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Bob's strawman at CoJo

Bob Ward is commenting on the thread below Fiona Fox's piece on the Horizon programme. So far, two gross misrepresentations of sceptic views. First this:

To claim that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas is to promote a demonstrable falsehood, not just a point of view.

Has anyone claimed that it isn't? Not to my knowledge. And then this:

Both James Delingpole and Christopher Booker have claimed that the Horizon programme was wrong to suggest that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are more important than emissions from natural sources such as volcanoes. In fact, human activities emit at least 100 times more carbon dioxide each year than volcanoes, as the United States Geological Survey points out here:

Do you see the lovely, seamless elision from "natural sources such as volcanoes" to "volcanoes".


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Reader Comments (65)

Peas and thimbles again. It's a habit they can't break.

Feb 3, 2011 at 5:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTufty

The art and practice of propaganda are alive and well and living in proponents of AGW.

Feb 3, 2011 at 5:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterMorley Sutter

Perhaps a rhetorical question: who owns and defines the "skeptic view" and position? There are lots of "anyone's" out there.

Feb 3, 2011 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

Ask him about termites.

Feb 3, 2011 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin B

He's also conveniently picked 650,000 years as his time frame, even though he knows the variation in CO2 levels before that was all over the place, and tended to lag rather than lead temperature changes. At no point has he even attempted to show a causal link from CO2 levels to temperature rises, or to prove rather than assert that human emissions rather than natural factors are the main cause of the increase. Pure unadulterated arm waving - just what you would expect from a PR man.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid S

Isn't almost all CO2 increases due to man? Sure, nature emits much more and then absorbs it again, but that hardly counts - due to the absorption part of it. Am I missing something profound here?

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered Commenterpax

From memory, back when I was a student human activity produced about 5% of annual CO² into the atmosphere, with the rest pretty much evenly split between geological and biological activity. Nowadays the say that human activity is by far the biggest contributor. I suspect they are rewriting history.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered Commentercoldfinger

Andrew, there are plenty of skeptics who have in effect claimed that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas: take a look at the "slaying the sky dragon" threads on Climate Etc. and the Blackboard. I suspect you could find skeptics who advocate any conceivable position (and several inconceivable ones).

It is, of course, lazy and disingenuous to concentrate on rubbishing that type of skeptic rather than the more sensible sort, but we shouldn't pretend that nutty skeptics don't exist.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

My "word of the day" the other day was 'thimblerigging'. Seems appropriate...

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomasL

Bob seems to be getting a bit of a kicking in the blog comments and fair does to him he is at least replying to those comments, but it is a bit unfair, sort if like taking the p1ss out of the local simpleton and them not knowing it's happening :)



Feb 3, 2011 at 6:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Comment I made on different post yesterday, but relevant here:

'Bob Ward's comment is a complete joke. I can't understand why this guy is retained by his employers as he talks such a load of drivel. For example:

"But the laws of physics are not just a point of view. To claim that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas is to promote a demonstrable falsehood, not just a point of view. To claim that the Earth has not warmed over the last 50 years is to promote a demonstrable falsehood, not just a point of view."

What a strawman argument! Those who criticize CAGW fanaticism and the Bob Ward propaganda campaign don't deny those things; they don't think these claims are points of view either.

Why not play the game properly, Bob? Here is a mere point of view: that most of the warming over the past 50 years is anthropogenic. And the following is not a demonstrable falsehood: that most of the warming over the last 50 years is natural variability.

Notice, thus, that Bob Ward can't make a properly framed argument, just the strawman type.'

Unfortunately, arguments are often not won on the basis of their merits but on the basis of the cheap rhetoric, propaganda and fallacious argumentation that Ward uses. All sorts of advocacy and lobby groups learned that years ago, as did advertisers. I have no doubt that Ward has studied hard to carefully craft the ability to present lying narratives as plausible. After all, that's what he's paid to do, to be a chief propagandist for Jeremy Grantham. But surely there comes a point when you just look so ridiculous that it's counterproductive to keep banging the drum. I think Ward reached that point a long while ago.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterScientistForTruth


Are you suggesting that nature--absent anthropogenic CO2--is in a state of perfect balance as to the CO2 it admits and the CO2 it absorbs?

Or perhaps that the "natural" CO2 different so that nature reabsorbs the natural CO2, but rejects the anthropogenic CO2?

I think you'll have a tough road with either of those positions.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterThomasL

That's crude even coming from him.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Your first point is manifestly untrue, as can be seen from reading 'slaying the sky dragon' chapters from Claes Johnson, or Gerlich's paper, or Miskolczi and any number of their fans in comment threads across the web. Or are these people not 'true sceptics'? Perhaps they are not 'true scotsmen' either?

Your second point is equally vapid. What are all these other sources of exogenous carbon that you think Ward is ignoring? Or perhaps you think no 'true sceptic' is still making the claim that the 40% rise in CO2 is not human-caused?

