August 30, 2011 | Graham

Perhaps ABC’s Williams might do a more disCERNing interview

You have probably missed it because the mainstream media hasn’t been reporting it much, but climate science just got a little less settled.

A key component in the climate, and in climate models, is cloud formation, but according to results just published in Nature, much of what we thought we knew about cloud formation is wrong.

As the official release says:

The CLOUD results show that trace vapours assumed until now to account for aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can explain only a tiny fraction of the observed atmospheric aerosol production. The results also show that ionisation from cosmic rays significantly enhances aerosol formation. Precise measurements such as these are important in achieving a quantitative understanding of cloud formation, and will contribute to a better assessment of the effects of clouds in climate models.

“These new results from CLOUD are important because we’ve made a number of first observations of some very important atmospheric processes,” said the experiment’s spokesperson, Jasper Kirkby. “We’ve found that cosmic rays significantly enhance the formation of aerosol particles in the mid troposphere and above. These aerosols can eventually grow into the seeds for clouds. However, we’ve found that the vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction of the observations – even with the enhancement of cosmic rays.”

So that’s two unsettling things. One we were more or less aware of – cosmic rays have an effect on cloud formation. As the amount of cosmic radiation that reaches the earth is modulated by the sun’s activity, this provides a causal connection between observed temperature changes and sunspot activity. Henrik Svensmark gets the credit for proposing this mechanism.

The other I suspect is a surprise to everyone. Apparently we have virtually no idea what is required for lower level cloud formation as the “vapours previously thought to account for all aerosol formation in the lower atmosphere can only account for a small fraction”.

You would have thought that something like this would have been on the ABC’s Science Show, but alas, presenter Robyn Williams is still catching-up with old news in climate science.

This week he investigates the role of CO2 in plant fertilisation and he starts the interview by saying:

Robyn Williams: Is carbon dioxide really a plant fertiliser? Will it simply increase plant growth as we add more to the atmosphere? Well, no, according to Associate Professor Mark Hovenden, who is a plant ecologist at the University of Tasmania, and done what scientists must do, an experiment.

Dear old Robyn can’t get his own interviews right. If you read the transcript you will find that AssPro Hovenden says CO2 is a plant fertiliser, and yes, it will increase plant growth  as we add more to the atmosphere.

It doesn’t work that way in his own experiments because he is growing the plants on nutrient deficient soils and the lack of nutrients limits the rate at which the plants can grow. But it does work that way if the nutrients are there, although there is a diminishing return.

As Williams has long been over-invested in global warming hysteria he tries to obscure the fact that CO2 is a plant fertiliser. He also invents a straw man argument – that the increased plant growth will exactly counteract the anthropogenic component of the increase in CO2.

I haven’t heard anyone of any consequence say that. CO2 sequestration is fairly complex, although as the hydrocarbons we are mining were once  organic, over the long term it’s got to be reasonable to expect plants to sequester a lot of the additional CO2.

So, now that the ABC has caught up with CO2 fertilisation, perhaps they could cover the CERN findings, which are more startling, novel, and a lot more significant.


Posted by Graham at 12:23 pm | Comments (30) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. Graham,

    Climatology is an enormously complicated subject and only climatologists can assess the significance of the research you have cited,I doubt if it really ‘unsettled’ any scientists working in the area.

    The mining companies and their sock puppets, the Coalition, have already won the political argument over climate change. So, until/if the smart money in Australia, moves from high carbon emitting industries, that’s the status quo. Scientific reality is probably quite different.

    As to the benefits of increased CO2,there is an optimum level for nutrients,try breathing pure oxygen 24/7 or ingesting 10 times the recommended vitamin dose.

    There’s plenty of biological evidence for climate change,the hypothesis is not dependent on models.
    What’s your position? Climate change is a fallacy,a greenie conspiracy, or it’s not anthropogenic?

