Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


Recent Comments

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  Next

Comments 1 to 50:

  1. All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    DavidOwen, if I may continue anecdotally :-

    Some years ago, a relative of mine living in Germany took advantage of governmental interest-free loans, and did a thorough "job" on the house ~ general insulation and double (or triple?) glazing of windows.  I've forgotten the cost, but it ran to many thousands of Euros.  The result is that five of the six huge oil tanks under the house are now effectively redundant.

    Not sure whether the interest-free governmental loans would be counted as subsidies.   Nett long-term cost to the taxpayer is nil, other than the very small interest amount.  The homeowner wins, economically.  The country wins, from reduced oil imports and/or reduced electricity generation.

    Though I haven't seen an analysis for Germany, it seems likely that it's an efficient arrangement.  No compulsion.  The homeowner gets to assess what should best be attended to for the individual house.

  2. DavidOwen100 at 01:28 AM on 3 June 2020
    All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    The costs I quote are with me doing the installation - I agree, it's quite easy; I've already replaced half a dozen.  It's an old house with thick stone walls and all the windows are odd sizes, no two are the same, so the glass needs to be made to order.  With regard to the water heating, don't forget that in the UK we only receive sufficient insolation to rely wholly on that for about 3-4 months a year ( it was 53 degrees north there and slap in the middle of the Cheshire Gap, so cloudy even for the UK) and the rest of the time I was using at least some oil, which was, and remains, the cheapest option for domestic water and space heating if relying on traditional methods.  At the moment, I'm using around 400 litres a year for water heating (I have no other source of heating water now) for two of us.

    Anyway, the point I'm making is to agree with Nigel, that subsidies are essential to encourage the takeup of better technologies, especially when FF is, I believe, still so heavily subsidised itself.  Perhaps part of the answer is to remove those, mostly hidden, subsidies and let renewables fend for themselves on a level playing field, but that would force up end-user costs for everyone.

    Of course, the ideal would be to promote a huge increase in insulation and other ways to reduce energy consumption - but there's far less profit in that.

  3. Daniel Bailey at 00:16 AM on 3 June 2020
    All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe


    "Most windows in the UK are double glazed and many people have removed perfectly sound single glazed windows to replace them with double units, at, let's say, around £1,000 per window. What people are now finding out is that these windows don't last that long - often, in 20 years or less, the seals go and you need to replace the glazing at about £500 per window."

    Most vinyl windows are designed for easy replacement of their insulated glass (IG) windows, should the seals fail.  Once the replacement IG unit is on-hand, the process takes about 10-15 minutes per window, depending upon the design of the window and the expertise of the installer.  I know, because I've done it myself, for a small fraction of the cost of a new vinyl window.

    You'll have to entirely reformulate your calculations.

  4. All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    DavidOwen @4 ,

    sorry to hear about the very expensive double-glazed windows failing at 20 years.  Have you considered some of those cheap German triple-glazed windows?   (But I guess you are needing bespoke sizes, which would distinctly increase the cost.)

    For a cheapskate like me, if my window sealing deteriorated and the argon escaped, then I would grab my clear-silicone-sealant squirtgun and DIY (after putting a tablespoon of absorbent silica crystals into the glazing interspace).  Air is a bit less efficient insulator than argon ~ but the cost-benefit ratio looks good!   If you are disinclined to be a gunslinger, then hire a handyman to tackle those 19 windows.  Shouldn't go much more than a 1,000 quid (perhaps a touch more, if two storeys).

    I confess I am surprised that your hot-water system saved you only 100/year.   That's a low water usage !


  5. DavidOwen100 at 19:22 PM on 2 June 2020
    All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    The problem for householders is that pretty well all the so-called "investments" in domestic systems are nothing of the sort - at least financially.  I can give you two personal examples.

    Windows.  Most windows in the UK are double glazed and many people have removed perfectly sound single glazed windows to replace them with double units, at, let's say, around £1,000 per window.  What people are now finding out is that these windows don't last that long - often, in 20 years or less, the seals go and you need to replace the glazing at about £500 per window.  I have calculated that sound double glazing saves me about £200 a year  - that's with 19 windows, so £10,000 to repair them all, and they're pretty well shot now, so that's a 50 year payback time (even without inflation and capital interest taken into account)!

    Solar water heating.  I put this into my previous house at a cost of £4,500.  It worked well, but again, only saved me around £100 a year - and an annual service cost £100!.  After 15 years I sold the house and the presence of the system returned not one penny in added value to the property.

    I believe the average length of house ownership in the UK is around 6 years.  In addition, the ratio of renting to ownership is changing quickly, in favour of the former.

    Of course, this is just the personal financial side of it and a broader interpretation of "investment" is another matter entirely, but without very substantial incentives, any technology with high capital cost to householders is never going to take off.  In the meantime, cost are much less when installed in new builds, but successive governments, whilst making encouraging noises, are still reluctant to go against the lobbying of the big house building companies who do most of the building in the UK and want to keep building costs at a minimum (also, there's a skills shortage - it's hard enough to find a new build with bathroom walls tiled properly, let alone complicated heating and ventilation systems installed competently).

