sequesters CO2 shouldn’t this dead and decaying organic matter and sudden changes to the CO2-O2 cycle be factored into your equation? Will dead and rotting trees contribute more or less CO2 into the environment?

    What about the hundreds of thousands of volcanic eruptions from sea floor volcanoes? – Geophysical surveys show us that these are erupting continuously along hundreds of kilometres of plate junctions but many of these volcanoes are located beneath thousands of metres of water. Many have never been seen and their gasses have not been sampled. Any estimates of their CO2 output can only be a guess. What do these gasses contribute to our oceans and atmosphere? Are these gasses, including CO2, absorbed into ocean water or do they find their way into the atmosphere? Do they erupt uniformly or is their activity controlled by periodic movement of tectonic plates?

    Can some of you learned people help me out here? – most of you claim to know exactly how much CO2 volcanoes ‘speak’ for but I have not seen much solid research or data to support any of your ‘facts’.

    [Response: Here's a fact for you: atmospheric CO2 was stable for 10,000 years -- in spite of sea floor volcanoes -- until we started burning fossil fuels. Those who cling to volcanic outgassing of CO2 to cast doubt on the danger of man-made CO2 are dumber than a bag of hammers.]

  • Nathan // August 15, 2009 at 3:40 am | Reply

    Hank

    I wouldn’t read too much into what happened in Australia – living here and observing the politics it’s clear that it is being used as a political weapon.
    Even the Green Party voted against the current bill.

    The Govt do want to start an emissions trading scheme, and know that the Opposition is hopelessly divided (they are full of whack-pot denialists). Unfortunately the balance of power in the Senate lies with Steve Fielding (a moron) and he is a big denier. Their goal is to get the bill rejected twice so they can get a ‘double dissolution’ election. A normal election only votes for half the Senate, but a DD election dissolves both houses completely. This is their best way to get rid of Steve Fielding and reduce the conservative margin in the Senate.

    Our Carbon trading scheme in Australia was only going to start in 2012, so it makes no difference here if it was voted down. They’ll re-present the Bill in November and then the Opposition can either pass it or face a double dissolution election in July 2010.

    Australia will have an ETS working by the start of 2012.

  • Craig Allen // August 15, 2009 at 6:19 am | Reply

    Nathan, Hank, the proposed Australian scheme was crap. I’m glad the greens voted against it (after their suggested amendments were voted down). Here are some examples of why:

    1) The scheme was to be structured such that any reductions achieved by individuals freed up permits for the big polluters. For example, if you were to install more efficient appliances and solar panels then the company that was previously selling you coal generated electricity would be able to use your emissions permits however they wanted, including selling them on to another emitter.

    2) There was a 5x scale up for permits generated by installing renewable generation. That is, if someone reduced emissions by 1 ‘unit’ of CO2 by installing solar panels or purchased wind generated electricity, then they, or their power company would be allocated 5 emissions units to do with as they wished, including selling them. That is, by switching to green electricity you would actually cause a net increase in emissions.

    3) Big emitters were to receive free permits for something like 60 to 90% of their emissions.

    The greens are currently one member short of holding the balance of power. They have consistently called for an emissions reductions scheme to be based on science backed targets as articulated by Australia’s top science institutions, such as the CSIRO. Our best hope for an emissions reduction scheme of real merit is to go to an election with people understanding that by voting for the greens (or other candidates determined to address climate change) we can at last achieve a real emissions reduction based on what the science is telling us is necessary. Various groups are already gearing up now. I was signed up just yesterday for a carefully targeted door knocking campaign that will be ready to hit the streets as soon as an election is called. This time round we are likely to see the most effective grass-roots election campaign with climate change as the focus ever waged . People have seen now that the Labor party was all talk all bullshit. They can see that the opposition will fight against even the most minimal carbon reduction efforts.

    Plimer appeals to a right-wing flank who would vote conservatively regardless. The middle ground of the electorate is where this battle will be fought and won. Our river systems continue to collapse, and people see that mega-fires are now a reoccurring nightmare most summers. That counts a lot more in shaping opinions than Plimer’s bluster.

  • Ken Fabos // August 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm | Reply

    Nathan, I will be very surprised if Australia gets an ETS that negatively affects it’s coal mining and export industry. The current gov’t is putting it’s money on Carbon capture, which is code for ongoing support for coal mining and export, whilst the opposition is putting Australian jobs and interests first, which is code for ongoing support for coal mining and export. Actual policy that negatively affects the net output of Australian mines is outside the conceptual reality of those in government or in opposition, whether at Federal or State level.

  • Nathan // August 16, 2009 at 12:27 am | Reply

    Ken

    You are correct. The Govt’s legislation does give generous concessions to the coal industry. However the public push for an ETS is too hard o ignore, and they were elected on that platform. The targets in the ETS are low (min 5% below 2000 levels), but it’s a start…
    There will still be an Australian coal industry even with moderately high targets as a lot is used for coking in China. It may end up they China has to pay more for their coal.

  • Nathan // August 16, 2009 at 12:29 am | Reply

    Craig

    Yes, I am glad the Greens voted no. My hope is that it will fail again in November, force an early election and then we end up with a Green balance of power in the upper house. That way Labor will have to negotiate a higher target.

