Locking Down See Oh Too

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve read comments from several folks claiming that despite the COVID lockdowns reducing emissions, there’s been no corresponding decrease in the airborne CO2. Here’s a typical claim, complete with graphic, saying that this proves that human emissions aren’t the reason for the gradual increase in airborne CO2.

The COVID shutdown reduced man’s emissions of CO2 by about 20%. Yet the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere then was almost EXACTLY what it was during preceding years.

What didn’t change was natural emissions. So much for Willis’s [saying] “it’s man made”, and settled science.

Hmmm … y’all who know me know that I’m a data guy. So I thought I’d take a look at the situation. I reasoned that a “year-over-year” comparison would be much more valuable than the more general graph above. A year-over-year comparison is a graph showing, for each month in the record, how much the CO2 level increased over the same month in the previous year. If we want to understand changes in CO2, we need to look at changes in CO2, not the absolute values the commenter used above. Airborne CO2 has been growing at about 2.5 ppmv per year or so. Figure 1 shows recent data detailing the year-over-year growth in airborne CO2.

Figure 1. “Year-over-year” analysis of airborne CO2. Each data point shows how much the airborne CO2 increased over the same month a year previous. Units are parts per million by volume (ppmv). Data is from the CO2 station on Mauna Loa mountain on the Big Island. Photo is of Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the other major mountain on the Big Island.

Hmmm … didn’t really expect that the variation would be quite that large. The big peak in the middle is from the El Nino/La Nina of 2015-2016. The peak and drop at the start if from the Nino/Nina of 2009-2010. What causes the other variations is far from clear. What is clear is that the values vary from smallest to largest by no less than four hundred percent, from an annual increase of less than one part per million by volume (ppmv) to an increase of over four ppmv … a large natural variation.

Next, we have to ask the question the commenter who I quoted above didn’t ask—just how much would we expect the CO2 to change due to the lockdowns? 

Now, the author of the comment above says there’s been a 20% decrease in 2020 emissions … but that makes my Bad Number Detector start ringing. In general, carbon emissions for the globe, as well as the resulting changes in global atmospheric CO2 levels, are a linear function of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is the sum of all of the goods and services produced during the year.

And as you’d expect, if we increase the amount of stuff we make, we increase the CO2 emissions correspondingly. (For the math inclined, global annual carbon emissions ≈ 6.3 Gtonnes + .4 * global GDP (trillions of constant 2010 $).

Looking around the web, I see estimates for the lockdown-caused drop in 2020 GDP of from 4.5% up to 5.3%. And since emissions and the resulting atmospheric levels are a linear function of GDP, that would mean that the year-over-year CO2 increase should be smaller by something on the order of five percent.

This lets us calculate what the increase in CO2 would have been if there were no lockdowns. Over 2020 you’d expect CO2 emissions, and thus the resulting annual airborne CO2 increase, to have been 5% greater if there had been no lockdowns. 

So to be very conservative in our estimate, let’s say the lockdowns actually decreased emissions by twice that, or 10%. If we use ten percent as our figure, our results will be solid.

So … what would the Figure 1 graph above look like without that 10% drop in 2020 emissions? Figure 2 shows that result. Just for interest’s sake, I’ve also added what a 20% difference in emissions would look like. That’s four times the actual ~ 5% change expected from the drop in GDP.

Of course, up to 2020 there is no change …

Figure 2. As in Figure 1, but with lines added showing a 10% (yellow) and a 20% (orange) increase in CO2 no-lockdown emissions would look like.

Again … hmmm. Gotta say, in a system that variable, a 10% or even a 20% difference is not distinguishable from the background. I mean, any one of those three lines is totally believable.


My main conclusion is that despite the huge, almost incalculable human cost of the lockdowns, the change in the rate of increase of CO2 is lost in the noise … which certainly doesn’t prove anything either way about whether the increase is human-caused.

My other conclusion is that this should give great pause to those who are blithely recommending totally restructuring the global economy to replace fossil fuels … look at the real-world costs of the lockdowns all around you, and look at the meaningless CO2 benefits in the graph above. Not worth doing on any planet.

My best wishes to all in this most curious year of 2020, can’t be over soon enough for me,


PS—For those wondering about a CO2 observatory on the side of an outgassing volcano, see my post Under The Volcano, Over The Volcano.

PPS—When you comment, please quote the exact words you are discussing. I can defend my own words. I can’t defend your interpretation of my words.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
November 16, 2020 2:12 pm

Human CO2 emissions are a piffling 4% of the total emissions. If we reduce that, it will not only be imperceptible but will make room for even more emissions from the oceans. Nothing will change.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
November 16, 2020 2:37 pm

About half of all human emissions of CO2 are net absorbed into the ocean. That’s because we have increased the atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 above equilibrium with the ocean. If we stop our CO2 emissions, the ocean will continue to absorb CO2 until the partial pressures are in equilibrium. It wouldn’t take long, there’s a half-life of I think about 12 years.
Reducing our CO2 emissions won’t “make room for more emissions from the oceans”, because we would still be adding to CO2 partial pressure in the atmosphere, but it would slow the rate at which the ocean net absorbs.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Mike Jonas
November 18, 2020 9:22 pm

If you decrease the overall partial pressure of CO2 attributable to human emissions (or in any other way, say by “removing CO2 from the atmosphere by ‘Geoengineering’!) you would get more outgassing from the oceans! This looks like a perfect example of Le Châtelier’s Principle, that if you change some element of a system – composition, temperature, pressure… the entire system evolves in a direction to resist the imposition of the initial change.

As a result of the principle, one should always as a first approximation, expect changes to complex systems to be much, much less than expected. The more complex the interacting system the more degrees of freedom there is to resist the change. Chemists take advantage of this well known effect to increase production of products.

Strangely, outside of chemistry, the universality of the principle seems to be little known by physicists and other scientists who must think it’s a quirky little chemistry thing. Climate scientists have probably never heard of it.

In recent decades, it has been recognized by some as more generally applicable beyond chemistry and that it may be a major law of nature. The economist Samuelson when he heard of it said that it perfectly fits with supply-demand-price relationships. Newton’s third law seems a subset of the principle. If you push on a stone wall, it pushes back increasingly as you apply greater force, resisting dislocation. Obviously its resistance at some point can be overcome. The other newtonian laws, too, in more complex ways can be so interpreted.

Back EMF in an electric motor just turned on is an example. Once you get a motor beginning to turn over it also suddenly becomes a generator of current that opposes the current fed to the motor. The dimming of lights in the same circuit is a measure of the resistance of the motor trying to remain at rest for inertial reasons and because of the “generator” effect. It would be a delight to watch the linear -thinking proponents of geoengineering (a gang of geographers?) finding out that they had to empty the ocean of CO2 as well as the atmosphere over a few millennium to detect a change with puny machines and hopefully using the Rockefeller Foundation’s billions to do it.

Charles Higley
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
November 16, 2020 2:44 pm

” the resulting atmospheric levels are a linear function of GDP,”

It is spurious to claim that the resulting atmospheric CO2 are linear with GDP. Causation a la correlation. Just because they both are increasing does not mean that they are related. As the sun comes up, traffic on our main road increases as well. So, sunlight causes traffic.

Charles Higley
Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 2:46 pm

BTW, chemicals cannot be at “levels” only” concentrations.” It’s the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 3:22 pm

I’m not sure what you mean. In my experience as a chemist that deals with atmospheric measurements quite regularly, levels and concentrations are nearly synonymous. A “level” has perhaps a connotation of being less precise but is perfectly fine to use in that context. I don’t see an issue with regard to this usage here.

Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 1:55 am

Yep. “Level” is like “amount.” It’s a generalized term.

Although my marine science professor was a serious nitpicker. If you used “amount” where you could have used a more specific term, your answer was wrong.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 3:16 pm

They are both functions of economic activity. Economic activity leads to CO2 emissions from consumption of fuels, production of cement, fertilizer, etc. As an approximation, over the short term a linear relationship is realistic.

Reply to  Scissor
November 16, 2020 4:16 pm

Figure 2 does not appear to show a linear relation between GDP and CO2 concentration, unless GDP was bouncing around a lot.

Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
November 16, 2020 11:58 pm

The linear relation is between GDP and human emissions, obviously.

Willem Post
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
November 17, 2020 6:47 pm

The “bouncing around a lot” has to do with events occurring all over the world, such as El Nina.
The GWP is not bouncing around. It superimposes its CO2 effect on the natural bounces.
We need a graph that separates natural “bouncing around” from the GWP contribution.
It is likely the GWP-graph of CO2 contribution is a well-behaved upward line, with slight dips, due to recessions and the present dip, due to COVID.

Willem post
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
November 17, 2020 7:06 pm

9 gigatons of CO2 is equivalent to 4 ppm in the atmosphere
The atmosphere CO2 increases by about 2 ppm, due to 4.5 gigatons of CO2 from human activity.
That means 4.5 gigatons go into the oceans and the biosphere.

The oceans and biosphere misbehave somewhat, such as El Niño, which causes differences from one year to the next up to 4 ppm, as graph 1 shows.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
November 18, 2020 9:32 pm

This is ocean too. The 4% by humans is lost in the noise. Willis mentioned his surprise at the range and noted the fit to ENSO.

Nicholas Liam McGinley
Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 4:47 am

It seems to me that certain economic activities will have disparate effects on GDP and CO2.production (I prefer “production” to “emissions.” CO2 is the building block of the biosphere. It is a good thing. The air contains very little of it. Hence production.)
Many types of transportation seem to have come to a virtual standstill.
People are getting stuff delivered more often, instead of driving to a store.
Airline travel, especially internationally, is way off.
The cruise ship industry has ground to a halt.
Housing is apparently doing well as people are moving out of big urban centers.
So, does a billion dollars in GDP from building homes entail more fossil fuel usage than the same amount of GDP from tourism?

Perhaps there is a better proxy for CO2 production than GDP.
Maybe look at actual fossil fuel usage?

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 3:49 pm

But to make stuff one needs to use fuel, which leads to CO2 emissions. It may be a big generalization but its true on a global scale and even on the tiny Etsy-seller scale, trying to make ends meet making masks.
The formula shown is just a curve fit, he doesn’t mean to imply that even single $ of production requires the exact same amount of CO2 to be produced.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 4:05 pm

While correlation doesn’t prove causation, the Willis gave a mechanism by which CO2 emissions and GDP can be linked.
Do you care to actually deal with the argument that was given?

Do you argue that human emissions are unrelated to GDP levels? If so, care to present a counter argument?

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  MarkW
November 16, 2020 6:51 pm

Emissions, GDP, CO2 levels. So???
None of this leads to a MEASUREMENT of how much any of this changes the temperatures.

Reply to  Gerald Machnee
November 16, 2020 7:20 pm

Nor was it ever intended to.

Not every discussion is about temperature.

Peter K
Reply to  Gerald Machnee
November 16, 2020 9:00 pm

Exactly Gerald. I thought that was the crutch of the argument. i.e. does CO2 from fossil fuels drive up global temperature? If the answer is no, then why bother.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Gerald Machnee
November 17, 2020 5:08 am

Why bother?
Because there has been a separate question (dispute, controversy, disagreement…) of the degree to which burning of fossil fuels is causing or contributing to the gradual increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration.
That is why.
And this sudden slowdown in general human activity all over the entire globe, all at once like, is a unique event in recent history, and which has an obvious potential to shed some light on that question.

The huge variability of how much CO2 increases over time, as described by Willis, shows fairly clearly that noise is larger than the signal. At least it seems to be so at first glance.

One question that is raised and not addressed in detail is, what exactly are the factors that cause this huge variability?
But it is addressed to the extent that some of the variability seems to be related to the ENSO cycles. Could variations in sea surface (or of some upper layer of the sea) temperature explain all of the variability?
That is one question that could be looked at in more detail.
Another approach may be to look for a correlation with various measurements of global average temperature, such as GAST, sea surface temp, land temperature, which would tend to effect growth and death of vegetation, as would global rainfall patterns, and even the satellite lower troposphere temperatures.
I seem to recall Murry Salby had some thoughts on this aspect of the question of increasing CO2 levels.

All of this reminds me a little of the whole exercise of trying to explain recent small variations in temperature, when no one has any clear understanding of the causes of much larger trends in variation over much longer periods of time.

At least with the question of emissions vs rising atmospheric CO2, we have some chance of finding a correlation as we move through time, whereas the larger question of variations in global temperatures is likely to remain impossible to answer, as long as most people doing any research on the question consider the case closed.

Larry Wirth
Reply to  Charles Higley
November 16, 2020 9:03 pm

Yes it does, by making it light enough for human commerce to resume absent artificial inputs.

Peter K
Reply to  Larry Wirth
November 17, 2020 3:24 pm

Lets say that the shut downs, by the largest emitters, during the last six months reduced human emissions by 5%. We are told that around 120 ppm increase since 1880 is due to human made CO2. We would see a reduction of around 6 ppm during the last six months regardless of the seasonal fluctuation. I did not see anything like that on the Keeling Curve. My argument is that human CO2 is a lot less than what we are told. My view is that there is no correlation between human CO2 and global temperatures. Perhaps temperature is the driver of CO2?

