Vaclav Smil on climate change: “No global warming in past ten years”

Smil at Q2CHere’s an astonishing segment from a  recent interview with futurist Vaclav Smil, conducted by New York Times environmental reporter Andrew Revkin. Smil claims that there has been “no global warming in the past ten years” and appears to suggest that we can safely ignore the problem of climate change because it won’t hit with “full force” any time soon, and its full impact is as yet unknown.

The interview came last Saturday at the Quantum to Cosmos Festival (Q2C)l in Waterloo, Ontario, a 10-day presentation of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. Smil is a professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and the author of 30 books, the most recent being “The Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next Fifty Years.”

At Dotearth, Andrew Revkin presented highlights from the wide-ranging interview, including this statement about climate change:

This is not going to be with us in full force — nobody claims it, even the orthodox people, in 2015…. But in between there are a great many things coming in between…. The pandemic is number one. Because we are overdue for a pandemic.

Below, I’ve excerpted most of the exchange that led to the above statement. The segment starts  22 minutes into the interview (30 minutes in the Q2C “padded” version).

Revkin paraphrased his question as “Is climate change the biggest pinch point, or are other issues more pressing?” (The wording is slightly different, but that is clearly the correct sense of the question).

Revkin: Your most recent book is on these catastrophes or emergencies that are coming or  could be coming… Climate has been one that has been talked about so much lately… If you accept the basics that these gases trap heat and  we double or triple the amount in the atmosphere, we’re in for a lot of climate change. Is that the biggest pinch point or are there other things that would come up before that?

Smil: … This global warming is very complex and we don’t know. You know very well what happened in the last ten years. Basically no global warming in past ten years And people say: Oh, we anticipated it. I say: Who did? … Did Jim Hansen in 1988, in his famous speech to congress, did he say that global warming is here, but it will basically stop for ten years?

It does not mean at all it will not jump back again with as much  force in five or ten years. But I am just giving you the example of the last 10 years. It is very complex.

Of course, the so-called  “stop” or “pause” in global warming has been debunked time and time again, both here and elsewhere. For example, here is a chart of decadal increases for the three main surface global temperature series.

Global surface decade

It can be clearly seen that global warming continued in 2000-9, relative to the previous decade. Decadal warming has ranged from from 0.17C (HadCRU) to 0.19C (NASA GISS).

At this point, Revkin tried to remind Smil that the so-called “pause” is simply a “wiggle” in the “curve”, although he stops short of saying outright that Smil is dead wrong. But Smil is having none of it. He then goes on to insist that a coming global pandemic, costing up to 60 million lives, is a much more pressing problem .

Revkin: We’re so focused on the here and now, which is of course about that kind of wiggle in the curve. This is something I’ve characterized as a “slow drip” problem … and we’re always distracted by what’s happening now.

Smil: If you have this orthodox view, what I call the IPCC view… Now people are publishing these papers saying that it will be much worse than we anticipated. But we have been there before and maybe in five years  they’ll be saying it it will be a little better than we anticipated.

The point is that this is unfolding slowly. This is not going to be with us in full force — nobody claims it, even the orthodox people, in 2015…. But in between there are a great many things coming …. The pandemic is number one. Because we are overdue for a pandemic.

So why does Smil think that climate change is so overrated as a problem? Some clues come in this summary of his thinking from a review in American Scientist.

Smil is blunt in his criticisms of the global-warming pessimists, saying that we simply don’t know enough about the complex interactions and feedbacks that may take place to be able to reliably quantify the likely consequences of the warming that is occurring. His estimate is that there will be a temperature increase of 2.5 degrees to 3 degrees Celsius over the next hundred years, a figure that is about at the midpoint of recent projections by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Apparently the industrialized nations in the Northern Hemisphere have the wealth and technical capabilities to handle this increase, but poor countries in the global South, which are already carrying an unmanageable load, will find it quite burdensome. (Smil’s usual concern with the interaction of variables is not in evidence in this case. Does he think that the multitudes who cannot cope will quietly disappear?) Although he stresses the difficulty of estimating future sea levels, he says that “a cautious conclusion” would be that they will rise about 15 centimeters by 2050—“clearly a noncatastrophic change.” He concludes surprisingly that the market impacts of a moderate warming will be “a trivial sum in all affluent countries” (which prorates to about $180 a year per capita), citing in support work by Yale economist William D. Nordhaus. (Other respected economists disagree.)

So Smil appears to think that anthropogenic global warming of the scale aniticipted by the IPCC is real, but entirely manageable, at least for wealthy nations. I guess we’ll have to read the book to understand why he thinks the inevitable food shortages caused by massive deglaciation in the Himalayan watershed, for example, will not be disastrous for the nations of that region, not to mention having widespread repercussions. And at a time when most scientists think a 1 meter rise in sea level by 2100 is inevitable, his dismissal of the inexorable rise in sea level as a problem to be mitigated sooner rather than later is puzzling indeed.

