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Fox Commentator Distorts Physics

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Fox's wrong physics

This is not a climate science blog, nor is it a political or media critique blog. But it does cover physics, so I’d like to get some physics facts straight.

On the August 6 edition of Fox and Friends Saturday, the hosts interviewed Joe Bastardi—whom they introduced as “chief meteorologist at WeatherBell”—on global warming.

Before introducing Bastardi the hosts said that the global warming debate was heating up “after a new NASA study seems to debunk whether it’s actually manmade.” No further details were provided. Instead, as evidence the hosts provided the results of a poll. But presumably the Fox presenters were referring to a study that has created a lot of controversy and media hype.

The most jarring part however came later, when Bastardi commented that he didn’t believe CO2 emissions could ever affect the climate. Unfortunately, Bastardi’s argument was based on what seemed to be poor understanding of basic physics, including thermodynamics and atmospheric physics.

“If you look at carbon dioxide, it increases by 1.5 parts per million a year,” Bastardi said. “We contribute 3 percent of that.”

According to the International Energy Agency, global CO2 emissions have reached a record of 30.6 billion tons during the year 2010.

Many natural sinks and sources also contribute to the global carbon cycle. The oceans absorb more CO2 than they release, and so do vegetation and the soil, while natural sources such as volcanoes contribute smaller amounts. In other words, natural sources and sinks, if anything, would reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore, if there is any increase in CO2 concentrations, it is entirely due to emissions caused by humans.

To make matters worse, Bastardi claimed that the idea of manmade global warming is incompatible with the laws of physics.

“[Saying that CO2 could affect the climate] contradicts what we call the first law of thermodynamics: energy can never be created nor destroyed,” Bastardi said. “So, to look for an input of energy into the atmosphere you have to come from a foreign source.” His prepared remarks were accompanied by screens that seemed to display an intent from the TV show to be pedagogical.

The first law of thermodynamics does indeed guarantee conservation of energy. And the CO2 injected into the atmosphere does not carry energy with it—or rather, it does, because matter always carries energy, but not in a way that would raise temperatures significantly, if at all. But no one has ever claimed that CO2 would raise temperature by itself. Putting it this way is a grotesque distortion of what climatologists say.

What climate science says is not that CO2 carries energy into the atmosphere or somehow magically generates it out of nowhere. Instead, it says that CO2 and other gases acts as a blanket, keeping heat from escaping into space. This, as Bastardi should know, is called the greenhouse effect.

The Earth radiates into space roughly the same amount of energy that it receives from the sun. But much of what it radiates is in the infrared spectrum, whereas most of the sun’s energy reaches us in the visible spectrum.

The greenhouse effect results from the fact that CO2 (and other greenhouse gases, chiefly water vapor) is more opaque to infrared radiation than it is to visible light. So it lets the sun’s rays in, but it won’t allow the Earth to cool down too much.

Bastardi proceeded to say that what global warming there is “is already out there, carbon dioxide being a part of it,” a statement that seems devoid of any meaning, and that “you can trace it to the sunspot cycles and you can trace it to the movement of the oceans.”

But if global warming was caused by sunspots, why would it be happening now, when the sun is has been in an unusually long period of low activity?

According to Washington Post blog Capital Weather Gang, WeatherBell, the company that employs Bastardi, is “funded entirely by angel investors.”

Update August 16: Bad Astronomy points out that Bastardi apparently has a long history of misunderstanding and misrepresenting science.

[Note added August 12: I recommend reading John Rennie's "Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense"; I will not respond to comments that are already addressed therein.]

David Biello contributed some reporting for this story; many thanks to Robin Lloyd for pointing me to the Media Matters story.



About the Author: Davide Castelvecchi is a freelance science writer based in Rome and a contributing editor for Scientific American magazine. Follow on Twitter @dcastelvecchi.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Comments 54 Comments

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  1. 1. Mythusmage 7:47 pm 08/11/2011

    As with creationists, global warming denialists have a bad habit of neglecting ole Sol

    Link to this
  2. 2. dubay.denis 8:35 pm 08/11/2011

    You have to go to the link at the top of the story and watch the actual interview to believe how idiotic this guy really is. They, whoever pays Bastardi to say that stuff, really must believe most of America (or at least the part that watches Fox) is amazingly ignorant about the science of energy and the atmosphere. He and the hosts blathered sweet nothings into the mike while trying to disparage climate scientists with every possible media tool they could muster. It is simple character assassination and about as dishonest as you can get.

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  3. 3. Joseph2009 9:19 pm 08/11/2011

    We shouldn’t be surprised. Almost everything that FOX telecasts is distorted. FOX makes the half-wits who support the so-called tea party and its Congressional lackeys happy. Most of those people wouldn’t know how to read the table of contents of an issue of Scientific American.

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  4. 4. DrJehr1 11:42 pm 08/11/2011

    I am surprised that people at FOX are literate enough to have even heard of the laws of thermodynamics. No surprise that they don’t understand them over there.

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  5. 5. Leadfoot530 12:16 am 08/12/2011

    Fox distorts logic all the time, why not physics?