  • Bernard J. // August 16, 2009 at 7:41 am | Reply

    Thanks for the head’s-up Deep Climate – I obviously didn’t keep a close enough track of all of my tabs!

  • Marcus // August 16, 2009 at 1:43 pm | Reply

    “Response: I see no sign at all of any CO2 impact from Mt. St. Helens, or el Chicon, or Mt. Pinatubo. Nothing.”

    Er. Technically, there was a CO2 impact from Mt. Pinatubo. Look at the IPCC AR4 year-to-year carbon increase figure in the Carbon & Biogeochemistry chapter. There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.

    Of course, that’s the _opposite_ direction from the crazy Plimer hypothesis.

  • Mark // August 16, 2009 at 3:51 pm | Reply

    “There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures ”

    That wouldn’t be a CO2 signal, however, Marcus.

    That would be an indicator of something that is or could be the analogue of a CO2 change.

    Different.

  • dhogaza // August 16, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Reply

    That wouldn’t be a CO2 signal, however, Marcus.

    He didn’t say it was. You really need to read more closely before you shoot from the hip.

  • Hank Roberts // August 16, 2009 at 8:14 pm | Reply

    The reference is to section 7.2.6 in
    http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_Ch07.pdf

    Find “pinatubo” for more.

    Marcus makes an excellent point — looking at the actual record provides facts worth knowing.

  • peter // August 17, 2009 at 1:55 am | Reply

    Do you know if there is any video of Plimer debating Barry Brook?

  • David Gould // August 17, 2009 at 2:44 am | Reply

    Nathan,

    If there is a double dissolution election, then afterwards (presuming he wins) Rudd will be able to hold a joint sitting of the two houses to pass the legislation.

    Given that he will likely have a pretty big majority in the House of Representatives, he will not need to negotiate with anyone.

    Basically, Rudd is going to get the ETS that he wants. He has the opposition over a barrel – there is no need to negotiate. Either they vote for it the second time, or he takes it to an election and gets it through that way.

    The Greens dealt themselves out of the negotiations by pushing for targets that were never going to be acceptable to Labor. I am a Greens voter, and I think that they stuffed this one. They could have made the targets slightly tougher, and altered the compensation a little bit. But they held out for the unacheivable.

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 7:07 am | Reply

    “They could have made the targets slightly tougher, and altered the compensation a little bit. But they held out for the unacheivable.”

    Every time a project goes over budget and/or over time, that is proof that the target was too tough.

    This happens with great regularity.

    This doesn’t, however, stop the target being attempted. It doesn’t stop the target being set. And it doesn’t stop any new targets being made.

    Politicians want SOMEONE ELSE to deal with it.

    They would have shimmied around a weaker target and would have found another excuse to avoid anything harder.

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 7:09 am | Reply

    ” That wouldn’t be a CO2 signal, however, Marcus.

    He didn’t say it was. ”

    I know.

    That’s why I said what I said.

    Try reading before posting.

    A: I haven’t seen any CO2 signal
    B: You can easily see a temperature signal
    C: The temperature signal isn’t a CO2 signal
    D(you): He didn’t say it was
    C: I never said he did

    See?

  • dhogaza // August 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm | Reply

    Try reading before posting.

    A: I haven’t seen any CO2 signal
    B: You can easily see a temperature signal
    C: The temperature signal isn’t a CO2 signal
    D(you): He didn’t say it was
    C: I never said he did

    See?

    Yes, very clearly, smarty-pants. Your “B” is not what he said. That’s the point. Hank sourced it for you.

    So I stand on my earlier comment.

    Here, let’s see if your reading comprehension improves:

    Er. Technically, there was a CO2 impact from Mt. Pinatubo.

    Where does the word “temperature” appear?

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Reply

    “Yes, very clearly, smarty-pants. Your “B” is not what he said”

    Lets have a look, shall we?

    “There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.”

    Looks a lot like “you can easily see a temperature signal” to me.

    “Where does the word “temperature” appear?”

    In the bit I posted above. You know, the bit that you could have read before posting snark.

    (Especially since CO2 wasn’t taken up by Pinatubo, therefore a reduction in CO2 cannot be attributed to a Pinatubo CO2 signal.)

    Again, I exhort you to try reading before being snarky, since this makes you a fool when you do what you are complaining about.

  • dhogaza // August 17, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Reply

    “There is a clear dip [in CO2] following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.”

    Sayeth Mark:

    Looks a lot like “you can easily see a temperature signal” to me.

    No, Marcus has said there’s a *CO2* signal.

    Hank was kind enough to source it for you.

    From the IPCC chapter section referenced by Hank (which you obviously haven’t read, preferring to pontificate instead):

    Diffuse radiation resulting from the Mt. Pinatubo
    eruption may have created an enhanced terrestrial carbon sink
    (Roderick et al., 2001; Gu et al., 2003).

    From the post you stubbornly misrepresent, edited for easier comprehension:

    There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to … increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.

    Marcus said exactly what the IPCC report says.

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Reply

    ” Looks a lot like “you can easily see a temperature signal” to me.

    No, Marcus has said there’s a *CO2* signal.”

    Lets have a look again:

    “Er. Technically, there was a CO2 impact from Mt. Pinatubo.”

    Not a CO2 signal. A CO2 impact.

    Resulting from:

    “There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.”