Another interesting Smil interview from 2006 can be found at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, the right-wing (and climate contrarian) think tank based in Smil’s home town of Winnipeg. (The FCPP recently presented the pompous contrarian Lord Monckton in a series of lectures, as I  noted previously here and here).

Here is Smil on solar energy and the oil sands in northern Alberta:

FC: What alternative energy sources do you think show the best prospects?

VS: In the long-term prospect, no doubt about it, photovoltaic conversion of solar energy, because it is an unlimited source and you convert solar radiation directly into electricity. There are more places around the world which are sunny, even in high latitudes, than ones that are windy or have geothermal energy. When you look at geothermal, tidal or wind, the total amount of resources and their locations around the planet, the energy available is not as abundant as direct solar radiation. We should be pouring more of our money into research into high-efficiency photovoltaic electricity conversion.

FC: You also cite the tar sands as a great energy resource in Canada, but worry that we are burning plenty of valuable natural gas to extract the oil. Can you comment?

VS: If it were the only way the world could get energy, then it would be fine, but we have other, cheaper ways. That money would be better invested in geophysical exploration for conventional oil elsewhere around the world, because there is still plenty to be discovered, offshore, in Africa and in Asia. Only when we run out of conventional oil should we take this serious step into non-conventional oil.

What a difference three years makes. Now Smil is touting cheap shale natural gas as a source of energy for decades to come, and an example of how energy analysts (including himself presumably) always get it wrong. There’s no word yet if that means the oil sands are okay after all.


53 responses to “Vaclav Smil on climate change: “No global warming in past ten years”

  1. Pingback: Smil on Hummers, Hondas, Meat, Heat - Dot Earth Blog -

  2. DeepClimate,

    Not that I expect you will publish rigorous evidence which you find “inconvenient”, but:

    The only thing “astonishing” about the assertion that there has been no global warming in the last 10 years is the capacity for fanatics to deny the obvious truth in that assertion:

    1) Satellite data confirm it. Using the raw data linked to off that page, I have personally verified the veracity of that chart.

    2) Peer reviewed science demonstrates the surface station measurements are laughably inaccurate.

    3) Rigorous inspections of these stations (just in the USA) demonstrate WHY these stations are laughably inaccurate.

    4) More analysis reveals that even your beloved surface station measurements readily confirm that: “For the past 8 years (96 months), no global warming is indicated” So, at BEST, you can only quibble over 8 years vs. 10 years (by relying exclusively upon demonstrably flawed data).

    5) Furthermore, peer reviewed science suggests we are in for at least another 10 years of the same. My bet is we’re in for another 40+ year cooling trend similar to the domestic 1934 to 1979 cooling period.

    Click here to replicate that chart for yourself.

    6) Click here to further explore (and confirm) the FAR more relevant (per, none other than GISS) northern hemisphere winter cooling trend.

    Come on! Just how far to you intend to discredit yourself?

  3. Rattus Norvegicus

    Here is a quote (as quoted in the NY Review of Books) which shows his level of ignorance:

    About climate change, Smil is equivocal. He acknowledges the potentially far-reaching consequences of global warming, and warns that “continued large-scale combustion of fossil fuels could increase atmospheric CO2 to levels unseen since large herds of horses and camels grazed on grassy plains of America.”

    The problem with this is that we are already above these levels. In fact, we are probably a higher levels of CO2 than have existed in 15,000,000 years.

    He seems to fall into the trap that other self described polymaths fall into: thinking that they are smarter and know more than they do. A little humility from people like Smil, Mhyrvold and their ilk would be nice.

  4. Next time Andrew Revkin goes to Waterloo, he should seek out Thomas Homer-Dixon, who recently arrived at the University of Waterloo.

    Like Smil, Homer-Dixon looks at the confluence of stresses brought about by growing population, ecological degradation and energy demand. Unlike Smil, he understands how climate change exacerbates the other planetary stresses.

    And Homer-Dixon has little patience for the contrarian talking points favoured by Smil. At a recent lecture, he started by displaying a graph of global temperature, and remarked that any first-year college statistics student could see the idiocy of the contrarian “global warming has stopped” argument.

  5. SBVOR,

    One cannot use ten years of data to refute the underlying warming trend caused by increased anthropogenic GHGs. The underlying trend is much smaller than natural fluctuations but it is always an upward trend. Natural fluctuations trend upward and downward so they, in a sense, cancel each other out over the long term. It is over the long term that the underlying upward trend of AGW clearly sticks out.