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  6. 6. RussellHJoyce 12:59 am 08/12/2011

    Tabloid journalism generates hype to generate money. Over-all a negative impact on society.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Beachbum 1:29 am 08/12/2011

    Denial of the evidence is a fundamental characteristic of those with a right-wing inclination. This trait is what makes Murdoch & Ailes’ propaganda network so dangerously successful. Evidence means nothing to those who value feeling good over being informed, even honest.

    If we are to awaken the standard Fox viewer we will need to appeal to their emotions, honestly. First, the facts are useless, obviously. We need to stress how likely it would be for a corporation with their profit motive to be honest about a topic that would directly effect their profit margin. Secondly, what is the motivation for an environmentalist to fabricate false information? They will make the same amount of money with good news or bad. Environmental science is conducted regardless of the results; that is, there is little profit motive from the scientific stance. There is a large motivation in the knowledge that our descendants will be the victims of our negligence. So far, this is the only way I have found to get around the right-wing’s denial of evidence.

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  8. 8. Desert Navy 4:29 am 08/12/2011

    I’m conservative and I think global warming is one of the greatest threats that mankind has ever faced.

    If you liberals would stop working so hard to place the blame for climate change and being deliberately provocative, the far right loonies would lose their voice and effort could be placed on working the solution.

    The above blog post was **almost** what it pretended to be, not “…a political or media critique blog.”

    It failed by using the headline “Fox Commentator Distorts Physics.” The first time I saw Bastardi was on CNN.

    Science needs to build bridges to understanding, not chasms to divide us.

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  9. 9. PTripp 4:47 am 08/12/2011

    Please, where is this stellar calm? We just had one of the largest solar flares ever recorded yesterday and 3 other major ones in the last two weeks. The normal sunspot activity is supposed to peak in 2013. Look at other recent SA articles from the last week if you don’t believe me.

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  10. 10. abocin 6:37 am 08/12/2011

    We live in a world that relies on arguments most of the times. Therefore we have to appreciate the effort of weaker minds but retaliate with equilibrium and objectivity. I would recommend Sir Paul Nurse’s “Science under attack” for a better understanding. I just read that CH4 (other greenhouse gas) concentration in atmosphere started to drop down. Mostly because of anthropological causes. Same causes that induced the rise in percentage in the first place during the industrialisation. Accepting the greenhouse policies took big industrialised countries decades and therefore scepticism is still contemporary. How we fight this scepticism with facts is fundamental. It’s the same with hunger (see Somalia now). You can brand it, sell it, empathise it but it’s not going away unless you are committed to action and not to sterile principles. We should all have a rational mutiny and unclothe the daily life of unnecessary arguments and act. Natura non facit saltus.

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  11. 11. JustDan 7:14 am 08/12/2011

    I really like the general tone of Desert Navy, and abocin. Patient teaching, and verifiable facts won’t stop the noise, but at least it’s a way to get a message to the majority. It’s also a whole lot better than the ‘Warner brothers cartoon types’ at both ends that are pushing agendas for gain. We need to address the issue, or the issue will address us. At the same time if someone is selling a magic ‘Greenhouse gas eliminatiorizinator’ and preaching the perils of carbon, there is probably personal gain as a motivator, and they are just as bad.
    Unfortunately the second law of Thermodynamics seems to rule, and (pardon the extrapolation) therefore I expect more disorganized commentators.

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  12. 12. JamesDavis 7:25 am 08/12/2011

    How is Bastardi pronounced? …(Bastard-i or i the Bastard) or am I the only bastard who notice how Fox News spell their words? Like the boys say on South Park, “Em’bastardi’s, they killed Kenny!”

    Fox News should be tried and convicted for crimes against nature and humanity. I wonder if Fox News also believe that CO1 (carbon monoxide), a very toxic gas; the byproduct that comes from tailpipes, oil burning plants, coal burning plants, and natural gas burning plants are not man made and does not cause global warming? …it’s all made up by Al Gore!

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  13. 13. John.Kehr 7:26 am 08/12/2011

    I would like to point out that Bastardi is correct in his statement about human contribution to total CO2 emissions. While you point out the mass total of human emission, you neglect to state the estimated total of natural CO2 emissions. Here are the main sources for natural CO2 emissions.

    Ocean: 16x mankinds
    Bacteria in Soil: 10x mankind
    Plant decomposition: 10x mankind

    Any search of the carbon cycle will show that regardless of how you state the number, mankind is not the dominant source of CO2. While the 30 billion tons is a lot of carbon, it does remain a small percentage of the total amount of CO2 that is emitted naturally. What this does to the dynamic of carbon is a separate debate, but percentage wise his statement is approximately correct.

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  14. 14. DrCiro 8:04 am 08/12/2011

    It’s great how FOX can chose to deliberately lead US citizens into believe things that are just plain false, under some sort of scientific pretense. Why let facts get in the way of a great arguement.
    Bastardi is plural of bastard in Italian. Is he Italian?
    Thanks for helping out with making america great by injecting bs into the minds of those that obviously can’t think to begin with, or they wouldn’t be getting information from the FOX network.
    Freedom of speech? Or right to just plain lie?
    This folks, is one of the reasons that we are in the mess we are in, all around. When all you need to have someone believe you, is to have it said on television.
    Stop drinking the Kool-aid @ Fox news, and go study something before claiming to know what you are talking about. The FCC should impose fines for un-educating the public.

