Carter and Beck: partners in misconduct

by Doug Mackie on May 8, 2011

Jim Renwick’s review of Bob Carter’s book, Climate – The Counter Consensus, reminded me that I have long promised provide a detailed explanation of why EG Beck – lauded by Bob Carter and Bryan Leyland – is a fraud. So here, connecting the two, is a syllogism (*):

  1. EG Beck is a fraud.
  2. Bob Carter pretends to believe EG Beck, therefore…
  3. Bob Carter misconducts himself before Parliament.

(*) Yes. I know it is not really a syllogism – much less a Barbara – I have studied philosophy you know.

Here I will show 1 and 2 to be true, leading to 3 (that Bob Carter has been ‘misconducting’ himself and is therefore in contempt of Parliament). You will have seen some of this before but, as it never bothers the deniers to recycle text, I feel no guilt in using a partial retread.

1, that Bob Carter says he believes EG Beck, is trivially easy to prove so I’ll get that out of the way at once. In his submission to the first ETS Select Committee Bob Carter includes a copy of a conference presentation he gave to the 2007 Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy New Leaders’ Conference. On page 3 (labelled as p62 of the conference proceedings in the scanned part of the submission), at the end of the paragraph headed “Is carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant?”, Bob Carter says:

More support for decadal fluctuations of carbon dioxide comes from the compilation and summary of 90 000 historical atmospheric analyses back to the mid-19th century by Beck (2007).

In the references the EG Beck ‘paper’ that Bob Carter cites as being ‘under review’ at Energy and Environment is the infamously bad 180 Years of Atmospheric CO2 Gas Analysis by Chemical Methods. In the acknowledgements EG Beck says:

I am especially indepted to…Prof. Dr. Bob Carter for helpful discussions, …and Prof. Dr.Bob Carter for their linguistic support.

So Bob Carter knew exactly what was in EG Beck’s ‘paper’. I first became aware of EG Beck when Bryan Leyland began to trumpet him in 2007 or 2008. For a while in 2008 we were going to write a formal rebuttal and went as far as buying a full copy of the published version and getting the full datasets before realising the futility of it all when:

i) EG Beck dismissed criticisms by Ralph Keeling (son of Charles) and H. Meijer, and

ii) Bryan Leyland said “I’m not convinced that Beck is right – or wrong… It seems to me that a) he can’t easily be rubbished, b) if he is right AGW is dead. Ahh. That pesky wee ‘if’.

As I have said before, Beck is so wrong that anyone with as little as 4th or 5th form (Year 10 or 11 in the new money) science at school has enough learning to see that Beck didn’t know what he was talking about. Anyone who believes Beck, or can’t follow the many arguments as to why he is wrong, has no credibility to comment on any aspect of climate change science. Furthermore, reprising my cognitive dissonance post, anyone who knows Beck is wrong but won’t admit it is simply proving my point: No denier can criticise another, no matter how nonsensical or asinine, for fear of what honest assessment of the quality of claims would do the edifice of denial.

And what exactly does EG Beck say? Several others, including RealClimate here and here, Eli Rabbet, desmog, Coby no relation Beck , and Deltoid have done a good job of analysis and I have no intention of repeating it all here. Briefly,Beck collated all reported chemical measurements of atmospheric CO2 over the last 180 years and joined the dots with no quality control at all (data here). The post above from Eli Rabbet in particular explains why the chemical methods are flawed.

Figure 1
EG Beck’s plot for atmospheric CO2 measured chemically. Figure drawn in style of EG Beck from data at above link. (The ‘corrected’ full data set that was available at Beck’s website in 2008 seems to be unavailable). Chemical data stops at 1960 – after then the curve is smooth and based on spectrophotometric measurements.

Other than the methods, the most obvious problem with EG Beck is that the CO2 concentrations yo-yo about but we know the carbon cycle just doesn’t work that way. Consider these concentrations of CO2 reported by Beck: 1932 = 340 ppm, 1942 = 440 ppm, 1952 = 320 ppm. For the sake of simplicity let’s say CO2 went up by 100 ppm in 10 years and then down by 100 ppm in 10 years. Charitably, I shall ignore the even more ridiculous claims like the 38.8 ppm change in the 30 days between the end of January and the end of February 1940; lines 2014/2015 in EG Beck’s excel sheet.