From a condition monitors point of view.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 17, 2020 2:07 am

The fundamental correlation is of GDP (y-axis) with energy consumption (x-axis). It is a very linear function because work requires energy. Although the slope is less than 1 due to efficiency gains. Energy consumption (x-axis) vs CO2 emissions (y-axis) is also very linear because something like 85% of our primary energy is derived from fossil fuels.

This leads to a correlation of GDP and CO2 emissions.

John Endicott
Reply to  David Middleton
November 17, 2020 4:23 am

True there is a correlation between the two (IE they move in the same direction). However not all work requires the same amount of energy. Some sectors of the economy use more fuel/produce more CO2 than other sectors. If all sectors dropped equally, than a linear assumption would be valid. But all sectors did not drop equally. Some sectors were hit much harder than other sectors, a linear assumption can’t be validly assumed

For example (to put some simple numbers for illustrative purposes) if we have a 100 units of GDP representing CO2 emissions of 100 units and 4 sectors of currently equal GDP size (GDP of 25 units each) . Sector 1 is responsible for 80 units of CO2, Sector 2 for 10 units of CO2 and sectors 3 and 4 are responsible for 5 units each.

Now if I told you that GDP dropped by 20 units, how many units of CO2 would you expect it to drop by? Well a simple linear function will tell you 20 units. But that’s only correct if the drop was evenly spread across all sectors. if the drop only occurred among sectors 2 thru 4, leaving sector 1 untouched, the drop would be considerably less than 20. but if it occurred primarily among sector 1 it would be considerably more than 20.

In short a linear assumption cannot be assumed unless you are also assuming a uniform drop across all sectors of the economy, which is not what happened with COVID. so bad assumption from the outset.

Nicholas Liam McGinley
Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 5:13 am

“Some sectors of the economy use more fuel/produce more CO2 than other sectors.”

I should have read more comments before adding my own further up the thread.
This is exactly what came to my mind as I read through the headline post.

It seems to me there is probably a large variation between sectors.
And some seem to perhaps be the very ones most affected by the pandemic lockdowns, restrictions, and changes in how people are behaving.
I do not think the effects have been equal across sectors, at all.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 6:37 am

What you are discussing in very accurate terms is the problem with trending over time, especially when you have a multivariate system with different variances among the variables.

That is partly what is wrong with the concentration on Global Average Temperature. Combining temperatures populations with different variances by averaging only increases the total variance which is never discussed. Trying to trend these again simply adds to the problem.

Then you have models trying to predict values of GAT that has no meaning. Is it any wonder projections are all over the place and that none of them have ever been correct? If CO2 is not saturated, then a reduction in its concentration should result in an immediate increase in OLR and in a reduction of temperature. Otherwise the only logical conclusion is that CO2 has minimal effect on temperature.

John Endicott
Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 9:56 am

Only if you assume Nature Magazine’s answer is right.

Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 10:41 am

This is why the slope isn’t 1.0.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Charles Higley
November 18, 2020 9:28 pm

Charles think iron and steel and and cement and transport and farming… yeah, GDP is well measured by it.

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
November 16, 2020 2:56 pm

This is an endless disagreement. Us = 4 units. Nature emits = 96 units. Nature absorbs = 96 units.
At the three up: 4 units. I wish people would stop making this argument. Way back in about 7th grade we learned of the concept of cancelling in math. I think the mods should delete these types of comments for banality. Do you really think the scientists are promoting such a large deception? Do you?

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 16, 2020 3:26 pm

Apparently, nature absorbs more than 96 units because the average increase is less than 4 units.

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 16, 2020 3:56 pm

Who says nature can only absorb 96? For example look at the vapour pressure above a glass of water. There will be a region above the water that that has vapour coming and going into the glass and air. It’s a balance between all the ambient conditions and even though the glass is just at room temp, say, no where near boiling, the water in the glass can totally be absorbed by the air after a time.

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 16, 2020 7:56 pm

“Do you really think the scientists are promoting such a large deception?”

Yes. It is, after all, very profitable for them. Lots and lots of grant money that only goes to those that push the deception.

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 17, 2020 12:08 am

Numbers about how much “nature” emits, or absorbs, are estimates pulled from theories and models. Some estimates may be based on measurements of specific, locally limited events but their extension to a world wide amount is a multiplication of the measured numbers by theoretical considerations. From the couple of times I’ve seen anything that actually considered the issue, the emission and/or absorption estimates of several non-human sources each have an uncertainty range that is much larger that the estimated total of all human sources.

Reply to  AndyHce
November 17, 2020 3:01 am


The exact figures for natural emissions and sinks are not important at all for the carbon budget. They are only interesting for possible (future) problems in sink capacity in the oceans and vegetation.

Wat is needed for the carbon/CO2 budget is the difference between natural sinks and natural sources and that difference is known with reasonable accuracy from the increase in the atmosphere and the inventory of human releases.
That budget was always negative over the past 60 years of accurate measurements.
Thus nature in the last 60 years was always more sink than source and almost (*) all of the increase was from human emissions…

(*) There is a small increase by the increase in temperature of the ocean surface of about 10 ppmv (16 ppmv/K) in the overall 115 ppmv increase since about 1850

Gordon Lehman
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 18, 2020 8:46 pm

You insist on unifying the biosphere and separating human emission, yet the biosphere is both a source and a sink, and the sources and sinks respond differently to increase in temperature. Better I think to treat the biospheric sources and sinks separately, just as you separate human CO2.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2020 8:40 am

Gordon Lehman,

It is near impossible to separate the biosphere in emissions and sinks, as the same plant is a huge sink in sunlight and a source during the night. Estimates for all land plants are around 120 GtC uptake during the day and 60 GtC release during the night, which are the largest CO2 fluxes on earth…

But in fact no problem, as most of the diurnal changes don’t even reach the bulk of the atmosphere or are mixed out when reaching the measurement stations.

What is possible is to separate the total biosphere from ocean emissions/sinks, due to the oxygen balance. The change in solubility of O2 in seawater with temperature is known, the oxygen use of burning different fossil fuels is known and the oxygen change over time can be measured, but is quite challenging as one need a better accuracy than 1:1 million. Here the results:
Fig. 7 on the last page shows the sink/source results of the biosphere as a whole and what the oceans did (near always a sink).
Sometimes (especially during an El Niño), the whole biosphere is a net source of CO2, in other periods a net sink. The oceans are mostly a net sink and both together are near always a net sink, except for a few months during the 1998 El Niño.

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 17, 2020 2:50 am

Come on boys,

Why is it so difficult for smart fellows to understand something that every housewife with a small budget knows? If you spend more money than your income, then you get into trouble…

If you add $50 each morning to your wallet and you end the day with $25 in your wallet, then you can be sure that you have spent $25 extra during the day, even if you have bought and selled hundreds of dollars of goods during the day. The net result is that all your transactions show a deficit of $25 dollar.

The same for the CO2 budget:
increase in the atmosphere = human emissions + natural emissions – natural sinks.
increase = human emissions + X – Y

The increase is measured, human emissions are known from inventories both quite accurate (or even underestimated for human emissions…)
For 2019 that gives:
2.5 ppmv = 5 ppmv + X – Y
or Y = X + 2.5
No matter the exact figures for X and Y, the natural sinks were 2.5 ppmv larger than the natural sources.
X = 10 ppmv, Y = 12.5 ppmv
X = 100 ppmv, Y = 102.5 ppmv
X = 1000 ppmv, Y = 1002.5 ppmv
The exact height of X or Y is completely unimportant, only the difference between X and Y is important and that is simply the difference between measured increase in the atmosphere and human emissions…

Joel O’Bryan
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 8:35 am

Actual science is a measurement game with error limits.
Trying to measure and be certain of a 20% change in your independent variable versus a 0.2% change in that variable is a world of difference.
You should know that Ferdinand.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 17, 2020 10:33 am

Joel O’Brian,

The error margin of CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa or any other station (or the “global average”) is not more than 0.2 ppmv on a level of 415 ppmv. Quite accurate.

The error margin op CO2 emissions from fossile fuel emissions may be between -0% and +20%, as that is based on national inventories of fuel sales (never overestimated, may be underestimated due to under the counter sales). Thus more a minimum than exact. Add to that the extra CO2 due to land use changes. Even without the latter, CO2 emissions in the past 60 years were always larger (including the margin of error) than the increase in the atmosphere, in average about twice as large.

The margins of error in the estimates of the individual natural CO2 fluxes play no role at all. Even if some flux doubled or halved in a certain year or even changed in direction, even when in an El Niño year vegetation is a net source and in other years a net sink, that doesn’t matter at all. All what matters is the difference between human emissions and the increase in the atmosphere, which both are quite accurate, more than enough to show that nature was a net sink of CO2 over the past 60 years…

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 17, 2020 12:43 pm

You have a point Joel, but one important fact make this less relavant.

Plants are both the largest natural natural source and sink of CO2 for the athmosphere, but blants are not a very huge reservoir. Actually more Carbon is in the athmosphere than in all the worlds plants (610 GtC vs 750 GtC).

That means that we cannot expect that plants will take up large amounts of carbon and keep it indefinitely. Most carbon captured by plants are released when the plants die and rot.

Therefore most of the carbon flux between plants and atmosphere i# irrelevant to the carbon buildup in the atmosphere.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 17, 2020 2:56 pm

“That means that we cannot expect that plants will take up large amounts of carbon and keep it indefinitely. Most carbon captured by plants are released when the plants die and rot.”

And when were the times that all the plants died and rotted?
If the biosphere expands, tree lines advance, arid area green up, new soils and litter form in arid regions and other areas that are newly foliated, much of it will have some amount of permanence.
If the air and the plants are roughly similar amounts, but the amount in air only varies a few PPM due to seasonal fluctuations, the rest has permanence, no?

Also, if 750 is the amount of it in the air right now, then logically in the recent past, the situation was the opposite, with plants having the greater mas by a large margin, unless you think the biosphere has grown suddenly more massive?
Because CO2 has risen very substantially in a few decades.
So how long has the mass of the plants (does this include phytoplankton? Because they die and sink to the depths, so…) been 610 GtC? Did it used to be much higher?
Have we not removed forests? We have had to endure years of whining over the loss of habitat and trees, so it must be shrinking, the mass of all plants on Earth, or is that just bellyaching?
As well, if the Earth had a far larger mass of plants in the recent past, and a far lower mass of atmospheric carbon in the recent past, then a much lower level of carbon must be able to support a far higher mass of plant life, no?
So a new and higher level of CO2 could presumably support a far more massive biosphere of plant life. No?
And we know satellites can see that the Earth is greening substantially and rapidly, right?
Trees and plants in general are growing far faster than even a few decades ago.
And plants can now thrive in zones that were too arid at lower levels of CO2.
And if the Earth is warming, we should expect tree lines to advance poleward and up to higher altitudes, again increasing the size of the mass of the plants on the Earth.
Likely plants and trees are now at a far lower level than the amount of CO2 in the air can support, and so a new equilibrium will try to establish itself, one with a far higher amount of plant life, since some amount of CO2 starvation has been alleviated for a time.

I am wondering about the precision of a number like 610 GtC for the mass of all the plants. I doubt anyone has any way to even guess that the number is not 620, or 650, or 700, or 550, GtC for plants. This would have to include a lot more than just the wood in trees. Leaf litter, root mass, soil carbon compounds…
I can easily believe this number might be off by a factor of two or more in either direction.
But whatever it is, logically it can be much higher.
Because it has been much higher.
How long after the Pleistocene glaciers melted away did it take for the Taiga to establish?
Soil is thin up there, and I bet it is getting thicker over time. There was nothing but bare rock there 12,000 years ago or less.
And the Sahara was a verdant savannah with scattered woodlands up until 8000 years ago.
And what about all that peat in various places? Methane in the soil?
It all came from somewhere, every atom of it.
And we know where.
Atmospheric CO2.
Maybe ocean CO2 for at least some of the methane clathrates, and for the corals. Corals are growing upwards as least as fast as the seamounts they rest atop are subsiding into the crust of the sea floor.

The earth is a big place with a lot happening, all the time.
Same as it ever was.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 11:30 am

Excellent explanation Ferdinand.

Keep up the good work

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 1:48 pm

“Ferdinand Engelbeen November 17, 2020 at 2:50 am

If you spend more money than your income, then you get into trouble…”

My first wife seemed incapable of understanding this concept and accused me of “economic abuse” (A form of domestic abuse here in Australia).

Gordon Lehman
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 19, 2020 6:48 am

What if we changed your approach and argued that human emissions are entirely natural and a part of the biosphere and separated out soils from the rest of the biosphere and looked at their contribution to atmospheric CO2 alone? Soils have ~3x the Carbon mass of the atmosphere or vegetation and produce about 6x the CO2 humans do. Like human contribution, soils are essentially a one-way input to the atmosphere with a nearly identical isotopic signature.
Soil CO2 production is strongly dependent on temperature, and we all know the surface atmospheric temperature has been rising. A 1/6 increase in soil CO2 production would equal the human contribution.
Look, everyone knows human CO2 is increasing atmospheric CO2, the question is how much? At the current state of knowledge, it seems unreasonable to argue the human contribution is much more than half.

