Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences

James Lawrence Powell is a former geology professor, college president and museum director. He is currently the executive director of the US National Physical Science Consortium. He is also an excellent communicator of science for the general reader. I reviewed two of his climate change-related books back in 2011 here and here. His latest book, Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth, is wider in its scope, and places climate science alongside three other major scientific understandings which emerged in the course of the 20th century, profoundly affecting our knowledge of the planet.

Powell the geologist was familiar with the fact that great geological discoveries of the 20th century had had to struggle for decades to gain acceptance by the community of geologists. It was no easy ride for the propositions that the planet is billions of years old, that continents and sea floors move, and that meteorites crash into the earth. The opposition and the controversy his book narrates were often intense before the theories gained wide acceptance.

Powell had researched modern climate science, but was less familiar with its past history. He discovered that its early proponents had also suffered initial rejection of their theories and it was many decades before the correctness of their discoveries was acknowledged.

We are used to hearing of the fundamental contribution of Arrhenius to our understanding of the effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on temperature. In the late 19th century he showed that atmospheric carbon dioxide alone, had its amount doubled or halved, would have caused temperature mutations of several degrees. But readers may be less aware that, following initial welcome for the theory, scientists “piled on to reject it”. It was another fifty years before scientists began to investigate greenhouse warming seriously and a further fifty before an international panel of scientists would corroborate Arrhenius’s finding.

 “A century is a long time to wait to affirm a scientific theory, especially one with the dire consequences of global warming.”

Arrhenius did not foresee those dire consequences, assuming, perhaps understandably from a Swedish perspective, that a warmer world would be more pleasant to live in. But by the late 20th century Nasa scientist James Hansen was in no doubt as to the malign consequences of warming for human society. The work of Hansen and his group dominates the latter pages of this section of Powell’s book. Hansen is respected not only for being one of the most productive modern climate scientists but also for being courageous and outspoken in his desire to warn, in every possible forum, of the dangers of global warming.

When Powell wrote his earlier books on climate change a distinguished medical friend challenged him as to why he accepted the theory. To his reply that virtually all publishing scientists accepted anthropogenic global warming his contrarian-inclined friend rejoined that scientists have been wrong before. Powell’s subsequent research into the history of 20th century climate science enabled him to see that the “scientists have been wrong before” route had already been traversed in the years immediately following Arrhenius.  For fifty years the “magisters of meteorology” favoured a debunking of Arrhenius which didn’t stand the course of time. They were wrong. As more scientists examined the data and published their findings the fundamentals became irresistible and the modern consensus emerged. This time it is right. Anthropogenic global warming has taken its place among the known facts of our planet.

The capacity of science to self-correct is in Powell’s eyes its cardinal virtue. In his book we see that process repeated four times over in the scientific revolutions he describes. What moved scientists to first reject for so long the four theories only to have later generations come to regard them as virtually self-evident? Looking back over the record it is plain, says Powell, that scientists accepted the theories when the data demanded that they do so. “To call themselves scientists they had no choice.”

But reaching this point is not necessarily straightforward. Powell comments that where science is concerned we cannot trust our common sense. In all four revolutions covered in book the discoveries are counter-intuitive.  Being able to make them is ”a triumph of human intellect, a testament to our ability to observe effects and reason back to causes”.

“I am not a scientist” is the latest mantra of denial in the US Congress, as if that statement somehow justifies a refusal to act to restrain greenhouse gas emissions or even to understand what is at stake. It’s a disgraceful evasion of intellectual and moral responsibility. One doesn’t need to be a scientist to understand the thrust of the scientific theories explained in this book, as any general reader of the book can attest.

The discovery of anthropogenic climate change may represent a triumph of human intellect, but that doesn’t put it out of reach of average human understanding. No patient reader of Powell’s book could come away confused about the scientific understandings it details, least of all  about how well established is the science of climate change. American scientists have played a prominent part in climate science. It’s hard to understand why any self-respecting American politician should continue to profess ignorance.

72 thoughts on “Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences”

  1. Politicians only say ‘I am not a scientist’ with regard to climate change. On matters of finance, military, education and medical they are very happy to have opinions even when completely ignorant, which they usually are.

  2. Perhaps this fits here:

    http://www.globalcalculator.org/

    A great calculator interactive app that allows you to check the climate impact of various changes to input parameters such as transport, diet, population….!