    We could pay off the national debt in a week with the BS they broadcast.

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  15. 15. promytius 8:07 am 08/12/2011

    Bastardi, de wedda angel am gonna bang on your serious nah, en man, yew gonna be dirti aftah.
    Is there a rational person alive who even watches Fantasy News on Fox Entertainment? The word “news” has been officially redefined, and I believe I can quote the head of FOX, as “Anything we friggin’ want to scream about.”
    No need to debunk bunk; Fox isa fill-ed weeth a bastardis.

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  16. 16. @dcastelvecchi 8:37 am 08/12/2011

    Thanks everyone for commenting.


    The reason why I titled this post “Fox commentator distorts physics” is that he wasn’t simply interviewed; the whole segment was set up as a “pedagogical” lesson in which the hosts basically said, “Joe Bastardi, here’s the point we want to make, say something to help us make it.” I could have just as well titled it “Fox Distorts Physics.”


    Whichever way I tried to interpret what Bastardi was saying in his 3 percent claim — and believe me, I’ve tried — I just couldn’t make sense out of it, in part because it was so incoherent. And I am afraid to say, you are missing the point. Yes, natural sources put more CO2 into the atmosphere than humans do (though nowhere close to 30 times more), but natural sources also TAKE OUT CO2 from the atmosphere, and at an even faster rate. Before we started burning fossil fuels, the CO2 was roughly constant. But this is an argument that has been made a million times, and much more eloquently than I ever could make it: see the link I added at the bottom of the story.

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  17. 17. bwiley1 9:10 am 08/12/2011

    Just a little fun thermodynamics reminder for the conversation. Referencing where you say the earth radiates in the infrared spectrum, whereas it receives in the visible light spectrum; that’s the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in action, right? When energy is transferred, some is converted to heat loss. Useable energy becomes unusable energy through heat loss. Same application of the 2nd law as us eating food and generating body heat, only the heat doesn’t get lost if you wrap the body in a blanket – everyone recognizes that. As you point out, the carbon is just a blanket – only now we’re wearing it in the summer time. Bastardy blew a bunch of b.s.

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  18. 18. frgough 10:00 am 08/12/2011

    The blog author is guilty of more distortion of science than the Fox commentator.

    1. He uses 30 billion tons instead of ppm, because 30 billion is scarier. In other words, he’s going for an emotional argument.

    2. He implies failure to reference the specifics of the NASA citation means the commentator made it up, when the blog author knows full well, the commentator is referencing NASA satellite data that completely contradicts all current global warming climate models. In true science, when your observations contradict your models, you junk the models.

    3. He accuses the commentator of misunderstanding physics, then goes on to ignore physics himself when he states CO2 prevents heat from escaping. It does no such thing. It DELAYS heat transfer from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere, where it is then radiated into space.

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  19. 19. dubay.denis 10:31 am 08/12/2011

    Desert Navy, your statement below…
    “If you liberals would stop working so hard to place the blame for climate change and being deliberately provocative, the far right loonies would lose their voice and effort could be placed on working the solution.”
    I agree that dispassionate facts must be presented over and over, perhaps with the logic Beachbum described.
    However, we ALL share the BLAME for producing climate change as we all enjoy driving cars, flying in airplanes, running air conditioners in summer, cooking food, and heating homes in winter. I am guilty, but at least I recognize and allow for facts to influence my judgements. What the Fox News commentators and Joe Bastardi did in the “interview” is deliberately mislead and distort in order to satisfy an audience and make money under the guise of informing the public about something important. That is simply inexcusable and if they are not punished for it in some way, they will simply continue to do it, and as the fascists discovered, if you tell a lie often enough, eventually people come to believe it. That’s why so many Americans may believe climate scientists lie, money-hungry jerks like Limbaugh and Beck keep spouting innuendo suggesting it, evidence to the contrary be damned.

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  20. 20. John.Kehr 11:03 am 08/12/2011

    As a chemical engineer with many years of experience I accurately prove that the idea of steady state equilirium for CO2 is false.

    The Earth has a dynamic level. At each time of the year there are distinctly different effects in play. Each year the top 50m of oceans go through a warming and cooling cycle. That cycle absorbs and releases far more CO2 than mankind by an order of magnitude.

    Honest scientific discussion should be the standard. I do not agree with much of what Bastardi siad, but your article is equally full of unsupported and intentionally misleading statements. You assert natural sources are not a certain value higher, but fail to support those assertions. As a result your article is equally as uninformative as Bastardi’s statements on Fox were. Every paper I have seen estimates natural carbon sources in the hundreds of gigaton range. Since CO2 turns over completely in the atmosphere every 2-8 years and there are 2,000 gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere there are clearly large natural fluxes involved.

    Until both sides of the debate will stop using talking points there will not be an honest scientific discussion and engineers like myself will be left shaking their heads at silliness on both sides.