    A nice example of this concept is displayed here:

    The PDO index has fluctuated but the trend in T has continued to go upward.


    Cook, J. (2008, September). It’s pacific decadal oscillation. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from Skeptical Science Web site:

  6. Oh yes DeepClimate, following SBVOR you _must_ fit starting in 1998. And yes, you get a negative trend.
    Don’t try 1999- or 1997- (let alone a longer time span) because you will be fooled by false impressions. The True Science tells you that _ONLY_ if you start in 1998 you will understand what Mother Nature wants you to know.

    P.S. Sorry for the sarcasm, but you know, sometimes one can’t stand certain absurdities 🙂

  7. Dr. James Singmaster

    I am jumping in here to say that we are missing the boat on the main causes of global warming that is now a climate crisis. The main culprit that no one talks about is SOOT.
    In the Apr.17 Science mag. pg. 323, a brief note, being ignored by all, concerning a cited report that 75% of Arctic ice melting has been due to SOOT. The big Royal Society report on geoengineering fantasies of some climatologists pretty much ignored SOOT and tried to pawn of “Synthetic Trees” using CCS that Dr. Smil said was a fantasy and I say the same.
    Why SOOT goes unrecognized as being a major factor in the climate crisis, a crisis now due to lack of proper action, is hard to understand. SOOT is dark meaning that it absorbs much of the total visible spectrum of light converting it into heat energy so that the light energy can no longer be utilized by plants to convert carbon dioxide into plant biochemicals while CO2 only absorbs weak selected infrared and microwave energy. SOOT particles have 1,000-1,000,000 the cross section area of CO2 molecules meaning that a single SOOT particle may be thousands of times more active in converting sunlight into heat than 1,000 molecules of CO2. Also SOOT has recently been cited for health effects so it would seem that trapping SOOT from the air and at fossil fuel plants would be a far better proposition than the “Synthetic Trees”.
    I have many comments on other blogs concerning the other big unrecognized cause of the climate crisis; namely energy itself being released from converting chemical energy by burning fossil fuels and from atomic energy from fission or the hoped for fusion. Dr. E. Chaisson detailed this in an article titled”Long-Term Global Heating from Energy Usage” in EOS, Trans. Amer. Geophys. Union, Vol 89, No. 28, pgs. 253-4(2008). In order to stop the developing long -term climate crisis from disrupting humankind, we have to go carbon and energy negative. If you google my name, you will find many comments on various blogs especially Green, Inc. NYTimes on actions for going beyond carbon and energy neutral to carbon and energy negative. Dr. J. Singmaster

    • What is this “SOOT”? Is this an acronym?

      Or do you mean “soot”, the well known fine black particles produced by incomplete combustion?

  8. Soot/black carbon is recognized as an important component of anthropogenic global warming, second only to CO2.

    I agree more attention should be paid to black carbon mitigation, but I’m not aware of any peer-reviewed science that would support the primacy over greenhouse gas emissions you suggest.

    • Dr. James Singmaster

      Explain how GHGs can be first when the report indicates 75 % of Arctic ice melting is due to SOOT. And SOOT essentially absorbs the whole visible spectrum of light while CO2 absorbs a piddling amount of selected wavelengths in the weak infrared and microwave regions of the light spectrum. Quite frankly “peer reviewed” science on global warming is being misguided by the environmentalists, who are just overloading weak arguments on emissions into the media, and we end up wasting a great deal of time and money on trying to get more useless data reverifying the same old saw about CO2 and other GHG levels are going up. Very few scientists and no environmental group have paid any attention to Dr. Chaisson’s paper although several reports have spoken about the momentum overload of heat energy that would keep global warming going for more than a century even if all GHG emission could be stopped right now.
      One action to help get negative carbon and energy would be the pyrolysis of the massive ever-expanding messes of organic wastes and sewage solids to get charcoal. If renewable energy is used, which can be gotten from such pyrolysis, carbon and energy are removed from recycling in the biosphere. Also those messes as presently handled are allowed to biodegrade to reemit GHGs needlessly and cost huge amounts for monitoring to see that germs, toxics and drugs don’t escape but they do. Those hazards would be destroyed by pyrolyzing the messes eliminating most monitoring costs while greatly reducing chance of serious escapes causing water pollution events and possibly fatal health exposures from those hazards. I have made more detailed comments about using pyrolysis on those messes on other blogs.
      Dr. J. Singmaster

  9. As far as i know soot comes mostly from coal fired power plants which already are the N.1 “enemies” for many good reasons other than soot.
    Hence we should be highly motivated to help (mainly) China change its energy mix.