    After playing with it for a while I am astounded about the impact of diet on the climate outcome. If the calculator app is to be trusted, then diet choices have a far greater impact than many other factors such as transport energy or any of the other “variable sliders” combined!
    In other words, if we want to heal the planetary trajectory, diet would be (according to this calculator!) the “one slider” that “rules them all” (in trilogy speak…)

    Have a go! Do I miss something?

    1. I have been playing with that calculator. Diet is the big one indeed yet even its fourth (extreme – India) level assumes meat consumption and dairy. I had difficulty wacking up renewables and pushing nuclear without being warned of an over-supply of electricity. Vegans and elimination of fossil fuels did not seem to belong, nor an increase in biofuels. It was not clear to me how to juggle demand.

  3. Interesting that a medical scientist should challenge Powell with “scientists have been wrong before!” He should know. Medical history is full of wrong paths being followed, and unfortunately are still.

  4. The Wikipedia page for Arrhenius states:

    Arrhenius estimated that halving of CO2 would decrease temperatures by 4–5 °C (Celsius) and a doubling of CO2 would cause a temperature rise of 5–6 °C.[12] In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C (including water vapor feedback: 2.1 °C).

    I don’t know if the book mentions this large shift in Arrhenius’ estimates

        1. You do realize that anyone including dishonest people like you and other deniers can put anything they want into wiki pages?

          Show me the actual paper and the reference. You see that is what being skeptical is all about, chasing down the truth and refuting dishonest nonsense.

          1. OK, I will henceforth assume that any quotes to Wikipedia is wrong and that anyone who quotes Wikipedia is a dishonest liar and a despicable person

            The whole of Wikipedia is wrong.
            In fact, the entire internet is wrong.
            My apologies for misleading you

            I will seek out the handwritten scriptures from my local library and post them to you when I can.

            Perhaps these scriptures might help:
            Svante Arrhenius, 1884, Recherches sur la conductivité galvanique des électrolytes, doctoral dissertation, Stockholm, Royal publishing house, P.A. Norstedt & söner, 89 pages.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1896a, Ueber den Einfluss des Atmosphärischen Kohlensäurengehalts auf die Temperatur der Erdoberfläche, in the Proceedings of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Stockholm 1896, Volume 22, I N. 1, pages 1–101.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1896b, On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground, London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science (fifth series), April 1896. vol 41, pages 237–275.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1901a, Ueber die Wärmeabsorption durch Kohlensäure, Annalen der Physik, Vol 4, 1901, pages 690–705.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1901b, Über Die Wärmeabsorption Durch Kohlensäure Und Ihren Einfluss Auf Die Temperatur Der Erdoberfläche. Abstract of the proceedings of the Royal Academy of Science, 58, 25–58.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1903, Lehrbuch der Kosmischen Physik, Vol I and II, S. Hirschel publishing house, Leipzig, 1026 pages.
            Svante Arrhenius, 1906, Die vermutliche Ursache der Klimaschwankungen, Meddelanden från K. Vetenskapsakademiens Nobelinstitut, Vol 1 No 2, pages 1–10
            Svante Arrhenius, 1908, Das Werden der Welten, Academic Publishing House, Leipzig, 208 pages.

            1. Incidentally, I was just enquiring of the author of the post (Bryan) whether this facet of Arrhenius’ work was mentioned in the book (since he has read it and I haven’t)

              I don’t see why this is so offensive. It is a simple question.

            2. Too bad andyS didn’t read what Arrhenius actually wrote since Arrhenius was referring to the effect of CO2 alone and he was not including the feedback effect of water vapour.

              Here is a translation of what Arrhenius wrote:

              In a similar way, I calculate that a reduction in the amount of CO2 by half, or a gain to twice the amount, would cause a temperature change of -1.5 degrees C, or +1.6 degrees C, respectively.

              In these calculations, I completely neglected the presence of water vapour emitted into the atmosphere.
              —————————————————-
              For this disclosure, one could calculate that the corresponding secondary temperature change, on a 50%
              fluctuation of CO2 in the air, is approximately 1.8 degrees C, such that the total temperature change
              induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

              My first calculation of this figure gave a slightly higher value–approximately 5 degrees

              So not the 1.6 C that you deniers would like to see but 4.0 C.

