Earth’s Response to Increasing CO2: An Example of Hormesis?

August 11th, 2014

One of the dubious assumptions undergirding the environmental movement is that the Earth was in an optimum state of health before humans arrived on the scene and screwed everything up.

But this is a religious assumption…which I don’t have a problem with, until it is foisted on the masses as “science”.

The idea that everything humans do to the environment is bad is an emotional one, not scientific, especially when the “pollution” we are talking about (CO2) is necessary for life on Earth.

There is a concept in toxicology called “hormesis”, around since at least the late 1800s, which states that for many chemicals the biological response is actually positive at low doses, before it becomes negative at high doses. I spent some time last week with Ed Calabrese, who has published extensively on the hormesis concept (here is a review paper by him, which includes a discussion of how the hormesis concept got unfairly grouped in with the homeopathy movement).

For a very simple example, there is a wide variety of minerals necessary for human health in low doses, but which are toxic at high doses. Food and water are also necessary in low doses…but will kill you in high doses.

More generally, there is also evidence that even for chemicals which are not necessary in the human body, low doses can actually make a person healthier because some level of environmental stress on the body makes the body more resilient. For example, some non-zero level of bacteria and virus exposure helps keep us healthier. I’m told there has been some research that suggests that inhaling low levels of radon is beneficial..or at least benign. Physical exercise tears apart human tissue…but helps build more muscle as a response to the demands placed on the body.

The hormesis concept is anathema to regulatory organizations such as the EPA, which want to regulate “pollution” to infinitesimally small values, no matter how many people those regulations might kill in the process. The supposed justification is linear dose-response curves which basically assume that there is no beneficial level of a “pollutant”, and even that the smallest level of exposure will cause harm.

Needless to say, the possibility that low doses of many pollutants might actually be beneficial to human health would be a real paradigm changer in the regulatory community.

This is the basis of statistical epidemiological studies which claim thousands of deaths each year from exposure to benign things like Justin Bieber’s music.

For those who like graphs, the following cartoon shows what I’m suggesting in qualitative functional form for carbon dioxide:


An Earth scientist who has not already sold his soul to the government regulation bureaucracy might legitimately ask, “I wonder if some level of enrichment of atmospheric CO2 is actually a good thing for life on Earth?”, as suggested by the green curve in the above graph.

The straight red line (linear dose response) is, in contrast, what is usually assumed…that any increase beyond that believed to exist before humans arrived is necessarily bad for Mother Earth.

But atmospheric carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth, and has risen from a pre-industrial concentration of only 3 parts per 10,000, to (still only) 4 parts per 10,000 today. The result has been global greening and a moderation of global temperatures (at least partly due to more CO2, in my opinion). Theoretically expected negative impacts on severe weather and marine life have, so far, failed to reach any believable level of cause-and-effect, beyond normal natural variability.

(And if you are tempted to cite statistics of a record number of whatever events, I will ask whether humans are also responsible for the recent “grand maximum” record high sunspot activity out of the last 3,000 years? Was that Bieber’s fault, too? Or maybe Manbearpig’s fault?).

I’ve had plant physiologists tell me it’s almost as if nature has been sucking as hard as it can on atmospheric CO2, and has depleted it to the point where only the hardiest life forms can exist. But as we add more CO2 to the atmosphere, nature quickly gobbles up 50% of the extra, leading to a more luxurious and robust biosphere.

So, it is reasonable from an unbiased scientific perspective to examine the possibility that more CO2 is actually good for life on Earth…not just the biosphere, but atmospheric effects as well. After all, we’re not talking about X-rays here…we’re talking about the elixir of life, CO2.

Is there a level beyond which more carbon dioxide would be bad? Probably…but I don’t think we know what that level would be. And, just to be on the safe side, if there was a way to stop producing CO2 without killing millions (if not billions) of people in the process, I might be in favor of that.

But that’s simply not possible with today’s energy technologies. Renewable energy sources cannot contribute to more than 15-20% of total energy demand in the coming decades, so we are stuck with fossil fuels for the time being.

I really don’t care where our energy comes from, as long as it is abundant and affordable for the world’s poor. In the meantime, we need to stop thinking in simple linear dose-response terms which is contrary to so much real world experience and exists mainly to make jobs for regulators and companies that are made rich through subsides rather than through free choice by the public.

