The CO2 wasn’t absorbing! Nek minute…

When the Herald reported that an “‘Abrupt increase’ in CO2 absorption slowed global warming” the first question it raised was what sort of increase was an extra “one billion tonnes of carbon per year”. It said:

The earth would have warmed faster in the last two decades had there not been an unexplained rise in the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed on land, scientists believe.

Fortunately, Jo Nova and David Evans have commented. David describes the billion tonnes of carbon as insignificant. Jo mocks the implication that our selfish warming would have been worse without this previously unknown factor.

The science team call the extra CO2 absorption “abrupt” — they must mean in the same way a shower of rain occurs “abruptly” following a period of non-rain. That is, the fine weather is followed by raining. First it’s fine, nek minute…

But mere abruptness need not cause anxiety or even be unusual.

Here are the team’s graphs allegedly showing the land uptake of CO2 recorded at Hawaii and the South Pole.

But describing it as “abrupt” does not make it significant. In their statement, the scientists call the increase “significant.” Together with their use of “abrupt” (in the paper’s title, no less) they impart a significant sense of anxiety.

It proceeds from their own insecurity. The slight change in uptake might be significant in a statistical sense, but not to us. It doesn’t make it important, for instance, to reduce our emissions of CO2.

One Thought on “The CO2 wasn’t absorbing! Nek minute…

  1. Richard C (NZ) on July 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm said:

    So land CO2 absorption “abruptly” rises and Greenland starts losing ice mass (supposedly) both in the early 1990s. Hmmm, I wonder if post-normal climate science will see the uncanny correlation. Hu et al 2011:-

    Multiple observational evidences suggest that the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass since the 1990s (Lemke et al., 2007; Pritchard et al., 2009; Velicogna, 2009). The estimated annual net mass loss is more than 200 Gt in the early 21st century. The rate of this mass loss seems to be accelerating since the mid-1990s, which might be related to the greenhouse gas induced global warming (Rignot and Kanagaratnam, 2006). A few model simulations indicate that if the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized at about 1000 parts per million (ppm), the whole Greenland Ice Sheet could totally melt away in about 3000 years (Ridley et al., 2005; Alley et al., 2005). Moreover, the majority of the melting would occur in the first millennium with a potential global sea level rise by more than 3 m. This means a huge amount of freshwater will flood into the North Atlantic, which potentially could significantly affect the ocean circulation there.


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