Consulting  Geologist

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Timothy Casey B.Sc.(Hons.): Consulting Geologist   

Climate Change Catastrophes in Critical Thinking

This is to be a work in progress. As I collect more interesting evidence, I'll be sure to add it.


This article explores the phenomenon of global warming, climate change, and the extraordinary consequences popularly speculated. As a hypothesis can only be scientific if it is testable, this article tests key assertions of climate change Catastrophism against the facts of the geological record. Finding that, climate change Catastrophism lacks scientific support, the implications of neo-catastrophist behaviour with special regard to global warming is considered and in this light, the proposed remedies for global warming are examined against contemporary crises and opportunities. This article finds that the impact of excessive land clearance is of far greater concern.


What is Global Warming?

Global warming is a generalisation in both space and time used to describe the rising trend in mean global temperature evident in many but not all analyses of near-surface temperature data. Temperature is measured instrumentally at weather stations located mostly in and around cities, towns and villages; and by infrared imaging of the lower Troposphere obtained by satellite. The Troposphere is the lowest layer of atmosphere making lower Tropospheric mean temperatures much more representative of global mean temperature than the average of measurements taken in mostly built up areas that are ultimately exaggerated by building heat during Winter, air-conditioner venting during Summer, and radiant heat from bitumen and concrete, etc. It is noteworthy that those promoting the global warming panic still use the soundly discredited instrumental temperature charts instead of the less convenient satellite data.

Climate change, and in particular the subject of global warming, has become a hotly debated subject in recent years. Much of the debate seems to be focussed on speculative projections arising from an emphasis of the soundly discredited instrumental temperature averages of contemporary history to the exclusion of better quality satellite data along with what is known about temperature trends throughout human history and indeed prehistory.

According to those alarmed at the prospect of a warmer planet Earth, global warming poses one of the greatest threats humanity have faced in our rather short history. It is often asserted that global warming is caused by rising carbon dioxide levels and that it will ultimately cause the expansion of deserts and arid regions, a substantial rise in mean sea level, and the mass extinction of much of the life on planet Earth. If such catastrophes were indeed the product of global warming, they would have occurred as consequences of past global warming events. The geological record with numerous indicators of temperature, climate, sea level, carbon dioxide levels, and biodiversity; can be used to test the speculation that global warming would indeed be catastrophic.



What Can History & the Geological Record Tell Us About Global Warming?

How Reliable is Geological History in Modelling Global Warming?

Claims of global warming catastrophe are speculations made on the basis of limited combinations of physical processes. The applicability of such combinations cannot be proven on their own merit, because without some form of empirical testing we cannot verify that they are completely representative of all processes relevant to global climate change. Without a repeatable test against which to measure such claims, they cannot correctly be described as scientific hypotheses. Geological history is ignored by those raising the alarm about global warming and I have heard it argued that the geological record is irrelevant because it is "in the past and things are really different now". However, the very uniqueness claimed of those current conditions identified as affecting the climate can also be tested against the geological record. Moreover, cyclicity is well documented in both history (eg. Tuchman, 1987) and geology (eg. Miall, 1997), so it stands to reason that the past can offer a valuable testbed for climate speculation.



Temperature in the geological record, is determined by oxygen isotope ratios measured from the analysis of remains of floating marine organisms and calibrated against the correlation of oxygen isotope ratios measured in modern floating marine organism remains against temperature means measured in human history (eg. Veizer et al., 2000).  Another very accurate indicator of temperature is the extent of specific sediment types such as tillites, moraine deposits, and drop-stones, indicative of glacial activity at latitudes specific to the plate tectonic reconstruction of the period of geological history in question (Scotese, 2001; Royer et al., 2004). Recent pH corrections to the oxygen isotope palaeotemperature record made by Royer et al. (2004) have improved palaeotemperature correlation with both cosmic radiation cycles and temperature constraints imposed by the varying distribution of glacial sediment. In this sense we have a very accurate picture of some of the patterns and variations of temperature throughout geological history.



Taking variations of mean sea level into account has proven vital to accurate basin analysis. Basin analysis is used to identify the historical path of source and reservoir rocks relative to the oil window. This is used to determine whether potential reservoirs may have been buried too deeply or alternatively if potential source rocks have been buried deeply enough to produce the targeted hydrocarbons. Miall (1997) devotes an entire section to the subject of non-seismic methods for reconstructing a palaeobathymetric record. While seismic methods used stratigraphic features such as onlap to indicate relative sea level through time, other methods include sediment thickness plots, the Fischer plot based on cycle number, and the R3 plot based on decompacted sediment thicknesses. While precise correlation between methods is not observed, the accuracy of correlation is surprising. If palaeobathymetry is accurate enough for profitable stratigraphic analysis in petroleum exploration, then the global plots are accurate enough to test the assertion that global warming causes sea level rises.