  10. Rattus Norvegicus

    “Dr.” Singmaster: is that PhD. or MD? If Phd. just what field is it in? Inquiring minds want to know.

  11. Dr. James Singmaster

    Norwegian Rat: Ph. D. 1975. In Agricultural Chemistry Group specializing in Environmental Chemistry basically all though the Dept. at UC Davis was called Environmental Toxicology. The thesis title in case you want to check in the Xerox collection is “Environmental Behavior of Hydrophobic Pollutants in Aqueous Solutions”.
    Dr. J. Singmaster

  12. Dr Singmaster… Why is soot making the world warmer?
    Is there soot in the oceans making them warmer?

    I’m confused about what you mean – it doesn’t make any sense.

  13. Smil’s expertise is the energy industry, so why did Revkin interview for his expertise on an area he is not an expert in. Singmaster, having spent the last 28 years measuring snowmelt on glaciers from Greenland-Alaska etc. I find that soot is important but not nearly to the extent you find. First with the Clean Air Act passage etc., the levels of soot and associated particles noted in ice cores in Greenland and Europe have decline notably in the last 50 years. Second it must be at the surface to do any good, and it keeps getting buried. The amount of soot potentially at the surface in the summer in young first year ice would of course be less than in multi year ice. We have more first year ice now, and so less soot available for melting. This is the tip of the iceberg for examples.

  14. Any “big picture” energy analyst needs to acknowledge the reality and likely trajectory of climate change. That disqualifies Smil as a serious commentator.

    Canadian researchers that Revkin could interview concerning interactions between energy and climate change issues include David Keith and Thomas Homer-Dixon.

    I don’t agree with everything they say but at least they are in the ball park. Smil is just plain wrong.

    • Actually, Vaclav Smil may have been right after all:

      Which might have also been concluded from him being a professor (and teaching possibly accepted as definition #2 above) or the fact that he has written 30 books, or interviewed by that dude from the Times.
      Touting is actually what you’re doing here, in the negative sense.

      I get it that you don’t like the guy. Were you going to actually argue for/against his points at some point? At around the 35m point he is doing an excellent job in somewhat layman’s terms describing why carbon sequestration is futile.

      Your link contains plenty of comments debunking the knee jerk reactions and out-of-context strawman arguments against him.
      At no point does he say global warming is not happening or has stopped.
      He posits the idea that everyone not eating meat is part of the solution.
      He posits that solar (PV) is ultimately the best solution.
      I never suggested Smil “gets everything right”. So, can you point me to some orthodoxically correct 100% human being? I have yet to find a reference to one.

      I just said I liked his frankness and I find him provocative and correct on a number of points (in this video). I haven’t read any of his books or followed his career, but I like the fact that he is a Canadian and willing to take a dump all over Canadian wastefulness which is something I hardly ever see in semi-MSM here, and I find that encouraging.

      However, although the following article does not say that no global warming was in the last 10 years, it still shows that scientists make mistakes, and therefore these are not facts and nothing is proven, time will show if those who think global cooling will occur or that global warming will occur.

      And who says global cooling is wrong:

      “World temperatures have remained virtually unchanged in the past 10 years despite predictions of global warming and America’s mildest winter in decades, Princeton physics professor William Happer contends, read here:

      I’m still skeptical. Meteorologist can barely get the weather accurate a month out. How can scientist claim with any assurance that the entire globe is warming?
      Sorry, but this is the way of alarming people in order to get them to “live”, the way a certain group wants them to.

    • So your sources for questioning the clear record of ongoing global warming at decadal time-scales and beyond are: David Rose in the Daily Mail, James Delingpole in the Daily Mail, and Will Happer. Okay.

      This nonsense has been debunked over and over, as I noted in my main piece. But I will say that the the latest “no warming in 16 years” meme from David Rose tops even his previous efforts in misleading cherrypicking and sheer incompetence. First, Rose cherrypicked a starting point just before the start of the 1998 “super” El Nino. Not only that, he actually shows only 15 years of data, not almost 16 as claimed. The x-axis is misaligned by 8 months! This is a breathtaking combination of incompetence and intellectual dishonesty, even by Rose’s standards. (And yes I will be doing a post on this eventually).

      By the way, you seem to be pasting comments made elsewhere and then posting them here under two different synonyms. So please don’t bother commenting here again. Thanks!

    • It look like that Vaclav Smil was right about the statement that global warming stopped for 10 years, actually it stopped for 16 years:–chart-prove-it.html

    • Unforunately, that David Rose piece contains a lot of misinformation.

      For one thing, Rose claimed to show data from January 1997 to August, 2012 (almost sixteen years). But in fact he only showed the last *fifteen* years of data, albeit displaced. Here is the corrected chart.