              I should also note that this was not published in a peer reviewed journal but “Messages from K. Academy of Sciences Nobel Institute”.

              Why do you deniers always make things up?

            3. Why do you take such an objection to me lifting a quote directly out of Wikipedia?

              Maybe you could get someone to edit the page if you think it is wrong.

            4. Again, I will quote Wikipedia,

              In his 1906 publication, Arrhenius adjusted the value downwards to 1.6 °C (including water vapor feedback: 2.1 °C)

              The 1906 publication is
              Svante Arrhenius, 1906, Die vermutliche Ursache der Klimaschwankungen, Meddelanden från K. Vetenskapsakademiens Nobelinstitut, Vol 1 No 2, pages 1–10

              So his estimate for warming including water vapour effects is 2.1 degrees C.

              If you wish to check that, it is in the Wikipedia page I cited above.

            5. Liar or can’t you read?

              In a similar way, I calculate that a reduction in the amount of CO2 by half, or a gain to twice the amount, would cause a temperature change of -1.5 degrees C, or +1.6 degrees C, respectively.

              In these calculations, I completely neglected the presence of water vapour emitted into the atmosphere.

              When he includes water vapour feedback he gets:

              For this disclosure, one could calculate that the corresponding secondary temperature change, on a 50% fluctuation of CO2 in the air, is approximately 1.8 degrees C, such that the total temperature change induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

              Why do you continually lie?

              This whole nonsense is just rubbish put out by you deniers trying to show that Arrhenius changed his number for climate sensitivity from 5C to 1.6C. In actuality he lowered it from 5C to 4C, big deal. Now stop your dishonesty and try and report honestly.

            6. Why do you continue to refer to me as a liar when I am directly quoting from Wikipedia? Which statement from Wikipedia do you specifically object to?

              I think a reasonable description of Ian Forrester is “troll”, since I started this line of questioning in good faith, and all I get back from you is a stream of abuse.

              EDIT, by the way, I try to attribute the quotes from a specific source.
              Perhaps you could do the same since I don’t know where you are quoting from.

              Also, questions of whether Arrhenius was right or wrong are pointless anyway, since we are no closer to knowing whether ECS is 1.5 or 4.5 degrees C

            7. You are a liar because you write things or copy things which are not true. Any intelligent, ethical and skeptical person would check on what they are writing or copying. If you had done so you would find that:

              (including water vapor feedback: 2.1 °C)

              is not found in the original German version of Arrhenius’ paper. It was inserted by some dishonest denier.

              Here is a link to the German original:

              http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/Arrhenius1906.pdf

              The English translation is also on the Fiends of Science web site. Now, a more dishonest bunch of “scientists” is hard to find so we can be pretty sure who inserted the lie into the translation which then got broadcast by all the denier web sites.

            8. You are a liar because you write things or copy things which are not true

              Bizarre, you really have lost the plot this time.

              I really do think you need to seek some professional help.

  5. Stop your ad hominem comments, I find them just as nasty as you continually lying. The phrase “(including water vapor feedback: 2.1 °C)” is not in the original paper by Arrhenius. Therefore who ever inserted it was telling a lie. Just as anyone who repeats it is also lying. It pays to check your sources which of course proves that you are not skeptical but just a dishonest denier.

    1. OK, I will stop my “ad hominem” comments. However, feel free to shower me in constant stream of abuse.
      Meanwhile, for the less fluent German readers, perhaps you could point out the exact phrase not in the original paper that you claim was inserted by “deniers”

      A point by point description please….

      1. For the umpteenth time:

        (including water vapor feedback: 2.1 °C)

        Arrhenius then goes on to say:

        In these calculations, I completely neglected the presence of water vapour emitted into the atmosphere.

        Which shows that the phrase in brackets above is a dishonest lie.

        Further into the paper Arrhenius gives the climate sensitivity including water vapour feedback as:

        such that the total temperature change induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

        All of this was described in my previous posts, why did you not read them and the link to the original paper before your nasty ad hominem comments?

        Calling you out as a dishonest liar is not abuse but is a truthful comment on your behaviour. If you do not like it there is a simple solution, stop telling lies!

        1. Still; no attribution for those quotes.

          If you really think I am “lying” by copy and paste from Wikipedia, then I suggest you either edit the page yourself or get one of your chums to do it.