Or are you simply being critical for the sake of appearances and hoping that no-one thinks too hard about it? Do tell.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterFredT

Bob's good, but not that good.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Bob has admitted his mistake about CO2 levels. Good for him.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I realize there is no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people. So I am going to ask a stupid people question which was spawned by this article and this quote from the article:

"Cold is a lot worse than warm," Bastardi said, "and that's why your energy bill goes up during the winter time: because of the fact that it takes a lot to heat a house."

It has been damn cold this January. The fuel oil truck comes about every six weeks. In January the fuel oil truck came to my house to fill in the 1st and 4th week of January. I burned a quite a bit of fossil fuel in a 3 week timespan....I believe I have a 600 gallon tank. Our minivan has about a 16.5 gallon tank. I burned more fuel in 3 weeks than I would normally burn in one summer driving.

600 / 16.5 = 36. I believe there is a point to be made about cold weather and heating oil use verses conspicuous consumption and SUV's/jets/etc. The cold weather is causing more CO2 emissions. haha...

I'm still trying to formulate my stupid people question. I'm confused.

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

For the sake of clarity two questions should point the difference:-

A. What percentage of co2 at present in the atmosphere is due to man?

B. How much of the increase in atmospheric co2 in the last 200 years is due to man?

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

For the sake of clarity two questions should point the difference:-

A. What percentage of co2 at present in the atmosphere is due to man?

B. How much of the increase in atmospheric co2 in the last 200 years is due to man?

Feb 3, 2011 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

I think saying "C02 is a greenhouse gas" is akin to saying "Bad Andrew is a rock song composer."

Reasonable on it's face, but what evidence is being offered to confirm?


Feb 3, 2011 at 6:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterBad Andrew

There is nothing wrong with the Slaying the dragon thread and the discussants there are not nutcases. Is Claes Johnson pretending to not be convinced by evidence when presented? The greenhouse gas effect is propangandized as though it were an inherent property of a gas, when it is not. In physics, when you work upward from first principles there are all kinds of blind alleys you can head off into, and those who do so, should not be labelled as cranks. It is these people who are using their own brains to think of ideas, ideas that the smartypants green brigade somehow has complete understanding of, even without the ability to think.

Secondly, Dr Curry unfairly (IMO) 'torqued' the thread right at the very beginning, by talking about her Georgia Tech undergrads, which poisoned the thread right at the beginning. All said and done - the greenhouse effect is not some intuitive thing to be easily grasped by non-mathematical thinking or by using analogies to plant greenhouses. With that in mind, the thread could have proceeded in a better manner if Curry had not damned the subjects of her own topic, before the fact.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

Perhaps because he finds it so hard to argue with the things we do say, he finds it more satifactory to invent things he can argue with and attribute them to us?

Just a thought.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

Nice one Josh - a perfect likeness, right down to the emperor again and the greenness.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby


I haven't read the slaying the dragon book or relevant online discussion, so I will not comment on it.

My point is that when all is said and done, Curry is surely a force for good. She sticks it to the consensus like there's no tomorrow, and blogs her case so everyone can join in the fun.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Perhaps because he finds it so hard to argue with the things we do say, he finds it more satifactory to invent things he can argue with and attribute them to us?

Just a thought.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered Commentersunderland steve

I expect that the little green Bob is typing with his toes.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterZT

Is it even possible to quantify how much man-made CO2 is in the atmosphere?

Which man-made methods put CO2 into the atmosphere?

1. Wood burning from heating and cooking
2. Wood burning from industrialization
3. Wood burning from recreation
3. Fossil fuel from heating and cooking
4. Fossil fuel from industrialization
5. Fossil fuel from automobiles
6. Fossil fuel from recreation

What else?

What is the world population today compared to 200 years ago? Which methods are used today as compared to 200 years ago?

What are the natural causes of CO2 in the atmosphere? How would we know which part of the atmospheric CO2 is natural or man-made?

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

I must be one of those nutty sceptic physicists. I don't subscribe to the greenhouse gas nonsense. Yes, gases in the atmosphere absorb and emit electromagnetic radiation at different frequencies and affect how the sun's energy warms the earth and affect how the energy is radiated back out to space. But greenhouse gases - no. I consider the processes in the atmosphere are too complex to simply talk about how certain gases cause the earth's temperature to be 33C (or whatever) higher than it would be in the absence of those gases.

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Bob Ward - hole-digger extraordinaire!

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterDougS


The orthodox postion on the identification of anthropogenic vs natural CO2 is summarised here:

Philip Bratby

This might be worth a look. Long but hopefully detailed enough to be of value:

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


"Are you suggesting that nature--absent anthropogenic CO2--is in a state of perfect balance as to the CO2 it admits and the CO2 it absorbs?"

No. It was my understanding that the CO2 increase we have seen is mainly due to man and that the imbalance in the nature CO2 budget causes a much slower drift in comparison. Is this not the case?

Feb 3, 2011 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered Commenterpax

Given my description above at 6:42 PM, aside from industrialization and automobiles, wouldn't colder weather lead to more CO2 emissions from heating and warmer winters/warmer weather lead to less CO2 emissions? If I can burn through 600 gallons of fuel oil in three weeks vs six weeks, isn't there something to be said about cold weather's influence on CO2 emissions? And wouldn't global warming ultimately lead to less CO2 emissions with respect to heating? I guess the emphasis is on the amount of fossil fuel used in cold weather verses warm weather. In my case significant.

