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Prepare for reanimation of the zombie myth ‘no global warming since 2016’

Posted on 6 January 2017 by dana1981

Climate myths are like zombies – you shoot them through the heart, walk away thinking they’re dead, and then they pop back up behind you and try once again to eat your brain.

So it is with Stage 1 climate denial and the myth that the Earth isn’t warming. It’s so persistent that it’s related to the 5th, 9th, and 49th-most popular myths in the Skeptical Science database. Climate deniers have been peddling the myth ‘no warming since [insert date]’ for over a decade.

It’s a popular myth among those who benefit from maintaining the status quo because if the problem doesn’t exist, obviously there’s no need for action to solve it. And it’s an incredibly easy argument that can be made at any time, using the telltale technique of climate denial known as cherry picking.

I created a video to illustrate this point. The key is that the Earth has natural short-term temperature oscillations caused by factors like the El Niño/La Niña cycle. El Niño events temporarily warm temperatures at the Earth’s surface, while La Niña events cause temporary surface cooling. When you combine these up-and-down cycles with a long-term human-caused global warming trend and various other noisy influences, you get a bumpy temperature rise that allows for cherry picking of periods without warming:

That’s what it looks like with artificial data. Using real global surface temperature data from NASA, I created a popular graphic called The Escalator, which has been featured the PBS documentary Climate of Doubt and used by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on the Senate floor. The video below shows The Escalator with data updated through 2016:

No warming since 1998 2016

As The Escalator shows, we’re currently in a particularly hot period. 2014 was the hottest year on record, until 2015 broke that record, which we just broke again in 2016. This unprecedented heat has temporarily stopped the ‘no warming’ myth in its tracks, but like every zombie climate myth, it will inevitably rise again. Faux science journalists have already written fake news stories about temperatures falling between August and October 2016.

It’s only a matter of time before ‘no warming since 2016’ stories become common. That’s because there was a strong El Niño event that ended in 2016, very similar to the event that ended in 1998. The 1998 El Niño gave birth to the “no significant warming in 18 years” myth, which until recently was a favorite argument of deniers like Ted Cruz. In fact, earlier this week the House [anti-] Science Committee Twitter trolled “climate alarmists” by arguing that in satellite data, 2016 wasn’t that much hotter than 1998.

This myth was accurately critiqued by climate scientist Carl Mears and Admiral David Titley, as documented in the video below:


Coincidentally, there was about 0.25°C global surface warming between 1998 and 2016, which is why ‘no warming’ warped into ‘no significant warming.’ However, because of the record-shattering global heat of the past three years, the myth is likely to reset its cherry picked starting point to 2016.

Zombie myth seepage into climate science research

Between 2006 and 2014, the myth of ‘no warming since 1998’ became so pervasive on internet blogs and biased media outlets that it began to influence climate researchers. In 2015, Stephen Lewandowsky, Naomi Oreskes, and colleagues published a paper documenting what they termed “seepage” of this climate denial myth into the scientific community.

It’s true that in the years following 1998, there were a number of La Niña events and other factors that acted to temporarily dampen the human-caused global warming trend, as illustrated in the above videos. And these factors were certainly worthy of investigation by climate researchers.

However, the volume of research on the subject was a clear indication that the denier focus on the subject had seeped into the scientific community. As Lewandowsky and colleagues documented in their paper:

across all data sets, the recent change in the rate of warming constitutes a notably smaller deviation from the overall trend than were previous periods of accelerated warming.

Approximately 150 scientific papers were devoted to the slowdown, including entire special issues of the journal Nature and a discussion in the 2014 IPCC report. Similar short-term periods of accelerated warming were virtually ignored in the scientific literature.

Moreover, the scientific community adapted the use of inaccurate phrases like “hiatus” and “pause” to describe what was simply a short-term slowdown in global surface warming. Sometimes these phrases were redefined to refer to an apparent short-term discrepancy between models and observations (now resolved), which caused widespread confusion – a clear public communications failure.