          After all, a lot of students rely on Wikipedia for their work, and we would hate to see them fail their degrees for “lying”.

        2. Good on you Ian. When I read Andy’s unreferenced quote I found the source in Wikipedia immediately and then found the denialist tosh that the insertion into wikipedia was probably pasted from. The statement in question was obviously faked as the implication was that Arrhenius had reduced his estimate of 5-6°C to 1.6°C with no range indication. I also reached the conclusion you did. Thanks for your further quotes from Arrhenius on the question.

          I now and then drop in on the Wikipedia entry for John Tyndel just to see if CO2 has got a mention again. On one day I saw references to CO2 changed or deleted , then reinstated several times. So yes there are liars ammending CO2 references in Wikipedia on a continuing basis. Obviously they count on people not having the nous to search out the original sources.

          1. The “denialist tosh” (exact same quote) is also referenced in Comment #3 by SteveR) on Greg Laden’s blog here
            http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/10/13/thinking-about-global-warming/

            So maybe someone wants to inform Greg Laden that StevoR is a liar (using IF’s logic here)

            EDIT.
            The exact same quote is at SkS here:
            http://www.skepticalscience.com/Every-skeptic-argument-ever-used.html

            Comment 29 tobyjoyce

            No mention from the SkS moderators that this is wrong or a “lie”

            1. The best I can do is this English translation of Arrhenius’ 1906 paper

              http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/Arrhenius%201906,%20final.pdf

              I will try to find the German original in case I get accused of “lying” because this might have been tampered by “deniers”.

              In the meantime, the parts of this translation that corroborate with the Wikipedia entry are

              In a similar way, I calculate that a reduction in the amount of CO2 by half, or a gain to twice the
              amount, would cause a temperature change of – 1.5 degrees C, or + 1.6 degrees C, respectively.

              and later

              If one uses this correction, one finds that with a change in the quantity of CO2 in the ratio of 1:2, the
              temperature of the Earth’s surface would be altered by 2.1 degrees. It is assumed that the radiation that
              is absorbed by the water vapour is not influenced by the CO2.

              No doubt, “Friends of Science” will be dismissed as a “denier” site, but unless this translation is deemed to be falsified, I will in the meantime take it as a fair and accurate translation of the original German paper, which I am still trying to find.

            2. Why do you omit this sentence immediately after the first bit you quoted:

              n these calculations, I completely neglected the presence of water vapour emitted into the atmosphere.

              Further into the paper Arrhenius says that by including water vapour he finds this:

              such that the total temperature change induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

              Maybe you are not a dishonest liar merely completely incompetent. I will let the readers decide for themselves.

              By the way I linked to the German original in my February 3rd, 3:50 pm post.

            3. I see that you posted the original, which is also linked off the same “denier” link that I provided

              I also see the statement, in the original German which cites the 2.1 degree claim that I just cited.

              Look at page 6, para 2

              Fuhrt man diese Korrektion ein, so findet man, dass eine
              Ànderung des Kohlensauregehalts im Verhaitniss 1 zu 2 die Temperatur der Erdoberflache um 2,1 Grad verandern wurde.
              Dabei ist angenommen, dass die Strahlen, welche von dem Wasserdampf absorbiert werden, keinen Einfluss durch die Kohlensaure erleiden

              (Excuse lack of umlauts etc)

              The 2,1 Grad is 2.1 degrees.

            4. Extract from article on Arrhenius from the American Geophysical Union.

              http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/98EO00206/pdf

              The citations of Arrhenius’ calculations
              are usually based on the work published in
              1896 [Arrhenius, 1896]. In this paper Arrhenius
              reported that CO2 doubling should increase
              the Earth’s mean temperature by
              5-6°C. In the same year, he estimated that it
              would take about 3000 years for mankind to
              double the atmospheric concentration
              through the burning of fossil fuels [Arrhenius,
              1896]. However, the 1896 paper was
              not his last publication on the problem of
              global warming.

              In later works, Arrhenius revised the estimates
              mentioned above. It is not clear exactly
              how he derived his values, but these
              later values are much closer to modern estimates
              than most think. For example, in the
              1906 book, Worlds in the Making: The
              Evolution of the Universe [Arrhenius, 1906],
              Arrhenius wrote that “…any doubling of the
              percentage of carbon dioxide in the air
              would raise the temperature of the Earth’s surface
              by 4°C… ” In the same book, Arrhenius
              concluded his analysis of fossil fuel consumption
              at the end of the 19th century with the
              words: “…percentage of carbonic acid in the
              atmosphere may by the advances of industry
              be changed to a noticeable degree in the
              course of a few centuries.”