Sedimentology is a study of sedimentation that compares modern sediments with sediments observed in the geological record in order to identify depositional environments. Implicit in the nature and extent of depositional environments is the controlling palaeoclimate. Pelletal clays, evapourites, desiccation cracks, synaeresis cracks, and wind borne sediments such as sand dunes, loess, and parna are all indicators of arid conditions which are confirmed by the presence of clasts with etched or pitted surfaces, silcrete, and dreikanters (wind-faceted pebbles). Tillite, moraine, drop-stones, and striated erosion surfaces found on outcrop, boulders and drop-stones are all produced by glaciers. Coals are typically preserved in wet and humid environments. "Polystrate" trees (trees preserved as coal and clastic sediment accumulates around them) and varves (seasonal sedimentation) are features of lacustrine or lake sedimentation. Other environments clearly indicated by sediment types, sequences and stratigraphic sequence include deltas, estuaries, submarine canyons, braided river systems, meandering river systems, coral reefs, abyssal plains, coasts, etc. Sediment features such as bed thickness, symmetrical ripples, asymmetric ripples, megaripples, crossbedding, trough width, and grain size indicate the relative volume, speed and power of transport mechanisms such as river systems, which in turn are governed by the amount of precipitation available to the fluvial (river) system (Miall, 1996).



The fossil record is well established, with faunal progression so well documented that in some parts of the fossil record, transitional forms are too numerous to determine a precise time of speciation. Although the global distribution and extent of environments favouring fossilisation varies with time, there is a well defined alternation of mass extinction and biological radiation.


Carbon Dioxide Levels Throughout Geological History

Past carbon dioxide levels are measured from the contents of vesicles and cavities that were once exposed to the atmosphere - such as those found in ice cores. Another method used to determine older carbon dioxide levels is the use of a series of carbon dioxide steady states to calibrate the weathering of silicates with carbon dioxide levels.


Is Global Warming Really Catastrophic?

To answer the question of whether global warming really is catastrophic, it is logical to fall back on science rather than politics or economics. Science has nothing to do with consensus nor with qualification. Science is entirely based on hard evidence, falsifiable hypotheses, and repeatable tests. Consider; the world was still an oblate spheroid back in the times when by almost unanimous human consensus, the world was believed to be flat and have edges guarded by terrible beasts. A lack of approval of your peers and a lack of qualifications cannot possibly prevent you from testing scientific theories such as gravity. In fact, you conduct a scientific experiment every time you cross the road when you check to ensure no traffic is approaching before stepping off the curb. You can also test the claims that global warming has catastrophic consequences because having established that the geological record provides an excellent test bed for these claims, we can now test them as hypotheses against the geological record. This, is the nature of science. Let us therefore scientifically test each of the hypotheses that global warming does indeed have catastrophic consequences.

To this end, I've compiled a comparative record of cosmic radiation, mean global temperature, atmospheric carbon dioxide, atmospheric oxygen, extinction rates, and variations in mean sea level:

Phanerozoic climate diagram with temperature after Scotese (2001) correlated with biodiversity (above) 
but not with carbon dioxide after Berner (2001)
Cosmic Radiation in gold, Carbon Dioxide in bold violet, & Temperature in red after Royer et al. (2004), Geocarb III Carbon dioxide hypothetical computer model in fine violet after Berner (2001), Oxygen in green after Berner et al.  (2003), Extinction Rates in brown after Futuyma (1998), & Seismic Mean Sea Level Variations after Exxon in blue, & Qualitative Mean Sea Level Variations in teal after Hallam et al. (1989). Radiometric dates in black grid of 50 million year increments with epochs in alternating grey and white. Glacial periods are overprinted in solid cyan. Note the greater correlation between cosmic radiation and temperature than between carbon dioxide and temperature. Note also the sudden rise in extinction rates every time global mean temperature falls below 19 degrees Celcius. The only extinction event to occur above 19 degrees Celcius occurs in response to a sudden drop in oxygen levels. Up until the break-up of Gondwana, oxygen and temperature have a roughly inverse correlation. Relative sea level sometimes correlates directly, sometimes inversely, and at other times indefinitely which, is to say that mean sea level and temperature do not correlate throughout geological history.


"Global Warming is Unprecedented"
Is it really?

If global warming is indeed in some way unprecedented, then we would expect to find no match for the current global warming trend in the geological record. Let us consider just the most recent Holocene epoch - dominated by human history.

graph of climate data over the past 11000 years depicting two major Holocene Optimums 
(warm periods), the Minoan Climate Optimum, the Roman Climate Optimum, the Medieval Warm Period, 
and the less significant current warm period.
Average near-surface temperatures of the northern hemisphere during the past 11,000 years compiled by David Archibald after Dansgaard et al. (1969) & Schönwiese (1995).

