During the Coronavirus crisis, human CO2 emissions have dropped sharply, and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global emissions will drop by 8% in 2020. However, so far, there is no sign of slowing growth of CO2 in the atmosphere. The crisis may, therefore, falsify one of the basic assumptions of the climate models, namely that our carbon emissions are what is causing the CO2 level in the atmosphere to rise.
In 1958, Dr. Charles David Keeling started daily measurements of the carbon dioxide concentration in the air at Mauna Loa in Hawaii. The level waxed and waned with the seasons, but he noticed that every year the trough was a little higher than the previous season. The atmospheric concentration was increasing.
A significant breakthrough in identifying the cause of this rise was found deep in the ice in Antarctica, a desert with only 6.5 inches of precipitation per year. Tiny bubbles of air get trapped in the ice, and if you drill far enough down, you can find ancient air from which you can measure the CO2 level. Scientists did this and were able to reconstruct the carbon concentration going back 400,000 years.
The scientists then did something that former Vice President Al Gore did in his famous film “An Inconvenient Truth.” They superimposed the Keeling curve onto the end of the data from Antarctica and found a massive spike in the last 50 years. They concluded that this must be due to human emissions from cars, industry, and power plants.
It all seemed to make sense, except for critics who pointed out that other measurements in the 19th and early 20th centuries showed that the CO2 level had varied sharply in a way that was not consistent with the data from Antarctica. The problem with ice is that it takes between 50 and 150 years for the air to settle down into fixed air bubbles. In that period, old air mixes with young. The effect is to smooth out any short-term fluctuations. Therefore, what Gore showed in his movie is not good science.
Global Lab Experiment
When the whole world economy shut down in 2020, it caused a sharp drop in CO2 emissions, six times greater than during the financial crisis of 2008. If humans are the cause of rising levels of this gas in the atmosphere, we should see it in the Keeling curve, but we don’t.
Dr. Roy Spencer conducted a preliminary statistical analysis of the Mauna Loa data. After subtracting out the annual fluctuations due to seasons and El Niño, there is no trace of a sharp drop. NASA shows a similar result.
Critics can rightfully say that we need more data and time. Even a whopping 8% annual drop is difficult to notice in the sea of statistical noise. Therefore, it is too early to draw any conclusions. Nevertheless, we now, for the first time in more than 60 years, may have a global lab experiment to test whether humans are increasing the CO2 level in the atmosphere or not.
If it turns out that humans do not have a significant impact on the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, then our contribution to climate change is near zero regardless of how potent the greenhouse effect is. Climate doomsday would have to be canceled. It wouldn’t be the first time in history that models have proved to be inaccurate. The earliest Coronavirus models got it wrong by an order of magnitude. No one should be surprised if something similar happens in climate science.
Read more from Onar Åm.
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