    If you want to go adding words in to a quote please try not to make it look like you are doing so to make yourself right.

    There was no CO2 in that quote. And it is contra-indicated by the sentence earlier which was in the original post but not (though it seems now it should have been because you missed it) in the quote I took.

  • Stu // August 17, 2009 at 5:35 pm | Reply

    Wow, the Pinatubo argument has gotten petty!

    Anyone with half a brain can see what Marcus was talking about – that as a result of Pinatubo(’s cooling effect on the planet), the rate of CO2 increase following the eruption was lower than it would otherwise have been.

    Back on topic, Pilmer is just horrendously wrong on this point. The most succinct argument about the ‘volcanoes’ argument that I can think of is that if volcanoes were the source of the industrial-modern age CO2 rise, why did they start producing more CO2 at the same time as we starting burning loads of fossil fuels?

    It works because it’s nothing to do with isotopes, relative annual emissions or anything – the only answer for a hardcore denier is “Erm, coincidence?” Well, either that or both ice cores and modern CO2 measurements are wrong.

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Reply

    Only because some dimwit wanted to be sarky, Stu.

    “the rate of CO2 increase following the eruption was lower than it would otherwise have been.”

    But this still doesn’t make the original position wrong:

    “Response: I see no sign at all of any CO2 impact from Mt. St. Helens, or el Chicon, or Mt. Pinatubo. Nothing.”

    This could be

    1) there is no signal. The level of these eruptions were too low to be seen above the noise level.
    2) there was a signal, but the level was reduced by countervailing processes so that it reduced the signal below the noise level.

    But Marcus’ point still doesn’t mean there is a signal to be seen. Even interpreted your way.

  • Mark // August 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Reply

    PS it could also be #1 and reduced EVEN MORE.

    Which would still make the signal invisible.

  • Marcus // August 17, 2009 at 6:11 pm | Reply

    Wow, I had no idea my posting on a little technicality would generate so much verbiage! To set the record clear:

    Dhogaza and Hank and Stu all read my post in the manner in which I intended: to be more specific, when I said “There is a clear dip” I am referring to the “year-to-year carbon increase figure” mentioned in the previous sentence (not the temperature!). Take a look at Figure 7.4 in the AR4 report: if I squint, I feel like there might also be dips _in the rate of CO2 increase_ in 1964 (year after Agung) and 1981-82 (year of Chichon + the year after), though a formal attribution would have to take into account possible ENSO contributions and ideally explain non-volcanic related dips.

    And yes, this is a complete tangent from the main point of the thread, but I feel that’s all right because it should be blindingly obvious that Plimer is a couple dozen cards short of a full deck on this one.

  • Kevin McKinney // August 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Reply

    Stu wrote: “the only answer for a hardcore denier is “Erm, coincidence?” Well, either that or both ice cores and modern CO2 measurements are wrong.”

    True, but I’ve seen both claims made. There really is nothing out of bounds, absurdity-wise, for a serious denialist.

  • Kevin McKinney // August 17, 2009 at 7:43 pm | Reply

    Question: I was thinking about the current El Nino, and confidently anticipating that some denialist is going to use it to downplay the warmer temps we’re apt to see in the next few months (in spite of their indulgence in that largest of cherries, the ‘98 El Nino anomaly.)

    But what are the statistical implications of comparing outliers? In some sense, the current El Nino seems a fair comparison with ‘98–fairer, at least, than the Nina period preceding. And we certainly routinely compare some outlying data points, such as the annual Arctic sea ice minima.

    Yet it would seem that there might be some special statistical issues that crop up when dealing with data that is a priori not typical of the overall population.

    Thoughts, anyone?

  • dhogaza // August 17, 2009 at 11:36 pm | Reply

    Only because some dimwit wanted to be sarky, Stu.

    Looks like this dimwit understood Marcus perfectly clearly, Mark.

    Like I said earlier, you really should learn to read more carefully before shooting from the hip.

    This is by no means an isolated incident. Your track record in this regard isn’t quite as bad as Watts, but don’t take that as a backhanded compliment.

  • Douglas Watts // August 18, 2009 at 3:27 am | Reply

    I believe that the Deccan traps in India (60-65 my) and the Columbia/Snake River basalt lava flows (14-16 my) outgassed far more CO2 than any one volcano because these lava flows lasted for so long and covered such an enormous areal extent.

    To put this in perspective, the Columbia basalt eruptions produced 170,000 cubic kilometers of lava. Mt. St. Helens produced 1 cubic kilometer.

  • _Arthur // August 18, 2009 at 5:09 am | Reply

    So, Douglas, when we have continent-sized tectonic events lasting 5 million years, THEN they can emit as much CO2 in one day than human can in 250 years ?

    But, no such million-years event happened in the past 250 years, that we know of, so Plimer argument is null.

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 7:59 am | Reply

    Nope, dimwit, you didn’t understand Marcus completely.

    Tell me: does a volcano exhaust CO2 or suck it in?

    Exhausts it.

    Now, if it exhausts it, how can CO2 reduce as a result of volcanic eruption?

    It can’t.

    All you managed to understand is that you had to add “CO2″ in the middle of a sentence where it didn’t have it to make yourself right.

    This required you ignore that putting it there made the rest of the post incorrect.

