back to article Antarctic ice formed at CO2 levels much higher than today's

New research has shown that the mighty ice sheet covering the Antarctic froze into being when the world had a much higher level of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere than it does today. By analysing ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples, Professor Matthew Huber and his colleagues determined that the mile-thick ice which …

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  1. TomR
    Facepalm

    Reg cranking out the FUD again

    This article missing the point and misrepresents the study - and the authors of the study. This seems to have become quite traditional here at El Reg, so I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

    Of course the Antartic Ice sheet is not going to melt - no-one ever said it would. It's too big and too high (although the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might if we really go for it).

    The point is that it was formed as a result of global cooling triggered by a 40% reduction in CO2. We're on course to more than double CO2 (back to levels above those that led to the formation of Antarctic Ice Sheet, incidentally).

    Changes in CO2 of this magnitude have major, long-lasting and hard-to-reverse effects on climate. Just to pull one quote:

    "The evidence falls in line with what we would expect if carbon dioxide is the main dial that governs global climate; if we crank it up or down there are dramatic changes," says Matthew Huber, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue. "We went from a warm world without ice to a cooler world with an ice sheet overnight, in geologic terms, because of fluctuations in carbon dioxide levels."

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Let

    The fun begin....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "... no-one ever said it would."

      Millions of public school students would dispute that.

    2. Kevin Johnston

      but surely....

      "The point is that it was formed as a result of global cooling triggered by a 40% reduction in CO2."

      Isn't that a hypothesis? Since it happened a very long time ago then someone has made an assumption about events and their triggers (and consequences) which, using proper scientific processes, is waiting for evidence to prove or disprove. This latest information sets a new marker for CO2 levels (again this is their belief which could be wrong) at a point in history but until we get markers for the preceding periods the hypothesis you quote above is only slightly more plausible than 'and the sky used to be orange/purple zebra stripes'.

      OK that last bit may be a tad inflammatory but you get the gist

    3. Barely registers
      Mushroom

      "No-one ever said it would". Apart from....

      http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/melting-of-antarctic-ice-becoming-unstoppable-1648405.html

      http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=antarctica-andrill-ice-sheets

      http://www.desmogblog.com/antarctic-ice-sheets-melting-at-ever-faster-rate-due-to-global-warming-new-study

      http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-01-antarctic-ice-sheets.html

      Glad that science is settled then. FFS.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Barely registers

        "No-one ever said it would"

        Note that "melting a nontrivial amount" and "melting entirely" are rather different outcomes; so we

        should all try to be clearer which one we mean.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "science is settled"

        Science, by definition, can not be settled.

        Interesting study.

      3. The dog ate it

        @Kevin Johnston

        No, it is *not* a hypothesis or an assumption. It is based on measured data. It refines/corrects earlier measures but that doesn't mean any of it is just wild speculation.

      4. John Hughes
        FAIL

        Nobody said...

        TomR said:

        Of course the Antartic Ice sheet is not going to melt - no-one ever said it would. It's too big and too high (although the West Antarctic Ice Sheet might if we really go for it).

        Your first link starts "The good news is that it would take more than 1,000 years to melt the massive ice sheet in *west Antarctica* that could raise sea levels by 16 feet."

        And the second one says "indicated that the *West Antarctic* Ice Sheet has frequently advanced and retreated."

        And the third one "While ice loss is still rather small compared with Antarctica’s vast ice sheets,"

        And the fourth one is talking about the retreat of the east antarctic ice sheat *at the end of the last ice age*.

        So all your links show is that you don't know how to read. None of them claim that the Antarctic is going to melt tomorrow.

      5. DrSteve

        Settled science?

        They're interesting references, but they all paint a consistent picture: West Antarctic sheet less stable than East.

        The SciAm article clearly discusses the fact that, contrary to expectations, the East Antarctic sheet has seen melting during the period 20-14M years ago. Note that the last glacial maximum was 20,000 years ago. The article is clear that the West Antarctic sheet is less stable than the East.

        Desmogblog article is entirely about the *current* West Antartctic sheet melting.

        The Physorg article is about the mechanism by which the East Antartctic sheet melted in last interglacial.

        So it seems pretty clear to me:

        The West Antarctic sheet is less stable than the East, and is melting right now.

        During interglacials both the East & West see some melting. We don't fully understand the mechanisms but there are hints that the East is little less stable than we thought a few years ago.

        Where's the beef with the science?

        As an aside. Antarctic sea ice is indeed increasing (despite warming temperatures), but land ice is decreasing. http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice-intermediate.htm

    4. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Downvoted for careful and comprehensive reading of the report?

      Really, commentards, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

      GJC

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Geoff Campbell

        the reason the commentards are down voting this guy might have something to do with this claim: "No-one ever said it would"

        although, I'll give him credit for not making the claim: "no one said that the sea level will rise!"

