John Penhallurick’s Blog 7: Is carbon dioxide a threat? Further evidence from the Earth’s total CO2 budget

Is carbon dioxide a threat?

Despite their obsession with carbon dioxide, the IPCC and supporters of the drive to cut human emissions of CO2 show amazing ignorance of the Earth’s total carbon budget. The atmosphere contains about 780 Gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 (0.039% of the whole atmosphere), of which about 90 Gt are exchanged with the ocean every year and another 120 Gt with plants. Thus about 25% of CO2 is turned over every year, which is consistent with the statements in the section on “How long does CO2 remain in the atmosphere?”.

A 2005 estimate of total CO2 emissions from all sources is as follows:

1. Respiration Humans, Animals, Phytoplankton 43.5 – 52 Gt C/ year 2. Ocean Outgassing (Tropical Areas) 90 – 100 Gt C/year 3. Volcanoes, Soil degassing 0.5 – 2 Gt C/ year 4. Soil Bacteria, Decomposition 50 – 60 Gt C/ year 5. Forest cutting, Forest fires 0.6 – 2.6 Gt C/year 6. Anthropogenic emissions (2010)  Including land-use change and deforestation, in 2010 emissions reached 10.0 GtCC/year ( TOTAL 194.6 to 226.6 Gt C/ year

(see Houghton, R. A. (2005). “The contemporary carbon cycle”. In William H Schlesinger (editor). Biogeochemistry. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science. pp.473–513.)

Given that the estimate of anthropogenic emissions of CO2 is about 10  Gt per year (, Canadian climatologist Timothy Ball (2008 “Environmentalists seize green moral high ground ignoring science” Canada Free Press, 13 June. Available at ) has estimated that this figure is more than four times less than the combined error (32 Gt) on the estimated CO2 production from all other sources.

The Skeptical Science website (available at     vapor-greenhouse-gas.htm) states that what this argument misses is the fact that water vapor creates what scientists call a ‘positive feedback loop’ in the atmosphere — making any temperature changes larger than they would be otherwise.

” How does this work? The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere exists in direct relation to the temperature. If you increase the temperature, more water evaporates and becomes vapor, and vice versa. So when something else causes a temperature increase (such as extra CO2 from fossil fuels), more water evaporates. Then, since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, this additional water vapor causes the temperature to go up even further—a positive feedback.

How much does water vapor amplify CO2 warming? Studies show that water vapor feedback roughly doubles the amount of warming caused by CO2. So if there is a 1°C change caused by CO2, the water vapor will cause the temperature to go up another 1°C. When other feedback loops are included, the total warming from a potential 1° change caused by CO2 is, in reality,as much as 3°C.”

An obvious defect of IPCC climate models is that they emphasize positive feedback while neglecting negative feedbacks. Kininmonth (2010 A Natural Constraint To Anthropogenic Global Warming. Energy and Environment 21, no.4: 225-236) pointed out that current computer models of the climate system apparently underestimate the rate of increase of surface evaporation with temperature leading to a gross exaggeration of the surface temperature response to radiative forcing. He pointed out that the rate of increase of evaporation (and latent heat exchange) with temperature at the surface is a critical restraining factor that damps surface temperature response to radiative forcing. So even if one accepts the assumptions of the IPCC (as I certainly do not) global average surface temperature is unlikely to rise beyond 1°C. It is the climate models alone that suggest such devastating effects of human emissions of CO2.

A further important point about CO2 is that climate models ignore the fact that   as extra gas is added to the atmosphere, incremental temperature increases occur in a declining logarithmic fashion. As Carter (Climate: the Counter-Consensus, p.76) has pointed out:    “A good analogy is of painting the windows of a room with white paint: the first coat  or two of white paint block much of the light and cause a marked darkening of the room, but by the time the tenth coat and more are added, little additional darkening is observed. Similarly, the first 60ppm of carbon dioxide added to the newly forming Earth atmosphere is modelled as causing 2°C of warming, whereas adding another 60 ppm from, say, 300-260 ppm causes less than one tenth of a degree of warming…The 100 ppm post-industrial increase in carbon dioxide from ~280 to ~380 ppm must therefore have already caused most (about 75%) of the anticipated 1.2°C of human warming which supposedly is being caused by a doubling of carbon dioxide from its pre-industrial level. So even if one concedes that about 1°C of warming would occur for a doubling, all that remains to occur for a completion of doubling now is additional warming of an insignificant few tenths of a degree.”

Figure 2 shows different projections for the amount of warming by 2100. The research papers by independent scientists, which are largely based on observational evidence, predict that if current levels of human emissions continue, the temperature should increase by 0.6°C to 1.2°C. Even from recent evidence, the increase in CO2 does

Figure 2

Projected Warming to 2100 for a doubling of CO2 as indicated by IPCC and various independent researchers

not show a close correlation with any increase in temperature, as can be seen from Figure 3. Temperature fell between 1940 and 1975, while CO2    shows a striking increase over the same period.

Figure 3

Comparison of temperature increases (determined by Hadley Climate Centre) and CO2

(Taken from Carter (2010), Fig. 10.)