            5. Why are you spamming the thread with duplicate comments when we have been told to take the discussion to an open thread?

    1. Good grief Ian Forrester I was asking for you to point out the page on the paper that backed up your claims

      I have asked for this repeatedly, and also asked you to contact the Wikipedia editors to have the “denier” stuff altered

      It is a simple request. Rather than spent umpteen hundred comments telling me that I am dishonest, why don’t you fix the internet?

      If you know the internet is broken, why don’t you do something about it?

      You need to fix the Internet. It is broken

    2. Hey Forrester, have you seen the wiki page for 97?
      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/97_(number)

      It should be interesting to members of your cult since 97% of scientists agree.
      Is it true? Have you checked all the links? Have you got the originals in German or whatever, dutifully translated them and doubled checked?
      Have you checked 98, 99, 100, 101 etc? Yes there are Wikipedia pages for them too
      Imagine that Ian Forrster, an entire infinity of Wikipedia pages on the integers that may contain lies from deniers.

      You need to check them all. Think of the children.
      Their minds are being positioned by despicable liars telling despicable lies about numbers.

      You can’t be sure, but since there is potentially an infinite number of said pages, there may be an infinite number of despicable lies, and an infinite number of despicable liars who quote these lies.

  6. AndyS I don’t like accusations of lying made by either side in this debate, however the paper you quoted looks to be fake or altered. At least have the good grace to admit it.

    And you miss the point by trying to harp on about the exact amounts of Arrhenius calculation. Clearly the essential nature of his prediction has come true to the extent that temperatures have increased about 1 degree so far. If you don’t comprehend the significance of this, you might as well give up.

    1. I didnt quote a paper, I cited Wikipedia.

      If you think it looks faked or altered, then fix it. If you think I am going to have any “good grace” while crazy man Forrester is screaming at me, then think again.

      This guy needs to be in a secure unit, far away from any human influence

      I have come across Islamic Jihadists who seem more rational than Ian F.

      1. The problem is Andy, that you never seem to concede that the message you would like to find in some Arrhenius paper was different from what you thought it was. It seems that there are still people out there who are totally desperate to talk down the AGW threat and, with no real evidence whatsoever to go by, resort to making up contrived stuff, even putting words into Arrhenius’ mouth that he did not say.
        You must concede though, that Arrhenius was rather good in predicting what would happen if we continue increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, given the state of knowledge about the climate of Earth at that time.
        Andy, its truly time to let go of the pipe dream that AGW is not happening, has paused or is not a major issue for humanity and the planet. Its about time that you concede that you have been barking up the wrong tree all these years. The game of denial is truly over and no rhetoric or word mincing will change that. If you carry on holding the torch for the last bastions of denial, the Moncktonians or the deluded Republican veterans in the USA, you will simply look entirely stupid. So how about you get on with bringing change about. If its thorium reactors that you think we should have, great, champion these. We will need them most likely and people need to work towards this end just as well as others will work on extending solar and wind and other alternatives.
        As I said many times before, the solutions we need can not fit into just on basket. We need a lot of different but cooperative technological strategies to get off the carbon fuel bandwagon and we will need to accept changes to our lifestyle if want to carry on living as a civilized society.

      2. Gareth, please stop andyS from using such abusive language. I have been honest in my comments, unfortunately andyS does not like rational and honest comment about his behaviour.

        1. Ian Forrester, nothing that you say makes any sense

          I started by asking a simple question, posed here
          http://hot-topic.co.nz/four-revolutions-in-the-earth-sciences/#comment-45960

          Then, you pop up claiming that you can’t find this quote, despite me stating that it was from Wikipedia. (You claimed something about Monckton)

          In my Chrome browser, I can select the text and search in Google, and the Wiki page comes up first hit

          Then, despite you not knowing about this Wiki page, you then claim that you know it is wrong and I am “lying” by quoting it. Strange, since you didn’t know about the Wiki page a few minutes earlier.

          Then, you pull up a scan (in Geman) of an original paper and claim that it contradicts some part of the original claim, without explaining how and where.