I guess I haven't heard much talk about this and I appear to be struck by it.

Feb 3, 2011 at 8:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterKevin

As Josh says, good that Bob admitted a mistake on emissions.

As for the greenhouse gas debate, isn't the confusion between the radiative properties of CO2 in the lab, which are 'demonstrable', and its contribution to the ever-changing atmosphere of the one planet that we know of that has intelligent life ready and willing to make measurements, program computers and debate such questions?

Feb 3, 2011 at 8:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Drake

But there's plenty of deniers claiming that CO2 is not a pollutant.
Remember the Competitive Enterprise Institute's "CO2: they call it pollution, we call it Life!". Then there's the CO2 lags temperature rise meme, implying that CO2 rise is caused by warming and not vice versa.
Here are some links to some crazy people I found on the internet who say CO2 is not a greenhouse gas

Conclusion plenty of people are saying that CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, contrary to the evidence and confusing the issue.

Feb 3, 2011 at 8:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterHengist McStone

Richard Drake

Blackboard physics vs climate chaos is the nub of it, as you say.

Feb 3, 2011 at 8:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Hengist McSone

People may be confusing the greenhouse issue, but others are equally guilty of certainty about the actual climate sensitivity to CO2. This is where the debate is.

I could link to lots of 'crazy' people on the internet, but it would not further this debate.

Feb 3, 2011 at 8:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Andrew: Given some of the comments above I think I can safely rest my case.

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

Hengist McStone

But there's plenty of deniers claiming that CO2 is not a pollutant.

If you define a pollutant as a chemical or gas hazardous to life, in the concentrations we're talking about it isn't, is it? As far as I'm aware the exact opposite is true. Plant growth is inhibited at under 200ppm and significantly enhanced as you increase the concentration, limited thereafter by the availability of secondary and micro- nutrients.

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobinson

Hengist McSone. What a wonderful name.

But CO2 is a pollutant? Are you sure about that, photosynthetically speaking?

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Pardon me, McStone, not McSone. Still wonderful.

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh

Well, I guess because the EPA has delcared Co2 to be evil...therefore Hengist is right...Co2 is pollution! :)


Feb 3, 2011 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Bob Ward, what's not to like?

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterdread0

Maybe we could do an experiment at Cornwall's Eden Project. Remove all CO2 from one of the domes, and double it in the other. Keep these levels for one year.

That should answer the "CO2 is a pollutant" issue.

Feb 3, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterandyscrase

Bob - while you are digging that hole, could you sequester some CO2 in it?

Feb 3, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh


Re Hengist McStone

It is a great handle (or name). Hengist: stallion. Stone: testicle, as in 'stone horse' or stallion.

This is either the result of blind chance, a love of alliteration, or some real reading.

Feb 3, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Or a character in a Carry On Film.....

Feb 3, 2011 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

It is not a requirement that Bob actually BELIEVES what he saying in the service of his paymaster, simply the the level of cynicism to be able to carry it off. In the current dysfunctional paradigm he actually performs a high service. I suspect he, himself, has very significant doubts about the message he conveys. I have been watching him closely on the box and wonder if others see what I see.

As has been pointed out above he does, at least, reply to his detractors and without frank abuse which has to be to his credit (I mean that sincerely).

Either way and as with all things with conscious existence time will tell eh?..

Tis the way of things, no point fretting too much about it.

Feb 3, 2011 at 10:28 PM | Unregistered Commenterphlegm

It was a noble act, by Bob Ward to admit this mistake. I hope he enjoys the warm glow of inner satsfaction, that overcame him, and desires the same euphoria again

Feb 3, 2011 at 10:53 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charley

Re Feb 3, 2011 at 7:51 PM | BBD

The RealClimate post says:
"Furthermore, the 13C/12C ratios begin to decline dramatically just as the CO2 starts to increase — around 1850 AD.

If you look at the WUWT thread titled "Engelbeen on why he thinks the CO2 increase is man made (part 3)" you will find a graph of the isotope changes, and the amount of 12 C in the atmosphere is, indeed, increasing from 1850. But note that the RC post doesn't say 'increasing' it says 'increasing dramatically'.

Why the modifier 'dramatically'? Because the 12C increase begins in 1750, well before the demon CO2 from fossil fuel can have caused the problem.

I asked about this. The rise in 12C between 1750 and 1850 is a natural increase, not to be confused with the obviously anthropogenic rise from 1850 on, when the 12C signal is obviously larger. How can you tell that the first rise is natural and the second anthropogenic? Damned if I know. Maybe they sat around a table and winged it. That's what you do when you've got a lot of experience.


Feb 3, 2011 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterJulian Flood

Julian Flood

I didn't explicitly endorse the RC post, just linked to it. I actually don't know what the truth is, which groups me with the majoity.

I am anti-alarmist and will stay that way unless it starts to look a bit silly.

Got the in joke BTW.

Feb 3, 2011 at 11:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

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