Roger Revelle – the backstory of the father of Atmospheric CO2 monitoring

By Andy May

Roger Revelle was an outstanding and famous oceanographer. He met Al Gore, in the late 1960s, when Gore was a student in one of his classes at Harvard University. Revelle was unsure about the eventual impact of human carbon dioxide emissions on climate, but he did show that all carbon dioxide emitted by man would not be absorbed by the oceans. For an interesting discussion of Revelle’s work in this area see this post on “The Discovery of Global Warming,” by Spencer Weart (Weart, 2007). The original paper, on CO2 absorption by the oceans, published in 1957 by Roger Revelle and Hans Suess, is entitled: “Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2, during the Past Decades” (Revelle & Suess, 1957). This meant that human emissions of carbon dioxide would accumulate in the atmosphere and that the CO2 atmospheric concentration would increase, probably causing Earth’s surface to warm at some unknown rate. This is not an alarming conclusion, as Revelle well knew, but Al Gore turned it into one.

One of Revelle’s good friends was Dr. S. Fred Singer. Singer was a professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia and both Revelle and Singer had been science advisors in the U.S. Department of the Interior. They first met in 1957 and were more than professional colleagues, they were personal friends (Singer, 2003). Unfortunately, Revelle passed away in July 1991 and Singer passed away in April 2020, so we will refer to them and their friendship in the past tense. Both were leading Earth scientists and at the top of their fields, it was natural they would become friends. They also shared an interest in climate change and chose to write an article together near the end of Revelle’s life.

The article was published in Cosmos and entitled “What To Do about Greenhouse Warming: Look before You Leap” (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991). Singer and Revelle had already written a first draft of the article, when they invited the third author, Chauncey Starr, to help them complete it. Starr was an expert in energy research and policy. He holds the National Medal of Technology and Innovation and was the director of the Electrical Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. As leading scientists, Starr, Singer and Revelle understood how uncertain the possible dangers of global warming were and they did not want the government to go off half-cocked, they wrote:

“We can sum up our conclusions in a simple message: The scientific [basis] for a greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic action at this time. There is little risk in delaying policy responses to this century old problem since there is every expectation that scientific understanding will be substantially improved within the next decade.” (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991)

Indeed, ten years later, CO2 emissions were still increasing, but the world had started to cool as shown in Figure 1. This casts considerable doubt on the idea that human emissions somehow control global warming, since some other factor, presumably natural, is strong enough to reverse the overall warming trend for ten years. Revelle was correct to encourage the government to wait for ten more years. Just a year before their paper was published the IPCC reported that warming to date fell within the range of “natural variability” and that the detection of a human influence on climate was “not likely for a decade or more.” (IPCC, 1990, p. XII).

Figure 1. In 1990 and 1991, respectively, the IPCC and Roger Revelle and colleagues said it was too early to do anything about possible man-made climate change, they thought we would know more in 10 years. The plot is smoothed with a 5-year running average to reduce the effect of El Nino and La Nina events. This makes the longer term trends easier to see.

While Revelle was unsure if warming was a problem. Al Gore, who had little training in science, suffered no such doubts. He was sure that burning fossil fuels was causing carbon dioxide to rise to “dangerous” levels in the atmosphere and was convinced this was a problem for civilization through rising sea levels and extreme weather. There was no evidence to support these assumptions, but Al Gore didn’t need evidence, he could always rely on climate models and he did. Revelle distrusted the models.

Al Gore and Climate Change

In 1992, after Singer, Revelle and Starr published their Cosmos article, their statements caused Al Gore, who was running for Vice-President at the time, some problems. Gore had just published The Earth in the Balance (Gore, 1992) and in it he credited Revelle with discovering that human emissions of carbon dioxide were causing Earth to warm and this could be very dangerous. Yet, Singer, Revelle and Starr’s paper said:

“Drastic, precipitous—and, especially, unilateral—steps to delay the putative greenhouse impacts can cost jobs and prosperity and increase the human costs of global poverty, without being effective. Stringent economic controls [on CO2 emissions] now would be economically devastating particularly for developing countries…” (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991)

They also quote Yale economist and Nobel Laureate William Nordhaus, who wrote:

“…those who argue for strong measures to slow greenhouse warming have reached their conclusion without any discernible analysis of the cost and benefits…” (Nordhaus W. , 1990)

Nordhaus had studied both the costs of reducing CO2 and the benefits of doing so. His analysis shows there is little to be gained, economically, from reducing emissions (Nordhaus W. , 2007, p. 236). While Nordhaus supports a “carbon tax,” he acknowledges that the “pace and extent of warming is highly uncertain.” Contrast this with how Al Gore characterizes Roger Revelle’s view in his book:

“Professor Revelle explained that higher levels of CO2 would create what he called the greenhouse effect, which would cause the earth to grow warmer. The implications of his words were startling; we were looking at only eight years of information, but if this trend continued, human civilization would be forcing a profound and disruptive change in the entire global climate.” (Gore, 1992, p. 5) italics added.

The differences between what Nordhaus and Revelle are saying and what Al Gore is saying are stark. All three believe human emissions of CO2 might cause Earth to warm. But Gore naively assumes that is a bad thing. Revelle and Nordhaus acknowledge it might be, but they recognize that we don’t know. Further, they understand destroying our fossil fuel-based economy may not alleviate the warming and may cause more harm than good. To quote Bertrand Russell:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell

To a scientist, like Roger Revelle, the uncertainty was obvious. Politicians, like Al Gore and most of the news media do not do uncertainty, everything must be black and white and false dichotomies are how they think. Notice Al Gore presumptively writes “would be forcing” when Revelle would clearly write “could be forcing.” The difference between a politician with an agenda and a scientist who understands uncertainty.