          Nice to see that your support crew has turned up too.

          1. [Snipped GR]
            Just for his benefit, I did look at the Wiki page he cited. It didn’t seem right to me since I had never seen a claim by Arrhenius of only 1.6C for climate sensitivity before . On checking, which all knowledgeable as opposed to deniers do, I found that it was not correct

            [Snipped GR]

  7. Ian, Andy will be delighted to have created a faux debate with you over an 108-year-old paper, to distract from the demise of the “global warming stopped in 1998” canard.

    After a year or two of these diversions, I fully expect that he and his ilk will be trumpeting that “global warming stopped in 2014!”

    1. It is not a “faux debate”.
      I don’t really have that much interest in a 108 year old paper, except that this blog post is about the early history of climate science.

      What I get somewhat peeved about is this continual accusation that I am “lying”

      I have just proven that I am not lying, but finding the part of the paper in the original paper, that completely vindicates my quote from Wikipedia

      I even got this quote from the very link that Ian Forrester posted himself yet failed to spot or mention.

      We also have droning from others who also think my quote was “denialist tosh”,

      I hear the sound of crickets ….

      1. AndyS. The original wikipedia material you quoted (I will take it you did this in good faith) claims that in the latter 1906 paper by Arrhenius he claimed that doubling CO2 would cause a temperature rise of about 2 degrees, “including” a water vapour feedback.

        However when you look carefully at that paper this is not the case, the temperature change is about 4 degrees. I’m using the english translation linked in “your” post. So the wikipedia entry looks misleading to me and has not included the full statements made by Arrhenius. This is also apparently what Ian Forrester is saying. I can’t see anything wrong with Ians statements, they are the same as what I have read in the english version near the beginning of the paper.

        1. “However when you look carefully at that paper this is not the case, ”

          If one uses this correction, one finds that with a change in the quantity of CO2 in the ratio of 1:2, the
          temperature of the Earth’s surface would be altered by 2.1 degrees. It is assumed that the radiation that
          is absorbed by the water vapour is not influenced by the CO2.

          I am looking carefully. Really carefully.
          Meanwhile, Forrester takes his claim based on a quote referring to a DECREASE in CO2

          Come on Forrester, surely you have read your own reference?

          1. Good grief can’t you understand what you are reading? Whe he includes water vapour he gets what Nigelj and I have been telling you approximately 4C.

            Stop your what ever it is you are doing to confuse people with as little knowledge as yourself. (See I didn’t call you a liar).

            Get it into your head he has lowered his estimate for CO2 sensitivity from 5C to 4C, not the 2.1 C that you and your fellow deniers are promoting.

            1. Forrester,

              If one uses this correction, one finds that with a change in the quantity of CO2 in the ratio of 1:2, the
              temperature of the Earth’s surface would be altered by 2.1 degrees. It is assumed that the radiation that
              is absorbed by the water vapour is not influenced by the CO2.

              EDIT:

              Meanwhile, your quoted passage is:

              such that the total temperature change induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

              Fascinating, so who is concerned with a decrease by 50% in CO2?

            2. I will be honest in that I don’t understand exactly what Arrhenius meant in your first quote. It can be interpreted in a number of ways. It is still in the section where he does not include water vapour.

              The second quote is the money quote. Why are you ignoring his final finding:

              such that the total temperature change induced by a decrease in CO2 in the air by 50% is 3.9 degrees (rounded to 4 degrees C)

              The reason that Arrhenius is using a quote using 50% reduction, is that this is essentially the same as 100% increase i.e. the effect of a doubling of CO2 concentration, 50% to 100% is a doubling in the same way as 100% to 200% (a 100% increase).

              Too bad that someone who claims to have a degree in maths cannot see this obvious connection.

            3. You are assuming that the climate can work in reverse gear.


              Too bad that someone who claims to have a degree in maths cannot see this obvious connection

              Yes I can, it assumes reversible or commutative behaviour in the climate, which is unproven

  8. Climate sensitivity is the effect of doubling CO2 concentration since IR absorption is logarithmic. Thus going from 100 to 200 or 200 to 100 or 50 to 100 or 100 to 50 are all the same.

