All 6 entries tagged Debunkation

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June 11, 2005

How Much Effect Is There From the Sea?

Follow-up to Humanity's Greenhouse Footprint from The Militant Wing of Pacifism

CS responded to one of the previous posts with:

A little known fact is that much of the world's CO2 is stored in sea-water, and a rise in temperature reduces the water's capability to retain CO2, so the oceans give off CO2 as they warm. While I don't have exact figures to hand, I think the contribution of natural warming to CO2 levels in this manner is significant.

I pretty much ignored it, previously, because it wasn't really significant to my point – even if human global warming is triggering other carbon sources, this still counts as human caused climate change, in that it wouldn't be happening if we weren't releasing. It just adds a degree of superfluous indirectness to the preceeding. It didn't occur to me to investigate this particular 'fact'.

So, from RealClimate :

This question keeps coming back, although we know the answer very well: all of the recent CO2 increase in the atmosphere is due to human activities, in spite of the fact that both the oceans and the land biosphere respond to global warming.

Why? Because we've actually measured the Carbon content of the seas. The following is pasted pretty much directly from that entry. (Because I can't get blockquotes working right…) They've given references, so you can check up their assessments if you desire:

Pasted section begins

On time-scales of ~100 years, there are only two reservoirs that can naturally exchange large quantities of CO2 with the atmosphere: the oceans and the land biosphere (forests and soils). The mass of carbon (carbon is the "C" in CO2) must be conserved. If the atmospheric CO2 increase was caused, even in part, by carbon emitted from the oceans or the land, we would measure a carbon decrease in these two reservoirs.

Number of observations of carbon decreasing in the global oceans: zero.

Number of observations of carbon increasing in the global oceans: more than 20 published studies using 6 independent methods.
The methods are:
(1) direct observations of the partial pressure of CO2 at the ocean surface (Takahashi et al. 2002),
(2) observations of the spatial distribution of atmospheric CO2 which show how much carbon goes in and out of the different oceanic regions (Bousquet et al. 2000),
(3) observations of carbon, oxygen, nutrients and CFCs combined to remove the mean imprint of biological processes (Sabine et al. 2004),
(4) observations of carbon and alkalinity for two time-periods combined with an estimate of water age based on CFCs (McNeil et al. 2002), and the simultaneous observations of atmospheric CO2 increase and the decrease in (5) oxygen (Keeling et al. 1996), and (6) carbon 13 (Ciais et al. 1995) in the atmosphere.

The principle of the last two methods is that both fossil fuel burning and biospheric respiration consume oxygen and reduce carbon 13 as they produce CO2, but the exchange of CO2 with the oceans has only a small impact on atmospheric oxygen and carbon 13. The measure of atmospheric CO2 increase together with oxygen or carbon 13 decrease gives the distribution between the different reservoirs.

All the estimates show that the carbon content of the oceans is increasing by 2±1 PgC every year (current burning of fossil fuel is 7 PgC per year). One method is able to go back in time and shows that the carbon content of the oceans has increased by 118±19 PgC in the last 200 years. There is some uncertainty about the exact amount that the oceans have taken up, but not about the direction of the change. The oceans cannot be a source of carbon to the atmosphere, because we observe them to be a sink of carbon from the atmosphere.

Why are the ocean and land taking up carbon, when we know that warming of the oceans reduces the solubility of CO2 and warming of the land accelerates bacterial degradation of the soils? The answer is that warming is not the only process that influences the oceans and land biosphere. The dominant process in the oceans is the response to increasing atmospheric CO2 itself.

June 09, 2005

Bellamy KO'ed by Scientific Fact

Follow-up to Lies, Damned Lies, and Global Warming Deniers from The Militant Wing of Pacifism

Well, it seems that Monbiot has won his little spat with David Bellamy. That would be the Bellamy I blogged about previously for making crap up about Global Warming. He's just been kicked out from the Centre for Alternative Technology for:

Some of Prof Bellamy’s recent published statements seem to be flying in the face of the considered opinion of the majority of the scientific community. Such statements are clearly inconsistent with the standpoint of CAT.

