After my last encounter on Bishop-Hill, I had a thought that I might simply avoid commenting there. However, when someone suggested that Rupert Darwall was a perceptive chap, I couldn’t resist pointing out that this was only true if regarding complete nonsense as having merit, qualified as perceptive. For context, Rupert Darwall recently wrote an article defending the – unpublished – work of Murry Salby, who happens to think that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural, and not anthropogenic. Well, he is very obviously wrong. My comment, however, lead to a new Discussion thread where I was challenged to show why Darwall and Salby are wrong. I tried, but I don’t think I managed to convince anyone there.
The problem I have is that showing that Murry Salby’s ideas are wrong is extremely easy. Consider the figure below. It shows how much CO2 we emit through burning fossil fuels, how much is absorbed and emitted by the oceans, and how much is absorbed and emitted by the biosphere (of which we’re also part). What’s fairly clear is that both the oceans and the biosphere absorb more than they emit (we don’t really absorb any as we’re not currently creating fossils, or – at least – not nearly fast enough). If the oceans and biosphere are absorbing more than they emit, then they very clearly cannot be the source of the increase in atmospheric CO2 and – in fact – are absorbing almost half of what we emit. The rise in atmospheric CO2 is, therefore, all us. To illustrate how well Bishop-Hill gets this trivial concept, there is a Bishop-Hill post that attempts to mock Bob Bindschadler by pointing out that the oceans and biosphere emit much more than we do, while failing to point out that they then absorb more than they emit.
You can even do more. The isotope ratios (C14, C13, and C12) tell us that the source must be old biological organisms (fossils). The reduction in atmospheric oxygen tells us the source is something being burned. There are multiple lines of evidence that show that Murry Salby’s suggestion that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural, is complete and utter nonsense.
So, here’s the conundrum I have. Bishop-Hill is just a blog and it’s also a free world. People can say whatever they like and if they want to promote silly ideas, that’s fine. Under normal circumstances I would simply ignore it – there are plenty of blogs spouting nonsense about climate science that I happily ignore. However, this is not just any old blog, it is run by someone (Andrew Montford) who has quite a high-profile, in the UK at least. He appears on the radio, on television, writes articles for magazine, and is quoted in newspaper articles. Yet, he appears not to understand, or accept, what is a trivial – but crucial – aspect of this topic. If he were honest, the next time he’s asked to talk about this topic in the media, he might respond with : “Sorry, maybe you should find someone else. I don’t understand this very well.” Maybe, also, the next time he writes a post mocking Julia Slingo – the Met Office’s Chief Scientist – he should consider the possibility that the reason he doesn’t get mocked more often is that decent people don’t mock those who have trouble understanding really simple concepts. I really do think we need a better class of climate “skeptic”.