ALEXANDER COCKBURN: Is Global Warming a Sin?


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

From Papal Indulgences to Carbon Credits
Is Global Warming a Sin?
April 28 / 29, 2007

In a couple of hundred years, historians will be comparing the frenzies over our
supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end 
of the tenth century as the Christian millennium approached. Then, as now, the 
doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet's 
rapid downward slide.

Then as now, a buoyant market throve on fear. The Roman Catholic Church was a 
bank whose capital was secured by the infinite mercy of Christ, Mary and the 
Saints, and so the Pope could sell indulgences, like checks. The sinners 
established a line of credit against bad behavior and could go on sinning. Today
a world market in "carbon credits" is in formation. Those whose "carbon 
footprint" is small can sell their surplus carbon credits to others, less 
virtuous than themselves.

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero 
empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable
contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers 
rely entirely on unverified, crudely oversimplified computer models to finger 
mankind's sinful contribution. Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon
trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the 
old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments. By the
sixteenth century, long after the world had sailed safely through the end of the
first millennium, Pope Leo X financed the reconstruction of St. Peter's Basilica
by offering a "plenary" indulgence, guaranteed to release a soul from purgatory.

Now imagine two lines on a piece of graph paper. The first rises to a crest, 
then slopes sharply down, then levels off and rises slowly once more. The other 
has no undulations. It rises in a smooth, slowly increasing arc. The first, wavy
line is the worldwide CO2 tonnage produced by humans burning coal, oil and 
natural gas. On this graph it starts in 1928, at 1.1 gigatons (i.e. 1.1 billion 
metric tons). It peaks in 1929 at 1.17 gigatons. The world, led by its mightiest
power, the USA, plummets into the Great Depression, and by 1932 human CO2 
production has fallen to 0.88 gigatons a year, a 30 per cent drop. Hard times 
drove a tougher bargain than all the counsels of Al Gore or the jeremiads of the
IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change). Then, in 1933 it began to 
climb slowly again, up to 0.9 gigatons.

And the other line, the one ascending so evenly? That's the concentration of CO2
in the atmosphere, parts per million (ppm) by volume, moving in 1928 from just 
under 306, hitting 306 in 1929, to 307 in 1932 and on up. Boom and bust, the 
line heads up steadily. These days it's at 380.There are, to be sure, seasonal 
variations in CO2, as measured since 1958 by the instruments on Mauna Loa, 
Hawai'i. (Pre-1958 measurements are of air bubbles trapped in glacial ice.) 
Summer and winter vary steadily by about 5 ppm, reflecting photosynthesis 
cycles. The two lines on that graph proclaim that a whopping 30 per cent cut in 
man-made CO2 emissions didn't even cause a 1 ppm drop in the atmosphere's CO2. 
Thus it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from 
human burning of fossil fuels.

I met Dr. Martin Hertzberg, the man who drew that graph and those conclusions, 
on a Nation cruise back in 2001. He remarked that while he shared many of the 
Nation's editorial positions, he approved of my reservations on the issue of 
supposed human contributions to global warming, as outlined in columns I wrote 
at that time. Hertzberg was a meteorologist for three years in the U.S. Navy, an
occupation which gave him a lifelong mistrust of climate modeling. Trained in 
chemistry and physics, a combustion research scientist for most of his career, 
he's retired now in Copper Mountain, Colorado, still consulting from time to 

Not so long ago, Hertzberg sent me some of his recent papers on the global 
warming hypothesis, a construct now accepted by many progressives as infallible 
as Papal dogma on matters of faith or doctrine. Among them was the graph 
described above so devastating to the hypothesis.

As Hertzberg readily acknowledges, the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere 
has increased about 21 per cent in the past century. The world has also been 
getting just a little bit warmer. The not very reliable data on the world's 
average temperature (which omit most of the world's oceans and remote regions, 
while over-representing urban areas) show about a 0.5Co increase in average 
temperature between 1880 and 1980, and it's still rising, more sharply in the 
polar regions than elsewhere. But is CO2, at 380 parts per million in the 
atmosphere, playing a significant role in retaining the 94 per cent of solar 
radiation that's absorbed in the atmosphere, as against water vapor, also a 
powerful heat absorber, whose content in humid tropical atmosphere, can be as 
high as 2 per cent, the equivalent of 20,000 ppm. As Hertzberg says, water in 
the form of oceans, clouds, snow, ice cover and vapor "is overwhelming in the 
radiative and energy balance between the earth and the sun Carbon dioxide and 
the greenhouse gases are, by comparison, the equivalent of a few farts in a 
hurricane." And water is exactly that component of the earth's heat balance that
the global warming computer models fail to account for.

It's a notorious inconvenience for the Greenhousers that data also show carbon 
dioxide concentrations from the Eocene period, 20 million years before Henry 
Ford trundled his first model T out of the shop, 300-400 per cent higher than 
current concentrations. The Greenhousers deal with other difficulties like the 
medieval warming period's higher-than-today's temperatures by straightforward 
chicanery, misrepresenting tree-ring data (themselves an unreliable guide) and 
claiming the warming was a local, insignificant European affair.

We're warmer now, because today's world is in the thaw following the last Ice 
Age. Ice ages correlate with changes in the solar heat we receive, all due to 
predictable changes in the earth's elliptic orbit round the sun, and in the 
earth's tilt. As Hertzberg explains, the cyclical heat effect of all of these 
variables was worked out in great detail between 1915 and 1940 by the Serbian 
physicist, Milutin Milankovitch, one of the giants of 20th-century astrophysics.
In past postglacial cycles, as now, the earth's orbit and tilt gives us more and
longer summer days between the equinoxes.

Water covers 71 per cent of the surface of the planet. As compared to the 
atmosphere, there's at least a hundred times more CO2 in the oceans, dissolved 
as carbonate. As the postglacial thaw progresses the oceans warm up, and some of
the dissolved carbon emits into the atmosphere, just like fizz in soda water 
taken out of the fridge. "So the greenhouse global warming theory has it ass 
backwards," Hertzberg concludes. "It is the warming of the earth that is causing
the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse." He has recently had vivid 
confirmation of that conclusion. Several new papers show that for the last three
quarter million years CO2 changes always lag global temperatures by 800 to 2,600

It looks like Poseidon should go hunting for carbon credits. Trouble is, the 
human carbon footprint is of zero consequence amid these huge forces and 
volumes, and that's not even to mention the role of the giant reactor beneath 
our feet: the earth's increasingly hot molten core.

Escaping the Matrix website:  
cyberjournal website:             
Community Democracy Framework:
Subscribe cyberjournal list:            •••@••.•••  (send 
blank message)
Posting archives:                      
cyberjournal blog (join in):  
Moderator:                                         •••@••.•••  (comments