      2. strum Silver badge

        And even..

        three commentards downvoting someone pointing out their own thundering hypocrisy.

    5. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      FAIL

      Erm sorry

      But the Antarctic ice sheet began to form when the last land link between Antarctica and South America was broken allowing wind and currents to circle Antarctica , isolating it from any heat coming southwards from the equator.

    6. Ru
      Headmaster

      FUD? Surely you wanted an antonym?

      The Reg's CO2/climate change related news generally tends to be optimistic and hopeful in a "we're not all going to cook to death! yay!" sort of fashion. FUD is not quite the term you need.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Megaphone

      @TomR

      Im just going to use your own quote against you, i have no idea if its an accurate quote or not but it doesnt matter

      "if carbon dioxide is the main dial that governs global climate"

      IF being the intresting word out of all that, THEY DONT KNOW, everyone, no matter what side you take is basing their opinion, and that is all they are, from assumptions made on a topic we dont completely understand

      Facts are we dont know what the climate is doing,

      we dont know to what extent we are having

      we dont know to what extent the sun is having

      we dont know how much of climate change is down to natural changes

      we dont know what all the factors that effect climate change

      We dont know if CO2 causes temp rise or rises because of a temp rise

      i could go on, we are taking guesses on many of these and educated guessed on others but they are still guesses, and this is the reason there isnt a unified voice on climate change.

      So i think a commen sense approch to this is to not try and save the world, because we dont know what we are trying to save if from and what effect it would have on the world

      The best approch we all can take is not to needlessly waste energy, keep pollution to a minimum and do the best we can, we shouldnt make up random targets because its not fair for low paid familys who will always find it harder to adapt to financial changes, forget climate change, we need to drill in to people not to waste things around us, climate change is just confusing the issue and turning people in to either PRO or against, all the while everyone is missing the bigger picture, of lets just not waste energy and dump crap all over the place!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @ru /fud

        The Reg (particularly with its AOlowski hat on) tends towards generating fear of excessive social/govt control and of unwarranted and onerous taxes. Remember the oft-quoted "the only thing to fear, is fear itself".

      2. The dog ate it

        @Dazza

        There is a big difference between "not completely understood" and "we don't know". For most of the things you claim we don't know, we actually have a pretty good idea, within certain error bounds (which may, of course, be large in some cases).

        To say it is all opinion or guesses is a little exaggerated.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @the dog ate it

          Well, either they know something or they don’t, exaggerated? maybe, that’s why i said educated guess, but you’re missing the point, if you take a complex matter like this an make it even more confusing than nothing constructive gets done, you end up with a polarized debate about what effect we have on global warming, rather than the real issue which we can all agree on, let’s not keep making things worse. if we have an effect on it or not is irrelevant, the fact of the matter is wasting energy is bad no matter how you look at it, unless you’re a power company of course. An polluting the planet is equally bad again from whatever your stance on global warming is.

    8. Goat Jam
      Paris Hilton

      It is El Reg who is pushing FUD?

      Really?

      Do you even know what FUD means?

    9. Vincenzo

      With an annual average temperature of -37 F, the Antarctic isn't going to melt in my or my grandchildren's lifetimes......In fact, I would go out on a limb and predict it will never melt unless our planet experiences a global cataclysmic event big enough to knock it off it's axis. And if that should happen, the melting of the Antarctic would be the last thing we'd be worrying about....LOL!

      As for your friend's idea of the nuclear power plant, while that's a cool idea, it's unlikely the environmental wacos would ever allow that to happen......NUCLEAR ENERGY = BAD

    10. Marshalltown
      Thumb Down

      FUD???

      Surely you know what "FUD" stands for? So the Reg article can't possibly be pushing FUD. Now those who want us to fear the future, they could easily be said to be pushing FUD. And Huber might be an "earth scientist" but he seems to have missed a few classes. The planet was already in what is known as an "ice house" climate state - very long term shifts on the order of about 100 my in length. A "Hot house" or "green house" state would have been warmer. The planet went from a cool state to the present cyclically glacial state. If you look at the best models of atmospheric composition over the last 500 my there is no evidence at all that CO2 has anything to do with driving climate state. The better view is that cooling oceans draw down atmospheric CO2, not the other way round. Plant productivity would decrease as atmospheric carbon diminishes further reducing available carbon. This pattern is visible in ice core data throughout the Pleistocene.

    11. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      You might want to choose your quotes a bit more carefully

      Saying that "Changes in CO2 [..] have major, long-lasting and hard-to-reverse effects on climate" tends to mean that such changes are slow to take place.

      Then you pull a quote (from .. ?) that specifically states that "We went from a warm world without ice to a cooler world with an ice sheet overnight, in geologic terms", meaning that such changes can happen rapidly - in geological terms.