Starting in 2008, public acceptance of global warming dipped, and has only now recovered eight years later.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 21:

  1. With the crazy ice behaviour this year, there is more than a reasonable chance that the coming northern hemisphere summer will see unprecidented ice melt and hence unprecidented world heat gain as the Arctic ocean turns into a giant heat collector.  If so, the step function may turn into an exponential function.  While this will be great for shooting down the deniers, it is a hollow victory if we have now exceeded one of the coming cascade of tipping points.  We can all stand together in the ever warming pot like frogs, croaking, We told you so.  The one necessary condition to sort out this CF we find ourselves in is to get vested interest money out of polics.  Without that we are pushing a huge pile of the brown stuff up hill with a spoon.

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  2. The global warming zombie myths persist. This is partly because plenty of people spend most of their time on facebook, or reading about Kim Kardashian, as opposed to reading something informative.

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  3. We might see a "global warming stopped in 2016" denier argument, but maybe only if we get another 10-year or longer pause in surface warming. The argument worked better the first time around, since before 1998 the global warming argument was fairly new. Public awareness of climate change was still new enough in the 2000s that people didn't have a memory of an earlier version of the denier argument that had been destroyed in 1998. (Such as "warming stopped in 1988" or whatever the previous hot outlying year was.)

    We might not get another 10-year pause in the near future. The odds went down with Trump getting elected. If positive feedbacks start kicking in, the base rate of warming might increase, shortening the time before the trend overrides short-term noise.

    Plus we have many other indicators of warming that aren't subject to similar pauses, such as sea level rise. Every year the king tides along America's east coast get higher. Flooding under a clear sky is pretty definitive, since there's nothing abstract or relying on complex models about it. Anybody can see that the familiar road, pier, seawall, etc. that people built to stay above water is now routinely getting submerged in fine weather.

    Eventually the deniers will quit trying to deny on the basis of any scientifically testable claim - because they can't, and they don't need to. They'll retreat to their last and insurmountable line of defense: jobs.

    Despite the hypothetical promise of green jobs, we still have an 85% fossil fueled economy. The only way to shrink emissions fast enough to avoid cooking civilization - since we've left it for so long now - is to shrink the economy. This is easy to see living on your carbon fair share (the globally equitable individual greenhouse gas emission allowance), or less than two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. You just can't buy most of the stuff you see advertised. You'll save gobs of money - fixing the climate is not "expensive", but if everybody does this then most of the economy goes poof. For starters, there can't be any flying. A single jet flight can blow your entire carbon allowance for the year, leaving nothing for, say, eating food. Since the overwhelming bulk of flying is unnecessary, the first tiny measure of our willingness to take climate change seriously is to shut down all the airports. If we won't even take that first baby step, then we're just marking days off the calendar on our way to cooking civilization into nonexistence.

    People are greedy and selfish. That's why the climate gets destroyed. If selfish people could get more of what they want by not destroying the climate, then they wouldn't destroy it. It's easy to focus on explicit deniers, but the climate gets just as destroyed by the person who pays lip service to scientific reality and then jets off to the holiday spot or scientific conference anyway.

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  4. The jobs issue promises to get worse going forward. I'm reading the book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future. It is basically 350 pages elaborating on the themes that also appear briefly in the YouTube video, Humans Need Not Apply.

    Trump got elected partly by hammering on voter fears of job insecurity, although Trump, being either misinformed or a liar, blamed the problem solely on global trade, regulation, and outsourcing. Technological progress and right-wing policies have also played critical roles in hollowing out the middle class and wiping out well-paying manufacturing jobs. People who are gainfully employed are often anxious, because a surprising number of people even in wealthy countries are in financial distress. See the book: Financially Stupid People Are Everywhere: Don't Be One Of Them and the Neal Gabler article: The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans. Gabler writes: "Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I’m one of them."

    Rise of the Robots paints a grim picture of increasingly capable robots and narrow-AI software systems wiping out category after category of jobs that were previously beyond the reach of automation. Switching to a green economy doesn't really address this beyond perhaps delaying job losses for a few years. Robots are just as happy to take a clean job as a dirty job, and perform it at a fraction of the cost of a human worker.

