The IPCC has been Deceiving the Public about the Carbon Cycle from the Start

Guest essay by Ari Halperin

Many people hold the opinion that the early full reports of the IPCC Working Group I were scientifically wholesome, at least for some time. This might be true for some parts of the reports, but their treatment of the carbon cycle was fraudulent from the start, i.e., from the IPCC First Assessment Report (FAR, 1990).

The claim that man-released CO2 stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years was necessary for the alarmist case. It was required to justify the notion of “commitment” to the temperature rise that might happen few hundred years in the future according to the alarmist computer models. It allowed to exaggerate future CO2 concentrations, and to demand premature action (a typical high pressure selling tactic – act now, regret later). And IPCC pulled out all the stops to justify such claims. It tried to create the impression that CO2 is something like a demon from the underworld: ignoring the laws of physics, harmful and dangerous, and difficult to exorcize. This is a claim that was made in FAR:

“Because of its complex cycle, the decay of excess CO2 in the atmosphere does not follow a simple exponential curve … For example, the first reduction by 50 percent occurs within some 50 years, whereas the reduction by another 50 percent (to 25 percent of the initial value) requires approximately another 250 years” (FAR WGI, p. 8).

The authors of this text did not explain how CO2 knows when it is in the “first reduction” and when it is in another one, which is supposed to take five times longer. This ideation is not grounded in any scientific evidence. In another place, the authors claim:

“The added carbon dioxide declines in a markedly non-exponential manner; there is an initial fast decline over the first 10 year period, followed by a more gradual decline over the next 100 years and a rather slow decline over the thousand year time-scale. The time period for the first half-life is typically around 50 years for the second, about 250 years …” (FAR WGI, p. 59).

The report also presented a carbon budget, in which emissions minus sinks should equal the CO2 build-up in the air. The report acknowledged the ocean sink but dismissed the land biota sink. Thus, the budget had a huge error, equal to 30% of the fossil fuels emissions, as shown in the following table taken from it:

FAR WGI, p. 13:

Emissions from fossil fuels into the atmosphere 5.4 ± 0.5
Emissions from deforestation and land use 1.6 ± 1.0
Accumulation in the atmosphere 3.4 ± 0.2
Uptake by the ocean 2.0 ± 0.8
Net imbalance 1.6 ± 1.4

The error, misleadingly called “net imbalance” by the authors, was equal to CO2 removal due to the extra fertilization. This is how the IPCC explained its decision to disregard CO2 fertilization:

There are possible processes on land which could account for the missing CO2 (but it has not been possible to verify them). They include the stimulation of vegetative growth by increasing CO2 levels (the CO2 fertilization effect), the possible enhanced productivity of vegetation under warmer conditions, and the direct effect of fertilization from agricultural fertilizers and from nitrogenous releases into the atmosphere.” (FAR WGI, p.13, emphasis is mine).

Yes, the IPCC stated that the mechanism of photosynthesis was not known well enough and needed verification! The hundred years of growing plants in CO2-enriched greenhouses were not considered sufficient verification. The Nierenberg Report (1983) was not an authority for them, and neither was the research by Sherwood Idso. Simply put, the IPCC did not like the fact of CO2 fertilization for many reasons, so it threw it out in calculating carbon budget.

This episode sheds light not only on the carbon cycle treatment, but also on the IPCC’s epistemology in other areas. It decides which empirical facts to acknowledge and which to ignore, and makes up whatever it needs. Since the early 1990’s climate-related research has been allocated huge budgets, and it produced a large volume of results of various quality. That allowed the alarmists to cherry pick not only data, but even physical processes. The presence of honest scientists put some limits on these machinations, but the alarmists found ways around that obstacle.

In fact, even in 1990 the IPCC was well aware of the enhanced fertilization effect, making land biota the second largest sink for atmospheric CO2, and did acknowledge it in another part of the report:

“Most land plants have a system of photosynthesis which will respond positively to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (‘the carbon dioxide fertilization effect’) but the response varies with species…” (FAR WGI, p. XXXI).

This illustrates one way they got around the honest scientists: formally acknowledge a scientific fact, but then disregard or suppress it in the models. In this case the IPCC acknowledged CO2 fertilization effect in a prominent place, but then ignored it when performing their calculations and modeling! Such dishonesty is hard to imagine.

Deceitfully disregarding the land carbon sink in this way resulted in a huge error in the IPCC’s favor. To cover their tracks, they called that error an “imbalance.” “Imbalance” sounds like a technical term in climatology, because it is similar to the term “unbalanced model,” which is frequently used in the world of climate models (which are wrong for other reasons). Thus, the deception was committed, and the tracks were successfully covered.

But this is not the end. The same report stated:

For each gas in the table, except CO2, the lifetime is defined here as the ratio of the atmospheric content to the total rale of removal. This time scale also characterizes the rate of adjustment of the atmospheric concentrations if the emission rates are changed abruptly. CO2 is a special case since it has no real sinks but is merely circulated between various reservoirs (atmosphere ocean biota) The lifetime of CO2 given in the table is a rough indication of the time it would take for the CO2 concentration to adjust to changes in the emissions… (FAR WGI, my emphasis. Table 1.1 gives the CO2 “lifetime” as 50 200 years).

No real sinks? How about the ocean? Is it not real, or has “it been impossible to verify that it was real”? A relatively minor point is that the word “reservoir” is subtly misleading, because it suggests a fixed capacity, while the capacity of the ocean and biota are flexible and increase with the increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Reports following the FAR could not ignore the land sink, so other devices were employed to underestimate CO2 removal from the air. Anybody familiar with the ways of the IPCC would correctly guess that dishonest calibration of models was not low on the list. From IPCC Climate Change 1994 (a minor report):

The carbon cycle models were calibrated to balance the contemporary carbon budget according to earlier estimates (IPCC 1990 and 1992), rather than the budget shown in Table 1, which was not finalised until after the model calculations had been completed (IPCC Climate Change 1994, p. 19).

This reminds me a joke: “I was going to include a check for the full amount of my debt with this letter, but, unfortunately, I have already sealed the envelope.”

IPCC Climate Change 1994 was the first report in which the infamous Bern model reared its ugly head. According to the IPCC, it is a simple formula for the surplus CO2 concentration, approximating results of the (wrongly calibrated) complex physical models:

“We chose one model, the ‘Bern model’, for a number of important illustrative calculations, because its results were generally near the mid-point of the results obtained with all models, and because complete descriptions exist in the literature (Joos et al., 1991a; Siegenthaler and Joos, 1992)” (IPCC Climate Change 1994, p. 59).

The IPCC Second Assessment Report (SAR, 1995) spread further confusion to cover the deception:

“Carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by a number of processes that operate on different time-scales. It has a relatively long residence time in the climate system — of the order of a century or more” (SAR Synthesis, p.9; my emphasis).

First, notice the semantic trickery. The first sentence refers to the atmosphere, while the second sentence refers to the climate system, which is defined by the UNFCCC as follows:

“’Climate system’ means the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.”

The IPCC SAR Synthesis was negotiated line-by-line by representatives of more than a hundred governments, which might explain some of the rough transitions. The natural interpretation of this passage is that the residence time refers to the residence time of the carbon dioxide in atmosphere. Residence time is usually defined as the average time that a molecule resides in the system under consideration. The residence time of CO2 in atmosphere is about five years. IPCC probably meant not the residence time, but something like “e-folding time of excess concentration,” but wanted to avoid any hint of exponential decay. So it came up with tortured language and a flatly wrong statement. The paradox of climate alarmism is that the further it gets from truth, the stronger it becomes: Credo quia absurdum. Some opponents of Climatism noticed this obvious blunder, made much of it, and missed a big deception hidden behind the blunder. To add insult to injury, the Climatists laughed at the opponents, accusing them of not understanding “IPCC science.”

This mix of malice and incompetence has proven to be a potent weapon in the IPCC’s arsenal.

I rest my case. The deception is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But nothing in this article is intended to suggest that the scientists who contributed to or were referenced in the IPCC reports were complicit in this deception.

An interesting political effect has been taking place since the 1992 Rio Summit. Some developing countries have been underreporting deforestation and the resulting CO2 emissions. This underreporting peaked in 2008, probably spurred by the carbon credits trading and (unsuccessful) negotiations of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) paper. Since the 1997 Kyoto protocol, some industrialized countries have also been underreporting CO2 emissions from industrial activities. The most dramatic case is China. I will refrain from making obvious comments on these facts. Neither will I address the failure of the formerly mainstream media and/or con scientists (“consensus scientists” – no bigger offense intended) to inform the public about this cheating.

But this cheating led to underestimation of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the last 15-20 years, and consequent underestimation of the sink rates. Thus, the over-estimating IPCC models might have come to match the problematic IPCC data.

Read more commentaries on Climatism on my blog.

——- The following remarks are more technical and/or detailed ——

Most natural processes can be described by analytic functions, which can be decomposed into Taylor’s series. In some cases, discarding all members of the series but the first two provides a reasonable approximation. Actually, engineering and physics textbooks often advise students this way: if you are dealing with an unfamiliar process or system, try to represent it by the first two members of Taylor’s series. In the case of the atmospheric CO2 concentration, this gives

where C is the surplus (over the equilibrium) CO2 concentration, and the constant > 0. This is the equation for exponential decay:


The value is the half-life of the surplus concentration. Of course, this is just one reasonable approach to the problem. More research could have shown that the half-life is not constant, but varies depending on time, historical emissions, sinks saturation, or other variables. But so far, neither research nor observations contradict hypothesis of constant half-life of surplus CO2.

Unable to reconcile their carbon cycle pseudo-science with either physics or observations, the IPCC and its supporting authors used two more distractions. One was to focus on long-term processes (like look at sedimentation, do not look at plant fertilization and ocean convection). Another one was to frame discussion around the so-called “airborne fraction.” Unsurprisingly, this pseudo-physical quantity is defined completely differently in different Assessment Reports.

P. in WGI, AR4:

The ‘airborne fraction’ (atmospheric increase in CO2 concentration/fossil fuel emissions) provides a basic benchmark for assessing short- and long-term changes in these processes.

Glossary, AR5: Airborne fraction [means] The fraction of total CO2 emissions (from fossil fuel and land use change) remaining in the atmosphere.

This has been standard operating procedure in the IPCC since at least since the Third Assessment Report (2001). When some of its politically important “scientific conclusions” were proven wrong, the IPCC changed not the conclusions but the definitions of the terms used in them.

Next, the “airborne fraction” is not a fraction. Outside of math, the word fraction suggests a quantity between 0 and 1. The “airborne fraction,” as defined by the IPCC, can be anything from -∞ to +∞. For example, if anthropogenic emissions decrease and become half of the sinks, the airborne fraction would be -2 (in the absence of other natural factors). If anthropogenic emissions become zero, the airborne fraction is likely to be -∞ (a negative increase in concentration divided by zero). Nevertheless, volcanic eruptions can cause a CO2 concentration increase in a particular year, even in the absence of anthropogenic emissions, in which case the airborne fraction would be +∞. Finally, the “airborne fraction” is physically meaningless, because annual CO2 sinks are practically independent of the annual anthropogenic emissions. The “airborne fraction” is like oranges divided by apples. More precisely, it is (oranges – apples) / oranges. For the sake of accuracy, the “airborne fraction” of CO2 had been used by actual scientists before the IPCC, but it was used in a different context, in which it was appropriate and meaningful.

More nonsense from IPCC reports follow, with my inline comments. First, this is from the IPCC’s 1992 Supplemental Assessment (p.35):

For a given emissions scenario, the differences in predicted changes in CO2 concentrations, neglecting biospheric feedbacks, are up to 30% [more than the historical contribution of the US and Western Europe together – AH], but this is unlikely to represent the major uncertainty in the prediction of future climate change [because we are making a forgery, anyway] compared to uncertainties in estimating future patterns of trace gas emissions, and in quantifying physical climate feedback processes. Future atmospheric CO2 concentrations resulting from given emissions scenarios may be estimated by assuming that the same fraction remained airborne as has been observed during the last decade, i.e., 46+7% [see previous remark].

