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“Leading” geologist has rocks in his head

By Joe Romm on July 22, 2007 at 7:01 pm

"“Leading” geologist has rocks in his head"


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confused.jpgThe Global Warming Denyers are truly confused in the arguments and “facts” that they make up.

Planet Gore has dug up “a leading international geologist and former expert IPCC reviewer,” Tom V. Segalstad, who is quoted as saying:

The IPCC postulates an atmospheric doubling of CO2, meaning that the oceans would need to receive 50 times more CO2 to obtain chemical equilibrium. This total of 51 times the present amount of carbon in atmospheric CO2 exceeds the known reserves of fossil carbon — it represents more carbon than exists in all the coal, gas, and oil that we can exploit anywhere in the world.

Ooh. Looks like all the leading climate scientists in the world made a simple, stupid mistake. Gosh, guess we can all go out and build all the coal plants we want — not!

The key to this nonsense is the worlds I have boldfaced. To paraphrase Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “Tom, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in chemical equilibrium any more.”

That’s the whole point — we are spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere much faster than the oceans and other sinks can take them up. It takes thousands of years to reach equilibrium with the oceans — the planet will be cooked (and the near-surface ocean nearly lifeless) long before then. I’ll provide one of the many sources you can find on the Internet for this genuine fact below; as we’ll see, the real story — the ocean sink appears to be saturating — should actually make us more worried about global warming, not less.head-rock.jpg

Let’s call this PG Disinfotainment Watch #41 and #42 (for not bothering to use Google to find the truth). And let’s strip Tom (pictured here) of his doctorate for making a mistake that would get an undergraduate geology student a failing grade.

Here is “The Oceanic Sink for Anthropogenic CO2” [Sabine et al., Science, 305(5682), 367--371 (2004) ]

On the time scales of several thousands of years, it is estimated that ~90% of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions will end up in the ocean. Because of the slow mixing time of the ocean, however, the current oceanic uptake fraction is only about one-third of this value. Studies of the coupled carbon-climate system have suggested that on decadal time scales, the ocean may become a less efficient sink for anthropogenic CO2 because of positive feedbacks in the coupled carbon-climate system–consistent with the suggestion of a decreasing ocean-uptake fraction noted from Table 1.

There is a potential for both positive and negative feedbacks between the ocean and atmosphere, including changes in both the physics (e.g., circulation, stratification) and biology (e.g., export production, calcification) of the ocean. These processes are still not well understood. On the time scales of decades to centuries, however, most of the known chemical feedbacks are positive. If the surface ocean PCO2 concentrations continue to increase in proportion with the atmospheric CO increase, a doubling of atmospheric CO from preindustrial levels will result in a 30% decrease in carbonate ion concentration and a 60% increase in hydrogen ion concentration. As the carbonate ion concentration decreases, the Revelle factor increases and the ocean’s ability to absorb more CO2 from the atmosphere is diminished. The impact of this acidification can already be observed today and could have ramifications for the biological feedbacks in the future. If indeed the net feedbacks are primarily positive, the required socioeconomic strategies to stabilize CO2 in the future will be much more stringent than in the absence of such feedbacks.


And in case any PG types were wondering if these authors are more qualified than Tom the geologist, here’s the affiliations of the 15 (!) authors of this study:

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
  • University of California–Los Angeles, Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics and Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences
  • Princeton University, Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science
  • Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea
  • NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
  • Institute of Ocean Sciences, Climate Chemistry Laboratory, Canada
  • Forschungsbereich Marine Biogeochemie, Leibniz Institut f¼r Meereswissenschafte, an der Universit¤t Kiel
  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Marine Research and Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Center, Australia
  • University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
  • Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Frontier Research System for Global Change/Institute for Global Change Research, Japan
  • Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, Consejo Superior de Investigationes Cientificas, Spain


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Comment on Comments

11 Responses to “Leading” geologist has rocks in his head

  1. “the planet will be cooked (and the near-surface ocean nearly lifeless) ”

    …oooh, that doesn’t sound good. But, let’s consider James Lovelock’s prognostication: “I’m an optimist. I think that after the warming sets in and the survivors have settled in near the Arctic, they will find a way to adjust. It will be a tough life enlivened by excitement and fear.”