      Doesn't really add weight to your argument.

  4. S Larti
    FAIL

    Logic fail

    The fact that the atmosphere contained more CO2 when the ice formed doesn't mean that the planet was warmer, unless other factors were also the same as they are now. Nor does the melting of ice depend on CO2 content in the ppm level!

    Which is not to say that this isn't an interesting finding.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh, Lewis Page, a fresh dose of reason in a mad world. Perhaps Lewis could write a series about the debt crisis as well? And why not surveilance and "capitlism" while he is at it? Keep up the good work!

    1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

      Agreed.

      It can, following that argument, suggest that CO2 may not be as big a factor as the CO2 global warming lobby would have you believe.

      The earth was at a particularly cool point when the caps formed (poles get less heat from the sun, so they're colder than the equator, of course) and has gradually warmed up since - which is interesting as the CO2 level has ended up as low as it is (or at least was).

      As an aside, the problem with the debate is simple - scientists (both pro- or anti-) are struggling to keep opinion out of their analysis. It's almost as bad as religious dogma.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Defintely interesting research...

      ...and more of it please, but from what I've heard it isn't a huge revelation that antartica would require a super villian death ray amount of warming before the effects of spending 6months in the pitch black are felt on ice that is sitting on well insulated land. Antarctica is going to be a beautiful white terrifying sight for centuries to come, if we have sense enough to leave it well alone.

  6. GougedEye
    WTF?

    I don't need no steenking Title

    "Of course the Antartic Ice sheet is not going to melt - no-one ever said it would."

    Sorry mate, I beg to differ. We are constatntly being told that it's going to melt. Or that it won't. Or that it might. Or that some of it will. Or that it's going to get warmer, or colder. Thats the problem with the whole thing. Neither the Disciples and Denyers of Global Warming (Man made or not) have an even remotely consistent argument. There are as many theories as to what any given bit of data means as there are groups reading the data.

    All I know, is that if you want to tax the crap out of me, stop me traveling anywhere and generally make my life miserable you need a far more coherent argument than anything I have seen so far.

  7. TRT Silver badge

    Professor Huber T. Farnsworth?

    Well, once a year we just drag an enormous ice cube through space from the planet Hoth and drop it into the Atlantic ocean.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The question is...

    ..were levels of this (or any other) gas rising or falling at the time? .. or staying stable?

    Before the ice formed, there was obviously no ice but without knowing the change you can't tell if it was because it was too high before, or too low or completely irrelevant; that part of the continent might have been nearer to the equator at the time

  9. Hayden Clark Silver badge
    Meh

    Unfortunately, it looks like Lewis didn't read the article

    ... ok, I can only read the abstract. But that says:

    "...and demonstrate that Antarctic and subantarctic data overestimate atmospheric CO2 levels, biasing long-term trends. Our results show that CO2 declined before and during Antarctic glaciation and support a substantial CO2 decrease as the primary agent forcing Antarctic glaciation, consistent with model-derived CO2 thresholds. "

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      and there are

      orbital variations affecting solar flux, and possible solar variation as well.

    2. Armando 123
      Coat

      Bothered me

      I thought Professor Huber T. Farnsworth was a Groucho Marx character from one of the Marx Brothers' later movies.

    3. perlcat
      Facepalm

      You don't just need to read the article

      You need to think about what it means in context.

      OK, so global CO2 starts out *higher* than 600, and forms a massive ice sheet we're all told will melt, no thanks to world+dog putting all this carbon into the air.

      Even if it *stopped* forming at 200, it was forming at a *higher* level than we have now. Nearly double, in fact. That's a *lot* of carbon. Even China couldn't put that much in the air.

      In other words, something other than high levels of atmospheric CO2 caused that ice sheet to form, and if you don't know what that is, the assumption that going from 390 to 395 ppb (even that's a *lot* of carbon) is definitely going to make that ice sheet melt is ludicrously bad science.

      In other words, raising the global CO2 content isn't the fully understood method for carbongeddon we are told that we have to pay through the nose to prevent, incidentally enriching a lot of politicians and their cronies.

      A real scientist would conclude that it is time to go back to the old drawing board -- but not with AGW zealots in the mix. No, they would just like to shout down all attempts at science with the trope "the science is all settled".

      for fun reading, featuring *real* scientists instead of mob hysteria:

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Butterflies Wings

    Climate models are fatally flawed as they are far too simple. Yes there may be a minute bit caused by CO2 but there are far larger forces at work and ones that are incorrectly factored into the models.

    Too much Newton and not enough Schroedinger.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    TomR

    Perhaps you missed this point:

    By analysing ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples, Professor Matthew Huber and his colleagues determined that the mile-thick ice which now covers the south polar continent formed around 34 million years ago. At that stage the atmosphere held much more CO2 than it does now, some 600 parts per million (ppm) as opposed to today's level of 390 ppm.

