I looked at one example by Bob Carter, it was published in an Australian economics journal a couple of years ago called Economic Analysis and Policy. And I noted first of all that it had a quote in it, attributed to John Houghton who was a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It includes a quote in there that John Houghton has never said, he’s never written and never said, yet it is in this paper by Carter. So that was wrong, I knew.
But the more I looked at the paper, almost on every sentence there was a question over its accuracy, and I went through one by one, and in the end I couldn’t write a paper short enough for publication that detailed all the problems, so I just had to identify the most serious. And he goes from making claims about a correlation between temperature and the Sun, he quotes a paper that’s been shown to have used inaccurate data but he forgets to mention that, it’s got dodgy statistics about the impact that carbon dioxide has on temperature, and he actually cites for his calculation a website about fossils of West Virginia. That is not science, that’s just desperately seeking bits of information to back up a theory.
So when I went through I found so many glaring errors in it, it seemed to me that it was probably the worst paper that had ever been published about climate change and it just goes to show that the sceptics if they really want to can usually find a place to get their views out.
In a world that contains papers by Archibald, Khilyuk and Chilingar, that’s a big call. Mind you, the Carter’s paper is dreadful and is an embarrassment to Economic Analysis and Policy. Ward’s critique has just been published alongside a very weak reply from Carter. Carter only attempts a defence on one point and that just underlines what a poor scholar he is.
In his paper Carter claimed:
Yet even educated persons mostly have no comprehension that the overwhelmingly dominant greenhouse gas is water vapour a minor greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide causes less than 4% of the warming produced by all atmospheric greenhouse gases ; and that human emissions represent just a tiny portion (~3%) of that 4%.
Carter has been making this argument since 2005 at least. Back then he was citing Steve Milloy as his source
Ward corrects him:
These figures are completely inaccurate. Carter (2008) cites as a source for these figures a page (Hieb 2003) posted on a website about ‘Plant Fossils of West Virginia’.
One of the many erroneous assertions made by Hieb (2003) was that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 368.4 parts per million (ppm) of which the anthropogenic contribution is 11.88 ppm. In fact, the current atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 387 ppm (Tans 2010), having increased steadily from a pre-industrial level between 1000 and 1750 AD of 275 to 285 ppm (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007a). When other compounds such as methane are also taken into account, the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is estimated to be about 435 ppm of carbon-dioxide-equivalent, and increasing at a rate of about 1.5 ppm each year (Bowen and Ranger 2009).
There is little dispute within the scientific literature that human activities have been the main cause of the increase of more than 100 ppm in the concentration of carbon dioxide since industrialisation (i.e. almost ten times the rise claimed by Hieb (2003)). The IPCC (2007a) concluded:
“The primary source of the increased atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide since the preindustrial period results from fossil fuel use, with land-use change providing another significant but smaller contribution”.
I should note that Hieb cites the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center as the source for his claim that the anthropogenic contribution to current CO2 levles is just 11.88 ppm even though the CDIAC says no such thing.
Now consider Carter’s response:
As Robert Ward asserts, it is indeed true that there is more than one set of such estimates, and one could well have a highly technical discussion about them. But like many other similar discussions that are already available on the web, this would resolve nothing and the ambiguity would remain. The reality is that our quantitative knowledge about the planetary carbon dioxide cycle is limited, and different scientists have different views about which are the best estimates.
To put this matter in proportion, it is helpful to reflect on the estimate of Canadian climatologist Tim Ball that the total human production of carbon dioxide (7.2 Gt C/year; IPCC, 2007) is more than four times less than the combined error (32 Gt) on the estimated carbon dioxide production from all other sources, estimates that range between 192 to 224 Gt/year. The perspective that follows is that even were human emissions to be reduced to zero, the difference would be lost among other uncertainties in the global carbon dioxide budget.
Notice that while Ward’s point was that there was no scientific support for Carter’s claim, Carter just pretends that Ward was saying that there were different numbers out there. And of course the real reason why Carter won’t get into a technical discussion is that there is no support for Hieb’s 11.88 ppm figure. And the only thing he does offer is a claim by Tim Ball (for which Carter provides no cite at all – did the journal editor even read Carter’s reply before publishing it?) that the number too uncertain to be known — which surely does not support Hieb’s clam to know it to four significant figures. For a lucid account (with the sort of scientific references that Carter can’t give) of why we know that the increase in CO2 since 1750 is anthropogenic see Skeptical Science.