Reply to  Gordon Lehman
November 19, 2020 8:10 am

Gordon Lehman,

I do bring $100 per month to a local bank, adding up my personal account with $1200 every year over the past 60 years.

At the beginning of a new fiscal year, the bank publishes its result and shows that their yearly gain in capital is $600 every year of the past 60 years.

In your reasoning, it “may” be that other investors have put much more money into the bank, dwarfing my small account, which is the cause of most of the gain of the bank.
In my reasoning, I will as fast as possible take all my money away from that bank as they simply have a loss without my money…

The point is that the separation is between human and natural, as human emissions are one-way (there are hardly any human sinks), while natural CO2 fluxes are bidirectional with in the past 60 years always more sink than source.

Reply to  Ragnaar
November 17, 2020 3:02 am


You should check out the IPCC carbon cycle sources+sinks+uncertainty. There is so much uncertainty that it cannot be demonstrated there is the naive balance you claim. Some of the numbers are simply derived by difference ie assuming balance, which makes nonsense of that argument.

I believe Chaamjamal who posts here frequently performed a statistical analysis on this which demonstrates quite clearly that the idea of balance is an artefact of choosing the mean flows, once the uncertainties are factored its nonsense and not supported by actual data. Balance in the natural carbon cycle is an assumption, not a fact. Over geological timescales its patently not true, over shorter timescales – unproven

Reply to  ThinkingScientist
November 17, 2020 6:17 am


As said above, there is no need for any knowledge of any natural CO2 in or out flux, all you need is the difference between all natural inputs together and all all natural outputs together. And that is exactly known: that is the difference between the increase in the atmosphere and human emissions. Which is negative over all past 60 years.
Whatever the individual fluxes did, nature was a net sink over the past 60 years, not a source.

ChaamJamal did compare the detrended variability of the increase with the variability of the emissions and concluded that there is no correlation (which is true: the correlation of the variability is with temperature).
The problem is that you can’t conclude anything about the cause of the trends by looking at only the noise around the trends…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 6:52 am

I think you are referring to something different. The argument derives form the assumed IPCC fluxes + uncertainties via Monte Carlo. You are ignoring the order of magnitude differences between human and natural fluxes and the enormous uncertainties attached.

Regarding Chaamjamal’s work, I was referring to this one:


It makes this relevant point:

“When uncertainties are not considered, the flow accounting appears to show an exact match of the predicted and computed carbon balance. It is noted, however, that this exact accounting balance is achieved, not with flow measurements, but with estimates of unmeasurable flows constrained by the circular reasoning that assigns flows according to an assumed flow balance.”

There is also a further post I have not read yet:


Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 11:57 am


The essence is that several sceptics use the 4% human / 96% natural ratio as an argument that the 4% can’t be the cause of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere.
What Ragnaar says is that one needs to subtract the sink side of the equation too, which makes that only that 4% is responsible for the increase in the atmosphere, not the 96%…

Therefore it doesn’t matter at all what the exact level of the natural CO2 fluxes are, how they changed over time, their error margins and even not their direction. All what matters is the sum of all these natural fluxes at the end of a full year. Over the past 60 years, that was (near) always more sink than source…

ChaamJamal seems to assume that the IPCC calculates the mass balance from the individual CO2 fluxes. As far as I know, they never did that or even assumed that.

In fact it is reverse: they simply use the CO2 increase in the atmosphere and subtract the CO2 emissions. That gives a negative mass balance for all natural CO2 fluxes together. That is all. The nice graphs which show the natural fluxes are partly based on measurements (13C/12C changes, O2 changes over the seasons, solubility parameters,..) mostly based on “best guesses”, but not important at all for the mass balance…

Therefore it goes wrong in point 17 of ChaamJamal’s work:

The mass balance shows that the sum of all natural fluxes must be negative, as the increase in the atmosphere was always smaller than human emissions (after 1960). Thus whatever the height of the natural fluxes and their margin, the sum must be negative and the Monte Carlo process doesn’t conclude anything about the role of human emissions, which were always contributing to the increase.

BTW, the 50% “airborne fraction” is just coincidence and caused by the very regular linear increase of human emissions over time. If for any reason emissions would stop, the sink rate would remain the same the first year and gradually (linearly) drop to zero when the atmosphere is back to equilibrium with the ocean surface.
The net sink rate is a function of the CO2 pressure difference between atmosphere and ocean surface (and vegetation liquids), not a function of the emissions…

Nicholas Liam McGinley
Reply to  Ragnaar
November 17, 2020 5:59 am

So the question boils down to our ability to understand and know what the levels of atmospheric CO2 have been in the past.
Certainly we have many ways of trying to get at this question, and many accept the ice core data as being more or less definitive, at least in a relative way, as to the past levels and variations thereof.

I for one would not tend to doubt that burning fossil fuels is the main cause of recent increases.
But I would also not ignore any questions pertaining to this or any other premise of a sweeping and pertinent nature, in any area of science or the environment.
And there are some nagging disputes and questions about exactly how well we know what past CO2 levels have been, although I cannot say how credible or well evidenced any of them may be.
For example, levels of CO2 in samples of air which have been inside of sealed containers from past centuries, have, according to some, shown levels that are way above the accepted values.

I for one take it to be true that the Earth has had cycles of warming and cooling since the Holocene Climate Optimum, and that the most recent cold period was very cold for a period of a number of centuries, and since that cold period, known at the Little Ice Age, ended, the ocean has likely been warming up, glaciers have been shrinking and receding, and at least perhaps, has CO2 been increasing.
All of which are very certainly good things. The entire world is becoming better fed and more prosperous as a consequence of these changes from colder to warmer.
No surprise there.
Historians have known for a very long time that cold periods are better for human endeavors and general prosperity.
Recent evidence bears that out.
We may indeed have more CO2 in the air than at any time in millions of years.
It is not unusually warm by historical standards. In fact it is on the warm side of unusually cold compared to the average Holocene temperature.
But on the scale of Earth History, it is very unusually cold, and cold is not good.
Cold equals death for life.

And CO2 may be high (may be) vs the average levels found over the whole of the Holocene, but looking at Earth History, it is again very apparent that CO2 levels are shockingly and scarily low, considering that CO2 is one of the essential raw ingredients for the entire biosphere, and the one which is in critically short supply.
Four one hundredths of one percent of the air, does not seem like a lot for something that every living thing on the Earth would quickly die without.
And when we consider that the interglacial epoch we currently enjoy residing in will very definitely end at some point in the near future, we might concern ourselves with the fact that the levels at the peak of the last glacial advance have been found to be very close to the minimum level for photosynthesis to be able to occur.
There is zero historical backing for the proposition at the heart of global warming alarmism, that an increase in GAST of 1.5 (Remember when it was 2.0°? Those were the good old days!) will cause something close to the end of the world.
In fact, all historical evidence is exactly contrary to this notion.
ALL of it!
Warmer is and has always been better.
A warmer world is a more mild and temperate and hospitable world.
A colder world is a stormier and more variable and a dryer world.
Ice is not habitat…it is wasteland.

However, there is good reason to suppose that if and when CO2 levels in the air dwindle below about 150 PPM, the biosphere itself will cease to be able to draw it’s sustaining energy from the Sun, at least the parts of the biosphere that most of us consider important. Like, you know, plants and animals.

So a sane person has got to wonder…what the Hell are these warmistas thinking?
They want less CO2, and a colder world?
The climate regimes of the Earth in the preindustrial period were not anything like optimal…it was dangerously and harmfully too cold.
It was dangerously and harmfully too stormy.
Crops often failed across entire regions, sometimes across many regions from something as unpreventable as a volcanic eruption.
Higher CO2 and higher temperature regimes are a buffer against bad times to come.
As such, it behooves us to understand as much as we can, to garner as much knowledge and we are able, about all of these parameters.
And it ill behooves us to make broadly and dangerously incorrect assumptions and conclusions about what is “good” and what is “bad”.

We can see that there are people on this Earth who would lock us in our homes and impoverish us all for no other purpose than their own political ambitions and power. Not to mention money.
Lots and lots of money.
There are people who think nothing of lying, cheating, stealing to get what they want, and to assert and maintain their power and control.
I am shocked that anyone who is of a scientific orientation would or could condone the wholesale mushrooming of humanity.

If not for the ability to know what the conditions on the Earth were in the past, and how they may change in the future, we have that much less ability to resist and oppose those who would lead us all astray.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas Liam McGinley
November 17, 2020 7:09 am

Oops, meant to say the opposite of what I said in this sentence here:
“Historians have known for a very long time that cold periods are better for human endeavors and general prosperity.”

What I intended to say was this:
“Historians have known for a very long time that *warmer* periods are better for human endeavors and general prosperity.”

Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
November 17, 2020 8:45 am

Willis may be on to something – showing that year-over year increases in CO2 appear to be sensitive to Nino/Nina conditions. When just a part of the ocean warms (significantly) faster than the whole ocean is warming (El Nino) that appears to significantly affect the growth rate in (Mauna Loa) atmospheric CO2. Conversely, when that ocean area cools the growth rate in CO2 declines. Scaling the area of the ocean affected by Nino/Nina to the area of the whole ocean along with the warming of the two respective areas could give a measure of how much of the CO2 increase is owing to ocean warming. Perhaps the effect is more pronounced at Mauna Loa as it’s near the part of the ocean affected by Nino/Nina.

Reply to  Meab
November 17, 2020 12:23 pm


The effect of ENSO on the ocean’s CO2 emissions is rather limited, the effect on tropical vegetation is far more important: not only temperature, but especially rain patterns change a lot. That makes that e.g. the Amazon dries out with lots of (natural and human) forest fires. During the 1998 El Niño the whole biosphere even turned into a temporarely CO2 source, while in other years a net sink.

How do we know? By looking at the 13C/12C ratio: if CO2 increases from extra CO2 out of the oceans, the 13C/12C ratio also goes up as the ocean 13C/12C ratio is higher than in the atmosphere.
If CO2 goes up from vegetation, the 13C/12C ratio goes down as vegetation has a lower 13C/12C ratio than the atmosphere.

For the period 1990-2012 (including the 1998 huge El Niño):
that shows that vegetation is the dominant response to short term temperature changes.
The plot needs some update for the years after 2012, which would be interesting to see the effect of the 2016 super El Niño…

November 16, 2020 2:14 pm

Really excellent work Willis. I’m totally stealing this. Thanks for the CO2-GDP equation

Ron Long
November 16, 2020 2:21 pm

Willis, I personally think your conclusions are right to the point. The CAGW Alarmists want to choke the economy worse than the Coronavirus lockdown/slowdown/ quarantine, and for what? Nothing! Never mind that China and India are going their merry way irrespective of presumed consequences. Take me back to the Cretaceous, plus 1,000 ppm CO2, warmer by 5 deg C or so, and everything is gigantic! Sort of a forward to the past deal.

Bill Walker
Reply to  Ron Long
November 16, 2020 2:32 pm

True, but we can’t breathe that air 😉

IIRC, didn’t CO2 peak in the Jurassic?

Reply to  Bill Walker
November 16, 2020 4:01 pm

???? Better tell that to all the greenhouse workers who AREN’T dropping dead from working in 1500ppm.
Nevermind submariners!
And on top of that the O2 fraction back then might have been something like 35%, considering the huge insects they had back then.

Reply to  Bill Walker
November 16, 2020 10:13 pm

“True, but we can’t breathe that air”

Really ?? Now that is funny !!

Did you know that the air in an enclosed bedroom at night can easily reach 2000ppm

Are you still alive ?

Nicholas Liam McGinley
Reply to  Bill Walker
November 17, 2020 6:09 am

What do you mean, we cannot breathe that air?
Are ya daft, man?
Maybe joking?
You must be joking.
Haha…good one!

Mark H
Reply to  Ron Long
November 16, 2020 2:51 pm

The alarmist position makes little sense, if you consider their goal is to do anything about global temperatures. But, in reality, the underlying goal is and has always been power and control, the sort of Orwellian power for power’s sake type of power.

Currently, they are a bit distracted by trying to see if they can achieve the same (or greater) goals by using COVID panic and fear mongering. If that doesn’t work, they’ll be back to global warming with a vengeance though. You see it all over the place, “Build Back Better”, “new normal”, “Great Reset”, etc.

There are people who want to control the world, even if it means destroying it. They’d rather be King of the smoldering ruins of the world than content that people might act freely. I just want to be left alone to grow some veges and make toys for my son.

Reply to  Mark H
November 16, 2020 3:35 pm

I imagine that the elites think that their money will protect them in the utopia they seek, but look at what is happening to billionaires in China. Money is not protective unless there is force behind it.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 1:40 am

If you can get off planet and build a civilisation in the asteroid belt*, it would pay you to leave behind a ruin. Then you won’t get any competition as Ruler of the Universe for a thousand years.

Insert tongue in cheek smiley here.

*Dicky Branson can make the tea.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Julian Flood
November 17, 2020 6:14 am

If I was living on an asteroid in space…I think I would want a back up plan.
Like, maybe…hell I dunno…a PLANET to go back to in case of major problems!
Probably be nice to have a little vaycay every now and again as well.
Most of us can barely stand to get through a whole northern Winter without some fresh air, tropical sunshine, warm ocean to dip our tootsies in, stuff like that.

Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 12:16 pm

Their money will protect them for a time, but eventually, that which supplies them will fail, and then so will they.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  TonyG
November 17, 2020 3:18 pm

Who were the wealthiest people and companies in Venezuela 30 years ago, and how has that worked out for them?
Cuba in the 1950s?
Russia in the 1910s?
Name one place where it has worked out well for anyone with vast resources prior to these countries becoming what they became?

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
November 17, 2020 4:41 pm

To what part of my statement are you objecting?

“for a time” => “30 years ago”

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  TonyG
November 18, 2020 3:43 am

I was not disagreeing with you.
I was amplifying.

What do the wealthy people supporting a socialist agenda have in mind?
It is beyond belief.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
November 18, 2020 7:02 am

Apologies, then, I read it as disagreement.

I really don’t understand what they expect will happen. You’re right, it’s a repeated pattern, pretty solidly established. “It will be different this time” is magical thinking at best.

D. Anderson
November 16, 2020 2:27 pm

Mauna Loa is a volcano right? Albeit supposedly dormant. But doesn’t anyone consider the possibility that it still might be outgassing CO2?

D. Anderson
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 10:58 am

Thank you all for your thoughtful and complete answers.

Reply to  D. Anderson
November 16, 2020 3:25 pm

Mauna Loa is not dormant. Its last eruption was in April 1984.

Reply to  D. Anderson
November 16, 2020 3:30 pm

It’s not dormant and outgases regularly in various places, which must be accounted for in the sampling protocols. I believe its last major eruption was in 1984. It’s a fantastic place to visit if you ever get the opportunity.

Reply to  D. Anderson
November 16, 2020 4:07 pm

They sample when the wind is coming off the oceans.
They don’t sample when the wind is off the volcano.

Smart people have spent time figuring all of this out.

Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 12:34 am

There was an empirical measurement experiment reported some time ago, perhaps 7 to 9 years(?), perhaps I read it on WUWT(?). The measurement part was atmospheric CO2 concentrations but there was also a model part about the prevailing winds across the US.

CO2 measurements were taken on the west coast where it was believed the air sampled had traveled a considerable distance over the Pacific Ocean, thus it should have been little tainted by any recent human events.

Other measurements were taken on, or a bit off, the eastern coast where air from heavily industrialized parts of the US should be exiting the continent. The goal was to get some measurements of how much CO2 was being added by the US, the world’s largest emitter at that time.

There were no differences measured between west and east coast, leading the researchers to suggest that perhaps the “nature” was absorbing more from the continental US than believed. Probably other hypothesis could be produced if anyone cared to try. What might be more interesting is more carefully planned and carried out measurements but interest (or grant money?) seems to have been lacking.

Reply to  AndyHce
November 17, 2020 3:11 am


At many places in the world there are “tall towers” measuring CO2 at different heights and up/down wind speed over large area’s to make inventories of CO2 releases and absobance over that area:

Besides that, the OCO-2 satellite measures “column” CO2 continuously at the midday line all over the world, but I haven’t seen recent data and I have the impression that they have rather much problems in calibrating and/or interpretating the data…

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  AndyHce
November 17, 2020 8:27 am

Here is a place many such things can be looked at in any number of interesting and easy to view ways.
I do not know how accurate the values are, or indeed where and how the values are obtained.
But that can be checked for each parameter on the main webpage of the people who produce this great tool.
Anyway, here is a link to it, specifically a global orthographic view of Earth, toggled to “Now”, “Chem”, and “CO2sc”, which is the surface CO2 concentration.
You can change the date by clicking in the little calendar icon in the “Control” line of the menu.
And you can get a precise value for any exact location by just clicking on that spot, then looking at the top of the menu box.
All kinds of data on chemistry, particulates, and a whole slew of atmospheric/weather parameters are available for the whole planet.

Indeed, a quick check shows that if one clicks on a spot off the coast of British Columbia, for example, then follow the wind streamlines to where this airflow emerges off the East coast, in this case at the present time around the area south of Long Island New York, the values are roughly similar, about 423 PPM.
Looking at the color coding, I found a spot near Catalina Island that shows around 456 PPM, and a spot over the borders between Ecuador, Peru, and Columbia, where it says it is only about 404.

Anyway…here you go:

If one just does a quick images search for global satellite CO2, there are maps that show a wide variance in patterns.
One shows it highest over tropical rainforests in South America, and lower over the continental US, like this one:

While others show a very different pattern, like this one here:
comment image

It might be interesting to toggle the nullschool map to each of the dates of the satellite views and see how they match.

mike macray
Reply to  D. Anderson
November 17, 2020 5:53 am

D. Anderson:
…Mauna Loa is a volcano right? Albeit supposedly dormant. But doesn’t anyone consider the possibility that it still might be outgassing ..

and isn’t there a new Hawaian Island in gestation ( still a submarine volcano) outgassing and warming the deep rich in CO2 cold high pressure water?
and while we’re at it, fossil fuel derived CO2 is old therefore all C12, C14 is generated in the upper atmosphere by cosmic radiation, so the increase in CO2 from fossil fuel combustion should be shifting the ratio C12:C14 and measurable. What am I missing?

November 16, 2020 2:29 pm

What does the other side have to say? Crickets of course. CO2 went up from about 1940 to 1980 while average temp slightly decreased so CO2 does not correlate very well with temp or man’s activities.

Jean Meeus
Reply to  T.C. Clark
November 16, 2020 11:10 pm

And the average (global) temperature increased rather much from 1900 to 1930, while there were fewer cars and much fewer airplanes than today.

November 16, 2020 2:31 pm

The company I’m employed by has shifted largely to telecommuting with negligible loss of productivity—something they would not have done under normal circumstances. That gives me pause when considering this GDP-based CO2 assumption. We have basically taken our cars off the road, and a drive into NYC is a breeze. I would like to see an analysis of CO2 emissions reduction vs temperature as regards this pandemic.

Reply to  Marnof
November 16, 2020 3:38 pm

The variability of temperature from year to year is often greater than 100 years of warming. It’s difficult to see any signal in that kind of noise at least over the short term.

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  Scissor
November 16, 2020 6:55 pm

Correct. Cannot be measured, so the governments have ignored Step One (measurements) and gone to Step Two – emissions and use this to “measure” “climate change”.
Then NASA/NOAA bump up the temperatures in DIRECT relation to the change in CO2 (see Heller)

Kevin kilty
November 16, 2020 2:33 pm


Unfortunately people are going to drag 2020 on into 2021 if they can possibly do so. Fauci would like to keep 2020 until 2022.


william duncan
November 16, 2020 2:40 pm

Have you gone to Ethical Skeptics web site / he has some interesting observations to make on Co2 and heat in the oceans

November 16, 2020 2:42 pm

Lockdown until morale, or whatever improves.

Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 12:23 am

Lockdowns are terrible for morale. Lots of people depressed. Suicides and divorces going up. Economic ruin for many people. They are the last resort of the incompetent. The Asians have showed us they are a lot more competent than us in handling the first global non-economic crisis in decades. Their leaders know what to do and their societies know how to comply. The case of Vietnam puts to shame the entire Western World.

Bill Taylor
November 16, 2020 2:44 pm

this ole hillbilly explained long ago using the soda analogy, i noticed long ago that after opening a soda it went flat(lost it co2 as it warmed) pretty fast……the earth is covered by oceans around 75% and they either hold or release co2 based on their temperature……warmer oceans release more co2 , so as the entire record shows first it warms and then the co2 in the air goes UP…….of course it is too easy to just accept that humans do NOT control the weather and to control the climate REQUIRES total control over the weather.

Reply to  Bill Taylor
November 16, 2020 9:58 pm

Usually, but not this time Bill. Although the ocean has warmed, dissolved CO2 is increasing, not decreasing. Higher atmospheric concentration is forcing the ocean to absorb CO2.
comment image

Reply to  Loydo
November 17, 2020 1:44 am

No, not much change if you take an average of the entire 2000m, the bulk of which is below the thermocline. Unsurprisingly, its a different story in the mixed surface layers – where it matters…
comment image
where it looks to be rising at about 0.1C/decade.
comment image

Reply to  Loydo
November 17, 2020 1:00 pm

Yep, no pH change at all..

comment image

ocean PLANT life is loving that extra CO2 though. 🙂

Goo reasons for that ocean warming too, reduced tropical cloud cover and a series of strong solar cycles. Released in surges at El Nino events.

Absolutely NOTHING to do with atmospheric CO2 though.

And your graph shows that the oceans control the very slight global atmospheric warming..

so you have just destroyed the whole CO2 is bad mantra.

Well done 🙂

Reply to  Loydo
November 17, 2020 7:46 am

Just how much outgassing does an impossible to measure 0.03C create?

Reply to  Bill Taylor
November 17, 2020 12:39 am

Do you know the ridiculous increase of temperature of the oceans over the past century? They put it in atomic bombs (or heat content) to hide the reality that the warming of the ocean in °C is so small that it hasn’t moved the average temperature of the ocean that is ~ 3.5 °C. From 1960 to 2015 the 0-2000 m ocean temperature anomaly has increased by a tiny 0.1 °C. Loydo is right that the CO2 partial pressure of the atmosphere is now higher than the PpCO2 of the ocean so CO2 goes from the atmosphere into the ocean, but even if that wasn’t the case, the tiny warming of the ocean would not produce the humongous increase in CO2 we have observed since 1960.

Do you see the contradiction that to play the card of the CO2 being released by the ocean you need to concede the triumph of the great warming of the ocean to the alarmists?

Reply to  Bill Taylor
November 17, 2020 3:23 am

Bill Taylor,

The solubility of CO2 in the seawater surface gets an equilibrium with the atmosphere which for the current average ocean surface temperature is around 290 ppmv. That changes with about 16 ppmv/K temperature change, based on millions of seawater samples over the past centuries.
That means that there is some 10 ppmv increase from a warmer ocean surface since 1850, the rest of the 125 ppmv increase is from human emissions…

John Endicott
Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 4:32 am

If the only sources were Oceans and man, then your last sentence would be correct. But since those aren’t the only sources then you last sentence, even assuming all your numbers are correct, would be more correctly states as “the rest of the 125 ppmv increase is from sources other than the ocean, including but not limited to human emissions.”

Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 7:09 am

John Endicott,

Indeed, a little too fast…

Point is that there are only two huge and fast natural sources and sinks for CO2: the ocean surface and the biosphere. All other sources and sinks are either too small or too slow.

The solubility of CO2, O2,… in the ocean surface, including the chemical reactions and the influence of temperature is quite well known from several million seawater samples over the past centuries. That is the about 16 ppmv/K for an average temperature of around 15 C for the seawater surface.

As more O2 is formed than used by the total biosphere (based on the oxygen balance of fossil fuel use), the whole biosphere is a net sink for CO2, not a source.

Then we have small sources like volcanoes (about 1% of human input) and the very slow dissolving of carbonates by weathering, etc, all around or less than 1% of the human input…

November 16, 2020 2:48 pm

Photo is NOT Mauna Loa…
comment image
Figure 5.Two profile photos of Mauna Kea (top) and Mauna Loa (bottom). Mauna Kea (top) displays an irregular profile due to the abundance of steep-sided cinder cones formed by hawaiite, a less fluid and more explosive lava composition compared with the tholeiitic basalt that characterizes shield-stage volcanism. Mauna Loa (bottom) exhibits the classic, shield-stage morphology that results due to numerous tholeiitic basalt eruptions (and known to be particularly voluminous). This morphology is relatively smooth and shallow compared with Mauna Kea. USGS photos taken by Taeko Jane Takahashi in 1991 with caption details from Wright and others (1992b).

Danny Davis
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 12:52 am

W., Kea & Loa are Shield Volcano types – relult of low viscosity lava which spreads out.
Your graph background is a stratovolcano with much steeper sides from higher viscosity lava accumulation.
I believe your photo to be Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania.
I live 30 miles from this beautiful stratovolcano:
comment image

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  upcountrywater
November 17, 2020 7:01 am

As has been noted, the flat top and the distinctively shaped acacia trees in the foreground give it away that this is Mount Kilimanjaro.
comment image

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
November 17, 2020 8:30 am

Then again, maybe not!

November 16, 2020 2:48 pm

I still can’t for the LIFE of me.. and every other creature on the planet…

…. see why any sane person would ever want to decrease the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

CO2 is one of the three main ingredients needed for ALL LIFE ON EARTH. ! !!

…. and in the grand scheme of things is still in somewhat short supply !

November 16, 2020 2:54 pm

If you look at the CO2 emissions record over the last 30 years you will see that they tripled after 2002 and fell as much during 2009, due to the GFC, yet neither of these much larger fluctuations is recognisable in either the global CO2 record or average global temperatures. A proof positive that human CO2 emissions do not make much difference?

Reply to  petroalbion
November 17, 2020 12:18 am

Cumulative emissions perfectly track atmospheric increase.

For over 10 years every commenter and author that has a good knowledge of this issue has been saying the same over and over here at WUWT: “The atmospheric increase in CO2 is due to our emissions,” to no avail. It seems it is impossible to educate the skeptic community about something simple with plenty of evidence if they don’t want to be educated.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Javier
November 17, 2020 1:33 am

Some years ago I had a close look at F E’s argument. IIRC he makes a logical error in where he draws the boundaries between CO2 sources. By changing the assumptions one can justify blaming various sources.

