August 17, 2011

Bogus Arguments of Some Global Warming "Skeptics"

During the past week I have gotten several emails from folks who said they had absolute proof that human-induced global warming is nonsense.

The argument they offer:  volcanoes put out way more CO2 than human activities. So it doesn't matter what we do!

Since I have heard this claim at least a dozen times during the past few months, I thought I should just give the facts:  HUMANS EJECT WAY MORE CO2 INTO THE ATMOSPHERE EVEN DURING MAJOR VOLCANO YEARS.

A number of studies have shown that global volcanic activity injects about 0.15 to 0.26 gigatons per year of CO2.  Anthropogenic CO2 emissions produced by mankind provide about 35 gigatons of CO2 in 2010.   Way more.

To put it another way:  current volcanic activity puts out about as much annually as our states of Florida, Michigan, and Ohio.  We have a lot more states and then there is the rest of the world!

The following figure (from a very nice article in EOS by Terry Gerlach of the Cascades Volcanic Observatory in Vancouver, 14 June 2011, volume 92, No. 24, pg 201-202): shows the ratio (the ACM) between human and volcanic CO2 emissions (shown by the dots).  The range of uncertainty (based on the uncertainty in volcanic emissions) is show by the brackets.  What one should conclude is that  human emissions dwarf volcanoes and the ratio is increasing.  Today we put out well OVER A HUNDRED TIMES more than volcanoes.

So please!  Lets move on with this.  Volcanoes today are minor players in the CO2 world compared to us.  

In a future blog I will deal with another argument by the denier set--that human impacts will be dwarfed by the variability of the sun.   As I will show in that blog, this is simply not true either.  I will leave to others to deal with conspiracy theories dealing with Al Gore.

Now don't get me wrong.   Some groups on the "pro" side of global warming are sometimes fast and loose with the facts too, particularly in their claims of C02 induced extreme weather and huge losses of Cascade snowpack.  We can't have a rational discussion of the threat of anthropogenic global warming--and it is a serious threat-- if clearly wrong information is used as bases for arguments.


  1. Thanks for publicizing this fact, Cliff. I've seen this claim many times and the EOS article clearly debunks it.

  2. Can you please analyze the effect of cattle production too? I get all kinds of people saying that cows put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than people.

  3. And now we have presidential candidates claiming all you scientists are on the take and making this stuff up for buck.

    How can we have a modern, successful society when potential national leaders so thoroughly misunderstand the scientific process?

  4. But wait, why should we trust meteorologists and atmospheric scientists with PhD's and support staffs with budgets of millions of dollars who spend their entire life researching climate change when we can just listen to Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh who just seem to make so much sense with their "gut feelings" and "intuition" on the subject instead?!

  5. Here's the link to the data Cliff mentioned:

  6. Here is a link to the data Cliff mentioned in his blog post:

  7. I couldn't help but notice a bit of a jump in 1951-52...the year Rush Limbaugh was born. ;-)

  8. I believe CO2 emissions from cattle and sheep are included with other anthropogenic sources, since the huge population of these animals is clearly linked to human activities.

    Cliff, thank you for trying to educate people (on all sides!) about what is fact, what is fiction, and what is unknown with regards to global warming. I think it's important people admit bad science is bad science, whether it supports their side of the argument or not.

  9. If Rick Perry is elected president, I'm moving to Canada...

  10. But isn't true that SO2 emitted from volcanism has a balancing or reversing effect upon climate change?

  11. There are plenty of better reasons to be skeptical of CO2 warming. Like this new paper from Lindzen and Choi which will be published in the APJAS. The paper uses empirical data, not models to show the range of warming is much less than the GCMs predict and that CO2 in fact has a negative feedback.

  12. Or how about this one from Bitz and Armour at UW. It shows there is no "tipping point" for Arctic Ice induced by warmer climate swings.

    No wonder the public is not buying the use of massive economy shifting measures for doomsday climate scenarios.

  13. The other point to rebutting this nonsense is that most "natural" CO2, such as from volcanoes, is balanced out by absorption from other natural processes.

    Human emissions are on top of these natural emissions, and natural absorption cannot balance out the equation.

  14. Cliff, let me urge you to stand down from Global Warming debates. Please don't get wrapped around the axle on this issue, there are plenty of warmer and denier blogs that have your back.

    I read your blog because you focus on the weather, and weather does not equal climate. I come here for the science, I come here because you're local, and I come here because you use models for weather forecasting. I appreciate your focus in this area.

    Rock On!

  15. Hey Jeff B,

    Give us all one simple example how CO2 has negative feedback.

    Just one is all I ask.

  16. Hmm... I thought weather and climate are both covered by atmospheric science--as in Cliff Mass, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences.

    Personally, I find it a good thing when Prof. Cliff seeks to shed light upon political issues that touch upon his field of expertise. The public needs voices like his to balance against the pundits, the politicians and so-called scientists on the corporate dole. The amount of stupid-bad stuff out there is staggering.

    BTW, this is Cliff's personal blog. What he posts is his business. We're just here for the ride.

  17. The fact that big eruptions don't impact the Keeling Curve (carbon dioxide levels, month-to-month) is further proof they aren't the cause. They actually slow the rise. See


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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