Curbing Fallow’s emissions and correcting his maths

Brian Fallow

The Herald explains that Brian Fallow is its Economics Editor, but he belly-aches and pontificates about climate change more than anyone.

I suppose he must be an economist, since he’s divertingly keen to discuss all kinds of fascinating financial and structural details of transforming New Zealand society but little concerned with evidence that might justify it.

The result is he carps noisily on a ruinous, indefensible crusade. He insists the country spend time and tax “adjusting” to a “low-carbon” economy, though he freely admits we won’t thereby affect the climate even minutely.

Worse, he won’t say why we should do it. Not really why — not scientifically, plausibly tell us the necessity for it.

Let me highlight this error of judgement by rebutting a couple of his latest points.

A few days ago he said:

Our emissions are high — the fifth-highest of 40 developed countries — at 16.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person.

And we have fewer options for reducing emissions than most developed countries.

Whereas for most developed countries carbon dioxide represents around 80 per cent of their emissions, in New Zealand methane and nitrous oxide from the bodily functions of livestock make up about half of emissions.

It is harder to change a cow’s digestion than a car’s propulsion.

Three-quarters of the electricity generated last year was from renewable sources.

Mr Fallow doesn’t say, or he hasn’t troubled himself to discover, first, the fact that, in expressing the methane emissions from our ruminants in terms of carbon dioxide, the Ministry for the Environment inflates them by a factor of 21. This overestimates their warming influence and grossly exaggerates our communal negligence.

Including agricultural methane in the inventory, together with inflating methane’s greenhouse effect 21 times, quadruples New Zealand’s contribution to global warming.

If methane emissions were not inflated, they would approximately halve. Energy, at about double the agricultural emissions, would then take the lead, ahead of the much-reduced agricultural emissions. Industrial processes would be a close third. I don’t know how the per capita emissions would change in the international ranking.

MfE must tell the truth

This would, however, involve the MfE telling the truth and getting off their high horse about us having to save the world.

More fundamentally, do agricultural emissions actually cause warming? Well, no. Cows eat grass which took the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere just in the last few days or weeks. The cows quickly make milk and meat and put the rest back where it came from — it doesn’t cause more warming.

Public scientists know this. Why don’t they tell us?

Now, just briefly let me acquaint Mr Fallow with a puzzle that’s not spoken about in public media but which worries some thoughtful, sceptical folk because although it vitally affects some important public policy nobody’s speaking about it much in public media.

First, a graph:

Global temperature 1960-2014 showing atmospheric CO2

The CO2 in the air is hard to measure, since it’s one of the trace gases at only 398 parts per million (ppm). At just 0.000398 of the atmosphere it’s almost not there. Does it drive the climate, control the temperature, cause more and more extreme weather? Only in our bad dreams. Look at the wild fluctuations in temperature. Look at the mild, steady increase in plant food (carbon dioxide).

The puzzle? How are CO2 and global temperature connected (because it’s not obvious)? Why has temperature failed to rise, and even fallen somewhat, in the last 17 years or more? Why do some scientists talk about carbon dioxide as being a pollutant when it’s the only thing plants eat (it’s essential for photosynthesis) and many scientists say that it does not dangerously increase atmospheric temperature?

Fallow says:

Global emissions grew by an average 2.2 per cent a year during the 2000s, driven most of all by rising incomes, compared with an average of 1.3 per cent [a] year between 1970 and 2000.

ppm doesn’t mean per cent, Brian

What? In, say, 2010, the level was about 390 ppm. By the next year it had grown to about 392 ppm. But hang on, 2.2 per cent of 390 is about 8.6 ppm! He’s got the maths wrong.

I looked at the data from Mauna Loa. If I’ve done it correctly, the average increase during the 2000s was about 1.9 ppm per year (0.5%). From 1970 to 2000 it was about 1.5 ppm a year — about 0.4%.

It’s a tiny rise, which has been growing a tiny bit.

Finally, a recent analysis published at WUWT showed methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas. Dr Tom Sheahen explains that, because the absorption properties of atmospheric gases, including water vapour, overlap several wavelengths of light, the slight amounts of methane have no effect on temperature. His conclusion: “Methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas.”

These facts being already demonstrated, there is no reason to avoid emitting carbon dioxide. Unless there’s some other reason?

18 Thoughts on “Curbing Fallow’s emissions and correcting his maths

  1. What a hideous photo. Is he really that ugly?

  2. I haven’t met him but there’s not much choice. The other shows him with a sinister grin. I like it no better. Tell me what you think:

  3. Simon on April 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm said:

    Brian Fallow is correct. Annual CO2 emissions is obviously not the same thing at the total percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    The links between CO2 and global temperature are obvious to those who know what they are talking about. I skimmed through a climate textbook from 1994 the other day and the chapter on greenhouse gases was little different to what we know today and was not considered controversial. The difference was back then the lobby groups and vested interests had not yet grasped the implications and the cranks hadn’t jumped upon the bandwagon.