    So, major public investment seems the only way forward.  Given the current fashion in the West for low taxes/small government, good luck with that.

  6. 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Slarty Bartfast @6

    The article never said these floating ice shelves melt and thus cause sea level rise. It said (paraphrasing) the floating ice shelves melt, and as a result the land based glacier ice sheets retreat more quickly thus accelerating sea level rise. Please read the article again. 

    The ice shelves are not frozen sea water. They are not sea ice. They are just extensions of the land based glacier, so they are frozen fresh water, refer here.

    Agree to the extent that most of the melting floating ice shelves wont cause sea level rise because they have already displaced the sea water. Only the part above the ocean surface would contribute to sea level rise.

  7. Slarty Bartfast at 11:01 AM on 2 June 2020
    2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Re: [3] SirCharles

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, I read the article.


    Re. [5] nigelj - It doesn't matter where the sea ice comes from. The point is it is floating and so it has already elevated the sea level by displacing sea water. If it melts nothing changes. The volume of sea water it displaces when it is ice is the same volume that will be replaced with water when it melts. That is Archimedes' principle. That was my point.

    As for your claim that the ice shelves are just extensions of the ice sheets on land; if that were true (a) they wouldn't be flat, and (b) they wouldn't regrow once melted as they frequently do on a seasonal basis. See here

    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  As your NASA article makes clear, you are confusing/conflating sea ice with ice shelves, which are extrusions of land-based ice sheets out over the surface of the ocean.  Ice shelves may be floating or grounded upon pinning points and are often hundreds of meters thick (50-600 or more).  They do not regrow "frequently...on a seasonal basis".  Sea ice varies in thickness from 1 to a few meters and is often fully seasonal in nature in the Antarctic.

    Sea ice vs ice shelves

    Commenting upon on a matter without fully understanding it sometimes happens.  But others have already pointed out that you do not have a good understanding of this subject matter.  As a result, the skeptical thing to do would be to improve your understanding of the subject before commenting further.  Alternatively, asking for good resources to use to make that improvement in your understanding is also a good idea.

  8. michael sweet at 22:43 PM on 1 June 2020
    Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup


    Why do you think that the Haber-Bosch process cannot be converted to renewable energy?  Smart Energy Europe, the OP a few days ago, provides a plan to generate all power using renewable energy.  Obviously you can obtain hydrogen by electrolysis of water and the remainder of the process can easily be electrified.

    More than half of current food supplies world wide are produced by small farmers who do not use any commercial fertilizers.  You need to reduce your claims of how many people are fed using artificial fertilizers.

  9. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    RedBaron @147
    MA Rodger @148
    Eclectic @149
    Haber-Bosch is still producing 230 millions ton/year synthetic product. I am skeptical that this will be terminated in the next few decades. Therefore, until last Haber-Bosh plant on the earth is shut down my equation: Direct(inhalation) + indirect(inhalation) = life (7.5 billions people on the Earth) will have some merit.

  10. 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Slarty Bartfast, another way of looking at it is the floating ice shelves add to sea level rise, because they are frozen fresh water originating from the land based ice sheets. Its not the same as salt water freezing which doesn't change sea level rise.

  11. Daniel Bailey at 03:37 AM on 1 June 2020
    2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Think of the ice shelves as brakes on a car, that act to keep the car from rolling downhill too fast.

    Remove the ice shelves/brakes and everything goes downhill faster.

  12. 2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Why don't you go and read the article, Slarty?

    "Ice shelves float on the ocean but they are fastened to land and act as stoppers that prevent Antarctic ice sheets that are as big as the U.S. and Mexico combined from sliding into the sea. The shelves are frozen to outcrops on the seafloor, but when they melt away from those anchor points, the flow of ice into the ocean speeds up, accelerating sea level rise."

  13. Slarty Bartfast at 00:53 AM on 1 June 2020
    2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    Sorry, I meant floating floating ice shelves. That is after all the topic of the above post, and the title implies that melting ice shelves will raise sea levels, which obviously on their own they can't.

  14. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Antjrk @145 and earlier :-  You are wrong on many points.

    (A)  <"Every cell of our body contains nitrogen but not every cell contains phosphor.">

    Incorrect.   Every human cell contains phosphorus.  Phosphorus compounds are vital structural and nucleic and operational components of living cells.

    (B)  For the subsistence farmers of the Third World, the use of synthetic fertilizer is expensive for them, and gives a risky Value-Cost Ratio.   To quote FAO : "In the case of poor small-scale farmers, the cost of fertilizers can represent a high proportion of the total variable cost of production, an investment that they can particularly ill afford where there is a risk of crop failure."   In consequence, they are usually safer using traditional fertilizing techniques.

    (C)  In rich countries (e.g. USA) one observes that "the poor people are fat".   The price of food "at the farm gate" is small in comparison to the retail price at the shop ~ so an increase in farming cost of produce  (e.g. from loss of the Haber-Bosch nitrogenous fertilizers) will produce only a very small percentage price increase of food for the consumer.