Also, it must be pointed out that because of the well-known urban heat-island effect, official thermometer readings are highly suspect. For countries including the United States, Australia and New Zealand, temperature measurements from a sample of rural stations reveal no statistically significant warming during the twentieth century. Figure 5 reveals how significant the impact of a drastic reduction of earth measuring stations since 1990 has been. The temperature data is based on uncorrected measurements, which are available from such sources as GISS (Goddard Institute for Space Studies available at

The decline in the number of ground measurements which, as shown in Figure 4, began in 1970 and became severe in 1990, is not randomly distributed. Most stations were lost in the former Soviet Union, China, Africa and South America. And most of the stations that closed were in relatively remote areas. (To examine these closures go to University of Delaware global temperature archive, click Available Climate Data; log in; under Global Climate Data select Time Series 1950 to 1999; then select Station Locations (MPEG file for downloading)). As early as 1991, there was evidence that station closure beginning in the 1970s had added a permanent upward bias to the global average temperature. Willmott, Robeson and Feddema (“Influence of Spatially Variable Instrument Networks on Climatic Averages”,

Figure 4

Uncorrected global surface temperature measurements against number of reporting stations

(Available from )

Geophysical Research Letters vol. 18 No. 12, pp. 2249-2251, Dec 1991) calculated a +0.2C bias in the global average due to pre-1990 station closures, and the effect since 1990 must be considerably greater. The climate modellers claim to have corrected for the urban heat island effect, but they refuse to reveal the nature and basis of their corrections. Meteorologists Joseph D’Aleo and Anthony Watts in their 2010 paper “Surface Temperature Records: Policy-Driven Deception” stated that instrumental temperature data for the pre-satellite era have been so widely, systematically and undirectionally tampered with that it does not constitute a reliable record of land-based temperatures.

It is also appropriate to mention here the notorious case of China temperature. Jones, P. D., Groisman, P. Ya., Coughlan, M., Plummer, N., Wang, W-C. & Ka, T. R. published a 1990 study entitled “Assessment of urbanisation effects in time series of surface temperatures over land”  (Nature, 347 (13 Sept.):169-172 Available at   They argued that their data proved that local urban heating was not a significant factor in the warming trend. This paper has been repeatedly relied on by the IPCC, including in its 2007 report. A particular problem was with details of 42 weather stations in China, namely that crucial data about the location of the weather stations could not be verified because documents containing the information no longer exist. It would take too much time to go into all the details here, but one is left with the conclusion that the 1990 paper should not carry the weight with which the IPCC has invested in it. Also, the issue of the post-1990 major declines in land-based measurement stations has not been addressed by the IPCC.

Some supporters of the IPCC actually greeted with glee the UAH satellite temperature figure for 2010, when it came in at 0.54°C, as if this vindicated their views. Similarly, the Government’s former climate minister, Senator Penny Wong, recently stated (The Australian, 2 Feb. 2010): “Globally 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2009.” Since direct temperature records date from only about 1850, and since during that period we have been in a recovery from the Little Ice Age, this is nothing to marvel at. Also, a serious error was found in the NASA temperature data for the United States in 2007. When corrected, it was determined that the warmest year in the past 100 years was not in 1998 and 2006 as previously believed, but was 1934, followed by 1998. 1921 became the third hottest year, followed by 2006 and 1933. Out of the five hottest years, three occurred in the 1920s and 30s and only two were in the past 10 years. We should also take into account that in that 15-year period, there have been two strong El Nino events (1997 and 2009), and one moderate (2002) (See .)

The 2009 event does much to explain the relatively sudden increase in temperature of 2010. In contrast, during the same period, there were only three moderate La Nina Events (1999, 2007 and late 2010). The floods in Eastern Australia during early 2011 indicated that the La Nina cycle has strengthened, and a decrease in the earth’s mean temperature was recorded by the University of Alabama at Huntsville satellite-based global temperature measurements: it fell from +0.55° C during a major rise caused by the 2010 El Nino, which had been preceded by a fall to -0.30°C during 2009, to -0.10°C in March 2011 (Available at )

More fundamentally, the suggestion that meaningful judgements about climate change can be made on the basis of a single year, or even the 150 years since instrumental recordings of temperature began, is laughable. Carter (2010: 38-69) explains the need to work in terms of climate points, based on 30 year averages. Even the 150 years of instrumental temperature measures represents only five climate points, and such intervals are too short to carry statistical significance for long-term climate change. Nonetheless, the warming that has been observed since the last severe stages of the Little Ice Age is likely to be followed like its predecessors, the Roman Warming and the Early Medieval Warming, by cooling, which some measurements, such as the microwave sounding units borne on NOAA polar orbiting satellites (MSUs), suggest has already started. It is also true that the temperatures we are experiencing around the transition from the twentieth to the twenty-first centuries are not unusually warm, in terms of past climate measurements. They are about one degree C cooler than those that obtained in the Holocene Climate Optima several thousand years ago; about 2° C cooler than those reached in the last interglacial period (125,000 years ago); and about 2°-3° C cooler than those that prevailed in the Pliocene age (6-3 million years ago). Also, a 2012 study showed that the Early Medieval Warm Period was ~1°C warmer than today.

You can either go back to my no.1 blog to access any of the documents

1. The IPCC’s case is a fraud.

or you can go to the next document.

8. Further evidence of the lack of correlation between human emissions of CO2 and temperature.


About jpenhall

I am a keen birder and have devoted my life especially since retirement to a study of the world's birds. But I was also a professor, with thirty years experience of both carrying out and evaluating research.But I detest shoddy research. Thus I reject almost wholly the propaganda of the IPCC and its minions
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3 Responses to John Penhallurick’s Blog 7: Is carbon dioxide a threat? Further evidence from the Earth’s total CO2 budget

  1. Pingback: John Penhallurick’s Blog 1:Evidence that the IPCC’s case is a fraud | jpenhall

  2. Robert Gunning says:


  3. Pingback: John Penhallurick’s Blog 6:How long does CO2 remain in the atmosphere | jpenhall

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