Not Evil, Just Destructive

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:

4  Conclusion

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.

Remember, energy use per capita is another name for development. They are synonymous, as I discuss here. I show how this affects the Solomon Islands, a developing country, here.

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.



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The problem with History’s condemnation is that it takes so long.


You are 100% correct. Why people oppose low-cost energy, I don’t know. Why can’t they let people develop as they want, without interference from eco-fascists? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they still believe that more energy means more population, just like socialists still think more government control means more economic growth. Seriously, what drugs are they taking?

Rob R

The winners write the history books.
The CAGW crowd are determined to be the winners. If they succeed the condemnation may take a very long time arriving.


Are we sure the author’s name isn’t Hustler?

Watching the spinning going on over at CP is simply hilarious. He’s coaching the authors now, and they’ll post up a “fixed” paper, thanks in no small part to the peer review given here.
Predictably, Joe will then declare the science “sound” and trash those evil “anti-science deniers” at WUWT once again, patting himself on the back for having helped to “improve” the supposed science in the paper.
Meanwhile, the delusions continue in the CP Twilight Zone


Romm and his ilk are mouthpieces of the elites. That’s a fairly conspiratorial stance to take, especially for me, but it’s true.
You see, expensive energy means the elites win and the world descends (perhaps slowly, but definitely surely) into something like 15-16th century Europe. It means there will exist a ruling class that can afford energy to generate more wealth, and a serf class that cannot afford more energy to generate their own wealth and lives at the whim of the elites.
Cheap energy means true economic freedom for all.
If energy isn’t cheap, the worlds elite win and the free market truly dies.


Reminds me of Malthus’ false claim that the world would face mass starvation because population was growing exponentially while food production could only grow linearly. We know he was proven right by history! LOL

I almost forgot. Romm has had trouble with being stuck on acceleration before.


“What does “super-exponentially accelerating” mean?”
It is one step below Super Duper Exponentially Accelerating.

I’ll quote my liberal friend Tom Fuller. AGW policies are nothing more than a war on the poor.


Has anyone bothered mentioning to those twits that during the last decade and a half – when population growth was “just exponential” and CO2 growth rate was “SuperCalifragilisticExponentialAlidocious” – global temp has been “dead flat”?
Shouldn’t the accelerating rate of CO2 rate acceleration cause accelerating acceleration of temp acceleration? We ought to be well along the “worst case business as usual” scenarios’ “Super-Duper Hockey Stick of Death”, shouldnt we? Around 8C per century? Where are we again? 1.4C?
And shouldnt we all be dog paddling in “Hyper Acidified” ocean water by now? What is the rate of sea level rise doing again? Declining?
Its probably the additional weight of all of that CO2 that is causing earthquakes and tsunamis.


Their basic assumption is that only humans emit CO2, that the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is directly related to only human population. Did they every heard of those huge carbon dioxide sources like volcano and all water bodies?

I will accept, reluctantly and with extreme prejudice, the assertion that Joe Romm is not EVIL.


Nah. I can’t be that charitable about people on the political left, Joseph Romm emphatically included.

“You’re people, in short, who must be stupid, insane, or evil to continue arguing — in the face of indisputable facts and irrefutable logic — that others must be forced into a state of helplessness and victimized by individual criminals or the state.

Stupid, insane, or evil.”

Hector M.

According to all serious population forecasts, world population is on its way to peak about mid century or shortly afterwards, and then start decreasing. This is consistent with the statistical relationship between demographic rates and variables such as per capita income, female education and others. Fertility rates are already way below replacement levels in developed countries, and rapidly approaching replacement levels in most of middle income (and a host of low income) countries. Only the very least-developed countries, especially in Africa, are still at high fertility levels though rapidly declining as well (there are a few exceptions or anomalies in the trend, due to specific circumstances, like the high fertility of Israel and the rich Gulf states, with high income and high fertility due to cultural and political reasons).
Besides, the Medium Variant of the UN pop forecasts seems already overstated, and predicts a stabilization of fertility at 1.85 children per woman whereas experience shows it falling down to 1.2-1.5, then timidly regaining ground at very high income levels.


