Partick Moore began this public discussion with a email group on April 22. We have moved our email discussion to this post. We show the previous emails in chronological order through April 30. Now anyone interested can post comments to continue the discussion. – Ed
April 22, 2017
Patrick Moore wrote:
I am sorry to see this fraudulent argument continuing. Humans are responsible for most of the CO2 increase since large-scale use of fossil fuel began. Until then CO2 had been slowly declining for 140 million years, from 2,000-2,500 ppm down to 180 ppm at the height if the last glaciation 18,000 yrs ago. Since then it had rebounded to 280 ppm due to outgassing from the oceans as they warmed into the Holocene interglacial. In a bit more than 100 years human emissions have bumped it back up to 400+ ppm, restoring a balance the the global carbon cycle.
The error (falsehood) in Salsby et al’s position is that the CO from burning fossil fuels is an addition to the carbon in the carbon cycle. The annual cycling of carbon from plants growing in the spring to dying in the fall is already in the cycle. This is like confusing a balance sheet (the carbon already in the cycle) with a cash flow statement (profit and loss from the balance). The additional carbon added each year from fossil fuels represent a profit and therefore an increase in the balance. Calculated in this way the vast majority of new carbon going into the atmosphere as CO2 is from fossil fuel combustion and cement production, with other minor components. Very little new CO2 is added from natural sources. The US Geological Survey estimates that volcanic activity adds less than 1% of human emissions.
There are two things wrong with this mistake. First it is patently false, second it kind of admits that if humans were responsible it would be a bad thing. Human CO2 emissions are entirely beneficial and in fact have saved life on Earth from any untimely demise due to declining CO2 which would eventually have dropped to levels that were below the threshold for plant survival.
April 24, 2017
Edwin Berry wrote:
It is one thing to have an opinion about a subject in science. All good scientists have opinions and are willing to participate in discussions that may show their opinions are wrong.
It is quite another thing to call scientific arguments you disagree with, “fraudulent.” Especially when you have not presented a credible scientific argument to show you are correct and those whom you call “fraudulent” are wrong.
You claim human emissions are the primary cause of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 100 years.
As you know, I am among the scientists who have presented arguments that show why human emissions cannot be the primary cause of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Both sides have participated in this scientific debate in over 200 comments to my post:
My conclusions support those of Carl (2013), Courtney (2008), Cox & Comack (2013), Evans (2017), Munshi (2015, 2016), Rorshch, Courtney & Thoenes (2005), Rust (2013), Salby (2012, 2015, 2016), Siddons & D’Aleo (2007), Spencer (2009), Wilde (2012), and Harde (2017) … all of which you claim are “fraudulent.”
When I announced my post on Twitter in December 2016, you immediately told your 15,000 Twitter followers that my post was a “fraud.” You did not read my post. You did not participate in its scientific discussion. You called my paper a “fraud” because my post disagreed with your opinion.
Your argument in your email and referenced paper shows you do not understand physics well enough to have any legitimate position on this subject. So, let’s review your arguments.
Here are 12 quotes from your referenced paper:
- Human emissions of CO2 have restored a balance to the global carbon cycle, thereby ensuring the long-term continuation of life on Earth.
- Primarily, this is a discussion about the role of atmospheric CO2 in the maintenance of life on Earth and the positive role of human civilization in preventing CO2 from trending downward to levels that threaten the very existence of life.
- After the most recent major glaciation peaked 18,000 years ago, CO2 levels began to rise in the atmosphere, reaching 260 ppm 10,000 years ago and 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution when fossil fuels became dominant for energy production. Since then, human emissions of CO2 have contributed to raising the level to about 400 ppm, a level perhaps not experienced during the past 10 million to 20 million years.
- The most important question facing a species on Earth today is how long would it have been in the absence of human-caused CO2 emissions until the gradual depletion of CO2 in the atmosphere fell to levels that began to decrease biomass due to starvation, thus signaling the beginning of the end of life on Earth?
- In the absence of human-caused CO2 emissions and other environmental impacts, there is no reason to doubt that another major glaciation would have occurred…
- It is extremely unlikely or perhaps impossible to imagine how CO2 could have increased from a pre-industrial 280 ppm to 400 ppm in the absence of human-caused emissions.
- It is possible that the most recent warming is a continuation of the longer period of warming that had already begun long before human-caused CO2 emissions could have been a factor.
- If humans had not begun to use fossil fuels for energy, it is reasonable to assume that atmospheric CO2 concentration would have continued to drop as it has done for the past 140 million years.
- In the absence of human CO2 emissions over the past century, it is difficult to imagine how this process of continuous removal of CO2 would be interrupted.
- In the absence of human CO2 emissions, both temperature and CO2 would have dropped to levels that would result in a continuous reduction in plant growth, bringing in climatic conditions similar to or perhaps even more severe than those that occurred in previous glaciations. This would certainly lead to widespread famine and likely the eventual collapse of human civilization.