    And the [current 2020 crisis] huge lines of Americans queuing (in rather expensive cars) to get free food at food banks . . . reflects sudden loss of disposable incomes.   Also for the chronic users of "food stamps", this can largely be attributed to the conjunction of low income and high rental/accommodation costs ~ a matter of "social injustice" rather than the cost of Haber-Bosch economics.

    # Antjrk : as MA Rodger points out, your comments have been somewhat off-topic for this thread.  The Haber-Bosch nitrogenous fertilizers produce a negligibly small direct contribution to CO2 in human outbreath.   Which still leaves our readers [including me] wondering if you are going to raise any valid point of disputation.

    But if you do have such a point in the back of your mind, then please bring it forward and explain it clearly.

  15. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup


    This comment thread drifts off-topic and now has more of the feel of an exercise in reinforcing a false & crazy theory than anything else. I will thus break off my participation but with a couple of Parthian shots.

    () While calcium is an essential ingredient of both bones and milk, it is not essential for the dairy industry. If agriculture stopped liming fields this would not result in cattle being unable to form skeletons or provide milk.

    () The CO2 emissions from fertilisers using FF is assessed as 467Tg(CO2)/yr or ~120Mt(C) of a total anthropogenic CO2 emission of 12,000Mt(C). Essential or not (and most here appear unconvinced of your agruments for it being essential), if that 1% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions were to become a major remaining target in the fight against AGW, I would myself consider the climate crisis pretty-much done and dusted.

  16. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    @146 antjrk,

     Yes, in 2018 the haber process produced 230 tonnes anhydrous ammonia. This is a significant source for AGW. I do not dispute that at all.

    The logic flaw is in assuming that this supports a type of agriculture that is the best yields per acre of food for people, thus required. That is not true. In almost every case maximum yields are better using regenerative methods that do not use haber process nitrogen.  So actually changing agriculture will not risk making even more people starve. In fact the opposite is already happening.

    Since you seem skeptical of this, I will give a real world example. SRI (system of rice intensification) SRI can be done either completely organic or with chemical fertilizers, or often many various degrees between.

    However, the biggest yields, in fact world record yields, all come from farmers using no haber process nitrogen at all.

    India's rice revolution


    This is not a one-off or fluke either. Across the board improved yields. But more importantly to a discussion about global warming, is the dramatic differences in greenhouse gasses between conventional paddy rice production and SRI.

    The System of Rice Intensification (SRI)…
    … is climate-smart rice production


    So changing agriculture to fix the carbon cycle also eliminates the need for haber process nitrogen and also INCREASES  yields per acre. Exactly the opposite as your conclusion based on flawed logic. 

    That's just rice, one of the big three. But the same can also be said for wheat and corn too. Changing methods to all the various new regenerative ag methods INCREASES  yields per acre on average. (usually after about a 3 year recovery period, but in some cases yields surpass those with haber process nitrogen year one)

    Your supposed risk of starving 1/2 the population of the world is completely unsupported. In fact because of the properties of biological carbon in the soil, they actually dramatically reduce  the risk of famine caused by drought or flood and/or a whole host of other stresses.

  17. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    RedBaron @143

    I am not going to use ocean of ink to defend my case. I will not use words “fallacy’, "anti-herbivore" propaganda, vacuous truth red herring, logic fallacy e.t.c.

    In spite of more than 100 years ago Haber and Bosch invented their process this is still used very widely. As of 2018, the Haber process produces 230 million tonnes of anhydrous ammonia per year.
    Thanks to those two great chemist as well as Nobel laureates billions of people could enjoy their life including me. In past, now and hopefully in the future.
    I never said/write that this process can not be or should not be substituted by different one. In some point of time will be. However, needs to be done extremely carefully base on the scientific not a political merit assuring that there is no tragedy involved and no one is losing his life or experiencing starving. That’s what worry me at most.
    As another example of more than 100 years old invention and still being used, I can give you the Einstein’s theory of relativity. Thanks to him today we could enjoy GPS and no one complains that is so old invention.
    I wish you well.

  18. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Eclectic @144

    I think you are bringing a very good point “you see a great deal of obesity and food waste.” Obesity might be the sign that is too much food so there should be no need for that much of fertilizer. This is rather social/behavioral and political issue that I would prefer not to go too deep there. Thus, for example I can see a huge waste of food in restaurants. Very often people can’t eat all the food they ordered in restaurant throwing the big portion of it into garbage. For me this is very sad to watch this. Such behavior shows not only lack of regards for human work but additionally produces unnecessary large emission of CO2 to atmosphere. Problem is that many people see food only by the scope of price/pound which is relatively cheap and nothing else. The food we have is a fruit of hard work of many people, and gift of our nature for us to have a life. We are trying to figure out how to decrease CO2 emission yet people are working against this.
    On the other hand approximately 40 millions of people are not able to put food on their table asking for food stamp. In present time of pandemii we can see as well as a huge lines of people at food banks asking for free food because they can’t support their families. All of this is in the first world which knows how to produce enough food. I am worry that increasing food price by changing agriculture might put many more people on food stamp or at food bank. They might consider themselves as be in third world.
    In third world food is expensive or very expensive for much larger part of population than in the first.

