The gullible leading the credulous (with a sting in the tale)

By Gareth Renowden 03/11/2011


One for the “It would be big news if it were true” file — according to John O’Sullivan (see So Many Lies — And The Liar Who Tells Them) a Japanese satellite has discovered that CO2 emissions from the world’s least developed countries are greater than from industrial nations. Here’s how he describes the discovery in an article titled New Satellite Data Contradicts Carbon Dioxide Climate Theory:

Bizarrely, the [satellite] maps prove exactly the opposite of all conventional expectations revealing that the least industrialized regions are the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet.

Yes, you read that correctly: the U.S. and western European nations are areas where CO2 levels are lowest.

Big news, yes? But — and very much par for the course — it turns out that O’Sullivan has made another of his trademark public mistakes. And of course, the credulous wing of the campaign for climate inaction are more than happy to take O’Sullivan’s nonsense at face value. There’s a fine example over at NZ’s own “Climate Conversation Group”, where Richard Treadgold waxes philosophic:

Of a certainty, the Earth does not need saving.

Consider the thousand-year atmospheric lifetime of carbon dioxide. Consider that the bloody poor people did this to us. Consider their crimes.

Analyse that.

So what’s the real story?

O’Sullivan appears to have been watching NHK World, the English language service of Japan’s public broadcaster (a bit like BBC World), and picked up on this item. Now, to be fair to him, the news story accompanying the video does say this:

Of 64 regions on the map, those where CO2 emissions exceeded CO2 absorption are shown in red and regions where emissions were less than absorption are marked in green.

O’Sullivan’s story included a screen shot from the video, showing large swathes of green in the northern hemisphere, and chunks of red in Africa and South America. From that and the accompanying text he infers that what we know about emissions is suddenly turned on its head, and in his inimitable over-the-top style concludes:

Thus, the unthinkable could be made real: the greenhouse gas theory of climate change may collapse in the face of empirical evidence that industrialization is shown to have no link to global warming.

So why don’t I believe him? Simple. If the Japanese Ibuki satellite1 had really discovered that the majority of CO2 emissions were coming from the least developed parts of the world, it would have been an absolutely enormous news story, splashed all over the media everywhere. O’Sullivan would never have got a look in on coverage of the scientific discovery of the century.

But there’s another reason to take O’Sullivan’s scoop with a pinch of salt (apart from his track record). It turns out to be ridiculously easy to find out what the satellite team were really talking about. O’Sullivan links2 to the Ibuki/GOSAT home page, where the top item is headed IBUKI observations help reduce estimation error of ground observations. The item helpfully points out that:

“this achievement will be published in the Scientific Online Letters on the Atmosphere (an online thesis magazine) issued by the Meteorological Society of Japan on Oct. 29.”

And there it is. On the Benefit of GOSAT Observations to the Estimation of Regional CO2 Fluxes (PDF), by H. Takagi et al — a rather technical read, to be sure, and not at all the thing for bedtime reading, but it does what it says on the cover. Talks about marrying current CO2 measurements from ground stations with satellite derived information, in order to get better estimates of regional carbon fluxes. No hint of an earth-shattering discovery there.

Total fact-checking time? About five minutes. Obviously far beyond the capabilities of O’Sullivan. But it appears that this time someone has noticed his serial inaccuracies. His latest post at Climate Realists is a plaintive cry: Popular Skeptic Writer Fired for Exposing Carbon Climate Fraud. It appears that one of the outlets for his articles, Suite101.com, has finally noticed his tenuous connection with reality and removed all his posts. The real pity is that they allowed them on their servers in the first place. I wonder if Treadgold will run that bit of news as well?

  1. (aka GOSAT, the Greenhouse Gasses Observing Satellite
  2. Bizarrely, he manages to get the satellite’s name wrong. He calls it IBUKU – Japanese for bamboo. Bamboo satellites? There’s a thought…