    What's the political landscape going to look like in a future when unemployment hits 50%? Even before the problem becomes a crisis, a demagogue like Trump can get elected by playing on just a small version of the fear. To get people to care about the climate, we have to move that concern up their list of priorities. If they are in fear of losing their jobs, incomes, homes, etc., it's hard to see people focusing on much else.

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  5. Daniel Mocsny @3

    I was also thinking that the global warming has stopped argument may be getting weak. I won't speculate on temperatures in the coming decade, but basically the staircase pattern has become more clear over time, and can't disguise an obvious longer term increasing trend.

    However there are many other zombie arguments with no sign of them stopping. There are powerful vested interests at work related to this climate issue.

    "The only way to shrink emissions fast enough to avoid cooking civilization - since we've left it for so long now - is to shrink the economy."

    You offer no evidence of this. The Stern Report found it is possible to stop dangerous climate change at the cost of 1.5% of global gdp per year. This equates very approximately to 1.5% of our incomes, so is not onerous, and theres no evidence this would shrink the output of the economy. Even a higher figure than 1.5%  is something most people could live with, and poor people could be compensated.

    Remember the cost of renewable electricity has fallen a lot since the Stern Report.

    It is also possible to stop dangerous climate change without drastic changes to air travel, provided other measures are comprehensive. Read the various research on the issue such as the Stern Report.

    Greed and selfishness is a part of the issue, but like most of your comments you stop with this considerable simplification and also offer no solutions. Nobody wants to sacrifice a plane trip for a very small change to emissions, thinking they may be the only person who does this, and that it won't make much difference. It would possibly be ethically right to stop flying but it's not entirely logical. This is why it's important to have things like carbon taxes that put the pressure on people bt using a price signal.

    It has been pointed out to you by several people now that this is not all about personal choices or morality. Of course we all want people to take climate change seriously and alter their lifestyles or "do the right thing" without coercion, but in the real world carbon taxes make plenty of sense.  And only governments can promote renewable electricity and this then makes electric cars a more viable option.

    I don't think you are listening to what people say.

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  6. Daniel Mocsny @3,

    We might see a "global warming stopped in 2016" denier argument, but maybe only if we get another 10-year or longer pause in surface warming... We might not get another 10-year pause in the near future. The odds went down with Trump getting elected. If positive feedbacks start kicking in, the base rate of warming might increase, shortening the time before the trend overrides short-term noise.

    To better understand the impact of new US presidential term on global CO2 emmisions and consequently future warming, read this:

    Trump carbon and the Paris agreement

    which postulates that said impsact will be minimal, at least in the short term.On the other hand the impact on the level of scientific understanding of AGW in this administration cannot be any starker: from a decent, appropriate level (Obama), to the utter moronic ignorance of everything that a selfish 12y old childish brain cannot grasp. Such mind is able to deny not just AGW and the social origin of this problem but also all elements of human morality and decency. In such environment, as opposed to in previous environment, I'd argue that all AGW myths, including "global warming stopped in XXXX" myth, has better chances to come back, even regardeless of what will happen with surface temperatures. That's because the new perpetrator is a crackpot, denying everything that's inconvenient to his 12y old childish brain. He's shown time and time that he does not care about reality when it comes to his opinions, so all climate myths have much higher chance of resurfacing under his administration, regardeless of the reality. Therefore, I think your statement I quoted above (that the caption myth will die due to realities of AGW) is incorrect, or at least very improbable. It would be probable if DEM (who do not deny the reality) had won the election.

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  7. Donald Trump will no doubt be "tweeting" climate zombie myths on a weekly basis. America is a lost cause on climate change for at least 4 years. The guy has a terrible range of policies on absolutely everything from climate change to economics, because he doesn't correctly diagnose any problems.

    I actually think this aircraft travel issue is another climate myth where people claim it can't be solved. Firstly you dont have to eliminate all air travel to stop dangerous climate change, just reduce it moderately. This has been documented in numerous reports.

    Secondly we don't have to stop using air travel. There are numerous mitigation strategies including carbon sinks like planting forests, and use of alternative low carbon or zero carbon fuels like ammonia based fuels (which are viable for short to medium distances).  I'm not saying any of this is easy, just that the problem is not insolvable, even just with existing technology.