UAH Global Temperature Update for July, 2014: +0.31 deg. C

August 5th, 2014

The Version 5.6 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for July, 2014 is +0.31 deg. C, unchanged from June (click for full size version):

The global, hemispheric, and tropical LT anomalies from the 30-year (1981-2010) average for the last 19 months are:

2013 1 +0.497 +0.517 +0.478 +0.386
2013 2 +0.203 +0.372 +0.033 +0.195
2013 3 +0.200 +0.333 +0.067 +0.243
2013 4 +0.114 +0.128 +0.101 +0.165
2013 5 +0.082 +0.180 -0.015 +0.112
2013 6 +0.295 +0.335 +0.255 +0.220
2013 7 +0.173 +0.134 +0.211 +0.074
2013 8 +0.158 +0.111 +0.206 +0.009
2013 9 +0.365 +0.339 +0.390 +0.190
2013 10 +0.290 +0.331 +0.249 +0.031
2013 11 +0.193 +0.160 +0.226 +0.020
2013 12 +0.266 +0.272 +0.260 +0.057
2014 1 +0.291 +0.387 +0.194 -0.029
2014 2 +0.170 +0.320 +0.020 -0.103
2014 3 +0.170 +0.338 +0.002 -0.001
2014 4 +0.190 +0.358 +0.022 +0.092
2014 5 +0.327 +0.325 +0.328 +0.175
2014 6 +0.305 +0.315 +0.295 +0.509
2014 7 +0.306 +0.293 +0.319 +0.453

The global image for July should be available in the next day or so here.

Popular monthly data files (these might take a few days to update):

uahncdc_lt_5.6.txt (Lower Troposphere)
uahncdc_mt_5.6.txt (Mid-Troposphere)
uahncdc_ls_5.6.txt (Lower Stratosphere)

Some Climate Change Survey Questions I’d Like to See

August 4th, 2014

Nothing rouses my ire like biased survey questions which load the dice in favor of a specific answer. Seldom do I ever see well-phrased survey questions. Probably because the people who pay for the surveys want the results to come out a certain way.

So, since the other side of the global warming debate likes to ask such inane survey questions (like Does your company acknowledge the threat and challenge of climate change as companies like Walmart, CocaCola, Apple, Google, AIG, Swiss Re, NRG, Unilever and others have done?, here’s a few survey questions I’d like some people to answer.

Maybe some of our politicians. Or Al Gore.

In the interests of providing some balance to a clearly unbalanced situation, here are the first four that come to mind:

1. Do you deny that climate has always changed, even without the help of humans?

2. Do you trust climate models to tell us the future, even when none of them predicted the recent 17+ year stoppage of global warming?

3. Do you believe severe weather has gotten worse from climate change, even though the IPCC (and observations) show that it hasn’t?

4. Do you support EPA regulations on power plants that will increase electricity costs and hurt the economy, even though they will have no measurable effect on future global temperatures?

I should have been a pollster.

Sunset and Moonset Time Lapse Videos

July 30th, 2014

With the record cool (and dry) weather here in north Alabama, I decided to try some time lapse video of the setting crescent moon.

The first video, from two evenings ago, has both sunset and moonset (on the left side)…click on the full-screen icon to see in highest definition:

The second, from last night, shows the crescent moon setting behind the Saturn V rocket at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, 7 miles away:

Both taken with a Canon 6D, 85mm f/1.2 lens (first video) and 200mm f/2.8 lens w/2X extender (2nd video).

Paul Budline Productions 5 min Video of Heartland ICCC9 Conference

July 25th, 2014

If you couldn’t attend Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas a couple weeks ago, this 5 minute video by Paul Budline Productions gives a flavor of what was talked about there:

The Spencer Identity for Global Temperature Trend Calculation

July 25th, 2014

After reading the comments I got on my post The Kaya Identity Crisis, I thought it would be good to follow up with a little more discussion regarding how you can create an equation with physical units that work out, but the equation is not necessarily useful.

My point was that the Kaya Identity was fine from a mathematical point of view, but I suppose I should have emphasized more that the terms in the Kaya equation (which relates total global carbon dioxide emissions to the product of population, per capita GDP, energy intensity, and CO2 emissions per unit energy used) were certainly open to debate.

So, since I’m not as knowledgeable about economics concepts as I am about global temperature trends, I thought it would be cool to have my own equation: The Spencer Identity.

I have thoroughly researched this equation for at least 15 minutes, and I believe the units balance, and it makes some physical sense (which is a good thing).