Atmospheric CO2 content may have been increasing, but exponentially? The graph willis shows suggests otherwise. ‘Super-exponential’ it clearly isn’t.
By the way Willis, exactly what is the point of this paper? Is their some data, observations or even models to go with their catastrophising?


In addition, there is plenty of data that indicates that the population growth *decrease* as a function of energy availability (and thus, education, economic opportunity and the like). If one *really* believes people are the problem, energy helps. Attempting to constrain energy availability thus results in a higher future birth rate (and population equilibrium) relative to a more energy available path.
Additionally, if the population alarmists are correct (arguendo), that population growth is *the* critical issue, it is irrational to restrict energy access.

George E. Smith

Well “just” exponential growth means the velocity is equal to the value (maybe tmes a cosntant); so I guess that the acceleration would be something else.
Do these “climate scientists, understand that they are using “words” that have already been spoken for, and already have well understood meanings that they should not mess with.
Oh I forgot; they also believe that the mean global Temperature increases linearly with the logarithm of the atmospheric CO2 abundance; and we have about a third of one CO2 doubling, of actual observed data to prove that that is the coreect relationship.
I can make it fit exp-1/x^2 just as well.. Now there’s a function for you. It starts out at zero, with zero velocity, and zero acceleration, and zero rate of increas of acceleration. In fact every one of its derivatives is zero at x = 0; so how in the hell does it ever manage to get anywhere; but it does.

Are there any night time minimum winter data available to be compared with maximums? Because this does not work in Arctic, where winter temperatures do not increase much more than summer temps

Jaye Bass

The Malthusian trap was broken by fossil fuels. Otherwise, any growing society would eventually run out of “renewables” until the population collapsed. The key was decoupling land use and exhaustible local resources from human expansion.

Henry chance

This is about politics, money and power.
Joe, Soros and his political cabel have in their imaginations built fear in their heads of BIG OIL and pollution etc and the Koch bad guys. (I have met 2 of the bros and even their dad many decades ago)
In psychology we have contrarians. What they think is good for the Kochs is what they push against. The Kochs are mere refiners and no longer producers. If paranoics think nuclear power is bad, they will start wars to be rid of evil nuclear.
Romm is in a bind. Greenies love ethanol and green renewables. Koch just bought a few ethanol plants. Now how do you hate them when they do what you pushed for?
Romm would experience torture in his head if Koch bought into solar and wind.


and how long did they work on this paper?
….how many times did they check each other for spelling, math, etc
and how many mistakes were easily found?
This is the sorry state that science is in.

Perhaps the CO2 is accelerating because temperatures have been higher recently, boiling off CO2 from the oceans. Perhaps the increasing CO2 levels do not come from industry, as claimed by AGW, but from Nature. CO2 is ‘accelerating’ and temperatures are now plateauing. Could we have a disconnect?

AZ Bob

Bravo Willis! Your final paragraph sums up the debate perfectly. Succinct and to the point! That is worth quoting again and again. Thank you.

Brent Hargreaves

“…to bring energy to the people of the planet”, writes Willis. This is indeed a noble aim.
The Warmistas have an antidevelopment agenda. Rather like the mantra in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm – FOUR LEGS GOOD, TWO LEGS BAD – the wicked Hockey Team should go public with their mantra: POVERTY GOOD, ENERGY BAD. They won’t be content until we’re all living in mud huts.


From what I’ve heard, the actual carbon policies that do exist or are being seriously discussed are exclusively rich nations choosing to make carbon emissions more expensive domestically.
This makes energy-intensive industries more expensive in rich countries, which gives poor countries an easier entry into global markets.
Effectively self-imposed rich country carbon taxes are an indirect subsidy for poor countries to increase their carbon emissions.
Makes me wonder if carbon taxes wouldn’t actually be a great way to reduce global economic inequality, but completely ineffective at reducing global CO2 emissions. And probably very effective at increasing the real environmental problems that come along with industrialization in poor countries.
The only way to reduce global CO2 emissions is to make lower carbon energy cheaper.