The incompatibility between Revelle’s true views and the way they are presented in Gore’s book was noticed by Gregg Easterbrook, a Newsweek editor, who wrote about it in the July 6, 1992 issue of New Republic (Easterbrook, 1992). This article angered Al Gore and his supporters. Walter Munk and Edward Frieman published a short note in Oceanography in 1992 objecting to Easterbrook’s article and claimed that the late Revelle had been worried about global warming, but probably did not want “drastic” action taken at this time (Munk & Frieman, 1992). Revelle’s views were clear and well known, nothing in Munk and Frieman’s article contradicts what Singer said or what Revelle said or wrote. The following is from a letter Revelle sent Senator Tim Wirth, an ally of Gore’s and a member of the Clinton/Gore administration in July 1988:

“we should be careful not to arouse too much alarm until the rate and amount of warming becomes clearer. It is not yet obvious that this summer’s hot weather and drought are the result of a global climatic change or simply an example of the uncertainties of climate variability. My own feeling is that we had better wait another 10 years before making confident predictions.” Written by Roger Revelle as reported by (Booker, 2013, p. 59).

Unlike Senators Al Gore and Tim Wirth, Revelle understood global warming computer models and did not trust them. He argued with Singer about this very issue and Singer convinced Revelle that the models were getting better (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991). However, regardless of the accuracy of the models, Revelle was not convinced global warming was a problem and he knew the natural rate of warming and the additional amount expected from human greenhouse emissions were unknown. As shown in Figure 1, his caution was warranted, just ten years later it became apparent that warming was slowing down. The following reflects Revelle’s own views, it is from the “Look before you Leap” article:

“The models used to calculate future climate are not yet good enough because the climate balancing processes are not sufficiently understood, nor are they likely to be good enough until we gain more understanding through observations and experiments. As a consequence, we cannot be sure whether the next century will bring a warming that is negligible or a warming that is significant. Finally, even if there are a global warming and associated climate changes, it is debatable whether the consequences will be good or bad; likely some places on the planet would benefit, some would suffer.” (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991)

Revelle’s views were clear and well documented, but Al Gore and his supporters were humiliated by Easterbrook’s article and follow up articles by George Will and others. Dr. Justin Lancaster was Revelle’s graduate student and teaching assistant at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography from 1981 until Revelle’s sudden death in July 1991. He was also an Al Gore supporter. Lancaster claimed that Revelle was “hoodwinked” by Singer into adding his name to the Cosmos article. He also claimed that Revelle was “intensely embarrassed that his name was associated” with it. Lancaster further claimed that Singer’s actions were “unethical” and specifically designed to undercut Senator Al Gore’s global warming policy position. Lancaster harassed Singer in 1992, accusing him of putting Revelle’s name on the article over his objections and demanding that Singer have it removed. He even demanded that the publisher of a volume that was to include the article (Geyer, 1993) remove it.

Professor Singer, the Cosmos publisher of the “Look before you Leap” article and the publisher (CRC Press) of Richard Geyer’s book, objected to these demands and charges. Then Singer sued Lancaster for libel with the help of the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C. Professor Singer and the Center won the lawsuit and forced Lancaster to issue an apology.

The discovery process during the lawsuit revealed that Lancaster was working closely with Al Gore and his staff. In fact, Al Gore personally called Lancaster after the Easterbrook article appeared and ask him about Revelle’s mental capacity in the months before his death in July of 1991. Friends and family of Revelle recall that he was sharp and active right up to the moment when he passed away from a sudden heart attack. But this did not stop Al Gore and Lancaster from claiming Revelle was suffering from senility or dementia and that was why the account in Gore’s book was so different from what Revelle wrote elsewhere, including in the “Look before you leap” article. Even Lancaster wrote in a draft of a letter to Al Gore that Revelle was “mentally sharp to the end” and was “not casual about his integrity” (Singer, 2003).

During the discovery process, Singer and his lawyers found that Lancaster knew everything in the “Look before you leap” article was true and that Revelle agreed with everything in it. The article even included a lot of material that Revelle had previously presented to a 1990 AAAS (American Academy for the Advancement of Science) meeting. More details can be seen in Fred Singer’s deposition (Jones, 1993).

Roger Revelle’s daughter, Carolyn Revelle Hufbaurer, wrote that Revelle was concerned about global warming (Hufbauer, 1992). But his concern lessened later in life and he knew the problem, if there was a problem, was not urgent. He thought more study was required before anything was done. He was for modest changes, such as more nuclear power and substituting natural gas for some coal and oil, but not much else, other than a carbon tax. As usual, the news media and politicians have no sense of the complexity and uncertainty that surrounds the scientific debate about human-caused climate change. When Revelle argued against “drastic” action, he meant measures that would cost trillions of dollars and cripple the fossil fuel industry and developing countries. Up until his death, he thought extreme measures were premature. He clearly believed that we should look before we leap.

Al Gore tried to get Ted Koppel to trash Singer on his TV show and it failed spectacularly. He asked Koppel to investigate the “antienvironmental movement” and in particular “expose the fact” that Singer and other skeptical scientists were receiving financial support from the coal industry and the wacky Lyndon LaRouche organization. Rather than do Al Gore’s bidding Ted Koppel said the following on his Nightline television program, on February 24, 1994:

“There is some irony in the fact that Vice President Gore, one of the most scientifically literate men to sit in the White House in this century, [is] resorting to political means to achieve what should ultimately be resolved on a purely scientific basis. The measure of good science is neither the politics of the scientist nor the people with whom the scientist associates. It is the immersion of hypotheses into the acid of truth. That’s the hard way to do it, but it’s the only way that works.” Ted Koppel as reported in (Singer, 2003)

Calling Gore “scientifically literate” is debatable, but Koppel has the rest of it right. He has integrity that is lacking in journalism today, further he understands the scientific process. The attempt to use Koppel to tar Singer, brought a huge amount of well-deserved criticism down on Gore.