    I totally agree that other technologies than H-B could be developed including involving more organic methods and recycling of sewage. But they should be implemented without rising food price so everyone can afford it. This should be based on science not politics.

    “For humanity, the cereal crops are the mainstay. And for that, one could argue that the role of phosphates is more important than the nitrates.”

    I would incline toward nitrates because nitrogen is more basic for human body than phosphor. Every cell of our body contains nitrogen but not every cell contains phosphor.

  19. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Antjrk @142 ,

    thank you for expanding your comments : but I do not follow your logic.

    If I understand correctly, the Haber-Bosch process is an economically valuable contributor to "First World" agricultural production ~ but not much in the "Third World" or subsistence farming area.

    Without the Haber-Bosch process, food in the First World would be marginally more expensive.  I doubt I could put a percentage figure to that ~ but when First Worlders look around, you see a great deal of obesity and food waste.

    Without the H-B process, other technologies would have developed, perhaps involving more organic methods and including the wider recycling of sewage.

    For humanity, the cereal crops are the mainstay.  And for that, one could argue that the role of phosphates is more important than the nitrates.

  20. Slarty Bartfast at 08:50 AM on 31 May 2020
    2020 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #22

    How can melting ice sheets raise sea levels?

    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  Because ice sheets are based on land and are not floating.

  21. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    @ 142 antjrk,

    The first plant to use the Haber-Bosch process at industrial scale started in 1913. Over 100 years on nothing much has changed. This is no longer a technilogical breakthrough, but rather antiquated technology that is well known now to cause far more harm than good long term.

    Haber himself new the technology was only a stop-gap when he patented it over a century ago.

    “Nitrogen bacteria teach us that Nature, with her sophisticated forms of the chemistry of living matter, still understands and utilises methods which we do not as yet know how to imitate. Let it suffice that in the meantime improved nitrogen fertilisation of the soil brings new nutritive riches to mankind and that the chemical industry comes to the aid of the farmer who, in the good earth, changes stones into bread.”- Fritz Haber (emphasis mine)

    I absolutely can assure you our knowlege of the chemical processes and nutrient pathways in a healthy functioning soil food web are light years more advanced than when Fritz made that statement. 

    What this means is that the statement, "Without nitrogen fertilizers and associated fossil fuels half of human population could not exist" is a critically flawed logic fallacy. Haber process fertilizer is not required nor even the best way to feed the populace. You have made a false dichotomy that we either use haber process nitrogen, or have no alternatives, and that simply is false.

    Converting to regenerative agriculture not only can easily support the current population, it also would barely scratch the surface of food production potential of the world, for both humans and wildlife. The "side effect" of this sort of agriculture, besides much higher yields per acre, is that copius quantities of carbon become sequestered back into the soil where it belongs. 

    In fact there is far more carbon missing from the soil than extra in the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrialized age.

    So not only is the statement a logic fallacy and completely unsupported, this failure of critical thought is also an obsticle to restoring a properly functioning biological carbon cycle that can mitigate AGW.

  22. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Eclectic @140

    I would like to clarify my position by bringing the Haber-Bosch syntheses which requires to use fossil fuels. It’s estimated that nitrogen fertilizer now supports approximately half of the global population. In other words, Haber and Bosch — the pioneers of this technological breakthrough — are estimated to have enabled the lives of several billion people, who otherwise would have died prematurely, or never been born at all. As one could see, this is just not the size of the problem how much CO2 is in Coca-Cola. This is very series issue in our world. Without nitrogen fertilizers and associated fossil fuels half of human population could not exists. I can read or hear people saying very often lightly, “don’t worry breath easy this does not contribute to AGW”. This might be true for someone who is lucky to be in the first half of the population. What about second half of the population? What we can say to them? Clearly, for this part of population, fossil fuels, nitrogen fertilizers means life or death and being on this planet. I hope my “direct(inhalation) + indirect(inhalation) = life (7.5 billions people on the Earth)” is easier understood now. I am also afraid because looking into world history there were dictatorships that experimented with agriculture. As the results millions of population experienced malnutrition, starving and death. Therefore, wherever we are taking about exhalation/breathing we should be very careful and consider broader full picture so future generations can avoid a catastrophe.


    MA Rodger @141

    In addition to what I wrote above I would like to ad about CaCO3. You right is used to adjust PH of soil. But this is only one part of the story. Soil in order to function properly requires also micro-elements like calcium, magnesium and several others. CaCO3 is also the source of calcium. Calcium is main components of human bones as well as animal bones. Cows are eating grass producing milk reach with calcium that latter is used by humans building their bones. Yes. It is essential for the life on Earth unless you think about species without bones.
    I did not invoke cement production here. Is off-the topic in my argument.

  23. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    antjrk @139,

    I cannot accept your clain that this accounting of CO2 emissions identifies "components ... necessary for existence of 7.5 billions people on the earth."