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  8. @nigelj As I have pointed out many times on other portions of this website. You got the wrong biome. It is not the forests that can be a significant mitigation tool, but rather a different biome. We already have discussed this in detail. It’s called C4 perennial grasses in symbiosis with AMF. [1]

    C4 carbon fixation - Wikipedia

    C4 metabolism originated when grasses migrated from the shady forest undercanopy to more open environments,[2] where the high sunlight gave it an advantage over the C3 pathway.[3]

    … Today, C4 plants represent about 5% of Earth's plant biomass and 3% of its known plant species.[4][5] Despite this scarcity, they account for about 23% of terrestrial carbon fixation.[6][7] Increasing the proportion of C4 plants on earth could assist biosequestration of CO2 and represent an important climate change avoidance strategy.

    Glomalin is Key to Locking up Soil Carbon

    Of course that “mitigation tool” while capable of cooling the planet: Cenozoic Expansion of Grasslands and Climatic Cooling it is currently plowed, herbicided, burned, overgrazed, undergrazed, eroded, paved over and otherwise molested to the point that it basically no longer works very well.

    If you seriously want to claim that we don't need to entirely eliminate fossil fuel use due to fixing the other side of the biological carbon cycle, please at least get the correct biome and correct biochemical pathway. Otherwise your arguments are quickly and easily shot down once the details and quantified impacts are put pencil to paper. Using the bucket analogy, reforestation give you a slightly bigger temporary sink. But they do very little in the way of removing carbon from the short term cycles and into the long term cycles. Gives you a bigger bucket but doesn't impact fluxes much once that bucket saturates.

    In my opinion, no scientist can complain about a politician like Trump getting the science completely wrong, if they also remain stuck on equally false myths like Dyson's just plant a bunch of trees to solve AGW myth.

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  9.  Baron,

    While you have a lot of interesting links in your post, none of them appear to me to support your claim that grasslands are the primary carbon storage method in nature.  You have no link to the IPCC report that discusses this type of subject.  You make very strong claims on very old, unrelated links that discuss grasslands generally, but do not make the claims you are trying to support.

    Your link to biosequestration, which seems to be most on topic, discusses reafforestation as a primary method of fixing carbon first.  It later mentions grasslands and herding animals but your claim that grasslands are the best pathway is not supported.

    Please link to citations that specificly claim that grasslands are the best method to fix carbon in soil.  The links should not be more than 5 years old without more recent support.

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  10. The following statement in the OP incorrectly refers to 'terms' as 'phrases'.

    "Moreover, the scientific community adapted the use of inaccurate phrases like “hiatus” and “pause” to describe what was..."

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  11. Daniel Mocsny,
    Though I share some of your perspective I particularly disagree with your statement that “People are greedy and selfish.”.

    Since there have been studies done that confirm that altruism is an innate human trait (seen in young children), it is likely that the 'socio-economic-political' environment that a person is, or chooses to be, immersed in can significantly affect which aspects of their character are encouraged to develop and which ones are discouraged or beaten down.

    From my perspective, the real problem is the popular misconception that the aspects of life that matter most are the “Competitions to Win - with the evidence of success allowed to be undeserved created impressions, particularly wealth obtained in ways that do not advance humanity to a lasting better future for all (more correctly the appearance of wealth, since money games and their rules are just made up by humans, and many cheaters prosper to the detriment of others and the future of humanity) ”.

    Obviously humanity struggles to advance because the ones trying to win any way they can get away with have competitive advantages over everyone who honestly strives to help advance humanity to a lasting better future for all (the likely winners are not constrained by any sense of responsibility for the future of humanity). The profiteers of fossil fuel burning are clear examples of that.

    Carbon taxes are not even legitimate equalizers. They sort of help the helpful, but they fail to disqualify the unhelpful.