SAR WGI, pp. 16-17:

CO2 is removed from the atmosphere by a number of processes that operate on different time-scales scenarios [Not true. There are two main processes – increased plant fertilization and the ocean sink – and they operate on the same timescale of a few decades. – AH], and is subsequently transferred to various reservoirs, some of which eventually return CO2 to the atmosphere. Some simple analyses of CO2 changes have used the concept of a single characteristic time-scale for this gas. Such analyses are of limited value because a single time-scale cannot capture the behaviour of CO2 under different emission scenarios [The IPCC author is a moron, confusing e-folding time with timescale – AH]. This is in contrast to methane, for example, whose atmospheric lifetime is dominantly controlled by a single process: oxidation by OH in the atmosphere. For CO2 the fastest process is uptake into vegetation and the surface layer of the oceans which occurs over a few years. Various other sinks operate on the century time-scale (e.g., transfer to soils and to the deep ocean) [Confused again. Neither soils nor deep ocean are sinks for atmospheric CO2 in the atmosphere. Soils receive CO2 from biota, and the deep ocean exchanges CO2 with the ocean surface. – AH] and so have a less immediate, but no less important, effect on the atmospheric concentration. Within 30 years about 40-60% of the CO2 currently released to the atmosphere is removed. However, if emissions were reduced, the CO2 in the vegetation and ocean surface water would soon equilibrate with that in the atmosphere, [There is no CO2 in vegetation. The moron confuses carbon and carbon dioxide. Ocean water circulates, and the surface water is exchanged with deep ocean every few years on average. – AH] and the rate of removal would then be determined by the slower response of woody vegetation, soils, and transfer into the deeper layers of the ocean. Consequently, most of the excess atmospheric CO2 would be removed over about a century although a portion would remain airborne for thousands of years because transfer to the ultimate sink – ocean sediments – is very slow.

TAR WGI, p. 213:

Among those countries that have reported land-use emissions data to the UNFCCC, there are significant discrepancies between the primary data used in emissions inventories and the data available in international surveys; for example, rates of deforestation differ from rates reported by FAO (1993b) by as much as a factor of six (Houghton and Ramakrishna, 1999) [so we will select whatever data fits our models best].

Thus, every IPCC report can be compared to a garbage bin in a public square: delicious leftovers from good restaurants are thrown together with rotten fruits and sprinkled liberally with bird feces. One might take a look at the bin to see what sort of food is served in a nearby restaurant, but eating from the trash is not advisable. Some distinguished scientists contributed to the IPCC reports, especially the WGI, but their work lost all value when it was mixed with alarmist viewpoints.


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Bill Illis

It is not like the scientists involved are not intelligent. They are.
It is just that they chose to tell the scary story rather than the true accurate one.
The airborne fraction will probably fall below Zero at some point since the Carbon sinks will be greater than our emissions at some point in several decades.

Jay Hope

‘the scientists involved are not intelligent. They are’. Really? Where’s the evidence for that???


I gotta say, with the success of the warmongering, it is evidence they are intelligent. Perhaps not honest, but intelligent

It often takes a lot more intelligence to create a lie that some people will believe than it does to simply report the facts. People who can successfully “control the narrative” are paid quite well for their services.


RalphDaveWestfall commented: “..People who can successfully “control the narrative” are paid quite well for their services….”
Or driven by ‘the end justifies the means’ ideology. And in the case of AGW they are quite good at their propaganda.

Stephen Richards

Intelligence or cunning. I know people who are thick as 2 short planks but cunning as hell.


Some are intelligent and others are as sharp as a marble and simply along for a ride on the gravy train.


Can you read English? You know, double negative.

george e. smith

It’s a myth that the white cliffs of Dover were once at the bottom of the ocean.
After all, there are no carbon sinks on earth, including the deep oceans, so the white cliffs were probably the remnant of a super nova.
That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

george e. smith

“””””….. “The added carbon dioxide declines in a markedly non-exponential manner; there is an initial fast decline over the first 10 year period, followed by a more gradual decline over the next 100 years and a rather slow decline over the thousand year time-scale. …..”””””
So can somebody please explain just exactly when in the post 280 ppmm fossil fuel age, anyone observed this fast decline over ten years, followed by a gradual 100 year decline and then a long 1,000 year tail.
No such events have ever occurred in recorded human history. We have only seen CO2 go up and that really only since 1957/58 IGY, except for the annual cyclic perturbation.

Bill Burrows

Bill Illis – Australian sinks (c. 0.77 +/- 0.10 Pg C /year or c. 2800 Mt CO2-e/year) have already far exceeded its National Greenhouse Gas Inventory emissions figure (c. 552 Mt CO2-e) in 2011. See Detmers et al. 2015 (doi:10.1002/2015GL065161) . While 2011 was a strong La Nina year other research reports suggest a rising trend in above ground woody biomass carbon is evident in Northern Australia for the 20 year period, 1993-2012. This included both El Nino and La Nina conditions (See Liu et al. ). It is therefore quite likely (and not surprising given its small population and huge land mass) that Australia is, on average, a net atmospheric CO2 sink.

Bill Burrows

Here’s a better link to Detmers et al.:

Being trained as a scientist myself, overhearing in 1972 in Nairobi at an UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) preparation conference two bankers declaring carbon dioxide a toxic substance, made me probably one of the earliest global warming sceptics. Am I proud, no; rather sad.


I have always understood that the half-life of CO2 in the atmosphere was established by the Carbon -14 released by nuclear bomb tests in the 40’s and beyond. I believe the number quite clearly established by the known laws of radioactive decay and the measured decay of carbon -14 in the atmosphere is somewhere around 5 or 10 years.
Is my understanding incorrect?

DHR anticipated my comment. The half-life of CO2 was measured from bomb testing.


The idea of a half-life of a group of CO2 in the atmosphere is not the same as the fluctuations of the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere.

M Courtney

crystalofjedh, Absolutely correct.
Half-life refers to an individual molecule of CO2. But what matters is the perturbation which elevates the atmospheric CO2 concentration. And that doesn’t depend on which particular molecule is in the atmosphere at any one time.
It doesn’t know – how could it?
However the whole question is moot because this statement in the article is correct.

A relatively minor point is that the word “reservoir” is subtly misleading, because it suggests a fixed capacity, while the capacity of the ocean and biota are flexible and increase with the increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Yes. ‘radioactive’ half life is different than ambient concentration half life. Individual CO2 molecules presumably have no memory. So some deni&rs confusing molecular half life with concentration half life. PLEASE stop this warmunist targetable mistake.
BUT, the best studies on carbon sinks put the latter (relevant for CAGW) at at most ~50 years. Still a very large IPCC fail. And worthy of several serious rebuttal sound bites.

Scott Scarborough

This C14 half -ife they are talking about is not radioactive half life. It is half life of the radioactive C14 in the atmosphere. Chemically, it is assumed that it is removed from the atmosphere is exactly the same way as other isotopes of Carbon. Because it is radioactive it is easily measured but the word “radioactive” together with “half life” leads one to believe that it is the radioactive half-life that is being measured.


If all CO2 sources stopped, then 1/2 of all CO2 in Earths atmosphere will be removed in 10 years. That is by direct observation of the so-called “bomb 14C” tracers curve.
In 1964 the 14CO2 peaked at about twice the natural baseline. By 1974 the bomb tracer concentration had dropped to a point 1/2 way between the peak and the natural baseline. by 1984 the amount had decreased by the same proportion, ie 3/4 of the 14CO2 added by the atomic bomb testing had gone into very long term (aka permanent) sinks. In the 10 years from 1984 to 1994 the amount of bomb 14CO2 fell by the same proportion as the two preceeding 10 year intervals.
Ordinary 12CO2 and 13CO2 have the same chemical properties as 14CO2.
Every 10 years, all atmospheric CO2 is lost to very long term, multi-century or millenial time scale sinks. Those sinks are matched by very long time scale sources, that have zero 14CO2,due to the 5200 plus year radioactive decay of 14Carbon into Nitrogen.


@ M Courtney March 16, 2016 at 2:30 pm
Human brains can’t accommodate and process the necessary factors to understand the alleged climate ‘problem’, except in subsets that are never adequately representative. And not surprisingly either, as the climate ‘problem’ is a cognitive phantom anyway.
Plus we’re looking on the wrong time scale – so that’ll tend to go poorly.
And the computer models that were supposed to get around this, simply don’t work in a useful way for an actual scientific purpose that describes climate, except to maybe falsify this absurd long-term computer-modeling religion. We know computer forecast models only work well in atmospheric ocean system dynamics on the scale of a few days, with substantial divergence, even with extraordinary sensor data input. Yet long-term modelers think they can push past that into actual climate trend time-scales with a conspicuous paucity of data?
Not so much.
Bottom line, despite the blithely wasted funding allocations of decades, we don’t have a tool for that purpose.
What we do have is the actual planetary record, and that record shows there’s no “climate changing” problem occurring, anyway. And that’s where the money should have really went, into that research field.
But where’s the fun in that, if you want a ‘career’ talking about a non-event?
However, suddenly and perversely, the onus is on the skeptical observer of this rank perversion of science to prove that we’re not wrong? lol
You can’t make this stuff up.
So no matter what shiny new feature is held up and declared a fragment of truth, we still have a planet doing its own thing and sapient sapiens squawking about fragments, not able to put it all together, and unwilling to face that there nothing here. A whole lot of nothing new.
So they play politics instead of science, then want to talk psychology and legal reprisals for disbelief. Meanwhile, they still haven’t demonstrate anything out of the ordinary, and still looking on the wrong time-scale, and still robbing actual research of funds, still have nothing to show for it, and still want to demand the right to continue to make fantastic claims, without exposure. lol
When younger I honestly had a hard time grasping the blindness of former scientific eras, and their debates surrounding respective imaginary nothings in their time, but this one in our own time really takes the cake. I never would have though it possible, 20 years ago, that this drivel could have gone on so long.
Oh well, being a geo the on-going no-show is just a bit amusing because despite a lack of ‘climate crisis’, or rather weather crisis, this planet sure can entertain the overwrought self-important moist slime film covering its skin.


The half-life of carbon-14 is 5,730±40 years so if half of it disappears, in say 50 years, this isn’t due to radioactive decay.


All these different half-lives make it confusing. The radioactive half life can be more or less ignored over timescales of a few years.
For the others, think of money. The molecular half life is like a measure of how fast individual banknotes circulate in the economy. the concentration half life is like the inflation rate.
The half life of individual molecules as measured by C14 levels is an indication of the turnover rate. Individual C atoms can be taken up and released. Since the sinks are large, we could remove nearly all the C14 without affecting the concentration at all.
The concentration half life is the long-term trend, not the turnover. We cannot measure the long term trend in concentration by measuring the turnover rate.


An extension, the radioactive half life is like a measure of how long individual banknotes survive before they are destroyed.

Paul of Alexandria

Different half-life. That’s radioactive decay, this is time between emission and uptake.


There are three half-lifes. One of C14, one of CO2 molecule in atmosphere, and the third ‘half-life’ is the concentration decay parameter.
All simple, please don’t confuse them.

george e. smith

Well I measure the half life of CO2 in the atmosphere; actually the decay time constant, by the observed annual cycling of CO2 abundance in the atmosphere as recorded at Mauna Loa and elsewhere.
At ML, the annual cycling is about 6 ppmm on top of about a 1-1.5 ppmm steady annual increase.
North of the Arctic circle, this annual growth is about the same (CO2 is well mixed they claim) but the annual cycling is between 18 and 20 ppmm.
Now that 6 ppmm drop or 18-20 ppmm drop takes place in just 5 months, and it grows back in 7 months.
So if we take the CO2 excess over the long term stable 280 ppmm as being 120 ppmm, then at the initial polar drop rate, that would all be gone in about 6 x 5 months or 2.5 years. At ML it would be three times that long or 7.5 years, so that is the exponential decay time constant.
If the cyclic process was not terminated after five months, but continued to act, then in five time constants 99% of the exces CO2 would be gone. Or 95% would be gone in three time constants or 7.5 years (polar) and 22.5 years at ML.
So 200 year residence times are just silly.
The atom bomb tests involved 14C not 12C or 13C, so just what evidence do we have for the take up times of 14C in other environmental processes.
If plants can segregate 12C from 13C, then why would we suppose that 14C uptake would match either of those.