    Link to this
  21. 21. jamesonJones22 11:04 am 08/12/2011

    Dear Author and Commenters,

    Does anyone have a link where i can find data on global temperatures at dawn? The author’s suggestion that CO2 prevents heat from radiating away from earth to outerspace suggests that the planet would also be experiencing record morning temperature and that the daily Delta_T of temperature rise is the same as historical data.
    I find the author’s arguments on effects of CO2 on preventing or greatly reducing heat radiation to space to be initially incorrect, but i would love to do some personal research on the subject.

    Link to this
  22. 22. ChesteraCorgi 11:22 am 08/12/2011

    The argument:

    “Many natural sinks and sources also contribute to the global carbon cycle. The oceans absorb more CO2 than they release, and so do vegetation and the soil, while natural sources such as volcanoes contribute smaller amounts. In other words, natural sources and sinks, if anything, would reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Therefore, if there is any increase in CO2 concentrations, it is entirely due to emissions caused by humans.”

    is logically fallacious.

    One cannot conclude from the fact that there are natural CO2 sinks that increases in CO2 is entirely due to emissions caused by humans. Indeed, that there are natural CO2 sinks has no logical to link to the source of CO2 emissions.

    The reason that skepticism is spreading is that each and every “scientific,” study that has provided the raw source data has adjustments for inconvenient fluctuations. The hockey stick model is derived from fallacious premises and insufficient observation. Add to this the documented University of East Anglia e-mail conspiracy to spike skepticism, and the self interest of global warming advocates to gain or continue government grants and you may begin to understand the rational basis for skepticism.

    The problem with warmism is that is does not allow the for independent verifiability. If the warmists have anything more than cooked data and faulty computer models it is upon them to demonstrate their evidence. The burden is not on the skeptics to prove that there is no existance of warming (or cliamte change), but on the proponents to submit their theories and models to indenpendent verification. Only then can a reasoned debate on climate change take place.

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  23. 23. sanhuntorg 1:33 pm 08/12/2011

    The good news is, the right people are going to win this argument. The bad news, it might take a while. But ultimately, the physical laws of the universe have a way of trumping man-made laws, so in the fullness of time, everyone will know the truth.

    But all sides ought to be able to agree that since fossil fuel is finite, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to invest some R&D in alternatives — just to smooth the transition — except perhaps those who happen to be cynically invested in the future of the states that sit on the bulk of the rest of the oil, or own a coal field.

    There is so much to gain by moving to domestic sources of energy – why doesn’t that command more bipartisan support? That would still leave open the question of artic oil / tar sands / domestic coal / bio-fuels / nuclear vs. true renewables like bulk-solar, wind, hydro and energy efficiency, but lets win the first round first.

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  24. 24. a31pthink 5:25 pm 08/12/2011

    WOW! All it takes is a bachelor of science in meteorology to become an expert on climate! FREAKIN’ AWESOME!! Here I’ve been toiling away in a field that requires a MINIMUM of a Phd. and that’s just to get started! Then I have to get papers published in peer-reviewed journals, and give talks, and then after a really long time I might be considered an expert! WHAT A DUMB-ASS I’VE BEEN!! I COULD HAVE BEEN MAKING COIN WITH JUST A LIL OLE BS (GET IT) IN METEOROLOGY!! SIGN ME UP!! PENN STATE HERE I COME BABY!! GET ME THAT PAPER READY!! I’M GOING BASTARDI YOU BASTARDS!! THANK MY LUCKY STARS I READ THIS! AND I WAS GONNA DO A PHD IN THEORETICAL PHYSICS! HAHAHA! HOW DUMB COULD I BE?? SIGH – THANK YOU SCIAM FOR PUTTING ME STRAIGHT!!!

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  25. 25. Hel-n-highwater 5:58 pm 08/12/2011

    Who owns FOX? Answer is: Murdock as in the dude under investigation for hacking dead children’s phone records as well as other stuff that is highly unethical and a wealthy Saudi oil sheik who uses fair and balanced to misinform the majority of the useful idiots who love Palin who can see Russia from her backyard.

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  26. 26. openeyes999 6:10 pm 08/12/2011

    Fox News and global warming deniers distorting the truth? :-0 I can’t believe it! Next you’ll be saying water is wet.

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  27. 27. jmacuk 8:45 pm 08/12/2011

    dear moderator, comment #18. samonwatson2011 9:54 am 08/12/2011 is spam. Please delete.

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  28. 28. elderlybloke 8:52 pm 08/12/2011

    I admit to watching Fox news channel.
    Whenever I want to see what millions of Americans watch and believe.

    I find it amusing and entertaining even if distorted.

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  29. 29. voyager 11:11 pm 08/12/2011

    In practical terms, Sam Hunt’s response shows the way. Myself, I come down on the side of doubters, mainly because of the way the believers behave within their profession. But we have to act as if they have the science right, because anything that moves us faster toward development of alternative and renewable or at least longer-term energy resources will lessen the chances of war.

    Without those alternatives in-being, it is inevitable that countries will turn on even their allies to secure what is seen as a life-or-death national interest. And we have great resources for war.