    As opposed to your claim:

    The point is that it was formed as a result of global cooling triggered by a 40% reduction in CO2.

    I think I will go for the former as he seems to be a tad more qualified than you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      the two statements

      "~ 50% more atmospheric CO2" and "after a drop of 40% in CO2" are not mutually exclusive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err...

      Where do you get your knowledge of climate models from? What would be an acceptable level of complexity?

      The thing with models - I learned during my degree - is that you can try to model everything, if you want or you can define a point where it's acceptable to stop. Want to model the climate? you'll need to model the plains of the Serengeti. Want to model the plains of the Serengeti, you'll need to model the herds of Wildebeest . Want to model a heard of Wildebeest, you'll need to model a Wildebeest. Want to model a Wildebeest, you'll need to model it's digestive system. Want to model the digestive system of a Wildebeest, you'll need to model what comes into it and how the stomach acids and enzymes work. I could go on, suffice to say that a model isn't worthless because it doesn't simulate at fine enough level, it's about the results and climate models, while they are getting better all the time, simulate what is going to happen in the future, by comparing the model against what happened in the past.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        And ?

        I hope you learned during your degree (in what, fine arts ?) that anything in applied mathematics is subject to confidence limits. The variables in climatic models are still to poorly understood and compounded errors in each variable will cause a fundamental systematic error, ie over pessimistic forecasting.

        PS my degree was in biochemistry and I understand enzymes and chemical reactions perfectly well and the damn difficulty in trying to model a system on the bench, let alone the entire ecosystem.

        Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known. In other words, the more precisely one property is measured, the less precisely the other can be controlled, determined, or known.

        It's a fact of life in chemistry, that's why there is no thing as a 100% yield.

      2. treboR
        Pint

        LOL

        The climate models currently used don't work, when you start from way back and feed in known data to calculate what the climate *now* should be, they fail.

        So until they can work to within acceptable bounds of credulity with what we know to be fact, why should we entrust them with our future?

        http://www.nipccreport.org/reports/2011/pdf/01ClimateModels.pdf this report has some of the info.

    3. Adam-the-Kiwi

      @ Anonymous Coward 11:51GMT

      Perhaps TomR was referring to this line in the abstract: "Our results show that CO2 declined before and during Antarctic glaciation and support a substantial CO2 decrease as the primary agent forcing Antarctic glaciation, consistent with model-derived CO2 thresholds."?

    4. Burb

      Perhaps you missed the abstract that Hayden Clark posted earlier. That is a summary of how Professor Huber interprets this and, as you say, he is the expert.

  12. JDX Gold badge

    @TomR

    Did you post purely to balance out the bias you saw in the article? Or did you think asserting several 'facts' without a single link would show us all the True Way?

    1. TomR
      Alert

      Back to basics

      Yes, some Antarctic ice will melt as we warm the globe. No, no-one has claimed that the whold Antarctic ice sheet will melt. It's a non-linear process (like many of the arguments here).

      No, I didn't post up no stinkin facts - except to parrot what the researchers themselves said. Google "Willem Sijp" or "Mark Pagani" (who, along with Huber, are the researchers who did the study) to see what the real world makes of this research (or read it yourself). Here's the press release http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-12/pu-dic120111.php

  13. John Hawkins
    Boffin

    CERN was behind it all

    It was a neutrino from CERN that had gone back in time and caused local formation of dry ice, caused in part by high CO2 levels, that actually set off the formation of the Antarctic ice cap. This in turn caused the global cooling (because of the albedo effect on world climate), leading to the current ice-house climate.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Won't anyone think about the Methane??

    It has become popular to obcess about CO2 emissions, which science is more or less agreeing is contributing to a warming climate.

    But what about methane? Methane is many more times effective as a 'greenhouse' gas than CO2, and human activity is responsible for significant amounts of methane emissions.

    For starters, rainforest felling in the Amazon for farming is replacing a CO2 sink with a methane source... genius.

    Oh thats right I forgot - industry is generally responsible for methane outputs, not the general public. Can't mess with industry - it might affect 'the economy'. meh.

    It doesn't help that the warming climate is beginning to unlock and release an enormous natural store of methane into the atmosphere: http://terranature.org/methaneSiberia.htm

    @GougedEye - its all about /you/ isn't it. FAIL.

  15. Burb

    Antarctic Ice

    Mr Page makes a comment about Antarctic ice increasing in extent. While this may be true for sea ice, and it happens for reasons that are generally understood, the fact is that land ice - the more significant mass of ice - is decreasing. the thing is, I don't see why I should have to point this out. Either he doesn't know or has chosen to gloss over it. Either way, it isn't much of a recommendation for his journalistic abilities.