    Picking up on a few parts of your comment:-

    • The agricultural use CaCO3 is, like the larger component from cement production, a source of CO2 emissions which is in addition to fossil-fuel use.
    • The use of CaCO3 on farmland is not because "calcium ... is one of the essential ingredients for sustaining the life on the Earth" but because it reduces soil pH.
    • You fail to provide anything that constitutes part of the direct(inhale) component and were you to identify such, it doesn't lead to anything that establishes a source of CO2 emissions that is any different to the usual FF+cement+land-use-change.
    • Just as creating a world without coal/gas-fuelled powerstations and petrol-fuelled cars is proving difficult but is not impossible, so the feeding of the planet without FF-derived fertiliser will require big and difficult but not impossible change.
  24. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Antjrk @139 and earlier,

    you have divided the food-chain [human outbreathed] fossil carbon into "direct" and "indirect" components.

    As RedBaron and MA Rodger have indicated, the direct transfer of fossil carbon via vegetable-based & animal-based food . . . seems to be negligibly tiny.  Indeed, it's likely that your outbreath contains far more "fossil-based" CO2 deriving from you drinking Coca-cola or other soda-pop , than it does from any fertilizer (synthetic or natural fertilizer).

    You are quite right that there's a large "indirect" contribution, from fossil fuels energizing the production of synthetic fertilizer, and transporting it, and spreading it.  And the same indirect contribution, in harvesting the food, in transporting it and processing & packaging it, and distributing it . . . and refrigerating it . . . and in transporting purchasers to the shops . . . etcetera.   The whole fossil fuel economy we conduct, has a fossil CO2 contribution woven into almost everything we do and use, in our modern lives.   # And that is exactly what we need to change, of course.

    You could even point to the fossil fuel burnt by the school bus that conveyed the farmer to the local school when he was a boy.

    All that said ~ it is very unclear to me what is the precise point you are wishing to make about CO2 and food and outbreath.    Please clarify !

  25. All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    michael sweet @2

    Thank's for the info.

    "Here in Florida air source heat pumps are used for air conditioning. They are available in any size required, how could they possibly not produce enough heat? "

    In NZ  heat pumps struggle to sometimes produce enough heat when temperatures are very cold, as noted here (and this is a rant promoting heat pumps so probably understates the issue a bit). My neighbours have a reasonably modern heat pump, and had to double glaze their windows and even then sometimes they need additional heating from a fan heater. That said, heat pumps are a good investment especially longer term. Sadly a lot of people think short term, but when they have to pay so many bills one can't blame them.

    We have subsidies for wall insulation and solar panels, but not heat pumps and double glazing. I guess you can't subsidise everything, but if we are serious about mitigating climate change plus promoting the best heating its hard to escape the need for subsidies or tax breaks.

  26. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    @137 RedBaron
    Accusing me for “anti-herbiviore” propaganda and “vacuous red herring” is political, offensive and unscientific approach and is not helpful in finding the truth. This kind level of discussion does not make any sense  to be  productive to carry on.
    MA Rodger@138
    I agree let’s stick to the audit trail. Let’s look into urea. Urea does contain carbon atom which will be finally converted by biochemical processes to CO2 and release to atmosphere. Another part might be incorporated into humic acids especially in soils rich in clay/bentonite and release latter straight to atmosphere. As another example, the carbonate calcium often used in soil conditioning process is a source of calcium which is one of the essential ingredients for sustaining the life on the Earth. When decomposed release CO2 to atmosphere. In both cases they are not directly exhaled and not in the food chain. However, without them the food chain could not exists. For tackling the problem in more efficient way, I would brake human exhalation on two components: direct and indirect. Direct will be exhalation by breathing and indirect like those by urea or calcium carbonate which produce CO2 straight to atmosphere without entering the food chain but is necessary for the process to exist. In order to make it more clear, I would propose pseudo-mathematical formula:
    Direct(inhalation) + indirect(inhalation) = life (7.5 billions people on the Earth)
    Both components are necessary for existence of 7.5 billions people on the earth.

  27. michael sweet at 08:52 AM on 30 May 2020
    All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe


    As described in the OP, the Smart Energy Europe plan is for efficient generation of All Power required in the economy.  Many generating companies choose to rely on simple electric only plans that describe the need for large amounts of electrical storage.  That simply means that those companies are not planning long range, not that expensive pumped hydro and battery storage are needed.  I note that Jacobson 2018 (linked in the OP) includes exactly zero additional pumped hydro storage for all of North America (I did not check any other areas).  A small number of battery farms like the one in Australia might be needed but most energy storage would not be batteries.

    Replacing fossil natural gas with electromethane is the last step in the process. You need very high amounts of renewable energy in the system before it is useful to make electrofuels.  The process of making electrofuels has been demonstrated and is well known.  It is not yet economic to make electrofuels, fossil fuels are cheaper and the grid has too much electricity from fossil to make it worthwhile.  Obviously if you use fossil fuel powered electricity to make electrofuels you will lose energy.