Of course, it would be unseemly for me to gloat too excessively at his personal misfortune, but really, if you want to pick a fight, then you really need to make sure the facts are at least partially on your side. On subjective issues of judgement, there is always plenty of wriggle room in any argument, but if your statements are based on complete and utter lies, then you are just looking like an idiot.

This has been blogged about somewhat, here and here.

May 11, 2005

Humanity's Greenhouse Footprint

Writing about web page

Let's tackle the 'humanity not responsible for most of the greenhouse gas' thing, now.

First port of call – the actual figures.

Carbon dioxide % contribution: 25.3%
Methane % contribution: 60.2%
N2O % contribution: 14.8%
Ozone (not in ozone layer) % contribution: 26.5%

These aren't small numbers. And there are currently no competing theories to explain them except human factors – many of these figures are unprecedented for 400,000 years, a time period which encompasses grapes in England, ice skating on the Thames and the last mini-ice age.

Now, we need to tackle the claim that the above doesn't matter. The gist of this particular argument is that water vapour allegedly dominates greenhouse gases, so these don't have an effect.

There is some partial truth in this – depending on who you ask, water vapour accounts for between 88% and 98% of the overall effect. But this does not affect the case for climate change. (This should be unsurprising, since these figures are from IPCC, who have built it into their models.) Why not?

As should be obvious by now, it's because our models are more complicated than what the public imagines. Firstly, there is a non-linear aspect to this – small perturbations can have a greater impact than you think. After all, our modern, human temperature scale is entirely subjective – a disastrous change of 5 C is only a tiny wobble if we look at things from the scale of a planet which would be really really cold without any greenhouse effect. But there is a broader argument to be made. What is significant is not just the power and volume of greenhouse gases of each type, but also their longevity. This determines how long the gas stays in the atmosphere, and also how quickly it returns to an equilibrium.

Carbon dioxide has a variable lifetime. To fast acting sinks are dominant, then 5 years. If slow acting sinks are effective (and this is increasingly the case due to rainforest damage and so on), then up to 100 years. Methane has a lifetime of 12 years. N2O has a lifetime of 114 years.

Water vapour has a lifetime of 1 week.

What does this mean? It means that any excess or deficiency is quickly balanced out. We can see this with things like rain, and snow. It means also that water vapour cannot have a forcing role on the climate. Unlike the other greenhouse gases, which can pool and accumulate, water vapour doesn't hang around long enough to have a real effect. For that, you would need a steady, long term influx of water vapour, and no such source exists, either natural or man made. (Hmm, human factories come close, but we can mostly ignore this for now…)

This limits water vapour to a reactive greenhouse gas. I.e. it is implausible for it to directly cause any climate change, but it is perfectly plausible for something to change the atmosphere, and so change the water vapour equilibrium, which can then have an effect on the climate. The question, then, we should be asking is what this reaction is.

The result is well known to meteologists. Warm air can hold more humidity than cold air. And sustained increase in temperature, such as that caused by carbon dioxide greenhouse effects, then, shifts equilibrium to more water vapour in the air, which has a further greenhouse effect. The role of water vapour then, is that of a positive feedback. It makes climate change worse. That's why our climate models are spot-on.

So the human effect on the greenhouse gases do matter.



American Geophysical Union
Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre
William Connolley, British Antartic Survey

Lies, Damned Lies, and Global Warming Deniers

Writing about web page

The Guardian has a nice article on the hunt for the facts behind a global warming (climate change) denier's claims.

On April 16, New Scientist published a letter from the famous botanist David Bellamy. Many of the world's glaciers, he claimed, "are not shrinking but in fact are growing … 555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980".

To cut a long story short, where did the figure actually come from?

Two places – the right wing rantings of a former architect, quoting non-existent paper, and Bellamy's own feverish imagination. Monbiot is damning about all this:

It is hard to convey just how selective you have to be to dismiss the evidence for climate change. You must climb over a mountain of evidence to pick up a crumb: a crumb which then disintegrates in the palm of your hand. You must ignore an entire canon of science, the statements of the world's most eminent scientific institutions, and thousands of papers published in the foremost scientific journals. You must, if you are David Bellamy, embrace instead the claims of an eccentric former architect, which are based on what appears to be a non-existent data set. And you must do all this while calling yourself a scientist.