    1. NomNomNom

      Methane rise has actually slowed down to almost a stop in recent decades, although there's no telling when or if it might start rising significantly again. Yes the locked up methane in frozen land and ocean floor is a concern. It probably won't start releasing in massive amounts until we begin crossing temperature levels that haven't been crossed for millions of years. We don't know where this millions-of-year temperature high is, but it's close.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        @NomNomNom

        Re We don't know where this millions-of-year temperature high is, but it's close.

        Don't really think so as in the past the planet has been so hot no life survived, they think. The damn thing was a molten collection of rock and also so cold that only bacteria appeared to survive, they think, not proven no one was there.

        Me, I haven't seen any evidence to suggest that the planet is close to those sort of temperatures, if it is never mind climate change, we are all dead very soon.

        Mines the asbesto lined one with the refrigeration unit attached.

    2. fredds
      FAIL

      iced

      Land ice is increasing in the antarctic. Australian scientists, who have been there for a long time, drill a series of holes every year to measure the thickness, and it is increasing.

      cheers

      Fredds

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but:

    CO2 levels != global temperature.

    1. Chemist

      "CO2 levels != global temperature."

      As I've pointed out before rising CO2 levels should cause retention of more HEAT - simple physics

      but the relationship between heat and temperature on a planetary scale is likely complex - a very simple example is that you can put lots of heat into ice at 0C and it will stay at 0C until all the ice has melted.

  17. johnB

    CO2 levels

    My main problem with the CO2 figures being bandied about is the method of presentation. We're continually given CO2 as 300 or 400 ppm, as if that were a 33% rise. But ppm is a scientific shorthand, used mainly by scientists. In straight numbers, it's a rise from 0.003% of the atmosphere to 0.004%.

    It just doesn't seem to ring true that the climate system is so sensitive to such tiny changes in CO2 levels.

    1. Dani Eder
      Flame

      400 ppm CO2

      To put it in terms easy to understand, 400 ppm of atmospheric CO2 works out to a layer 2.65 mm thick if it was frozen out. You don't think that a layer of Dry Ice that thick is capable of stopping some light, especially in the infrared, where it is an absorber?

      In reality, it's in gas form, so a more accurate model is to take the equivalent thickness of the atmosphere if it was constant pressure all the way up, which is 8400m. 400 ppm of that works out to 3.36 m. Thus a layer of CO2 at one atmosphere 3.36m thick is equivalent to what we have dispersed in the real atmosphere. You can shine light of various wavelengths through that and find out how much has been absorbed. This has been done long ago. Absortion curves for the atmosphere as a whole and it's parts for example are here:

      http://sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/co2/index_files/image013.gif

      Change the CO2 concentration, and it will absorb more infrared, thus slowing radiation back to space. Change the balance of sunlight in vs infrared out, and you change the temperature, simple as that.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your 'straight numbers' are 10x too small

      Discard what you think it seems like because they are small percentages.

      The evidence is in the data and independent of belief, ie, atheists and christians alike both die when jumping of a cliff.

      1ppm is 0.000001 or 0.0001% so 315ppm is 0.0315% and 390ppm is 0.039%

      Still sounds small?

      Look at it this way:

      The undeniable Keeling Curve, shows CO2 concentration rising from 315 to 390 ppm since it was started in 1958.

      75% of the mass of the atmosphere is below 11,000m

      If atmospheric composition is uniform with altitude, then 75% of the CO2 is also below 11,000m.

      How much CO2 is that? Here is a way to visualize it in 'straight numbers'

      At 315ppm the fractional thickness of this CO2 is 11,000m * 0.0315% = 3.465 m

      At 390ppm it is 4.29 m

      So, CO2 is like a blanket that has increased in thickness from 3.5m to 4.3m - a (390-315)/315*100 = 24% increase in just over the last 50 years.

      The Earth is always in equilibrium with the heat that it receives and the heat that it radiates away. Add more CO2 and it will warm up to compensate. Add methane and the effect is greater. Add clouds, sulphate particles, dust, and less sunlight reaches the surface. It is complex, but even small changes in tiny quantities make a difference.

      Common sense should indicate that if you stand outside in the cold, wear 4 pullovers and feel comfortable, then putting on another pullover might cause you to overheat.

      1. perlcat
        Facepalm

        Bad assumption re: common sense.

        "Common sense should indicate that if you stand outside in the cold, wear 4 pullovers and feel comfortable, then putting on another pullover might cause you to overheat."

        Sure. However, as you start to overheat, you may vary your activity, including unzipping, moving around less, or even move to a cooler place.

        If CO2 is the only mechanism, you might be able to prove causality. It is one element of many, and this data shows that other, bigger elements are in play, both in maintaining equilibrium, and in moving climate away from equilibrium -- there's a difference between the two.