I estimated the cycle incorrectly. The global CO2 picture is from the May timeline.


If the cyclic process was not terminated after five months, but continued to act, then in five time constants 99% of the exces CO2 would be gone. Or 95% would be gone in three time constants or 7.5 years (polar) and 22.5 years at ML.

Hi George,
This is caused by plant growth, isn’t it?
And that is going to cycle CO2 to wood and leaves and grasses, then return it to the atmosphere when the plant dies. So while individual molecule might be cycled, the increase in atmospheric concentration remains.
Certainly the atmospheric concentration appears to be affected by emissions older than 30 years:

“If plants can segregate 12C from 13C, then why would we suppose that 14C uptake would match either of those.”
It doesn’t match either of those. Plants (and plankton) don’t want any part of 14C unless it’s a really bad day. The ocean doesn’t care anywhere near as much as photosynthesis, but even the surface film discriminates weakly against the enlarged nucleus of 14C. 13C as well.
As Ferdinand has astutely pointed out many, many times, CO2 of any species is drawn into the ocean at the edge of the ice, you are not going to see it again for around a millennium. The e folding must be adjusted for the oceans’ lesser discrimination and longer sequestration of the heavier isotopes.

george e. smith,
Different processes at work: the growth and wane of leaves over a year is enormous (+ and – 60 GtC diurnal, + and – 60 GtC seasonal), but the real residual storage at the end of the year under 100 ppmv extra CO2 pressure in the atmosphere is not more than 1 GtC/year. That is all. Diurnal and seasonal uptake and release doesn’t tell you anything about the speed of uptake in more permanent storage by plants…

Sorry, not correct: the half life (~14 years) of the extra 14CO2 from the 1950-1960 nuclear bomb tests is over 3 times shorter than the half life of any extra 12CO2 in the atmosphere. That is because the sink rate of 12CO2 and 14CO2 into the deep oceans (via the THC) is about the same (with a small change in isotopic ratio), but what returns from the deep oceans has the isotopic ratio of ~1000 year ago, long before the bomb tests. That means that the difference is not only for the change in mass for both (about 97% returns), but for 14CO2 also for concentration (45% return in 1960). That makes that the decay rate of 14CO2 is much faster than for some extra 12CO2… Here the balance for`1960:

Graydon Tranquilla

The decay life of CO2 above the cloud base will be very different from that below typical cloud base since clouds and precipitation scrubs out much CO2….. and, if not for vertical air currents and brownian motion CO2 above clouds would fall because it is heavier than air. Temp rise with increased CO2 concentration is also negative logarithmic as is the case for methane which is 7.3 more potent than CO2 as a GHG and not 20 to 60 times as many environmental activists and mainstream news media claims. Supporting evidence available upon request.
The entire planet aspirates many gases all the time absorbing and exhaling gases even from within the earth and and water bodies….. it is called microseeps in our industry and we can easily detect the release of methane using aircraft mounted instruments measuring in the ppm(v) and even ppb(v) ranges. The entire planet earth and water surface is massive and that amounts to a lot of gas release all the time including H2, H2S, many noble gases including Helium and of course CO2 and the target gas methane to name just a few.
Although my expertise is electrical engineering with 40+ years experience I also have strong chemical engineering training and perform thousands of fugitive emissions studies for hydrocarbon industries….in accordance with API and EPA standards.

bit chilly

Credo quia absurdum , far more eloquent than bullshit 🙂 . great guest post ,thank you for taking the time to write it.


The bottom line is that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is still increasing. Until that changes, AGW will continue.

To be something of a pedant, Anthropogenic Global Warming is controversial only in the first term. GW does not prove AGW, as the temperture has cycled in the past from other causes than human-produced CO2.

John Kirby

I once studied statistical thermodynamics and there is no way that one molecule of CO2 can warm up the remaining 2,499 molecules of nitrogen, oxygen and argon

John Kirby,
Experimentally proven by Tyndall about 150 years ago that you are wrong…
Depends mainly of the probability of collisions within the time that an exited CO2 molecule emits its energy again via an IR photon…

How big is an IR photon?

Not big, but if you remove the extra energy from many captured photons by collisions with other molecules in the neighborhood, you can have a measurable increase in average temperature of around 1°C/2xCO2…

Ferdinand, what do you mean by “not big”?
I’m looking for the cross-sectional area of the IR photon.

sorry db,
I thought that it was not seriously meant from your side…
Difficult to answer anyway…
Officially it has no mass:
but still they have a “relative mass” to make it “easy” to understand…
Has it a volume? Again no, but it may have a “virtual” volume. Even collisions between photons are possible, resulting in something else; “a charged fermion/antifermion pair”… I never heard of, so learned something new:

No, I was being serious. Can’t explain right now, but check here tomorrow and I’ll have a few thoughts. Thanks.

To continue from yesterday (and I was writing only about the radiative part of CO2/IR photon warming, not kinetic warming). I was serious asking about the diameter of an IR photon, and I thought you might have the answer.
Photons are not like electrons, which are point charges. The charge of an electron decreases according to the inverse square law. But photons are a little different. A photon has a cross sectional area, or diameter (corresponding to its wavelength).
An electron has to get close enough to an atom for its electric field to cause some kind of reaction. The inverse square law creates a sort of target radius. If the electron gets inside that target radius, it will be captured and the reaction will occur; otherwise, it won’t happen.
That target radius is measured in ‘barns’ (10^-24 cm^2). (The name comes from shooting at the broad side of a barn. But as these reactions go that is a pretty large target, so barns are typically subdivided into nanobarns or picobarns.)
Photons are different. They aren’t point charges like electrons, and they behave somewhat differently. For a photon to get captured by a CO2 molecule, the IR photon’s diameter must be quite large — possibly even meters, depending on the frequency.
At 400 ppm, a CO2 molecule is one part in 2500 molecules of air. The cube root of 2500 is 13.572, which means that a CO2 molecule is 13 – 14 molecular layers apart from the next CO2 molecule (at MSL). So each CO2 molecule is wandering around, thinking it is all alone. But that lone CO2 molecule will grab the IR photon if the photon wave, or diameter, gets within grabbing distance of the CO2 molecule. If the photon was a point charge like an electron, those reactions would be very rare, even measured in barns. So an IR photon must have quite a large effective diameter.
That also explains why the IR window for CO2 gets quickly saturated. The IR photons are large enough to be grabbed by any nearby (or not so nearby) CO2 molecule. So I was hoping you might have an answer to my question: how large is an IR photon?

Never thought about radiation as volume, but what I have read in the second link was:
In other words, the photon does have a size, since you start to feel it pushing back against you if you go to close. This happens at about half a fermi, or roughly 0.5 times 10^{-15}m
So the momentum is due solely to the frequency, which means that the area (of the 2-d “wavefront”) is constant
If that is right, you can calculate the possibility of a collision between a CO2 molecule with its diameter and number of molecules in a volume with any photon, where only the ones with the right wavelength are captured…
If there is attraction between electrons and photons over a longer distance? I don’t know, it seems not to me, as photons are not charged…
Much too long ago that I have read that stuff and since then they have made a lot of progress in knowledge like the number and characteristics of all kinds of particles like bosons and fermions…

OK, I just thought you might have an answer.
Regarding your comment about an ‘attraction’ between electrons and photons, I’m not sure what you mean. But there is certainly an interaction, since electrons determine the color of objects via photons. I was only comparing electrons with photons to show how photons are different.
Also, the example I gave was at sea level. As you rise in altitude the CO2 molecules become more sparse (along with all other molecules). So an IR photon would have to be even bigger in order to be captured by a CO2 molecule.
Finally, at current concentrations (≈400 ppm), the CO2 window is saturated — it has been ‘painted over’ so many times that in order to raise global T by 1ºC would require at least 2xCO2.
Since we are unlikely to see a doubling of CO2 from current levels, and since a 1ºC warming would be entirely beneficial, it is clear that ‘dangerous AGW’ alarmism has no credible basis in evidence.


And increasing AGW (at disputed rates) says nothing about CAGW.


I presume you are meaning ‘Citizens Against Government Waste’.

Edmonton Al

Yep. Still rising, only the temperature is not.
Besides, it is shown that CO2 levels lag GW.
Therefore CO2 does not cause GW.


Yep. Still rising, only the temperature is not.
Is this some new meaning of “Not Rising”?


“Still rising, only the temperature is not.” Really? What planet are you on? 2014, 15, and now 16 are the warmest since we have been recording global temperatures. Proxies suggest it is now warmer than any time in the past several thousand years. From NASA:
The most important result found by these researchers is that the warming in recent decades has brought global temperature to a level within about one degree Celsius (1.8° F) of the maximum temperature of the past million years, which they suggest is a sensible upper limit for additional global warming. “If further global warming reaches 2 or 3 degrees Celsius, we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know. The last time it was that warm was in the middle Pliocene, about three million years ago, when sea level was estimated to have been about 25 meters (80 feet) higher than today.”


That’s the “adjusted” temperature, Seth..
Yes.. the “adjusted” temperature is still rising.. we know that, and the reason behind it.
REAL temperatures, however, are basically zero trend except for El Nino spikes.. like now.


“What planet are you on? 2014, 15, and now 16 are the warmest since we have been recording global temperatures.”
A measly 100 or so years. ABSOLUTELY MEANINGLESS,
Especially when we know that most of the last 10,000 years were warmer than now by a couple of degrees or so..
Especially as we are only just out of the COLDEST period of the last 10,000 years.. the LIA.
And the length of the record is even less when you consider that the “unadjusted” temperatures only started in 1979.


“That’s the “adjusted” temperature, Seth..
Yes.. the “adjusted” temperature is still rising.. we know that, and the reason behind it.
REAL temperatures, however, are basically zero trend except for El Nino spikes.. like now.”
Adjusted like this then….
And this…..
Now the “adjustments” in the surface data-sets are all extensively explained.
The original data remains and is available for anyone to analyse.
Would someone here care to explain the “adjustments” in the “best data we have” (J Curry)?
Has anyone critically examined the moving target that is the satellite record?

Michael Spurrier

Luke – a recent study showed the 1st century to be warmer (and it seemed to have a CAGW agenda)”The team found that the first century was the warmest in their analysis, slightly hotter than the 20th Century but according to team, the difference between the two was not statistically significant.”


Andy says “Especially when we know that most of the last 10,000 years were warmer than now by a couple of degrees or so.”
I see no evidence for your statement. We have surpassed the highest temperatures of the current interglacial period.

Gloateus Maximus

What proxies show that we are now warmer than even 1000 years ago, let alone thousands?
It was warmer than now for centuries during the Medieval, Roman, Minoan, Egyptian and Holocene Optimum Warm Periods. Let alone during previous interglacials. Present warmth is nothing the least bit out of the ordinary. Were the books not cooked, it was also probably warmer during the 1930 and ’40s than now.

Seth, Luke, Toneb,
I have to larf at you folks! Planet Earth is doing none of the scary things you believe in. Not one alarming prediction has ever come true. They were all wrong.
In real science, when that happens you’re supposed to trash your conjecture or hypothesis, try to figure out why you were so completely wrong, then formulate a new hypothesis — taking into account all the wrong assumptions you made.
But you don’t follow the Scientific Method. Instead, you double down with your alarmist nonsense, dig in your heels, and insist that despite being consistently, 100.0% wrong, you’re really right. Even when the real world proves you’re wrong.
You just cannot stand knowing that skeptics of your wild-eyed DAGW scare were right all along. You certainly can’t admit it, even though everyone else knows it. Instead, you post Marcott’s stupid/scary chart, fabricated and intended to send a tingle up your leg. Well, here’s an even scarier Marcott fabrication:
That one should really get you folks excited!
But for rational readers who might be wondering how Marcott et al came up with that preposterous chart, there are plenty of articles, and a thousand+ comments right here, which thoroughly deconstruct and debunk Marcott’s pseudo-science.
That won’t teach Seth, Luke, or Toneb, because they will never be able to admit what everyone else knows: their alarmist crowd has been flat wrong from the get-go.
And skeptics were right all along.

