There is quite a bit of buzz surrounding a talk and pending paper from Prof. Murry Salby the Chair of Climate, of Macquarie University. Aussie Jo Nova has excellent commentary, as has Andrew Bolt in his blog. I’m sure others will weigh in soon.
In a nutshell, the issue is rather simple, yet powerful. Salby is arguing that atmospheric CO2 increase that we observe is a product of temperature increase, and not the other way around, meaning it is a product of natural variation. This goes back to the 800 year lead/lag issue related to the paleo temperature and CO2 graphs Al Gore presented in his movie an An Inconvenient Truth, Jo Nova writes:
Over the last two years he has been looking at C12 and C13 ratios and CO2 levels around the world, and has come to the conclusion that man-made emissions have only a small effect on global CO2 levels. It’s not just that man-made emissions don’t control the climate, they don’t even control global CO2 levels.
PROFESSOR MURRY SALBY
Chair of Climate, Macquarie University
Atmospheric Science, Climate Change and Carbon – Some Facts
Carbon dioxide is emitted by human activities as well as a host of natural processes. The satellite record, in concert with instrumental observations, is now long enough to have collected a population of climate perturbations, wherein the Earth-atmosphere system was disturbed from equilibrium. Introduced naturally, those perturbations reveal that net global emission of CO2 (combined from all sources, human and natural) is controlled by properties of the general circulation – properties internal to the climate system that regulate emission from natural sources. The strong dependence on internal properties indicates that emission of CO2 from natural sources, which accounts for 96 per cent of its overall emission, plays a major role in observed changes of CO2. Independent of human emission, this contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide is only marginally predictable and not controllable.
Professor Murry Salby holds the Climate Chair at Macquarie University and has had a lengthy career as a world-recognised researcher and academic in the field of Atmospheric Physics. He has held positions at leading research institutions, including the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, Princeton University, and the University of Colorado, with invited professorships at universities in Europe and Asia. At Macquarie University, Professor Salby uses satellite data and supercomputing to explore issues surrounding changes of global climate and climate variability over Australia. Professor Salby is the author of Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics, and Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate due out in 2011. Professor Salby’s latest research makes a timely and highly-relevant contribution to the current discourse on climate.
Salby’s talk was given in June at the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysic meeting in Melbourne Australia. He indicates that a journal paper is in press, with an expectation of publication a few months out. He also hints that some of the results will be in his book Physics of the Atmosphere and Climate which is supposed to be available Sept 30th.
The podcast for his talk“Global Emission of Carbon Dioxide: The Contribution from Natural Sources” is here (MP3 audio format). The podcast length is an hour, split between his formal presentation ~ 30 minutes, and Q&A for the remaining time.
Andrew Bolt says in his Herald Sun blog:
Salby’s argument is that the usual evidence given for the rise in CO2 being man-made is mistaken. It’s usually taken to be the fact that as carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere increase, the 1 per cent of CO2 that’s the heavier carbon isotope ratio c13 declines in proportion. Plants, which produced our coal and oil, prefer the lighter c12 isotope. Hence, it must be our gasses that caused this relative decline.
But that conclusion holds true only if there are no other sources of c12 increases which are not human caused. Salby says there are – the huge increases in carbon dioxide concentrations caused by such things as spells of warming and El Ninos, which cause concentration levels to increase independently of human emissions. He suggests that its warmth which tends to produce more CO2, rather than vice versa – which, incidentally is the story of the past recoveries from ice ages.
Dr. Judith Curry has some strong words of support, and of caution:
I just finished listening to Murry Salby’s podcast on Climate Change and Carbon. Wow.
If Salby’s analysis holds up, this could revolutionize AGW science. Salby and I were both at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the 1990′s, but I don’t know him well personally. He is the author of a popular introductory graduate text Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics. He is an excellent lecturer and teacher, which comes across in his podcast. He has the reputation of a thorough and careful researcher. While all this is frustratingly preliminary without publication, slides, etc., it is sufficiently important that we should start talking about these issues. I’ll close with this text from Bolt’s article:
He said he had an “involuntary gag reflex” whenever someone said the “science was settled”.
“Anyone who thinks the science of this complex thing is settled is in Fantasia.”
Dr Roy Spencer has suspected something similar, See Atmospheric CO2 Increases: Could the Ocean, Rather Than Mankind, Be the Reason? plus part 2 Spencer Part2: More CO2 Peculiarities – The C13/C12 Isotope Ratio both guest posts at WUWT in 2008. Both of these are well worth your time to re-read as a primer for what will surely be a (ahem) hotly contested issue.
I’m pretty sure Australian bloggers John Cook at Skeptical Science and Tim Lambert at Deltoid are having conniption fits right about now. And, I’m betting that soon, the usual smears of “denier” will be applied to Dr. Salby by those two clowns, followed by the other usual suspects.
Smears of denial and catcalls aside, if it holds up, it may be the Emily Litella moment for climate science and CO2 – “Never mind…”