What does that difference of 100 ppm mean? 100 ppm of CO2 is 800 billion tonnes of CO2, or 80 billion tonnes per year for 10 years. (This neglects the fraction of CO2 releases that quickly end up in the ocean – causing acidification; otherwise to account for a change of 100 ppm in the atmosphere Beck would require releases almost twice as great as I have calculated here). To put this in context: The US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Annual reports that in 2006 (most recent year available) fossil fuel burning released about 29 billion tonnes of CO2, up from 18 billion in 1980.

Thus Bob Carter and EG Beck are saying that during each of the 10 years from 1932 to 1942 almost 3 times as much CO2 was released from a mystery source each year as is currently released by fossil fuel burning and then from 1942 to 1952 the release suddenly halted and there was massive uptake of CO2 into a mystery sink. The carbon cycle (usually taught in high schools at forms 3-5) just does not work that way. 80 billion tonnes of CO2 is 20 billion tonnes of carbon. In comparison, total global annual net primary production (NPP) is about 100 billion tonnes of carbon (see TAR 3.2.2.1 and 3.2.3.1. (Net primary production is the gross less the respiration by plants; about half the carbon fixed photosynthetically is later respired by plants). Contrary to misinformation from Waikato University’s Willem de Lange (and EG Beck), two posts (by me, natch), at hot-topic and ill-considered show that the mystery source/sink for the CO2 was not the oceans.

Let me be clear: I don’t think Bob Carter really believes EG Beck. I think he only pretends to because it suits his purpose. (Though I am open to being convinced that Bob Carter really is so incompetent and out of his depth that he does not have the skills to realise EG Beck is a fraud). I wonder if Bob Carter, or any of the other similar submitters to the ETS Select Committees, have read the booklet Natural Justice before Select Committees that says:

When giving evidence before a committee, you are expected to be respectful and to tell the truth. Deliberately attempting to mislead a committee and “misconducting oneself” are examples of actions that could ultimately result in a finding of contempt of the House. SO 401(b) and (o)

Bob Carter misconducts himself by pretending to believe EG Beck. Shame on you Bob. And shame on the Royal Society of New Zealand for making Bob Carter an Honorary Fellow but not holding him to their code of ethics. What is the point of a code if nobody has to follow it?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Palin May 9, 2011 at 5:59 am

Perhaps the RSNZ code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.

apsmith May 9, 2011 at 8:09 am

Bob Carter’s misled the US Congress in the past, since he got away with that I’m sure he’s become even less careful. Read his 2006 testimony to the US Senate here:
http://epw.senate.gov/109th/Carter_Testimony.pdf

In particular – he strongly implies that the 20th century rise in CO2 was caused by an earlier period of warming (using the old “warming precedes CO2″ line). It sounds like he’s only gone further off on that track in the years since.

Gareth May 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Carter is nothing if not incorrigible. Here he is, in his latest broadside at Quadrant:

There is no “climate emergency”; the term is a deliberate lie. Global average temperature at the end of the twentieth century fell well within the bounds of natural climate variation, and was in no way unusually warm, or cold, in geological terms.

Earth’s temperature is currently cooling slightly, ocean heat is declining, global sea-level rise has not accelerated (although the climate models predict that it should) and tropical storm energy is at a thirty-year low. Furthermore, no evidence exists that Australian climatic phenomena—including droughts, floods, storms, heat waves and snowstorms—differ now in intensity or frequency from their natural historical and geological patterns of strong annual and multi-decadal variability; and the Great Barrier Reef is in fine fettle.

adelady May 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm

“Earth’s temperature is currently cooling slightly” Huh???

Is that a nod in the direction of the La Nina or the approaching SH winter? The word -currently- obviously comes from a broad church. Since last summer, since this morning, since last century, since mum’s birthday – how many hours, weeks, months, decades does ‘currently’ embrace?