Given this, it is not surprising that Lancaster agreed to issue an apology only two months later, on April 29, 1994. Lancaster’s retraction was specific:

“I retract as being unwarranted any and all statements, oral or written, I have made which state or imply that Professor Revelle was not a true and voluntary coauthor of the Cosmos article, or which in any other way impugn or malign the conduct or motives of Professor Singer with regard to the Cosmos article (including but not limited to its drafting, editing, publication, republication, and circulation). I agree not to make any such statements in future. … I apologize to Professor Singer” (Singer, 2003)

So, in his court affidavit Lancaster admitted he lied about Singer. Then afterward, Lancaster withdrew his court-ordered retraction and reiterated his charges (Lancaster, 2006). He admits he lied under oath in a courtroom and in writing, then tells us he didn’t lie. He admits that Professor Revelle was a true coauthor of the paper, then he states “Revelle did not write it” and “Revelle cannot be an author.” What some people are willing do to their reputations, in the name of catastrophic climate change is hard to believe. He retracted his retraction despite documentary evidence in Revelle’s own handwriting, and numerous testimonials from others that Revelle did contribute to the article.

Some of Revelle’s other papers, letters and presentations have nearly identical language to that in the paper, for example compare the quote from his letter to Senator Tim Wirth above with the first page of the “Look before you Leap” paper. In the paper, they say we need to wait because “scientific understanding will be substantially improved within the next decade” (Singer, Revelle, & Starr, 1991). In the letter to Wirth, quoted above, he says “10 years,” but the meaning is the same. He, and many other climate scientists, did not feel we knew enough in the early nineties to do anything significant. He was right about this. Warming went negative from 2002 to 2010 as we see in Figure 1.

The issue was raised in the televised vice-presidential debate that year. Gore’s response was to protest that Revelle’s views in the article had been taken out of context. We can clearly see that it was Al Gore’s book that took Revelle’s comments out of context.

This post is condensed and modified from my new book, Politics and Climate Change: A History.

The bibliography can be downloaded here.

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Michael Nagy
October 31, 2020 6:48 am

You have to hand it to Al Gore for one thing, he realized a way to become ungodly rich and famous by exploiting the fear he could induce in people all over the world. It doesn’t matter that everything in his book has been debunked. Anthony Watts and the good people on this site have debunked Gore over and over but still the indoctrination continues in every college in North America. You can’t even discuss this with your friends anymore, they just interrupt and shout you down. I wonder if we can actually win this fight. I’ll keep trying though…

Reply to  Michael Nagy
October 31, 2020 8:43 am

I don’t think it is winnable. It will more likely splinter off into the war on plastics, free health care and housing and incomes for all, and unilateral disarmament. Save the Whales and Free Tibet were failed rift zones that did not propagate. The money was just not there.

Joseph Zorzin
October 31, 2020 6:51 am

“Calling Gore “scientifically literate” is debatable”. He has a BA from Hah-vid. Just like Willy McKibben.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 31, 2020 9:12 am

And let’s not forget Barack Obama and his JD degree from Hah-vid. That educational institute and associated law degree equipped him with all the scientific knowledge necessary to position himself thusly:
“President Obama believes that no challenge poses a greater threat to our children, our planet, and future generations than climate change — and that no other country on Earth is better equipped to lead the world towards a solution.” (source: )

Bill Powers
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 31, 2020 11:57 am

ALGORE’s transcripts revealed the extent of his science studies in college to be 2 natural science courses for which he received a D in his intro course and a gentleman’s C in Natural Science 118. This rain soaked and swollen wood board is no more qualified to write books or make documentaries on Global Warming than Howdy Doody.

Reply to  Bill Powers
October 31, 2020 6:04 pm

It is disrespectful to former Senator Gore to call him ALGORE. Now that he has retired as a climate perfesser, we should call the man, who invented the internet, exactly what his students used to call him: Al “the climate blimp” Gore.

Carlo, Monte
October 31, 2020 6:56 am

“AlGore is an idiot” — me, circa 1995.

Somehow “scientifically illiterate” got changed to “scientifically illiterate” in the quoted article.

October 31, 2020 7:16 am

Do not changes in temperature occur BEFORE changes in CO2 levels?

Where is the proof, in the REAL WORLD, that human produced CO2 affects climate in any way whatsoever?

How is present day climate in any way, not more or less “average” (if there is such a thing) when looking at the climate over the last 10,000 years or so?

Joel O'Bryan
October 31, 2020 7:17 am

The US dodged a real bullet when Vice President Al Gore was defeated by GW Bush in 2000. Al Gore, like most of the climate scammers, are quite willing to lie, dissemble, and use deception by telling half-truths about climate change*. Gore of course first and foremost was politician. Gore’s actions were certainly at the core of Dr Michael Crichton’s essay Why Politicized Science is Dangerous. Crichton’s essay is Appendix 1 to his fiction book State of Fear and was directed right at the climate scam unfolding during the decade of 1990’s by showing how past events of politicized science had corrupted and destroyed a scientific establishment.

That willingness by the political Left of course continues strongly to this day in Dementia Joe’s and Kamala Harris’ climate rhetoric on the campaign trail. The US Left finds itself doing the bidding of the Global Elitists and those at the UN who have guided the Agenda 21, now Agenda 2030. They are united in a mutual pursuit of Global Socialism and concentration of power and wealth from the West’s prosperous middle class into the hands of these elitists, while reducing the Middle Class to serfdom. From Canada to Australia, Germany, and now the US, voting for these climate-liar Leftists is certainly an act of self-destruction. The 2020 COVID lockdowns have only whetted their appetites for the Left seeing what they can accomplish in terms of control over people with fear. Michael Crichton had it exactly right. The Climate Lysenkoism will have fully descended on the West if Dementia Joe and Komrade Kamala win the White House next week and usher in a new Dark Ages of scientific truth seeking.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 31, 2020 9:30 am

Great history and summary! I read some of this years ago when I started following the “global warming” saga based on my interest in both science and politics. However, your post adds critical detail to the lawsuit that I had not known.