Bruce Cobb

The bottom line is that despite increasing CO2 most likely due to man, no one has, nor will anyone ever be able to find the conjectured, much-ballyhooed, and in all likelihood, far too small to measure due to all the “noise” in climate, link to man. We are, however, responsible for a big, perhaps even unprecedented greening of the planet. Guilty!

Until that changes, AGW will continue.
Saying something doesn’t make it true. Proof please.



A very enlightening article and yet another one which shows how wrong are the AGW crowd, on so many levels.
I just wish that some background on the author(s) could be included at the heading of articles since, speaking personally, I am often unaware of the writer – not that that detracts from the message (providing one is able to follow all the arguments) but it would be ‘nice’ to know where the author is coming from.


Using the IPCC logic, what is half life of fuel in the tank of my 50 year old car? Or how much of the original tank full of fuel remains given that I have always filled it up when it reached half empty?

Ed Moran

A homeopathic petrol tank. It remembers fine!

Bruce Cobb

Some, like Ken Caldeira and David Archer claim that it lasts essentially forever;

“The lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 in the atmosphere is a few centuries, plus 25 percent that lasts essentially forever. The climatic impacts of releasing fossil fuel CO2 to the atmosphere will last longer than Stonehenge,” Archer writes. “Longer than time capsules, longer than nuclear waste, far longer than the age of human civilization so far.”

And, horror of all horrors;

The effects of carbon dioxide on the atmosphere drop off so slowly that unless we kick our “fossil fuel addiction”, to use George W. Bush’s phrase, we could force Earth out of its regular pattern of freezes and thaws that has lasted for more than a million years. “If the entire coal reserves were used,” Archer writes, “then glaciation could be delayed for half a million years.”

In addition to being completely, idiotically wrong about how long CO2 lasts, and its effects, they have to whine and cry about us perhaps not seeing another ice age for a half million years. As if that would be a bad thing!


It has never really been about CO2. CO2 is just a fabricated control knob for the desired U.N. global energy control and distribution mechanisms.
Just sayin, everyone still laughs at the mention of Agenda 21, but it is right in their face, everyday, in every country…..


+1 And these facts are labeled ‘conspiracy theory’ to divert attention.


this is why the matador wins
the bull chases the cape


I don’t think any of these points genuinely refute the IPCC position. Biota is a sink, but it is also a source, from death and decay. Of course, it is a net sink over long time spans, because not all that is captured gets re-released, but that time span may be very long indeed.
The Bern model is not atypical of “long tail” responses, responses which can be considered as a series of exponential decays of varying length. It is not the form of the equation that is necessarily wrong. It is the parameters which make it up.
Basically, the whole edifice is handwaving, and fitting of incomplete empirical data to hypothetical mathematical equations of evolution. It is contradicted by the excellent correlation between the rate of change of atmospheric CO2 and temperature, which establishes that the atmospheric CO2 level is not significantly impacted by anthropogenic emissions.


…the whole IPCC edifice is hand waving…


Powerful and a keeper


The IPCC Principle Statement #2 needs to be revoked. It sets forth that human-induced climate change of the Earth is at hand and the costs, impacts and risks must be ascertained.
However, doing that removes the necessity of an IPCC.
Ha ha

Gary Pearse

Indeed the greening of the planet represents an exponential growth in the sequestration of carbon. The “fringe” of new plants in the Sahel continue growing as the next concentric fringe develops. As the fringe widens, soil moisture is increased, promoting progressive fringes inward into the dry country. This is the logical way in which the Sahara has greened periodically.
Deforestation is given as a kind of static part of the budget. However tree planting, both in cities and in vast logged off areas became standard practice over the past 25 years and the logging industry has greatly slowed and land clearing for farming has declined as crop yields over given acreages has soared in volume. That 1.6, even if it might have been true in 1992, has certainly been reduced to zero and gone into negative territory since.

Great essay. Terrific documented forensic analysis.
The Bern model implicitly assumes carbon sinks saturate. Land greening (satellite NVDI by ecosystem) and decades of phytoplankton surveys (especially Atlantic permanent sink ‘chalk’ formers recently published) have shown observationally this warmunist assumption is simply not true.
Essay exposes unscientific untruths from the very beginning of IPCC. Plus many. Kudos. Your site is now permanently bookmarked for periodic review. And, this essay deserves more than one political sound bite formulation.

Rud, I am glad you like it.

Wish I had had the insight to write up what you just did for my ebook Blowing Smoke. Would have made a great essay. Alas, did not, but recognize that you have now ‘killed it’. Many high regards.

Paul of Alexandria

“Because of its complex cycle, the decay of excess CO2 in the atmosphere does not follow a simple exponential curve …”
If I may, with no particular knowledge: what they seem to be saying is that the CO2 uptake rate is a non-linear function of the partial pressure, with the uptake rate being greater as the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere increases. Which is, if you think about it, precisely in accordance with the author’s statements about CO2 fertilization. If you hit the atmosphere with a pulse of CO2, plant growth will increase, with the added biomass resulting in a greater uptake rate until the level drops again. Nice little negative-feedback system.


“their treatment of the carbon cycle was fraudulent from the start”
Why are people letting you publish this? Can I wonder “why you are being slanderous from the start?”


…The TRUTH is not slanderous, except maybe in your little unicorn world !


Are you a “Troofer”?
What is so particularly controversial about the carbon cycle that allows the author to call the scientists from the FAR fraudulent?


..Try reading the article child, or do you have a reading comprehension problem on top of being stupid ?


Thank you for your kind words! This, e.g. is nothing more than horse shit (there are more examples in the post):
“This illustrates one way they got around the honest scientists: formally acknowledge a scientific fact, but then disregard or suppress it in the models. In this case the IPCC acknowledged CO2 fertilization effect in a prominent place, but then ignored it when performing their calculations and modeling! Such dishonesty is hard to imagine.
Deceitfully disregarding the land carbon sink in this way resulted in a huge error in the IPCC’s favor. To cover their tracks, they called that error an “imbalance.” “Imbalance” sounds like a technical term in climatology, because it is similar to the term “unbalanced model,” which is frequently used in the world of climate models (which are wrong for other reasons). Thus, the deception was committed, and the tracks were successfully covered.”


” CO2 is a special case since it has no real sinks ” ?? LOL


“unicorn world !”
“reading comprehension problem”
is apparently ok. Saying part of the original blog post is h***e s**t apparently isn’t.


Which one of these words is not like the others ?? LOL


Still no argument from you. Typical behaviour…
(Was complaining on one comment not coming through)

“…author to call the scientists from the FAR fraudulent…”

You’ll have to be more specific wagen lad, there are so many false FARs and so many lead authors involved in the false results.

Clyde Spencer

It looks like there are a couple of equations missing right after the heading:
——- The following remarks are more technical and/or detailed ——

You are correct! The missing equations with some surrounding text:
… if you are dealing with an unfamiliar process or system, try to represent it by the first two members of Taylor’s series. In the case of the atmospheric CO2 concentration, this gives
C'(t) = -λC(t)
where C is the surplus (over the equilibrium) CO2 concentration, and the constant λ > 0. This is the equation for exponential decay:
C(t) = C(0)exp(-ht)
The value h = ln⁡(2)/λ is the half-life of the surplus concentration.

Correction: the second formula should be C(t) = C(0)exp(-λt). Apologies for the mistake.

Clyde Spencer

For some additional background reading on this topic, see:
Essenhigh, Robert H., (2009), Potential Dependence of Global Warming on the Residence Time
(RT) in the Atmosphere of Anthropogenically Sourced Carbon Dioxide; Energy & Fuels 2009, 23, 2773–2784

David L. Hagen

Ocean Limestone not a “Sink”?
Re: <blockquote "CO2 is a special case since it has no real sinks but is merely circulated between various reservoirs (atmosphere ocean biota)”
Since when is it right to ignore the largest global sink for CO2?
Carbon dioxide has been precipitated as limestone for aeons.
Note a 5 km thick limestone sediment in Israel
In Montana, the Madison Group limestone and dolomite thickness reaches 1,700 feet (520 m) (Fig 10).
In Australia, the vast Nullarbor Plain

is the world’s largest limestone karst landscape covering an area of 270,000 square km,

For further quantitative examination of the model failures see: Tom V. Segalstad Carbon cycle modelling and the residence time of natural and anthropogenic atmospheric CO2: on the construction of the “Greenhouse Effect Global Warming” dogma.

It is shown why the ice core method and its results must be rejected; and that current air CO2 measurements are not validated and their results subjectively “edited”. Further it is shown that carbon cycle modelling based on non-equilibrium models, remote from observed reality and chemical laws, made to fit non-representative data through the use of non-linear ocean evasion “buffer” correction factors constructed from a pre-conceived idea, constitute a circular argument and with no scientific validity.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of dover
Just you wait and see


Is it turning cold again tomorrow ?? I’ll wait & see (;-))

David L. Hagen,
Of course limestone is a sink but an extremely slow sink: how many million years do you think were needed to build up these thick layers?
And please forget that ice core quote. That is from the late Dr. Jaworowski whose knowledge of radionuclides in ice cores may have been excellent but his knowledge of CO2 in ice cores was sub-zero to say the least. See:
Forget most of the pre-Mauna Loa CO2 data taken with wet chemical methods: while the method was reasonably good (+/- 10 ppmv), the place where was measured was often completely unsuitable for reliable CO2 measurements, as too close to huge sources and sinks…

David L. Hagen

Ocean carbonation is still the greatest sink and should be stated as such. Note CO2 absorption / desorption is also asymmetric – rapidly desorbed with increasing temperature, but slowly absorbed with decreasing temperature. e.g., see Solar Activity drives CO2 levels.

David L. Hagen,
The distribution of CO2 in the oceans is mainly by mixing in solution as bicarbonate, some is disposed as carbonate rock by plankton (coccoliths) in shallow seas, but in the deep oceans that is dissolved again below the “carbonate compensation depth”.
Just found the current balance: 0.2 GtC/year deposit as carbonate, 0.03 GtC recycled via (subduction) volcanoes and 0.17 GtC/year recycled via rock weathering, thus practically in balance. During the Cretaceous, deposits were much higher and less rock exposed to weather, thus more net deposit. How much? Hard to tell, but even the South Downs in the UK needed 35 million years to reach 1500 m thickness, that is a deposit of 0.04 mm/year. Not really fast…
BTW, Henry’s shows 4-17 ppmv/°C in equilibrium between seawater and atmosphere. 16 ppmv/°C is the historical equilibrium over ice ages. 6 ppmv difference between MWP and LIA. 10 ppmv maximum increase since 1850 caused by temperature. The rest of the increase is from human emissions…

Robert of Texas

I had always assumed they meant that a fixed level of CO2 in the atmosphere – one that is naturally in balance – would be achieved after a suitable amount of time if no more man made inputs occurred. CO2 doesn’t have a half-life in the traditional sense.
So the way I interpreted the report was that if there was a natural balance of CO2 call in ‘n’ and you add 10% more, half of 10% would be reabsorbed over the so called half-life, and the other 5% would take much longer. This made pseudo-sense to me sense as it has both biological and physical (chemistry) processes. I never even considered their use of “half-life” to be appropriate in the traditional sense – how is it useful to call something a half-life if it only works on the first half? LOL
I also never believed there is a natural CO2 balance called ‘n’. ‘n’ being the CO2 in the atmosphere would vary over time as more CO2 was either released or absorbed in natural processes. Its like they believe there is some perfect balance that is achieved only by excluding man from the planet.
Re-reading some of the text, now that its been pointed out to me, is triggering all sorts of implications I hadn’t considered. By calling it a half-life they seem to be comparing it to radiation… :-/
Also, if one takes even a moment to think this through, if you add 10% CO2 and half is reabsorbed after 50 years, then if you add 20% you would expect that half again would be reabsorbed in 50 years. Therefore a doubling in CO2 would result in 150% of the original CO2 in 50 years, and a quadrupling would result in 200% after 50 years and 150% in 100 years (assuming the inputs were shut off). The Earth is removing a great quantity of “excess” CO2 very quickly. No matter how high you raise it, the Earth would seem to bring it down ever faster. Of course, there are limits to how much CO2 we can actually add.
Finally, I never believed it takes 50 years to remove half of any “new CO2”. Its more likely to be 7 years or so – certainly not greater than 20 years. The models that attempt to determine the so-called half-life of CO2 are ridiculous – they assume the Earth does not react to the extra CO2. If you add fertilizer to a garden, the plants will grow faster and larger.

