Eight tenths of a degree? Think of the Grandchildren!

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

James Hansen and others say that we owe it to our Grandchildren to get this climate question right. Hansen says “Grandchildren” with a capital G when he speaks of them so I will continue the practice. I mean, for PR purposes, Grandchildren with a capital letter outrank even Puppies with a capital letter, and I can roll with that.

In any case Hansen got me to thinking about the world of 2050. Many, likely even most people reading this in 2010 will have Grandchildren in 2050. Heck, I might have some myself. So I started to consider the world we will leave our Grandchildren in 2050.

In a recent post here on WUWT, Thomas Fuller floated a proposal that we adopt a couple of degrees as the expected temperature rise over the century. He says in the comments to his thread that

I think we owe it to the people of the world to give them an idea of how much warming they can expect, so they can plan their buildings, businesses, roads and lives. They matter. They don’t care how much of it is due to CO2 or how much is rebound from a LIA due to forcings we don’t understand. They don’t. They probably shouldn’t.

We have temperature rises that we can almost trust from 1958 that show a trend of about 2 degrees for this century if things go on.

To start with, I don’t think we owe people anything more than the scientific truth as we understand it. And if we don’t understand it, as in the case of what the climate may be like over the rest of this century, we definitely owe it to the people to simply say “We don’t know”. Those three little words, so hard to say … so no, we don’t owe people a number if we don’t have one.

Next, predicting the future by extending a linear “trend” is a bad idea, because it puts a totally false air of accuracy and scientific reliability on something that we haven’t much of a clue about, except we’re very sure it’s not linear … As Mark Twain famously wrote of that kind of extrapolation:

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod.

And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

So extending linear trends is not a good plan, particularly in our current state of knowledge of the climate. The planet may be warmer in fifty years, or it may be cooler in fifty years, we don’t know.

But let’s set all of those difficulties aside. Here’s Fuller’s proposal graphically, using HadCRUT data. (As an aside, the trend 1958-2010 in the HadCRUT data is actually 1.3° per century, not 2°/century as Fuller states. So his figures are an exaggeration of the historical trend.)

Figure 1. A grapical representation of Thomas Fullers proposal that we decree that expected warming will be 2° over the 21st century. Image Source

However, Fuller’s proposal along with a comment from Michael Tobin got me to thinking. How about that two degrees per century, what if it actually happens? That two degrees has always been the big scare number, the tipping point, the temperature rise that would lead to the dread Thermageddon, the temperature where we fall into planetary immolation. So I got to pondering James Hansen’s statement about the Grandchildren, and also Fullers postulation of a historically unlikely 2°warming this century. Two degrees per century is eight-tenths of a degree by 2050, so my questions were:

What would I do differently if I knew for a fact that my Grandchildren would be eight-tenths of a degree warmer in 2050? Or alternatively, how would I feel if I knew for a fact that I had sentenced my as-yet-unborn Grandchildren in 2050 to live in a world that was eight-tenths of a degree warmer?

And you know, I couldn’t think of one single thing about buildings, or businesses, or roads, or lives, that I’d do differently for eight tenths of a degree by 2050. Not one thing. Even if I knew it was coming, I don’t know what that slight warming will do, so what would I do to get my Grandchildren and Puppies and business and bridges ready for it? How would I know what to do to prepare my buildings and roads and life for eight tenths of a degree of warming?

There might be some adverse outcomes from that eight tenths of a degree of temperature rise threatening my Grandchildren in 2050, but neither I nor anyone else knows what those outcomes might be. We’ll assuredly get an extra flood over here, and one less flood over there, it’s very likely to be drier somewhere and wetter somewhere else, in other words, the climate will do what climate has done since forever — change.

But anyone who says they can predict exactly where the floods and droughts might be in that unknown climate future is blowing smoke. And I don’t know if we could even tell if the average temperature changed by eight-tenths of a degree. Here’s why:

Let’s take a real look at what that means, eight-tenths of a degree. Here is the record for the GHCN climate station nearest to me these days, Santa Rosa, California.

Figure 2. GISS Unadjusted and Adjusted Temperature records, Santa Rosa, CA. Adjusted temperature is shown in transparent red, to show the Unadjusted underneath (blue). Bottom panel shows the amount of the adjustment.

Santa Rosa has pretty good record, mostly complete from 1902 to the present. Now, there are a number of issues with the GISS adjustments to this station. Before adjustment there is a slight cooling, and after adjustment that has become a slight warming. Who knew that the urban heat island might work in reverse? In addition, the adjustment in recent years is very rapid. Seems counterintuitive.

However, none of the details of the adjustment is my issue today. Today, I want to highlight the fact that the adjustment in the Santa Rosa record is about a degree in a century. So the uncertainty in the historical record is at the very least about a degree. And this is a good record.

Now, which one is right, the adjusted or the unajusted temperature? Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell. Why? Because an adjustment of a degree in a century is lost in the noise. We often see winters and summers that are three or four degrees warmer or colder than the preceding year or two. We see warm decades and cool decades. A degree is simply not enough change to notice. The oldest men and women living in Santa Rosa couldn’t tell us whether average temperatures were a degree warmer on average when they were kids than they are now. And our thermometers can’t do any better. We simply don’t know whether the ~ 1°C adjustment to the Santa Rosa record is valid or not.