Gore, the Clintons, Obama and a host of other politicians have certainly adopted the “End Justifies The Means” strategy famously promoted by the first modern “community organizer” Saul Alinsky in order to achieve wealth and power.

Hope your book sells big. No matter what happens in the future, it will be a part of the real history of this era.


Reply to  Fergie
October 31, 2020 6:09 pm

Your first paragraph is exactly what I thought. I read all this 20 years ago and this was the best summary yet. Andy May should write a book.

Reply to  Fergie
October 31, 2020 6:12 pm

I’m glad to find out Andy May took my advice on writing a book a few minutes ago, wrote the book, and posted a chapter of it here while I was typing my prior comment. That speed reading course I took really paid off.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
October 31, 2020 5:54 pm

Mods, I tried to respond to this with a comment that wasn’t particularly anything on a scale of things.

Is the word g e n o c i d e the trigger? I mean, heck come on, we are talking Agenda 21. It’s Ehrlich’s middle name.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 1, 2020 7:38 am

Excellent work Andy May, and fine comments by Joel O’Brien, Fergie and Richard Greene.

Fred Singer was my friend – we met in Ottawa circa 2000 and stayed in touch – an excellent, most honorable gentleman – it was my privilege to know him. Thank you Andy for telling this part of Fred’s story.

Based on their thuggish actions and words, I do not believe that the CAGW gang was ever honest in their statements – I believe that they have known since the outset (circa 1982) that Catastrophic Human-Made Global warming (CAGW) was a deliberate fraud, a scary fiction concocted by wolves to stampede the sheep. They have relied upon Leninist / Goebbels / Alinsky propaganda tactics to deceive the public and shout down dissent – these are not the tactics of honest men. Global warming advocates have deliberately vilified and harmed honest scientists and they continue to do so – their actions are consistent with those of scoundrels.

The CAGW deception is the most costly and destructive scientific fraud in history. Current events including the huge reduction in fossil fuel combustion due to the Covid-19 scare and probable imminent naturally-caused global cooling should shed new light on the details of the science, and could further disprove the CAGW narrative. Perhaps this is why the global warming advocates are ramping up their hysteria now – they probably realize that their “jig is up” – if they do not seize power now their house-of-cards will fall. The election in three days in the USA will determine the future of this colossal fraud – and the future of democracy and freedom.

October 31, 2020 7:35 am

Andy. thanks for this post.

And good luck with the sales of your new book “Politics and Climate Change: A History”.


Robert Doyle
Reply to  Bob Tisdale
October 31, 2020 6:03 pm

A second of Mr. Tisdale’s post.

The content is rich and the writing is logical and so well written.
For me, the book is a must.

Thank you Mr. May.

HD Hoese
October 31, 2020 7:45 am

Scripps Institution of Oceanography produced (including during the Revelle period) a number of excellent scholars teaching at other places, recall that I benefited from at least one, probably more. Martin Johnson from Scripps was one of the authors of ‘The Oceans,’ still a useful classic (1942, reprinted many times). Never heard of Lancaster, it is interesting to study their subsequent history as an object lesson with the difficulties of producing good scientists, which I have reason to believe that they still do to some degree. 1942 was during WWII, and Scripps was involved in important and applied oceanography, but politics does not show up anywhere in ‘The Oceans’ that I have ever found. Good science speaks for itself!

Barnes Moore
October 31, 2020 7:45 am

Maybe a little off topic, but I found this article/letter to be very interesting.

Dana H Saylor Sr.
October 31, 2020 7:53 am

I found this article especially interesting. A few years ago, in my early efforts to discover who and when the idea that CO2 was possibly influencing global warming, I found that Roger Revelle was a key player. I wish this information had been available then as it would have saved me a lot of time researching this history. The author has encapsulated much of what I discovered and even more. Anyone that is truly interested in understanding the genesis and evolution of the “climate change” phenomenon should take time to read this.

Sent from my iPad

Bob Weber
October 31, 2020 8:08 am

Carbon Dioxide Exchange Between Atmosphere and Ocean and the Question of an Increase of Atmospheric CO2 during the Past Decades

First published: February 1957

From a comparison of C14/C12 and C13/C12 ratios in wood and in marine material and from a slight decrease of the C14 concentration in terrestrial plants over the past 50 years it can be concluded that the average lifetime of a CO2 molecule in the atmosphere before it is dissolved into the sea is of the order of 10 years. This means that most of the CO2 released by artificial fuel combustion since the beginning of the industrial revolution must have been absorbed by the oceans. The increase of atmospheric CO2 from this cause is at present small but may become significant during future decades if industrial fuel combustion continues to rise exponentially.

Present data on the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, on the rates and mechanisms of exchange, and on possible fluctuations in terrestrial and marine organic carbon, are inadequate for accurate measurement of future changes in atmospheric CO2. An opportunity exists during the International Geophysical Year to obtain much of the necessary information.

– my bold

My outgassing work confirms the Revelle/Suess conclusion highlighted in bold.

Henry’s Law of CO2 Solubility can be derived from the Niño region and Mauna Loa CO2 data to obtain a CO2 outgassing temperature threshold that when applied to ocean data explains ML CO2 growth much better than MME (a spurious correlation).