    Comment by Russell W — August 30, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

  2. My position is that, as with anything else, global warming ought to be assessed on the facts.

    I’m sure that the research did unsettle scientists in the area, many of whom have been pooh poohing Svensmark since he came up with his hypothesis. The IPCC position has been that changes in solar cycles can’t explain the temperature fluctuations. So, inasmuch as there is a real scientific consensus around the IPCC, then by definition many scientists must have been unsettled.

    I note that you have a conspiracy theory – that the Coalition does what it is told to by the mining industry and that the mining industry is opposed to doing anything about climate change.

    I don’t agree with that conspiracy, and I don’t have a conspiracy theory of my own. The public choice literature gives you plenty of mechanisms for what is going on – it’s the same as any other bubble or mania.

    My position, which is the mainstream one, is that man-made emissions of CO2 have an effect on climate. I expect it to be at the very low end of projections and not catastrophic, which is also pretty mainstream.

    Of course there is biological evidence for climate change – climate has been changing as long as there has been a climate.

    There is no biological evidence for anthropogenic global warming in the 20th century for the reason that the temperature increase has only been around 0.7 degrees, which is well within natural variation. That plants respond to this says temperatures have risen, but it doesn’t tell you to what degree man is responsible.

    Comment by Graham Young — August 31, 2011 @ 4:04 am

  3. If global warming – a misnomer if ever there was one – ought to be assessed on the facts then obviously your argument will be that science cannot possibly teach us about climate change. Science doesn’t deal in facts. Science is all about questioning and skepticism. You people seem to fall back on science only when it suits you. You deniers always…ALWAYS…refuse to address the one over-riding question. Before the industrial age the planet experienced warming and cooling over millennial time frames. Post industrial age, ie: the last 300 years, the planetary ecology has changed at a faster rate than at any time in the previous 3,000 years. The one undeniable causal factor is humanity releasing carbons through burning of fossil fuels. Surely you do not attempt to claim that millions of tonnes of carbonaceous gases being pumped into the oceans & atmosphere can be ignored? Well, I guess you can. As & when it suits you.

    Comment by Niall — August 31, 2011 @ 7:05 am

  4. There’s always one in a crowd. Science does deal in facts, and the problem for you is that the facts don’t support your contention that in the last 300 years we have had unprecedented warming compared to the last 3000. Have a look at the chart at

    For a discussion of the amount of CO2 contributed by man, check out Murry Sawlby via this blog post

    Again, more facts. As I said above, human CO2 emissions undoubtedly have some effect, but the quantum is presently unknown, and likely to be on the low side.

    Comment by Graham — August 31, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  5. I find “likely” to be an unacceptable parameter upon which to base what you claim to be a factually based position. Indeed, your own position is no more or less factually based than my own. Your chart measures one tiny set of statistics, and does not address my argument. Graham, you cannot allude to ‘facts’ then claim that not all facts are in. You cannot be half pregnant. You’re either a climate change denier, or you accept the science which says human induced climate change is a reality.

    Comment by Niall — August 31, 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  6. You might find likely to be an unacceptable parameter, but if you do, then you can’t possibly accept the IPCC report because they assign probabilities to the prognoses too.

    Might never have crossed your mind, but there are known facts, such as temperature has fluctuated more wildly at times in the last 3000 years than it has in the last 300, and unknown facts such as the contribution of CO2 to warming.

    Of course the biggest unknown fact is the amplification of the CO2 effect (what is called forcing), which is just represented in the climate models by a fudge factor, but these fudge factors are the biggest contributor to predicted global warming.

    And no false dichotomies please. As I said above – I’m in the mainstream. Climate change is happening and man causes some of it. How much we don’t really know.

    Comment by Graham Young — August 31, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

  7. Your so-called mainsteam is a punt each way judging from your writings on the matter. No, I don’t blithely accept IPCC releases or indeed any other information on the matter. Climate is changing and humanity is a principal causal factor in my estimation. The ecosphere we rely upon for survival is not as robust as you people might like to think. As a species, we have done more damage to the ecosphere – which by the way includes more than a few clouds, the oceans or the thin atmospheric envelope – in 300 years than any naturally occurring event in the past 3,000. Study your own preferred graph & you’ll note if you’re even remotely open-minded, the upward trend.
    Bottom line for me, Graham, is this. Humanity is changing the planet upon which it relies completely to survive. Pretending that we’re not changing our climate, or that the possibilities are remote or even in the lower percentiles of probability, is simply head-in-sand rebuttal to the blindingly obvious.