  4. Magoo on April 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm said:

    Maybe he worked in govt. treasury for a while or something – look what it did to Bill Birch, Ruth Richardson and Muldoon, scarred for life poor devils.

  5. Magoo on April 23, 2014 at 3:07 pm said:

    Did the 1994 climate textbook include a non-existant theoretical positive feedback from water vapour that is supposed to double/triple the tiny warming effects of CO2, or hadn’t the cranks jumped on the bandwagon yet?

  6. Richard C (NZ) on April 23, 2014 at 3:34 pm said:

    >”The links between CO2 and global temperature are obvious to those who know what they are talking about”

    Like the link between rising 21st century CO2 emissions and flatlining 21st century temperature as per graph above? That’s obvious if you know what you are talking about?

    BTW, was the IPCC’s forcing expression dF = 5.35ln(C/Co) verified in any way in the textbook? I’m alluding to the other verified CO2 forcing curves of course e.g.

  7. Simon,

    “The links between CO2 and global temperature are obvious to those who know what they are talking about.”

    I’m weary of being polite when asking for evidence of a link because on the other side discourtesy rules almost every response. There is no evidence. There is no evidence. If you think there is, then stop being disrespectful for just a moment while you tell us why you think so. Please?

  8. Simon on April 23, 2014 at 3:49 pm said:

    Of course it did Mr Magoo, which is a very apt moniker.
    Water vapour is a greenhouse gas, increased air temperature stores more water vapour. Obvious really. We can quibble over saturation levels and cloud formation but that is best left to the experts. Try reading this as a primer:

  9. Richard C (NZ) on April 23, 2014 at 3:56 pm said:

    >”Brian Fallow is correct. Annual CO2 emissions is obviously not the same thing at the total percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere”

    Yes agree. However we’ve (well, I’ve) just raked that over with Nick in previous posts. Atm CO2 ppm is rising faster than aCO2 emissions growth when ppm is converted to the same terms as emissions data (Gt) and a large proportion of annual aCO2 emissions are taken up by land and ocean over subsequent years. In the case of land, contributing to “the greening of the planet”. That’s got to be good.

  10. Yes of course it is obvious. We don’t know whether feedbacks re net positive or net negative, We don’t know whether ECS is 1.5 degrees or 4.5 degrees.
    We don’t know whether their is a “likely” figure for ECS either.
    We don’t know very much about aerosols, and hence know little about climate sensitivity

    Best leave it to the experts, who have made absolutely no progress on ECS in 35 years. (the range of estimates was the same back then)

    In that time, we have been to the moon and back, developed the personal computer etc, yet climate science is still back in the 1980s

  11. Richard C (NZ) on April 23, 2014 at 4:29 pm said:

    >”increased air temperature stores more water vapour”

    “Stores”? Have you not heard of weather and the hydrological cycle Simon? The recent rains were due to warm tropical air bringing down precipitible water with it (weather). But the atmosphere doesn’t store water whether gas or liquid beyond about an average of around 9 days (hydrological cycle):

    Unit 4: Temperature-Moisture Relationship

    But as not-so-blind Magoo alludes/states, the theoretical positive feedback from water vapour is non-existent:

    ‘NASA satellite data [NVAP] shows a decline in water vapor’

    In other words, just because warmer air CAN hold more water (liquid or gas) doesn’t necessarily mean the atmosphere MUST “store”/hold more water (as gas/vapour) if there is a rise in temperature regime – and obviously it hasn’t.

  12. I think the official line is that “most” (> 50%?) of the warming since 1950 (i.e 1976-1998) is due to anthropogenic CO2.

    Yet we don’t know the reason for the early 20th C warming and we don’t know the reason for the 17 year pause that doesn’t exist, apparently.

    Yes, it is certainly “obvious”. ??

  13. HemiMck on April 23, 2014 at 5:29 pm said:

    Good blog Richard covering a lot of our recurring themes.

    One issue that normally gets ignored is NO2. It constitutes from memory about 15% of our total emissions in their crazy world, or about 35% of our agricultural emissions. To get that number the emission measure is multiplied by 200.

    There are a couple of obvious problems – the absorption spikes lining up with other gases being one, this for a gas measured in parts per billion. Besides that NO2 is not a part of the carbon cycle.

