Monday, December 04, 2006

Denialist hopes dashed

Much has been made in the Right-wing blogsphere of a peer-reviewed paper by University of Southern California scientists L.F. Khilyuk and G. V. Chilingar entitled: “On global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate. Are humans involved?”. Pundits, such as Andrew Bolt, JF Beck and Pat Michaels, are claiming it is proof positive that the scientific debate over anthropogenic global warming is still raging.

One does wonder, however, if any of them have actually read the paper.

Michaels comments:
First of all, the two authors (Khilyuk and Chilingar) are faculty members at what most would agree is a world-class academic institution. If their work was not up to the standards of the University of Southern California, they wouldn’t be there for long. Second, Environmental Geology is an international multidisciplinary journal concerned with all aspects of interactions between humans, ecosystems, and the earth. It is published by Springer which is one of the leading academic publishing companies in the world. The editorial board of Environmental Geology includes 53 leading scientists from every corner of the planet; US institutions listed as primary affiliations of board members include the US Geological Survey, the University of New Orleans, the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas, the University of Oklahoma, Temple University, Wesleyan University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and so on.

The point is that Environmental Geology is a first-class journal, papers submitted to the journal are peer-reviewed by scientists at major institutions, and the journal is certainly not part of any industry-funded conspiracy to undermine actions on global warming. Submitting a paper to any journal in which you question whether humans are involved in global warming will assure a more stringent review than normal.

This made me a little suspicious. Why stress the credentials of the journal if the paper stands on its own scientific merits?

JF Beck does ask an important question:
I don't know that the study's authors are on the fuel industry payroll. Even if they are, that doesn't automatically make their work biased -- do you reckon they're willing to wreck their reputations by signing off on some questionable science?

After reading Khilyuk and Chilingar’s paper, and a rebuttal by W. Aeschbach-Hertig in the same journal, I’d say the answer is a definitive ‘yes’. It is absolute garbage. Some immediatly obvious problems:
The total heat flux through the Earth’s surface due to energy generated in the mantle and the crust is estimated at about 4.3•10^20 erg/s (Sorokhtin and Ushakov 2002), which is approximately 0.0257% of the total Earth’s solar irradiation. The world total energy production in the year of 2003 was equal to 1.34•10^20 erg/s (Key World Energy Statistics 2004), which is about 0.0077% of the total solar irradiation reaching the Earth’s body. Comparison of the above figures clearly shows that the solar radiation is the dominating source of energy supply to the Earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere. One can easily estimate that the solar radiation supplies more than 99.95% of total energy driving the world climate

…..As shown in Table 1, one percent increase in current solar radiation reaching the Earth’s body translates directly into approximately 0.86 K increase in the Earth’s global temperature. Using Eq. 2, one can also find an upper estimate for the possible atmospheric temperature increase due to anthropogenic activities. Even if the entire world energy generated by humans (1.34•10^20 erg/s) would be utilized only for heating the Earth’s atmosphere, the corresponding atmospheric temperature increase would not exceed 0.01_K at the sea level (based on Eq. 2). If, in addition, one takes into consideration that changes in the global atmospheric temperature are closely correlated with the changes in solar activity (Fig. 1), then one has to conclude that the solar irradiation is the dominant energy supply driving the Earth’s climate (see also Hoyt and Schaten 1997; Kondratiev 1992).

WTF!!!! What does the amount of energy produced by humans have to do with AGW? The authors actually claim that anthropogenic impacts on atmospheric temperature are LIMITED by the energy generated by humans, as though the AGW theory relies on ‘human-generated’ energy as the driving force behind warming. How could peer-review have missed such garbage? It’s not like it’s overly complicated. Solar irradiation is the dominant energy supply, AGW theory or not. Put simply, CO2 prevents solar energy from escaping from the Earth, thus causing warming. Jeez, they could have just looked at Wikipedia if they couldn’t understand the concept:
Greenhouse gases are transparent to shortwave radiation from the sun. However, they absorb some of the longer infrared radiation emitted as black body radiation from the Earth, thereby slowing radiational cooling and raising the 'equilibrium' temperature of the Earth.

But wait, there’s more. Apparently CO2 does play some kind of role, only the CO2 isn’t produced by humans:
The total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission throughout the human history is estimated at about 2.81•10^11 metric tons of carbon. Recalculating this amount into the total anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission in grams of CO2, one obtains the estimate 1.003•10^18 g, which constitutes less than 0.00022% of the total CO2 amount naturally degassed from the mantle during geologic history. Comparing these figures, one can conclude that anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission is negligible (indistinguishable) in any energy-matter transformation processes changing the Earth’s climate.

There’s something missing, isn’t there? Aeschbach-Hertig explains better than I:
It seems that the authors forgot to take the time factor into account. The anthropogenic emission happened during 200 years, whereas the natural degassing during geologic history spanned 4.5 billion years. Thus, the above numbers yield a yearly anthropogenic flux that is about 50 times larger than the mantle degassing flux, which hardly is negligible. It appears that the authors assume that the 4.63 • 10^23g of CO2 degassed from the mantle all remained in the atmosphere. Yet, the present day atmosphere contains less than 3 • 10^18 g of CO2, and compared to this number the total anthropogenic CO2 emission of 1 • 10^18g certainly is significant.

These are just two of a litany of errors and distortions that the authors made (see the rest of the rebuttal for many more). Aeschbach-Hertig sums up:
It is astonishing that the paper of Khilyuk and Chilingar (2006) (as well as Khilyuk and Chilingar 2004, for that matter) could pass the review process of a seemingly serious journal such as Environmental Geology. Such failures of this process, which is supposed to guarantee the quality of published literature, are likely to damage the reputation of this journal.

Denialists, if you’re going to cite something, please read it first. You’ll avoid embarrassing yourself, that way.