Looking at just the historical picture, shown in the graph above, we can see that global warming has happened many times before in human history. We've had the Minoan Warm Period, the Roman Climate Optimum, and the Medieval Warm Period in addition to the current warm period (Dansguard et al., 1968; Schönwiese, 1995; Keigwin, 1996). Note the steepness of the rise in temperature at the beginning of the Minoan warm period. This rate of warming far exceeds that of the current warm period. Huang et al. (1997) determined that the depiction of the Medieval Warm Period in this graph may be somewhat conservative. According to their study of 6000 boreholes worldwide, the global mean temperatures of the Medieval Warm Period dwarf the changes of the Twentieth Century.

The evidence shows repeatedly that global warming is not unprecedented and according to Ruddiman (2001) as well as Singer & Avery (2006), global warming is a regular cyclic phenomenon on planet Earth. In fact, the normal global mean temperature for planet earth given the Phanerozoic history, is actually 19.5 degrees Celcius; a full three degrees higher than the present mean.


"Global Warming Will Lead to a Catastrophic Rise in Sea Levels"
Is that so?

Neither the Hallam sea level curve, nor the Exxon sea level curve correlates reliably with variations in temperature throughout the Phanerozoic. However, the response of sea level to temperature does appear to increase as continental landmass becomes less clustered. For example, during the late Ordovician glaciation, sea levels fell only slightly in comparison to later glacial periods such as the last ice age. What is interesting is the persistent rise and fall of mean sea level during glaciation. While mean sea level appears to follow the major trends in temperature throughout a number of epochs across the Phanerozoic, Jurassic and Triassic mean sea levels are lowest when the temperature is highest. In spite of common direct correlations, the almost equally common inverse correlations between temperature and sea level suggests that something other than global mean temperature controls sea level.

Planet Earth's crust or lithosphere, is a skin made up of independent plates that float on the liquid aesthenosphere. As such, the lithosphere can be buoyed up where it is lighter and sag where it is heavier. Isostatic reaction describes the process known as, "unloading", where there is a tectonic rebound of continental plates that are are stripped of a mass of either rock (by erosion) or ice (by melting), combined with increased mass in ocean basins (Watts, 2001). This has been used to explain why in many cases sea level is documented as having risen in response to cooling and fallen in response to warming (Lisitzin, 1974).

For example, sea levels actually fell during the steady rise in temperature prior to the temperature maximum at the end of the middle Ordovician. This dwarfed the minor rise and fall of sea level during the late Ordovician glaciation. For the larger part, sea levels were very low during the Carboniferous-Permian Glaciation, but the fluctuations of the period saw minor rises in sea level in response to minor cooling and minor falls in sea level in response to minor warming. Of greater significance is the minor response in sea level at the same time as the major temperature peak in the Triassic that is followed by a large scale rise in sea level as temperatures fall drastically into the Jurassic period. This inverse correlation stops at the break-up of Gondwana, and sea levels have appeared to follow temperature more accurately since the beginning of the Cretaceous about 140 million years ago. These anomalies in the relationship between sea level and global mean temperature are confirmed by independent studies utilising different methods (Hallam et al., 1989). As it turns out, anomalous response of sea level to temperature continues until Gondwana moves away from the South Pole and begins to break up.

Modern studies of sea level including both those using sparsely distributed tide gauges and those using satellite altimeter logs have shown the global mean sea level is also influenced by the seasons (Chen et al., 1998), el Nino (Chambers et al., 2001), and volcanic eruptions (Church et al., 2005). Modern satellite measurements of sea level confirm this complexity of sea level response, showing for example a 30mm per annum rise in the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans against a simultaneous 10mm per annum fall in the western Indian Ocean with a global average sea level rise of 4mm per year over the years 1993-2001 (Church et al., 2006).

The geological evidence shows that mean sea level is more likely to rise in response to global warming if there is sufficient continental dissemination away from the poles and that the tendency for isostatic sea level reaction (inverse correlation with temperature) is heightened by increased rifting, which generalisation corresponds to modern observations of minor global sea level fluctuations (eg. Church et al., 2006; Douglas, 1997). Although Cainozoic sea level and temperature responses do correlate, this correlation is tenuous at best in view of geological history, and an understanding the other mechanisms that cause mean sea level variations would lend itself to more reliable statements about the impact of global warming on mean sea level. The impact of such mechanisms as el Nino and decadal mechanisms such as volcanism raise questions about studies of limited duration, such as the 1993-2001 satellite record used by Church et al. (2006), and suggest that global sea level trends can only be determined from data sets spanning at least a century. Tide gauge data has supported the suggestion that global mean sea level has risen 200mm over the last century along a non-geometric trend (Douglas, 1997). However geologically stable the setting of a tide gauge, no ocean is independent of isostatic response and therefore global mean sea level can only be be determined reliably from truly global data such as satellite altimeter logs, taken over at least a century of measurement. While we are beginning to understand the numerous mechanisms that effect sea level, we have insufficient empirical evidence to draw any conclusion about the current global mean sea level trends independent of decadal, annual, and monthly processes.