My point is that the adjustment is almost a full degree. This is slightly larger than the predicted temperature rise in the scary stories about 2050 and the Grandchildren and the Puppies. And since the adjustment of nearly 1°C in Santa Rosa is so small that we can’t determine if the adjustment is correct, why should I be concerned about eight-tenths of a degree in 2050? We can’t even measure temperature to that accuracy in a site with good historical records, and I should worry about that unmeasurable change?? I don’t think so.

So no, I’m sorry. I refuse to be scared, even by Fuller’s exaggeration of a linear extrapolation of a cherry-picked trend. I have no problem if my Grandchildren have to face a world in 2050 that is eight-tenths of a degree warmer than it is now, more power to them. Without alarmist scientists armed with megaphones and performance-enhancing mathematics, how would we even know if it were eight-tenths of a degree warmer in Santa Rosa in 2050? Our scientists can’t decide if there is a 1° change in the Santa Rosa record, and yet we’re supposed to fear a smaller change by 2050? I think not.

And what catastrophes will eight tenths of a degree bring? We see decadal swings in the Santa Rosa record that are much greater than that, and there are no ill effects. Yes, I know there’s hosts of scientists out there telling me that awful things will happen from Thomas Fullers stipulated warming, but here is my question:

First, let’s assume that the AGW folks are correct, and that global warming will lead to global catastrophes of a variety of types, all the biblical plagues plus a host more.  Increasing temperatures is supposed to lead to more extreme weather and terrible outcomes, a perfect storm of hundreds of bad effects in what I have termed “Thermageddon”.

Next, let’s note that the globe has been warming, in fits and starts but generally warming, since the Little Ice Age. Estimates of the amount of the warming are on the order of one and a half to two degrees C.

And finally, note that since 1958 (to use Fuller’s start point) we have had much faster warming for half a century.

So my questions are … where are all of the catastrophes from that couple of degrees of warming since the Little Ice Age, and from the half century fast warming since 1958? I mean, James Hansen would excoriate the Elizabethans because they bequeathed not only their Grandchildren, but their great-great Grandchildren, a warmer world. I don’t know how the Elizabethans slept at night, after wishing a degree or more of warming on their poor innocent Grandchildren. And puppies. But where are the catastrophes from the couple of degrees of slow warming since the 1600s?

Seriously, people keep saying that the problem with the climate is that we can’t do laboratory experiments. But for the past three centuries we have two excellent natural experiments. In the first we saw warming century after century, and yet we didn’t experience Thermageddon. Where are the catastrophes?

Then in the second natural experiment we have the much faster warming Fuller talked about since 1958, as shown in Figure 1. During that time the Pacific atolls have gotten bigger, and Bangladesh has more hectares of land. People are better fed than at any time in history. There has been no increase in extreme weather events. Where are the catastrophes resulting from those two natural experiments in slow and fast warming?

So no, I don’t worry about eight tenths of a degree warming by 2050. I sleep content, knowing that my Grandchildren might actually get to the point where they could measure eight tenths of a degree of warming and have a scientific reason to agree on the size of the adjustments … I figure they’ll be able to do it, they’ll be smarter and richer and more powerful than we are, with undreamed of technologies. Heck, they may find out that it actually did warm by eight-tenths of a degree between now and 2050. And by then they may actually have found out whether or not CO2 is the main planetary temperature control knob. And likely they will have a variety of other energy sources at that time.

But regarding the eight tenths of a degree of warming by 2050, I just don’t see what catastrophes that will cause in the real world for my Grandchildren. It certainly hasn’t caused catastrophes up until now.

But then people say, never mind the Grandchildren, what about the other species? Won’t their ranges change?

I’m at about Latitude 38 North. The global average temperature change as one goes north or south at that latitude is about one degree per hundred miles.

So under the Thomas Fuller 2°C assumption, the average isotherms will move 80 miles north by 2050. Again, this is lost in the noise. These kinds of changes have been happening in the climate since forever. The world generally doesn’t even notice. Eight tenths of a degree is just too small, it is dwarfed by the daily, monthly, annual, and decadal temperature swings.

Oh, people will say, but the warming in this case will be much faster than in the past, that’s where the problem will come in. But those people forget that all life adapts very quickly. It has to because the temperature changes so much and so quickly. When the temperature often changes by three degrees from one year to the next, either up or down, plants and animals must (and can) adapt to that change in a single year. The idea that plants and animals can’t adapt to eight tenths of a degree by 2050 doesn’t make sense, when they can easily adapt to a three degree swing up or down in a single year. And we have seen that in the rapid warming since 1958 that Fuller highlighted, there haven’t been any catastrophes, either among humans, animals, or plants. So the “fast warming causes catastrophes” claim doesn’t work either.

Final Conclusion? I’m sorry to be so contrary, friends, but I just don’t see that even Thomas Fuller’s exaggerated (by historical standards) 2° per century warming will bring any kind of problems or catastrophes. The IPCC’s greatest projected warming is said to occur in the extra-tropics, in the winter, at night.