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  30. 30. nonplused 12:27 am 08/13/2011

    I thought the planet has been cooling since 2000? And isn’t it called “Climate Change” now?

    It makes sense to me that even if CO2 is a “greenhouse gas”, an increase of just 60 parts per 1,000,000 over the course of the industrial age probably isn’t enough to boil the oceans, turn the plains to deserts, melt the glaciers, rid the arctic of all ice, and de-calcify all marine life. Especially since the amount of CO2 in the air has been much higher at times in the past.

    Remember the early days of the earth’s atmosphere? Me neither, but if I remember my high school geology, the early earth had no oxygen and much C02. It was life that converted the CO2 to carbon based organic material and free oxygen. It continues to do so. It always will. In fact, it is so efficient that it probably brings the earth’s atmosphere as close to the starvation point for plants as it can. (I believe that is around 270 or 280 ppm, compared to the 320 ppm at the bottom of Al’s chart and the 380 ppm at the top.)

    I used to subscribe to SA. The old science based articles I found very enlightening. My 2 favourites were one on peak-cheap-oil and one on using Darwinian style evolution to design circuits using a computer simulation program, but I enjoyed many, many others. Over time, the editorial slant went away from science to global warming propaganda. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind an article discussing the science behind the atmosphere or even articles proposing how global warming might be caused by 60 ppm of additional CO2, but now we can’t even have an article about tree frogs without a line indicating how the frogs will suffer and MY DOG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! It was nauseating, but I put up with it. Now we have articles discussing whether hypothetical robots would need to have morals, and which humanities department thinks it has the best set of morals to be programmed in. Yuck. I let the subscription expire.

    Now could we get someone to do some honest analysis of what the heck is going on at Fukushima? Probably not SA though, the scientist long ago checked out, and left a bunch of propagandists and moral philosophers who want to tell me what to think and feel, without the messy business of resorting to experiment or observation.

    It isn’t just SA. I’ve recently let my National Geographic subscription expire as well, and just the other day I watched a Magic School Bus episode with my 5 year old son where they managed to explain the entire photosynthesis process without mentioning CO2 once, substituting “air”. But plants don’t absorb “air”, they absorb “CO2”. They emit “Oxygen”. But the way the media is hyperblovationg you would thing CO2 was a poison. Remove all the CO2 from the air and all land based life on the planet will be gone in just a few months. Remove all the CO2 from the ocean and it would not be far behind.

    The globe may be warming, but 60 ppm of CO2 can’t be the only cause. It ain’t that “greenhouse-y”. And real greenhouses where they artificially increase the level of CO2 (because it makes the food grow faster) aren’t any hotter than greenhouses with no CO2 additions, although I realize that doesn’t prove anything other than that the CO2 absorption is miniscule compared to the pain of glass.

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  31. 31. da bahstid 12:35 am 08/13/2011

    PTripp: We ARE in a sense approaching a solar maximum. In the same sense we are also leaving the deepest solar minimum in several decades (possibly a century or more) which happened in 2009. You can easily google this one, it shows up on NASA and several other reputable sites. But this is not what the blogger is refering to; he’s talking about the last few DECADES where each successive solar cycle has been trending slightly downward on average.

    John Kehr: I’m sorry, but I have to question if you’re really a chemical engineer. Anyone with even first year general chemistry had BETTER be aware that any system must have equal flow in both directions otherwise the equilibrium shifts. This is so basic and fundamentally important to the study I don’t see how anyone should be allowed to finish any chemistry-related degree without understanding this concept.

    The planet has seen lots of atmospheric changes in astronomical terms, but on the scale of human history we’ve existed in a consistent local equilibrium of 260-270ppm CO2. That equilibrium had been maintained because flow in both directions is roughly equal i.e.- forests intake the same as they output when averaged across each year. Ditto oceans, and whatever other system you want to talk about. Until recent human history, net exchange was roughly zero, so the partial pressure of CO2 has fluctuated little.

    You’re trying to claim that because natural CO2 exchanges are larger in scale than that of humans, that human output cannot possibly have an effect. This is nonsense.

    Simple analogy: if you add red-colored dye to a red-tinted solution, it doesn’t matter that the added dye may only be 5% what’s already in there, you will still be able to measure the solution becoming more red. Adding a cycle where additional red is circulated in and out doesn’t change the equilibrium shift if we’re still increasing the net amount of red dye in the system by the same amount. The ONLY way to keep the system from becoming more red is to ADD a mechanism that removes red dye at a counterbalancing rate. I shouldn’t have to explain things in such simplified terms if you have the background you claim to have. For that matter, I shouldn’t even have to mention it in the first place, because is it so intuitively obvious to anyone with a proper science background.

    Human activity produces drastically more CO2 than it consumes. There is no natural “instant sponge” that conveniently serves to soak it all up for us, especially with mass deforestation and pollution disrupting ocean life. There is no counterbalance, so the equilibrium shifts. Ergo why our atmospheric CO2 has been measured to have increased by ~100ppm. Additionally damning is that the pH of oceans has simultaneously been going down (ie- becoming more acidic, demonstrating CO2 absorption from the atmosphere), further substantiating that the observed global warming has been anthropogenically driven as accepted by climate science. The sun has been dimmer, cosmic rays aren’t doing anything special…and 2010 STILL tied 2005 as hottest year on record…it all points in the same direction.