Is there CO2 under my bed? How long will it be there???

How the hell can the second half life of CO2 take longer to be neutralized than the first? Who could think that?


…They are pretending it’s radiation !!

Pat Ch,
That is possible if there is a limit of what one of the sinks can absorb. That is e.g. the case for the ocean surface: due to ocean chemistry, the surface can’t absorb more that 10% of the change in the atmosphere. In this case, the very fast absorption rate (less than a year) stops at 10% of the change in the atmosphere. Thus the remaining 90% is absorbed by slower processes.
As the absorption of any extra CO2 is caused by different sinks each with their own sink rate and (possible) limits, that may give different decay times for different quantities. The main discussion is about the second fastest decay rate: the deep oceans, which according to the IPCC Bern model are also limited in quantity, but for which is not the slightest sign of a limit in sight…


Chalk is made of carbonates, like limestone. There is a fair bit of natural chalk about. How did that all get there.. bingo.
With plant life there is a lag. Plants after several generations are able to put the extra CO2 to good use in longer roots thicker leaves and such, although there is instant results, they don’t compare to the multi generational adaption to extra CO2.
There is a “wee” bit more CO2 in bio than in the atmosphere, following that simple logic if we control land better it would probably have a far bigger effect than 20 Paris shindigs.

The IPCC is way out in left field with its belief that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for a century or more.
Here is a chart showing numerous peer reviewed papers on the subject. The residence time consensus seems to be less than a decade.

Rob R

The chart needs some more recent estimates to be added.

Residence time has nothing to do with the e-fold decay or half life time from some extra shot CO2 in the atmosphere. Residence time only shows how long any individual CO2 molecule (whatever the source) stays in the atmosphere, before being swapped with a molecule from another reservoir. That doesn’t change the total amount in the atmosphere with one gram… The decay rate of any extra CO2 injection in the atmosphere is completely independent of the residence time and of a different order…

Thanks, Ferdinand. As I stated aboe, the IPCC is the outlier, contradicted by numerous peer reviewed studies. Notice in the chart that the IPCC is the extreme case, which it is in other areas, such as its sensitivity to 2xCO2 = 6ºC+. The IPCC has been forced to lower its sensitivity number, but it is still far too high.
The example in the chart shows that the IPCC uses a thin veneer of pseudo-science to cover what is, in reality, politics. Like the chart posted, and the sensitivity number, the IPCC is attempting to alarm the public to the (non-existent) threat of runaway global warming due to human emissions
That is throroughly dishonest, because they purport to be using science and the Scientific Method, when they’re merely emitting UN propaganda in an effort to pass carbon taxes, to concentrate power in the UN, and to assert control over the citizens of sovereign nations.
Following decades of the ‘dangerous AGW’ scare, and due to the efforts of to skeptical scientists, we have learned a lot more about the effect of the rise in CO2. What is becoming increasingly clear is this:
The rise in CO2 has not brought about any of the alarming scenarios that were predicted. Further, the rise in CO2 has been completely harmless, and the added CO2 is very beneficial to the biosphere. You have written as much yourself; the rise in CO2 is a non-problem.
There are not many examples of such a global change having no downside, but in the case of the rise in CO2, that is the result. More CO2 is a net benefit to the biosphere; it has caused none of the predicted problems. Thus, it is a Win-Win. We were not as certain about that two or three decades ago, but with every passing year it becomes more obvious. There isn’t a single example of any global harm caused by the rise in CO2, while there is ample evidence that more CO2 is beneficial.
But the UN/IPCC has never admitted to that outcome. Every Assessment Report has been geared toward alarming the populace. Thus, they are being deliberately dishonest. That is exemplified by the following expert statements, which were approved and made a part of Chapter 8 of the 1996 IPCC Report:
• None of the studies cited above has shown clear evidence that we can attribute the observed [climate] changes to the specific cause of increases in greenhouse gases.
• While some of the pattern-based studies discussed here have claimed detection of a significant climate change, no study to date has positively attributed all or part of the climate change observed to man-made causes. Nor has any study quantified the magnitude of a greenhouse gas effect or aerosol effect in the observed data — an issue of primary relevance to policy makers.
• Any claims of positive detection and attribution of significant climate change are likely to remain controversial until uncertainties in the total natural variability of the climate system are reduced.
• While none of these studies has specifically considered the attribution issue, they often draw some attribution conclusions, for which there is little justification.
• When will an anthropogenic effect on climate be identified? It is not surprising that the best answer to this question is, “We do not know.”

Those expert statements were arbitrarily deleted by the lead author, Ben Santer.
Santer then replaced those deleted conclusions with his own conclusion:
• The body of statistical evidence in chapter 8, when examined in the context of our physical understanding of the climate system, now points to a discernible human influence on the global climate.
For the past 20 years the same kind of deceptive manipulation of the experts’ science-based conclusions has been going on. Ari Halpern is correct when he states that the IPCC has been deceiving the public.
Is there any doubt?

the real villain here is the unep run by bureaucrats feeding on taxes but with no accountability to taxpayers. these are the same guys who sold us the ozone scare but instead of being held accountable they were allowed to move on to the climate scare.
there is no evidence that long lived man made chemicals are eating away at the ozone.


And UNEP FI/UNEP Finance Initiative established at the same time as UNEP at the UN Rio 1992.
UNEP FI pushes the world’s money to put over the whole Climate Change and Sustainability agendas. The world’s financial institutions listed at UNEP FI pledge to invest /fund money for this.
IPCC furnishes the “science” needed.
Compare the names of the financial institutions that fund and/or invest in renewable energy projects with those on the UNEP FI list.
Then there are the NGOs accredited with UNEP to drive these agendas along.


Bring some “economists” on board to convince the public think this will all work out OK. Turn business schools into sustainability think-tanks.


Rent-a-mobs are created to push the UN – UNEP agenda along.

The big error in their “reasoning” is their assumption that natural emissions do not change significantly from year to year. The tropical oceans are allways a net source of emissions and the rate of those emissions is a function of temperature and rate of temperature changes. Thier simple mass balance neglects these changes resulting in their “impossibly long” “residence time”.



The net result of the natural cycle doesn’t change that much: maximum +/- 1.5 ppmv from year to year around a trend of +80 ppmv since 1958. Human emissions are twice the year by year variability.
The variability is mainly caused by the effect of temperature and precipitation on (tropical) vegetation by El Niño and Pinatubo.

I’ve done the math by doing a running annual difference on all of the Scripps column 9 monthly averave data and get the “global CO2 signiture” that is your red line. You recognize the cyclic tropical temperature effects on this signiture but assume the long term rise is all from anthropogenic emissions and not natural. The UAH tropical lower troposphere temperature data shows a long term rise as well as the cyclic behavior. NOAA’s reanalysis atmospheric temperarature as a function of pressure height shows similar behavior. The Closest match in behavior to your red line, that I have found, is the average monthly temperature at 600mb between 20S and 20N.
We could have a very long discussion about the physical meaning as it is associated with the thermodynamics and kinetics in tropical thunderstorms.

The largest influences of Pinatubo and the 1998 El Niño both in the tropics have very little influence on the trend: only a small change around the trend which is gone in 2-3 years:
The factor 4 between temperature change and CO2 change around the trend seems already overblown, but 0.4°C since 1985 and near zero temperature increase since 1997 would give 55 resp. 35 ppmv CO2 increase?


I would like to point out the logical fallacy of attempting to discredit a scientific document by using quotes from the document itself. If the document is wrong the evidence for that should come from elsewhere otherwise this is just cherry picking of quotes to support a predetermined point of view.

Steve Reddish

Germinio, how is it a logical fallacy to point out self-contradictions? Author’s point was that creators of FAR1990 knew they had strewn falsehoods throughout their document.

Steve Reddish

Germinio, I further suggest no paper should have statements supporting contradictory points of view to enable “cherry picking … to support a predetermined point of view.”
If I saw a paper that stated in paragraph one that 2+2=4, then stated in paragraph two that 2+2 does not equal 4, are you suggesting I should find a paper confirming 2+2=4?
If I did, would you then note in defense of the first paper that it did make that claim, so it should not be faulted?
Any paper that contradicts itself says nothing.

Steve Reddish

contradictory statements…of course

The issue of residence times of CO2 is a complete mess. The residence times of the anthropogenic CO2 and the total CO2 increase in the atmosphere have different residence times. The anthr. CO2 has the same residence time as the radiocarbon 14C and it is 16 years. This is a fact, because it is based on the measurements started during the nuclear tests in the atmosphere. These tests were stopped in 1964 and now the concentration of 14C has dropped from 715 permille in 1964 to the present level about 41 permille, which is about 5 % from the maximum value. This experiment in the CO2 recycling system gives very nicely the residence time of 16 years and it applies also to the anthr. CO2 but not the total CO2 concentration change in the atmosphere.
The residence time of about 5 years also mentioned in the Halperin’s text is a common error. I know that there are at least 34 scientific papers published before 1990, but they are all wrong (collected by Segalstadt). They assume that the CO2 system is a simple well-mixed reactor but the system has huge recycling fluxes from the ocean and from the biosphere. Halperin also says that “Within 30 years about 40-60 % of the CO2 currently released to the atmosphere is removed”. This is in conflict with the residence time of 5 years. When we talk about the residence time, we refer to the first order dynamic system with one time constant, which is the same thing as the residence time in this kind of the system. The adjustment time (time of a perturbed system to come back to the equilibrium) is 4 * residence time – in the case of 5 years, it would be 20 years only. So there is big gap between these two statements about the timescales.


16 years is the so-called e-folding time. The e-folding time is the time for the exponential curve to decay to the 1/e point. The time for the 14C bomb curve to drop to the 50 percent point on the same curve is 10 years by direct observation of the curve.

Yes, we are talking about the same numbers. A half time (50 percent point) is mathematically = 0,69 * residence time = 0,69 * 16 = 11 years.The difference between 10 and 11 years may originate from the slightly different curves. The northern and southern hemisphere had a difference till 1968, because the nuclear tests were carried out on the northern hemisphere. The beloved child has many names. These terms means the same thing: time constant (first order system), residence time, mean transit time, turnover time, expected lifetime, and e-folding time. Adjustment time and relaxation time are the same thing and they are in practice 4 times longer than the residence time.


Furthermore the dark reactions of photosynthesis (calvin benson cycle and Rubisco in particular) carbon uptake is preferential to C12, which makes the total anthro C12 CO2 resisdence time even less.

The 14CO2 bomb spike decay rate is much faster than for a 12CO2 spike, as there is no delay in 12CO2 return from the deep oceans, only a difference in quantity, but there is a huge delay in concentration for 14CO2: what is going into the deep is the isotopic ratio of today (or what it was in 1960), but what returns is the isotopic ratio of ~1000 years ago. See here for the graph

Bill Illis

Here is how I have the math going out on CO2.
The rate by which human emissions of CO2 is growing appears to be slowing, More accurately, let’s say the acceleration rate is slowing down and at some point, it will just be a steady growth rate. Maybe by 2030, we can implement semi-aggressive curtailment and start to lower emissions by a very low 0.05% per year.
Meanwhile, the net natural absorption rate by oceans, plants and soils will go on sinking about 1.8% of the excess CO2 above 280 ppm each year. This absorption rate has been relatively consistent since 1950 although it could be very slightly increasing. I have not incorporated an increase in this rate into the below although it has been above 2.0% for the past two years.
If both tracks continue on this pace, we will NEVER reach the doubling of CO2 plateau and CO2 peaks far out into the future at just 530 ppm. This is the way the IPCC should have done the math.
I have spent a lot of time on this and this is the way one should think of it.
(Staying below the new IPCC target of 450 ppm CO2 would require fairly drastic cuts in emissions very soon and we just will not get there). Staying below 530 ppm is doable.