And at the end of the day, you can call me a callow, unfeeling neo-Elizabethan brute willing to sentence his Grandchildren to a warmer world, but I’m not going to lose sleep over having less frigid December midnights in Helsinki Finland, or over Thomas Fuller’s possible (not guaranteed but only possible) eight tenths of a degree of warming by 2050. Warming has not caused catastrophes in the past, and if future warming does happen, there is no reason to expect catastrophes from that either.

I know mine is a minority view. But to change my mind, you’ll have to show me that warming in the past has caused catastrophes and huge problems. Until then, I’m not going to believe that warming in the future will cause catastrophes and huge problems, especially warming that we can barely measure.


newest oldest most voted
Notify of
John Marshall

This planet has an exceptional thermostat in water. As the temperature rises so water evaporation increases and the temperature starts to fall due to the need for latent heat of evaporation to do this simple task. the water vapour rises and condenses, releasing that heat which leaks to space eventually, and clouds are formed which reflect the incoming solar energy back into space. Even back in the Cretaceous, when CO2 levels were 3000-4000 ppmv, temperatures were only a couple of degrees higher than today. This was due to shallower seas not the CO2, due to an increase in the tectonic plate speed, why we do not know but it did happen. Global temperatures have been fairly even over the past 500Ma despite CO2 levels being above 8000ppmv back then.
So if you wish to tell your Grandchildren the truth- tell them that CO2 is not the evil gas that some would have them believe. My Grandchildren have been told this.

Mark Twang

But, they all scream, “something must be done!”
I suggest “they” all stand on their heads and wiggle their toes at the sky. Or stand on opposite sides of the planet and jump up and down in an alternating rhythm.
Just don’t require the rest of us to lose sleep, tax ourselves into an early grave, or pretend to “care” about their Gaian cult.


It’s a very rare occasion that I fully agree with every single thing someone says in an article. This is one of them. Outstanding post.

R. de Haan

Hansen should stop demonizing CO2, for the sake of his Grand Children.
Joseph D’Aleo has the arguments:
He also tells us why Hansen is wrong, wrong, totally wrong with his analysis that CO2 drives temperatures.

Henry Galt

Also: About that 0.8C
At night.
Up North
In winter.
Or do I have that wrong?

Willis Eschenbach
Your always enlightening essays are highly appreciated. You live at about Latitude 38 North. You do not believe that warming in the future will cause catastrophes. I agree! During the last millions of year the earth average temperature had been never higher than a few degrees.
But what do you think about global cooling? As a diver, navigator, and fisherman with outstanding exercise at sea, you know better than many what is all about the influence of the oceans on our weather and long term weather (climate), and that the oceans are covering two-third of the global space, that their mean depths is more than 3000 meters, and their average temperature is below 4°C. The oceans can set off a cooling within a short period of time, which could bring permanent snow an ice down to the Latitude of 38°North, or even to San Diego and Cap Hatteras.
Kindly permit to repeat here a comment I submitted to the recent post on WUWT, by Thomas Fuller (October 21, 2010 at 9:36 am):
#Tom Fuller:
It seems necessary to accept at least that since the end of the LIA, which saw a number of big volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, a longer lasting global warming was logically “inevitable”. The continuous rise of temperatures had been only interrupted twice, namely:
___by the first Arctic warming from 1919 to 1940 affecting the whole Northern Hemisphere (that originated from the ocean , discussed at: http://www.arctic-heats-up.com/ and
___the a period of three decades global cooling from 1940 to the mid 1970s, which started with three extreme winters in Europe (1939/40 to 1941/42)
(that originated from the regional seas (1939-1942) with possible further contribution by the NH oceans since Pearl Harbor since December 1941, discussed at: http://climate-ocean.com/ . In both cases the timing with the two World Wars was very close.
As the global cooling since 1940 was merely a temporarily disruption, the end-of-LIA temperature rise was to resume, as observed during the last few decades.
As this two events fall in the area of modern meteorology, and ample data and observations over the last 100 years are available, is seems irresponsible to make any planning based on data from about 1970s, as long as the two events 1919-1940 and 1940 to 1970 are not convincingly investigate

Old Goat

Good article. It makes such sense, to me, and presumably any rational person. So why are there alarmists, and what sort of individual believes them? History rather shows all the forecasts of Armageddon to be fantasy, even to average not-particularly-scientific observers like me, so is the world REALLY that gullible?
We ALL know the real answer, don’t we – it contains words like “Money”, “Control”, “Bilderberg”, “Fabian”, “Governance”, and “Global” if I’m not much mistaken…

Christopher Hanley

The global mean temperature in 1950 was best of all possible global mean temperatures ….and that’s a fact.

Julian Braggins

This human animal emigrated from 52°N to 32°S many decades ago and seems to thrive, as do other flora and fauna transported similarly over the last two centuries, roughly 700 miles nearer the equator. This translates to around 7°C change or a little less allowing for altitude.
Quite happy with the change 🙂

John Trigge

Excellent logic, Willis.
This is a keeper.