      Note that by Rose’s own stated criterion (comparing the start month with the end month), there was a rise of 0.3 degrees C over the last 16 years.

    • You’re right, but still how do you know which side speaks the truth, you cannot really know. You have nuclear lobby which supports one side, global warming, while the other side gas and oil companies who support global cooling, it’s impossible to say for the entire planet’s temperature, basically you would need to put entire Earth under microscope to actually see what temperature really is, so Vaclav Smil might be right or not he said that he is not expert on this, but also that it is impossible to know, so he did not lose his credibility at all.
      Like I said before, we can barely predict what kind of weather is going to be in the next 30 days, actually to be more precise 15 days, and yet you expect for me to believe the computer models? Sorry, if we cannot predict what would be weather more than a month in the future than how can you predict in the next century, the real answer is you can’t.
      There is much more which need to be take into account than just parameters they used in IPCC report and measure entire planet at once not just area by area.
      For the weather in the past at least we have rock-solid physical evidences so we can know what exactly happened in the past and in this case computer models do actually help a lot, while there is nothing what we can tell for the future, and every geologist would say to you that we actually live in ice age, technically.

    • Regardless of the motivation of various partcipants in climate policy deabte, the science needs to be based on the actual evidence.

      Even contrarian critics accept the validity of say the HadCrut4 temperature record. Their incompetence has led them to believe that the record supports their side, when in fact it does not, as I showed above.

      The evidence continues to show long-term global warming, in a manner consistent with AGW, and *not* consistent with natural variations alone.

    • Maybe yes, maybe not like I said if scientists cannot predict with their super-computer models how would the weather be more than a month (with thousands of meteorological balloons and with all other equipment they have), actually not more than 15 days-how do you suppose to know what kind of climate will be in the next 100 years, super-computer models will change in the next 100 years extremely often,

      Also, we do not know much about the atmosphere, there are still many unknown factors in the atmosphere, we still do not know how it actually works, like I said, there are still many mysteries, than there is that Climategate scandal, also independent scientists actually disagree with official IPCC statements and conclusions about global climate.
      Just as we cannot know how was the global temperature fluctuating in the last 16 years, basically if you really want to know what is the temperature you would have to know everything about the climate and the atmosphere, volcanic eruptions and all other factors that affect climate you would have to put entire planet Earth under the microscope.

    • I’m really trying to be patient with you, but these are arguments that have been debunked over and over again.

      (a) Predicting weather and predicting climate are two very different activities. Sure, it’s impossible to predict the weather a year from now. But climate a year from now (as defined as the last 30 years of “average weather”) will be very close to present day.

      (b) Climategate has been debunked here over and over. And the number of credible active scientists challenging the IPCC consensus is incredibly small (Lindzen, Christy …?).

      Please reread the blog policy on comments, and confine your future comments to the specific issues discussed. Policy will be strictly enforced from here on. Thanks!

  15. Dr. James Singmaster

    Nathan and Spelto: First Nathan; Soot is black meaning that it absorbs most of the radiant(electromagnet) energy of visible light from the sun and probably other energetic wavelengths and converts them to useless heat energy causing warming. Without soot doing that, more radiant energy will be reaching photosynthesizing organisms mainly plants to convert more carbon dioxide into sugars, starch proteins etc. in plants to give us food.
    Spelto: All I can say for ice melting is that the report says that 75% of the melting of Arctic ice has been due to soot. Perhaps you can check out that report and let me know if some error has been made. HOWEVER, soot in the air will be having the same effect of absorbing much of the visible spectrum converting it to heat as I mention in remark here to Nathan. Also I find it hard to understand with the expanding grayouts occurring over Eastern Asia from China and India greatly increasing their coal powered electric plants that soot depositing in Greenland has not been increasing. Perhaps much of it is falling in the USA and Canada explaining why the glaciers here appear to disappearing faster that some scientists were predicting. Dr. J. Singmaster

  16. Dr. James Singmaster

    Mspelto: Won’t more snowmelt caused by GW and soot mean the carrying to the sea of more surface soot that won’t be staying trapped to be measured? Because of that added melting, I would say that seeing a decrease in soot levels over the last 50 years being measured in cores ought to be expected even with more soot landing on the glaciers. Dr. J. Singmaster

  17. Concerning soot and arctic ice melt, this appears to be one the papers referred to above

    Flanner, M. G., C. S. Zender, J. T. Randerson, and P. J. Rasch (2007), Present-day climate forcing and response from black carbon in snow, J. Geophys. Res., 112, D11202, doi:10.1029/2006JD008003.

    Scientific American described the research here:

    Another overview puts some perspective:

    The *ongoing* effect of soot is around one-third of all warming effects in the Arctic , but the centennial effect could be as high as 94 percent.

