Monday, 15 December 2008

Dr. D. Bruce Merrifield

Ivy League Organic Chemist Dr. D. Bruce Merrifield is a former Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, Professor Emeritus of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, and a member of the Visiting Committee for Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago.

List cites this article which contains a lot of figures and graphs:

Arguments condensed:

  • Rate of greenhouse gas rise hasn't risen since 1988 despite increased fossil fuel emissons

  • solar radiation, co2 and temperature closely track across time

  • Glacial warming caused primarily by sun and secondary feedback from rising greenhouse gas

CO2 Stopped rising in 1988?

This is what I thought the argument was when I read it first. I took another look and now think the claim is actually that co2 rise hasn't accelerated since 1988, with the argument that it should of done given increased human co2 emissions.

The 400 list quotes this part of the article:

"The current 100 year solar radiation cycle may now have reached its peak, and irradiation intensity has been observed to be declining. This might account for the very recent net cessation of emission of green house gases into the atmosphere starting about 1988, in spite of increasing generation of anthropomorphically-sourced industrial-based green house gases."

Here's another sentence of the same argument:
"Interestingly, starting about two decades ago (1988), the total increase of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere has abruptly stopped, in spite of increased burning of fossil fuels."

This does sound like it's saying the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere abruptly stopped in 1988. But the use of the word into, rather than in, could mean it's talking about the rate of increase in greenhouse gases has stopped since 1988. This explaination is far more likely given that the claim co2 stopped rising in 1988 is nuts.

The claim cites figure v, which depicts the % gain of co2 per year. But the graph only goes up to 1993. Here's a graph of the same thing but going up to 2008. Not only does it show that co2 rise has accelerated since 1988, but it also exposes how convenient it was for the article to cut the graph off in 1993. Also note that even a steady % growth rate is an exponential rise anyway.

In addition the 1988 spike was probably due to the strong El Nino in that year, just as the 1998 spike can be attributed the same. In fact emissions in the first few years of the 1990s did not rise, but were fairly level (, perhaps owing to the collapse of the soviet union.

So in summary is a lot wrong with the article's argument from the serious to the trivial:

  • CO2 data shows the argument is wrong.
  • Cutting off the data past 1993
  • Continuing to make a claim that co2 rise hasn't accelerated since 1988 despite not having the data past 1993.
  • Thinking 5 years of co2 data past 1988 are sufficient to determine anything significant about the trend considering the noise on the graph.
  • Not realising (or mentioning) the cause of the 1988 spike
  • Describing it as the "net cessation of emission of green house gases into the atmosphere" which betrays a lack of understanding that co2 absorption plays a role. Why not just say co2 rise has slowed or remained steady since 1988?
  • The phrase "anthropomorphically-sourced".


  • Figure X is from (this one, printed out on paper, scanned back in and uploaded to the web article. Somewhere in that process the last 40 years of the Lean reconstruction has been lost. This is the second graph that has and end section missing, and in both the argument relied on the omission.

  • Figure IX is from another internet site "Global Warming:A closer look at the numbers" (, an webpage with a number of inaccuracies. The table itself is cited back to the "US Department of Energy", except the geocraft site has inserted the "natural additions" and "man-made additions" columns itself, and coincidentally (or not), those are the same columns that contain incorrect values.

  • The articles says: "The amounts of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere have increased about 1.8% per year since pre-industrial times, rising from about 280 ppmv to 383 ppmv now -- the highest in 160,000 years." probably refering to figure 2 that shows ice core data going back 160,000 years. Yet amazingly the article has missed it's own figure #1 which is the vostok graph stretching back even further, 400,000 years.

  • Despite a lot of errors in the article, the following explaination of glacial warming is far better than I would have thought. The author could have simply said greenhouse gases are irrelevant, but doesn't. I think maybe they have simply made a decision based on insufficient info: "The onset of each 100,000-year abrupt warming period has been coincident with emissions into the atmosphere of large amounts of both carbon dioxide and methane greenhouse gases, which absorb additional heat from the sun, a secondary warming effect. Solar radiation would appear to be the initial forcing event in which warming oceans waters release dissolved carbon dioxide, and melt methane hydrates, both of which are present in the oceans in vast quantities. Subsequent declines in radiation are associated with long cooling periods in which the green house gases then gradually disappear (are re-absorbed) into terrestrial and ocean sinks, as reflected in the data from coring the Antarctic Ice Cap and Sargasso Sea."

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