Climate cover-up at the National Academy of Sciences?

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

SALEM, Ore., April 15, 2014 — Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do rising CO2 levels cause global warming, or does global warming cause rising CO2?

The temperature vs. CO2 data record over the last 800,000 years shows temperature changes came before CO2 changes, according to data published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

However, alarming evidence that rising CO2 is causing global warming now is found in the Arctic Ocean.

In the last 35 years approximately 67 percent of Arctic sea ice has melted while, at the same time, CO2 levels have skyrocketed. Arctic sea ice will disappear in 25-30 years at its current pace.

The level of CO2 in earth’s atmosphere is far higher today than it’s been in nearly a million years, perhaps longer. It’s elevated because of human activity. Those are undisputed facts.

Most scientists conclude that because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, human-caused, elevated CO2 levels today are causing rising temperatures.

But again, over recent geologic time, rising temperatures have driven rising CO2 levels, not the other way around.

Very disturbing is that the NAS may be trying to hide its own finding!

800,000 years of global temperature and CO2 data

U.S. National Academy of Sciences
U.S. National Academy of Sciences

The NAS combined two significant long-term datasets. The first, from  Luthi, et al, shows CO2 levels. The other, from J. Jouzel et al, shows earth’s temperature profile over the same time span.

Both sets of data come from peer-reviewed papers published in two of the most respected science journals in the world: Nature and Science. Both datasets originate from analysis of Antarctic ice core samples.

The above graph produced by the NAS combines the two datasets. It shows that temperature and CO2 levels are well correlated with each other.

The graph also shows that today’s CO2 level of 400 ppm is well above any previous level seen in nearly a million years. It’s not an exaggeration to describe the current level of CO2 as “unprecedented.” It is.

An NAS Cover-up?

For reasons unknown, the National Academy reproduces the graphed data in two different places on its website. In one place it is reproduced as Figure 3. In the other it’s reproduced as Figure 14.

Both plot exactly the same data from the same two data sources. The salient difference between Fig. 3 and Fig. 14 is captured in their nearly identical descriptions:

Figure 3. … The cyclical pattern of temperature variations constitutes the ice age/ interglacial cycles. During these cycles, changes in CO2 concentrations (in blue) track closely with changes in temperature (in red). As the record shows, the recent increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration is unprecedented  …

Figure 14. … The cyclical pattern of temperature variations constitutes the ice age/interglacial cycles. During these cycles, changes in carbon dioxide concentrations (in red) track closely with changes in temperature (in blue), with CO2 lagging behind temperature changes. …

Left out of the Figure 3 description is that carbon dioxide changes over the last 800,000 years happened close to but after the temperature changes. That means that temperature changes could not have been caused by changes in CO2. That’s a big deal.

This crucial finding related to the current climate change discussion is edited out of Fig. 3’s description by the NAS. Why?


Earth’s global temperature has leveled off in the last 15 years while CO2 levels rise ever faster. Perhaps the assumed relationship of CO2 to temperature isn’t entirely valid for earth’s dynamic climate system.

The National Academy of Sciences published two different interpretations of the same results in two different places on its website. In one place it says that temperature increases preceded CO2 changes over geologic time. In the other, NAS removes that detail.

The crucial finding, though, is that over the last 800,000 years temperature changes came before CO2 changes. Therefore, CO2 could not have caused rising temperatures.

Why then did the NAS exclude that exceptionally meaningful fact from one description but not the other?

The answer will become crystal clear should the NAS either delete Figure 14 or change its description by removing the words, “with CO2 lagging behind temperature change“.

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  • DrRaeMD

    That CO2 lags temperature is a well accepted theory, as predicted by Lorius 1990. What has happened (as per, for example Petit2000 and Barnola 2003) is the Milankovitch cycle (brought about by changes in the earth’s orbit in eccentricity, Obliquity, and Precession) starts a warming cycle particularly at the poles. The oceans thus hold less CO2, which amplifies it dramatically, with a ~1000 year lags. The heat spreads throughout the planet, retained by the excess CO2
    The best science we have is this: Warming and Deglaciation, primarily at the poles are caused by Orbital Cycles (very small warming). CO2 amplifies the warming which cannot be explained by Orbital cycles alone (very large warming). CO2 then spreads the warming throughout the planet.

    • Steve Davidson

      I’m not a climatologist. I won’t pretend I’m an expert. At CDN I’m just a science columnist.

      That being said…

      My training is in physics and astronomy. l recognize a causal relationship when I see one. The 800,000 year record, if anything, proves that global warming causes CO2 rise, not the other way around… amplified later by CO2 or not.

      Couple that with the modern stutter-step global temperature increases since 1850 compared with a steady CO2 increase, then anyone can see that CO2 does not correlate well to modern temperature rise.

      Mother nature is on the cusp of putting the last of the IPCC temperature models outside the range of statistical significance. That’s a big problem.

      If you want to see something with a causal link to climate change, review ENSO data. By far, ENSO events are the best correlated, best understood phenomena linked to climate change. It causes all kinds of well documented global climate change events. The physics of ENSO is understood.

      The “settled science” of AGW theory has a long way to go to match ENSO.