You’d have to search for the conversation, it’s years ago and finding his error made my brain hurt– it even involved writing simple equations which is definitely beyond the call of duty.


Reply to  Javier
November 17, 2020 2:19 am

Ferdinand is correct. It’s a simple mass balance function.

We can’t know exactly how much of the cumulative rise is anthropogenic, because we don’t have a precise quantification of the natural sources and sinks of the fast carbon cycle. But we due have solid estimates of how much carbon we have moved from the slow carbon cycle (geological sequestration) into the fast carbon cycle.

Reply to  David Middleton
November 17, 2020 7:03 am

There are lot more elements to the Carbon cycle than geological and human. The very fast part of the cycle includes human emissions, but this is small relative to plants, algae, microbial, slightly slower parts include soils, then fast geological processes like erosion, sedimentation etc etc. The fluxes and the uncertainties are very, very large. Some of them are unknown. All components likely have a temperature dependence somewhere and many of them have a temperature dependence in the causal direction of Temp -> CO2, particularly in the living world.

Reply to  ThinkingScientist
November 17, 2020 10:43 am

Our annual contribution is small. There are a lot of uncertainties.

But the mass balance equation is trivial, even if most of the variables are guesses.

November 16, 2020 3:05 pm

Willis, This may be a dumb question (they are my speciality!) but:
a) isn’t Mauna Loa a volcano?
b) didn’t it last erupt in 1984?
c) isn’t it likely to be (even in quiescent times) expelling some gases?
d) and won’t those gases contain CO2?
e) and so are the figures collected at Mauna Loa possibly a bit iffy?

I’m not trying to prove a point, or criticise your piece – I’m just penning a thought that occurred to me as I was reading it.

Reply to  OldCynic
November 16, 2020 6:44 pm

Anyone want to guess what Mauna Loa temperatures have done over the last 40 years?

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nelson
November 17, 2020 7:27 am


November 16, 2020 3:10 pm

The parts of the economy shut down centered on travel, airlines and road traffic, which are likely a disproportionate share of emmisions… So I wouldn’t dismiss a 20% reduction based on any back of the envelope guesstimate.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 9:07 pm

The orange wedge includes crapola like land use change and methane belching cows. WTF is “other energy?”
Not a good representation of the CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, a use which is supposed to be the +2.5 ppm/yr to +3ppm/yr driver of the MLO record ascent.

November 16, 2020 3:11 pm

It is possible that human CO2 emissions are irrelevant. Henry’s Law says …

… the amount of dissolved gas in a liquid is proportional to its partial pressure above the liquid.

It also works in reverse. The pressure in a soft drink bottle depends on the amount of gas dissolved in the liquid.

The solubility of CO2 in water is not straightforward. link That means there might not be an easy answer to the question, how much would the ocean have to have warmed to completely explain the modern increase in atmospheric CO2?

Given Henry’s Law and given the vast amount of CO2 dissolved in the ocean, it is quite possible that human emissions are insufficient to upset the effect of CO2 solubility decrease with increasing ocean temperature.

To put it another way, it is possible that the solubility of CO2 in the ocean completely determines the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Loren C Wilson
Reply to  commieBob
November 16, 2020 4:04 pm

You are correct that the solubility of CO2 in water is not straightforward. Fortunately it has been well-studied. Unlike the solubility of nitrogen or oxygen in water, there are two significant chemical reactions going on at the same time with CO2 that makes the picture more complicated. Henry’s Law is still correct (even though it is not a true law, but an observation), but the amount of molecular CO2 dissolved in the liquid phase is in equilibrium with H2CO3 (carbonic acid), which is in equilibrium with H+ (hydrogen ion) + HCO3-(bicarbonate ion), which is in equilibrium with 2H+ + CO3-2 (carbonate ion). These all are a function of temperature, pH, and to a lesser extent salinity, and to a very small extent, pressure. Fortunately, the upper layer of the ocean is close to a constant salinity and pH, so the only significant variable is temperature.

Reply to  Loren C Wilson
November 16, 2020 5:29 pm

Here’s the sentence from the link that has me spooked.

Although the publications generally state experimental uncertainties in CO 2 solubility
to be on the order of only a few percent, comparison of different studies reveals disagreements of up
to many tens of percent in solubilities measured under the same P–T conditions.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 8:03 pm

Actually, the temperature of the ocean hasn’t changed much. Right now, the average temperature of the oceans is about 4°C. link I was wondering about temperature changes of a few tenths of a degree.

Reply to  commieBob
November 17, 2020 1:25 am

The deep ocean temperature is never going to change quickly. Different story above the thermacline.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 12:52 am

You went from
” the global temperature changed by maybe 6°C or so”
“the ocean would have to have warmed by 10° in the last few hundred years”

By what calculation do you get ocean temperature from an estimate of air temperature from ice cores?

Peter Tari
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 3:14 am

Law’s of Henry was established using small laboratory equipment, where the temperature of the liquid and gaseous phase is the same. If the temperature is high, the liquid part dissolve less, if the temperature is lower then the liquid part will dissolve more gas. But this picture is deceptive. Actually temperature of the gaseous phase doesn’t play any role. What important is the temperature of the liquid phase and of course, the partial pressure of the dissolved material in the gaseous phase.

In case of ocean/air system +/- 10 degree Celsius change of the air temperature doesn’t affect the solubility of carbon dioxide in the ocean. On the other hand, even a little change in the ocean temperature itself can have dramatic impact on the carbon dioxide solubility.

About 0.1 degree Celsius increase of the ocean global average temperature can led to about 140 ppmv increase of the carbon dioxide concentration of the air.

(According to my own calculation, but I can be wrong, utterly wrong)

Reply to  Peter Tari
November 17, 2020 5:00 am

Indeed. Figure 5, in the paper I linked, is very interesting. If I understand it correctly, the vast majority of CO2 in the ocean exists in liquid form. In that case, as the graph shows, temperature has a much bigger effect on CO2 solubility than does pressure.

Reply to  Peter Tari
November 17, 2020 7:42 am

The deep ocean contains 37,000 Gt of CO2 and the atmosphere contains 800. link A 1% change in CO2 solubility pretty much explains the modern increase in atmospheric CO2.

Eyeballing Figure 5 shows that at around 80 MPa the solubility goes from 4.00 mol % to 3.75 mol % for a temperature change of 10°C. That’s around 0.6% per degree. So, a temperature increase of a bit over 0.1°C would produce the required change in CO2 solubility.

I am not a chemist and I note from the linked paper that many chemists have run afoul on these rocks. Anyway Peter, notwithstanding the foregoing, we seem to get close to the same result.

John Endicott
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 3:51 am

And at 13 ppmv per degree of ocean warming, the ocean would have to have warmed by 10° in the last few hundred years … which very obviously never happened

Oh, but Willis, the missing heat is hiding in the deep oceans, dontcha know. Just ask Trenberth 😉

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 10:50 am

The only valid example from ice cores is Law Dome DE08. The CO2 and temperature resolutions are comparable. The CO2 resolutions of all other Antarctic ice cores are too low for a valid analysis. Even then, you can only get to about above 20 ppmv per degree of ocean warming.

From ocean warming plus land-use change, we could possibly have gone from 280 to 340 ppmv. But everything above that is almost certainly from fossil fuel combustion and other industrial sources.

Reply to  David Middleton
November 17, 2020 12:41 pm

… you can only get to about above 20 ppmv per degree of ocean warming.

Do you have a link or an explanation?

Reply to  commieBob
November 17, 2020 2:15 pm


Here the temp/CO2 data for the 420.000 years Vostok ice core, recently extended to 800.000 years by the Dome C ice core record:


The ratio between CO2 and Antarctic temperatures (where the snow is formed) is about 8 ppmv/K. Antarctic temperatures change about twice as fast as global temperatures, that gives a change if about 16 ppmv/K for global temperatures.

The change in solubility of CO2 in seawater was measured all over the world and the resulting change in equilibrium pCO2 pressure (~ppmv) with the atmosphere is also around 16 ppmv/K.

Nowadays there are continuous seawater measurements on commercial seaships which measure pH, pCO2, salinity,…
To compensate for the temperature difference between the inlet (Tin-situ) and the measuring equilibrator (Teq) they use a formula to compensate the pCO2 as measured towards the pCO2 it would have at the inlet temperature:
(pCO2)sw @ Tin situ = (pCO2)sw @ Teq x EXP[0.0423 x (Tin-situ – Teq)]
That is also around 16 ppmv/K…
A good description of the continuous pCO2 measurements and the above formula comes from a reseach vessel trip:

Reply to  commieBob
November 17, 2020 3:49 pm

Thanks for the reply Ferdinand.

The bulk of the ocean operates under quite a different regime than the surface waters.

Somewhere around 500 meters CO2 is in its liquid state and its solubility is mostly determined by temperature. In the case of water nearer the surface, CO2 solubility is largely determined by pressure.

As far as I can tell, a small increase in the temperature of the water below the thermocline would result in a significant decrease in CO2 solubility. On the other hand, even a small increase in that water’s temperature would be remarkable.

November 16, 2020 3:11 pm

The relationship between carbon dioxide emission and GDP is valid if and only the energy intensity is uniform. China’s GDP is going to grow this year. The countries whose GDP will be hardly hit will most likely be the countries with large service sector such as banking, finance, consulting, arts. culture, sports, entertainment, tourism, transport and including hospitality but non-tourism related industries where energy intensity is low. GDP is expressed in nominal currency or it could be PPP.

John Endicott
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 4:02 am

But the decrease in GDP isn’t of the same uniform as GDP in it’s entirety. Some sectors of the economy were hard hit while others were hardly hit. Not all sectors emit the same levels of CO2. So a drop in a heavy emitting sector will have a greater impact on CO2 emissions than a drop in a lightly emitting sector. In other words the relationship isn’t as simplistic as you paint it.

Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 7:51 am

We can all agree that assuming a linear relationship is not a good assumption.
Do you have a better assumption, one that can be used to make an estimate given the data available at the moment?

John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 8:43 am

I’m not the one pushing a bad assumption. You’re responding like a climate alarmist would whenever the flaws in CAGW theory are pointed out. It’s not (and never has been) the job of the person pointing out that an assumption is bad to come up with a better assumption, no matter how many times the CAGW crowd have tried to pull that one. I expect better than that from you.

Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 3:40 pm

In this case, all you have done is point out that the assumption isn’t perfect, which was readily acknowledged by the author in the original piece.

Unless you are willing to make the claim that all assumptions must be perfect, otherwise nothing can be written, then you are making yourself look mighty shallow by continuing to harp on something that everyone acknowledges.

John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 18, 2020 2:37 am

Start with bad assumption, it can only go down hill from there. Knowingly starting out with bad assumptions is even worse. Defending knowingly starting out with bad assumptions and you end up are making yourself look even worse. Sadly, I expected better from you.

November 16, 2020 3:13 pm

With just the actual increases in YOY CO₂ as graphed by Willis above, the rate of CO₂ increase is indistinguishable from CO₂’s increasee late 2011 through 2012.

Claims that the ‘lockdown’ has reduced CO₂ look to be pure delusion.

Excellent analysis Willis!
Thanks for the YOY view.

November 16, 2020 3:23 pm

Hi Willis,

Thank you very much for the clarity and brevity of your article; to the point and illuminating.

YallaYPoora Kid
November 16, 2020 3:24 pm
Reply to  YallaYPoora Kid
November 16, 2020 4:00 pm
Reply to  YallaYPoora Kid
November 16, 2020 4:11 pm

Full on zombie apocalypse and all that was managed that emissions still grew, but only by 8.8% less than they grew in 2019

November 16, 2020 3:31 pm
John Doohold
November 16, 2020 3:32 pm

Willis, you could even use published materials to “estimate in line with the orthodoxy” the reduction of CO2 emission due to COVID lockdown
as a note, your estimation is not far off…. but you didn’t get a grant for it 🙂

November 16, 2020 3:33 pm
November 16, 2020 3:36 pm

Maybe Gaia knows that if there’s no fresh CO2 being produced, she has to hold on to what she’s already got.

(come on guys, this as good a theory as anything else that has been postulated)

Reply to  Mr.
November 16, 2020 4:05 pm

Gaia has periods when she’s not so nice.

Reply to  Scissor
November 16, 2020 5:41 pm

So does my wife.

Reply to  Mr.
November 17, 2020 12:45 am

There’s no Gaia, you bunch of pagans. 😉

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Mr.
November 17, 2020 11:46 am

I disagree.
I think the theory that digging up mountains of coal that formed over many millions of years, and burning it, and pumping up a mountain sized volume of oil and burning it, and lordy only knows how much of that natural gas, and burning it, is adding a bit of the combustion product to the air into which the burning takes place, is a better theory about why there is more of it every year than there was the previous year.
At least I hope so.
If it has nothing to do with us, that would mean that if whatever actually is causing the current increase, were to reverse, so would the levels in the air begin to decline…and that would be very bad for food production in a world with billions and billions of hungry people.