- The fact that humans appear able to reverse this fate temporarily due to our recycling of CO2 back into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for energy verges on the miraculous.
- It is clear from the preceding discussion that rather than bringing on a catastrophic climate condition, human CO2 emissions are serving to reinstate a balance to the global carbon cycle. By reversing the 140-million-year decline in atmospheric CO2, we are helping to ensure the continuation of carbon-based life on Earth.
You think repeating your unsupported claim over and over makes a scientific argument. Your paper makes a good bedtime story but it is not a scientific argument to support your position.
You state in your email:
- In a bit more than 100 years human emissions have bumped it back up to 400+ ppm, restoring a balance the global carbon cycle.
- The error (falsehood) in Salsby et al’s position is that the CO from burning fossil fuels is an addition to the carbon in the carbon cycle. … This is like confusing a balance sheet (the carbon already in the cycle) with a cash flow statement (profit and loss from the balance). The additional carbon added each year from fossil fuels represent a profit and therefore an increase in the balance.
Your bookkeeping analogy does not apply to the fluxes of carbon dioxide in and out of the atmosphere. Your attempt to show Salby wrong is devoid of a physical argument. You simply do not understand Salby’s argument.
If you have a valid argument for your position, I invite you to present it in the open debate on my post. Email is not sufficient to support scientific arguments. Twitter is worse.
Finally, your email reveals why you believe human carbon dioxide emissions have caused most of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide: You wish to prove human emissions have saved the planet.
However, your wish cannot come true unless human emissions add substantially to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Therefore, you call “fraudulent” all scientific papers that show this is not so. You put your feelings and desires above science.
April 24, 2017
Patrick Moore wrote:
The claim that human emissions are not responsible for the increase in CO2 during the past 100 years always rests on comparing the annual CO2 emissions from decomposing and vegetation and subsequent absorption by growing vegetation, an annual fluctuation, with the constant emissions of new CO2 from burning fossil fuel. CO2 was declining for 150 million years until we came along and began to put some of the carbon that had been lost to the annual cycle back in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels etc. As a result, CO2 is now higher than it has been for about 20-30 million years.
Your contention that my “bookkeeping” metaphor is not valid is incorrect. There is a difference between stocks and flows. Stocks are indicated by a balance sheet, flows are indicated by a cash flow statement.
You contend that because the annual flows in and out of the atmosphere from biomass are much greater than the CO2 added annually to the stock of CO2 in the carbon cycle from burning fossil fuels, therefore the CO2 from fossil fuels has a negligible impact on atmospheric levels of CO2. You are wrong.
You claim my hypothesis is “unsupported”. Read the references provided in my paper. There is ample support for the fact that calcification, and to a much lesser degree, fossil fuel formation, have removed the vast majority of CO2 that was once in the atmosphere. It has become sequestered as carbonaceous rock and fossil fuel.
When we burn fossil fuels and convert CaCO3 into CAO and CO2, we are returning some of that CO2 back to the atmosphere from whence it came, increasing the stock of C in the annual cycle. When plants grow in the spring and then decay in the fall they are not adding to the stock of CO2 in the atmosphere. These are flows back and forth, not additions. Will you agree with this?
My use of the word “fraudulent” refers to the comparison of stocks with flows as if there is no distinction between the two. Anyone with half an analytical capacity knows the distinction. One is a snap-shot in time and the other is a statement of change over time. I challenge you to recognize this fundamental difference between the two in describing reality.
April 25, 2017
Edwin Berry wrote:
We agree on the following (using quotes from your first email):
- Atmospheric CO2 declined during the last 140 million years “down to 180 ppm at the height of the last glaciation 18,000 years ago.”
- During that time, much of the carbon formerly in the atmosphere became deposited in many forms in the Land.
- “Since then it had rebounded to 280 ppm due to outgassing from the oceans as they warmed into the Holocene interglacial.”
- It has since increased to more than 400 ppm.
You argue that since human emissions “are returning some of that CO2 back to the atmosphere,” therefore, human emissions caused atmospheric CO2 to rise from 280 to 400 ppm.
You concede that nature caused the rise from 180 ppm to 280 ppm, but you do not allow that nature also caused most of the rise from 280 ppm to 400 ppm. That is inconsistent.
You have used no numbers in your argument. You have not made a scientific argument. You have merely stated your desired belief.
If you simply read my post, you should see that I use levels and rates. (You call them “stocks and flows.” I call them “levels and rates,” following the terms used by Jay Forrester (1968) in his “Principles of Systems.”)
As I will show, I use levels and rates properly and you do not.
The question is: How much does human CO2 change the level of CO2 in our atmosphere?
Every model requires a defined system. I defined a system that represents the issue we are discussing.
This figure from my post represents the system: