The CO2 Rise. Whodunit?

[Editors Note: Click here for Alexander Cockburn’s precipitating article “From Papal Indulgences to Carbon Credits Is Global Warming a Sin?” Go here for ensuing debate…]


Here at RealClimate, we have been (naively, apparently) been operating under the assumption that climate change contrarians had long ago moved on from the untenable position that humans are not even responsible for the observed increase in CO2 emissions over the past two centuries. The dubious paper by Ernst Beck we commented on the other day indicates that there is indeed still a rear guard attack being waged here within the contrarian movement. As if to drive the point home further, pundit Alexander Cockburn, known generally for his progressive views, has perplexingly disputed the existence of any link between CO2 emissions and rising CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere in a screed he penned this week for the online journal “Counterpunch”. Its hard to know where to start, since his piece is so over the top and gets just about everything so thoroughly wrong, that it’s almost comical. So we’ll just hit the low points: (a) Cockburn claims that there is zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of CO2 is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend, despite the fact that not even such strident climate change contrarians as Pat Michaels dispute that there is a measurable influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on global temperature. (b) Going further, Cockburn brazenly opines that ‘it is impossible to assert that the increase in atmospheric CO2 stems from human burning of fossil fuels’ despite the fact that there is an isotopic smoking gun for this connection. He then (c) fails to understand that water vapor is a feedback not a forcing, and citing putative expert “Dr. Martin Hertzberg” quite remarkably states that ‘It is the warming of the earth that is causing the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse.’ Never mind that isotopic evidence proves otherwise. Upon what evidence does he base this assertion? Well of course, since no mindless anti-global warming polemic is complete without it, Cockburn (d) resorts to the usual misrepresentation of lag/lead relationships between CO2 and temperatures during glacial/interglacial cycles as if they disprove the causal relationship between greenhouse gas concentrations and surface temperatures when they in fact validate it (see our most recent debunking of this favorite contrarian talking point here). Mr. Cockburn: stick to politics. Science doesn’t suit you.

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