Is the 2030 peak date merely aspirational, or is there some reason to believe that China, India, and Africa actually will plateau in 15 years?


Nice. The nutters can just reverse the first two numbers of their logo and be relevant as nutters.

The main message of Halperin abou the timescales of CO2 changes in the atmosphere is correct. I just add one measurable observation. IPCC says in AR5 that 240 GtC of the anthropogenic CO2 has accumulated in the atmosphere in 2011. It simply means that according to IPCC the total increase of the atmospheric CO2 from 597 GtC in 1750 up to about 850 GtC of today is anthropogenic by nature. The total fossil fuel emissions up to 2013 have been 394 GtC, In the anthropogenic CO2, the isotope relationship of 13C/12C is different in comparison to the natural CO2. The measurement unit has many names but let us use the word permille, which has a very special specification. Anyway the permille value of the anthropogenic CO2 is -26 and that of natural CO2 it is -7.0. The measured permille value in the present atmosphere is about -8.4, permille, which means that the amount of the anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere is only 67 GtC. If the amount would be 240 GtC, it should give the measurement result of -12,9 permille. It is amazing, how IPCC is still a very reliable scientific organization. Why IPCC acts like this? There must be a very good reason. The reason is that using this approach and unreliable timescales for the total CO2 change, it looks like the anthropogenic CO2 introduced into the atmosphere will never disappear. An when the warming effects of CO2 are about three times too great, the end result is the destruction of the Earth, It will be fried.


..Agenda 21 is right on schedule !


Marcus commented: “…..Agenda 21 is right on schedule !…”
I believe it is behind schedule but that does not mean it still can’t be accomplished. It’s been slowed to a crawl by the majority of the CO2 emitters (by population ) that did not drink the Kool Aid and few countries are willing to pay for “Climate Reparations” or relinquish their sovereignty. As more time passes and the promised catastrophes don’t materialize Agenda 21 will become a failed attempt to control the world. Or they win.


Have you read it?
If not, here ya go.
It is non-fiction, for the record.


Yes, ossqss , I have read it and have been sounding the alarm bells about it for quite some time, and only lately are people actually believing me !!


Total mass atmosphere CO2 is at least 3000 gigatonnes. The amount of “Carbon” then is 12/44 times 3000 or 820 gigatonnes. So the anthro-carbon proportion if 67/820 which equals about 0.08.
Of the 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere about .08 is anthropogenic. 400ppm times .08 is 32 ppm.
CO2 never “accumulates” in the Earths atmosphere, no matter what the source. Just as water never accumulates in a river. Basically, anthro-CO2 is at about 4 or 5 percent of the natural CO2 fluxes using the IPCC claimed global biogeochemical cycle numbers. 400 ppm times .04 is 16 ppm.
If you add 4 percent water that has been tinted with a color to the flow of a river, the amount of tined water in the river remains 4 percent downstream. It never accumulates.

You are mixing up residence time and decay rate of an excess injection of CO2. While humans are responsible for almost all of the increase in quantity, what remains in the atmosphere of original human CO2 is rapidly exchanged with CO2 from other reservoirs: about 20% per year, mainly with the deep oceans to come back about 1,000 years later.
With an exchange of ~40 GtC with the deep oceans (confirmed by the 14CO2 decay rate), the dilution of the human caused δ13C rate is what is observed:

Martin Hertzberg

The simplest and probably the most accurate measurement of CO2 lifetime in the atmosphere was the measurement of the rate of decay of excess C14O2 that was injected into the atmosphere by Russian above ground nuclear weapons tests. It was about 5 years. But that injection went up to the stratosphere. The lifetime for injection into the troposphere by fossil fuel combustion is probably shorter


The a-bomb tests were from 1945 to 1963, most of the tests were in the troposphere. Most the the atmospheric pulse of radioactive 14CO2 was added in the the last 5 years of testing, and the russian bombs added more than the US bombs.
The Gosta Pettersson post of 2013 covers most of the basics.

Martin Hertzberg,
The 14CO2 bomb spike decay is much faster than of a 12CO2 spike, see here for the explanation.


This is lifetime of a molecule. It has little to do with the lifetime of CO2 concentration.
CO2 has many “lifetimes” because its concentration is governed not by the simple first order ODE, but by a higher order equation.

It’s a double lie. The second part is the misleading assertion that CO2 has a significant effect on climate.
A simple conservation of energy equation at achieves a 97% match with measured average global temperatures since before 1900. Everything else including CO2 must find room in the unexplained 3%.


“how CO2 knows when it is in the “first reduction” and when it is in another one”
It is in the initial conditions that should contain not only the present concentration, but also its time derivatives (seven of them according to the Bern model). Such behaviour is common for higher order systems.


Salby makes some penetrating comments about CO2. I need to watch it again as I was pushed for time when I skipped through it. It is evidence based.

He tackles the CO2 changes quantitatively from three different angles. One of them uses the C14 half life which is in the thousands of years. By following the C14 (ie as part of CO2) trail leads to following the total CO2 trail.
His final conclusion is that CO2 has a short residence time and only about 1/3rd of the increase in CO2 is due to man with the remainder being a natural response at the surface/atmosphere interface.

Not the only mistake by Dr. Salby… Residence time has nothing to do with the decay rate of an extra amount of CO2 in the atmosphere…


I watched this quite a while ago. I most likely am misquoting him and his terminology so let’s not get stuck on that. His conclusion is clear though and that is that man is likely contributing the minor share.


Not so. The decay time is an upper bound on the residence time, and they both converge to the same number as sink activity increases.
What you have constructed is a storyline, a narrative. It all fits together because you have made it do so. But, it is not the only way things can be, and there is no evidence that conclusively establishes your storyline as truth.
There is evidence which establishes Dr. Salby’s storyline as truth. See the video.

Come on Bart,
There are elementary differences between residence time which is the simple quotient between exchange rate and throughput:
residence time = Mass of volume in a reservoir / throughput
and the decay rate for any disturbance of any linear process in steady state:
e-fold decay rate = disturbance / response
These two are completely independent of each other. Indeed until you increase the throughput ánd the sensitivity of the sinks to unconfirmed heights…
The residence time for any CO2 molecule – whatever its origin – is 5 years, confirmed by over 20 empirical studies.
The e-fold decay rate for any amount of CO2 above steady state – whatever its origin – is slightly over 50 years and shows a linear response, confirmed by 55+ years of accurate measurements.
That is an order of magnitude difference.
There is no confirmation of any kind of any extreme fast carbon cycle, neither of any huge change in speed which would explain the fourfold increase of CO2 in the atmosphere together with a fourfold increase in net sink rate, to the contrary: recent estimates of the residence time show an increase, not a decrease.
That is conclusive evidence – together with about all other observations – that Dr. Salby’s and your storyline is wrong…

of course…
exchange rate and throughput
are synonyms… It is the total volume or mass or ratio in a container / reservoir divided by the throughput of volume or mass or ratio of the same or similar that gives the residence time for any individual molecule / color / concentration / ratio /…


That was cute: linked straight to his video!! It is quite a while since I watched it so any comments on Salby’s talk would be appreciated.


A great article.
In your report above, looking at your interpretation of the CO2 tonnage of emissions that are unaccounted for prior to China updating their total by about 20%, when this is included, plus all of the underaccounted from other countries, what in your estimation is the volume of CO2 that is emitted is unaccounted for. 30%, 40%, 50%

A simple analysis about the timescales of the CO2 in the atmosphere. The present increase rate of CO2 is about 2 ppm. If we stop totally the fossil fuel emission this year, in the next year the reduction rate is in maximum 2 ppm. The CO2 concentration has increased from 280 to 400 ppm = 120 ppm. With this maximum reduction rate of 2 ppm per year, it would take 60 years meaning the residence time of 15 years. This is the a greatly simplified minimum and it is far away from 5 years. Much more reliable estimate is to assume that it will take in maximum the same time as it was needed to come to this concentration = 2016-1750 = 266 years. It is somewhat shorter but it a pretty good estimate.

It seems that the decay rate of any excess CO2 above the steady state of the oceans per Henry’s law is quite linear:
In 2012:
110 ppmv / 2.15 = 51.2 years or a half life time of 38 years.
The figures for 1988 (from Peter Dietze):
60 ppmv, 1.13 ppmv/year, 53 years, half life time 39 years
In 1959:
25 ppmv, 0.5 ppmv/year, 50 years, half life time 37 years
Looks very linear to me, widely within the borders of accuracy of the emission inventories and natural sink capacity variability…
~50 years, far longer than the residence time (mistakenly used by several skeptics) and far shorter than the IPCC long decay rates, based on the Bern model, which includes a saturation of the deep ocean sinks, for which there is no sign (yet)…

I think that my CO2 circulation model is very close to the half life time of 38 years meaning the residence time of 55 years and the adjustment time of 220 years. Not very far away from the very simplified analysis of 265 years….


Every single climate model depends upon the assumption that CO2 is a well mixed gas. It is one of the most basic assumptions made. However, the Berne Model does the exact opposite. It makes the assumption that, after an initial mixing, CO2 over one carbon sink will never mix with the CO2 over another.
It divides the CO2 in the atmosphere into the following fractions and e-fold times (in years) for each type of carbon sink:
Because the model does not have any CO2 mixing the longer time scales dominate and the result is that after a 100 years you have about 25% of the CO2 remaining (0.1369 + 0.1298).
The moment you add in any mixing the lower time scales dominate and it only takes a a couple of decades for nearly all the CO2 to be removed.
This lack of mixing is a fatal flaw with the Berne model

I can’t follow your reasoning: CO2 in the atmosphere is well mixed anyway, but that doesn’t imply that the sinks all react with the same speed (and saturation) for the same increase in the atmosphere… The divide is in the sinks, not in the source (the atmosphere).
A doubling CO2 in the atmosphere will give a 10% increase in the ocean surface within a few years which then is saturated. The same doubling will increase the deep oceans with less than 1%, but that has a decay rate of over 50 years, without any saturation in sight…
The latter is where the Bern model probably goes wrong: they assume a saturation of the deep oceans, for which is not the slightest sign (yet)…


A doubling CO2 in the atmosphere will give a 10% increase in the ocean surface within a few years which then is saturated.

and in the Berne model the CO2 over the ocean stays over the ocean, meanwhile CO2 over other non saturated sinks continues decreasing resulting in different levels of CO2 over different sinks.
This is baked into the equations they use (see the link in my previous post).
You can exactly simulate the Berne model with a physical model in a lab.
Get a large tank and divide into 6 sections in the following proportions:
0.1369, 0.1298, 0.1938, 0.2502, 0.2086 and 0.0807
and then fill each section with water to the same level.
Now drill holes in the bottom of each section such the the e-fold time, in seconds, of the water draining out is the same as the e-fold time in years of CO2 in the Berne equations.
What you now have is a perfect physical simulation of what the Berne model actually does. The graph of volume of water left over time will exactly match the black line on their graph.
What the physical model (and hence the Berne model) is missing are holes in the section dividers so the water levels can equalize (CO2 mixing in the atmosphere).

I don’t think that is what the Bern model does: its formula only shows what happens with any CO2 increase in the atmosphere all over all sinks. In general of the order:
1 /T = 1/T1 + 1/T2 + 1/T3 + …
where the fastest decay rate is leading and all decay rates react on the same disturbance.
The only point of lengthening the decay rates is the saturation of sinks, which is proven for the ocean surface, questionable for the deep ocean sink (the second fastest and dominant until now) and false for the biosphere (the third, much slower sink rate).
Some review was done by Peter Dietze at the website of the late John Daly:
and a direct discussion between Peter Dietze with the originators of the Bern model:


Ferdinand Engelbeen commented : “… CO2 in the atmosphere is well mixed anyway,…”
Not according to OCO -2. Remember that ‘other’ satellite that was going to prove once and for all that we’re drowning in CO2 but has been conspicuously absent from discussions due to ‘inconvenient’ data?


