Bad Science Bait & Switch Climate Change Non-Science

Wolfgang Knorr : Denialist Soup

The new trend on the wires from the amorphous, shifting pack of wildcards that deny the very science of Global Warming – write the wrong conclusion about a piece of research by Wolfgang Knorr from Bristol University – and then circulate it on the Internet.

The research was published late last year, but it’s only in the last couple of days that the Climate Change Deniers have started a serious viral “Public Relations” campaign to promote their mis-quotation. The “Carbon Capture Report” shows an uptick in popularity of covering this paper :-

The denial of the truth on the Knorr paper started to pop up on various discussion forums, in a form not dissimilar to this :-

“Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing? Wolfgang Knorr, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK : Several recent studies have highlighted the possibility that the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems have started loosing part of their ability to sequester a large proportion of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This is an important claim, because so far only about 40% of those emissions have stayed in the atmosphere, which has prevented additional climate change. This study re-examines the available atmospheric CO2 and emissions data including their uncertainties. It is shown that with those uncertainties, the trend in the airborne fraction since 1850 has been 0.7 ± 1.4% per decade, i.e. close to and not significantly different from zero. The analysis further shows that the statistical model of a constant airborne fraction agrees best with the available data if emissions from land use change are scaled down to 82% or less of their original estimates. Despite the predictions of coupled climate-carbon cycle models, no trend in the airborne fraction can be found.”

There is sometimes a URL Internet Hypertext link address given, which I advise you not to click on, as it points straight at a black hole :-


The text looks pretty reasonable, doesn’t it. It’s the Abstract from Knorr’s paper. If you were just skimming the surface, you could easily draw the conclusion that the total Carbon Dioxide in the air is staying stable, which is what the denialists claim the paper means. “Carbon Dioxide is not increasing in the Atmosphere” they scream, as a man, although clearly it is, and diagrams in Knorr’s paper show that very fact :-

A short summary of what other people are saying : here’s what RealClimate have to say :-

“Knorr (GRL, 2009) is a study about how much of the human emissions are staying the atmosphere (around 40%) and whether that is detectably changing over time. It does not undermine the fact that CO2 is rising. The confusion in the denialosphere is based on a misunderstanding between ‘airborne fraction of CO2 emissions’ (not changing very much) and ‘CO2 fraction in the air’ (changing very rapidly), led in no small part by a misleading headline (subsequently fixed) on the ScienceDaily news item Update: MT/AH point out the headline came from an AGU press release (Sigh…). SkepticalScience has a good discussion of the details including some other recent work by Le Quéré and colleagues…”

In the general blogging world, a good source to trust is Skeptical Science, who add this :-

“…I’m not sure the move from “not much happening” “to “still not much happening” warrants the label “bombshell”…”

An amusing little take from Joe Romm writing the web log Climate Progress :-

“Yes, the atmospheric CO2 fraction has risen at a dangerously fast rate in the past 160 years, reaching levels not seen in millions of years : January 5, 2010… 5 out of 3 Americans can’t do fractions.”

By the way, here’s the official publication source :-

“Citation: Knorr, W. (2009), Is the airborne fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions increasing?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L21710, doi:10.1029/2009GL040613”

And now, over to the “Skeptics”, who may well deny that the sky is often blue with puffy clouds during the daytime, just for the sake of an good argument, it seems.

World Climate Report is written mostly by Patrick Michaels, who seems to be the grandfather of Climate Change Skepticism, and beloved of everyone, skeptic or not, and he covered the paper last November :-

Anthony Watts (the one who uploaded the PDF of Knorr’s paper), [who, though quite intelligent, just seems to get pushed around by Steve McIntyre who seems to be a vindictive, bitter man] was probably the first to spell out the denialist case on this :-

Meanwhile, Knorr’s is not the only science going on :-

2 replies on “Wolfgang Knorr : Denialist Soup”

[ NOTE FROM JOABBESS.COM : I’m afraid I’m going to have to correct you there, John. Levels of Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere have indeed been rising in the last 150 or so years, and this is highly correlated, in a causal relationship, with the increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide emissions from humankind’s burning of Fossil Fuels. ]

You’ve interpreted Knorr’s findings incorrectly. Yes, C02 has been rising, but the percentage in the atmosphere hasn’t (significantly). No, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a warming trend. No, that doesn’t mean the concentration won’t rise. And no, that doesn’t mean a rise in concentration won’t lead to warming.

What it does mean is that whatever warming we’ve already seen over the last 150-odd years, is very plainly not due to a rise in atmospheric C02.

In other words, the models might be based on sound science, but that science is still not settled.

General blogging has been the topic of my blog. it is good to blog about anything.*`,

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