I'm inclined to agree.

"A complete article, including references is available here.":

November 05, 2004

Nature is unnatural. Prove me wrong.

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

There seems to be a primary delusion around that natural is good, and 'unnatural' is somehow bad.

A two step disproof.

First, a counter-example.

Natural law of gravitation means it is natural for all elevated objects to fall down.

Therefore you are morally bound to jump off tall buildings.

Which is absurd.

Second, an issue of definitions.

What do you in fact define natural as? Human actions result from human choice bound by human nature, and the universe around us. Hence, it is natural for humans to interact in homosexual intercourse, because it occurs naturally within the bounds of human nature. It is natural for people to masturbate, because in isolation, without commands to do so, natural instincts allow it to happen. A motor car is a natural created by the branch of nature that we call man.

There is, realistically speaking, no objective boundary between natural and unnatural. Only ones placed by our own subjective feelings of how things 'ought to be'. Trying to argue for a judgement based on whether something is natural is therefore no different from saying – I think it should be that way, and therefore it should be that way.

And so, the application of the idea of natural in a debate is a waste of time.

October 09, 2004

Tying Down Astral Projections

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Gah! I thought I gave up this kind of thing long ago. I thought I could just retire from my forum-haunting days, wrap up that iron rod of debunkation, and rest in peace, the world saved, but no…

Sigh. One last job, eh?

Can't be bothered being comprehensive here. So will pick out random bull…

No matter how you look at it, the act of healing profoundly taps the spiritual roots of your heart. The heart center (heart chakra) is the well-known key to all subtle energy healing methods. The reasoning behind this is deeply spiritual and mystical, but using the heart center is surprisingly easy if you go about it in the right way.

Let's look at it this way – healing is due to the action of your immune system, and the natural process of cell division. The heart has no spiritual roots, and small, brainless, aspiritual petri-dishes also heal, often 'miraculously'. The 'heart chakra' is not 'well known'. It is well believed among certain people, but it has not passed the test of serious evidence. There's more vague armwaving about 'deeply spiritual and mystical'.

For those interested in reading more on bio-energy, spiritual and metaphysical development, I recommend my book "Astral Dynamics: a NEW approach to OBE" (Hampton Roads, 1999, VA, USA). This book covers all aspects of basic training and development and can be used to develop any psychic ability, not just Astral Projection.

How curious. He recommends his own books. Ever hear of peer review?

The big questions in any discussion of subtle energy are: what is it and where does it come from. Subtle energy goes by many names, some ancient and some modern, including: Prana, Chi, Life Force, Soul Essence, Magnetic Fluid, Orgone, and the quantum physics contribution of the Zero Point Field.

ZPE is nothing to do with what he is on about. The ZPF is to do with virtual particles, and borrowed energy in tiny amounts. Decoherence prevents the large scale stuff he talks about.

Universal energy flows from the causal level, takes on elemental form and intent in the subtle level, and then physically manifests in the gross physical level as the finished product. Metaphysically speaking, on the causal and subtle levels, universal energy divides into the basic elemental forms: fire, earth, air, water and spirit. These are the elements of creation. These manifest in various combinations in the physical universe where they create physical matter and life.

About 2000 years out of date.

A healthy human energy body maintains itself by drawing into itself a natural flow of subtle life energy, enough to keep it alive and healthy. This energy is collected in many ways and from many sources, including breathing and eating. Energy is also exchanged between people in various ways, including touch, conversation, sex, etc.


This guy doesn't even attempt at rigour, doesn't even try to hide his lack of scientific understanding. He misquotes and misinterprets other people at the drop of a hat, and clothes everything in technical sounding names, vague descriptions that are ultimately meaningless, allusions to past authority, and a sense of self-importance, and hopes someone will fall for it.

And he makes a good living out of it.

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