CO2 Can’t Cause the Warming Alarmists Claim it Does


One of the problems with this climate change issues is that it is so vaguely defined, in very very unscientific terminology. Climate alarmists will claim that man is impacting the climate, and immediately demand taxpayer funding every one of their pet projects that they can tie to climate change. There is no doubt man can impact the climate. When the forests of Manhattan were replaced with skyscrapers, man changed the climate of New York City. When man built tens of thousands of miles of Interstate highways through forests, grasslands, meadows and deserts, he most likely altered the climate. When man cut down the vast forests that once dominated the East and Midwest, and replaced them with corn and wheat fields, man changed the climate. When man damned up rivers, and irrigated deserts, man altered the climate. No one denies that man can and does alter the climate.

No skeptic I know denies the Urban Heat Island Effect. One only needs to look at the temperatures from New York City and compare them to the temperatures at West Point. CO2 is 405ppm at both locations, yet the temperature increase is much more dramatic for New York City. CO2 can’t explain this divergence, roads, and buildings can. Clearly, some warming isn’t due to CO2. There is a full 2 Degree C difference between West Point and New York City, and Westpoint is below the level of 1830 whereas New York City is well above it. Once again, CO2 can’t explain that difference, so CO2 can’t be the cause of 100% of the warming.


The issue isn’t if man can alter the climate, he can. The issue is if CO2 produced by man can cause the warming that alarmists claim that it does. I am skeptical simply because of the physics that support the greenhouse gas effect. The only defined mechanism by which CO2 can cause climate change is through the “thermalization” of long-wave infrared radiation between 13 and 18 microns. CO2 can also result in cooling due to radiation, but the climate alarmists never mention that fact, and this article will focus on the warming aspect.

The problem with the CO2 warming theory is that the relationship between CO2 and concentration is a logarithmic relationship. What that means is that CO2 acts like taking aspirin. The first aspirin relieves 90% of the pain, the second 7%, the third 3%, and the fourth makes you sick and ears ring. Each additional aspirin has a smaller and smaller effect. Most of the impact of CO2 was reached by the time it hit 100 ppm, and the effect rapidly decreased since then. Going from 0 to 100 resulted in 18 w/m^2 downward forcing, going from 100 to 200 resulted in an additional 4 w/m^2, and going from 200 to 300 ppm adds another 2 w/m^2. The point being the slope is rapidly flattening, and even doubling CO2 from 400 ppm to 800 ppm will only result in a minor change in the new downward forcing.


Mother nature isn’t stupid. She isn’t going to create a natural doomsday bomb. CO2 has varied from over 7,000 ppm to as low as 180 ppm, and never caused catastrophic warming. The reason is the natural “off switch” in CO2 which is the logarithmic relationship.


The other problem I have with the CO2 caused warming theory is that CO2 is a very weak greenhouse gas, absorbing only the 13 to 18 micron long-wave infrared. Water vapor, on the other hand, absorbs those wavelengths and many more and can be as high as 5% of the atmosphere. Basically, H20 makes CO2 irrelevant to the lower troposphere.


The real problem the CO2 caused warming theory has, however, is the above chart. CO2 increases at a relatively constant near linear increase. In a linear regression Y=mX+b, where CO2 is the independent variable X and temperature is the dependent variable Y, it is hard to see CO2 do anything but cause temperatures to increase. In reality, the real relationship is Y=Log(X)+b, but once again, you will never hear a climate alarmist mention that. Clearly, from the IPCC model output, the IPCC is modeling a linear relationship, defying/denying the true physics of the CO2 molecule.

UAH_LT_1979_thru_April_2017_v6 (1)

Where CO2 is a linear variable, temperature is curvilinear. In other words, the IPCC model of Y=mX+b simply doesn’t exist. Unless the climate alarmists find a way to “adjust” the satellite data, the failure of the IPCC models will simply increase.

Deconstructing the Satellite Temperatures:


CO2 covers the globe in a 405 ppm blanket and increases in a linear fashion, yet temperatures are very non-linear. The above graphic is a 12 month moving average of global, land and ocean temperatures. The 12-month average is significant because it removes the variation that occurs throughout the year due to the seasons. Every data point includes data from each month of the year.  If in fact, CO2 was the only factor driving temperature, the 12-month moving average would be linear, or logarithmically related to CO2. It is neither. The other point to note is that global temperatures and ocean temperatures are very tightly correlated, whereas land temperatures differ substantially. Land temperatures are corrupted by the urban heat island effect, so the difference between land and ocean temperatures can’t be explained by CO2. That alone makes the claim that man made CO2 is responsible for 100% of the warming null and void. That is unless you “deny” that the urban heat island effect exists.

The other observation is that the moving average follows a relatively cyclical pattern. Once again, the seasonal variation has been removed by using a 12-month moving average. CO2 doesn’t increase/decrease in a cyclical manner. Something is causing the temperatures to “cycle” and it isn’t CO2. CO2 could also never cause a rapid decrease in temperatures if is the sole cause of the warming. CO2 never decreases on an annual basis in the above CO2 chart going back to the late 1950s. CO2 only increased, yet the seasonally adjusted temperatures vari greatly.