The equation doesn’t give you the real global temperature trend, which we can never know. It instead gives the consensus temperature trend, which (we have found out) is the result of political institutions and the funding they provide to researchers willing to play along:

the Spencer Identity for government-reported temperature trends:

T = s[L x D x H x W]


T = official government-reported global average temperature trend (deg. C/decade)
s = scale factor to allow easy adjustment of consensus temperature trends based upon prevailing opinion (dimensionless)
L = the number of liberal politicians in power
D = the dollars in government climate research funding per liberal politician
H = the number of hockey sticks created per research dollar spent (or maybe you could substitute mythical polar bear deaths or hidden temperature declines or number of climate models)
W = the rate of warming per hockey stick

As I said, I believe the units balance and the terms of the equation have meaning. I’m sure others can develop improved versions of the equation, so maybe this can be considered an open source project.

EPA Admits to Senate that CO2 Regs Not About Pollution Control

July 25th, 2014

I usually don’t comment on what transpires in congressional hearings. But this is too good to pass up.

On Wednesday, before the Senate EPW Committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy had this priceless quote regarding the EPA’s proposed carbon dioxide regulations (italics added):

“And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It’s about increased efficiency at our plants…It’s about investments in renewables and clean energy. It’s about investments in people’s ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units.”

Mmm hmmm. Kind of like investment in Solyndra? Or Tesla?

Why not go all the way…just put all Americans to work digging holes in the ground and filling them up again. No unemployment. Great investment opportunity for shovels and backhoe manufacturers. And we won’t be wasting all of that energy on transportation because the work can be right at home!

This gaffe could come back to bite the EPA. The Endangerment Finding was all about the negative effect of “carbon pollution” on the environment. Now we find out “this is not about pollution control”?


Record Canada Wildfires Blamed On…

July 25th, 2014

Our friends to the north in the sovereign republic of Canuckistan are experiencing record wildfire activity. At least in northwest Canada, where it has been unusually hot and dry.

Four days ago things were getting pretty bad, as seen in this NASA MODIS image (click for large version):

NASA MODIS image of western Canada and the northern U.S., July 21, 2014.

NASA MODIS image of western Canada and the northern U.S., July 21, 2014.

By yesterday, the smoke from the fires had spread to the Great Lakes (yes, here comes that Canadian pollution again):

As in previous image, but for July 24, 2014.

As in previous image, but for July 24, 2014.

Of course, experts quoted in the news dutifully blamed it in climate change. According to Alaska Dispatch News,

Canada’s senior climatologist, Dave Phillips, says the southern Northwest Territories is experiencing the hottest, driest summer in some 50 years.

The extremely hot dry weather in the interior and north of British Columbia is now contributing to the spread of a number of fires in that west coast province.

Phillips adds the kind of weather seen this year is what global warming modeling predicted for 40 years from now.

Now, wherever it is hot and dry where vegetation exists, we can expect above normal wildfire activity. But the hot and dry conditions in the west are almost always matched by cool and wet conditions in the east, which is what we have seen in recent months.

It makes no sense to talk about above normal activity in one area, and ignore below normal activity elsewhere, when claiming a link to climate change. It is intellectually lazy and verges on incompetence.

Another cold front will be pushing all the way to the Gulf coast by next Wednesday, producing more record low temperatures, as see in this graphic:

GFS model minimum temperature anomaly forecast for Wednesday  July 30, 2014 (

GFS model minimum temperature anomaly forecast for Wednesday July 30, 2014 (

Anytime this happens (which is rare this time of year, at least here in Alabama) you can virtually guarantee hot and dry weather over western Canada and the western U.S. It’s called “weather”.

The Kaya Identity Crisis

July 24th, 2014

There have been several posts over at WUWT regarding whether the Kaya Identity equation is useful, or mathematically trivial, or just a tautology.

The Kaya Identity is a specific application of the more general “IPAT” (I=PAT) equation which estimates the global environmental impact “I” based upon what are believed to be the main drivers of I, usually put in terms that economists find useful and can estimate…population, per capita GDP, etc. You can read more about it here.

To get total global CO2 emissions with the Kaya Identity, you multiply together (1) population , (2) GDP per person (affluence term), (3) energy used per GDP (energy intensity) and (4) the amount of CO2 released per energy used. Again, the terms used are ones economists work with, and so it is more useful in economics and policymaking circles than in, say, climate science.

As Willis Eschenbach pointed out, simply as an algebraic equation, you can cancel out terms in the Kaya equation and get the trivial result that CO2 = CO2. This is what seems to have generated much of the hoopla over at WUWT.