    The battery power you cite is still several orders of magnitude more expensive than the storage of electrofuels.  In general, for both pumped hydro and batteries they are only economic if they are charged and discharged on a daily basis.  For long term storage of power, for example if the system generates excess power in the summer and needs storage for winter use, storage of electrofuels are pratical while pumped hydro and batteries are too expensive.

    Here in Florida air source heat pumps are used for air conditioning.  They are available in any size required, how could they possibly not produce enough heat?  Ground source heat pumps, which are more efficient, are just coming on the market.  From what I have read they are expensive to retrofit to a building but are economic for new build.  Perhaps subsidies to promote them would help more installations.  More insulation, which pays back in a couple of years, is resisted by builders because they want to minimize initial price.  That is very short sighted.  After the short pay back period more insulation makes the house more valuable since heating costs are so low.  Long term efficient heat pumps will save money.

  28. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    antjrk @136,

    I will set out different argument to that @137.

    Simply, if there is no audit trail of the carbon content of FF being transferred to fertiliser and thence to a food crop and thence this same carbon being consumed by humanity and exhaled into the atmosphere; if this autid trail is missing, then your argument could also be applied to the fuel used in the tractors on the farm and the lorries bringing the crop to the consumer, the processing and packageing of the food, and finally the cooking of it. Where would you stop? And how about keeping humanity warm? That can be essential to life and utalises FFs. Or flying them round the world on holiday? After all, of those billions of polluting humans, one-in-ten obtains a livelihood from tourism.

    So let's stick to that audit trail. Most fertilisers do not contain carbon so there is no audit trail.

    And while urea is used as a fertiliser and that does contain carbon (NH2)2CO, that carbon is not part of the fertilising process and does not transferred to the plant. All carbon contained in food crops is drawn from the atmosphere and consuming such food simply returns that carbon whence it came.

  29. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    @136 antjrk,

    The same sort of logic fallacies are present in your line of reasoning as are often found in the "anti-herbivore" propaganda.

    1 is a vacuous truth red herring.

    2 is a false premise.

    3 is a hasty generalization association fallacy.

    4 is true

    "If we agreed to above premises the general conclusion has to be: supporting life of more than 7 billions people on the Earth requires emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels to atmosphere." is circular reasoning where the conclusion is exactly the same as the premises. Especially 2 being a false premise makes the conclusion unsupported as well.

    To boil it down to the essence, yes agriculture currently contributes to AGW, but there is no reason to assume it MUST contribute to AGW. In fact there is plenty of evidence that agriculture could be managed in a way that is net negative on the carbon cycle to the atmosphere, by sequestring a large % of the primary products of photosynthesis into the soil. A process that also has a side effect of greater yields without the need for haber process nitrogen fertilizers.

    Clearly the primary fallacy of declaring human breathing as an emissions source causing AGW is the double counting fallacy. But since agriculture can be done in many many ways, and not all require nitrogent fertilizers made from fossil fuels, the hasty generalization is flawed. More importantly, it does not lead to any solutions. 

    Address the complex nature of agriculture does indeed suggest many solutions. So your flawed reasoning is not useful in any reasonable AGW discussion that includes potential solutions.

  30. Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup

    Tokenterprises @133
    MA Rodger @134

    I would like to make an argument on human exhalation in much simpler form on the following premises using inductive reasoning:

    1. Sustaining of life requires exhalation.
    Stopping of exhalation terminates life.
    2. Sustaining life of 7.5 billion people on Earth requires fertilizers.
    3. Fertilizers are produced using fossil fuels.
    4. Fossil fuels used in fertilizers production contributes to concentration of CO2 in atmosphere.

    If we agreed to above premises the general conclusion has to be: supporting life of more than 7 billions people on the Earth requires emission of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels to atmosphere. Therefore, in order to sustain human civilization human exhalation has to influence amount of CO2 in atmosphere.

  31. All Renewable Energy Plan for Europe

    "Replace fossil natural gas with electromethane."

    Sounds good. As mentioned this apparently eliminates the need for masses of expensive battery or hydro storage. That being the case if its so great, why are generating companies still choosing to build pumped hydro  and battery storage farms (for example in S Australia but elsewhere as well)? Is it just still at experimental stage? Are there any hidden downsides?

    Something someone posted over at RC:This new battery technology looks very affordable.  

    And yes residential heat pumps are great, and cheap to run, But they are expensive to buy and install, and you pretty much need double glazing and high levels of wall insulation, because they dont put out all that much heat. Most people can't afford all this, so I would suggest it needs a government subsidy or other incentive, or it wont get off the ground at scale.


  32. Joel_Huberman at 23:53 PM on 28 May 2020
    Skeptical Science New Research for Week #21, 2020

    Thanks, Doug, for this truly impressive coverage of new climate research!

  33. Did Michael Moore's Film Bash Renewable Energy?

    One of the best critiques of MM's film is in Just Have a Think

    Hard to understand what happened to Michael in this film.

  34. Did Michael Moore's Film Bash Renewable Energy?

    Breaking news...