    Comment by Niall — September 1, 2011 @ 4:09 am

  8. LOL. Try reading the graph the correct way and you’ll see that the trend is down. Today is on the left end of the x axis, and 3000 years ago on the right. The x axis is the horizontal line on the bottom of the graph.

    So you’ve formed your opinion not on science afterall, but on your own observations, which are based on an insufficient sample of one.

    You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Suggest you do a bit more research.

    Comment by Graham Young — September 1, 2011 @ 4:29 am

  9. The real worry is Global Cooling caused by the cycles of the Sun’s energy.We are well overdue for a little ice age and this can happen within a few decades.

    The lack of food will cause more war and chaos than energy scarcity.There is plenty of available energy oo our planet but a few cartels want to control the supply and increase their power and profits.

    The AGW scam has now been revealed.It is all about creating a new derivative in carbon trading thus empowering a few elites to control the means of production.If you cannot burn carbon,you cannot produce.So to produce,you have to pay the carbon Czars a tax for them doing nothing.

    Comment by Ross — September 1, 2011 @ 9:54 am

  10. well, Graham, here’s a few graphs & numerical results for you to disdain as well – – explain the steadily increasing carbonaceous gas concentrations. In relation to your own graph, you adroitly avoid the uptick if the way you want to read the thing is correct.

    I just adore the way you attempt to put words in my virtual gob that I never wrote. Read again what I wrote and then, if you can, cast more disdain on my perspective. At no point did I state I disregarded science. I stated, ” I don’t blithely accept IPCC releases or indeed any other information on the matter” the operative word being ‘blithely’. I look at ALL science. ONLY science has the answers, which even a denier like yourself must acknowledge. You’re being very disingenuous in this exchange Graham, stooping to levels I thought even you would not go to. Appeal to Ridicule does not become you, nor your argument. At the end of the day, I believe, you’re only using your own narrow view as yet another conservative slight against the national broadcaster in any event. That IS the focus of your piece, after all

    Comment by Niall — September 1, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

  11. as an aside, Graham, if you’re going to pretend to quote genuine science, kindly ensure what you select doesn’t come from an article entitled “The Myth of Global Warming”. If you want to appear really disingenuous, just say so.

    Comment by Niall — September 1, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

  12. So Niall, it is fine for you to insult people but when they point out that you can’t even read a graph that is unacceptable?

    If you could read you’d have realised that the scale was in reverse chronological order. You’d also realise that it has the uptick on it. It’s around 0.7 degree centigrade for the last century.

    What is this latest link that you’ve appended supposed to prove? I’ve never said that CO2 wasn’t increasing. In fact I’ve argued here that the increase in CO2 is quite dramatic.

    I should know better than to feed the troll, but it annoys me when you put your graffiti all over the site.

    If you have something serious to contribute, do so. But don’t run around misrepresenting what others on the thread have said.

    Comment by Graham Young — September 1, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

  13. where’s the insult, Graham. I called you as I find you. Disingenuous. You promote a piece of selected data from a website not even remotely associated with climate change science, then back-peddle when I call you on it. You’ll also note that I’m not arguing “global warming” with you. As I stated from the outset I regard that angle as a complete misdirection and obfuscatory on the issue of climate change itself. And really, you were only having a stab at Auntie, after all, so come clean. Name-calling doesn’t become you, but given you slipped into logical fallacy a while back, I guess I can’t expect a whole lot more.

    Comment by Niall — September 2, 2011 @ 6:23 am

  14. So if I call you an “idiot”, that is OK as long as I call you as I find you? An interesting line in double think.

    What is this piece of data that you have an issue with?