The annual change in ML CO2 is driven by the annual insolation cycle warming effect on Niño3, and the trend in CO2 is established by the area of the ocean ≥25.6°C over time. The annual change in ML CO2 lags the annual change in ocean area ≥25.6°C by 5 months. CO2 doesn’t provide any warming feedback to ocean temperature.

As the ratio of the warm area to cold area defined at 25.6°C increases, cold area CO2 sinking decreases. The ocean area ≥25.6°C increased by ~50% since 1909, from 43% to 66%, while the average temperature of that area also increased, driving more outgassing and less sinking, causing atmospheric accumulation.

The application of the outgassing threshold to the changing warm/cold area ratio over time reveals the ocean surface acts like a temperature-controlled CO2 valve that sets the ML CO2 annual cycle, level, and trend – completely overwhelming MME.

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The current outgassing boundary is just within the green area:

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Law Dome CO2 also correlates with the southern ocean temperature:

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Human population grew among other reasons (coal/oil/gas energy and industrialization) because naturally outgassed CO2 & CO2 from MME produced more greening and higher crop yields.

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CO2 can go the other way too – CO2 was repeatedly drawn down to minimal levels for thousands of years by a colder ocean during ice ages.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Bob Weber
October 31, 2020 9:35 am

Bob, I would just urge caution in assuming that CO2 solubility in seawater as a function of water temperature is a reversible process. It is not.

If you really dig into the chemistry of how CO2 enters and chemically reacts with sea water (understanding such things as the Revelle factor and, most importantly, the Bjerrum plot), you will find that CO2 gas “solubility” into the ocean is not a reversible process, independent of water temperature, as long as the water pH remains above 8 or so. At the current ocean average pH of 8.1-8.2, far less than 1% of the CO2 entering the ocean remains available as dissolved CO2 that might possibly come out of solution gradually with increasing ocean temperatures.

Basically, an insignificant amount of CO2 remains as a gas in aqueous solution in the world’s oceans, and would therefore be available for temperature-induced “outgassing” (see Figure 1, the Bjerrum plot, at ).

Bob Weber
Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
October 31, 2020 1:37 pm

Thanks Gordon I’ve downloaded and looked at that paper. The CO2 chemistry and operation of Henry’s Law still looks to me to work in both directions as evident by interpreting SOCAT data wrt ML CO2 and my outgassing threshold, in spite of gaps in knowledge and understanding I think.

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SOCAT data has less coverage in the Indian ocean and Polynesian areas, which leads to the sensible question does Asia get all it’s outgassed CO2 from just the tropics near South America?

From your Zeebe link:

At typical surface seawater pH of 8.2, the speciation between [CO2], [HCO3−], and [CO32−] is 0.5%, 89%, and 10.5%, respectively, showing that most of the dissolved CO2 is in the form of HCO3− and not in the form of CO2 (Figure 1)

What is missing from this discussion is effects on dissolved CO2 from biological sources, ie coral reef base growth, coral food, coral bleaching effects, and the ocean circulation directed towards the building up the highest pCO2 area near South America which may offset the 0.5% of CO2 speciation from Zeebe etal’s work.

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Gregor etal 2019 (my Fig 33) was updated in July 2020.

Typically the given reason for the Mauna Loa CO2 annual change is seasonal NH uptake. This idea is false because the tropics have the greatest gross primary productivity, in the southern latitudes. If we are to assume the NH uptake is visible in the annual ML cycle, then we must also see the SH uptake as it is larger, but we see neither, we see the predominate effect of the annual Niño3 temperature change via outgassing.

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My system will be measurably tested this year and next as Niño34 is now below my outgassing threshold and will likely be for several months, allowing for the identification of this mechanism at work via ML CO2 and Niño3 data.

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If ML CO2 operates according to my system, the other side of this argument will still credit MME reductions, so what will likely happen must be made clear ahead of time as I’m doing, still a work in progress, in comparison to the consensus view articulated by the MET office and others. is based on MME, from the abstract, We estimate that the El Niño contributed approximately 25% to the record rise in CO2, with 75% due to anthropogenic emissions.

I have other things to do today and tomorrow so that’s it for me on this thread.

Thanks to Andy May for an informative article.

Reply to  Bob Weber
November 1, 2020 9:10 am

Thank you Bob Weber for your post. I scanned your plots and think you are on the correct track. People can refine the details, but the conclusion is credible:
I am also busy today but will add the following comments, for now:

In January 2008 I published the following major observations, which constitute a strong disproof of the failed global warming hypothesis:

a. The velocity of changes of atmospheric CO2 [dCO2/dt] varies ~contemporaneously with changes in global temperature (Fig.1a).
Fig.1a – The very close relationship of dCO2/dt vs global temperature is clearly apparent. Major volcanoes disrupt the relationship.

b. Therefore the integral of dCO2/dt, changes in atmospheric CO2, lag changes in global atmospheric temperature by ~9 months (Fig.1b).
Point “b” is a strong disproof of the catastrophic humanmade global warming (CAGW) hypothesis, which ASSUMES that atmospheric CO2 change causes and thus leads atmospheric temperature change, when in fact it lags in time. The CAGW hypothesis is disproved by precedence – “The future cannot cause the past.”

By Allan M.R. MacRae, January 2008
Later I was advised by Richard S Courtney that Kuo et al (1990) made a similar observation to point ‘b’, as did Keeling (1995), in papers published in Nature. Neither Kuo nor Keeling noted point ‘a’ above. Kuo’s and Keeling’s findings have been carefully ignored for decades by the global warming alarmists.