    Pinatubo exhaust of CO2 cannot be shown and Marcus’s post (which you maintain you understand, so maybe you can explain) says that the increase cannot be shown and in fact a reduction is there.

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 8:02 am | Reply

    “when I said “There is a clear dip” I am referring to the “year-to-year carbon increase figure” mentioned in the previous sentence (not the temperature!).”

    So are you maintaining that CO2 is sucked in by volcanoes?

    What you see is a signal from the biological systems affected by a large eruption.

    Taking a look at Fig4 doesn’t show CO2 increase from Pinatubo.

    Which was the point you were attempting to counter with your “Actually…” post.

    Unfortunately, you only see a CO2 reduction and that is not from the volcano.

  • Barton Paul Levenson // August 18, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Reply

    Mark:

    Tell me: does a volcano exhaust CO2 or suck it in?

    Exhausts it.

    Now, if it exhausts it, how can CO2 reduce as a result of volcanic eruption?

    By cooling the surface and reducing sunlight, thereby restricting biological activity a bit.

  • dhogaza // August 18, 2009 at 12:56 pm | Reply

    Nope, dimwit, you didn’t understand Marcus completely.

    Marcus says I do. I’ll take his word over my understanding what he said over your claim that I don’t.

    At least there’s progress:

    Unfortunately, you only see a CO2 reduction and that is not from the volcano.

    You finally looked at the referenced subchapter of the IPCC report. Congratulations!

    The next step will be for you to understand that, absent the word “unfortunately”, this is *exactly* what Marcus said.

    Talk about missing the forest because your head’s where the sun don’t shine …

  • TrueSceptic // August 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Reply

    Please, someone make it stop.

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Reply

    “By cooling the surface and reducing sunlight, thereby restricting biological activity a bit.”

    Aye, but that HIDES CO2 output from Pinatubo.

    And if the figure comes out less than the noise in the data, the signal becomes invisible.

    It isn’t the *result* of CO2. It’s the result of aerosols from Pinatubo. The CO2 signal that may be seen isn’t from the eruption. It’s from the biologics responding to the eruption. And not the CO2 from the eruption, but other emissions from it.

    Still no “CO2 signal”.

    Still not showing that Malcolm had a valid point with his “actually…” post.

  • Marcus // August 18, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Reply

    “Which was the point you were attempting to counter with your “Actually…” post.”

    Er. No. I was merely making a picky technical point that there _was_ a “CO2 impact” from Pinatubo. I was not saying that Pinatubo was directly emitting (or absorbing) the CO2 that caused the CO2 impact: in fact, I thought I was fairly clear that the CO2 impact came through indirect mechanisms.

    I think I also tried to be clear that I also thought that Plimer was off his rocker, and that my point was a minor technical point and not in any way a rebuttal of Tamino’s major arguments.

  • Stu // August 18, 2009 at 3:19 pm | Reply

    Marcus’s original post:

    “There is a clear dip [in CO2] following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.”

    One of Mark’s rambling posts:

    “What you see is a signal from the biological systems affected by a large eruption.”

    So you do, in fact, agree with each other, and Mark should probably stop calling people dimwits.

    I get the impression that Mark might think that volcanoes do emit ‘Pilmer’ sized coughs of CO2 but uptake by the biosphere hides this, because he said:

    “Aye, but that HIDES CO2 output from Pinatubo.”

    If I’ve misconstrued your meaning Mark, please say so.

    The overarching point remains that, even if the CO2 output from Pinatubo is balanced by an increased uptake by the biosphere, there is no evidence that this quantity of CO2 is non-negligible compared to human emissions.

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 3:26 pm | Reply

    “Er. No. I was merely making a picky technical point that there _was_ a “CO2 impact” from Pinatubo.”

    Very badly and very pickily then.

    And if you wish to take the picky technical issue then my posts are likewise a picky technical post in riposte.

    After all, technically, that “CO2 signal” is the biologic signal not the volcanic one.

    Where does that take us now?

  • dhogaza // August 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm | Reply

    in fact, I thought I was fairly clear that the CO2 impact came through indirect mechanisms.

    You were very clear. Mark’s reading comprehension issues are clearly documented in his posts at Real Climate, Deltoid, etc.

  • Deep Climate // August 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Reply

    Still not showing that Malcolm had a valid point with his “actually…” post.

    Good grief. And who’s Malcolm? And why isn’t he speaking up? (Yes, that’s a joke).

    I’m for moving on, which means that all of us, except one, will have to be content not to have the last word on this.

    Perhaps the moderator/host should have the honour of the last word …

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Reply

    And Dhogaza’s inability to see beyond his limited horizons are liberally exemplified on this and other blog posts.

    Meh.

    I notice he failed AGAIN to answer the questions posed to him, preferring to snipe and snide his way around the subject.

  • tamino // August 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Reply

    Life is too short to argue endlessly about the effect of the Pinatubo explosion on atmospheric CO2. This much is for sure: if there was one, it was small.

  • Mark // August 18, 2009 at 5:44 pm | Reply

    Maybe D or Marcus can show the signal of the CO2 from the Pinatubo explosion…

    If they’re so all fired-up about how easy it is to see.