    Michael Moore film Planet of the Humans removed from YouTube

    British environmental photographer’s copyright claim prompts website to remove film that has been condemned by climate scientists

    by Jonathan Watts, Environment, Guardian, May 25, 2020

  35. Did Michael Moore's Film Bash Renewable Energy?

    The nice folks at have covered this also.

  36. Did Michael Moore's Film Bash Renewable Energy?

    A very personal take on MM by Peter Sinclair => Michael & Me

  37. Did Michael Moore's Film Bash Renewable Energy?

    Well said. One nit pick. The audio volume is very low in this video even at maximum setting. 

    To me the negative association of renewables with a growth based capitalist system is as bizarre as the denialists claiming renewables are a product of green socialism. Its just an energy source that should be judged purely on its merits surely.

    Our growth based industrial civilisation goes back a long way and looks to me like it has enormous intertia and could take quite a while to slow down and change. It should be possible to change the energy grid faster, because its just one part of the whole. Renewables could form part of a zero growth economy, or a low growth recycling economy.

  38. James Charles at 18:05 PM on 25 May 2020
    PETM climate warming 56 million years ago strongly tied to igneous activity


  39. The Underground Solution To Climate Change

    John S @2:

    I used to think UBI was an answer to many things, but IMHO it's actually not viable in the real world outside of the trials going on in various places.

    It has to be expensive from the exchequer point of view, and when the costs are transmitted down the line to the street it makes offshore manufacturing even less expensive unless every country has similar policies - which ain't going to happen.

    It might just work in large countries/economies like the US or EU, which possibly are large enough to essentially close borders and become island economies - but just look at the shambles the Euro has spawned: I can just see the Germans swallowing it!

  40. The Underground Solution To Climate Change

    Further to my previous comments, predictably and steeply rising prices on carbon will help; revenue neutral so the dividends to be received by everyone mollifies them against freaking out about how high the carbon price will go; this is exemplified in the Energy Innovation and Carbon Divided act currently before the US Congress and by the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act already in force in Canada, except Canada needs to commit to continue increasing the price beyond 2022, to a steeper rate of increase and to make it more obvious that people are actually getting back the dividends (anecdotal evidence suggests, incredibly, a lot of people still don't believe it - they just didn't notice the slightly higher refund they got from the tax return - a direct deposit dividend into their bank accounts would be more noticeable); the dividends can trigger the start-up of Universal Basic Income, which will partly address inequality; the dividends would be reasonably predictable and continue rising for about 15 years (my rough spreadsheet projection) even while emissions decline because of the increasing price.  Another way it addresses inequality is the fact that corporations also pay the carbon charge, but only individuals get the dividends.  The UBI could help especially owners of single family homes view their energy retrofit loan repayment obligations with more equanimity. 

  41. The Underground Solution To Climate Change

    Very pertinent - I'm a retired district heating consultant who sometimes worries how we'll get fossil fuels out of building heating - it won't be easy because right now gas is so cheap, about the equivalent of 1 cent/kilowatt hour - the other problem is that building heating is a very peaky load.  It will take massive deep energy retrofits to reduce heat energy consumption (and peak demand, the second problem) which will be costly, labour intensive and time consuming (but nevertheless we have to do it eventually so we'd better get started, or more accurately ramp up what's already been done).  COVID 19 recovery stimulus is another reason to ramp up these efforts through more and easier loans, e.g. on the building rate assessments.  This is also one of the few areas where I would support Pigouvian subsidies.  Deep refrofits could include geo-exhange with heat pumps.  Very dense areas, with lots of apartments, condos and large commercial/institutional buildings, could be converted to district heating sourced from central geoexhange.  All new buildings should be mandated to be zero-emissions.  The builders can figure out how best to do that.  Of course, as the video mentioned, heat pumps consume some electricity, though delivering heat way more efficiently than straight electric heating (because most of the heat comes from the ground - even air source heat pumps are not too bad in moderate climes). Similar to electrifying transportation, we ideally want a 100% clean grid, although they are still beneficial even with some fossil still on the grid, so there is no excuse not to go for this option as aggressively as possible. 

  42. James Charles at 21:12 PM on 23 May 2020
    PETM climate warming 56 million years ago strongly tied to igneous activity

    Is this the case?

    “Michael G. O'Brien
    James Charles
    What has happened during the past 125K years is uplift of the ESAS clathrate deposits from their formation and safe zone 700 meters deep to 50 meters deep by mantle convection . At that depth when the ice is gone latent heat takes two years to start the chain reaction of methane runaway. They were not import last interglacial because they were safely deep enough then. “

    Moderator Response:

    [PS] This is a bit offtopic here. Any responses to this should go here please. James, please also see this resource from modeller (Archer) who looked into this.

  43. Animal agriculture and eating meat are the biggest causes of global warming


    Exactly correct but it goes deeper than that. 

    There is a logic flaw every time we suppose that any type of food is "harmful" to the environment or causes AGW. 

    Food does not cause AGW...EVER.