  2. Paul says:

    Wish I knew enough about the science to comment. What is the total annual CO2 thrown into our biosphere? What percentage of CO2 is man made? What would be the effect on global warming if it were possible to eliminate all human CO2 production today?

  3. hippie with a pistol says:

    Notice your source references an Exxon scientist and IPCC author, Haroon Kheshgi. What? Funded by Exxon? How could this have any credibilty at all? Or do you only smear Exxon when they don’t agree with you?

  4. Joe says:

    Hippie — is that the best you can do, seriously? I give you credit for looking through the references, but this is a major study of great significance. Do you disagree with the findings — or do you just blindly should from the hip, hippie, with your pistol?

    Paul — if we eliminated all human CO2 production, global warming would slow sharply, and the planet would probably reach equilibrium at another 0.6°C warming.

    Darryl — I confess I don’t agree with Lovelock. And in any case, I don’t think people will settle near the Arctic — if his nightmare scenario comes true, people will have to relocate considerably inland.

  5. Thanks, Joe.

    Over a decade ago, my letters-to-the-editor of my local paper often got me phone calls chastising me for over-reacting.

    Now…, any way I can break out of technical writing about printers and start a paid gig technical writing about climate impacts?

  6. Steve says:


    I’m not sure Joe fully responded to your questions, and I personally don’t have the precise answers at my fingertips.

    As a start on your becoming familiar with the science, however, I’d suggest either renting the movie or reading the book, “An Inconvenient Truth.” If you have that basic familiarity with the issues, though, I’d recommend Joe Romm’s book “Hell and High Water.” Joe’s too modest to recommend his own book, but I’ve read it, and it’s the only reason I ever became aware of this website in the first place.

    The science, as it were, is too extensive to outline in a single blog or two. Good luck with it.

  7. Our Angry Earth by Asimov and Pohl, 1993, is another good book. This one really got my attention when it came out.

  8. Paul says:

    “planet would probably reach equilibrium at another 0.6°C warming”
    Does this mean an equilibrium between atmospheric and oceanic CO2 or an equilibrium of temperature?

  9. Joe says:

    “an equilibrium of temperature” over decades.

  10. hippie with a pistol says:

    Yes i agree, Joe, Sabine’s attribution studies are of great significance. And so are Kheshgi’s. See IPCC 2001 chapter on Detection and Attribution. And both were authors in the IPCC Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (Chapter 6). I find it ironic that you trivialize Kheshgi. Sabine thought enough of him to use his work as a source for this study. I wish I had time to comment more on Sabine’s emission data used in the calcs.

    Btw, it’s okay for you to use associations (or affliations) in your appeal to authority, but some how noting Kheshgi/Exxon in my A2A is disgarded or considered irrelevant. It seems the left seems to get annoyed to hear about the oil giant’s contribution to co2 science and attribution studies. Can’t bring themselves to credit those that oppose.

    Anyway, this does not discredit the study, but Sabine notes the limitations of the data and acknowledges that much still needs to be learned:

    “(T)here are no direct measurements or proxies that give us accurate oceanic carbon distributions before the industrial revolution. Therefore, we must rely on a back-calculation approach that has a number of assumptions. The limitations of the technique, including the potential impacts of global warming, have been thoroughly discussed in the literature and are an area of active research…” and so on.

    Finally, I’d like to think Richard Alley would take offense to you smearing a geologist!!! haha.

    this may be brief and disjointed but it’s the best i can do in a few moments.
    no time to address Segalstad’s pov.

  11. Joe says:

    I don’t trivialize Kheshgi — I don’t think your point is germane. ExxonMobil is the biggest funder of nonscientific disinformation on climate. I never doubted that occasionally do valid research. The point of this article is that the carbon sinks maybe saturating, which leaves us even less time to act on global warming.