Frederick Davies

“…Heck, they may find out that it actually did warm by eight-tenths of a degree between now and 2050…”
…and that it was great for all concerned!
“I know mine is a minority view.”
Not for long at the rate things are going.

Think of the (grand) childeren, did he mean those under the age 5 on this planet that won’t make it during the next 24 hours? Kids that would have been between 40 and 45 years old in 2050 and well on their way of having their own grandchilderen.

Eric (skeptic)

When I researched global warming in the 1990’s, I would never have dreamed that we would be fighting the alarmists at this point. Warming is no longer accelerating, it has at least tapered off. The paleo record has revealed natural variability starting with the public release of the Briffa and other data and and people like Milloy pointing out empirically where the hockey stick comes from http://www.junkscience.com/MSU_Temps/Warming_Proxies.html
I often ask myself, what if the alarmists are right and more CO2 warming is waiting in the “wings” (so to speak). Even if CO2 itself turns out to cause more than a minor amount of warming, the notion of water vapor “feedback” is quite mistaken. The amount of water vapor is not controlled by the underlying warmth from CO2, but rather by the weather itself. Right now, as I type, we have less water vapor in column above me than any time in the last week. That doesn’t have much to do with the temperature, it is chilly, never mind the amount of CO2.
It should really be no surprise that many alarmists are physicists who have oversimplified the weather and use idealized relationships like the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. See http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2494 for a counterexample.


Thoroughly enjoyable read. Thank you. My grandchild, sorry, Grandchild, has been told already and he’s only a year old. I’ll tell him again, and again …..

Latimer Alder

I too have pondered the consequences of such a small rise in temperature over such an extended period.
I work by the River Thames in Central London. Every day the tide goes up and down about 20 feet. We have a river wall, built of brick mostly in Victorian times that quite happily restrains the water from flooding the city. And life goes on pretty much as normal day by day ….and the tide goes up and down 20 feet every 12 or so hours.
If the sealevel were to rise even three feet in fifty years, surely our solution is to put another two or three layers of brick on top of the wall. We have plenty time to plan for it..the Victorians built the whole b….y thing in the 1860s without any modern powered machinery. And after 2012, we will have a national surplus of construction engineers as we will have already staged the best Olympiad ever.
And London is not alone on its situation. Most of the world’s big cities were originally ports and used to big tidal ranges. Adding a metre here or a yard there to the top of the sea walls should not be any big potatoes!
So I am hard pressed to find exactly what the perceived problem is. I’ve made the same points to my greenie friends, but they just resort to abuse. Nobody has been able to persuade me that this would be anything other than a minor but annoying problem in construction.
Can anybody put me right? I have puzzled over this every time I walk across Putney Bridge to get my sandwiches for lunch. Should I be worried that I’m not worried?
PS – It is true that London also has the Thames barrier to hold back the sea. Its primary purpose is to guard against tidal surges which are a consequence of North Sea gales and a build up of water in the Thames Estuary. It was not built to prevent ‘climate change induced sealevel rise’ and is not expected to be needed in that capacity for many tens if not hundreds of years. Do not confuse the two separate issues.


Suffered 17 degrees C temperature swings yesterday. (+3 deg C outside in the morning; up to +20deg C at work). Nearly died. I guess what saved me was the office was too dry to develop strong water vapor feedback.

Gareth Phillips

Interesting read which puts things in perspective. One small point, would such a temp. increase a move potential crop growing areas in Canada and Siberia further north, opening up vast areas, and negating any loss from a decrease increase in the south? In other small hilly countries such as Wales we would also see a potential move from a limit of 400m altitude and bring in even more agricultural land. I would love to be able to promise my grandchildren such a potential bounty, but I’m not sure Mr.Hansen has read the runes correctly.

Ian H

Beautifully written. You said what I would like to have said only much better.


it’s very rare to read such a well thought out and well-put but above all logical piece like this.
It puts the scare stories into context somewhat doesn’t it. Half the time i swear people don’t actually know what it is they’re arguing and just get caught up in the rhetoric.
0.8 C up north? i’m from the north of england, i’ll happily take that thankyouverymuch- as too will all the local wildlife!

R. de Haan

From Steve Goddard, To a Geologist the past is key to the future
I really hope publications like this will change the mind set from people like Fuller.
We can’t afford to cut a deal with the warmists as he proposes.
We would lose the battle and accept a doctrine based on fraud.


“One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
Mark Twain again,
Shout it from the rooftops :D:D

Carl Chapman

In Australia, people migrate from the colder parts to the warmer parts. They like the weather. The same happens in the US. Do many migrate from Florida to New York, unless they need to for work? The biggest consequence of a 0.8 rise would be that people wouldn’t have to move as far to get to more pleasant, warm climates. Of course, 0.8 is so small that they would probably go all the way from New York to Miami anyway, and they would just get the 0.8 as a bonus.

Bob Koss

Wow! A whole 0.8 degrees.
I don’t think most thermostats can maintain room temperature any closer than that.

Chris Korvin

Extending linear trends is not a good idea….I read that if present trends continue,by 2050 40% of the worlds populati0n will be Elvis Impersonators.

