I’ve been wrong before

By Gareth Renowden 15/10/2010


It appears that the crank pantheon has a new hero: John O’Sullivan — the “world’s most popular Internet writer on the greenhouse gas theory” and the man unafraid of getting everything wrong. The last time we encountered him, he was getting everything wrong about the New Zealand Climate “Science” Coalition’s attempt to take NIWA to court. In his latest piece — Royal Society Humiliated by Global Warming Basic Math Error — he’s getting everything wrong about CO2 and, surprise, his piece is being touted round the crank echo chamber — Delingpole’s blogged it, Morano’s linked to it, and poor old Treadgold’s repeated it verbatim. According to O’Sullivan, an article by an obscure Canadian scientist proves that:

Top international experts prove British numbers on carbon dioxide are wrong. Royal Society blunder grossly exaggerates climate impact.

Oh really?

No.

Here’s O’Sullivan’s introduction:

German born chemist, Dr Klaus L. E. Kaiser has published evidence that proves the Royal Society (RS), London, has been caught out making schoolboy errors in mathematical calculations over the duration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere. Backed up by a review by a leading Swedish mathematics professor the revelation is a serious embarrassment to the credibility of the once revered British science institute and a major setback for its claims about climate change.

A gaffe in their own basic calculations led the RS to falsely find that CO2 would stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years rather than a dozen or so as per peer-reviewed studies show. Global warming skeptics have been quick to condemn the error and demand an apology and immediate correction. [Links added]

Unfortunately for Kaiser and Sullivan, the Royal Society (otherwise known as the most august of scientific institutions, 350 years old this year) didn’t make any schoolboy errors. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is determined by the interchange of carbon between the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere. Over the last few hundred years the ocean and biosphere have been doing us a big favour by absorbing two thirds of the CO2 we’ve emitted. The balance has been steadily accumulating, which is why atmospheric CO2 has risen from 280 ppm to 390 ppm. Once we stop adding carbon to the atmosphere, natural processes (biosphere, ocean and weathering) will remove CO2 — but only slowly. Check out this piece by Doug Mackie at Skeptical Science for a good explanation of why, or this article by David Archer (a real “top international expert”). As Archer says:

The reality is that the CO2 from a gallon out of every tank of gas will continue to affect climate for tens and even hundreds of thousands of years into the future.

I wonder what schoolboy propagandist O’Sullivan will be getting wrong next week? But never fear, brave souls like Treadgold, Watts and Morano will be sure to bring it to our attention.

[Dusty, via Declan]