Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Well, the Joe Romm saga continues. He’s been discussing the paper “Evidence for super-exponentially accelerating atmospheric carbon dioxide growth“. After I pointed out the problems with the paper’s ludicrous claims about population, Joe pulled his whole goofy section repeating the paper’s population errors. He also talked to one of the authors, and they’re going to pull that section out of their paper. Joe didn’t mention WUWT when he modified his page, either. Typical.
Of course, that means that I’ve now got to read the rest of the paper. I threw up my hands before when I hit that nonsense about population, but since they’ve pulled it out of the paper, I’ve gotta continue. Ah, well, gotta take the bitter with the sweet. Can’t say I’m looking forward to reading that paper, though. I threw up my hands before, I hope that’s all I throw up. Wish me luck …
Figure 1. Do I really have to read the paper? Photo Source
OK, been there, read that. First, what is their basic thesis?
To understand their basic thesis, we have to get past their terminology. What does “super-exponentially accelerating” mean?
Well, it means that the growth rate is increasing. Why didn’t they say that? Hey, they’re climate scientists. Their motto seems to be “don’t educate, obfuscate”.
In any case, their main claim seems to be that the growth rate of atmospheric CO2 is increasing, and that the growth rate of the population is “just” exponential (stable growth). Their conclusion says:
We have analyzed the growth of atmospheric carbon dioxide and of what constitutes arguably its most important underlying driving variable, namely human population. Our empirical calibrations suggest that human population has decelerated from its previous super-exponential growth until 1960 to “just” an exponential growth. As for atmospheric CO2 content, we find that it is at least exponentially increasing and more probably exhibiting an accelerating growth rate, consistent with a FTS (finite-time singular) power law regime.
Well … no and yes. No, if the pre-1960 increasing population growth rates are “super-exponential”, then the decreasing population rates since then must be “sub-exponential”. It is not “just exponential”, that statement is not supported by the evidence.
And yes, the rate of atmospheric CO2 growth has been increasing. It’s gone from about 0.25% increase per year in the 1960s to about a 0.5% annual increase in the last decades, although it has been far from constant. Here’s that data:
Figure 2. Annual growth in atmospheric CO2. Data from Mauna Loa.
OK, so the population growth rate is decreasing, and the CO2 growth rate is increasing. That’s what’s so. But … so what?
Both Joe Romm and the authors of the paper seem to think that this is a Very Bad Thing™. Let’s stop a moment and consider what the numbers really mean. We know what the population numbers mean. But what does a “super-exponential acceleration” in CO2 growth mean in the real world?
Consider that at some point not long after 2050 the world population will stabilize. The population of a number of countries has already stabilized (or is dropping). Suppose (as seems quite possible) that atmospheric CO2 rates continue to rise after the population has stabilized. What would that mean, rising atmospheric CO2 growth rates at a time of stable population? What would be happening in the real world to cause that?
Simply put, it would mean that the growth rate of energy use per capita was increasing. Whoa, can’t have that, speeding up the rate at which people get more energy.
So the slowing population growth, combined with increasing atmospheric CO2, means that we are winning the twin battles to stabilize population and to bring energy to the people of the planet.
Joe Romm and the authors of the paper think that’s a bad thing. They think the unknown distant future dangers of CO2 outweigh today’s desperate need for energy for the poor people of the planet … which means most of the people of the planet.
I hold the opposite view. I think that bringing energy to the poor now, today, is much more important than any imagined catastrophe that even the alarmists say will not occur for thirty to fifty years.
The claim is often made that the poor will be the hardest hit by warming. As someone who has never been poor, but often broke, I can assure you that’s nonsense. I’ve slept in the city streets with my pants and shirt stuffed full of newspapers, I don’t recommend it. Cold is the enemy of the poor, not warmth, that’s an ivory-tower fantasy.
In addition, the forecast changes from the IPCC talking heads are that the warming will be mostly in the extra-tropics, at night, in the winter. Although the academics may think that’s terrible, I doubt that the homeless folks in New York or London will complain about warmer winter nights …
The best way to protect the poor from the ravages of the climate is to make them middle-class, and that takes energy. The fact that we are depriving the world’s poor of energy now, in order to save them from a hypothesized and ill-supported possible calamity fifty years from now, is a monstrous aberration of basic justice that history will rightly condemn.