  9. AndyS says “you are assuming that the climate can work in reverse gear.”

    I would think it does. If you increase CO2 and temperatures increase then subtracting CO2 would lead to a decrease wouldn’t it? There is evidence from past climate history that periods of high CO2 are consistent with high temperatures and periods of low CO2 were consistent with low temperatures ( as CO2 was absorbed by the oceans). Simple account in link below.

    http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/causes.html

    1. I don’t really care. My original question remains unanswered, and despite a torrent of abuse, I have proven that the Wikipedia quote is not a lie and is backed up by the original paper.

  10. It is not backed up by the original paper. Arrhenius revised his climate sensitivity from 5C to 4C when you include water vapour effects. That is not what you and the wiki article claim so you are wrong.

    Good grief you lack in maths skills, you lack in logical thinking, you lack in science skills and you lack in h….!!!!

  11. OK: Andy, Ian et al. This conversation is now officially a million miles off-topic. I have deleted or snipped comments that do not meet the comment policy (though I have been lenient). Please stop the invective, and take any further discussion of Arrhenius to an open thread, of which there are many.

  12. This pattern of Earth sciences resistance to heterodox ideas continues in some major ways — notably regarding the reality (or not) of mantle plumes. Plumology has become the dominant paradigm even while failing one empirical test after another. Solid papers questioning this orthodoxy exist, but it’s hard to get them past gatekeepers. Have you any in Science or Nature?
    http://www.mantleplumes.org/

  13. Extract from article on Arrhenius from the American Geophysical Union.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/98EO00206/pdf

    The citations of Arrhenius’ calculations
    are usually based on the work published in
    1896 [Arrhenius, 1896]. In this paper Arrhenius
    reported that CO2 doubling should increase
    the Earth’s mean temperature by
    5-6°C. In the same year, he estimated that it
    would take about 3000 years for mankind to
    double the atmospheric concentration
    through the burning of fossil fuels [Arrhenius,
    1896]. However, the 1896 paper was
    not his last publication on the problem of
    global warming.

    In later works, Arrhenius revised the estimates
    mentioned above. It is not clear exactly
    how he derived his values, but these
    later values are much closer to modern estimates
    than most think. For example, in the
    1906 book, Worlds in the Making: The
    Evolution of the Universe [Arrhenius, 1906],
    Arrhenius wrote that “…any doubling of the
    percentage of carbon dioxide in the air
    would raise the temperature of the Earth’s surface
    by 4°C… ” In the same book, Arrhenius
    concluded his analysis of fossil fuel consumption
    at the end of the 19th century with the
    words: “…percentage of carbonic acid in the
    atmosphere may by the advances of industry
    be changed to a noticeable degree in the
    course of a few centuries.”

  14. AndyS. I’m not spamming anything, as I simply made a mistake on placement of my comment.

    I didn’t see Gartheths instruction to take comments to an open thread, however I see it now, however I notice you have ignored it anyway.

    Read my comment anyway. You are wrong on the Arrhenius issue, and cant admit you are wrong. Typical of you. However I will leave it at that, given Gareths request to move on.

    1. I am not wrong. I was being accused of “lying” because I quoted a Wikipedia page that apparently was not supported by the original work.
      Whether there is other work that contradicts this is irrelevant. I found the quote (in German and English) that supports the Wiki quote

  15. Cheer up, Andy, here’s some good news re one of your favourite issues / assignments:

    Certain groups and Donald Trump, however, have latched onto so-called “wind turbine syndrome” as a great excuse for hating on wind energy. The Koch-affiliated, climate denying Heartland Institute… made much of the announcement (but little of the larger body of research) as an argument against the state’s renewable energy mandate.

    http://www.salon.com/2015/02/05/scott_walker_budgeted_250000_to_figure_out_if_wind_turbines_are_making_people_sick/

  16. My summer reading included the wonderful “A Short History of Stupid” by Australians Bernard Kean and Helen Razer. Their take on climate change denial fits Andy like a glove:

    The strong correlation between political conservatism and climate change denialism is likely the result of several factors: conservative political parties have stronger links with business, and particularly big business, many sections of which have a strong interest in preventing action to address climate change; and government intervention of the kind required to address climate change, even if via a market-based mechanism, is inconsistent with the small-government rhetoric of modern conservatives.

    But it also appears to derive from the conviction that climate change is a political rather than scientific issue. Framing it thus requires conservatives to oppose the existence of climate change and any action to prevent it because to acknowledge its existence is, they believe, to hand a win to their enemy: progressives.