  14. Magoo on April 23, 2014 at 5:48 pm said:

    Actually Simon I was alluding more to the following theoretical phenomena outlined by Dr. Roy Spencer here:

    ‘Most people don’t realize that the missing tropospheric “hot spot” in satellite temperature trends is potentially related to water vapor feedback. One of the most robust feedback relationships across the IPCC climate models is that those models with the strongest positive water vapor feedback have the strongest negative lapse rate feedback (which is what the “hot spot” would represent). So, the lack of this negative lapse rate feedback signature in the satellite temperature trends could be an indirect indication of little (or even negative) water vapor feedback in nature.’


    The reason I mentioned it is that I’ve just been examining what the IPCC’s AR5 report, WGI, page 197, table 2.8 has to say about the tropospheric hotspot – didn’t they predict a mid tropospheric hotspot of around 1.0C in one of their earlier reports, and wasn’t that supposed to be evidence of positive feedback from water vapour?:

    Mid tropospheric temperatures with error margins (radiosonde, satellite):

    HadAT2 (Thorne et al., 2005) 0.095 ± 0.034, 0.079 ± 0.057

    RAOBCORE 1.5 (Haimberger et al., 2012) 0.109 ± 0.029, 0.079 ± 0.054

    RICH-obs (Haimberger et al., 2012) 0.102 ± 0.029, 0.081 ± 0.052

    RICH-tau (Haimberger et al., 2012) 0.111 ± 0.030, 0.083 ± 0.052

    RATPAC (Free et al., 2005) 0.076 ± 0.028, 0.039 ± 0.051

    UAH (Christy et al., 2003) N/A, 0.043 ± 0.042

    RSS (Mears and Wentz, 2009a, 2009b) N/A, 0.079 ± 0.043

    STAR (Zou and Wang, 2011) N/A 0.123 ± 0.047


    Now I might be mistaken, but it looks like the prediction of a 1.0C tropospheric hotspot is about 90% wrong according by the temperatures in the AR5.

  15. Richard C (NZ) on April 23, 2014 at 6:28 pm said:

    >”yet climate science is still back in the 1980s”

    Ain’t that the truth. If the medical, pharmaceutical and combustion engineering fields (to name a few) adopted the same sloppiness and political bias we wouldn’t have lazer surgery (well, not successfully), cures would be worse than diseases, and the output of furnace operations would be totally unpredictable.

    I’m still waiting for the IPCC’s GHG ocean heating mechanism, apart from their 25 years of speculation. Or any GHG surface heating mechanism for that matter; experimental, empirically observed, and documented, preferably.

  16. Alexander K on April 24, 2014 at 10:50 am said:

    Another example of theoretical economists’ ability to manufacture absolute nonsense on a stick.
    Why do such people get listened to, let alone taken seriously.
    No wonder sensible people from earlier times regarded ‘higher education’ with considerable nervousness! The credulity factor seems to increase at the same pace as the rise in literacy.

  17. Speaking of economics, I see that Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman is being paid $25,000 a month to lecture the income inequality institute about……income inequality

  18. Richard C (NZ) on April 24, 2014 at 3:25 pm said:

    >”Fallow says: Global emissions grew by an average 2.2 per cent a year during the 2000s, driven most of all by rising incomes, compared with an average of 1.3 per cent [a] year between 1970 and 2000.”

    Simon >”Brian Fallow is correct. Annual CO2 emissions is obviously not the same thing at the total percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere”

    Me >”Yes agree” [with Simon]

    Me >”Atm CO2 ppm is rising faster than aCO2 emissions growth when ppm is converted to the same terms as emissions data (GtC)”

    There was extensive discussion of this in the ‘Refute the nonsense’ thread’ e.g. down about here:

    In a consideration like Fallow’s, Anthro Emissions (AE) are only relevant to atmospheric carbon rise AFTER accounting for AE take-up of the other sinks and reservoirs (ocean and land).

    Atm carbon rise 2005 to 2013:

    396.48 – 379.80 = 16.68 ppm x 2.12 = 35.36 GtC.

    35.36 GtC – Total Atm carbon rise 2005 to 2013
    2.1 GtC – Total AE carbon rise 2005 to 2013 (9.9 – 7.8)

    3.93 GtC per year – Average Atm carbon LINEAR growth 2005 to 2013
    0.23 GtC per year – Average AE carbon LINEAR growth 2005 to 2013

    Data for Global Carbon Emissions (2013) (2006 – 2012) (2005)

    Obviously if Atm carbon rise was 3.93 GtC per year on average and 2012 AE was 9.9 GtC then 5.97 GtC of AE in 2012 went somewhere else i.e. to ocean and land.

    And if Atm carbon is rising 17 times faster than AE growth then you have to look at the gross flows between all the reservoirs and sinks so see where the non-AE contribution is coming from.

    For that see Hemi Mck’s updated ‘C Flow and Balance sheets for world carbon, 2000 – 2010′

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