Chris Wright

Once again, an excellent piece by Willis.
History tells us one thing very clearly: when the world gets warmer, mankind prospers. When the world gets colder there are far worse storms, droughts and starvation. Many ancient civilisations died during cold periods. I don’t know of a single one that died when the world was warmer.
During the Little Ice Age some storms in Europe killed 100,000 (data from H.H.Lamb), and one storm killed 400,000. There were many extreme weather events, for example hail storms that killed all unprotected cattle. Because these events were so extreme and ‘unprecedented’, people believed that they could not be natural. As a result possibly tens of thousands of innocent people were put on trial for the crime of ‘weather cooking’ and executed. There were a few sceptics who spoke out against this madness, but they had to be very brave, as they might quickly find themselves on trial. Does all of this sound horribly familiar? It seems we never learn.
Actually, we do. Opinion polls in the UK and US clearly show that a strong majority of ordinary people believe that climate change is natural. It’s the climate scientists (who have enormous vested interestes in alarmism) and the politicians (who appear to be incapable of recognising a confidence trick when they see it) that are the problem. If they have their way, the world will squander trillions of dollars trying to solve a problem that almost certainly doesn’t exist.
No one knows whether the world will be warmer or colder in 50 years. It may well be colder, and that won’t be pleasant. Unfortunately, it puts sceptics in a difficult position. Most would far prefer warming to cooling. But a sustained cooling over coming decades might be the only thing that will prove to the politicians that AGW is nonsense.
I must confess, I do get pretty angry when I see graphs like this that show the ‘adjustments’. It is outrageous that essentially all the warming comes from adjustments – and adjustments made by people who desperately want to prove AGW.
It does seem that the warming is man-made, after all – made, that is, by the likes of Hansen and Mann.


Brilliant essay Willis.
It’s a rare piece of clear and logical pragmatism in the Gordian Knot that is CO2 driven Global/Climate/Warming/Change/Disruption ‘science’.


I cannot see how the change of .8 degrees C is somehow out of bounds of the 3.0 to 3.8 degrees C swing of data present in the last 100,000 years of Vostok Ice Core record. The Low reached in the Little Ice Age and the High reached in present time (2010) is fully consistent with the roll-down to -10 to -11 degrees C expected in the next 10,000 years…. just like the roll down to the last Ice Age.
What if we warm another 2 degrees C?
This has happened in 3 of the previous 4 interglacials, and in fact, has actually reached twice that amount, 4 degrees C in


continued: October 22, 2010 at 3:50 am
This has happened in 3 of the previous 4 interglacials, and in fact, has actually reached twice that amount, 4 degrees C in those same previous interglacials, and Life on Earth did not perish, but has handed to this present interglacial a multitude of species.
The Warming, if it does persist, presents no more danger to Life on Earth than it did before.
The ‘ What If ‘ doesn’t translate to imminent danger to Grandchildren.

Nigel Brereton

Willis, it may feel like being part of a minority but trust me when the facts are laid out in a common sense way such as you have done here that allows people to come to their own conclusions then the ‘beleive me because I am an expert’ crowd get laughed out of town.
Labelling me as sceptic or denier doesn’t phase me one bit but my normal comment of CS not BS, Common Sense not Bull S***, generally will make people sit back and think about what they are saying.

Brilliant Willis, as always.

Viv Evans

Thank you for yet another brilliant essay, Willis!
It is very strange that people seem to be so frightened of change, even if it is for the better, like a bit more warmth.
It is also very odd that all those ‘planet-saving’ activists don’t seem to understand that a bit more warmth means less need for heating in Winter, therefore less use of fossil fuels, therefore less CO2 ‘pumped’ or ‘belched’ into the atmosphere.
But as with die-hard trade unionists, their mindset holds that any change has to be bad and must be resisted, even if it leads to the downfall of a whole industry/Western economics.
No arguing with stupid, is there …