I added some details to my 2008 paper in 2015:
By Allan MacRae, June 12, 2015

I later described WHY the lag of CO2 changes after temperature changes was ~9 months and formalized that conclusion in 2019.
by Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., June 15, 2019

Ed Berry cited my 2008 paper in his recent draft paper:

Ed Berry states that the observed increase in atmospheric CO2 is largely natural and human CO2 emissions play a minor part in the increase of CO2. Therefore, any human-caused downturn due zero emissions for several decades may be negligible or too small to detect. Check Reference #47. 🙂

From the Abstract:
“Human emissions through 2019 have added only 31 ppm to atmospheric CO2 while nature has added 100 ppm.”

by Edwin X Berry, Ph.D., Physics

The scientific basis for the effect of human carbon dioxide on atmospheric carbon dioxide rests upon correctly calculating the human carbon cycle. This paper uses the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) carbon-cycle data and allows IPCC’s assumption that the CO2 level in 1750 was 280 ppm. It derives a framework to calculate carbon cycles. It makes minor corrections to IPCC’s time constants for the natural carbon cycle to make IPCC’s flows consistent with its levels. It shows IPCC’s human carbon cycle contains significant, obvious errors. It uses IPCC’s time constants for natural carbon to recalculate the human carbon cycle. The human and natural time constants must be the same because nature must treat human and natural carbon the same. The results show human emissions have added a negligible one percent to the carbon in the carbon cycle while nature has added 3 percent, likely due to natural warming since the Little Ice Age. Human emissions through 2019 have added only 31 ppm to atmospheric CO2 while nature has added 100 ppm. If human emissions were stopped in 2020, then by 2100 only 8 ppm of human CO2 would remain in the atmosphere.

Regards, Allan

October 31, 2020 8:11 am

I know well or at least have met many famous environmentalists who work in this field or sadly have passed away. The majority have or had the opinion as expressed by the bellow quoted statement from this post. I also know a few that have gone off the deep end.

Those that are more moderate are the most brilliant and objective. Younger scientists working in government or academia are under pressure to tow the line. That pressure is reduced for those scientists closely approaching or being past retirement, and they are more open to express their opinions honestly.

“Roger Revelle’s daughter, Carolyn Revelle Hufbaurer, wrote that Revelle was concerned about global warming (Hufbauer, 1992). But his concern lessened later in life and he knew the problem, if there was a problem, was not urgent. He thought more study was required before anything was done. He was for modest changes, such as more nuclear power and substituting natural gas for some coal and oil, but not much else, other than a carbon tax.”

Mumbles McGuirck
October 31, 2020 8:20 am

Journalism has had a sorry decline since Ted Koppel’s day (yes, it was in decline even back then). The press now act as gatekeepers for The Team and actively suppress any data or theories contrary to The Narrative. They refuse to give context or background that might detract from it. So Dr. Revelle’s doubts are ancient history. Why bring up the past when we are trying to get you to fear the future? Actual science is irrelevant to them, only soundbites and emotional narratives pass muster. Even when we have facts on our side, we are ignored.
I have a scientific colleague who expressed doubts about The Narrative in a TV interview. When the segment was aired, his doubts had been edited out and the final broadcast was pure alarmism. They hold the power as to what is broadcast or printed.

October 31, 2020 8:24 am

I knew a guy who had to work with Congress as part his job as an aerospace material supplier. He always thought that Al Gore was one of the dumbest politicians in Washington. I don’t think Bob Woodward of WaPo had a positive opinion of Gore either.

October 31, 2020 8:28 am

The normalization and ambition of redistributive/retributive change (i.e. consolidation of capital and control) is a first-order forcing of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Political Climate Change (CAPCC) is an inclusive, progress process.

Reply to  n.n
October 31, 2020 12:18 pm

“During an interview with Germany’s NZZ Online Sunday, UN official Ottmar Edenhofer declared, “We redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy.”

Gordon A. Dressler
October 31, 2020 8:29 am

To Andy May,

Thank you for a very thorough, well-researched and well-documented article on Professor Revelle and the background history of his publications vis-a-vis his (and Singer’s) contentious relationship with Justin Lancaster.

I would only add that looking at your Figure 1 graph of UAH LT temperature anomaly versus calendar years, one could assert that the period of hiatus (aka “pause”) in global warming—which you state as being “negative from 2002 to 2010”, as supported by the implied (least squares?) linear curve fit over this period—could equally be seen to flat (i.e. unchanging within statistical bounds) for the period of 1997 to 2013.

This interpretation would then permit the conclusion that some other factor, presumably natural, is strong enough to negate the overall warming trend for 16 years, not just 8 years, during which interval there was continuously increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration (ref. Keeling curve).

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Andy May
October 31, 2020 2:45 pm

I see one small error where you refer to the Clinton/Gore administration in 1988, should be 98.

Otherwise great, looking forward to the book

October 31, 2020 8:31 am

This is all interesting but it leaves out the money side of the story. Al Gore was mining a mother lode of campaign funds for political and personal gains based on the global warming scare theme and no amount of scientific uncertainty was going to get in the way of that theatrical production and road show. The world needs to thank the inventor of the chad and the Florida election “system”.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  ResourceGuy
October 31, 2020 9:05 am

As regards Al Gore mining campaign funds, he is just operating on the basic principle that shysters have used since humans became “civilized”:
A fool and his money are soon parted.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
October 31, 2020 11:22 am

A bit like Steve Bannon with “We Build the Wall ” fund.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Simon
October 31, 2020 1:10 pm

Simon, Bannon is an excellent, recent example of yet another shyster. Thanks!

Bruce Cobb
October 31, 2020 9:02 am

An oldie but goodie:

The debate really is over, and has been for a while. Skepticism/Climate Realism has won. But the loudmouthed climate bedwetters and Greedy Greenies continue on, with the help of the lamestream media and the entire Climate Industry which has grown up around it.