        Common sense isn't either common or sense.

        The choice of CO2 as the chimera was a poor choice. However, it is far easier to control via regulation. It is far easier to draw a connection between SUV's (which easily represent conspicuous consumption) and a global rise in CO2. The unchecked growth of political control is really what it is all about.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "as if that were a 33% rise"

      Which part of the very simple arithmetic can't you handle ?

    4. Chemist

      Re : It just doesn't seem to ring true that the climate system is so sensitive....

      Why ?

      CO2 absorbs outbound infra-red radiation thus heating the atmosphere more than if it were not there. It's totally irrelevant whether this occurs at .003% or 1% - it depends on the gas. In the case of CO2 0.003% is significant.

      However HEAT != temperature. Different materials have different specific heats and worse than that ice/water has a large energy involved in it's phase transition ( ice at 0C + lots of heat > water at 0C )

  18. NomNomNom

    Also we have other elevated other greenhouse gases, not just CO2. Such as CFCs, nitrous oxide, methane.

    So the level of CO2 alone might be 390ppm, but if you factor in the other greenhouse gases too the equivalent CO2 level is more like 450ppm. Therefore we can easily hit the 600ppm this century.

    1. perlcat
      Facepalm

      A little unclear on what CO2 is?

      These other chemicals -- take methane as an example. They are CO2 "equivalents"? How come methane is represented as CH4, then? Wouldn't that take 2 molecules of O2 to create CO2, and produce 2 molecules of H2O for each CO2? Wouldn't all that water vapor have an effect, too?

      The problem is, if you turn methane into CO2, then it isn't methane anymore, and has entirely different characteristics regarding EM transmission...

      Now, using NO2 as a CO2 equivalent? How's that work? Explain how chemistry is going to turn nitrogen into carbon. I'm all ears. I have my red pen ready, too -- and you cannot use unicorn farts, pixie dust or whatever it is that flat-earthers use.

      Don't even get me into the luddite idiocy of people translating ppb of CO2 into an earth-covering blanket of carbon X feet thick. Maybe the carbon in CO2 is as clear with respect to IR transmission as a diamond is to visible light? The only chemical measured here was CO2, and if you want to add the effects of NO2 and other chemicals to the AGW cause, you need to get their equivalent measure in the study. Otherwise, you're just wanking with data.

  19. Identity
    FAIL

    Bias?

    How come we only see reports on el Reg that can be spun to deny a climate change problem? Anyone over there read/hear the story about <i>Arctic</i> ice? http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2011/11/22/science-arctic-sea-ice-loss.html

  20. CowardlyAndrew
    Boffin

    I reveal the subject of my next research paper.

    If we all stop breathing, does this reduce the CO2 levels, ie. how many tickets have to be in the breathing lottery for the number of deaths to make an impact. Obviously would have to avoid carbon release from decaying bodies.

    To summarise, we need to all have a plastic chip in our palms, that will indicate our need to attend carousel at the grand age of 42.

    1. perlcat
      Trollface

      Simple

      They haven't sold their soul to the snake oil merchants yet.

  21. Beachrider

    The Globe is certainly warming...

    There really cannot be much doubt that the global temperatures are climbing, over the last 100 years.

    As can be seen here, there is doubt that it is substantially caused by 'Carbon Loading' (i.e. increased carbon compounds in the air and water). The recent Mars probe indicated that Mars may be experiencing increased temperatures (but with MUCH less long term data). I do wish that people wouldn't restrict the Carbon loading issue to CO2, because CH4 looms as a much more virulent component.

    The world has walked away from the Kyoto accords (not even Japan follows them anymore). The Copenhagen accords may need to be modified to get everyone on-board.

    The major problem with Copenhagen is that it focuses on mankind's contribution to global warming. There is quite an undercurrent of support for the idea that our contribution is on-the-order of whatever-termites-contribute.

    I just don't think that doing this discussion in a highly adversarial tone is helping people agree that one-side or the-other is espousing a mature approach.

    Watch out, the cockroaches could take over, even without nuclear annihilation...

  22. scientific_linux_01
    Thumb Down

    The biggest FARCE of the century

    The earth is freezing, oh no it is melting and burning up.

    Basically whoever can control energy usage will control the earth.

    This has nothing to do with nothing more than someone selling carbon credits and making BILLIONS of dollars.

    It is all a fraud period.

  23. scientific_linux_01
    Linux

    Fact Mars is heating up

    The fact that the entire solar system is warming, NO man can change the climate if the sun is hotter it is going to be warmer period.

    If the sun is cooler then the temp will be cooler.

    1 volcano spews more into the atmosphere than all of the years of man being industrial!