Willis’ brilliant post could be read alongside some recent comments by Craig Idso et al., for reinforcement of the points made. The Idsos are commenting on a recent article in Science that purports to demonstrate CO2 is the main controller of temperatures. They agree in a sense, but from a very different perspective. Their post is titled “They left Life out of the equations” and focuses on the role of plants as temperature regulators. I’ve always thought that the fact this planet has a biosphere tends to be left out of most theoretical considerations. In these comments, they show how the increase in plant biomass caused by extra CO2 produces gases that *counter* its warming effect, which is an aspect of the biosphere’s regulatory role that I had never heard of. Apparently, this has been observationally verified. (Another regulatory effect worth mentioning is that as plants grow larger and more abundant, the CO2 sinks also increase.)
I copy the relevant passage:
[…] and in the case in point, CO2 affects earth’s climate in several more ways than through its thermal radiative properties. CO2 is, after all, the elixir of life, promoting plant growth, both on land and throughout the surface waters of the world’s oceans. And this vast assemblage of plant life has the ability to impact earth’s climate in a number of different ways, all of which tend to counteract the heating or cooling effects of carbon dioxide’s thermal radiative forcing as its concentration either rises or falls, thereby helping to maintain earth’s temperature within a range that is conducive to the continued existence, and even flourishing, of the planet’s myriad life forms.
Time and space do not allow us to go into great detail about these several phenomena in this editorial; but in our website’s Subject Index, under the general heading of Feedback Factors (Biophysical), we report the results of numerous observational studies that describe how earth’s plants — ranging all the way from unicellular algae in the sea, to grasses, shrubs and majestic trees on land — emit copious quantities of gases that are converted to particles in the atmosphere, forming aerosols that reflect significant amounts of incoming solar radiation back to space, thereby cooling the planet, or that serve as condensation nuclei for cloud droplets that create more numerous, more extensive, longer-lasting and brighter clouds that also cool the globe. Therefore, depending on whether the air’s CO2 content is increasing or decreasing, these phenomena result in changes in global radiative forcing similar in magnitude but opposite in sign to the direct thermal forcing induced by the increases or decreases in the air’s CO2 concentration, which suggests that CO2 might well be considered the “principal control knob governing earth’s temperature.” However, CO2 controls the planet’s temperature in such a way as to prevent the occurrence of both unduly hot and cold temperature extremes. Thus, the end result of these several simultaneous and interacting phenomena is that the ongoing rise in the air’s CO2 content is of great benefit to the biosphere, helping to increase both the amount and quality of life on earth, while not materially altering the globe’s temperature, by stimulating biological phenomena that ultimately tend to negate the greenhouse gas’s own global warming potential.”
Roy Spencer has also commented on the Science article from a different perspective.

richard verney

Willis, this is a very good post.
One is always amazed by the so called ‘science’ (or rather lack thereof) behind climate science, but as far as I am concerned, the real sham is the catastrophic predictions behind the AGW scare stories.
I have long been saying to my friends/colleagues, what if the globe warms by 2degC? So what. The globe has (apparently) warmed by more than 1degC (may be nearly 1.5 deg C) since the 1850s and there have been no disastrous consequences. This in itself suggests that warming of more than 1.5 deg C is no great problem and life (humans, animals and plants) simply adapt.
Look further back in time at the MWP and the RWP it was far hotter (at least) in the Northern Hemisphere (probably at least 2 deg C hotter than today) and guess what, no evidence of mass extinctions, terrible floods and the like. As I say to my friends and colleagues when have you ever seen a David Attenborough type programme depicting what disasters were unleashed and how the very fabric of life itself was thrust against the edge of mass extinction? The reason there are no such programmes is simply because there was no such natural disasters. In fact, quite the opposite. All historical evidence suggests that mankind flourished in these times. This was an era of great development and advancement of civilisations, eg., Egypt, Greece, Romans, Vikings – mankind never had it so good.
The upshot is that a world that is warmer by a couple of degrees would be a good thing. All life would find it easier to live.
I just cannot understand why proper studies are not conducted of the geological and historical past. With proper investigation, one can readily see that the predictions of doom and disaster by the AGW crowd are simply hot air and science fiction.
By the way, I absolutely loved the Mark Twain quote:
“There is something fascinating about [climate] science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact” [with respect to Mr Twain, my addition]
This has to be one of the most insightful observations ever made. The man was a true genius.


Superb post. I especially loved the Mark Twain quote, and was deeply disturbed the the graphed adjustments to the Santa Rosa thermometer record.
I spent my early years in southeastern Idaho, which has a rather interesting history from a climate perspective. The early settlers, circa 1850s, were pretty discouraged at the killing frosts that occurred every month of the year. They didn’t think they could make a go of it. But they persisted, the climate moderated, and agriculture became a profitable enterprise. I worked for a farmer who was a bit daring and would occasionally try crops that needed a longer growing season than typical for the area. We were all pretty pleased when he was able to make it work.
Why would we want to turn the clock – and the temperature – back?
One of my fears is that an energy tax will be implemented globally, and our grandchildren will be poorer, economically enslaved, and less-educated as a result. We really need to shut down the cap-and-tax nonsense if we want anything good for our grandchildren. Thanks Willis for being a warrior on the front lines.

Ray Hudson

I am picking up my next golden retriever Puppy in mid December. I train all my dogs for Search and Rescue (S&R) capabilities. I am deathly afraid and frightened out of my wits about the world that my Puppy’s Grandpuppies will be left with! I may, infact, have to take on more Puppies for the training regime just to handle all the S&R needs that will clearly arise from all the great catastrophes that will ensue in the coming 40 years. Odd that we can be so callous about the plight of the Puppies, and here these Puppies are growing up to save us from Thermageddon via their S&R skills!
Save the Puppies! /sarc

Outstanding post !!
I thought Fuller’s post was mostly nonsense too. But at least it was rational and not hyperbolic !!