George Carlin had a better theory too.
He thought that the Earth invented people because it wanted to have plastic.
So it got a twofer out of the deal…more CO2 that was getting all bound up in rocks and ooze under the ground.
Kind of like how we get a twofer…we get the energy we need from burning it, and then it makes it easier and faster to grow plants, and let’s plants thrive in laces where there was not enough water before.

I think it was just luck.
We found stuff under the ground that is very useful to us.
We got it out of the ground and burned it, and never worried about the stuff that was left behind in the air by burning it.
Once we did start thinking of it, some people decided that since we changed something, it has to be bad.
But this time we got lucky, because that stuff happens to be something the air has been running out of gradually for millions of years.
Kind of like the guy who thousands of years ago never knew that pee and poop was great for making plants grow, he was just too lazy to walk all the way to the woods behind his crop fields, so he just did his business in the wheat.
Then someone noticed that these were the greenest fields around, and he got the most wheat of anyone, more than the people who walked into the woods to pinch their loaves.
I bet there were people who never believed that crap was good for the Earth back then, and predicted the world would end when all the fields were ten feet deep in poop and drowning in pee.

And that never happened.
And here we are, making plastic for our plastic starved planet.

*insert moral to the story here*
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Except when Democrats get elected.
Then they get crappier.

Al Miller
November 16, 2020 3:41 pm

I like the thought and analysis- but it never was about CO2 and the more we see the ridiculous claims the more they need to be told straight out- It always was about power and money, and never really was a concern about the environment, except for the heartfelt efforts of the useful idiots…

Geoff Sherrington
November 16, 2020 3:57 pm

Hi Willis,

A popular paper with estimates of emissions changed by the lockdown was “Near-real-time monitoring of global CO2 emissions reveals the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature Communications, 2020; 11 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18922-7.” (This was facilitated by Potsdam Institute for Klimate, which an Internet search will show is a strictly correct and objective research team, for there are nearly no criticisms of its work). They arrived at a global CO2 reduction of 8.8% for the first 6 months of 2020. They did not mention if this was detectable or detected by measurement of the air.

Coming to your graphs, yes, there is variation in the year-on-year data. This has an interplay with your equation (global annual carbon emissions ≈ 6.3 Gtonnes + .4 * global GDP (trillions of constant 2010 $) which, as I am forever complaining, lacks an expression of uncertainty. Here, the uncertainty seems so large that the equation is unreliable for purposes such as forecasting. The core of this story is why these year-on-year figures are so variable.

You note that “The big peak in the middle is from the El Nino/La Nina of 2015-2016” but I have troubles guessing which mechanisms you might have in mind. The year-on-year methodology gives a peak like you show in two broad ways, from a rise in the later year or from a fall in the previous year. Any views on which it is here?

On May 22, I wrote a piece for WUWT about measurement of CO2 in air, one sentence being “If accuracy is expressed in customary terms of a normal distribution with 95% of measurements falling within the 2 sigmas of standard deviation either side of the mean, even a rough eyeball estimate puts the 2 sigmas at about +/- 2 ppm accuracy.”

The global climate change scene is dominated just now by calls for cessation of fossil fuel burning to reduce CO2 greenhouse emissions to the air. If a shock like an 8% reduction over 6 months is not found by measurement, this poses quite a problem for those who report on progress to “zero carbon” and invoke penalties for lack thereof. How in heck are we to know for the next decade if global reduction of CO2 emissions, by any method, is going to have any effect at all? How will any global CO2 administrative scheme work if one cannot properly measure the result?

Now, combine this with the preprint by van Wijngaarden & Happer noting that both CO2 and H2O vapour in the air are saturated with their ability to produce more heat from IR absorption (and logically, also showing little change from a reduction of current levels) and you have to wonder how much of this reporting is science and how much is politics. This is not a new problem, but still, it is annoying. https://arxiv.org/abs/2006.03098

I hope this adds to your article, Willis. Geoff S

(Edited for spacing) SUNMOD

November 16, 2020 4:09 pm

Willis, the volumes of coal, oil and gas being consumed has been measured.
Why not use that instead of trying to guess based on GDP?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 5:51 pm

My first thought was to compare changes in energy usage to changes in GDP during past recessions and recoveries.

My second thought was that the current economic circumstances are enough different from previous recessions that it may not be possible to make a direct comparison.

Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 8:37 am

According to this page, total energy spent on lighting is about 5% of all energy used.
I don’t see lighting broken out in Willis’s chart above, so I guess it is spread amongst several of the categories.

LED lights are continuing to penetrate the market, though the amount of change over the last 6 months is probably not enough to matter. However their spread over the last 5 to 10 years is probably enough to skew any comparison between the current “recession” and past recessions.

In my town every time a street light burns out, it is replaced with an LED unit.
We also build 1 to 3 new roundabouts a year and I know that those are reducing the amount of gas that I burn.

November 16, 2020 4:14 pm

A quick and easy read: “Climate Miracle” by Dr Ed Berry explains why changes in emissions have very little effect on atmospheric content of CO2.
https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/12/19/co2responsiveness/ explains why the correlation of emissions to content is spurious and the detrended analysis shows now correlation.

Reply to  DMA
November 17, 2020 3:46 am


Both are completely wrong…
I have tried to convince Dr. Berry in many comments, to no avail: he uses the reverse of the residence time, which is only right if you have one unidirectional flow from in to out in the atmosphere.
If you have many CO2 flows, which go (seasonal) in opposite directions, you still have the same residence time (which only depends of the throughput, not the direction of the throughput), but can’t reverse the formula to estimate the output.

ChaamJamal shows that human emissions are not correlated to the detrended increase in the atmosphere, but by detrending, he removed the correlation, which is between the trends, not the noise around the trends (which is temperature correlated, not emissions correlated)…

November 16, 2020 4:18 pm

“And since emissions and the resulting atmospheric levels are a linear function of GDP, that would mean that the year-over-year CO2 increase should be smaller by something on the order of five percent.

My other conclusion is that this should give great pause to those who are blithely…”

The analysis here is good. It looks at the numbers that need to be checked. But that last conclusion doesn’t follow. The analysis says that we didn’t see much reduction in atmospheric CO2 because there wasn’t much change in emission from this event. It just didn’t happen. That says nothing about what we might achieve by actually working to reduce emissions.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 16, 2020 4:48 pm

“by actually working to reduce emissions.”

Now WHY would anyone sane, and with the least understanding of biology and life on Earth, want to reduce CO2 emissions ??

Yes, strive for better efficiency of use, by all means.

But reducing CO2 emissions “just because”…….. utter stupidity.

Reply to  fred250
November 16, 2020 5:47 pm

Given the destruction of human wealth that has accompanied the current decrease in CO2 emissions, only someone with a total hatred of mankind would want to increase the damage.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  MarkW
November 16, 2020 7:58 pm


John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 7:09 am

And if, as Nick concludes, all that destruction of wealth only had “wasn’t much change in emissions” to show for it, woe betide the world’s population if he and his ilk ever get their way regarding emissions, the destruction would be beyond apocalyptic and still have nothing to show for it beyond the massive levels of misery, death, and destruction it would cause.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 16, 2020 5:03 pm

Lets all return to the economy and lifestyles of the 1840’s and find out. Because that’s what is necessary to see what we might achieve. It will be a grand experiment. You first?

Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 16, 2020 5:31 pm


Reply to  Lrp
November 16, 2020 5:48 pm

Those who view themselves as the elite, will find excuses to exempt themselves from the poverty they wish to impose on the rest of us.

John Endicott
Reply to  Lrp
November 17, 2020 7:13 am

Not just poverty. The misery and loss of life and lifespan that would accompany the stone age lifestyle required to reach the goal. (which still wouldn’t do a darn thing in regards to changing the worlds temperature).

Reply to  John Endicott
November 18, 2020 12:36 pm

Ah, but that reduction in humanity is exactly the goal of the elites. They think eliminating 13 out of 14 of us, resulting in a worldwide population of half a billion or so, is just what they need to keep THEM happy, to hell with the slaves that remain and to heaven (figuratively, for these elites are atheists) with those who are eliminated.

These prople are sick.

Chris Hanley
November 16, 2020 4:37 pm

NOAA has a page showing annual growth rate variations for the entire observation record.
The CO2 growth rate is very variable with 1992 unusually low maybe related to the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 and unusually high in 1998 coinciding with the strong El Niño in that year.
comment image

Robert of Texas
November 16, 2020 4:38 pm

I think assuming that GDP somehow relates directly to CO2 emitted is a stretch. Yes, nations with large GDPs typically have large CO2 emissions, but it can vary widely depending on what is being produced. For example the United States GDP has been steadily increasing since 1990 (with the exception of 3 different years) and yet the CO2 emission estimates have declined a lot. Using a bad proxy means no matter what you do to the data it is meaningless.

A much better estimate of CO2 emissions would start with fossil fuels consumed, cattle raised, and burning activities. One should also add in estimates for CO2 removal as in growing more forest.

I too have looked at the atmospheric CO2 concentrations and pondered why they show no meaningful change through the lock-down. Of all CO2 entering the atmosphere it is commonly estimated that only 4% or less comes from man’s activities. This means somehow that 4% of the CO2 is magical and can push up atmospheric CO2 concentrations when 96% of the CO2 apparently does nothing. This then leads to the conclusion that if you decrease the magic 4% by 20% you SHOULD get 20% less warming – but some of the warming takes time so maybe you can’t see it in a single year. And yet, no effect has been found that I am aware of.

In reality if you took away all of man’s CO2 emissions, you would likely change the rate of rising CO2 concentrations by a small amount. The atmospheric CO2 must be balanced with that of the Oceans and it depends on local temperatures – it is likely the ocean temperatures that are changing causing an out-gassing of CO2. The lock-down simply would not matter – its changes far too small to detect.

Meanwhile plant growth is reacting to more available CO2 and taking it up. With luck, more CO2 will moderate temperatures between the equators and the poles. In short, the Earth becomes more pleasant.

November 16, 2020 4:43 pm

Great read thanks

What is quite interesting is if you plot the whole record of YOY values back to 1959. All the big peaks correspond to 3 – 6 months after the peaks in the temperature record – which is exactly what you would expect

Bob Weber
November 16, 2020 4:51 pm

Because there are people expecting any emissions reductions due to CV19 will affect atmospheric CO2, it’s worth noting ahead of time that any drop in ML CO2 in 2020/21 will result exclusively from a lower Niño3 region temperature, lagging by one month.

comment image

For the past 20 weeks Niño3 has been below the 25.6°C CO2 outgassing threshold I calculated last year, averaging 24.2°C, likely to be continued through winter, meaning the tropical cold tongue area is net sinking CO2 instead of outgassing, which I expect to have a small but measurable effect on ML CO2.

comment image

comment image

Look for a CO2 forecast based on these findings in December or January.

Michael Hammer
November 16, 2020 4:54 pm

Nick and Willis; I have mentioned this before in other threads but have not got a sensible answer, PLEASE consider and reply. The theory of AGW claims GHG’s reduce Earth’s energy loss to space (OLR) (no Willis it does not delay energy loss it reduces it – see the Nimbus data) which is true. The theory further claims that as CO2 rises it will further reduces the energy loss (by about 3 watts/sqM per doubling). This causes an imbalance between energy in and energy out which causes Earth to warm. That would cause about 1 C of direct warming per doubling but the theory further claims that feedbacks – especially rising water vapour which is also a GHG are positive and will further reduce OLR causing warming – up to 3 C per doubling.

The simplest test of this theory is to check, is OLR falling as CO2 rises? The answer is NO it is not falling it is rising (NASA data since 1985). Sure one expects a rise as Earth warms but the rise should be offset/reduced by the fall due to rising CO2 and if Earth is continuing to warm, OLR must continue to be depressed otherwise what is driving the warming. But this is not the case, OLR is rising at exactly the rate one would expect from the observed warming. If reliable real world observations conflict with the basis of a theory, the theory is wrong!

The answer I have read is that actually the warming is caused by an increase in absorbed solar radiation (ASR) not by a reduction in OLR but how does rising CO2 increase ASR, there is no good theoretical basis for such a claim. It’s claimed to be all due to feedbacks again!!!! Since the solar constant is indeed very close to constant a rising ASR means Earth’s albedo is falling. The claim is now that increasing water evaporation due to rising temperature is leading to a reduction in cloudiness which indeed would reduce albedo but if more water evaporates this has to be balanced by more rainfall and rain only comes from low dense clouds so how can more rain come from less cloud? It seems to me the most basic possible check disproves the entire AGW thesis.

Reply to  Michael Hammer
November 16, 2020 6:01 pm

CO2 slows the rate at which radiation escapes.
The Earth’s temperature rises.
This causes outgoing radiation to increase.
Once incoming and outgoing radiation balance again, the temperature stabilizes.

Reply to  MarkW
November 16, 2020 8:15 pm

“CO2 slows the rate at which radiation escapes.
The Earth’s temperature rises.”

The assumption here is that a CO2 concentration increase causes (low troposphere) global temperature to rise.

In order to make this assumption, we should at least observe a positive, even if weak, correlation between atmospheric CO2 concentration and low troposphere global temperature.