I know what they intended to do but that is not what they have achieved.
Lets approach it from the other direction. That is, create an imaginary planet and then derive a formula that represents what happens to CO2 on that planet.
On this planet CO2 can mix vertically but not horizontally. This means that if CO2 is reduced in a vertical column of air it will never be replenished by CO2 from adjacent columns.
The planet has six different types of surface that act as carbon sinks with different e-fold times. The percentage of surface area and the e-fold times are as follows:
a(0) = 13.69%, tau(0) = ∞
a(1) = 12.98%, tau(1) =371.6
a(2) = 19.38%, tau(2) = 55.70
a(3) = 25.02%, tau(3) = 17.01
a(4) = 20.86%, tau(4) = 4.16
a(5) = 08.07%, tau(5) = 1.33
To create a model of this planet, with no horizontal mixing, use the formula here.
If you instantaneously inject 40 GtC into the atmosphere (evenly over the entire planet) then the solid black line in the graph here shows how that CO2 will be removed from the atmosphere over time.
That planet is what they have actually modelled. Same formula = same model.

Well mixed doesn’t mean that any change at one point of the globe is instantly distributed all over the globe…
Within a year about 20% of all CO2 in the atmosphere is removed from and sent back to the same atmosphere. The satellite shows differences of +- 2% of full scale over the globe. Seems very well mixed to me…


Ferdinand Engelbeen commented: “…Well mixed doesn’t mean that any change at one point of the globe is instantly distributed all over the globe…The satellite shows differences of +- 2% of full scale over the globe. Seems very well mixed to me…”
“Who said “instantly”? From what little I’ve seen of OCO-2 snapshots I’m guessing it’s more like weather related dispersal. I agree with the 2% but that is more by volume than is being generated by man. No? Just give them more time….they’ll either figure out a way to spin the data or continue to bury it.

You are right, they separate the different sinks into different compartments, where each compartment is depleted at its own rate. That is of course not how the decay rate in a real world works.
It seems to me that they used that formula as an approximation for the real Bern model, which supplied the original distribution. But as said somewhere up thread before, the Bern model was first made for 3000 and 5000 GtC emissions, not comparable at all for the about 400 GtC emissions since 1850, not even for 1000 GtC in the future, especially not for the saturation of the deep oceans.
What a mess that is… The old discussion between Peter Dietze and Fortunate Joos gives some clues about the differences, but this makes it completely clear…

Most of the variability you see in the satellite data is seasonal, which is visible if you look at the monthly changes. Some is permanent: a continuous release in the tropics and continuous sinks near the poles.
The problem for detecting the human contribution is that it is small compared to the seasonal and continuous exchanges. ~5 ppmv/year or 0.014 ppmv/day. The resolution of the satellite is ~0.1 ppmv during its midday pass. Either you need to look at high human activity of towns and industry or you need to focus over a longer period on certain spots (which is possible with this satellite) to increase the resolution…

Ari Halperin,
First, to accuse somebody of fraud, one need to prove that the deception was willfully, despite all knowledge of the time of the reports. That lacks in your essay.
Take the carbon cycle: not much was known at that time, only some rough impressions that most was going into the oceans.
From the ocean surface it was known that it rapidly saturates at about 10% of the change in the atmosphere. That is due to buffer chemistry and a measure of that is the Revelle factor. Fully proven nowadays by longer term ocean surface measurements of DIC (CO2 + bicarbonates + carbonates).
The IPCC used and uses the Bern model, which takes into account the saturation of all reservoirs at a certain point: oceans surface (which is proven), deep oceans (for which is no sign yet) and vegetation (which is false). Vegetation was the huge unknown at that time, meanwhile it is a proven, small, but increasing sink at least since 1990. The current average sink rate is about:
~9 GtC/year emissions
~0.5 GtC/year sink in the ocean surface
~1 GtC/year sink in the biosphere
~3 GtC/year sink in the deep oceans
The fastest decay rate in the series indeed is the ocean surface with a decay rate of less than a year, that is the first decay rate of the Bern model. As said, that is also fast saturated at 10% of the increase in the atmosphere, or with ~4.5 GtC/year increase (~2.15 ppmv/year) the uptake by the ocean surface is only ~0.5 GtC/year.
The third decay rate (others are far slower) is by the biosphere. According to the Bern model about 170 years e-fold decay rate (if I remember well), with ~1 GtC uptake for 213 GtC extra in the atmosphere, not far off within the large margins of error…
Where the IPCC goes wrong is that there is no saturation to be expected in the biosphere from more CO2 in the atmosphere: as long as the CO2 levels are increased, the extra uptake goes on, no matter if that is linear or not.
The million dollar question is what the deep oceans will do. According to the Bern model, they saturate too in the same way as the surface at 10% of the change in the atmosphere, but that plays no role in the deep, only at the surface. At the surface, where the ocean sinks are near the poles, the waters are largely undersaturated for CO2, which thus makes little difference for how much CO2 is taken away from the atmosphere. It may give a difference if we should burn all oil and gas and a lot of coal. The Bern model was originally based on 3000 and 5000 GtC of total emissions. With the current total since ~1850 we are near 400 GtC. Once mixed in with the deep oceans, that will give an excess of 1% in the deep oceans and the atmosphere (~3 ppmv!) when again in equilibrium… More will give larger increases, but that is still far away.
The problem is that at this moment there is no way to conclude that the Bern model is wrong, simply because the first two decay rates give the main overall decay rate and the Bern model is not yet saturated for the deep oceans, thus the non-saturating one linear decay rate and the Bern model more or less parallel each other until now…
See the third graph in:

The Bern model makes an assumption that for every CO2 increase into the atmosphere, 21.7 % will stay forever in the atmosphere. As you say, it may be hard to point out, if this is deceiving or not. What do you think about the IPCC’s claim that in the present climate, the fraction of anthropogenic CO2 is 29 % (100*240/840) in 2011. There are direct 13C measurements, which show that the portion is about 8 % corresponding the permille value of -8.4 and the absolute amount is 67 GtC. I would call IPCC’s claim deceiving.


I agree. People can assert whatever theory they like about adjustment time, e-folding time, or whatever, but the unfortunate fact is (at least for the IPCC) that the amount of human CO2 remaining in the atmosphere is only around 6-8% (I calculate around 6% whereas you have calculated 8%) and so trying to prove that we have increased the concentration by 40% requires us to make assumptions and these assumptions for the most part I think are rather unconvincing. The vast majority of human CO2 has already been absorbed by sinks, and a signficant amount must have been absorbed by the deep-ocean too, otherwise the amount of human CO2 in the atmosphere would have stabalized at a much higher percentage, at around 20%.

The IPCC itself is confusing the matters by loosely using “residence time” where they are talking of excess decay rates, you shouldn’t make the same confusion. The Bern model talks about mass, not about the origin of what stays in the atmosphere. According to the Bern model 21% of the original excess (whatever its origin) remains forever in the atmosphere, or anyway for many centuries.
Even if 100% of the original excess was human, after one year a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere is exchanged with CO2 from the deep oceans (about 40 GtC/year or 20%). That gives that 20% of all human CO2 is replaced with natural CO2 with more or less the isotopic composition of ~1000 years ago. That means that the residual human “fingerprint” decays many times faster – with the residence time (~5 years) – than the total mass of extra CO2 with the excess decay rate (~50 years). Here for a theoretical one-shot 100 GtC “human” CO2 injected in the atmosphere 160 years ago with the above residence time and excess decay rate:
where FA is the human fraction in the atmosphere, FL in the ocean surface, tCA total CO2 in the atmosphere and nCA natural CO2 in the atmosphere.
As you can see, thanks to the short residence time, hardly any human CO2 remains in the atmosphere after 50-60 years, but still after 160 years there is a measurable excess CO2 level, 100% caused by the original human CO2 injection…
One can do the same exercise with the real emissions:
which shows a residual 9% human “fingerprint”, not bad for a first approximation…

the correlation between cumulative emissions and cumulative warming presented by the IPCC is spurious

Chaam Jamal,
That report only shows that the correlation has a good chance to be spurious, but doesn’t definitively prove it…


Actually it doesn’t even show that. The reason that cumulative signals are often corellated (even if the original signals are not) is because their mean values are non-zero. However it is precisely the mean value of annual anthropogenic emissions that causes atmospheric CO2 to rise (the fluctuations from year to year are essentially irrelevant). Similarly it is the mean value of the annual increase in atmospheric CO2 being positive that means that there is a long term rise to explain, and the year to year variations (e.g. due to ENSO) are essentially irrelevant. The correllation between the two cumulative signals is anything but spurious, it is due to their non-zero mean values being of key importance and it is the correlation between the original (differenced) signals that is all but irrelevant. This is essentially the flip side of Prof. Salby’s corellation error (

Hi Dikran,
Some time ago…
Chaam was talking about the correlation between accumulated temperature and accumulated CO2 (the base for Bart’s hypothesis), not about emissions and increase in the atmosphere…
Nevertheless a good remainder that correlation is many times not the same as causation…


Hi Ferdinand,
Indeed, correlation is not causation, and you can’t really use statistics to determine the difference, what is needed is physics, rather than more statistics!
You are of course quite right about it being the temperature-co2 correlation (hence another way of making the same sort of error as Prof. Salby). They key point is the effect of integration and differencing on correlations makes it very easy to get things wrong because correlations are insensitive to mean values and differencing converts a linear trend into a constant offset. In the case of temperature and CO2 neither correlation is spurious, but their causes are unrelated. The correlation between temperature and the annual growth in atmospheric CO2 is (apparently) largely due to ENSO mediated changes in the terrestrial biosphere, but the corellation in the cumulative CO2 and temperature is attributable to a combination of the enhanced greenhouse effect and perhaps the (slight) change in solubility of CO2 in warming oceans (although in different directions). There comes a point where statistics alone can’t tell you much.
hope all is well with you, keep up the good work!


I should have pointed out of course that CO2 is not the only factor that affects temperature (c.f. IPCC WG1 reports) so *some* of the correlation is attributable to the enhanced greenhouse effect, to know how much you would need to perform a proper attribution study,

UN Impressed

RICO laws, what did they know and when?

Brilliant article, thank you, very needed!!


“CO2 is a special case since it has no real sinks …”
As I write this, I am looking at the South Downs.


in your reply to Ari, you say
“First, to accuse somebody of fraud, one need to prove that the deception was willfully, despite all knowledge of the time of the reports.”
Using your own criterion, you must find for fraud, because any schoolchild at the time could tell you that those great mountainous deposits of limestone are the result of the decay of the life-forms that were dependent on CO2.
For successive groups of scientists to overlook this basic fact is frankly unbelievable. They were quite simply wilfully lying.

Of course they had the knowledge that limestone was disposed out of the atmosphere. But that doesn’t play any role at the timescales which are under discussion: in the Bern model that is one of the terms with a time scale of thousands of years…
Don’t forget that the Downs needed 80 million years or so to form…

J Calvert N(UK)

The South Downs may be 80 million years OLD – but should be pretty obvious that they did not take that long to FORM. The deposition of the consituent materials would have take only a small fraction of that time.
They and all the other carbonate rocks around the world have permanently removed a vast amount of carbon from the earths atmosphere. I would guess that it is far more than was ever sequestered by fossil fuels. (Does anybody have acess to actual nuimber on this?)

J Calver N,
Fossil carbon (coal etc.) is estimated 10,000 GtC (NASA carbon cycle), carbonate rock about 40,000 GtC, see:
where the current deposit is around 0.2 GtC/year and the current removal is about 0.03 GtC/year via (subduction) volcanoes and 0.17 GtC/year via rock weathering. Thus practically in steady state.
During the Cretaceous, CO2 levels were much higher (Wiki says 6 times, some others say 10-12 times), which gives a lot more sedimentation and as less rock was exposed to weather, less removal… Hard to tell what the overall deposit rate would have been then.
The chalk deposits in South / East England were over a period of still 35 million years and up to 1500 m thickness, that is a deposit of 0.04 mm/year, not really fast…


The five year resident time line of co2 in the atmosphere was know to the IPCC long ago.
Carbon cycle modelling and
the residence time of natural and
anthropogenic atmospheric CO2:
on the construction of the
“Greenhouse Effect Global Warming” dogma.
Tom V. Segalstad
Mineralogical-Geological Museum
University of Oslo
Sars’ Gate 1, N-0562 Oslo

Don’t mix up residence time, which does replace a lot (~20%) of all CO2 in the atmosphere with CO2 from other reservoirs (oceans and vegetation) with the decay rate of any excess CO2 injected into the atmosphere (whatever the source). The latter changes the overall quantity of CO2, the former doesn’t change the total quantity…
That is where many skeptics, including Segalstad, got confused…


Some co2 stays at shallower depths and goes back into the atmosphere and some goes to the deeper depths, eventually returning to the earths core and never returns. What’s the mix up.