    Comment by Graham Young — September 2, 2011 @ 6:43 am

  15. Graham, I’d tell you to grow up, but clearly, it’s too late for you. I used the word ‘disingenuous’ which means dishonest and I made reference to your argument with that adjective. I’ll lay it out for you in simple terms. Anyone who uses so-called ‘data’ from a climate change denial website as opposed to real, objective, peer-reviewed scientific data in support of any argument pro or con in regard to climate change, is being dishonest. They – you in this instance – obviously have an agenda which in your case is crystal clear. You’re a denier pretending that you’re not.

    Comment by Niall — September 2, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

  16. What is the piece of data you have a problem with Niall? Stop the bluster and produce it, with an explanation as to why it is inaccurate of course.

    Comment by Graham Young — September 2, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

  17. nice try Graham, but how about you address my query first? You know the one. 300 years of industrialisation and pollution of the ecosphere? There’s a good lad.

    Comment by Niall — September 3, 2011 @ 11:33 am

  18. Niall, if you are just going to troll I think we should end the conversation here. You made an accusation which should have been easy to back up and you obviously can’t.

    The problem with the global warming issue is that it is dominated by hooligans like you who don’t appear to care what the science might actually say as long as their point of view wins the argument, and they’ll shout anyone down to make sure that happens.

    It’s just that sort of behaviour that has led the public to doubt the severity of potential global warming. If you have a strong argument you can back it up with facts, and without trying to shout others down.

    Comment by Graham — September 4, 2011 @ 11:53 am

  19. I have made my point and you, Graham, have provided all the support I require. You continue to use the terminology of the deniers – ‘global warming’ – and persist in addressing the real issue – climate change. You muddy the waters as obfuscationists on this matter always do, by attacking the public broadcaster as a whipping post for your own unsupported, narrow views and all you have managed to provide in support of your bowl-of-spaghetti argument is an obscure, out-of-context selection from a climate change denialist website which has no link to the source data.

    I have labelled you disingenuous, which you are. You are dishonest in your presentation and dishonest in your faux outrage. You have not argued your own point, merely chosen to denigrate my own without backing. You equally have not addressed the one single position I have and will always take, that of human input via industrialisation, to ecospheric alteration.

    I suggest you close comments. I’m tired of you and your sanctified attitude, and of your obvious unwillingness to adopt an honest approach to the issue.

    Comment by Niall — September 4, 2011 @ 10:21 pm

  20. …persist in NOT addressing the real issue…

    Comment by Niall — September 4, 2011 @ 10:22 pm

  21. Niall, stop carrying on and tell me which piece of evidence I have produced in this post, or comments, is wrong.

    You’re the one who wants to avoid the facts. You even told me science wasn’t about facts. I think what you meant was that your belief isn’t about facts.

    The post is actually not about the ABC, but about William’s non-scientific approach to his job, and the CERN experiment on cosmic rays and cloud seeding. How about you stop your abuse and discuss those things?

    Comment by Graham Young — September 4, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

  22. …Science doesn’t deal in facts. Science is all about questioning and skepticism…
    Now you’re attempting to quote me out of context. Tsk! Tsk! I listen to Robyn Williams regularly. That you find his perspective not lining up with yours is hardly surprising, given what you are. When your CV reads half as well as Williams’ let me know will you. As to what I find offensive about what you claim to be an argument, I believe I’ve already covered everything I need to cover. Thanks for the tete e tete :)

    Comment by Niall — September 5, 2011 @ 4:32 am

  23. Niall,

    you might be interested in this-

    Comment by Russell W — September 5, 2011 @ 5:04 am

  24. Ideology, subterfuge, and propaganda. That is all there is to climate denial.
    Russell, I could not agree more

    Comment by Niall — September 5, 2011 @ 5:27 am

  25. Niall, everything I have put up here is based on peer-reviewed science. Time for you to put up. Stop smearing people as “deniers” and show your cards.

    And brush up on what science is – it is certainly something that deals in facts. It can do that whilst being skeptical and understanding that probability can affect measurement, amongst other things.