October 31, 2020 9:08 am

“carbon dioxide emitted by man would not be absorbed by the oceans”

Based on what is now known, this conclusion is misguided, if not silly. The oceans clearly absorb much of the CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere by nature – vastly greater than is emitted by man.

comment image

In order for the above claim to be true, existing absorption by oceans would have to identify which CO2 was emitted by man and which was emitted by nature. For all relevant processes, the two are indistinguishable.

And, incidentally, there is no reason that emission and absorption by nature would remain constant. Even small changes would overshadow man’s emissions.

Reply to  Andy May
October 31, 2020 11:04 am

Fair enough Andy, but the consequence stands.

CO2 fluxes like those shown in the plot continually change, some representing natural emission and some representing natural absorption. How would the oceans know when the CO2 emitted by man can no longer be absorbed, yet the vastly greater CO2 emitted by nature can continue to be absorbed?

October 31, 2020 9:15 am


When are we ever going to see a rigorous peer review and audit of the inadequately explained and doubtful adjustments that NOAA and NASA have made to the Historical (and even recent) Temperature Records.

The altercations suspiciously “pull” the record *precisely* into line with (and improbably close to) predictions (R = 0.96).

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Andy May
October 31, 2020 11:17 am

Andy May,

Excellent article and good news that you are analyzing the historical temperature records.
Thank you.

October 31, 2020 9:23 am

Thanks for your scholarship, Andy.

The following quotes of the many iterations about the settled science of climate change.

Christopher Flavelle and Lisa Friedman: The “accepted facts about climate change,” NY Times, October 27, 2020

Gina McCarthy said: “I frankly am disappointed that we’re still talking about the science of climate, because that really has been long settled.” Dec. 18, 2016

Al Gore: The science is settled. The data is clear. Man-made carbon pollution is real. March 27, 2007

Michael Mann: Global Warming Is Settled Science: Michael Mann on Bill Maher, August 11, 2015

Gavin Newsom, September 14, 2020: “The Science is settled.”

James Hansen: “There is no reasonable doubt that the global climate is warming.” July, 2015

Global Warming Is Irreversible, says study headed by Susan Solomon, January 26, 2009

More Wisdom via Susan Solomon: Global Warming Has Passed The Point Of No Return, April 13, 2010

Naomi Oreskes: How a handful of scientists obscure the truth on global warming, March 25, 2010

Her 2004 essay, “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” Naomi Oreskes

Pat Frank
Reply to  Stephen Heine
October 31, 2020 12:11 pm

On the James Hansen quote is factually true. But his wording is equivocal and probably intentionally so.

Pat Frank
October 31, 2020 9:27 am

Richard Lindzen has reported that when he testified before Congress, then-Senator Gore tried to bully him into agreeing that CO2 emissions/global warming was a problem.

Revelle sent his letter to Senator Tim Wirth in July 1988 apparently about a month after Jim Hansen’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, which Wirth engineered, and apparently in response to it. Wirth never modified his views after receiving Revelle’s letter.

The 10-year time of improvement of our understanding of climate turned out to be wildly over-optimistic. The conquest of climate science by the climate modelers has wrecked actual research, and resulted in approximately zero improvement in our understanding of climate physics since then.

I didn’t know the story about Lancaster. He’s quite a piece of work. I’m impressed that Lancaster could have worked for Revelle for 10 years and then go on to betray him so thoroughly and unashamedly.

Reply to  Andy May
October 31, 2020 10:31 am

“… resulted in approximately zero improvement in our understanding of climate physics since then.”

By design.

Reply to  Pat Frank
October 31, 2020 11:34 am

There’s always more to these stories. For more on Lancaster, see Marc Sheppard’s “Gore’s Grave New World”

I had my own accidental run-in with Justin Lancaster as it relates to a prominent hater of Dr S Fred Singer, please see that starting at the 6th paragraph here:

And speaking of the bigger hater of Dr Singer, I have clips from the time when Gore tried to get Nightline’s Ted Koppel to call Dr Singer a crook. Gore’s effort really blew up in his face:

Kevin kilty
October 31, 2020 9:29 am

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell

A nice approximation of the Dunning-Kruger effect long before such got its name. The classic work on Diffusion of Innovation by Rogers also documented the Dunning-Kruger effect approximately before it was named. Gore is a pretty crafty combination of politician and revival meeting preacher. His behavior is summed up well by Steve Cochran who played the heavy in so many “B” movies. He said something to the effectof “To be a really effective bad guy in a role, just act like nothing you are doing is wrong.”

Reply to  Kevin kilty
October 31, 2020 1:47 pm

Worth noting also this by the Irish poet W B Yeats:

‘The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.’

October 31, 2020 10:56 am

Thank you for this very educational article, Andy!

Gore’s misrepresentations about Revelle etc. are not the only examples of nonsense from his lips. He could have been the inspiration for the old chestnut, “How can you tell that a politician is lying? His lips are moving.”

His most famous whopper was probably when he preposterously claimed, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

Another one was in 2009, when he said, in prepared remarks, “Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during some of the summer months, could be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years.” You can hear him say it here:

On one hand, “Some of the models suggest” that “there is a 75% chance” that it “could be” — is a semantic mess. (The man’s prose is as muddled as his thinking.) So it could be argued that the “75% chance” part is meaningless because it is sandwiched between the “some models suggest” and “could be” parts.

But, on the other hand, he also said “during some of the summer months” (PLURAL!) and “completely ice-free” — an extraordinary claim. Do ANY models really suggest there’s a chance the Arctic Ocean could be “completely ice-free” for multiple months at a time? I don’t think so.

My favorite was Gore’s authoritative assertion that the Earth’s interior temperature is “millions of degrees.” That wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It was real, Nobel-laureate-level ignorance. His exact words were, “…two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, ’cause the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees, and the crust of the earth is hot…”

Clearly, his lies about Revelle were intentional, but I think most of the nonsense he says is due to ignorance and carelessness. He doesn’t know better, and doesn’t care enough to learn. His dishonesty consists, mostly, of pretending to understand things which he does not, and of speaking with pretended authority about them… just like an awful lot of other climate activists.