The difference is mainly in what goes into the deep oceans: that only returns some 1000 years later, largely mixed up with the rest of the CO2 forms in the deep oceans…
The residence time is ~5 years, as some 20% of all CO2 in the atmosphere each year is exchanged with CO2 from the ocean surface and vegetation: growth and wane. That doesn’t change the total CO2 in the atmosphere with one gram as long as what goes out comes back.
Only the change caused by the extra CO2 pressure in the atmosphere matters: that is what is extra absorbed by vegetation, ocean surface and deep oceans after a full seasonal cycle. That is ~2.15 ppmv/year with a pressure increase of ~110 ppmv/year above the ocean surface – atmosphere equilibrium per Henry’s law. That gives:
110 ppmv / 2.15 ppmv/year = ~51 years
That is the excess decay rate, nothing to do with the residence time, but the only term that is important for the removal speed of any excess CO2 in the atmosphere…

Actually IPCC AR5 is pretty straightforward, and uncertain, for those of us who bothered to actually read it.
Prior to MLO the atmospheric CO2 concentrations, both paleo ice cores and inconsistent contemporary grab samples, were massive wags. Instrumental data at some of NOAA’s tall towers passed through 400 ppm years before MLO reached that level. IPCC AR5 TS.6.2 cites uncertainty in CO2 concentrations over land. Preliminary data from OCO-2 suggests that CO2 is not as well mixed as assumed. Per IPCC AR5 WG1 chapter 6 mankind’s share of the atmosphere’s natural CO2 is basically unknown, could be anywhere from 4% to 96%. (IPCC AR5 Ch 6, Figure 6.1, Table 6.1)
The major global C reservoirs (not CO2 per se, C is a precursor proxy for CO2), i.e. oceans, atmosphere, vegetation & soil, contain over 45,000 Pg (Gt) of C. Over 90% of this C reserve is in the oceans. Between these reservoirs ebb and flow hundreds of Pg C per year, the great fluxes. For instance, vegetation absorbs C for photosynthesis producing plants and O2. When the plants die and decay they release C. A divinely maintained balance of perfection for thousands of years, now unbalanced by mankind’s evil use of fossil fuels.
So just how much net C does mankind’s evil fossil fuel consumption add to this perfectly balanced 45,000 Gt cauldron of churning, boiling, fluxing C? 4 Gt C. That’s correct, 4. Not 4,000, not 400, 4! How are we supposed to take this seriously? (Anyway 4 is totally assumed/fabricated to make the numbers work.)
IPCC AR5 attributes 2 W/m^2 of unbalancing RF due to the increased CO2 concentration between 1750 and 2011 (Fig TS.7, SPM Fig 5.). In the overall global heat balance 2 W (watt is power, not energy) is lost in the magnitudes and uncertainties (Graphic Trenberth et. al. 2011) of: ToA, 340 +/- 10, fluctuating albedos of clouds, snow and ice, reflection, absorption and release of heat from evaporation and condensation of the ocean and water vapor cycle. (IPCC AR5 Ch 8, FAQ 8.1)
IPCC AR5 acknowledges the LTT pause/hiatus/lull/stasis in Text Box 9.2 and laments the failure of the GCMs to model it. If IPCC can’t explain the pause, they can’t explain the cause. IPCC GCMs don’t work because IPCC exaggerates climate sensitivity (TS 6.2), of CO2/GHGs RF in the power flux balance and dismisses the role of water vapor because man does not cause nor control it.
The sea ice and sheet ice is expanding not shrinking, polar bear population is the highest in decades, the weather (30 years = climate) is less extreme not more, the sea level rise is not accelerating, the GCM’s are repeat failures, the CAGW hypothesis is coming unraveled, COP21 turned into yet another empty and embarrassing fiasco, IPCC AR6 will mimic SNL’s Roseanne Roseannadanna, “Well, neeeveeer mind!!”
One can only hope that 2016 will be the year honest science prevails. In the meantime the hyperbolic CAGW hotterist’s hysteria will continue to fleece the fearful, neurotic and gullible, (i.e. the world’s second oldest profession).


We were taught about the carbon cycle at school. Back then it was seen as something wondrous and good. Plants use water and carbon dioxide and energy from the sun to create oxygen and hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons are eaten by animals who convert oxygen and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and energy, and so it goes on in happy symbiosis. Only when you think about it, there is a problem. Some of the carbon remains sequestered in the form of calcium carbonate (bones, shells) or as cellulose in plants. So over time the level of carbon dioxide on which this whole energy capture process depends must decline. Unless, that is, some white knight comes and burns some of the sequestered stuff and restores the balance.


+ 10,000


Thanks for a great article. But a 5 year residence time for CO2 is too long. A winters’ accumulation of CO2 in the high northern latitudes is gone by July. Plants make hay while the sun shines.

The high northern latitudes are not the whole earth… Overall there is a seasonal ~60 GtC in and out vegetation and a ~50 GtC out and in the oceans surface. Because these are countercurrent within the hemispheres and the hemispheres act opposite, the overall balance is +/- 5 ppmv seasonal, where the extra-tropical forests in the NH are the dominant cause of the variation.
Besides that, there is a continuous CO2 flux between the warmed upwelling places near the equator and the sink places near the poles of around 40 GtC/year.
All together ~150 GtC going in and out the atmosphere within a year for a CO2 level of about 800 GtC in the atmosphere or a residence time of around 5.3 years…


Maybe so, but mass transfer depends on driving force which in this case is a concentration difference. In spring the northern hemisphere sees the maximum concentration difference (from a base of ~ 140 ppm where plants go dormant) so that mass transfer rates are higher and half lives are lower than for the earth at large. So for the limited region of high latitudes where the CO2 is generated (and consumed) mass transfer rates will be high and apparent residence times lower than for the earth at large. This is how excess CO2 disappears so quickly that it never escapes the northern hemisphere.

This is how excess CO2 disappears so quickly that it never escapes the northern hemisphere.
Despite the huge exchanges mainly in the NH, the excess human contribution nevertheless escapes the NH, be it with some delay over the latitudes and the ITCZ which restricts the exchange of air (~10%/year) between the hemispheres:


I’m with Salby. The secular increase is due to the secular temperature trend. If from anthro CO2 the lines on your chart would not be parallel. NH would be diverging. Your chart actually indicates that all anthro CO2 is consumed in situ.

Some more facts which show the opposite:
– increasing temperatures and more CO2 give that – in general – the biosphere increases its CO2 uptake. Confirmed by the oxygen balance and satellite pictures of photosynthesis: the earth is greening,
– increasing temperatures will give more CO2 release from the oceans. But the ocean δ13C level is higher than of the atmosphere, thus would increase δ13C in the atmosphere, but we see a strong decline, again in the NH first:
As the biosphere is a net absorber of CO2 and preferentially 12CO2, it can’t be the cause of the δ13C decline (another error of Dr. Salby), neither are the oceans, to the contrary. Neither are volcanoes or rock weathering… Remains human emissions at twice the increase as measured in the atmosphere as only known source of low-13C CO2 in more than sufficient quantity to explain the decline…
BTW, the CO2 increase diverges between NH (Mauna Loa) and SH (South Pole) if you look over longer periods:


Fun IPCC fact of the day:
Bovine are the only known thing in the universe, aside from fusion within stars, that actually create the element carbon. Ergo, breeding more cattle will cause more CO2 and CH4 to reside in the atmosphere.

“As the biosphere is a net absorber of CO2 and preferentially 12CO2, it can’t be the cause of the δ13C decline (another error of Dr. Salby), neither are the oceans, to the contrary. Neither are volcanoes or rock weathering… Remains human emissions at twice the increase as measured in the atmosphere as only known source of low-13C CO2 in more than sufficient quantity to explain the decline…”
What else could it be? is not scientific proof. There is too little 13C to determine anything of substance.

In my working life (already 10 years ago…) one of my (many) tasks was to spot and eliminate problems in the (chemical) production plants. That was in general much faster solved by eliminating the impossible causes than looking for possible causes…
The same here: the δ13C decline (near 2 per mil since 1850) is enormous compared to the whole variability over the whole Holocene (+/- 0.2 per mil) and even the change between glacial and interglacial periods (~0.2 per mil). That means a huge source of very low 13C carbon over the pas 165 years.
There are only two known huge sources of low 13C carbon: recent organics and fossil organics. All the inorganic sources/sinks of CO2 are higher in 13C level. That excludes the oceans, volcanoes, rock weathering,… as cause of the decline. Thus rests 2 possible causes.
The net balance of recent organics can be obtained by looking at the oxygen balance: if more oxygen is used than calculated from fossil fuel use, then the biosphere emits more CO2 than it absorbs. If less oxygen is used, then the biosphere as a whole (plants on land and in sea, bacteria, molds, insects, animals,…) is a net source of oxygen, thus a net consumer of CO2 and preferentially 12CO2, thus leaving relative more 13CO2 behind and not the cause of the δ13C decline. The latter is what is observed…
Thus remains human emissions as sole known huge contributor. Anyway if you have knowledge of any substantial release of low-13C from another source, I am always interested…
BTW, what do you mean with:
“There is too little 13C to determine anything of substance”.
Mass spectrometry is used to determine the origin of carbon in our and mummified food, they can detect if you were a vegetarian or fish eater, how the C3 and C4 plant mix in nature evolved over time and its use as human/animal food/feed and lots of other interesting stuff. All based on the 13C/12C (and other) ratio’s…

From what I can tell 13C is about 1% of all C. Detecting significant changes in 1% is, IMHO, challenging, bound to be some significant uncertainty. If you don’t know, you don’t know. In all of the uncertainties in the magnitudes and fluxes as I have pointed out elsewhere (IPCC AR5 Table 6.1), there could easily be another explanation.
So 13C/12C (what does o/oo mean?) suggests that the CO2 increase between 1750 and 2011 is maybe due to man because we have to have an answer for the boss, correct being optional. So what, it’s still insignificant.
The null hypothesis, “stuff” happens is always a possibility. You have to prove it’s not and while the 13C is interesting:
1) In the overall magnitude of C/CO2 reservoirs(45,000 Gt) and fluxes (100’s Gt/y) anthro’s net 4 Gt/y is trivial.
2) In the overall magnitude of W/m^2 flows, 340 ToA, albedo (30% +/-), absorbed, stored, converted, etc. anthro’s additional 2 (0.6%) Wm^2 is insignificant, not that anyone can even pin it down.
3) Even IPCC admits the AOGCM’s are unreliable.

Nicholas Schroeder,
You largely underestimate the enormous capability of nowadays analytical possibilities…
Mass spectrographs were used even in the late ’40’s which did show to Keeling Sr. that the huge diurnal change of CO2 he saw in the Big Sur forest was caused by respiration of the trees, because the δ13C changes were opposite to the CO2 changes.
On the base of the δ13C level they can see if a volcano’s CO2 is from subduction carbonate rock or from deep magma, amongst a host of other findings, all based on the 13C/12C and other ratio’s.
There is no other explanation possible for the enormous – in geological terms – drop in δ13C than the use of fossil fuels. If you think that is a trivial proof, then you are only deluding yourself.
Further about 1)
Carbon reservoirs are of not the slightest interest except for where the discussion of any effect is: That is in the atmosphere and to a much lesser extent the ocean surface.
In the atmosphere there is about 800 GtC nowadays, 30% extra compared to pre-industrial times. All caused by human emissions.
One can discuss the consequences, but skeptics shoot in their own foot if they try to deny that fact in any discussion…
2) While that is not zero, the consequences are anyway small, much smaller that what AOGCM’s have made of it.
3) I fully agree that the AOGCM’s all are performing badly: back to the drawing board…
Note: what does o/oo mean?