Nevertheless, in the event sea levels do rise in response to a relative increase in mean global temperature, it is well worth asking whether the land area made available by retreating ice will exceed the land area flooded by rising sea levels.


"Global Warming Will Cause Widespread Desertification"
Is This Really True?

In the geological record, we see associated with cooling, aridity indicators such as thinner, finer fluvial and lacustrine sediments (Reading, 1996); & increased sedimentary evapourites, evapourite casts, and evapourite moulds (Boucot et al., 2004). Evidently, as the earth cools the growth of ice caps removes water from the atmosphere leaving less water for precipitation. In fact, the association of desertification with the Permian Ice Age is so well accepted that it is even reported by the Penguin Encyclopaedia as the only other key feature of the Permian apart from glaciation. The Willandra Lakes in New South Wales actually dried up as deserts in Australia expanded during the last ice age (Bowler, 1971; Bowler 1975; Wasson & Bowler, 1984). White (1994) connects the post-settlement aridification of Australia with deforestation rather than climate change.

In more recent history, the 1973 drought that advanced the Sahara in Sahel (Press & Seiver, 1982) occurred just after the lowest point in the 1945-1975 temperature slump depicted by the IPCC's instrumental temperature record. According to the IPCC's instrumental temperature record, the period 1913-1945 was 0.2ºC cooler than the period 1945-1974. According to the research of Pittock (1975), southeastern Australia enjoyed an increase in rainfall of between 10-20% during the warmer 1945-1974 period. The most recent drought in Australia began during a mild temperature minimum in 2003 that was compounded by a much more severe temperature minimum in late 2004 based on satellite measurements of Tropospheric mean temperature.

Throughout history, we may postulate that warm ages allowed sufficient agriculture to support large armies capable of defending the extensive borders of enormous empires including the Greeks, the Romans, and the Moors. Cooling coincided with the erosion and collapse of large empires. Presumably because agriculture under such conditions could no longer support the standing armies necessary to extensive border defence.

The thickening and coarsening fluviatile deposits of the Kevington Creek Beds in Victoria (Marsden, 1988) correspond to a Devonian temperature maximum around 400 million years ago before thinning upwards with cooling, into the Early Carboniferous fluviatile deposits of the Mansfield Group on it's basal pebbly sandstone. Although a transition from meandering river and flood plain deposits to sediments successively more typical of braided river and outwash systems confirms the tectonic uplift (Tabberabberan Orogeny) of Webby (1972), the thickness trends of the beds is most certainly indicative of varying flow rates that are ultimately dependent on the amount of precipitation in the region. A similar situation is documented in the Lake Frome Group (Wopfner, 1969; Gravestock & Cowley, 1995) of the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Here, very fine Cambrian fluviatile sediments from the Balcoracana Formation thicken into the fine fluviatile sediments of the Pantapinna Sandstone and thence into the much thicker braided river sediments of the Grindstone Range Formation. Once again, tectonic uplift of the source is indicated, but for sediment loads to increase, there must also be a corresponding increase in river flow and scale and the Grindstone Range Sandstone is on such a large scale that in addition to relatively large trough structures, it also exhibits asymmetric bifurcating ripples (eg. the photograph on this site's home page (, that are typical of shorelines attached to large bodies of water. In this case, the transition from very thin redbeds frequently punctuated by surfaces with mud (desiccation) cracks and evapourite moulds to large scale braided river systems on outwash plains coincide with a Cambrian global warming event. The Permian to Triassic in the Cooper Basin (South Australia & Queensland) displays a transition from terrestrial and subaqueous glaciogenic sediments through fluviodeltaic and lacustrine sedimentation in the Gidgealpa Group to the fluviolacustrine sediments of the Arrabury Formation with mudstones and carbonaceous mudstones of the Callamurra Member passing up into the sandstones of the Paning Member (Hill & Gravestock, 1995). This transition occurs with a steady increase in the proportion of fluviatile sedimentation with time indicating a steady increase in available precipitation during a period that coincides with the build-up to the Triassic temperature maximum.

While there are exceptions to the generalisation supported by these examples because there are nearly always arid regions somewhere on planet earth, it has been found in a number of extensive palaeogeographic studies (eg. Boucot et al., 2004; Scotese, 2001) that deserts advance in response to cooling and retreat in response to warming. On a smaller scale, the desert wet season is always in the high summer at the hottest time of the year, and the increased road maintenance expenses associated with the use of waterlogged roads is why some petroleum companies minimise their operations over high Summer. In my experience as a  petroleum geologist, the driest time of the desert year is mid-Winter. This is explained by the same research that recently proved the "Iris Effect" (Spencer et al., 2007) by showing that as temperatures rise, water vapour accumulates in the atmosphere until it is precipitated coincident with the cooling part of the cycle. If however, this vapour laden air finds it's way over a desert, rain will fall with temperatures and the Sun. Ultimately, it is only the warmest part of the year that evaporates enough water to bring the desert rains.