    So even if we accept Zender’s findings, black carbon is still not responsible for the majority of contemporary arctic warming.

  18. Dr. James Singmaster

    Deep Climate and others: I wonder if two different effects are being confused here. I was citing a report on Arctic ice melting while the comment and references from Deep Climate point to Arctic warming. I also am not sure whether or not black carbon means on the part of Dr. Zender leaving out other dark non-carbon particles arising from human activities that are a sizable part of the microparticles in air and falling onto the ice. Gray, tan and brown microparticles would still be converting much of the visible spectrum hitting them into heat energy. And most of this is centering on Arctic ice, when permafrost across the northern latitudes perhaps a larger area than the Arctic sea is also melting as well as glaciers in the northwestern part of North America and elsewhere. Melting in all these location may be much more dependent on “soot”,(I put soot in quote marks now due to whether more than black carbon should be considered as part of soot), Some reports have indicated that the melting is going much faster on glaciers than predicted in studies that seem to omit the role of “soot”.
    Certainly it seems that soot plays a sizable role in the climate crisis, and very few actions and very little attention are being directed to doing anything about removing soot from the air. Getting soot trapped will be way easier to do that doing the “Synthetic Trees” approach for CO2 removal that was proposed in the Royal Society report on geoengineering released Sept. 1. Dr. J. Singmaster

    • Dr. James Singmaster,
      I bit and followed your original reference.

      Science 17 April 2009:
      Vol. 324. no. 5925, p. 323
      DOI: 10.1126/science.324.5925.323a

      News of the Week

      Reducing emissions of black carbon and other short-lived pollutants that contribute to global warming could buy the world crucial time while governments begin the slow overhaul of global energy systems that will be required to reduce emissions of CO2, climate modelers reported last week in Nature Geosciences.

      That led me to this article in Nature GeoSciences, which seems to have little specific relevance to Arctic ice melt, but does discuss black carbon and Arctic warming.

      Climate response to regional radiative forcing
      during the twentieth century – Drew Shindell* and Greg Faluvegi – DOI: 10.1038/NGEO473

      Our calculations suggest that black carbon and tropospheric ozone have contributed ~0.5-1.4 C and ~0.2-0.4 C, respectively, to Arctic warming since 1890, making them attractive targets for Arctic warming mitigation. In addition, they respond quickly to emissions controls, and reductions have ancillary benefits including improved human and ecosystem health.

      Again though, the analysis does not seem to distinguish clearly between recent and centennial warming.

      Click to access Shindell_2009.Nature_Geo.pdf

      So it’s like this:
      a) You made a vague reference to a report covering another article that does not appear to say what you claim (in fact the word “melt” does not occur at all in the article).

      b) You are wildly off topic, although I probably should have warned you before (lack of time this week). Further off topic posts may be delayed and/or deleted. There is an “unthreaded” post you can comment at if you wish to continue this line.

    • Our studies show that soot has played a significant role in Arctic warming. The soot includes the black carbon particles emitted by biomass burning and fossil fuel combustion. About 80% of the Arctic warming by soot comes from the anthropogenic component (i.e., not from boreal fires). We have considered other dark (absorbing) aerosols including mineral dust and weakly absorbing carbonaceous material. Neither had, in the present climate, nearly as significant an effect as black carbon.

    • Charlie Zender,

      Thanks for weighing in.

      Just to tie up loose ends (and keeping in mind the apparent high level of uncertainty), I trust that the passage I quoted above is a fair summary of the findings of you and your colleagues.

      The *ongoing* effect of soot is around one-third of all warming effects in the Arctic , but the centennial effect could be as high as 94 percent.

      Certainly this seems to suggest that reducing black carbon emissions would have a more immediate mitigating effect, given the much longer CO2 residency.

      By the way, I have reviewed your web page and I’m very impressed by both your work and your commitment to scientific engagement in society.

  19. Dr. Smil needs to read this:

    DC, you should write a post on this Associated Press piece.

    [DC: Let me guess before I even look: Seth Borenstein, right? Yes, he gets it.]

    • Actually that link turns out to be Borenstein’s “methods” sidebar, where he describes how he sent temperature series to statisticians, without any identification of what the series represented. The main article, entitled “Statisticians reject global cooling” is worth reading too:

      Two key passages:

      Statisticians who analyzed the data found a distinct decades-long upward trend in the numbers, but could not find a significant drop in the past 10 years in either data set. The ups and downs during the last decade repeat random variability in data as far back as 1880.


      Statisticians say that in sizing up climate change, it’s important to look at moving averages of about 10 years. They compare the average of 1999-2008 to the average of 2000-2009. In all data sets, 10-year moving averages have been higher in the last five years than in any previous years.

