Spencer is totally off his rocker

Well, he says so himself: This is probably the most provocative hypothesis I have ever (and will ever) advance: The long-term increases in carbon dioxide concentration that have been observed at Mauna Loa since 1958 could be driven more than by the ocean than by mankind’s burning of fossil fuels. Most, if not all, experts in the global carbon cycle will at this point think I am totally off my rocker. Hmm, this pic applies (it can’t be rude, its Egyptian :-).

This isn’t an interesting idea, or a procovative hypothesis, its just w*nky (don’t worry, that link isn’t rude). Why? Well, you can try #5 on this list of myths if you like, and the refs to RC therein. There are all kinds of reasons why we know it, but the one I like best, that avoids having to know about C13 and stuff, I’ll copy from waht I wrote earlier: “To believe this, you have to believe that CO2 and other GHG’s were stable at pre-industrial concentrations for thousands of years, then suddenly, just as humans started emitting them, some natural process started emitting them, while at the same time removing from the atmosphere an equivalent quantity of the man-made GHGs”.

And no, I’m not going to deconstruct Spencers argument in detail, because I haven’t bothered read it. Why would I? Any more that reading the latest astrology or flat-earthism.

[Update: as G points out, the comments are worth reading, even if the post isn’t. Courtney is mad enough to want to claim priority on this nonsense, apparently he fooled the easily-fooled E&E into publishing it in 2005. Even funnier, he comes close to accusing Spencer of plagiarism: There are some surprising similarities between Dr Spencer’s article and my presentation. For example, his Figure 3 presents the same data in the same way as my Figure 1, and he draws the same conclusion from it as we do in our paper. I run out of adjectives to describe his later assertion that “there is no “build up” of CO2 in the atmosphere.”.

As FE points out in the comments there, another nice piece of evidence ignored by the wackos is the decline in O2 levels, which… oh well, they aren’t listening -W]

21 thoughts on “Spencer is totally off his rocker”

  1. After a number of credulous comments, someone called John, and finally Ferdinand Engelbeen, have asked about the isotope ratios, which torpedo Spencers claims.
    Well known British Denialist Richard COurtney makes an appearance, pushing his own pseudoscience and claiming that he published something similar to Spencers idea a few years ago. However he is signally lacking in evidence for his idea, and has yet to address the isotope issue.


  2. Amusingly enough, this has all been gone through before on a CA thread in 2006:

    As far as I can see, Courtney sidesteps the issue of the isotopes, and says:
    “In my opinion, the science of global climate cannot properly progress until everybody stops pretending that we know the cause(s) of changes to atmospheric CO2 concentration and starts serious research to find out what they are.”

    Which is rather amusing.
    Hans Erren also comments on Courtneys conference presentation:
    “ehm richard, there was no time for questions. You held a sermon, not a presentation. You did not explain, there was far to much text and formulae on the viewgraphs which went far to quick to read. Even I – in the posession of the manuscript of your paper -could not follow your reasoning.”
    and continues to point out Courtney has no clothes on.


  3. RIP Bert Bolin, mentioned in that CA link

    “… At this point, Bert Bolin exploded at Segalstat (who apparently is a former student of Bolin’s) saying that he needed to read a text book. Bolin announced hat [sic] he was leaving the conference because it was such garbage. After some efforts to restore order, Bolin sat down for a few minutes and then left, still without paying his entrance fee….”


  4. More than this than that (sic)? Does he mean more BY this THAN that? Even the basic atomized formulation is confused.

    A very common meme by the way, that warming is caused by something else and that releases CO2 from the oceans.


  5. Another nail

    Courtney says

    The seasonal variation at each measured locality is much more than the annual increase. Simply, at every measurement locality natural processes remove between about six times more than the annual increase each year then put it back again each year. (At Mauna Loa – as Dr Spencer’s Figure 1 shows – natural processes remove an order of magnitude more than the annual increase each year then put it back again each year.) The annual rise is the residual of the seasonal fluctuation.

    However this is true only for the northern hemisphere. If you look at the data from the Scripps monitoring sites you see that the most extreme annual variations are in the most northernly of the stations (Barrow/Alert) and the least in the southernmost (Baring Head, Kermadec Island). There is a smooth increase as one goes from south to north. The South Pole station shows a bit more variation than Kermadec. The link has a nice map.

    The obvious correlation is the more water in the latitude band, the less variation in annual CO2 concentration. Since even the seas warm and cool during the year this would seem to knock Spencer and Courtney’s ansatz into a cocked hat, if it had not already been taken apart by Engelbeen and others


  6. “To believe this, you have to believe that CO2 and other GHG’s were stable at pre-industrial concentrations for thousands of years, then suddenly, just as humans started emitting them, some natural process started emitting them, while at the same time removing from the atmosphere an equivalent quantity of the man-made GHGs.”

    How good is the paleaoclimate data that shows stable GHG concentrations? I.e could they have jumped up from, say, 270 to 380 ppm for a few decades at some time in the past, then dropped again without us knowing.

    [It could be just about consistent with the palaeo data – the resolution isn’t that good. Its not consistent with reality, because there is no known mechanism to remove CO2 that quickly. If there was such a mechanism, we wouldn’t need to worry… -W]


  7. I have been dealing with this argument recently and have come up with what I call the bank account analogy. It goes something like this. We can measure atmospheric concentrations of CO2 fairly well. We can also calculate how much CO2 we release into the atmosphere. The fact that the amount that shows up is less that the amount we produce means that we are responsible for all the increase.

    The bank account analogy is to imagine a bank account to which a number of people can add or remove money. The year starts with $1000 in it and over the year you add $6. At the end of the year the balance is $1003. What would it be if you didn’t add the $6?

    The responses to it have been varied and – umm – interesting.



  8. This probably explains a blog comment I saw. The commentor was looking for research funds (from members of the public) to set up CO2 measuring sites. The clear implication was that they could then prove that the increase in CO2 was not manmade.


  9. I’d love to see a site wanting money to set up their own CO2 measuring station. It would be a great way to part suckers from their cash.
    “Oh yeah, we need £30,000 for fancy measuring equipment.”


  10. Just to add to the fun, Mr Watts is doing what CA and Creationists do. He has a post here:

    The implication appears to be that things are getting really cold, and so the AGW lovers are wrong. Now, a moments reflection will tell you that firstly, clouds like this are more of a weather phenomenon, and weather is not equal to climate, and secondly, that these clouds are in the lower stratosphere. You know, that bit of the atmosphere that is cooling due to all the extra CO2 and warmer troposphere…


  11. Yes, I saw that. He seems to be claiming tha the isotope ratios are irrelevant in some way. I can’t quite get my head around why though.


  12. If it wasn’t for that I have read it myself already I would support Spencer just out of your ignorance and non-mature attack.

    Spencer’s seems to make sense, but it is a hypothesis which may very well have some “Oh no! Didn’tthought about that!”. But I shouldn’t comment here. You’re too rude.

    [So… thats quite hard to parse, but I think you are saying that having read Spencer, you agree he is wrong? Good if so. If you think he might be right… you haven’t read what I’ve written -W]


  13. Loquor, whoever he is, is being astonishingly patient over there at wattsupdoc in pointing out mistakes and flat out errors both by the audience and some of the published scientists. Patient, as well as persistent enough to get his posting ‘snipped’ in fact.

    Must’ve finally touched a nerve in there somewhere.


  14. OK, thanks Hank.
    It is interesting that Watts seems to be gathering all the “engineering” minded sceptics and denialists to him. I’m sure this would be of interest to people studying social networks and human interactions.
    The reason I called them “engineering” minded is that there are quite a number of people, of various professions, who are used to looking at things and taking them apart and trying to solve problem. Therefore they are very confident in their approach, do not feel the need to use invective as well, unlike most denialists I have met online, and have invincible self confidence.
    It was interesting to see that Loquors points regarding who was right and wrong were completely ignored by raven, and indeed by Watts.


  15. Oh yes, I wasn’t talking about Loquor, and they are doing fine. I was digressing on the topic of all the other people on there, who are applauding Watts’ efforts.


  16. If I understand Spencer’s comment about C13 ratios, he says that the yearly variations are accompanied by a similar change in C13 ratios as the long-term trend.

    That is, of course, not really surprising. The cause of C13-depletion in fossil fuels is that plants prefer C12, and hence carbon in the biosphere is C13-depleted. This also holds when this carbon is fossilized. So by burning fossil fuels we release more C12 and less C13.

    But the source of the yearly variation is (mostly) deciduous forests in the Northern Hemisphere – i.e. CO2 is sucked up during spring and summer into leaves, and released again in fall and winter. Of course this is, again, biosphere carbon, i.e. depleted in C13 in the same way fossil fuels are. Of course it shows the same variations as the long-term trend.


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