    Clearly the biggest failure of developed economic systems (and their associated political systems where politics has been perverted into being an extension of economics rather than being the monitor of economic activity and 'corrector' of failings of the economic activity to advance humanity to a lasting better future for all), is the lack of penalty for the ones who through the past couple of decades had gambled on continuing to get away with an understood to be unacceptable pursuit, a pursuit that was not advancing humanity to a lasting better future, a pursuit that was understandably detrimental to the future of humanity. Had it been clear that they would lose their bets they would have been angry, but pursued other ways of winning.

    So implementing a carbon tax lets the trouble-makers keep their wealth and likely shift their focus to some other damaging unsustainable pursuit of personal benefit, because that is the type of people they have made-up their minds to be, people focused on winning any way they can get away with.

    Climate science and the many other cases of the unacceptability of what is going on politically and economically are more than enough evidence that major fundamental changes need to occur. The younger and unborn generations need to “Win the defence of their future and get current day efforts focused on actually developing a better future for them (or at least not making things more difficult for them).”

    As stated in my para-phrasing of the title of Naomi Klein's book “This (hopefully) Changes Everything”. The future of humanity requires changes of the socio-economic-political games to happen, the sooner the better, as long as the change is objectively focused on advancing humanity to a lasting better future for all. Any other objective is worth-less and is likely to be damaging.

    The economy does not need to shrink, the economic game needs to change, and many of the current day perceived winners need to be clearly seen to be losers.

    And increased learning in real world matters like the many fields of climate science are essential to ensure that humanity actually advances regardless of how popular and profitable it is to try to dismiss or discredit the elites (the actual best of a group - not the ones who think they are winners or better than others) and experts who can explain the unacceptability of popular and profitable aspects of developed human activity in the made-up human economic games.

    However, I do agree that there is a potential need to 'shrink the developed economy', particularly the 'technological mass-consumption mass-marketing aspects'. Economic activity that keeps humans fitting in as part of life on this planet is essential for the future of humanity. Being apart from life, a damaging potential side-effect of technology, is detrimental to humanity.

    It is simply unacceptable to attempt to justify or prolong 'current day activity that is understood to be creating challenges for others including future generations' by claiming that 'some current day perceived prosperity or wealth would have to be given up to avoid creating those challenges or costs'. The economic game only works well if the ones benefiting from an activity will be the only ones suffering any potential consequence.

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  12. Michael,

    The best new review available is this:

    Carbon Sequestration Potential on
    Agricultural Lands: A Review of Current
    Science and Available Practices

    However, it doesn't include SRI, pasture cropping, HPG, management impacts on methanotrophs and movement from the slow cycle to the stable pool or even the multispecies integrated forage cover crop/cash crop system being developed by Gabe Brown and others in conjunction with USDA-NRCS & SARE. In spite of these limitations, it is still a very good "101 primer" to get you started on understanding the vigorously debated issue.

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  13. Red Baron,

    Your link is not a peer reviewed source.  While it is interesting it does not support your claim.  You claim:

    • "In my opinion, no scientist can complain about a politician like Trump getting the science completely wrong, if they also remain stuck on equally false myths like Dyson's just plant a bunch of trees to solve AGW myth."

    From the introduction of your source:

    • "Recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest that even if substantial reductions in anthropogenic carbon emissions are achieved in the near future, efforts to sequester previously emitted carbon will be necessary to ensure safe levels of atmospheric carbon and to mitigate climate change (Smith et al. 2014). Research on sequestration has focused primarily on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and reforestation with less attention to the role of soils as carbon sinks. Recent news reports of melting glaciers and ice sheets coupled with a decade of record-breaking heat underscores the importance of aggressive exploration of all possible sequestration strategies.
    • Soils have the potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere with proper management. Based on global estimates of historic carbon stocks and projections of rising emissions, soil’s usefulness as a carbon sink and drawdown solution appear essential (Lal, 2004, 2008). Since over one third ofarable land is in agriculture globally (World Bank, 2015a), finding ways to increase soil carbon in agricultural systems will be a major component of using soils as a sink. A number of agricultural management strategies appear to sequester soil carbon by increasing carbon inputs to the soil and enhancing various soil processes that protect carbon from microbial turnover. Uncertainties about the extent and permanence of carbon sequestration in these systems do still remain, but existing evidence is sufficient to warrant a greater global focus on agricultural soils as a potential climate stability wedge and drawdown solution."