      Borenstein more than once refers to decadal averages, in terms similar to my discussion above. Dare I say that Andy Revkin should also read Borenstein’s piece?

  20. “no global warming in the past ten years”

    This is a true statement. Just do a 1998-2009 linear trend. It’s flat/down.

    None in the pro-AGW warned about ‘decadal averages’ back when 1998 and ‘hottest years’ were used as ‘proof of AGW.

    The worm turns.

  21. “The underlying trend is much smaller than natural fluctuations but it is always an upward trend. ”

    Hopefully, this will be in the next IPCC report. And maybe they will quantify how much of the trend has been natural. They keep forgetting to tell people these valuable lessons.

  22. “no global warming in the past ten years”

    This is a true statement. Just do a 1998-2009 linear trend. It’s flat/down.

    People who don’t understand that 2009-1998 is eleven, not ten, are unlikely to be able to overturn the 150-year old physics that underlies our understanding of CO2’s contribution to global warming.

  23. Hopefully, this will be in the next IPCC report. And maybe they will quantify how much of the trend has been natural. They keep forgetting to tell people these valuable lessons.

    And this is just a flat-out lie. The “problem” is that the IPCC reviews real science, which tells us that solar output hasn’t risen enough in past decades and that there’s no other natural forcing sufficient to have caused recent warming. You people just scream “it’s the sun! it’s natural!” with no physical observations or mechanism to back up the claim.

  24. Dr. James Singmaster

    I ask anyone commenting here to explain what happens to the trapped energy released from using fossil and nuclear fuels. Doesn’t the Law of Conservation of Energy say that that released heat energy has to stay trapped in the enclosed biosphere? Since that energy is basically the kinetic energy of moving molecules and atoms in the biosphere, that energy can not escape anywhere out of the biosphere due to Law of Gravity, but it can melt ice and glaciers shifting the kinetic energy from the air to much more lethargic water.
    And more concern ought to be directed to the melting of permafrost that is starting nature’s own infernal combustion machine going as described in Sci. mag. Vol. 312, 1612-3(2006) with increasing amounts of CO2, methane and other GHGs being emitted. The rates of emission of those GHGs might reach for awhile in another decade or so the rates of CO2 emitting that will match present day emitting from fossil fuel burning according to a news report about the Sci. article on permafrost.
    Oh maybe, no AGWs notice the melting going on that has removed major glaciers such as the one that used to be on Kilmanjaro so they keep pushing the unscientific AGW view based just on temperature variability.
    dehogaza: We need somebody to be screaming it’s the energy released from using fossil and nuclear fuels and that energy has to obey the Law. Dr. J. Singmaster

    [DC: I’m somewhat sympathetic to your earlier concerns about black carbon, although, as far as I can see, serious CO2 mitigation could also address black carbon at the same time.

    But the direct thermal effect of energy generation via fossil fuels (or any other means) is surely dwarfed by the life-cycle effect of greenhouse gases generated in the process. I’m not aware of any peer-reviewed science that says otherwise. Unless you can point to same I will have to declare this line off topic too.]

    • Doesn’t the Law of Conservation of Energy say that that released heat energy has to stay trapped in the enclosed biosphere?

      What a strange concept. You appear to be suggesting that all the energy ever produced must be retained in the biosphere. Have you made any estimates of that total energy and the resulting temperatures?

      How is this energy different to solar energy reaching the earth’s surface and being converted into heat? Does that get retained, and if not, why not?

      You are aware that energy leaves the earth via radiation (the only way it can)?

    • The total power we consume (fossil, nuclear, etc.), is about 15 TW. I’m not sure if this includes waste heat.

      The CO2 GH forcing is calculated at 1.6 W/m^2. The earth’s surface area is 510,072,000 km^2. This gives us about 800 TW over the whole earth, or about 50 x what we consume.

      Can someone check? It’s so easy to get these things wrong by huge factors!

    • David Gregory

      so old (and off-topic) thread but I just found it and read it all so maybe commenting still worth something…?

      disclaimer: I’m not a scientist…but I’m an architect, and know something about home heating systems (heat sources) and insulation (thermal envelopes)…;)

      Singmaster’s issue of the warming effect of using energy (entropy) is interesting and worth pursuing, as I’m sure many are already doing; but his characterization is way off – I will assume due to hastyness: energy is not just particles moving; there’s also radiant energy; and anyway gravity won’t stop faster-moving particles from being slowed down by slower ones when they contact…etc., etc…all heat escapes from the earth

      Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out…(jk)… 😉 Just compare ‘Annual Solar Energy Input’ and ‘earth core heat contribution’ to ‘Net Annual Human Energy Consumption Thermal Contribution’…I think…subtracting for the thermal contribution of warm-blooded animals, and deducting any energy ‘used’ that’s actually embodied/embedded in the work product / material…and a few more factors…