The problem is that’s not what is actually observed. See the cross-correlation diagram between CO2 and temperature below :
– the right part shows a positive correlation between temperature and CO2 concentration with a lag of some 10 months. This is consistent with the fact that CO2 follows temperature,
– but the left part shows, if anything, rather a negative correlation between CO2 concentration and temperature, with a lag of some 16 months. This seems to be hardly consistent with the assumption that a CO2 concentration increase induces a temperature increase.


Michael Hammer
Reply to  Petit_Barde
November 16, 2020 10:26 pm

Mark and Petit; I understand that as temperature rises OLR increases but the temperature only rises because OLR is depressed in the first place. OLR is now 2 watts/sqM higher than it was in 1985. Are you suggesting that OLR was already depressed in 1985 and is still rising back to the equilibrium level? I cant prove otherwise but even if true there is still a problem. Because while OLR rises with temperature the claim is it falls with rising CO2 and CO2 has been rising substantially since 1985. One would expect that the change in OLR would equal the rise due to rising temperature minus the fall due to rising CO2 but in fact OLR is rising at exactly the rate one would expect from the temperature rise which implies the fall due to rising CO2 is ZERO. That falsifies the theory of AGW. In which case the rise in temperature has to be due to a rise in ASR not a fall in OLR. Since the solar constant is indeed constant, that implies a fall in albedo. How does rising CO2 cause Earth’s albedo to fall?

Reply to  Michael Hammer
November 16, 2020 6:37 pm

“The theory further claims that as CO2 rises it will further reduces the energy loss (by about 3 watts/sqM per doubling). “
Not really. It says that CO2 rise will impede IR flux, but conservation of energy says that the heat still has to get out, and that happens by warming the surface thus increasing surface upflux. At equilibrium, OLR would be unchanged. It is true that for a while, the heat required to warm the ocean shows up as an imbalance, producing a temporary dip in net OLR.

A more interesting aspect is the spectrum. Although total OLR is unchanged, there is a shift from the wavebands in which CO2 is absorbed (around 15 micron, reduced OLR) to those in the atmospheric window (8-14), which are increased by the warming surface.
This paper, Fig 2 shows the changes expected. This paper, Fig 6 shows some observations.

Michael Hammer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 16, 2020 10:16 pm

Nick; saying rising CO2 impedes (ie: reduces) the IR flux is the same as saying it reduces energy loss. The initial impact is to make energy in > energy out with the excess energy going into warming the planet. Of course as the planet warms OLR rises until equilibrium is re-established at a higher temperature. As you say, the dip in OLR is temporary – specifically, it lasts as long as the temperature continues to rise since that is the cause of the rising temperature. However, in this case OLR has risen by 2 watts/sq since 1985. OK, one could argue that OLR has been depressed since before 1985 and is still rising back to the equilibrium level but there is a problem. CO2 has risen substantially since 1985 and if rising CO2 depresses OLR one would expect that OLR would, at a minimum be rising slower than one would predict from the rising temperature. Infact, one would expect the rise in OLR would be that predicted from the rise in temperature minus the fall due to rising CO2 but in fact OLR is rising at exactly the rate one would predict from the temperature rise with zero fall from rising CO2.

As regards your 2nd paragraph, yes I almost agree. Infact, theoretically the notch in the OLR spectrum around 14.7 microns widens very slightly as CO2 rises and indeed the rest of the emission spectrum rises very slightly to make up the difference so that the “area under the curve” remains constant

Reply to  Michael Hammer
November 16, 2020 11:03 pm

” impedes (ie: reduces) the IR flux is the same as saying it reduces energy loss”
No. Impedes is not the same as reduces. Suppose you have a garden hose with tap set to run gently. What if you squeeze the end to impede the flow? The pressure behind the impedance rises, the flow velocity increases, and the volume flow is very little changed. And that is what happens here. The IR is impeded, the temperature rises, and the net flow is very little changed, although there is a shift in the spectrum. In elec terms, it is a high impedance (current) source.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 17, 2020 12:37 am

The flow rate in your example changes with the square of the flow area; that’s not a small change.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 17, 2020 7:31 am

Your analogy is incorrect. What happens when you close the hose off? Does the “volume” of water being output continue to be the same?

You need to study your physics and hydraulics some more.

Michael Hammer
Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 18, 2020 12:08 am

Nick; at the absorption wavelengths the CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs the surface radiation. Radiation at these wavelengths is continuously emitted and absorbed throughout the atmosphere until one gets to the top of the CO2 gas column (typically the tropopause or lower stratosphere) – the last 1 -2 abs where there is insufficient CO2 above to reabsorb the emitted energy and it escapes to space. The presence of CO2 means that at the CO2 wavelengths surface radiation to space is blocked and replaced with radiation from the tropopause. Since the tropopause is colder than the surface the emission intensity is lower so overall energy loss is reduced. If CO2 concentration is increased the absorption lines broaden (they are lorentzian profiles not boxcars) so this process occurs over a slightly greater range of wavelengths ie: energy loss if further reduced. This creates an energy imbalance (more energy in than out) which causes Earth to warm thereby increasing the energy loss until the two are again in balance. The rising CO2 reduces the energy loss, the consequence is a warming of the planet which restores the balance. By the way to address your analogy, pinching the end of the pipe reduces the outflow. The result is more water into the pipe than out of it causing the pressure in the pipe to increase and thus outflow to increase until inflow and outflow are again in balance.

The process is well understood but what is by no means certain is the magnitude of the effect and that comes down very much to feedbacks. As I claim yet again, if the effect is significant then one should see OLR fall as CO2 rises or at least OLR should rise at less than the rate expected from the warming alone. The experimental data shows that OLR is rising at exactly the rate one would expect from the rise in temperature suggesting the impact of rising CO2 is negligible and that falsifies the theory of CAGW.

Everyone seems willing to debate side issues but very unwilling to address the central issue which is that the the theory of CAGW claims that rising CO2 should reduce (or impede whichever term you are comfortable with) OLR yet the experimental evidence is that there is no impact. That means the theory is wrong.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
November 16, 2020 10:17 pm

“and that happens by warming the surface thus increasing surface upflux”

UTTER RUBBISH !! Mantra driven anti-science pap !!

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Michael Hammer
November 16, 2020 7:30 pm

Michael Hammer, you say,

“The theory further claims that as CO2 rises it will further reduces the energy loss (by about 3 watts/sqM per doubling). This causes an imbalance between energy in and energy out which causes Earth to warm.” Then you seem to go on as though we should expect to actually detect a lower value of LWR radiation going out from the earth (maybe as much as 3 w/square meter less, eventually)?

Isn’t this confusing a theoretical initial forcing effect with what we should expect to see as the actual outcome of the forcing? When the forcing causes the Earth (surface and/or lower troposphere) to warm, the higher temperature *there*, this should *also* force the upper atmosphere to warm, more or less in tandem with what is going on lower down, so that the 3 watts predicted reduction is made up for with *no* deficit in power flow actually happening at steady state! That’s practically the *definition* of steady state, i.e., whatever is coming in must go out eventually. The only thing detectable when all is said and done should be the measurement of whatever temperature profile in the atmosphere is said to be needed for the long term balance to be maintained (and they do keep failing to corroborate the predicted lower atmosphere temperature profile experimentally, or so I’ve read).

Maybe I’m over simplifying here. I know I’ve read that Dr. Richard Lindzen has done some work to correlate variations in LWR with ocean temperatures, and no doubt this sort of thing goes beyond simple steady state assumptions. My point is that over the long haul, you certainly can’t expect a power imbalance to ‘stay’ imbalanced, not if the sensible or measurable result is expected to be a consistent power out at a higher temperature.

Michael Hammer
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
November 16, 2020 10:02 pm

Not quite David; Sure eventually the Earth will warm until power out = power in but the claim is that Earth is warming and will continue to warm. That means we are not at steady state and if CO2 is the cause we should be seeing OLR still depressed. If you are suggesting that equilibrium has maintained continuously (which is quite possible) then the observed transient response is also the equilibrium response. Since we have achieved about a half doubling, a further rise to 560ppm would only give us about the same amount of warming again or about 1C which is hardly catastrophic. Indeed, I would claim it is barely perceptible. Maybe AGW but certainly not CAGW. Then again, OLR has risen by about 2 watts/sqM since 1985. If the Earth was in equilibrium in 1985, what has caused the warming. Can’t be a reduction in OLR since that OLR increased. The only possibility is that ASR has risen by 2 watts//sqM and the Earth has warmed until OLR has also risen by 2 watts/sqM re-establishing equilibrium but then what drove up ASR? Again I have to ask, how does rising CO2 increase ASR?

Reply to  Michael Hammer
November 17, 2020 9:56 am


Increase ASR? Less aerosols, less ice and snow, cloudchange perhaps.

Michael Hammer
Reply to  lgl
November 18, 2020 12:22 am

Igl; if you look at the data the surface and clear sky albedo has not changed but the cloud albedo has reduced. This suggests the warming is due to less cloud cover . Question is why. One explanation is that of Svensmark which predicts a reduction in cloud cover with a very active sun.

Another thought which occurs to me (although I have no proof) is that if particulates in the atmosphere reduce, there will be less nucleation sites. The result is that while water vapour still condenses it condenses onto fewer nucleation sites forming larger droplets. These are less absorptive of incoming solar energy (compare rain with fog for scattering and blocking light). Also, being heavier they further coalesce faster which means the time from initial condensation, forming clouds to the water falling as rain is reduced. That translates to less cloud mass for the same rainfall. Why would nucleation sites in the atmosphere reduce? Because we have become more and more environmentally aware and are taking more and more effort to reduce emissions such as sulphur dioxide and fine particulates. So maybe it is our own environmental protection measures that are causing the warming.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
November 17, 2020 3:05 pm

Three points: The speed of light is very fast, what absorbs also emits, and there is plenty of extra nighttime cooling capacity, as every night over most of the surface, the temp cools near or right to the dew point, and this happens long before dawn.
The moisture content of the surface layer of air is what determines how much cooling there will be.
Because we have day but then we have night. And that surface CO2 is then an emitter, converting kinetic motion of molecules into photons that are then radiated.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  David Blenkinsop
November 17, 2020 3:06 pm

Three points: The speed of light is very fast, what absorbs also emits, and there is plenty of extra nighttime cooling capacity, as every night over most of the surface, the temp cools near or right to the dew point, and this happens long before dawn.
The moisture content of the surface layer of air is what determines how much cooling there will be.
Because we have day but then we have night. And that surface CO2 is then an emitter, converting kinetic motion of molecules into photons that are then radiated.
I have long had the suspicion that warmista have never spent much time outside all night long at various times of year in various places.

Joel O'Bryan
November 16, 2020 5:28 pm

Wilis wrote, ” In general, carbon emissions for the globe, as well as the resulting changes in global atmospheric CO2 levels, are a linear function of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The GDP is the sum of all of the goods and services produced during the year.”

The fatal flaw in this entire analysis is Willis trying to apply what “In general” happens (typical cyclical economic cycle swings), with this specific 2020 case of these COVID lockdowns, international travel shutdown, and world commerce throttling. Not the same in any way shape or form to what is typical economic slowdown.

In 2020, the entire cruise line industry has shutdown, the travel/eliesure induistry is decimated, but it doesn’t show in the GDPs yet because of govt stimuli across the world.
Airlines almost completely grounded their entire aircraft fleets for months.
International ocean shipping ground to a halt.
Vacation plans were cancelled.
Business trips stopped almost completely, but business activity switched to on-line modes where they could.

You cannot make generalizations about what is happening now in 2020 to linear GDP relationships and emissions. zHigh emissions activities got severely throttled back.

Bad assumption. No cookie Willis.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 16, 2020 6:05 pm

Cruise ships docked, but the amount of energy consumed by all of them combined was so far below rounding error that it can be ignored completely.
International shipping has slowed, but it has not ground to a halt, nowhere close.
Air travel is down, but it has not stopped either.

Just look at any highway, traffic is down, but not by a huge amount
Many factories and businesses are closed, but on the other hand, houses that would have been empty during the day are now occupied 24/7.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  MarkW
November 16, 2020 8:59 pm

I bought $1.67/gal gas in Texas last month. That says it all.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 17, 2020 7:58 am

As Willis pointed out, transportation is only 14% of total energy usage. Gasoline is but a fraction of that. Gasoline use in Texas is but a very tiny fraction of all gasoline usage in the world.

The price of gas in your neck of the woods speaks to how much gasoline is being used in your neck of the world. It is meaningless when trying to figure out how energy usage over all has changed for the entire world.

John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 18, 2020 2:55 am

It’s an indicator, just like Willis’s linear assumption. Assumptions don’t have to be perfect, by your own logic. “you are making yourself look mighty shallow” by complaining about his imperfect assumption while giving a pass and defending other imperfect assumptions. You are usually better than this.

John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 17, 2020 7:48 am

Just look at any highway, traffic is down, but not by a huge amount

In the early days of the pandemic, yes it was by a huge amount at least in US states that “locked down”. I can personally attest to that as one of the very few people still commuting to work on a daily basis during that period. Traffic has since bounced back to near normal levels.

Reply to  John Endicott
November 17, 2020 3:42 pm

The change was barely noticeable where I live.

