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The Art of Swallowing Camels
Volume 4, Number 26: 27 June 2001

In his first book about CO2 and climate (Idso, 1982), our father crafted a chapter of this title, which he derived from the well-known statement of Christ (Matthew 23:24): "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel."  He used this device to depict the great lengths to which the climate alarmists of two decades past would often go to convince the world of the validity of their predicted Armageddon-like global warming, noting that their actions only led them to trade the gospel of simple logic for the most egregious of fables.  It is now twenty years later; and as the Preacher rightly said (Ecclesiastes 1:9), "there is no new thing under the sun."

In a recent issue of Science, Crowley and Berner (2001) take it upon themselves to "reevaluate the validity of the assumed CO2-climate link."  They begin by pointing out some "notable disagreements" between trends in air temperature and CO2 concentration over the Phanerozoic era -- the past 540 million years (Ma).  Specifically, they cite examples of real-world/model discrepancies for the periods "16 Ma" and "50 to 60 Ma" and "55 to 65 Ma" and "150 to 180 Ma" and "120 to 220 Ma" and "270 to 290 Ma," causing one to wonder, before anything else is even said, what is the norm and what the aberration!

After talking about various problems posed by data from these periods that do not jibe with the way the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change views the world, Crowley and Berner conclude by saying that "to weigh the merits of the CO2 paradigm, it may be necessary to expand the scope of climate modeling," with which proposal we are in full agreement.  But they then revert to the type of thinking that so disturbed our father twenty years ago, and that bothers us today.  In spite of the host of very real problems faced by the current CO2/climate-change paradigm, they finish their treatise by saying "it may be hazardous to infer that existing discrepancies between models and data cloud interpretations of future anthropogenic greenhouse gas projections."  But in direct contradiction of this tortuous and camel-swallowing line of reasoning, we say it is even more hazardous to close one's eyes to these discrepancies, as Crowley and Berner are essentially asking us to do, when they advise us to hold to the politically-correct view of CO2-induced global warming in spite of all the evidence, which they themselves present, that calls it into question.

But changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration must cause changes in temperature, don't they?  After all, Crowley and Berner say that "comparison of the records of glaciation and CO2 forcing indicates that CO2 can explain 37% of the variance on a time scale of 10 million years."  In response to this claim, we note that 37% is not the lion's share of the total forcing; nor is mere correlation (even when linked with a seemingly reasonable hypothesis) proof of causation.  In fact, it can be reasonably argued that just the opposite is true, i.e., that forcing by temperature explains 37% of the variance in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the same time period.  And so it has been argued, quite recently in fact, by R.H. Essenhigh, the E.G. Bailey Professor of Energy Conversion in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ohio State University, in the American Chemical Society's May 2001 Web Edition of Chemical Innovation.

Speaking of atmospheric CO2 concentration and mean global air temperature, Essenhigh begins by asking "which is driving which?"  He goes on to indicate that although earth's temperature has been generally rising since the end of the Little Ice Age, there are plenty of factors that could be responsible for this warming, stating there is thus "no need to invoke CO2 as the source of the current temperature trend."

Expanding on this point, Essenhigh notes that since the amount of CO2 emitted to the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels "is within the statistical noise of the major sea and vegetation exchanges -- it cannot be expected to be statistically significant" in terms of forcing climate change.  Water, he says, "is the major radiative absorbing-emitting gas in the atmosphere, and not CO2," performing a number of calculations that demonstrate that the absorption coefficient of water vapor is one to two orders of magnitude greater than the coefficient values for CO2 bands, so that "anything future increases in CO2 might do, water will already have done."

In addition, whereas observed changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration cannot possibly explain concurrent, or preceding, changes in temperature, Essenhigh notes that observed CO2 variations readily follow as the result of temperature-driven changes in the dynamic equilibrium between the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and its solution in the sea.  Hence, he concludes, "the outcome is that the conclusions of the advocates of the CO2-driver theory are evidently back to front: It's the temperature that is driving the CO2."

How simple it all is when approached in this logical manner.  Yet political climatologists continue to strain at gnats, while expecting the rest of us to swallow camels!

Dr. Craig D. Idso
Dr. Keith E. Idso
Vice President

Crowley, T.J. and Berner, R.A.  2001.  CO2 and climate change.  Science 292: 870-872.

Essenhigh, R.H.  2001.  Does CO2 really drive global warming?  Chemical Innovation 31 (5).  American Chemical Society.

Idso, S.B.  1982.  Carbon Dioxide: Friend or Foe?  An Inquiry into the Climatic and Agricultural Consequences of the Rapidly Rising CO2 Content of Earth's Atmosphere.  IBR Press, Tempe, AZ.