    That kind of Stupid lies behind the death threats and savage abuse directed at climate scientists, who are perceived as political opponents by denialists, not researchers dispassionately explaining the evidence before them.

    That’s despite the fact that climate action is fundamentally a prudential policy, that preventing uncertainty associated with dramatic environmental and economic change is an intrinsically conservative position and that a conservative icon like Margaret Thatcher advocated climate action more than two decades ago…

    Climate change denialists are engaged in intergenerational economic warfare on their own societies. They won’t witness the worst aspects of climate change—luckily for them they’ll die before they occur. But their children and grandchildren will be affected by them…

    Denialists are a form of economic parasite preying on their own offspring, running up a bill they’ll die before having to pay. And every year of delay increases the costs that future generations will have to bear.

  17. Andy is back on moderation for those last two distasteful comments. Rob: a warning. Keep it polite.

    Andy: don’t bother waiting for your comments to clear moderation, because I will be on a boat out of phone range for the next week. 😉

    1. Here, here Gareth, I was wondering when you were going to step in. The comments were not only OT but also discraseful.

      On climate sensitivity would anyone care to explain the comment from the link below:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31131336

      “The findings suggest that climate sensitivity was similar in a warmer world to other times – allaying concerns that warming could produce positive feedbacks that would accelerate warming above that expected from modelling studies.”

      Isn’t that a bit of a generalisation, as empirical observation suggests that we have already initiated some already and we are barely at the start of a prolonged warming:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_feedback

      There are also plenty of examples where warming did trigger positive feedbacks.

      1. Tony, I dont thnk the BBC article is saying there are no positive feedbacks, just that they would not run out of control, and are not beyond what modelling currently assumes for positve feedbacks. You are right, clearly there is evidence in the arctic for positive feedbacks and the affect could be profound given the location of Greenland.

          1. Yes I agree Tony that the BBC were unclear, and this is half the problem in the climate debate. Poor communication.

            And yes I had read that article on Greenland, but many thanks. Greenland is certainly an issue. This is another thing with the climate debate, there are a huge range of issues and impacts around the world already, and the more I come across the more convinced I am we have a problem. For example I saw this television programme about rivers in Bangladesh causing considerable erosion and land loss, all due to increased melt water due to changes in the Himalayas glaciers.

            And AndyS complaining about wind turbines being off topic. The irony. The emperor truly has no clothes.

    2. OK, Gareth, but I plead provocation as an extenuating circumstance.

      I did like Andy’s “Eco prayer wheels” riff on wind turbines, though – could that be restored for posterity?

      1. Oh dear, poor Andy is so upset at being moderated for his bizarre and vicious ad-homs, it is all Uncle Treadgold can do to calm him down:

        Hot Topic can and will disappear up its own self loathing backside… the only reason they hate me is because I am not a believer, I am an infidel.

        .

        Apparently, Hot Topic is now a just a front for ISIS – or, even worse – Greenpeace!

        Interestingly, all of this venom erupted when I linked Heartland to Andy’s wind turbine schtick. Perhaps he needed a diversion?

        http://www.climateconversation.wordshine.co.nz/2015/01/fog-of-the-blog/comment-page-1/#comment-1282949

        1. The plot thickens – here’s another right-winger attempting to link concern about AGW with ISIS beheadings:

          “everything [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for…and he’s against the Jews in Israel,” Huckabee continued. “The one people who can know that they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the radical Muslim community or the more moderate Muslim community.”

          To prove his point, Huckabee referenced Obama’s State of the Union, which referenced climate change as a major security threat to the United States.

          I assure you that a beheading is much worse than a sunburn,” Huckabee said.

          Goodness gracious, could AndyS merely be following a script out of the US “Heartland”?

          http://www.salon.com/2015/02/09/mike_huckabee_on_the_threat_of_islam_v_climate_change_a_beheading_is_much_worse_than_a_sunburn/

  18. This is an interesting read.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/big-gap-between-what-scientists-say-and-americans-think-about-climate-change/

    I am bemused however to see 77% of scientists think climate change is a serious problem, but then 52% are in favour of more off shore drilling. Its like if you ask people, they want better education, better healthcare, reduced debt but then at the same time they don’t want to pay more taxes, preferably lowering taxes. I thought scientists might be above this type of irrational logic but perhaps not.

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