Of course the GBR is in fine fettle – what any non-expert can see on a tourist boat is absolutely beautiful. I notice no comment about the WA reefs now bleaching under the latest OHC onslaught.

Dappledwater May 9, 2011 at 9:50 pm

“Of course the GBR is in fine fettle’

Only if one considers their drastically diminished state “fine fettle” Not knackered yet, might be a more appropriate term.

Thomas May 9, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I did not know that Bob Carter was made a honorary fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. What a shame indeed!
What is the process of stripping somebody of this honor if evidence was presented that a person thus honored was actually scientifically illiterate at best and a deliberate fraud at worst? Dose the RSNZ have a code of process that strips fraudsters from their ranks in order to uphold the respect and the good standing of the organization?

Gareth May 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

Part of the reluctance to deal with fellows like Carter comes from the fact that before he launched into his career of denial, he was a widely respected geologist who worked with and helped to establish the careers of some of NZ’s key figures in the field. It’s also fair to say that doing anything about Carter’s current behaviour could be spun as an attack on academic freedom. Still, there ought to be some sort of comeback for telling obvious untruths – just hard to see what that might be.

Macro May 11, 2011 at 8:18 pm

There is a Complaints procedure. Or the Society may initiate an inquiry on its own initiative. Perhaps a quiet word may be the first appropriate action along the lines of “Really Bob your making stupid statements which will be very damaging ultimately to your reputation and recognition as a scientist”.

Thomas May 9, 2011 at 11:45 pm

BTW Garreth your link to the “Honorary Fellow” page at the RSNZ ends in a 404 and the one to the code of ethics has a small scale zoom factor build in. Have a check.

Gareth May 10, 2011 at 12:00 am

Just the one “r”, thanks… Fixed the first link – can’t see anything wrong with the second.

Thomas May 10, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Thanks, will drop the “r” and yes the second link is fine now. Must have been a fluke in my browser at the time…
I am teaching a physics class tomorrow with the help of a thermal imaging specialist and we will try to do an experiment like this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGaV3PiobYk
Using a 80cm tube full of CO2 at ground pressure is pretty much the amount of CO2 we added in proportion to the atmosphere in the last 100 years. This is a nice demo for people who can not comprehend the powers of the invisible….. ;-)

Doug Mackie May 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

Quite. Two “r”s would be an extravagence [at 6.00 min]

Macro May 12, 2011 at 8:27 pm

“Bryan Leyland said:
“I’m not convinced that Beck is right – or wrong… It seems to me that
a) he can’t easily be rubbished,
b) if he is right AGW is dead”.
Ahh. That pesky wee ‘if’.”
That statement as you quite rightly point out Doug has in it that pesky wee ‘if’! As such it lends itself to much closer examination and analysis and on further analysis we find that the statement is meaningless because that ‘if’, so boldly thrown in, renders it so. In much the same way one can ‘argue’ the existence or the non existence of God or that Ludwig Wittgenstein was in love with Mae West. It is a self-referential statement and as such the ‘trick’ has been around (recorded at least) since the 4th and 5th Century BC (the “All Cretans are liars” paradox).
For those wishing a blow by blow account of how it works – here is how it goes:
*”if he is right (then) AGW is dead” {I’m using the * to represent the statement – you can insert any conditional sentence here}
If * is true, then AGW is dead.
On the other hand, if * is false, then the antecedent – (the if clause of *) is false – which ensures that * itself is true. (A conditional if – then statement is true if the antecedent is false).
Thus in both cases * is true
Thus * is true, and hence the antecedent of * is true.
Together these two logical factors ensure that the consequent of *, the then clause ‘AGW is dead’, is true.
Hence Bryan Leyland convinces himself by illogical argument that AGW is dead, and as a corollary that Beck is right.
The moral? We need to be very careful about how we use conditional statements – they can lead us down a very slippy slope very quickly.

RW May 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm

I doubt if Leyland knows that 0=>1 is always valid – but who knows?

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