JRR Canada

So true colours time again , its not CO2 thats the problem, really its people? So back reading all the CAWG propaganda ,err science? and swapping the term people for CO2, the problem is population is rising and this is a deadly long term threat to the planet. Now that does sound like our Rabid Suzuki and all the useless idiots who worship with him. Thank you Willis once again demonstrating the mathematically challenged planet saviors, so the growth of hyperbole has increased exponentially as opposed to population, CO2 or evidence for CAWG.


Boy man Romm is a job whacked out.
This “super-exponentially accelerating” paper can be flushed, that’s all it’s good for.

Bob Barker

From the Climategate emails I see that peer review of climate science papers has been somewhat lacking in substance. Thanks to Willis, Anthony and others who provide us with a “sanity check” when they appear.

Stephen Brown

After your first posting on this “paper” I thought that you’d left A.D. Husler, D. Sornette and J. Romm drilled, screwed, bored, reamed and counter-sunk.
Now I see that the 4lb hammer has been brought into action!
It’s nice to see the caustic truth poured onto the vile slime of lies.

Willis Eschenbach

Juraj V. says:
March 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Are there any night time minimum winter data available to be compared with maximums? Because this does not work in Arctic, where winter temperatures do not increase much more than summer temps

Try here and here for examples of winter warming.
The IPCC says:

The warming in the last 30 years is widespread over the globe, and is greatest at higher northern latitudes. The greatest warming has occurred in the NH winter (DJF) and spring (MAM).



Someone needs to put what you’re going to have to do to prevent “global warming” in terms someone will understand. Be green: pay lots of cash with no benefits(Reliable household electricity anyone?). Be smart: pay little and maintain simple benefits.

Vince Causey

Well, I’ve never heard of super exponential acceleration before, and it sure sounds scary. The graph of co2 looks more linear than super duper – I’m sure you can fit a straight line through it. If that’s what they mean by super exponential, what would linear be? A horizontal line?
The whole idea is nonsense because they’ve just made up a term that doesn’t exist in mathematics, and made it mean just what they want it to mean. Of course, if there is such a thing in maths, I’ll have to eat my words.


Something jarred me when I got to the end of your article. You state, and FWIW I agree, that cold is the enemy of the poor, not warmth.
I recently saw an Oxfam poster which made me feel pretty uneasy. They say that people dieing from global warming is a long way off, about 5000 miles and have had the poster cleared (in the UK,by the ASA thanks to the IPCC and others of course).
Still, if you ignore the people that the almost immeasurable warming we’ve experienced over the last 50 years (or even cooling if you take the, most recent variance) is saving then I suppose it could be acceptable, if disengenuous.
Oxfam say that people are dieing because of AGW. The ASA agree. Is anyone aware of anyone anywhere who’s been harmed by AGW yet?

Willis Eschenbach

Jaye Bass says:
March 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm

The Malthusian trap was broken by fossil fuels. Otherwise, any growing society would eventually run out of “renewables” until the population collapsed. The key was decoupling land use and exhaustible local resources from human expansion.

No, no, and no. There never was a “Malthusian trap” to be broken. Malthus asserted, not showed but asserted, that population growth was geometric while food growth was only linear. In fact, both of those claims are generally false. It has nothing to do with fossil fuels.
Think about Malthus’s claim for a minute. If it were true, human population couldn’t have gone from one million to two million, much less reached the current levels. The Egyptians could have never become a civilization, according to Malthus. They’d have run out of food.
I discuss this nonsense here.

Willis Eschenbach

AZ Bob says:
March 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Bravo Willis! Your final paragraph sums up the debate perfectly. Succinct and to the point! That is worth quoting again and again. Thank you.