  24. peabody3000
    Megaphone

    global warming is a reality. the natural phenomena that produce such warming or cooling trends are also a reality. the problem is that mankind is reproducing those trends in the course of decades vs over milennia. even while antarctic ice is steady, on the other side of the globe artic sea ice is steadily coming closer to disappearing during summers. that is a shocking level of change within a single human lifetime, at a pace that far precludes evolution from keeping up

  25. Richard Boyce
    FAIL

    Symon's mate should go back to his calculator

    Symon left the hard work for the reader, having not done it himself. I actually did the sums. My assumptions:

    (a) You'd have to pump the water reasonably far inland to stop it increasing ice outflow fairly quickly. Since much of inland Antarctica is highly elevated (a lot of the ice cap is is over 4,000m above sea level), I assume pumping the seawater up to 2,000m.

    (b) I assumed no heating cost during transport and no pumping losses.

    (c) I assumed a nuclear power station putting out 1GW of electrical power.

    It turned out that you'd need about 400 such stations to keep up with current sea level rise, even if you did not increase ice outflow back to the sea.

    Does your libertarian friend want to pay for that?

  26. sleepership

    600ppm seems on the high end. Dr. Hansen of NASA feels 450-550ppm is more likely. 34.5 million years ago when the region began to glaciate C02 has been measured at about 450ppm.

  27. scientific_linux_01
    Thumb Down

    Fraud of the century

    Why is this on a tech site?

    It is nothing more than cannon fodder and it is bunk science.

    When Al Gore gives up his many mansions that have $20,000 electric bills and his SUV's and his Jets flying all over.

    The same people telling others not to breath or eat meat, live like kings but the elite are exempt so which is it?

    Hypocrites, stop using computers, electricity, fuel, basically stop breathing according this trash science.

  28. scientific_linux_01
    Thumb Down

    Carbon is the building block

    So basically get rid of carbon, now that is intelligent...

    China/India are really worried about this, they pollute 1,000 times worse than any other country and no one is telling them to live in mud huts.

    This is irritating at best, the sky is falling, stop breathing, eating and jump off a cliff to save mother earth.

  29. heystoopid
    IT Angle

    D'oh

    D'oh , some people will seek any straw context free comment in the land, to avoid facing the reality, the real world is warming, as man made fossil fuel CO2 levels climb above 393 ppm and O2 levels fall accordingly.

    A Summary of the actual paper :-

    "Antarctic glaciation occurred during a geologic period called the Eocene to Oligocene climate transition.

    "It was a time of dramatic changes triggered during a cold orbital cycle when precession of the Earth's axis and changes in its orbit aligned to make southern hemisphere summers colder," says Sijp.

    "This allowed ice sheets to survive year round and gradually increase in altitude as fresh snow and ice was added. As the altitude increased, the surrounding air got colder, which further aided in cooling, creating a positive feedback loop."

    "At the same time continental drift ... allowed the creation of the Antarctic circumpolar current which also had a significant cooling effect on Antarctica."

    Sijp says the growth of ice sheets also increased the Earth's albedo reflecting more of the Sun's energy back into space.

    "But the main driver seems to be carbon dioxide, because that dropped 40 per cent over a three million year period as the planet cooled and Antarctica's ice sheets grew.""

    In addition:- "At the end of the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum, cooling and the carbon dioxide draw down continued through the late Eocene and into the Eocene-Oligocene transition around 34 million years ago. Multiple proxies, such as oxygen isotopes and alkenones, indicate that at the Eocene-Oligocene transition the atmospheric the carbon dioxide concentration had decreased to around 750-800 ppm. "

    In other words, the Antarctic ice sheets only grew in size, due to a number of cause and effect related events! The events that occurred 34 million years ago do not apply today.

    Lest we forget, for the past million years, the maximum concentration of atmospheric CO2 did not exceed 300 ppm in the warm periods between glacial ages or epochs, until the industrial age commencing 1800! The last glacial age ended when the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet in North America which extended from the North Pole to latitude 38 degrees north, collapsed 20,000 years ago !

    A nice try by the fake foolish head in sand ersatz skeptics, living in global warming/climate change denial la la never land! Most of whom, are being egged on by deliberate lies, science fiction disinformation and propaganda, all of which is freely supplied by artisans or shills working for the "Carbon Pollution Industry" !

    Meanwhile, back in the real world of reality, all true cynics and real skeptics, will carefully seek out the correct information, to make an informed decision, based purely on real facts and evidence! Those very few who live in a denial head in the sand world, being totally irrational, can make no such rational judgment and will continue to live in their own creative make believe world irrational world in fear of change or a cocoon that ignores all forms of reality and truth in the real world where the majority live!

    Who benefits, from posting context free disinformation, to encourage one to vote against ones own survival or self interest, or that of their future relatives living in a far harsher resource depleted world, in the year 2140?