    You have an alternative hypothesis that is viable on any level whatsoever? The “skeptics” kind of need one at this point and will pay you BIG money to come up with something. Anti-climate campaigns funded by Exxon et al have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to fabricate something plausible to no avail. It just isn’t going to happen.

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  32. 32. Aqualung 12:39 am 08/13/2011

    Hi SA readers,

    Contrary to claims made by some here, Davide Castelvecchi has gotten his post pretty much correct. I think some of the confusion has arisen because he has tried to simplify some of the concepts in order to make the science accessible to a wider audience. Davide is certainly not guilty of the blatant distortion and misguided ideas about the science that Joe Bastardi is guilty of, so let us not argue for the sake of arguing or for the sake of trying to detract from Mr. Bastardi’s (and by extension Fox’s) litany of egregious errors.

    The oceans emit about 332 Gt of carbon each year and absorb about 338 Gt, so they are a net sink of carbon. But what is important here is that we are disrupting the carbon cycle by adding ever increasing amounts, currently about 30.5 Gt per annum to the atmosphere, and about 43% of that remains in the atmosphere, leading to a current annual increase of 2 ppmv. Since the onset of the industrial revolution we humans have increased atmospheric CO2 levels by about 40%, and atmospheric CO2 levels are now at their highest in at least 800 000 years. We are adding CO2 to the atmosphere significantly faster than occurred during the PETM folks.

    More easily accessible information can be sourced from a fantastic science site called SkepticalScience, specifically:

    Davide would you consider adding SkS to your list of sources?

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  33. 33. Aqualung 1:08 am 08/13/2011

    Hi nonplused,

    I’m afraid that your post contains several incorrect statements, in fact myths that have been circulating widely on the internet for years now, myths that have been refuted time and again.

    Given the noise (inter-annual and inter-decadal variability) in the global temperature record, looking at short term trend (<20 years or so) is statistically meaningless– the temperature will not increase monotonically. Sadly, 'skeptics' of anthropogenic global warming frequently cherry-pick short-windows of time to claim that the warming has stopped or reversed– such short-term trends are however, meaningless. That is why statisticians and scientists look at the trend derived for periods of time long enough to extract statistically significant trends. The earth has continued to warm despite several short windows of time when the warming slowed or even reversed– yet the long term trend is up.

    On our current path we will double CO2 levels (near 560 ppmv), and possibly even triple or quadruple them. If we double CO2 that is an increase of 280 ppmv over preindustrial levels, and to date we have increased concentrations by about 110 ppmv, not 60 as you suggest. And we are increasing other GHGs too, like nitrous oxide, methane etc..

    And as I mentioned earlier we are adding CO2 significantly faster than during the PETM. That should concern you as to the mess what we are leaving behind for future generations.

    Please do not be so alarmist, nobody is suggesting that "we are all going to die" and waiting till it possibly came to that would be a pretty stupid reason to use before considering taking action. Surely we humans are not that myopic…

    You are right about one thing though– the "greenhouse effect" is a misnomer, but scientists have of course know that for a long time, unfortunately the term has remained in use.

    More about the important role of CO2 can be found in this article which discusses a recent papers by Lacis et al. (2010) and Schmidt et al. (2010),

    Link to this
  34. 34. da bahstid 2:49 am 08/13/2011

    Adding to aqualung here, for crying out loud everyone knows winter in 2009 was colder than summer 2001. The globe is still warming.

    May as well also specify, early Earth is fine with higher CO2 levels. Besides the fact that the real issue is the RAPIDITY of temperature change that current life is not inherently adapted to, the sun was also quite a bit dimmer back then, consistent with the natural course of all stars that brighten slowly as they age. This of course culminates in our sun’s eventual evolution into a red giant…but that’s billions of years away. Point is, more greenhouse in the past was a convenient counterbalance against less solar energy. Life has had the fortune of riding a convenient balance here, without which life may have only had tens or hundreds of millions of years of opportunity to develop as opposed to the billions we have been blessed with. But that’s more speculative at this point in the conversation.

    Point is political media only focuses on the side it wants you to hear, all the while people really are all too unappreciative of just how narrow the line life precariously dances upon…

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  35. 35. Aqualung 12:36 pm 08/13/2011

    And which pseudo science site (and political) blog is now peddling Bastardi’s nonsense? Hint, it is run by Anthony Watts.

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  36. 36. fnori 3:58 pm 08/13/2011

    Excellent blog. As it has been pointed out above: “Fox distorts logic all the time, why not physics?”; and “Tabloid journalism generates hype to generate money. Overall a negative impact on society.”

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  37. 37. doug_pdq 4:00 pm 08/13/2011

    What is the best thinking on why the last ice age ended as it did with so much ice left? And what caused the current interglacial warm spell?
    That was only 12-15K years ago. Not enough time for the sun to brighten or other orbital effects.