    My emphasis.  A wedge is a small portion of the needed carbon drawdown.  Your solution is described as a "possible wedge".  Your chacterization of other posters as "getting the science completely wrong" is falsified by your reference.  You need to stop making this claim.

    The IPCC is described as discusing other methods of sequestration but not considering this method.  Your method cannnot be considered as a major fix of carbon pollution as you have described when the IPCC is not even considering it.  You are slandering other posters on this site who are following the accepted, mainstream line.  You need to control your enthusiasm for your preferred method of farming.  It is not a silver bullet.

    I have been a lifelong gardener and currently have a small flower nursery (about 10,000 3 gallon pots) on 1/2 an acre.  I have about 3,000 sq ft of greenhouse space.  I am sympathetic to your style of farming.  Good luck.

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  14. Michael,

     When I supply a link like: Liquid carbon pathway unrecognised, what do you suppose "unrecognised" means if not missed by the accepted mainstream line? We have the situation where ~5,000 farmers and rapidly growing numbers in Austrailia, and a few case studies run by Dr. Jones for scientific verification are in fact doing right now as we speak what the accepted mainstream line completely ignores and even worse says is basically impossible. Well in my book, we can attach a high level of uncertainty to new breakthroughs like this, but it is improper to say it can't be done. That's denialism exactly parallel to AGW denialism.

    Much the same, I gave you a source that claims 

    "The relative size of each of these pools can vary in
    different soils. But in general, the size of the stable pool remains relatively constant, while the sizes
    of the labile and slow pools are sensitive to management."

    That is the accepted mainstream line and it is what I was taught. That knowledge is 100 years old! For all that time no one really understood exactly why, but no one ever accomplish the formation of a mollic epipedon where one didn't exist. It basically was impossible. We could degrade it, but we didn't know how to bring it back. However, it is an impossible thing that several people are doing right now for the first time in human history! And you want me to hold back my enthusiasm?

    It's even worse for SRI, which has over 5 million practitioners and over 700 articles in the scientific literature, yet the accepted mainstream line as reviewed by that link completely ignores it.

    Did you ever wonder why I am so sympathetic to your SkepticalScience claims that "big oil" is actively obfuscating the science behind AGW? I have kept that open mind and reviewed the evidence because I know for a fact "Big Ag" is doing the same thing to soil science where ever it crosses the line in the soil they have claimed for themselves.

    There is a reason I gave you that link anyway even though Daniel Kane clearly dances around that "Big Ag" minefield on tiptoe. 

    Currently the atmosphere and
    ocean have too much carbon while soils have lost carbon at an alarming rate due to development,
    conversion of native grasslands and forests to cropland, and agricultural practices that decrease soil
    organic matter


    Oceans and aquatic systems are by far the largest at an estimated 38,000 gigatons (Gt)
    and vegetation is the smallest of the pools at an estimated 650 Gt. Soil is about four times the size of
    the vegetation pool at an estimated 2500 Gt, making it the largest terrestrial pool of carbon (Batjes,


    Historic land use conversion of native ecosystems to agriculture is responsible for soil carbon reductions as high as 60-75% (Lal, 2011).

    (btw That's on land still in production. More cropland has been lost completely and abandoned to desertification than is currently in production)

    So you can easily see the soil pool potential is far larger than the living biomass potential. I don't dispute that forests have greater biomass potential. I simply am saying the soil carbon potential is much greater.

    Now the last thing for you to connect all the dots is understand what biome builds soils, forests? or grasslands? This is again 100 year old science. Mollic Epipedon

    So when we talk about AGW mitigation strategies, do we talk about labile biomass carbon? Or the 4 times larger and orders of magnitude more stable soil carbon pool? It shouldn't even be in dispute. But by far the most common approach advocated is afforestation rather than soil sequestration. It's a zombie myth that keeps rearing its ugly head just like the zombie myth addressed in the OP!