Wendtz et al. (2007) found that satellite measurements confirmed an increase of 7% in atmospheric water vapour per degree Celcius increase in global mean temperature that translates to 1-3% corresponding increase in global precipitation. Increased precipitation as a consequence of global warming is a verifiable empirical scientific fact that refutes any conjecture that desertification can be linked with global warming. If anything, this finding proves that desertification may be a product of global cooling but cannot be caused by global warming.

The facts suggest that much more abundant precipitation as indicated by larger more powerful rivers is characteristic of global warming. If anything, global warming is good news for farmers who depend for their livelihood on rainfall. The geological evidence shows that desertification cannot be produced by global warming.


"Global Warming Will Lead to a Mass Extinction"
Will it Really?

Within the fossil record, conspicuous and permanent disappearance of large numbers of fossil types indicating a sudden drop in biodiversity are observed at several points. These are called mass extinctions, and are well documented (eg. Futuyma, 1998) in spite of the increasing preservation of fossils (Rhode & Muller, 2005). In the Phanerozoic, we observe three major mass extinctions all marking the beginning of the deepest glaciations, whereas biological radiation coincides with the warmer periods (Berner, 1990; Scotese, 2001; also Futuyma, 1998 compared with Royer et al., 2004) when there is a sudden explosion of biological diversity to fill niches not available during colder periods. All but one Phanerozoic mass extinction event exceeding nine families extinct per million years occurs just as mean global temperature falls below 19 degrees Celcius. At the end of the Permian around 250 million years ago, oxygen began to fall as temperatures rose. Large insects and other organisms dependent on atmospheric oxygen levels above 30% began to die out in large numbers. Although carbon dioxide levels rose, this was only by 0.15% compared with an oxygen decrease one hundred times larger, falling 15%. I wonder where all that oxygen went? The previous occurrence of  mass extinction caused by variation to atmospheric composition was 2500 million years ago when shortly after the available iron buffer was oxidised, rising oxygen levels from photosynthesising bacteria wiped out nearly all of the anoxic bacteria on planet Earth, in what Plimer (2001) calls a greater holocaust than anything perpetrated by humans.

While atmospheric composition can prove critical to existing life forms, global mean temperature falling through 19 degrees Celcius is by far the most consistent parameter correlated with mass extinction. When major volcanic eruptions and major impacts are said to cause a mass extinction, the common mechanism thought to kill off life is the process by which dust that gets thrown up into the atmosphere filters the sun's radiation and triggers an ice age that removes ecological niches that many species are dependent on. It is global cooling that brings about mass extinction and not global warming. In fact there are no examples of an extinction event during a warm period that are not explained by other more critical mechanisms.

The most recent mass extinction occurred during the last ice age, and the role of desertification in the extinction of the Australian mega fauna is spectacularly apparent in the vicinity of the Willandra Lakes. Here, the last fresh water of the region drew long term occupation by Indigenous Australian people, who survived the drought conditions living off the shellfish, and the animals that came to drink at the lakes (Bowler, 1971; Hope, 1978).

Speculation that global warming may kill off the Polar bear is flawed because the Polar bear has survived several previous warm ages, some dwarfing the present warm age in both heat and suddenness. If anything, the modern extinction of species has a much more direct link to Homo Sapiens than global warming. Modern causes of extinction of species are much more along the lines of excessive hunting and fishing, raising aqueous particulates to excessive levels in rivers and wetlands, biological contamination and the release of vermin, improperly processed chemical waste, littering, water table poisoning, poaching and other extreme sports (particularly those that destroy habitat such as digging mud holes with 4x4s), aquifer contamination, jettisoning ballast in seas outside the abyssal plains zones, deforestation, overuse of fertiliser and pesticides, and inappropriate agriculture (eg. cotton growing on a desert island like Australia and farming without cultivating associated productive symbiotic woodlands). Such things as these are actual human activities and while the human being can be linked with the extinction of many species, global warming is linked with the evolution of new species to fill the new niches made available by warmer climates that are ultimately more amenable to life.

The evidence clearly shows that global warming brings about the opposite of mass extinction. We are currently near the bottom extreme of global mean temperatures on Earth, and global warming can only bring us closer to what are more normal temperatures for planet earth. The evidence shows that global warming is good for the environment because by opening up new viable ecological niches to life, global warming increases biodiversity.


"Global Warming is Caused by Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel Combustion "
Oh, Really?