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  38. 38. mhenriday 7:31 am 08/14/2011

    Still more telling than Mr Castelvecchi’s article was the so-called «interview» to which he provided a link. Those who wonder why the pre-eminent postion enjoyed by the United States after WW II, when the country bestrode the globe like a collossus, might want to note, in addition to the natural cycle in which those countries which had been devastated by the war recovered from its effects, the deliberate dumbing down of the inhabitants of the US, of which programmes like «Fox and friends Saturday» constitute an important part. A parallel, perhaps, to the distortions in the natural carbon-dioxide cycle caused by the anthropogenic release of huge quantities of the gas….


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  39. 39. da bahstid 8:11 am 08/14/2011

    Doug has a good section for layperson reading describing the formulation and empirical evidence behind current theory regarding Earth’s oscillations to and from ice ages. Earth’s orbital variations do occur in the time scale of tens of thousands of years and are presently thought of as historically playing the role of triggering ice ages and warm periods.

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  40. 40. doug_pdq 10:34 pm 08/14/2011

    @da bahstid
    Thanks for the link. They seem to have a nice library. The article on historical development of the ice age thinking and its link to global warming was interesting. The writing level is sort of Dick and Jane but it had the numbers too. About my speed. At the rate new instrumentation is being developed there is no telling what will be quantifiable next. And it seemed to me you were a bit hard on John.Kehr. I believe he is a Chem. E. as I have worked with many good ones. I believe he was suggesting that there were so many perturbations of the earth, all the time, that it wasn’t possible to ever achieve real equilibrium. There wouldn’t be time between changes. A lot of the climate change effects on the earth, and particularly life, would also lead to irreversible changes. I’ve been a fan of Ilya Pregogine since the 80s so I like to think of systems like this as being self organizing and non-equilibrium. I expect to enjoy that aip site, thanks again. Doug

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  41. 41. R.Blakely 1:40 am 08/15/2011

    “Scientific American editor distorts physics” should be the title of this article. Davide states in the article that “the greenhouse effect results from the fact that CO2 (and other greenhouse gases, chiefly water vapor) is more opaque to infrared radiation than it is to visible light. So it lets the sun’s rays in, but it won’t allow the Earth to cool down too much.”
    But the only important photons that CO2 blocks are 15-micron photons. CO2 is transparent at other wavelengths. More CO2 cannot block more photons because they are already blocked totally by CO2. In fact, CO2 increases in the atmosphere cannot cause more global warming. Davide’s distortion of physics is worse than Joe’s distortion.

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  42. 42. da bahstid 9:28 am 08/15/2011


    On the one hand I don’t want to be randomly excessively hard on people. On the other people make lots of claims online, many more than get properly called out in fact. The concept I’m seeing missed here is learned so early in any chemistry related degree…and for that matter biology, physics, assorted engineering and material science disciplines…that not only should you know it early in your education, but by the time you finish it should be so obviously intuitive it is reflexively evaluated in your thought process in any given situation. I’ll leave it at that so as not to belabor the point.


    Putting more “insulator” in the way of heat dissipation will always slow the rate of dissipation. There is no saturation point where increased greenhouse gases magically ceases to cause more greenhouse effect.

    An great example of this is Venus as compared to Mercury. Venus is much farther from the Sun than Mercury, and IF greenhouse effect was the hoax some people wish it was, Venus should be much colder. However, Venus has an incredibly heavy atmosphere with significantly more greenhouse gases than Earth, while Mercury has essentially none. As a result, Venus actually has a drastically hotter average surface temperature despite getting something like 1/4 the sunlight. The magnitude of greenhouse effect on Venus dwarfs that of Earth, and proves in very simple-to-see terms that increased greenhouse gas on Earth WILL result in a magnified effect.

    Davide has distorted nothing. Joe on the other hand has demonstrated at a minimum that he flat out has no concept of how anything works on the topic. The sheer stupidity of the guy’s assertion in the eyes of anyone with a proper science background is hilarious.

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  43. 43. macuser 7:00 am 08/16/2011

    For a much more thorough discussion of Joe Bastardi’s piece, see here:

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  44. 44. da bahstid 10:09 am 08/17/2011

    That’s just him talking all the arguments that just got completely dismantled. What’s the point?

    Any other junk science he covers is probably already refuted on,, or any other number of sites run by actual PhD climate scientists as opposed to political bloggers.

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  45. 45. Postman1 1:28 pm 08/17/2011

    nonplused – Yes, I let my subscriptions go too and for the same reasons. Sometimes it is funny to read the ‘amen’ section comments, but certainly not anything I would pay for. The church of global warming members’ faith will not be shaken, not even if they were watching glaciers advance on NYC. (An exaggeration I know, but based on fact, unlike some of their arguments)

    PTripp – The solar flares we have seen recently are not anything unusual and not an indicator of total ‘solar activity’. See:
    Activity remains at low levels and is predicted to stay low.

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  46. 46. R.Blakely 2:16 am 08/18/2011

    “Scientific American editor distorts physics” should be the title of this article. Davide states in the article that climate science “says that CO2 and other gases acts as a blanket, keeping heat from escaping into space.” In fact, CO2 is transparent to most photons except 15-micron photons, which are totally blocked by CO2. This means that more CO2 cannot block more photons. This means more CO2 cannot affect climate. Davide, distorting physics is not a way to “get physics facts straight”.