    [Response: There's a clear slowdown in CO2 growth around 1991 or 1992, but it's not possible to pin down the timing with great precision, and there are many other variations in the CO2 growth rate in the data. I've heard various theories why, including biosphere-carbon cycle interaction and the collapse of the Soviet economy. I don't know how plausible those explanation are. But it hardly seems worth getting hot under the collar about it.]

  • Hank Roberts // August 18, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Reply

    > a picky technical post in riposte.

    “Touché!”

    http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?sid=19016

  • Divalent // August 18, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Reply

    I approached this from kind of a first principles angle: I estimated the mass of air in the atmosphere and got 4×10^17 kg, and so CO2 (at 300 ppm) would be about 1.2×10^14 kg. One third of this (100 ppm) would be about 4×10^13 kg. I estimated the mass of 1000 km^3 of rock at 4×10^15 kg (assuming 4 g/cm^3).

    So, for one 1000 km^3 supervolcano to raise the CO2 another 100 ppm, 1% of the ejectate would have to be CO2.

    Assuming I did the math right, how does 1% CO2 compare to known or estimated amounts of CO2 in volcano ejecta? Certainly its not going to be 100%, so a 10 km^3 eruption like Pinatubo would not do it. (Mt St Helens was 4 km^3).

    [Response: My back-of-the-envelope calculation gives about 5 x 10^18 kg for the mass of the atmosphere. Wikipedia say 5.1480 × 10^18 kg.]

  • dhogaza // August 18, 2009 at 8:30 pm | Reply

    Maybe D or Marcus can show the signal of the CO2 from the Pinatubo explosion…

    Marcus was just referring to the IPCC document, so perhaps rather than waste our time here, you could take it up with them? It is, after all, very easy to become an Expert Reviewer, all you have to do is write them and tell you that your expertise at blog science has caused you to conclude that they’re full of hooey in regard to Pinatubo having indirectly led to a slight decrease in CO2 groth.

    And like so many denialists, you can even put your Expert Reviewer credentials on your resumé.

  • Divalent // August 18, 2009 at 9:52 pm | Reply

    [Response: My back-of-the-envelope calculation gives about 5 x 10^18 kg for the mass of the atmosphere. Wikipedia say 5.1480 × 10^18 kg.]

    Oops! in my spreadsheet I added two quantities when I should have multiplied. My estimate is now 5.7 x 10^18 kg for atmospheric mass, or (like your estimates) 10 times higher. Which means my estimate of the CO2 in the atmosphere, and the amount needed to change it by 100 ppm, is 10 fold higher.

    That is pretty definitive proof that a volcano is not going to change the global CO2 by 100 ppm. Even a super volcano would have to be 10% CO2 to do it (which strikes me as very unreasonable high), and Pinatubo could have only done 10 ppm at most, and only if every bit of it’s ejectate was 100% CO2.

    Busted!

  • TrueSceptic // August 19, 2009 at 12:04 am | Reply

    Total mass of atmospheric CO2 is about 3×10^12 tonnes. 100 ppm (the anthropogenic addition) would be 3×10^12 x100/385 = 800×10^9 approx.

    Total ejection for Pinatubo was about 10×10^9 tonnes. Even if that were all CO2 (we know that it’s almost entirely magma), it would equate to only about 1.25 ppm.

    Toba, the largest eruption in the last 25 M years, is estimated at 2,800 km^3, about 280 times greater. Again, assuming that as all CO2, it would equate to about 350 ppm, or to put it another way, it would have needed to be around 30% CO2 to equate to 100 ppm.

    (Or the CO2 would have to be in addition to the estimated ejection in both cases, but we know that CO2 from recent eruptions has been neglible.)

  • Mark // August 19, 2009 at 9:41 am | Reply

    “Marcus was just referring to the IPCC document, so perhaps rather than waste our time here, you could take it up with them?”

    I’ve seen denialists use just that argument when they had nothing and were caught with their pants down.

    “I was just saying what they said!”.

    The company that argument keeps shows how shallow it is.

    There is no CO2 signal from Pinatubo erupting that can be discerned. There is a clear signal from Pinatubo erupting being spotted in the TEMPERATURE figures.

    And again you avoid answering the question (rather like a denialist in methodology) to instead snipe.

    Answer the question: Show the signal of CO2 from Pinatubo.

    If all you have is “they said it” then maybe you’re reading it wrong. But I suppose you’ll just ignore it again and refuse to suspect you have anything wrong.

    Just like denialists do.

  • Mark // August 19, 2009 at 9:47 am | Reply

    “[Response: There's a clear slowdown in CO2 growth around 1991 or 1992, but it's not possible to pin down the timing with great precision, and there are many other variations in the CO2 growth rate in the data. ]”

    But CO2 comes out of a volcano. It doesn’t go in.

    Therefore if there’s a slowdown in CO2 then the exhausted CO2 is being countered AND THEN SOME with some other secondary or tertiary effect.

    So to find the signal of CO2 from Pinatubo you would have to find that secondary effect, work out what that effect would be then remove that effect from the CO2 trend.

    And then if that leaves a trend above the noise of the data, THEN you can say you have seen the signal.

    Lets see them do it.

    PS what does the variability around a best fit to a smooth line does the CO2 data have?

    That gives you the noise.

    If it’s significantly more than 1/3 the CO2 output from the volcano, it cannot be statistically shown to exist.

    So what is the noise?