    "When the Last Tree Is Cut Down, the Last Fish Eaten, and the Last Stream Poisoned, You Will Realize That You Cannot Eat Money" Native American saying

  30. max du noir

    Black Ice

    I thought the key element of these studies was that a *fall* in CO2 triggered Antarctic glaciation. Absolute values from so long ago are rough estimates, and misleading in a contextless headline. Conclusions about climatic events in specific geographic locations, like the Antarctic, have to be viewed from the context of the influence of many other changes in its environment also, like latitude changes from continental drift, changes in ocean currents, and changes in local flora and fauna, - all of which can amplify or impede the effects of greenhouse warming and cooling.

  31. stan0301

    What they are omitting is that they know perfectly well when and why the Antarctic ice sheet formed--what happened was that Antarctica and South America separated and the South Circumpolar Current started to flow--when that happened the cold air was trapped and Antarctica froze--it has been frozen ever sense--and will remain that way as long as the South Circumpolar Current flows--tens of millions of years, and no end in sight. It has been quite a bit warmer than today and it hasn't melted, nor will it.

  32. Tim of the Win
    WTF?

    Of course the world hasn't changed at all in 34 million years.

  33. Martin Lyne

    CO2 != The only greenhouse gas

    Just sayin'.

  34. JimC Silver badge

    Lewis, you appear making the mistake

    that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is the only factor in global temperatures. I know that's a very common assumption, usually on the other side of the debate but that doesn't make it any less b******s. You can't look at any one factor in isolation from all the others and many of the others are pretty much impossible to obtain historical information for.

    All this research tells us is that there does not appear to be a direct relationship between high CO2 levels and high global temperatures if no other factor changes. It would be nice to think that was dept. of the bleedin' obvious, but sadly its not.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just looked at the full article

    It's way to technical for me to take in all the numerous scientific details and understand them (unless perhaps I had a truly remarkable quantity of free time and a good university library to hand).

    But let me cut&paste the conclusion, since it's instructive:

    We conclude that the available evidence supports a fall in CO2 as a critical condition for global cooling and cryosphere evolution ~34 million years ago. Whether CO2 acted alone to cause the E-O transition or whether a threshold CO2 level in combination with favorable orbital configurations (1) ultimately triggered glaciation cannot be determined from our results. However, during the E-O transition both CO2 decline and enhanced ice albedo account for global temperature changes. Lastly, the long-term permanence of the CO2 decline (10) and the impermanent inorganic carbon isotope shift (1) implicate the role of silicate weathering rates over the influence of short-term organic-carbon burial rates as the primary cause for long-term change in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    IMO, more of the climate literature should go open-access. Then you'd really have to interact with the science, as opposed to taking a position or constructing an opinion based entirely on on a media remangled press release.

  36. Steve 6

    600PPM is nothing

    Our planet experienced full-on Ice Ages when there was 10-20x the level of atmospheric CO2 than we have today. Granted that was a very long time ago (think dinosaurs), but the laws of physics don't change over time.

    Had anyone else made the link that the greater atmospheric CO2 allowed faster food production, which in turn enabled the survival of those immense giants? Does that hint as a positive link between CO2 and biodiversity?

    Ask a AGW acceptor what their ideal level of atmospheric CO2 is. See if anyone is daft enough to answer with zero; plants, animals and humans would very soon become extinct. For anyone who says ‘leave it to nature’, see if they know about the steady trend of CO2 towards zero.

  37. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Boffin

    So CO2 falls, -> temperature falls but ice starts at *much* higher ppm level of CO to begin with

    First point supports the warming hypothesis.

    Second is rather interesting.

    And what *started* this cooling in the first place?

    Then again does CO2 track temperature or vice versa?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    soo

    how did life survive with all that CO2 in the atmosphere? How did it evolve and survive? Isn't all that CO2 supposed to be a planet killer that once released sets off a permanent chain reaction and makes the entire Earth a second Venus?

    Or is it entirely possible that yet again the climate changes and that current modelling fails to take into account CO2 moderation that has already been in place for millenia?

  39. Phil Hare 2

    Guys

    Let's just have a cup of tea and calm the fuck down.

    Two sugars please.

  40. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Ice formation in the poles

    Only started happening to the levels seen today when the southern circumpolar current formed after South America and Anartica finally seperated. Up to that point oceanic flow was from poles to tropics and temperatures were fairly consistent worldwide (even the ocean bottom was a _lot_ warmer than it is today)

    There have been glacial periods (and hot interglacials) ever since the current formed - and they will keep happening until it's interrupted.

    The GW argument is that anthrogenic warming is causing changes to occur faster than is natural which will result in many species going exitinct because they can't adapt fast enough. Sea level changes for the most part are normal and are slow enough that normal population movement cycles will handle it - PROVIDED there isn't a manic desire to hold onto coastal settlements....

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