Thanks, AZ Bob. I rewrote that paragraph several times, and put a lot of time and thought into those few words. I’m glad to see it is appreciated.


“Super exponentially accelerating” What? Your graph of CO2 vs time looks linear. Oh, I get it, the exponent is one.

You have shown the thesis of the paper in question to be flawed and it is clear that the language used by them to describe it is hyperbolic as well as mistaken.
As the equally flawed Michael Tobis is quick to point out in other contexts, we don’t really care about emissions. Actually we don’t really care about energy consumption. Or at least we shouldn’t.
The dwindling band of those concerned about global warming (which includes me, if not most readers here) are concerned about concentrations–with how much CO2 is in the atmosphere. How long does it stay there after emitted? Do the various sinks that sequester CO2 change operation over time, and what influences those sinks?
I personally find it disturbing that in years when temperatures fall, CO2 concentrations keep rising. The ocean should suck up more CO2 when it cools. But that’s just me, and I don’t claim to understand everything about the natural sinks for carbon dioxide.
If the poor are actually getting more access to cheap energy, that’s the best news I’ve heard today. It doesn’t stop me from being concerned about global warming, but their lives are important. To everyone but Joe Romm and his contemptible band of Rommulans.

Jim Barker

I think we are missing the actual agenda, which is to grow the green “economy”. This is a false economy, but is good for “green” jobs. See the posting over at Jo Novas on whats reality in Europe. Truly evil green tape.

View from the Solent

After super-exponential, where does he go? Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious perhaps?

Ray says: March 17, 2011 at 2:11 pm
Actually global population is an extremely good predictor of Co2 in the atmosphere, the is a 99% correlation between CO2 and global population since 1800. (idso’s)
Yes there is apopulation hockestick, yes there is a co2 hoceystick, nothere isn’t a temperature hocheystick.


TRM says:
March 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm
“What does “super-exponentially accelerating” mean?”
It is one step below Super Duper Exponentially Accelerating.
How many more steps to the “Infinite Improbability Drive” ?? One maybe ??

Craig Moore

Willis, from looking at your baby picture it looks like you dropped a surprise in your diaper after reading Romm’s paper further.
I agree that your last paragraph puts it all in perspective. Yes, look to the future but make sure we get there.


Steven Mosher says:
March 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm
I’ll quote my liberal friend Tom Fuller. AGW policies are nothing more than a war on the poor.
Yep. In the fake-socialist, neomonarchist world, LESS Arctic ice is GOOD, and prayed for. More poor people also GOOD and, unfortunately for the poor, a more manageable and less quantifiable project.


The extralinguistic exaggerations expounded by the execrable AGW extremists expand exponentially.
The level of nonsense in AGW propaganda seems to be increasing (super) exponentially in proportion to the (super) exponential increase in the number of people who think AGW is complete B%^$£”*&S…

Charlie A

“The best way to protect the poor from the ravages of the climate is to make them middle-class, and that takes energy.”… Willis Eschenbach.
That’s a very pithy way to describe what I think is the optimal way of adapting to climate change. It also has the advantage of being applicable to the dangers of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, etc.

stupidboy says:
“The extralinguistic exaggerations expounded by the execrable AGW extremists expand exponentially.”
Always avoid alliteration.☺

Jim Barker

Eschew Obfuscation Assiduously, anyone? 🙂


I enjoyed this Willis, as I always do with your posts. I have to laugh at the idea that the answer to population growth is to keep people poor by denying them cheap energy…as anyone who comes from a farm family knows, poor people have more children. More children means more hands to work and more support for you when you become old. And poverty means more children die, of course, albeit unpredictably, so having auxillary back-up children is essential. My father’s family going back through the generations of farmers had formidable numbers of children…really quite frightening from my perspective, to think of being pregnant that many times…(and burying so many of them).


Willis Eschenbach says:
March 17, 2011 at 3:49 pm
“I rewrote that paragraph several times, and put a lot of time and thought into those few words.”
Thanks for taking the time, the effort shows.
Great post.