    • Steve Davidson

      I was allowed to read your last comment above but could not answer it directly because it is listed as under “moderation”.

      I’ve read AR5 SPM and went on to read the appropriate sections in the full report to. I think what you said correctly describes what is in the report.

      This article is for a general audience and therefore I used the IPCC’s word “hiatus”, meaning ‘taking a break’ as the most accurate description for 1998-2012. General readers understand that word. It is the IPCCs word, not mine.

      Now… on to a bit more specificity for your benefit:
      “1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decade”

      An increase of 0.05 is insignificant compared to an error range of +/- 0.1 that is two times larger than the result. The result is lost in the statistical noise. You understand that? Right? Its outside the range of statistical significance which means… ta da!… there has been no warming.

      You can chose to disbelieve me – that’s OK – but you are disagreeing with mathematics and the IPCC’s own measurements and the IPCCs own word it used to describe it.

      I stand by my statement.

  • DrRaeMD

    Also, just to point out, the planet _has_ continued to heat up over the last 15 years–the only data sets which show it hasn’t ignore both the oceans (which keep on heating, eg Murphy 2009) and much of Africa and the Arctic (which are heating disproportionately fast). This is exactly what has happened throughout the instrumental record, that being pauses in surface temperature increases every few decades, which last 10-20 years. This is all well known to climatologists. When the current surface temperature slowing (not a pause if we scan the entire planet) starts catching up to the oceans (which hold ~90% of the planet’s heat), we’ll see a big spike. Then it will slow again, then spike… every few decades, which part of why climatologists study climate in at least 30-year intervals–less than that is just weather, not climate.
    The weather records for the 10 hottest years on earth (since 1880), just looking at surface land temperatures are: 2007, 2010, 2005, 2002, 1998, 2006, 2012, 2003, 2009, 2012.
    Combining land and ocean surface temperatures, gives us: 2010, 2005, 1998, 2003, 2002, 2006/07/09 (tied), 2004, 2012.
    Either way, the claim that the planet hasn’t warmed in 15 years is patently false.

    • Steve Davidson

      It is true that earth is at a modern temperature zenith. Nobody disputes that. Earth’s temperature is at its highest levels since the Medieval Warm Period.

      The IPCC’s HadCRUT4 data clearly shows Earth’s temperature hasn’t risen measurably over the last 15 years or so. Even the IPCC recognizes that fact, calling it a “hiatus” in its latest AR5 report.

      You can’t change the rules for assessing earth’s temperature just because you don’t like the results.

      The statement that the earth’s temperature hasn’t risen is correct and backed up by the IPCC in its AR5 report.

      Like everyone else, I’m entitled to my own opinion, but not to my own facts. In this case the facts come from the IPCC.

  • DrRaeMD

    I’m not sure why this won’t post…my apologies if it suddenly appears in triplicate…
    The IPCC report doesn’t say the temperatures have not increased, but that the rate of temperature increase has slowed–we’re still getting warmer, just not as quickly as expected. To quote the policymaker summary, looking only at surface temperatures:
    “As one example, the rate of warming over the past 15 years (1998–2012; 0.05 [–0.05 to 0.15] °C per decade), which begins with a strong El Niño, is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951 (1951–2012; 0.12 [0.08 to 0.14] °C per decade)… Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850…”
    They still say there is warming; from the main text (as opposed to the summary): “For example, in HadCRUT4 the trend is 0.04ºC per decade over 1998–2012, compared to 0.11ºC per decade over 1951–2012…Even with this ‘hiatus’ in GMST trend, the decade of the 2000s has been the warmest in the instrumental record of GMST (Section 2.4.3, Figure 2.19)…the climate system, including the ocean below 700 m depth, has continued to accumulate energy over the period 1998–2010 (Section 3.2.4, Box 3.1). ”
    So, I agree Mr. Davidson that we are not entitled to our own facts. These facts, as I have quoted them, are from the IPCC’s most recent report.
    It appears the misunderstanding comes from a misunderstanding of the word “hiatus,” which is very clearly used by the IPCC to refer to a _slowing_ of the warming of surface temperatures, not a cessation in the warming of the surface, nor a significant change in the warming of the entire climate system (ie the planet).

    • Steve Davidson

      The comment utility is a little screwy… and does things to me to.

      Look below and I think I address this comment in it’s “under moderation” version, including the definition of “hiatus” which, btw, is not a technical term having a specific scientific definition.

  • Nikola Tasev

    CO2 has lagged warming in the past, because it was not the starting cause for the warming. There is no conspiracy to hide this.
    CO2 has amplified and supported continued warming way past the original cause.
    This time CO2 has increased from human activity. A warming has started. Contiued dumping of CO2 in the atmosphere, outside of the natural ballanced CO2 cycle adds up and strengthens the warming. I don’t see anything here that is removed from common sense.

    • Steve Davidson

      If you look at CO2 rise compared to temperature rise you see a causal relationship as weak, at best.

      Global temperatures has risen in a stair-step fashion since 1850 as shown in the IPCC’s HadCRUT4 database, while CO2 rise is slightly exponential. That difference has never been adequately explained.