    From TrueSkeptic, if the noise more than 3 PPB, there would be no way to tell the eruption (if 1% of the ejecta is CO2).

    Lets see Marcus do the maths.

    • TrueSceptic // August 19, 2009 at 11:26 am | Reply

      Mark,

      You continue to miss the point.

      A large eruption like Pinatubo causes temporary global cooling. The argument is that this is likely to increase the rate of CO2 takeup by the oceans, so reducing the rate of increase in the concentration in the atmosphere. Once the skies clear, the cooling stops and CO2 takeup reverts to trend.

      I agree that noise is a problem, but we can see a clear seasonal cycle in the CO2 graph. If we can see that, then what else should we see?

  • Barton Paul Levenson // August 19, 2009 at 11:01 am | Reply

    Divalent,

    Aside from the arithmetic error on the mass of the atmosphere (5.136 x 10^18 kg, not 4 x 10^17), you can’t find the mass fraction of CO2 by multiplying the total mass by the volume fraction. Co2 has a molecular mass of 44, air 29. The equation for the mass fraction, then, is:

    f = X (MW / MWair)

    where X is the volume fraction, MW the molecular weight of the molecule under discussion and MWair the average molecular weight of air. For CO2 we have

    f = 0.000385 (44 / 29) or about 0.000584, which means there are 3.00 x 10^15 kg of CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • dhogaza // August 19, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Reply

    Mark,

    You continue to miss the point.

    I nominate this sentence for understatement of the millenium.

  • Mark // August 19, 2009 at 12:58 pm | Reply

    “A large eruption like Pinatubo causes temporary global cooling. ”

    I get that bit. That was what I considered to be Marcus’ point (which he now says he wasn’t making). That you can see very obviously Pinatubo’s effect on the TEMPERATURE graph. But that this isn’t the effect Pinatubo has on the CO2 graph. Which is what Tamino was saying he couldn’t see an effect on.

    Now, the increase in take up isn’t the signal of Pinatubo. After all, you could get an increase in takeup by biologics for any number of reasons. If iron seeding of oceans worked, that would be one. So the reduction is not the signal of Pinatubo. It is the signal of biologicals.

    I post again something that people seem to have missed off their radar (again):

    ++++++++++
    1) there is no signal. The level of these eruptions were too low to be seen above the noise level.
    2) there was a signal, but the level was reduced by countervailing processes so that it reduced the signal below the noise level.
    ++++++++++

    See?

    “I agree that noise is a problem, but we can see a clear seasonal cycle in the CO2 graph.”

    But the seasonal cycle is how many teratons of biologicals dying and growing?

    Compare the size of the carbon cycle with the CO2 produced from Pinatubo.

    Given the comparative ratios, is there any reason to suspect you can see Pinatubo’s CO2 given you can see the gargantuanly larger biological cycle?

    And I rather think you are missing the point anyway: I’ve not said you can’t see the seasonal cycle.

    Just asking that those who insist that the pinatubo CO2 can be seen show that they can see it.

    “The IPCC say it!” doesn’t work because if you don’t know why they say it, you’re arguing from authority alone. YOU (Dhog/Marcus) said that it was seen. YOU show it.

    • TrueSceptic // August 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Reply

      Mark,

      Let me fill in what I assumed you knew already or would be expected to learn from context.

      The oceans are currently net absorbers of CO2 (only about 1/2 of anthropogenic CO2 stays in the atmosphere). This rate of absorption is inversely temperature-dependent: as ocean temperatures rise, the rate of absorption decreases; conversely, if temperatures fall for any reason, the rate increases.

      Pinatubo caused cooling, in turn causing an increase in CO2 absorption. Any direct increase (ejection) in CO2 caused by Pinatubo was dwarfed by the cooling-induced decrease (or reduction in increase) due to greater ocean absorption.

      Surely you can see that?

      Re seasonal cycles, remember that we are talking about the difference between hemispheres. I suspect that prior to accurate measurements, it was assumed that spring/summer in one hemisphere would be balanced by autumn/winter in the other, leaving little evidence of the seasons in the global figures.

  • Sekerob // August 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Reply

    Any one seen when the AGGI index will get updated for 2008. Long overdue it seems:

    THE NOAA ANNUAL GREENHOUSE GAS INDEX (AGGI)

    One website has the counter now near 396 ppmv for CO2… steep and not sure how they arrive at that number

  • Mark // August 19, 2009 at 2:19 pm | Reply

    Skerob, could be right for the *instantaneous* value.

    I.e. the trend line is 390 and the variation over the year +/- 6 and you get a peak 396.

    However, it would behove you to put that one website up so people could see what number they have and not have to rely on your incredulity.

  • Hank Roberts // August 19, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Reply

    CO2 emitted from Pinatubo — trivial amount

    Wiggle in global CO2 measurement following Pinatubo (a decrease) — observed, studied, interesting

    You can find nonsense and argument on definition or assertion if you like, or you can find science worth reading. Choose your source.

    Google’s first hits are nonsense — hits from CO2science, followed by good science.

    Scholar gets the science first:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=pinatubo+co2+diffuse+radiation

    Familiar names in the latter authors’ list, worth reading.

  • Mark // August 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm | Reply

    The signal there though is the signal from the sea being cooler.