Malaga View

Brilliant and well written…
What is all the fuss about? Its a storm in a teacup!
Thank You from one callow, unfeeling neo-Elizabethan brute to another 🙂


Grandchildren, which grandchildren would that be? What’s that alarmist said again that people will die in the zillions of all sorts of nasty simplified statistical climate phenomenon or of deceases, starvation and thirst brought on by them nasty simplified statistical phenomenon. So who’ll have kids under those future conditions?
So why spend money today on people who wont exist tomorrow?

amicus curiae

Willis, well done indeed, simple concise calm and..shock horror!
theres no panic fear or frenzy aspect:-)
without that, this brilliant article will NOT make it to the Msm yaddah yaddah.
prior to this ,your “Show me the Corpses” was my favorite, but now its a close race indeed.

anna v

Good article.
Maybe you could end it with a paragraph outlining the positive aspects if this tiny bit of heating takes place, as people have outlined above: better agriculture, better for arthritis, less pneumonias 🙂 etc. And if in Siberia it is 10C warmer in the winter at night, from -60C to -50C, what’s so bad about that? And the reminder that the last 400.000 years or so what goes up in temperature, comes down, so what role can linear extrapolation play ?

stephen richards

Ok Willis, Nice piece.
Just a thought or two. How have the climate belts changed during the 2°C change since the little ice age and the 5°C or more since the ice age?. Is this change linear? I was a young lad in the ’50s and note that our winters have been less snowy and less cold even since the early ’70s (a 0.5 to 0.8°C change, perhaps). What happens to land use as the climatic belts move north, specifically those lands that move into the warmer climate phases from their already warm phase? Does it fall out of use? Can it be inhabited? or do crops grow even better there as well as further north?
And finally, I agree totally with you on the effects of temps adjustment since the advent of hansenism. I believe that all physicists will same the same thing about data. You take the raw and analyse it. You examen it for ‘quirkiness’. You revisit the data and the experiment to try to create an hypotheses as to why the ‘quirkiness’ appeared. You put forward your hypotheses for review. YOU DO NOT ADJUST THE ORIGINAL DATA. That is criminal in scientific terms.


Natsman says: “So why are there alarmists, and what sort of individual believes them? ”
Partly because, I would bet, that if you went out into the streets and asked a representative sample of people by how much the planet had supposedly warmed in the last century most people’s guesses would be out by several degrees.
Presented with the “real” supposed figure most would, I suspect, wonder what all the fuss was about.
Don’t forget that, unlike here, most people’s information on the subject is gained from alarmist propaganda, disguised or not – which hardly emphasizes piffling numbers like the “actual” rise.

The most potent and irreversible forcing? The human ego.
Give it a little power and it will spin that into a desire for complete control.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Never give in to the fevered dreams of those that have betrayed their adherence to the scientific method and the humanistic ideal of “The whole truth and nothing but the Truth.”


8-balled. hansen eight-balled.
“Many environmentalists want to save the planet, not mankind. For them, the sophisticated economic reasoning we offer is irrelevant.”
“Vaclav Klaus: An anti-human ideology
Global warming may just be statistical fluctuations
By Václav Klaus
The global warming dispute starts with a doctrine which claims that the rough coexistence of climate changes, of growing temperatures and of man-made increments of CO2 in the atmosphere — and what is more, only in a relatively short period of time — is a proof of a causal relationship between these phenomena. To the best of my knowledge there is no such relationship between them. It is, nevertheless, this claim that forms the basis for the doctrine of environmentalism.
It is not a new doctrine. It has existed under various headings and in various forms and manifestations for centuries, always based on the idea that the starting point of our thinking should be the Earth, the planet or nature, not man or mankind. It has always been accompanied by the plan that we have to come back to the original state of the Earth, unspoiled by us, humans. The adherents of this doctrine have always considered us, the people, a foreign element. They forget that it doesn’t make sense to speak about the world without people because there would be no one to speak. If we take the reasoning of the environmentalists seriously, we find that theirs is an anti-human ideology.
To reduce the interpretation of the causality of all kinds of climate changes and of global warming to one variable, CO2, or to a small proportion of one variable — human-induced CO2 — is impossible to accept. Elementary rationality and my decades-long experience with econometric modelling and statistical testing of scientific hypotheses tell me that it is impossible to make strong conclusions based on mere correlation of two (or more) time series.
In addition to this, it is relevant that in this case such a simple correlation does not exist. The rise of global temperature started approximately 150 years ago, but man-made CO2 emissions did not start to grow visibly before the 1940s. Temperature changes also repeatedly moved in the opposite direction than the CO2 emissions trend suggests.
Theory is crucial and in this case it is missing. Pure statistical analysis does not explain or confirm anything. Two Chinese scientists, Guang Wu and Shaomin Yan, published a study in which they used the random walk model to ­analyze the global temperature fluctuations in the last 160 years. Their results — rather unpleasantly for the global-warming alarmists — show that the random walk model perfectly fits the temperature changes. Because “the random walk model has a perfect fit for the recorded temperature … there is no need to include various man-made factors such as CO2, and non-human factors, such as the Sun” to improve the quality of the model fit, they say. It is an important result. Do other models give a better fit? I have not seen any.
The untenable argument that there exists a simple causal nexus, a simple functional relationship, between temperature and man-made CO2 is only one part of the whole story and only one tenet of environmentalism. The other, not less important aspect of this doctrine is the claim that there is a very strong and exclusively damaging relationship between temperature and its impact upon nature, upon the Earth and upon the planet.
The original ambition probably used to be saving the planet for human beings, but we see now that this target has gradually become less and less important. Many environmentalists want to save the planet, not mankind. For them, the sophisticated economic reasoning we offer is irrelevant.
Only some of them look at mankind. Only with them the debate about the intergenerational discrimination and solidarity and about the proper size of discount rates used in any intertemporal analysis comes into consideration, only here can the economists make use of some of their concepts. The unjustifiably low rate of discount used by the environmentalists was for me the original motivation to enter the discussion.”
Isolated flurries”