      @TrueSceptic’s second comment, 15TW/_yr_ (wiki 2008 value if you trust it) is energy consumption (if just TW it’s power, not energy, I think?), which must include ‘waste heat’. If I put 100W into an incandescent light bulb, 90 watts of (wasted) heat(energy) comes out; plus 10 watts of light(energy). The 10 ‘useful’ watts then degrade to heat as well, eventually…faster if they hit sooty walls than freshly white-washed ones… 😉

      Point is, we’re certainly creating lots of entropy, from AC’s that warm the city to nuclear power plants. But those energy inputs are one-time, whereas the insulation of CO2 (And methane, and fluorinated gases, etc) can be very long-lasting…and acts on both the anthropogenic heat sources, and the much bigger one (10^17W) of the sun…

    • David Gregory

      SORRY! I should go back to high school physics…

      the 2008 15TW figure is average power consumption _rate_; energy consumption was 474 exajoules (474×1018 J=132,000 TWh)…sorry for spreading my confusion…

      and didn’t finish one sentence; meant to say ‘…all heat can escape the earth eventually, if it gets the chance…’

      hopefully the only feet I put in my mouth…???

  25. The entire debate about soot vs CO2 leaves out any refernce to the albedo effect of airborne soot, wherby solar radiation is reflected back into space, with a consequent cooling effect.

    • Are you sure about that?

      Based on new research, the range of climate-relevant aerosols was extended for the first time beyond sulphates to include nitrates, organics, soot, mineral dust and sea salt. Quantitative estimates of sulphate aerosol indirect effects on cloud properties and hence RF were sufficiently well established to be included in assessments, and carbonaceous aerosols from biomass burning were recognised as being comparable in importance to sulphate (Penner et al., 1992). Ranges are given in the special report (IPCC, 1995) for direct sulphate RF (–0.25 to –0.9 W m–2) and biomass-burning aerosols (–0.05 to –0.6 W m–2). The aerosol indirect RF was estimated to be about equal to the direct RF, but with larger uncertainty. The injection of stratospheric aerosols from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo was noted as the first modern test of a known radiative forcing, and indeed one climate model accurately predicted the temperature response (Hansen et al., 1992). In the one-year interval between the special report and the SAR, the scientific understanding of aerosols grew. The direct anthropogenic aerosol forcing (from sulphate, fossil-fuel soot and biomass-burning aerosols) was reduced to –0.5 W m–2. The RF bar chart was now broken into aerosol components (sulphate, fossil-fuel soot and biomass burning aerosols) with a separate range for indirect effects (Chapters 2 and 7; Sections 8.2 and 9.2).

  26. “This is a true statement. Just do a 1998-2009 linear trend. It’s flat/down.”

    Except it

    a) isn’t a trend (too many ups and downs)
    b) isn’t flat or down (goes up and down)

  27. “What a strange concept. You appear to be suggesting that all the energy ever produced must be retained in the biosphere.”

    It also makes me wonder whether they are a Dr at all.

    After 4.5Bn years of 250W/m^2 from the sun, the earth should have passed the fusion temperature of all the elements on the earth by now…

    • TrueSceptic

      A science PhD, no less.

      But I’m sure DC doesn’t want us to derail this thread. 🙂

      [DC: I’ll try to get it back on track asking an obvious question: Why are people reading this thread on Smil now after months of dormancy? It was even the most read post a couple of days ago.

      I’ll give the probable answer later today, if no one else does. ]

  28. I *think* I followed a link, and then failed to read the date (something I’ve done before!).

    I’ve seen threads elsewhere get revived after a year or so.

  29. I don’t know where Dr. Smil is getting his data, but data from NOAA’s NCDC show that the 10-year running average of global mean temperature deviations from the 20th century average has increased by 0.3 deg. F from 2001 to 2010. and by a full deg. F from 1976 to 2010. At that rate we’ll reach almost 2 deg. F above the 20th Century average by 2050. Surely that is genuine climate change.
    Jim Shea

  30. Susan Anderson

    Sadly, Revkin has featured this interview again today.

    Somehow this feels wrong. Any ideas?

  31. The piece in the NY Times referred to by Susan Anderson was the starting point for my getting here; I decided to try to see what other people thought of Smil. What I’ve read here leaves me depressed about both Smil and Revkin (this is not the first time for Revkin).

    Big Bill takes Smil seriously:

    Perhaps someone should enlighten him.

  32. I’m not sure using past data to predict the future is that scientific to begin with.

    Certainly it has been known to be a bad idea in the past…..