Michael S. Kelly
October 31, 2020 11:13 am

I’m surprised Revelle didn’t trust models. I built lots of his when I was a kid, and they worked fine.


Reply to  Michael S. Kelly
October 31, 2020 11:40 am

Revell is a company that makes models

Michael S. Kelly
Reply to  MarkW
October 31, 2020 10:33 pm

Oh. Well, that’s different. That’s very different.

Never mind!

Thomas Burk
October 31, 2020 11:16 am

Hi Andy,

Congratulations on the new book. I graduated from UC San Diego in 1979, and took several classes in science and technology public policy (part of my minor). UCSD had 3 “colleges” at that time, the most famous was Revelle College (the others were Muir and Third). I was in Revelle College, which was by far the most rigorous of the 3 UCSD colleges, in terms of general education requirements, to supplement each student’s major field. Roger Revelle helped teach some of the classes I was in, although most lectures were done by Herbert York, Sandy Lakoff, and others. We were exposed to the Limits to Growth nonsense of the Club of Rome. In those days, Amory Lovins was the new darling of the leftists interested in controlling American energy policy, and he spoke at UCSD. We read Daniel Bell’s “Post-Industrial Society” and were exposed to the many technology-related issues in environmental policy, and science and technology public policy. Revelle and of course the Scripps Institute were hugely respected and it is great to learn from you what was happening in Revelle’s world before, during, and after the late-70s period when I came in contact with him.

I had no idea there was a long, sordid, legal entanglement involving Singer and Lancaster, and it sounds like Lancaster’s connection with Revelle happened just after I left UCSD. Revelle was an icon at UCSD, and it is good to learn that he was one of the original skeptics of the leftist machine that would spread and corrupt public policy with pseudo-science and anti-market government control. I am proud to have graduated from Revelle College, and your post and book give me insight into the man who most of us, even at Revelle College, saw only from a distance.

Cannot wait to read your book.

John F Hultquist
October 31, 2020 12:27 pm

Thanks for this one. Much new to me.

Al Gore was also influenced by Maurice Strong, assuming all that Ed Blick wrote in his “rant” of 2008:

October 31, 2020 1:50 pm

The main backstory is univariate modeling going on here. The oceans, sun, and related cycles take a step back for these debates. Oversimplification like that needs to be called out but the callers have been silenced.

Wim Röst
October 31, 2020 2:36 pm

Congratulations Andy with your new book! A well chosen subject!

I expect when the climate scam will ever be over a lot of people want to understand how this all could have happened. How could ‘Science’ be silenced so much by ‘Big Government’? Endless streams of research money driven on a self-created fear will for a large part be the answer. And the creation of the ‘construct of the IPCC’ by the two founders (not being nations and both having their own interests) is another major part. Their well chosen methodology of creating fear has well ended rational thinking of most people and of nearly all politicians. Without any proof, only by suggestion: “it could”, “it might”, “it may”, “if” and “when”. Somewhere in the far future…..

Knowing how well informed you always are I am sure this book will be a very interesting read for a great many people. This post already gives a good impression. Being interested to have the whole history together in one book I will order the book! Paper version.

Thanks for all your effort!

October 31, 2020 7:15 pm

Why all this fuss about CO2. Measurements show that about 7 water vapor molecules are added to the atmosphere for each CO2 molecule. Simple calculations using data from Hitran show that the increase of water vapor has been about 10 times more effective than the increase of CO2 at ground level warming.
Measured water vapor trend has been increasing faster than possible from feedback.

Clyde Spencer
October 31, 2020 7:16 pm

Chauncey Starr is an underappreciated former member of the Manhattan Project. He received his PhD 3 years after his engineering degree, at a time when only the very brightest got doctoral degrees.

Because of his advocacy for nuclear power, he demonstrated that cost-benefit plotted on a semi-log graph shows a clear relationship between the risk people are willing to take and their perceived benefit, published in “Social benefit versus technological risk” (1969). I have shown that, unsurprisingly, the same data plotted on a log-log graph shows a straight line relationship. Nuclear power and climate change share a common problem. The public’s perception of benefit is strongly influenced by what they read and hear in the MSM and they are not objective!

November 1, 2020 6:04 am

An interesting thing about the wait and see in ten years proposal, is that it has now been 30 years and there is still no reason to be alarmed.

As the ten years period expired the hockey stick was fabricated. Tens years later climategate exposed the fraxd. Yet the vampire lives.

Mark Pawelek
November 2, 2020 12:28 pm

This meant that human emissions of carbon dioxide would accumulate in the atmosphere

Disputed, and not only by me. It defies:
a) sequestration of CO2 by living things
b) Henry’s Law. As CO2 ppm in atmosphere increases so will ocean CO2 solubility in the same ratio.
c) Vast size of the oceans (compared to fossil fuel reserves). Ratio of Ocean : CO2 from all fossil fuel is 80000:1, taking the highest estimate of CO2 from fossil fuel. [Oceans = 1423000000 Gt; maximum CO2 (fossil fuel) ~ 18000 Gt]
d) At room temperature, solubility of CO2 in water is 1.65 g/L. Even higher at cooler ocean temperatures.
e) The tendency of dissolved CO2 in ocean to react with carbonate to form bicarbonate. With subsequence dissolution of carbonate from ocean floor to maintain saturation of carbonate in the oceans.

Only recently: we discovered the climate establishment grossly underestimated the rate of sequestration. Yet I’m expected to trust a 62 year old paper full of estimates! Atmospheric CO2 will never rise above 700 ppm. Prove me wrong!

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