The Largest Human Contribution to Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is produced by many natural sources including volcanoes, animals, and plants when aspiring at night. Carbon dioxide has been as high as 7000ppm and back in the Devonian, corals evolved when carbon dioxide levels were more than seven times the present concentration. Forests first appeared in force during the Carboniferous when carbon dioxide levels were at least 1000ppm. The horticultural benefits of high carbon dioxide levels are well known (Sylvan, 1992). In fact, it has been widely and repeatedly found both through historical (IE tree ring studies of year to year growth) and experimental studies of plant growth with reference to annual atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, that higher carbon dioxide levels lead to much greater plant growth (eg. Kimball, 1983; Cure & Acock, 1986; Mortensen, 1987, Lawler & Mitchell, 1991; Drake & Leadley, 1991; Gifford, 1992; Poorter, 1993, Kimball et al., 2007). In fact, both terrestrial (McNaughton, 1989) and aquatic (Cyr & Face, 1993) animal life have prospered due to increased plant growth resulting from rising carbon dioxide levels, proving that of all industrial emissions, carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but is in fact a natural aerial fertiliser. The fact that carbon pooling as a result of plant growth, accelerates in response to rising carbon dioxide levels strongly suggests that currently increasing carbon dioxide levels have more to do with loss of photosynthesising carbon sinks than existing sources of atmospheric carbon such as fossil fuel combustion.

Soils annually contribute between 76.5 & 80.4 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere (Raich & Potter, 1995; Raich et al., 2002), dwarfing the 7.823 gigatons of carbon emission attributed to the combustion of fossil fuels (IPCC, 2007). The IPCC's figure of 2.38 gigatons of annual carbon emission to the atmosphere from deforestation roughly corresponds to results from the studies of Melillo et al. (1996) and Haughton & Hackler (2002). As we shall see, it is the balance of much larger sources and sinks of carbon dioxide that will play the greatest role in determining atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

While the origin of much of the modern atmospheric carbon dioxide is speculated to be industrial, carbon dioxide levels vary substantially on a seasonal basis and correlate inversely with smaller seasonal variations in atmospheric oxygen concentrations (Keeling et al., 1996). However, the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and oxygen concentration curves reflects decreasing photosynthesis, which Lyons (2007) documents as the almost exclusive producer of oxygen. While we are busily distracted with the assumption that fossil fuel combustion is the main cause of the rise observed in atmospheric carbon dioxide, we forget to consider the role of decreasing photosynthesis consequent to deforestation.

According to Schlesinger (1991), the carbon reservoir represented by photosynthesising biota is around 560 gigatons. Deforestation to the tune of 156 gigatons since 1850 (Haughton & Hackler, 2002) represents a total deforestation of 22%. Although current photosynthesising biota account for 120 gigatons of atmospheric carbon sequestration (Bowes, 1991), this figure would be closer to 154 gigatons of carbon sequestration back in 1850 given the impact of deforestation on photosynthesizing biota. The total accumulated loss of atmospheric carbon sequestration since 1850 is currently more than 38 gigatons (Casey, 2008); greater than four times the amount of carbon released by fossil fuel combustion to the atmosphere. The dominant human activity contributing to the rise of atmospheric carbon dioxide is not fossil fuel combustion but the deficit in photosynthesis accumulated over more than 150 years of deforestation.

The Relationship of Carbon Dioxide and Mean Global Temperature

Although Berner (1990) maintains that the carbon dioxide record supports carbon dioxide greenhouse mechanism as a major control on climate, Berner and others (eg. Royer et al., 2004) fail to establish causality in their argument (Shaviv & Veizer, 2004). The data of Berner (1990) and (Royer et al., 2004) does indicate a very minor correlation between carbon dioxide levels and temperature that is even coarser when compared to the carbon dioxide curve of Berner (2001). However, contrary to the conclusion of Royer et al. (2004), Shaviv & Veizer (2004) accurately point out that this correlation (if any) is dwarfed by the imperfect correlation of cosmic radiation levels with global temperature - as you can see in the comparative graph of Phanerozoic climate variables I've depicted at the beginning of this chapter. The fall of carbon dioxide across the Phanerozoic is not followed by a corresponding fall in temperature. If anything, the much higher frequency of temperature variation is only matched by minor spikes along the carbon dioxide decay that vary in timing with the occurrence of corresponding temperature spikes. If we ignore the apparent timing problems in the frequency correlation, the deviation of amplitude correlation between carbon dioxide and temperature is still much higher than that for cosmic radiation and temperature. This evidence suggests that cosmic radiation, if anything plays a more dominant role than carbon dioxide in climate change. What is notable in the data graphed by Royer et al. (2004) is that temperature response to variations in cosmic radiation becomes less exaggerated but less delayed as variations in cosmic radiation increase.