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  47. 47. CptSnark 5:43 pm 08/18/2011

    in the end there are four general scenarios that can come to pass.
    Either manmade global climate change is real or it is not. And we either make changes in our behavior or we don’t. That gives us A) Nothing is happening and we do nothing; happy ending. B) Nothing is happening and we do do something, at worst the artifice known as the economy slows and our great grand children have oil to burn; happy ending. C) Something IS happening and we do nothing, oceans rise mass starvation economic collapse; bad ending. D) Something is happening and we do something to fix it. climate stabilizes and the economy reaches a new balance; happy ending.

    If it is true that we can not know if climate change is happening, smart money says do something anyway, as that way you WILL have a happy ending.

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  48. 48. arete10 9:04 pm 08/18/2011

    There is a key point that is rarely made against those too biased to accept the human responsibility for global warming. When they say that some of the increase in greenhouse gases is from nature, then it should be pointed out that this makes it even MORE imperative that we humans cut down on our share as much as possible.
    The biggest problem is not just human stupidity, but that those corporations who would lose profits in a truly sustainable world are doing all that they can to mislead the rest of us.
    The bottom line is greed.
    We need a truly ecological (and democratic!) economic system.

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  49. 49. PureKnowledge2 7:31 am 08/19/2011

    I really enjoy the ignorance of most of the posters on this site.

    There is no scientist, astrophysicist, or any other discipline that can make absolute pronouncements on facts based on publish or perish global warming scientists.

    My area is quantum entanglement whereby all arguments are nothing more than finite senses theory about something so complex as reality. Man-made global weather change has models, hypothesis, theories and pure gobbly-gook.

    Existence is not understood by anyone and the absolute is change. Organisms (mankind) can no more change global weather than a cell can understand infinity.

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  50. 50. da bahstid 12:54 pm 08/19/2011

    R.Blakely did you just not read what I discussed about Venus having drastically more greenhouse effect than Earth on account of it’s incredibly dense atmosphere (which is primarily CO2), or are you being paid to be here to propagate an image of deception in science?

    The argument you’re making has served as a good distraction gimmick for the purposes of big oil but it should be pretty obvious after hearing things explained the right way and seeing more extreme examples in our solar system how things actually work.

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  51. 51. da bahstid 1:13 pm 08/19/2011

    Pure knowledge I have really enjoyed reading your ignorance.

    People have been altering their environment since the dawn of human history. It’s a defining feature of our species.

    I suppose in your world (which I suspect knows nothing of quantum entanglement) it must also be impossible for a species to drive another species to extinction, to completely alter half the non-desert land on the world, to deplete several natural resources or to pollute the skies with asthma-inducing smog. But in the REAL world all these things have come to pass and it probably has something to do with the fact that there are almost 7 billion of us now and we tend to consume a lot, while Earth is finite.

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  52. 52. nmleon 1:55 pm 08/19/2011

    If the IPCC hadn’t so often stated that their goals included the transfer of wealth from the developed to the third world, if Al Gore, Obama, hadn’t attempted to make billions of dollars with their “Chicago Climate Exchange”, if the greens weren’t so often using global warming to push their anti human agenda, if past urgent alarms raised by the scientific community (global cooling, population explosion/mass starvation, etc, etc,), then AGW might be more widely accepted. Add into the mix that there are many scientists who are skeptical of the AGW crowd’s conclusions ( ), and AGW skepticism becomes very rational.

    Even as many here discount anything carried by FNC, many others discount any message delivered by Al Gore and the U.N., and for equally good reasons, and I for one (as a non scientist) am not willing to relegate my children and grandchildren to third world status based on what seems to me to be a highly politicised and unproven issue.

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  53. 53. wsugaimd 3:56 am 08/21/2011

    Pureknowledge, I agree with your post and others that are worried about the editorial board of Sciam. It seems that the Editors come directly from Al Gore’s office of information. Many posters confuse this board with the Huffington Post.

    Great scientists have always been skeptics, especially of their own work. Freedom to discuss alternative mechanisms were not only appreciated but necessary. When my research papers were published, we nervously looked for comments from peers to make sure we did not screw up….but that was before AGW. Now it seems like a “religion of AGW”. And anyone who does not subscribe to the religion is labeled a “denier”, “ignorant”, or a “fool”. What happened open and frank discussion? I guess it is not possible in this “religion”.

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  54. 54. Paul Junior 1:58 pm 02/21/2012

    Typical “ScientificTION” article disputing REAL science and anti-ignorance positions on pseudo-science by bonified experts:)

    “Joe Bastardi is an established and highly sought-after expert on U.S. severe weather and is recognized for his astonishing ability to grasp the potential impact of severe weather patterns.” –

    “Mr. Bastardi is one of the most influential forecasters in the business. He is referred to as ‘almost a legend’ by colleagues. Even false reports that he has changed his outlook tend to have a noticeable effect in the natural gas pits of the New York Mercantile Exchange.”
    - Dow Jones/AP, November 22, 2004

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