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  15. RedBaron @14:

    "Now the last thing for you to connect all the dots is understand what biome builds soils, forests? or grasslands? This is again 100 year old science. Mollic Epipedon"

    While Mollic epipedons are formed in grasslands and have a high (>0.6% , typically about 1% SOC according to one source I saw) SOC, Folistic epipedons are mostly composed of organic material and consequently, have SOC in the 10's of percents.  They, or course, are formed in forestland.

    That goes to show that just citing the high SOC values of Mollic epipedons, or that they are generated in grasslands has no evidentiary value.  What is required is an actual stocktake of total carbon reservoirs for typical environments, as is provided by Jobbagy and Jackson (2000).

    They show that temperate grasslands store 19.1 kg/m^2 of carbon in the first 3 meters (Table 3), with a further 5 kg/m^2 above ground (Table 4).  In contrast temperate deciduous forests store 22.8 kg/m^2 of carbon in the first 3 meters, with a further 129.2 kg/m^2 above ground.  Temperate evergreen forests also store more carbon in the soil than do temperate grasslands, and considerably more in the total ecosystem (although not as much in either as do temperate deciduous forrests).  Similarly tropical forests (deciduous and evergreen) store more carbon in the first three meters of soil than do tropical grassland/savanna, and massively more when the whole ecosystem is taken into account.

    You are welcome to say that that data is out of date, and link a more up to date source, but unless that source details total ecosystem storage for all relevant ecosystems, it does not supplant Jobbagy and Jackson. 

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  16. Tom,

    I have no fundamental problem with Jobbagy and Jackson. It is of course discussing the highly degraded current state rather than prior to industrialized agriculture, overgrazing, undergrazing and various other human impacts. So you sould be careful in the conclusions you draw from the paper. But I can certainly accept in the most general terms the data while still disputing certain conclusions some might draw from it.

    As far as your claim of typically about 1% SOC found in mollic epihedons. That of course is the problem. When soils that historically contained 6-10% SOC prior to human impact are currently holding 1% SOC we have a serious problem. Basically farming on subsoil.

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  17. Red Baron,

    It appears to me that you feel that your opinion is the only thing that can be accepted science and everyone else is incorrect.  Since I am not expert in this area, I have to go with the consensus opinion.  If your soil claims have merit keep on presenting them to others.  Scientists accept new proposals once they see convincing data.  "Potential climate wedges" from supporters is not very convincing.

    I think you should stop your very loud criticism of others based on your assumption that you know it all.  Perhaps there is some merit in others experience.  Voicing the mainstream scientific opinion cannot be called "false myths".  Perhaps I have misread your posts.

    From our previous discussion it is clear that you greatly underestimate the amount of carbon that has to be removed from the biosphere and overestimate how much soil can remove.  In the end we will have to implement everything that removes carbon so perhaps your ideas will be seen as beneficial.  In any case it will probably improve the soil for those who can implement it.

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  18. @RedBaron

    Maybe this is simplisitic, but it seems that to advance your position you need to have references for the following things, and a discussion on the significant caveats:

    A) Carbon capacity of existing temperate pastoral grassland (seems like  Jobbagy and Jackson (2000) has you covered)

    B) Carbon capacity of the proposed C4 pastoral grassland.

    C) Cost/time associated with converting the grasslands of A) to the grasslands of in B).

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  19. Tristan,

    Easier said than done. The best published science so far regarding management changes on existing grassland is here:

    Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie

    But one study in Texas, no matter how well done, doesn't help much to determine what will happen in Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, South America, Asia, Australia etc etc... Its being done in all those places. Soil carbon is rapidly rising. Vegetative cover is increasing, etc etc etc. But as far as I know, there isn't yet enough published literature to quantify it. 

    That's the first problem. The second problem is so far, counter to what everyone is claiming, no land managed this way has ever been found yet to saturate so far. Other types of grassland management has, but not HPG, not yet. Gabe Brown has one paddock up to 11%, and it is actually accelerating carbon sequestration rather than slowing down. There is a guy in Missouri named Greg Judy who has been doing this long enough he theorectically should have reached saturation, but instead, his land the A horizon carbon sequestration simply tapered off at the upper levels, but accelerated deeper in the soil profile. He is now building high carbon soil meters deep. No saturation in sight...yet. But he hasn't had his land volunteered as part of a carbon sequestration scientific study with controlls either. Only relying on his own reporting of soil tests sent to labs. So these lines of evidence are not robust at all, nor quantified properly.