The secondary correlation of carbon dioxide with temperature is further qualified by two more factors. Firstly, the magnitude of carbon dioxide's greenhouse effect becomes geometrically smaller as carbon dioxide concentration increases. For example, the gross effect of carbon dioxide increases on global mean temperature since 1900 is less than 0.2 degrees Celsius (Archibald, 2007). Secondly, closer inspection of the data collected from the Vostok ice cores shows that variations in carbon dioxide levels lag behind variations in temperature (Caillon et al., 2003). If carbon dioxide did indeed control global mean temperature, then it would be global mean temperature response that lags carbon dioxide and not vice versa. It would seem likely therefore, that global warming accelerates processes that contribute to the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide. One such process could be the greater proliferation of respiring fauna relative to photosynthesising flora as warming intensifies.


The Evidence...

The evidence demonstrates that the most significant anthropological contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide is not the combustion of fossil fuels, it is deforestation (80%). The evidence also demonstrates that carbon dioxide is not a cause of global warming, even if it has a minor feedback effect.


Economics & Politics

Oil Crisis & Carbon Storage Opportunity...

Liquid carbon dioxide has been observed flowing from hydrothermal vents at NW Eifuku; about 1600m below sea level (Lupton et al., 2006). Fluids of high carbon dioxide concentration have been observed venting before (Sakai, 1990) and carbon dioxide is known to form submarine lakes in very deep water being much denser than seawater at 3000-3800 metres below sea level reaching a maximum density at 3500m (Nealson, 2006). However, carbon dioxide lakes can form and remain stable in as little as 1400m of sea water in spite of being less dense than sea water and this is due to a cap or "pavement" of carbon dioxide hydrate (Inagaki et al., 2006).

As many low permeability petroleum reservoirs are at depths well below 3000m, there is now an opportunity to exploit low permeability reserves. Drilling development wells down dip from the suspended production well would allow carbon dioxide to be injected into the formation down dip. Under pressure from both the weighted mud column and the pumps, carbon dioxide could enter the reservoir as a dense fluid to raise the formation pressure and ultimately the pressure differential at the production well sufficiently to force petroleum fluids to flow into the production well.

If the technological development for penetration of aquifers with liquid carbon dioxide is funded by the tax payer, and if the taxpayer might be generous enough to fund some of the logistics of collecting and transporting sufficient amounts of carbon dioxide to well sites, an alternative source of petroleum large enough to end the current oil crisis will become available. However, I have to wonder how the tax payer who typically thinks that fuel costs too much, would want to donate hard earned taxes to indirectly subsidise the petroleum industry?

As it happens, the global warming scare has convinced tax payers to tolerate politicians injecting huge amounts of taxation revenue into research centred on carbon storage in suitable reservoirs. Such reservoirs will of course, only provide reliable storage if they have a good structure and seal. Otherwise, the carbon dioxide will find its way to the surface without the help of tectonic activity. Such structures are best known in the petroleum industry, so it makes sense that regardless of the lack of admission that carbon dioxide is intended to be stored in petroleum reservoirs (and perhaps helping to displace oil and gas that would not otherwise flow), this is ultimately where carbon dioxide will be stored if the carbon storage scheme goes ahead.


Incriminating Behaviour

The one thing the Flat Earth theorists, Creationists, and religious fundamentalists including Church of God, Assemblies of God, the Holy Inquisition, and Al Qaeda have in common is that they all try to discredit the idea by attacking the person, instead of attacking the data to discredit the idea. To further their own agenda, such cults deploy various fallacies because in place of truthful arguments about verifiable facts; polemics, fallacies, and outright fraud sound convincing (Archer, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c, 1988d; Brown, 1988; Falconer, 1988; Ritchie, 1988; Strahan, 1988; Price, 1990; Plimer, 1994). I have observed the same pattern of behaviour amongst the global warming catastrophist camp (Royer et al., 2004; Oreskes, 2004; Armitage, 2005; Jones et al., 1990; Wang et al., 1990) with fallacies & abuses exposed by (Shaviv & Veizer, 2004; by McIntyre & McKitrick, 2003, 2005; Wegman et al., 2006; Carter, 2007; Keenan, 2007; Harper, 2007). Windshuttle & Elliot (1999) discuss the difference between a false argument or fallacy and a correct argument.

The attribution of a rise in mean temperature trends coincident with industrialisation to carbon emissions produced by industrialisation is clearly demonstrated by Archibald (2007) to be based on a false cause. Slurs such as the increasingly common application of the label, "Flat-Earther" to anyone who attempts to discuss the implications of global warming from an evidence based perspective are ad homenim (Carter, 2007). Ad homenim attacks are becoming increasingly frequent and beginning to find their way into peer reviewed literature (Eg. Armitage, 2005).

Claims of scientific consensus behind the idea that global warming is a cause for alarm combine appeal to popularity with appeal to authority (Oreskes, 2004). In an interesting twist, more than 19000 U.S. scientists have signed the petition against measures to be implemented for the reduction of anthropogenic contributions to greenhouse gases ( This raises questions about fraud when considered alongside scientific consensus claims.