Another observation is that the oceans are warming. CO2 and LWIR between 13 and 18 microns don’t warm water. Evidence that the oceans are warming is evidence of more visible radiation reaching the oceans, not more CO2 in the atmosphere. If you can’t explain how CO2 can warm the oceans, you can’t explain how the atmosphere above the oceans is warming. If I remember correctly, heat rises in our atmosphere, and a warm ocean would warm the atmosphere above it.

The above chart is for global temperatures, and the take home is that CO2 can’t explain the warming of the oceans, the atmosphere above the oceans track the warming oceans, the atmosphere above the oceans is warming at a different rate and cycle than the land measurements, and the extreme variability is due to ocean phenomena like El Ninos and La Nina’s, which have nothing to do with CO2. If CO2 doesn’t cause El Ninos and La Nina’s, how can man be responsible for 100% of the warming? El Ninos and La Ninas existed long before the industrial age.


The oceans are rather uniform emitters of radiation, whereas the land isn’t. As man has turned fields into cities, forests into farmland, rivers into lakes, and dirt into asphalt roads, man has altered the heat absorption of the land. He has no similar impact on the oceans. Therefore, to identify the CO2 “signature” we should focus on the Southern Hemisphere, instead of the corrupted Northern Hemisphere. The above chart does just that, and demonstrates that the Southern Hemisphere has much lower temperature volatility, did not surpass the previous peak set in 1998, and has increased 0.2 Degree C less than the Northern Hemisphere since records began in 1979. Both Hemispheres, however, show that they closely track the changes in the ocean temperatures. Once again, CO2 is 405 ppm, so CO2 can’t be the cause of the temperature differential between the two hemispheres. Clearly, there is warming that is not due to CO2. This observation is also supported by other research as well.


Now let’s isolate the impact of the seasons. The tropical/equatorial zone gets an even bathing of sunlight year round, adding a nice consistency to our analysis. CO2 is 405 ppm as it is elsewhere on the globe. From the above chart, it is evident that the tropical zone (black line) is far more volatile than the Globe, Northern, or Southern Hemisphere. The atmosphere temperatures also closely track the ocean temperatures. Most importantly, however, is that there is no real trend. Yes, there are spikes in temperatures due to the ocean events, but those are only temporary. Once the El Nino, La Nina’s and other events are over, the temperatures return to “normal.” Tropical temperatures were the same in 1980 as they were in 2013. 2011 was much cooler than 1984. Current temperatures look to be rapidly headed back to the baseline, and I would expect that it should be reached within a year or two. The point being, CO2 was 335 ppm in 1979, it is now 405 ppm, a full 20%+ increase, yet temperatures in the tropics will likely to be below the level of 1980 by the end of the year, and certainly below the level reached in 1983. The CO2 signature simply can’t be found in the tropics.


Okay, I think I’ve established that the urban heat island effect and ocean temperatures greatly impact atmospheric temperatures. No reasonable person would disagree with that. I think I’ve also established that CO2 doesn’t/can’t warm the oceans, CO2 doesn’t/can’t cause El Nino’s and La Nina’s, and that CO2 doesn’t/can’t cause the urban heat island effect. If we accept all that, then to isolate the impact of CO2 on atmospheric temperatures we need to find land that isn’t corrupted by the urban heat island effect and far removed from the oceans. Ideally, to really go above and beyond, we would want to find land that emits close to the LWIR wavelengths that CO2 most efficiently absorbs, 13 to 18 microns. And if we want to really prove our point we would choose a location with very dry air so we can remove the corrupting impact of atmospheric H2O.

Fortunately, that place exists and we have data for it. Antarctica is the ideal location to isolate the true impact of CO2 on atmospheric temperatures. The South Pole is well removed from the oceans, has very very dry air, has 405 ppm CO2, has no urban heat island effect, emits LWIR near the ideal 13 to 18-micron range. Being an even reflective white also helps control for the impact of distorting incoming visible radiation. Antarctica is about as perfect a control for atmospheric CO2 as you can get. What then does this natural control experiment for the impact of atmospheric CO2 tell us? There has been no warming what so ever at the South Pole since records began in 1979. There is absolutely no trend in temperatures. The thick black line in the above chart is the land South Pole reading, and just last year was threatening to fall below the lowest temperature on record, set back in 1979. Land Antarctica temperatures also don’t correlate well with the other temperature charts, proving that something other than CO2 is driving temperature volatility elsewhere on the Globe.

In conclusion, if you break the data down to isolate the impact of CO2 on atmospheric temperatures, there simply isn’t a strong case to be made that CO2 is the cause of the warming. Yes the oceans are warming, yes temperatures have been warming, but that doesn’t mean CO2 is the cause of that warming. If you isolate the impact of CO2 by removing the impact of the oceans, the urban heat island effect, and atmospheric water vapor, the result is that those areas show no warming what so ever. CO2 increased from 335 ppm to 405 ppm in Antarctica, and it had no impact at all, none, nada, zip.