    In some cases where some of these properties have been robustly measured, they often are simply thrown out as outliers. That doesn't help us much either.

    But the biggest obstical of all is getting any good data at all on land currently in corn and soy production. What would be the effect of changing that land back to properly managed pasture? People have done it, but I have seen no data that could be used to quantify the effects besides the case studies done on several farms including Gabe Brown and his neighbors. A webinar describing those results can be found here and even this focused on cover crops used as forage rather than the pasture land:

    Innovative No-Till: Using Multi-Species Cover Crops to Improve Soil Health

    And here is Gabe describing it himself:

    Gabe Brown: Keys To Building a Healthy Soil

    This would necessarily be part of any plan though. Because while we currently over produce corn and soy, we wouldn't want to stop completely either. So this needs to happen too. Wouldn't want to grow it for biofuels though. Switchgrass not only produces about 5 times the biomass above ground for biofuel production, it also rapidly sequesters carbon in the soil at the same time. (10.6tCO2/ha/yr in the 0-120 cm soil profile)

    Soil Carbon Storage by Switchgrass Grown for Bioenergy


    Basically what we are left with then is calculating potential theoretically rather than actually robustly estimating it from observable published results. We have a few studies here and there, and they are suprisingly consistant, but not enough to be sure worldwide. Agriculture can double soil carbon levels in the topsoil within three to five years, particularly when the starting point is below 2%. Soil carbon increases of 0.5-1% could therefore be achieved relatively easily with these simple changes to land management anywhere those soil carbon levels have dropped below 2%. So the next question is how much carbon is that? To calculate that we use this formula:

    Total weight of the soil (100 t/ha/cm) x % SOC = 1tC/ha/cm for every 1% increase of SOC. The standard soil measurement depth is 30cm. So 30tC/ha for every 1% increase in SOC. (SOC actually increases meters deep and in the case above with switchgrass even more at depth than shallow, but data for depths over 30cm is quite rare because most the data was collected in conjunction with arable cropping)

    The only thing to do next is simply project how many acres of land we do this on.

    Desertification is experienced on 33% of the global land surface and affects more than one billion people, half of whom live in Africa. [1]

    Applying the numbers above to 33% of the land surface gives one ridiculously high potential. Even I can't be that optimistic. Agricultural land producing food totals  49,116,227 square kilometers (just under 5 gigahectares) So if we could do this on just 33% of current agricultural land that would give us a usable sink of around 1.5 gigahectares. That gives 45 Gt C for every 1% increase in SOC just in the top 30cm of the 1/3rd the world's agricultural soils. You won't reach saturation for at minimum 225 Gt C. Every 27 tC sequestered biologically in soil represents 100 tCO2e removed from the atmosphere. That gives us 833 Gt CO2e sink size for only 1/3rd the agricultural land increasing in SOC 5% only in the top 30cm. More than all the excess CO2 currently in the atmosphere and approaching significant numbers for total emissions ever. The last figure I found for global industrial emissions since 1751 was ~ 1,450 Gt CO2e (maybe some of you climate scientists could confirm that) 

    Yet as big as that number is, 1/3rd the agricultural land being capable of sequestering well over 1/2 of the total industrial emissions ever just by increasing SOC 5%. It is still finite. So we still must rely on the other scientists and engineers to get a handle on emissions.

    I still contend if we do both, it will solve AGW and may be the ONLY  way we can. Certainly the only way I know of that can be afforded and instead of risks, benefits.

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  20. @RedBaron

    Very interesting, thanks for your detailed response.

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  21. @nigelj I am not sure you will be notified of this comment (and I don't know how to reach you elsewhere), but just in case you will: could you please update the Wikipedia global warming figure with the newly released 2017 datapoint? It looks like you did last several years. Thanks a lot.

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