John Endicott
Reply to  MarkW
November 18, 2020 2:43 am

I seem to recall you saying you mentioning you were working from home during that period. Kind of hard to notice what traffic is like from your basement. For those of us on the roads in the states that were locked down the difference was extremely noticeable. It knocked my commute time down by 20% because traffic was mostly non-existent in my area during my normal commuting time.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 8:34 pm

So what are you saying Willis –
“never bring a possibility to a data fight”?

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 8:54 pm

The commercial aviation travel industry has been shutdown for months. Jet fuel demand around the world has plummeted. In the US Commercial domestic aviation was cut by close to 75% by May. 90% for international flights.

Within the last 3 months it is slowly trying to restart.
Same with maritime shipping. Thousands of container vessels sat at anchor around the world last summer, now here to go, no port to take any cargo.
Within the last 3 months, it is starting to restart.

The entire professional sports industry shutdown fan attendance at any games they still played. No fans, no airplanes trips to watch their teams. Airlines in the US got federal govt PPP money to keep paying their employees sitting at home. Same with all the stadiums around the country through the summer baseball season. No fans. No flights. No taxis. No hotels.
Amusement parks and even beaches were closed.

Your assumptions do not hold in this COVID lockdown situation where borders were closed. Entries denied. States imposed 14 day quarantines on travlers, who decided not to travel. Airlines simply shutdown.

Willis, You simply do not, from your NorCal redoubt, have any clue as to how badly the world travel economy and the high emissions related to air travel and maritime shipping have been shaken by this and the media is not reporting it.

Verifying your assumptions is your job. Not mine.
This COVID economic downturn is vastly different in scope and impact than a mere business cycle slowdown/recession.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 4:19 am

“Ocean shipping ground to a halt.”
Well, it didn’t in Central Scotland, the only major difference has been the loss of the cruise ships.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 8:02 am

I would expect the total level of ocean shipping to roughly follow changes in GDP. If the world’s GDP falls by 3%, I would expect shipping to fall by roughly 3% as well.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 3:44 pm

Of course that assumption is just a guess, according to some I should have kept my mouth shut until I could dig up actual numbers and prove my case beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
November 17, 2020 8:00 am

Transportation accounts for 14% of total energy usage, international air flights are a tiny, tiny fraction of that.

William Haas
November 16, 2020 5:47 pm

Yes, taking CO2 measurements on the side of an active volcano may not be optimum. But even so there is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate and there is plenty of scientific rationale to support the conclusion that the climate sensitivity of CO2 is zero. The real concern is what will happen to CO2 during the next ice age. Our current burning of fossil fuels may not be enough to make sure that life makes it through the next ice age. We may need to eventually work on releasing CO2 that is currently tied up in carbonate rocks. We may have only a few thousand years before it becomes obvious that thet current interglacial period is ending.

Reply to  William Haas
November 16, 2020 9:40 pm

The volcano/CO2 contamination issue evaporates with one glance at this:
comment image

November 16, 2020 5:56 pm

I think we can detect the presence of fossil CO2 in the atmosphere from the amount of C14, which fossil carbon does not have any of. Come on people…

Reply to  Tom
November 16, 2020 6:49 pm

I thought c14 had been fount in coal, oil, gas and even diamonds.
Paul Giem, “Carbon-14 Content of Fossil Carbon,” Origins 51 (2001): 6–30

Reply to  GTB
November 16, 2020 7:25 pm

The half life of C14 is about 5700 years, therefore not present in fossil fuels.

Reply to  Tom
November 16, 2020 7:27 pm

That’s also a challenging measurement to make because of the low signal to noise. It’s been claimed, however.

mike macray
Reply to  Scissor
November 17, 2020 6:33 am

Thank you Tom,GTB & Scissor
Ten half life cycles of C14 is 57,000 years not nearly long enough for fossil fuels.
So if Atmospheric CO2 increase is fossil fuel generated it should be recognisable and quantifiable in the C12:C14 ratio. and the whole issue put to bed! What am I missing?
PS I suspect that C13 might be found in coal ,diamonds etc.

Reply to  Tom
November 17, 2020 6:06 am


Indeed fossil fuels have near zero 14C content, which reduced the natural 14C content of the atmosphere such that carbon dating done after 1870 needed correction tables to compensate for the loss. That worked until 1945, when humans started to use and test atomic bombs, which increased the 14C content with a doubling in 1960 when all open air tests were stopped. Since then, the 14C levels dropped back to “background”…

Another indication is the 13C/12C ratio, which is for fossil fuels a lot lower than in the atmosphere. As recent vegetation also has a lower 13C/12C ratio, it is not possible to make a differentiation between the two possible sources, but fortunately, the oxygen balance shows that vegetation is a net sink for CO2, that is preferentially for 12CO2, thus increasing the 13C/12C ratio of the atmosphere and thus not the cause of the sharp decline.
The oceans have a higher 13C/12C ratio than the atmosphere, neither the cause of the decline.

The drop in 13C/12C is in direct ratio to the emissions since 1850, both in the atmosphere and the ocean surface waters, as measured in coralline sponges:

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
November 17, 2020 8:12 am

The problem with using C14 after the start of the industrial revolution was that you had to calculate how far away your sample was from all of the known places where coal was being burned and hope that there weren’t any unknown sources as well.

It’s possible to use tables to make adjustments if your sample comes from a place that was far, far away from anyplace that had industrialized. However because of vagaries in how CO2 from those sites distributed around the globe plus estimates for how much coal was being burned were in many places little more than guesses, any ages calculated from CO2 would need much bigger error bars than ages calculated prior to the start of the industrial revolution.

Reply to  Tom
November 17, 2020 8:05 am

Using C14 as a tool to date things doesn’t work for anything that is younger than the start of the industrial revolution. That has been known by archaeologists since the C14 technique was first developed.

Peter W
November 16, 2020 6:04 pm

The facility on the top of Mauna Loa has been tracking atmospheric CO2 levels for quite a few years, and publishes results monthly. An interesting fact is the regular seasonal variation up and down. My guess is that two factors are involved here. First of all, note that most of earth’s land mass is in the northern hemisphere. This means springtime plant growth could be one cause. The other possible cause is variation in the absorption due to temperature changes in the oceans as a result, again, of the difference in sea surface area between the hemispheres.

In all the discussion above with respect to the oceans, I didn’t see anything about the contribution of undersea volcanoes to ocean CO2.

Reply to  Peter W
November 17, 2020 6:25 am

Peter W,

Indeed it is the growth of new leaves in spring and more land mass, thus vegetation, that has the largest influence in the NH, outperforming the CO2 input of the warming ocean surface there.
In the SH, the difference is much smaller and there is only a small seasonal amplitude.

Undersea volcanoes have no influence at all: as long as these are not near surface, the ocean hydraulic pressure and the undersaturated (for CO2) deep ocean waters at the low temperatures simply dissolve all CO2 emitted. That hardly makes a difference for the whole CO2 content of the oceans (and much of it is “recycled” CO2 from carbonate deposits)…

Robert of Texas
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 16, 2020 9:12 pm

The global emissions are estimated, and likely based on GDP – so I would expect you to find GDP is correlated with the estimated CO2 emissions. (I don’t know this as a fact, I am suggesting it could be true).

There is nothing (I can find) wrong with your math, the suspected problem I see is with the data. The fact that such a high correlation is showing should make you suspicious as well.

I feel the same about the estimates for natural emissions – frankly I would be surprised if the estimates are even close to reality.

Real man-made CO2 emissions are all about the source of power and the efficiency of production – and should only roughly correlate to how much is produced. The “noise” would overwhelm any analysis looking for a 20% change in a 4% contribution. (I suspect)

Reply to  Robert of Texas
November 17, 2020 6:32 am

Robert of Texas,

Global emissions are not estimated, they are based on fossil fuel sales (taxes!) and cement production. The only part that is guessed is the effect of land use changes, but even if you don’t use that figure, human emissions are about twice the increase in the atmosphere…

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 12:26 am

There are a number of good papers showing that GDP and CO2 emissions are linked for any country. One of the challenges for the crazies who want to do emission control is you have to decouple that in someway and currently no country has been able to do that.

November 16, 2020 6:29 pm

My first question is whether or not I can trust the people supplying the CO2 data and my second question is whether we are getting accurate data or highly adjusted raw data.

I have read that quite a few Mauna Loa measurements are deleted and I can only wonder how much adjusting is done to end up with a suspiciously smooth curve.

I don’t trust anything official especially when it concerns climate change.

When I see measurements that do not resemble what I expected, the first assumption I make is that the measurements are not accurate. Maybe the CO2 growth “narrative” is being managed by bureaucrats.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 5:32 am

The lack of a drop in the rate of increase in CO2 obviously has the Scripps Institution worried as they have stopped providing updates of the Mauna Loa CO2. As I understand it, the whole purpose in setting up the Observatory was to show the anthropogenic generated increase in CO2.

Current files are through to May-June 2020 instead of the earlier monthly updates.

Reply to  Bevan Dockery
November 17, 2020 6:47 am

Bevan Dockery,

Scripps was the first to manage the CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa, as Keeling was working there when he initiated the first measurements at the South Pole and Mauna Loa. He indeed was interested in CO2 measurements and how that was influenced by human emissions. At that time there was no link with global warming (if any, thought to be beneficial) and that was even before the “global cooling” scare.
Nowadays is is NOAA that maintains Mauna Loa and other US stations, but Scripps still uses its own independent measurements and calibraition standards at several stations.
The NOAA data are up to date (October / November 2020):

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 17, 2020 12:06 pm

Thank you Willis for that information. For years I have been downloading the Mauna Loa data from the Scripps web site for comparison with the UAH satellite temperature data, unaware that it was also on the NOAA site. I now see that the ftp site gives monthly data for Mauna Loa through to October 2020 but referring to the ESRL, NOAA web site under Data only gave me a listing through to December 2019.

Steve Keohane
November 16, 2020 7:29 pm

Could it be the forest fires coincidentally offset the lower ‘human’ emissions, if not totally, at least to some degree?

Pat from kerbob
November 16, 2020 8:16 pm

Doesn’t figure one confirm the obvious, that it’s the ocean warming and cooling that mostly controls CO2?

Big El Niño equals big spike CO2 increase
Big La Niña equals equally big trough of increase

All the rest noise

Robert of Texas
Reply to  Pat from kerbob
November 16, 2020 9:15 pm

(Nodding head in agreement) Yup!

Reply to  Pat from kerbob
November 17, 2020 6:53 am

Pat from kerbob,

The El Niño / La Niña is just noise: +/- 1.5 ppmv around the trend, which is ~90 ppmv over the same period since 1960 of accurate measurements. Mostly zeroing out after 2-3 years.

A warming ocean surface is good for 16 ppmv/K CO2, that is all. The rest of the increase is from about 200 ppmv human emissions over the same period…

November 16, 2020 10:34 pm

Looking at this from the other direction, and Im not confident to do the math, but Im curious. If the stated objective to make us all “safe” is to reduce CO2 levels to say 300ppm, over, say, 100 years, and the relationship to GDP is as you surmise, what would the global GDP have to reduce, in percentage terms, to achieve that objective? Im not asking if it would have any effect at all on temperature at all, just how much pain to achieve the alarmist stated objective of reducing CO2.

Second, given that figure, and allowing current GDP per capita of say, I dont know, Indonesia, then how many people do we have reduce the population to achieve that global GDP.

And, how, exactly, do we reduce the population to that level. On a basic, human level, who chooses who lives, dies, or is sterilized? Because, at even a modest GDP per capita, that is the brutal reality of what is being proposed.

Reply to  DavidF
November 17, 2020 3:17 am

Wait for the next emergency from the WHO to suggest your answer?

November 16, 2020 11:45 pm

Good analysis Willis, but…
You call the “human cost of the lockdowns” “almost incalculable”, but when “looking around the web, I see estimates for the lockdown-caused drop in 2020 GDP of from 4.5% up to 5.3%.”
So, not really uncalculable, in fact quite calculable and in about the same ballpark as the GFC.comment image

For the US and many other places the worst of the pandemic is ahead of you. Short, sharp lockdowns have, so far, helped save Australia from enduring what the US is about to: an uncontrolled epidemic, the overwhelming of hospitals, their ICUs and their staff and the resulting rationing of health care. Oklahoma, Montana and South Dakota are there: their ICUs are already full, and cases are rising exponentionally.

Oklahoma has about 918 ICU beds. Based on best available data, we estimate that 62% (569) are currently occupied by non-COVID patients. Of the 349 ICU beds remaining, 362 are needed by COVID cases, or >100% of available beds.

Is a few percentage points of GDP too large a price to pay for that? Time will tell. I just hope your medical staff start getting vaccinated in early in December and not January or February when they’ll be dropping like flies.

Howard Dewhirst
Reply to  Loydo
November 16, 2020 11:54 pm

The steep fall in emissions in 2009 As a result of the GFC, was reflected in neither global temperature or CO2, suggesting quite strongly that human emissions are an also ran in the global carbon budget, not a driver

Reply to  Howard Dewhirst
November 17, 2020 3:41 am

Howard, did you not read Willis’ guest post? Your “steep fall in emissions” was “not reflected” for precisely the same reasons.