If you were wondering why I used the Satellite data, this email exchange highlights why the ground measurements are simply unreliable.


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40 thoughts on “CO2 Can’t Cause the Warming Alarmists Claim it Does”

  1. Not to nitpick but in your 3rd and 4th paragraph, it appears you are repeating needlessly.

    Great write up! I follow the climate battles from the safety of my Arizona home and I certainly would be concerned about monotonically rising heat. But there is no such thing going on. And looking at the temperature graphs you have posted I can’t help but notice delta T over time is just minute – measured in tenths of a degree! Zoom out to say +/- 5 degrees; maybe something you could actually feel, the change in T start looking like noise – and I know they aren’t your charts; but really. The warmunists are making a fuss about what amounts to just about nothing at all.


  2. You made a good point on how the relationship between Temp and CO2 should be
    Temp= log CO2 + b.
    Jamal Munshi addresses spurious relationships here
    and here
    I got interested in the issue of spurious correlations, and discovered the “R” program, when I read this column by
    William Briggs:


  3. Typo? 4th last para
    “ we can remove the corrupting impact of atmospheric CO2.”
    Great article btw. As a long time reader @WUWT I can say I enjoy the accessibility of yr writing style.


  4. Another nit- it’s La Nina and El Nino. I have seen similar meaningless lapses become the central rebuttal at SkS. Otherwise I really appreciate the article, especially the part about CO2 effect in Antarctica. I have not seen that explained so well before.


  5. I have long been sceptical of anthropogenic CO2 as the cause of climate change. Detailed graphs show a saw-toothed pattern which can be explained by seasonal changes in the up-take of CO2 by vegetation. Recent work in tropical forests confirms this by showing that there are regular diurnal changes in CO2.

    i suggest that, rather than being a CAUSE of climate change, changes of atmospheric CO2 are the RESULT of changes in ocean temperature. This deeper water is cool, so that biological activity in it is slow. As the vast bulk of the oceans lies below the the limit of photosynthesis, any biological material sinking into it decays with the release of CO2 until this is exhausted. but despite this there areas of wind-driven upwelling that maintain a slow circulation of the deep water. Complete depletion of oxygen only 0ccurs in rare areas such as the trench between the islands off Los Angeles, where the absence of oxygen prevents the disturbance of the deposits by animal activity so that layers of organic detritue maintain their identity. Fitch, of California Fisheries Lab found that these layers showed showed alternating dominance of different fish species which he ascribed to changes in the upwelling, with a cycling period of about a century.

    A similar situation also occurs in the deepest African lakes where the deepest sediments are anoxic and provide a record of deposition that reflects climate changes in the surface waters. A 17th century map by d’Anville did not show the shallow southestern arm of Lake Malawi and recent work on the sediment has shown that, as recently as 400 years ago, the level of Lake Malawi was much lower than at present. Since Livingstone explored Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika, both lakes, one extending from the equator to about 9 degrees south, and the other from about 10 degrees to 14 degres South, showed parallel falls to about 1915 and then rose again until both reached record heights in 1964. This suggests significant simultaneous changes in rainfall over one sixth of the distance from the equator to the South Pole. Surely this shows that some natural, rather than anthropogenic, mechanism was involved.


  6. Your argument is much too vague. For example, it would be helpful if you could quantify the TOA radiative forcing expected from plausible scenarios of atmospheric CO2 rise, compare that to (say) the typical magnitude of variations in insolation, and translate forcings into expected equilibrium warming based on accepted values for climate sensitivity.


  7. Never before have I read anything so wrong. I don’t even know where to start. The gross misunderstandings of the science are so incredibly specious and contrived that almost nothing in this article bears any relation to reality.
    What is that paper that you’re citing that claims that 100% of warming is caused by increases in [CO2]? Who would publish anything that incredibly dumb in the first place? Why would you use a paper so incredibly dumb to try to debunk AGW?
    Nothing about this article makes any sense, and simply, I am aghast that corporate disinformation and bad science has confused this many people, this badly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Please, point out the errors. If not 100%, than 50%. I can find alarmist claims all over the map for this “settled science.”


      1. The refrain I’ve heard most often is humans have caused “most” of the warming. IIRC, “most means > 50%.
        The Northern hemisphere is about 60.7% water and 39.3% land.
        The Southern hemisphere is about 80.9% water and 19.1% land.
        Water heats up much more slowly than landmass.
        A weak, (logarithmic forcing curve)trace gas of 0.04% JUST FREAKING CAN’T cause warming the highly tax-payer paid hysteric alarmists claim.


      1. Thanks Javert. I am honestly interested in hearing where the errors are. The 100% warming claim certainly didn’t come from an skeptic. If it isn’t claimed to be 100%, what % is it. Once we define that we can have a conversation. BTW, I’ve already addressed this in the isolating the impact of CO2 post. There isn’t much evidence CO2 does anything in the lower troposphere.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Love it. One hopefully constructive observation. The graph labels could be more helpful. It’s hard to identify series other than those you mention in the text, which in turn makes it harder​ to find the evidence you describe.


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