    Which is possible because there was more upwelling from another reason. Or more hurricanes. Or “just one of those months”.

    All of which add more noise to any signal.

    And, just like we say “there is no current cooling trend because there has not been enough of a period to discern a trend”, there is no signal from CO2 from Pinatubo erupting.

    Since this entire flipping THREAD is about how volcanoes CO2 production couldn’t cause an INCREASE in CO2 to be visible, what other context should I be using other than the one I used?

    • TrueSceptic // August 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm | Reply

      Mark,

      I remind you of this

      Er. Technically, there was a CO2 impact from Mt. Pinatubo. Look at the IPCC AR4 year-to-year carbon increase figure in the Carbon & Biogeochemistry chapter. There is a clear dip following Pinatubo, attributed (I believe) to the combination of cooler temperatures -> more ocean uptake and/or increased diffuse radiation -> more plant growth.

      Of course, that’s the _opposite_ direction from the crazy Plimer hypothesis

      and
      this

      That wouldn’t be a CO2 signal, however, Marcus.

      That would be an indicator of something that is or could be the analogue of a CO2 change.

      Different.

      If you thought this was OT, you should’ve said so then, instead of perpetuating this pantomime all this time.

  • dhogaza // August 19, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Reply

    Since this entire flipping THREAD is about how volcanoes CO2 production couldn’t cause an INCREASE in CO2 to be visible, what other context should I be using other than the one I used?

    Well, it could be the fact that in this context – claims made by Plimer – indirect effects of the Pinatubo eruption actually *lowered* CO2 slightly, rather than *increased* them as he claims.

    Marcus was pointing to evidence that more *strongly* refutes Plimer’s ridiculous claim.

  • CM // August 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm | Reply

    Volcanoes aside, this is how I would explain “just” one part in 10,000 to some guy in the pub — consider it a contribution to the “Climate Change for Idjits” Ray Ladbury called for on a different thread…

    Before the industrial age, the CO2 concentration was nearly 3 parts in 10,000. Today it’s nearly 4 parts in 10,000. This century, if we go on merrily burning fossil fuels, it will soon go over 5 parts in 10,000. Now imagine we’re not talking about CO2 but about the *blood-alcohol concentration*: In Plimer’s Australia, 4 or 5 parts in 10,000 is the whole difference between getting arrested for “driving under the influence” or not.

    (This works nicely in my native language, where “per mille” has become a synonym for “being drunk” in everyday speech.)

  • Mark // August 21, 2009 at 10:24 am | Reply

    “Well, it could be the fact that in this context – claims made by Plimer – indirect effects of the Pinatubo eruption actually *lowered* CO2 slightly, rather than *increased* them as he claims.”

    This has NOTHING to do with Marcus’ point.

    Marcus was saying that Tamino was wrong in asserting there was no signal visible (and a new thread shows that it IS visible but only if you remove lots of other things first, those things being “not volcanoes” and hence the data you’re working against not the CO2 trace but the unaccounted CO2 trace. Which is a new thing).

    He ALSO said that the difference he saw in the CO2 trace over that time (which WAS NOT from pinatubo, but from the biological response of the ecosphere) was the opposite of what Plimer said.

    BUT I NEVER SAID THAT WAS WRONG.

    Just that he was wrong there was a visible trace of the CO2 from Pinatubo.

    And you never, NOT ONCE, showed that you could see it.

    “The IPCC said it was” is proper denialist dodge: YOU said it was too. If YOU were only saying it because the IPCC said it, then YOU are as wrong as the denialists who quote Spencer and when asked about errors respond “well, just go and ask Spencer, not me. He said it!”.

    And you were asked SEVERAL TIMES to show where YOU can see the trace.

    Not once did you do so.

    Just slung mud.

    Just like a denialist caught with their pants down.

    A quote from Nietzsche is appropriate:

    “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster…”

    You’ve spent so long fighting them, you’re becoming one of them in your actions.

    Even if you’re using them to get the truth out there in the face of opposition, this does NOT make it OK.

  • Stu // August 21, 2009 at 11:43 am | Reply

    You’re nuts. Seriously worked up over a minor misunderstanding. Would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    The biosphere’s absorbing effect is mentioned by the IPCC, this is what Marcus was referring to. The fact that this effect exists makes it impossible to see the direct effect of Pinatubo’s CO2 emissions… but we know they’re negligible from studying the size of the eruption and the conposition of the volcanic ejecta.

  • dhogaza // August 21, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Reply

    I call for a TCO vs. Mark cage fight, both drunk.

    Would be entertaining as hell …

  • Mark // August 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Reply

    WTF are you on, dhog?

    I don’t drink and you for the umptieth time have ignored the question.

    You ARE denialing here.

    Someone on another thread came up with a quote that fits you in this:

    Don’t play chess with a pidgeon since it will knock over all the pieces, shit all over the board and then go back to its mates saying how it won.

    That’s you, that is.

    Pathetic little troll.

  • Mark // August 21, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Reply

    “The biosphere’s absorbing effect is mentioned by the IPCC, this is what Marcus was referring to.”

    In the SECOND HALF of his original post.

    I was posting on the FIRST HALF.

    See a difference?

    First half != Second half.

    In the first half, Marcus said that there was a clear signal of Pinatubo eruption in a thread about CO2 coming OUT of volcanoes.