But the same as true of just about any equation where the physical units must balance on both sides: say, the equation to estimate the miles driven if you know the average speed and the total time driving:

Miles = [hours]x[miles/hour]

You can cancel out the “hour” terms in the above equation, and get the seemingly trivial result that “miles=miles”… but the equation is still useful.

The same is true of the Kaya Identity. It is a useful tool, to the extent that the individual terms on the right hand side really are the main economic-related drivers of the quantity on the left hand side…and the units match.

Also, as Willis points out, you can put all kinds of silly terms in an equation with the units on both sides simplifying to the same thing. But the unit matching is only a necessary – but not a sufficient – condition for an equation to be physically meaningful.

The bottom line is that I don’t see anything wrong with the Kaya Equation.

June 2014 Update of SSM/I Ocean Products

July 23rd, 2014

The SSM/I and SSMIS series of microwave imagers, operating since July 1987, provide global oceanic measurements of total vertically integrated water vapor, cloud water, rain rate, and surface wind speed. These are useful for studying how the maritime atmosphere varies due to El Nino and La Nina, as well as provides ~27 year trends for climate change studies.

The best place to start is with what the SSM/I instruments can’t measure, which is sea surface temperature. Here are the monthly global (60N-60S) average SST variations since 1987:

Fig. 1. Monthly global (60N-60S) sea surface temperature anomalies since 1987 from HadSST3 data.

Fig. 1. Monthly global (60N-60S) sea surface temperature anomalies since 1987 from HadSST3 data.

As can be seen, there has been net warming of the ocean surface since 1987, a relative “pause” in the warming trend since the 1997-98 El Nino, and the global SST value for June 2014 was near a “record” high.

The SSM/I integrated water vapor measurements provide a powerful check on the SST measurements, since water vapor is tightly coupled to SST:

Fig. 2. As in Fig. 1, but for SSM/I integrated water vapor.

Fig. 2. As in Fig. 1, but for SSM/I integrated water vapor.

Note that the SSM/I integrated water vapor was at a record high in June, 2014, probably the result of the developing El Nino.

If we compare the SST and water vapor variations, the quantitative relationship between them is about ~11% water vapor increase per deg. of SST increase:

Fig. 3. Scatter plot of the SST and water vapor in Figs. 1 and 2, with a 1 month time lag (vapor after SST).

Fig. 3. Scatter plot of the SST and water vapor in Figs. 1 and 2, with a 1 month time lag (vapor after SST).

I have included a 1 month time lag in the plot (vapor after SST), which maximizes the correlation. The 11% per deg. relationship is considerably greater than the 7% per deg. expected from the assumption of constant relative humidity. Why? I’m not sure, but I suspect it might be due to a change in the vertical distribution of vapor with height during warming. If the falloff of specific humidity with height becomes steeper with warming, the water vapor retrieval Frank Wentz uses will overestimate the amount of water vapor. This explanation would also be consistent with radiosonde evidence of a multidecadal decrease in mid- and upper-tropospheric water vapor, and potentially neutral (or even negative) water vapor feedback.

The SSM/I cloud water remains high, as it has in recent years…several percent above most of the period record:

Fig. 4. SSM/I global average oceanic integrated cloud water anomalies.

Fig. 4. SSM/I global average oceanic integrated cloud water anomalies.

As I have blogged about before, there is a correlation between the SSM/I cloud water and the CERES net radiative flux variations, so the recent elevated cloud water amounts lead to less sunlight entering the oceans, which is consistent with the recent hiatus in warming.

The SSM/I oceanic rainfall has increased in recent years, but I’m not sure how much of this is real or is due to residual algorithm cross-talk from the cloud water signal, since cloud water has also increased:

Fig. 5. SSM/I global ocean rainfall anomalies.

Fig. 5. SSM/I global ocean rainfall anomalies.

Finally, the SSM/I ocean surface wind speed anomalies suggest that the ~2% increase in winds after the 1997-98 El Nino seems to have ended…although going into El Nino conditions will also produce reduced wind speeds:

Fig. 6. SSM/I global average ocean surface wind speed variations.

Fig. 6. SSM/I global average ocean surface wind speed variations.

As I have mentioned before, I believe this wind speed record is the most accurate one in existence. I find it hard to believe that a 2% increase in winds caused (as Trenberth claims) the warming pause and increased heat storage in the deeper ocean. If it did, it looks like that effect should have gone away in the last few years.