    Agriculture can contribute to AGW if the methods used have impact, but this is a result of methods used. Agriculture is equally capable of mitigating AGW as contributing to AGW. In this regards it is even more important than fossil fuels vs renewable energy.

    Renewable energy is hugely beneficial of course, but there is no renewable energy that is a net negative. (although theorectically there are potentially ways to manage it, none exist now at our current technology)

    Agriculture on the other hand varies from a large net emissions source to a large net emissions sink depending on the methods used. It absolutely can be done at a net negative, unlike renewable energy which simply tapers down to zero.

    Focusing on the food itself, rather than the production methods for that food is a critically flawed strategy the simply obfuscates and confuses, rather than actually helping to make the changes needed to mitigate AGW.

    Bottom line is that yes, factory farmed animal husbandry is a net source for emissions, but properly managed animal husbandry is quite capable of easily being a net sink. Eating less meat when it is being raised as a net sink actually INCREASES your carbon footprint, rather than decreasing it. While eating less factory farmed meat does decrease your carbon footprint.

    Thus it is not what you eat nearly as much as it is how what you eat was produced.

    This is not any different than energy actually. Electricity is not inherently a cause of AGW either. Produced by a coal plant sure. Then it is. But produced by a windmill? Certainly not. So it's not the electricity itself to blame, but rather the way the electricity is generated. Food is exactly the same as this, including meat.

  44. Animal agriculture and eating meat are the biggest causes of global warming

    Thanks for admitting me to the forum and for this interesting discussion. When we are talking about climate change it seems to me that we need to be thinking about 'carbon in the biosphere' as being the primary issue rather than 'carbon in the atmosphere' (which is a consequence of the former)! Something that has really puzzled me for some time is the (I think) indisputable fact that these two classes of carbon are frequently not differentiated when we discuss food footprints. I understand that in Australia virtually all beef production is 'rangeland' meaning the animals rely almost entirely on natural pasturage and waters. Granted, the sheer (and increasing) quantum of animal production - with concommitant transport and other f/f inputs - is a major issue - but it does seem to me that the GGEs supposedly associated with animal production remain quite misunderstood. What exactly is the long-term GG issue associated with ruminant husbandry is the CO2 and methane being produced is based on carbon that is already in the biosphere? Doesn't this husbandry and consequent consumption just move the carbo atoms around in the biosphere? Isn't it the introduction of long-sequestered carbon into the biosphere via use of fossil fuels what we should really be focussed on? 

  45. Michael Moore's Movie is Garbage

    Another critique:


  46. PETM climate warming 56 million years ago strongly tied to igneous activity

    Part 3: "both the Gutjahr et al and Jones et al research suggests that any amplifying feedback from an extra carbon reservoir (like clathrates or permafrost) was small if it existed at all in the PETM world"  The reason for this seems to have been answered in Part 1: "[to have caused the PETM]...a large reservoir of clathrates...[needed] to be there... We know they exist in today’s seabed but the Paleocene ocean was much warmer than today’s, so the reservoir was probably as good as empty [... and the lack of permafrost as a PETM trigger is similarly explained]." 

    So we may not be out of the woods, on feedbacks, just yet.

  47. Increasing CO2 has little to no effect

    Whariwharangi - for all intents and purposes, the spectrum of the IR emitted is determined by surface temperature (Planck's law). Sea is generally cooler than land, but any modelling of emissions absolutely takes that into account.

  48. doug_bostrom at 07:40 AM on 22 May 2020
    Michael Moore's Movie is Garbage

    At my age I prefer Nigel's option. That may be more a reflection of "old fuddy-duddy speakiing" but Just Have A Think does offer a lot more facts, less snark. 

    That said, all buttons must be pushed and there are a lot of different shapes and styles of buttons. :-)

  49. Michael Moore's Movie is Garbage

    The following video here is a good, detailed, professional criticism of the Gibbs/ Moore movie, reinforcing the point that much of the material is old, typically ten years although some is even older. A published peer reviewed study quoted in the movie is very old, and the date of publication is mysteriously missing, apparently blanked out. 

  50. Increasing CO2 has little to no effect

    Whari @408 : Sorry, but I am confused by the wording of your question.   Can you re-state the point you are discussing?

    Am I right in assuming you are talking about the upward Infra-Red radiation spectrum detected by satellites?  Or something else?  The satellites can detect reflected radiation (visible and near-visible light) or they can detect IR radiation emitted from land / sea / clouds /  atmospheric gas (H2O; CO2; CH4; etcetera).

    From a GreenHouse point of view, the satellites are detecting upward IR radiation from the upper troposphere (so-called TOA - Top Of Atmosphere - which is at an altitude of approx 3 - 10 km, depending on which latitude and which of the GreenHouse Gasses you are considering). The upper atmosphere is a swirling mix of air (averaging of horizontal winds and vertical convections) and so is not directly  connected to the ocean or land surface below.

    Heat is lost upwards from ocean & land, by means of air convection & evaporation/re-condensation & Infra-Red radiation (from molecule to molecule in the air).

    My apologies if I am misunderstanding you.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20  Next

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2020 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us