Swift knew the linear-extrapolating type as well.
From his description of the Laputans in Gulliver:
And although they are dexterous enough upon a piece of paper, in the management of the rule, the pencil, and the divider, yet in the common actions and behaviour of life, I have not seen a more clumsy, awkward, and unhandy people, nor so slow and perplexed in their conceptions upon all other subjects, except those of mathematics and music. They are very bad reasoners, and vehemently given to opposition, unless when they happen to be of the right opinion, which is seldom their case. Imagination, fancy, and invention, they are wholly strangers to, nor have any words in their language, by which those ideas can be expressed; the whole compass of their thoughts and mind being shut up within [mathematics].
But what I chiefly admired, and thought altogether unaccountable, was the strong disposition I observed in them towards news and politics, perpetually inquiring into public affairs, giving their judgments in matters of state, and passionately disputing every inch of a party opinion.
These people are under continual disquietudes, never enjoying a minute’s peace of ind; and their disturbances proceed from causes which very little affect the rest of mortals. Their apprehensions arise from several changes they dread in the celestial bodies: for instance, that the earth, by the continual approaches of the sun towards it, must, in course of time, be absorbed, or swallowed up; that the face of the sun, will, by degrees, be encrusted with its own effluvia, and give no more light to the world; that the earth very narrowly escaped a brush from the tail of the last comet, which would have infallibly reduced it to ashes; and that the next, which they have calculated for one-and-thirty years hence, will probably destroy us. For if, in its perihelion, it should approach within a certain degree of the sun (as by their calculations they have reason to dread) it will receive a degree of heat ten thousand times more intense than that of red hot glowing iron, and in its absence from the sun, carry a blazing tail ten hundred thousand and fourteen miles long, through which, if the earth should pass at the distance of one hundred thousand miles from the nucleus, or main body of the comet, it must in its passage be set on fire, and reduced to ashes: that the sun, daily spending its rays without any nutriment to supply them, will at last be wholly consumed and annihilated; which must be attended with the destruction of this earth, and of all the planets that receive their light from it.

Lonnie Schubert

Thanks, Willis. I appreciate your writing. I agree.
Did you get this Mr. Fuller? (I know you’re reading, but I’m adding the emphasis.)
Warmer is better! (Ask the dinosaurs.) Did anyone catch the fact that the science so far indicates that primates and ungulates came on the scene those eons ago when the world was at its probable warmest ever, a full 10°C warmer or so than now?
I want to address the assumption that our grandchildren will be able to measure 0.1°C accurately in context of weather by 2050. Not!
I spent years conducting metals tests from -190°C to +500°C. (Breaking things is fun but can be tedious when you have to control temperature.) To reproduce temperatures to within ±2°C requires precision PID controls and active, intelligent tweaking. Reproducibility is a killer. I had my professors and supervisors admonishing me to not be perfectionist about my temperature control. Under most circumstances, with the best available temperature measurement capabilities, accuracy and reproducibility at ±2°C is the best we can claim with certainty. And I’m supposed to get excited about my grandchildren dealing with an increase equal to the known noise? No. I will not. My grandchildren will be fully capable, adaptable, and smart enough to deal with it. Besides, I assert the supposed two-degree increase will be a boon. Life will be better the world over if it is that much warmer.
Anyway, my point is that we are arguing over numbers we cannot even measure, and there really is no likelihood that we will be able to measure so precisely fifty years from now.
We cannot do it with a contact thermocouple in a controlled thermal chamber. What makes the warmists and lukewarmers think we can do it for the entire uncontrolled planet? (Mr. Fuller, I’ll watch for a response. I really would like to know why you think we can measure the globe in tenths of degrees.)
I’ll add, totally out of context, economical fusion-derived power is 20 years away, just as it has been for over 70 years now.


Read Hansen’s wording about his tipping points very carefully.
He knows he is misleading people by distracting them over his claim about Venus, then he slips in the incredible comment about ‘if we burn all the carbon’.
For the AGW fear mongering industry, all weather represents AGW, unless it does not, and then it is simply weather.


Spot on, always love your posts. Cold hard logic and reasoning see straight through to the heart of the issue, every time


The apologists like Tom Fuller would rather give up control of their lives to someone else than confront the foolishness of the invented problem. Without using any loaded political historical observations, Tom needs to think about what he and the other apologists give up when the cede control of their lives to someone else and their agenda.


Another beautifully clear-headed and rational post, thank you Willis. Especially thank you for that Mark Twain quote – I’ve not seen that before, and it brilliantly encapsulates the utter stupidity of assuming unchanging linear trends in everything.