    It is a fact that objects with mass attract other objects with mass. It is a fact that light behaves sometimes like a wave and sometimes like a stream of particles. It is a fact that unless a force acts on a moving object it will continue in the same direction at the same speed.

    But what else can I expect from a guy who can’t even read a graph.

    Russell, I hardly think a Professor of Psychology is a good authority qua authority when it comes to climate change. I see this guy claims that all skeptical papers that are published in refereed journals are subsequently shown to be wrong.

    Would be a good idea if you could (a) provide a definition of “skeptical” paper and (b)provide a statistically rigorous study which shows that all “skeptical” papers “inevitably fail to withstand subsequent scrutiny” rather than the rantings of a psychology professor on an opinion site.

    Comment by Graham Young — September 5, 2011 @ 11:13 am

  26. Graham,

    My point in providing that link, is that climate change denial/scepticism is really in the area of experise of social scientists,not climatologists. That is, the climate change hypothesis and its political and social implications threaten people’s cherished political beliefs (and their profits).
    As I implied in my first post, I’m not going to get into an argument in regard to the technicalities of climate change as I don’t have the qualifications. I’ll rely on the experts in the subject,if and when,they announce that the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis has been falsified,I’ll defer to their expertise.

    Relax,the Gillard government’s monumental incompetence has effectively ruled out any effective changes to the status quo.

    Comment by Russell W — September 5, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

  27. Here’s a link to the original article from which your ‘graph’ has been extracted selectively by the philosophy website you link to Graham, which you claim supports your denier position. Tell me how the evidence of 2 Greenland ice cores and one abyssal core support your all-encompassing claim that climate change is bunkum. Show me the empirical ‘facts’ displayed in that article. This is science Graham. It suggests, it theorises, it hypothesises. It does NOT make hard and fast claims.

    The speed of light is variable, Graham. How about them apples 😉

    Comment by Niall — September 5, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  28. Russell, Lewandosky demonstrates the dangers of academic over-reach. His analysis isn’t even competent in his area of presumed competence, let alone in climate science. Without an explicit definition of what is a “denier” or “skeptic” he can’t define what papers fall into this category and therefore can’t make the claims that he does. It’s typical psycho-babble.

    Niall, you’re not too good at maths, and now we see you’re not too good at English. The graph is a graph and therefore doesn’t belong in quotation marks. It is not a graph of ice cores, but of sediments. The paper you link to and from which the graph is extracted doesn’t refer to an “abyssal core” whatever that is, but to “abyssal circulation”. You can’t core that – it is water.

    Fair enough that you suggest a graph from a single site can’t represent world temperature, but there are hundreds of graphs, all of them peer-reviewed, which show similar fluctuations all over the world. This is a fact Niall, something that science very definitely does concern itself with. Here is one such graph For a whole lot of others go to their index page at and then come back and retract and apologise.

    Of course you will probably tell me that I have found these graphs on a “denier site”, as though your view of the authors of the site somehow changes good science to bad as soon as the authors link to it.

    Comment by Graham Young — September 6, 2011 @ 1:39 am

  29. *SIGH* you’re really, really boring me Graham. Go and read the paper on the Nature website and try really hard to comprehend what it says would you? You’re a climate change denier and whether or not I place a word in quotation marks or any other form of punctuation will not change my opinion. Seriously, you’re not even all that well versed on logical fallacy, another subject you should bone up on if you purport to run a debate forum.

    Comment by Niall — September 7, 2011 @ 1:42 am

  30. I’m going to call a halt to this conversation. You obviously can’t do anything other than abuse. You’re wrong about the Nature paper, you’re wrong about temperatures in the last 300 years versus the last 3000, you’re wrong about science not concerning itself with facts, and on it goes.

    But you won’t admit any of that because you appear to have a pathological attachment to a view of the world that suits you irrespective of the facts or the science.

    So this thread is finished. It has petered out as there is no point discussing something with someone who can’t and won’t do it logically or courteously.

    Comment by Graham — September 7, 2011 @ 1:53 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.