    PS if you would find it so amusing if it weren’t so depressing, why the hell are you continuing it?

    You’re part of the problem.

  • TrueSceptic // August 21, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Reply

    I advise everyone to just walk away. It’s not just here.

  • Ell073 // September 3, 2009 at 10:40 pm | Reply

    So, since your graphs are so brilliantly referenced, what makes you think you stand as a more accurate source of information? There are no links, no names of scientific journals, nothing. There are just a names of things that people have never heard of.

    At least Plimer references all his data from respected scientific journals.

    [Response: Wrong on ALL counts.

    Plimer does not reference all his information. He doesn't state the source of the data (or the graph) for his figure 3 plotting global average temperature -- just about the most basic data there is about global warming. When first asked where it came from he had the audacity to say he couldn't remember! Imagine: someone who writes a book about global warming science can't remember where he got his global temperature data!!! Later he outright lied about it. That's because the graph is fraudulent -- so fraudulent that even Martin Durkin had to remove it from his execrable "documentary" The Great Global Warming Swindle" -- which is where Plimer got it, although he still doesn't want to own up to it.

    And even when Plimer does give sources for his information, he is still not to be trusted. In his book he "sources" his information about arctic sea ice extent as Benestad, R.E., I. Hanssen-Bauer, T.E. Skaugen and E.J. Frland: Associations between the sea-ice and the local climate on Svalbard (2002), met.no, Klima, 07/02. But when Tim Lambert emailed Benestad to confirm this, Benestad replied:

    The analysis we did was for the Svalbard islands, and for these, it is not true.

    As for the graphs in this post, are you really so ignorant about the science that you've never heard of the Vostok, EPICA dome-C, Byrd, and Law Dome ice cores? If that's your idea of "names of things that people have never heard of," then yes you are. Are you so lazy that you can't find the link on my climate data links page to the World Data Center for Paleoclimatology, where all these data sets can be downloaded? Yes you are.

    Thank you for proving that Plimer's supporters are every bit as ignorant about climate science as Plimer is.]

  • Philip Machanick // September 6, 2009 at 12:19 am | Reply

    For a bit of light relief: after Australian Prime Minister Rudd launched his blogging career with an article on climate change and someone made a fool of himself quoting Plimer, it occurred to me that this was very like the Monty Python Hungarian Phrasebook.

    It’s sad that someone of Plimer’s knowledge and experience has stooped so low. While claiming correctly that a true expert on climate science would have to be an expert on a wide range of disciplines, he proceeds to present himself as an expert in a whole range of areas in which he is clearly not very informed like history. That he is so seriously misinformed about geology, the one area where he should know what he is talking about, is bizarre. Is he deliberately lying, or is he delusional? If lying, surely he could be more subtle than to repeat canards that have been around the blogosphere for years, and thoroughly debunked? So far the best evidence is he’s either deluded, or adheres to some sort of Götterdämmerung religion.

    And this is the person who accuses climate scientists of inventing a new-age religion.

  • dhogaza // September 6, 2009 at 3:27 am | Reply

    If lying, surely he could be more subtle than to repeat canards that have been around the blogosphere for years, and thoroughly debunked?

    His book sold, no? Quite well in Oz and many other venues, bringing him income, right?

    There’s a steady market for such, and someone needs to tap into it. Why not him? Anyone who does is, by definition, either pig-ignorant or entirely dishonest. I’m sure he measures his reasoning for writing the book based on the stiffness of competition vs. the return.

    He’s making money.

    Lying.

    The issue is moral, not intellectual.

  • Ray Ladbury // September 7, 2009 at 2:38 am | Reply

    I’m afraid that to Plimer, Lindzen and some other erstwhile scientists, being the center of attention is more important than the truth. However, I also think they have deluded themselves into thinking that somehow everything will work out OK so their little lies don’t matter.

    For many humans, the only purpose served by those little folds in our brains is so they can drop little inconvenient facts into them, seal them over and never have to look at them again.

  • Hank Roberts // October 21, 2009 at 5:21 pm | Reply

    Plimer’s not just wrong about the facts, he’s wrong about the process and amount over time.

    Yes, some CO2 comes out of hot lava when it reaches the surface.
    http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=5980469

    But CO2 is taken up by the same material after it’s cooled and permeated by groundwater.

    “… Laboratory experiments confirm relatively rapid chemical reaction of CO2-saturated pore water with basalts to form stable carbonate minerals. …”

    http://www.ecy.wa.gov/laws-rules/wac173407_218/2005JB004169.pdf

    JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 111, B12201, doi:10.1029/2005JB004169, 2006

  • Hank Roberts // October 21, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Reply

    For sekerob:

    THE NOAA ANNUAL GREENHOUSE GAS INDEX (AGGI)
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/
    Updated September 04, 2009

  • Sekerob // October 21, 2009 at 8:59 pm | Reply

    Thanks Hank, discovered that shortly after it came out and just before that also stumbled on another index ODGI. Ozone Depletion Gas Index:

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/odgi/

  • Kevin McKinney // October 22, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Reply

    The ODGI was particularly enlightening, as one glance at the concentration levels graphed there showed why ozone recovery is a long-term prospect.

    It was a “wow” moment that brought home for me what quite a bit of reading of text on the topic didn’t.

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