While the "hockey stick" of Mann et al. (1998, 1999) is soundly discredited (by McIntyre & McKitrick, 2003, 2005; Wegman et al., 2006), its proponents claimed that this discrediting of the hockey stick did not matter. As it turns out, surface based thermometer readings produce a "hockey stick" of their own. The hockey stick path of these measurements has been explained by the heat island effect inherent in temperature readings taken mostly from towns and cities where human activity raises mean daily temperatures substantially as the towns and cities grow. While the vast majority of the temperature recorders are situated in towns and cities - some within effective distance of exhaust vents, heated buildings and bitumen car parks, Wang et al. (1990) & Jones et al. (1990) claimed to have verified the exclusion of heat island effected instrumentation from the current instrumental hockey-stick. Keenan (2007) completely discredits this claim and alleges in a peer-reviewed journal article, that it was made fraudulently.

As with religious extremists, the behaviour of global warming catastrophists becomes increasingly serious. Harper (2007) reports that proponents of the global warming panic have used death threats in an attempt to silence those who seek to publicly discuss the evidence. Although not the objective of this article, I intend to dedicate a separate page on this site to both global warming and Creationist howlers for the purpose of demonstrating both the similarities of Creationist tactics with global warming catastrophist tactics and the various kinds of fallacy used to deceive or otherwise coerce the public into adopting an idea that is not supported by evidence.

Intellectual extortion is a tactic universally employed by political and religious zealots of every stripe. A focus on the unacceptable consequences however speculative, of making the wrong choice about global warming demonstrates a tactic common to religious fundamentalists. Of particular note are the Creationists who threaten those who disagree with them with the rather speculative prospect of eternal damnation in Hell. It appears that the global warming catastrophists are likewise trying to short-circuit rationality with the threat of eternal damnation in Hell on Earth if we don't collectively accept their dogma. Whether we fret about the, "The Day After Tomorrow", or simply ponder, "An Inconvenient Truth", we are all being threatened by these people, whether with purely speculative environmental consequences or direct threat's to our own persons implicit in the libel and death threats deployed against the critics of alarmism. This pattern of behaviour proves independently of the scientific evidence that alarmism over global warming lacks merit and is likely to form part of an elaborate economic swindle. One of the popular pieces of research used to bludgeon reason from the public is the work of Nisbet (1990) on the discovery of methane trapped in ice and permafrost around the world. On this planet, methane is a limited resource and the climate has been much warmer in the past without the so called, "runaway methane global warming". Certainly, if any events of Planet Earth's past were indeed "runaway" events, the conditions would remain permanently and immutable to human intervention. If anything, the nearest to thing to runaway events this planet has ever experienced was the loss of methane to anoxic bacteria (Plimer, 2001), the oxygenation of the atmosphere by photosynthesising bacteria 2500 million years ago (Plimer 2001), and most recently the loss of much of the planet's carbon dioxide over the last billion years to photosynthesis.



The scientific evidence does not support alarm over global warming. Global warming is not unprecedented, neither in rate nor in magnitude. While global warming may lead to sea level rises, melting continental ice will avail arable farmland; an increasingly diminishing commodity that is of greater benefit to humanity than some over-priced waterfront real-estate. Global warming will result in the retreat of deserts further extending arable farmland. Global warming will also result in biological radiation making it easier for us to conserve the biodiversity many of us are so fond of. Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a cause of global warming and is either an indirect product of warming or a product of deforestation.

Investigation of the evidence exposes a number of tactical omissions, errors, and perhaps a hoax or two on the part of the catastrophists. Tactics employed by those pushing a catastrophist agenda are consistent with those used by other branches of pseudoscience such as Creationism. The lack of support for alarm over global warming by scientific evidence is certainly sufficient reason for some to evade discussion of the evidence by focussing on attacking those who do wish to address the evidence. There are strong economic and political arguments in favour of ignoring the evidence and using alarm over global warming as propaganda to sell the government funding of research and initiatives that will benefit select commercial sectors to the exclusion of the tax payer.

The observed expansion of deserts during the current mildly "warm" period is unprecedented in geological history. Deforestation is the only cause of desertification aside from global cooling and represents the principle human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide. Yet, the emphasis of public attention on exaggerated greenhouse effects only serves to divert public scrutiny from vastly more practical and important issues such as moderating land clearance, not to mention the desperate need for communities to decentralise sufficiently to bring most services within walking distance of most residences (thereby reducing reliance on motorised transport) before the impact of peak oil. It would appear that the catastrophist movement is more concerned with curbing development in underdeveloped countries than with vital environmental issues like the expansion of deserts as a consequence of excessive and unnecessary deforestation. Tragically, although desertification as a direct result of excessive land clearance is a far greater threat to the ability of our environment to support current human populations, this very real and well documented threat is neglected in favour of what amounts to little more than sensationalised science fiction.



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