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James Delingpole, please correct this mistake

November 23, 2013

The only thing that bugs me more than when climate alarmists get things wrong is when skeptics get it wrong.

A case in point is the assertion by James Delingpole that a recent volcano in Iceland put more CO2 into the atmosphere that all of human activity since 1950.

Delingpole is a vocal supporter of the skeptic community, and the fact the he has a widely viewed blog , writes for several publications and authored several books, all give his words wide dissemination.  The problem is that when a fence-sitter who is trying to make up his mind about the global warming issue realizes that somebody like Delingpole is asserting and defending an indefensible claim, well, that fence-sitter is likely to fall off the fence to the side of the alarmists.  This will happen even if Delingpole is correct on other points.  Fence-sitters don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to sort out and weigh all the arguments, and something like this can easily tip their judgement scales one way or the other.

Delingpole appeared as a guest on the Mike Rosen Show on Denver’s AM station KOA.  This is a 50,000 Watt station and tens of thousands of people probably heard this exchange.  Rosen is a pretty smart guy and usually nobody’s fool, but he let this bogus assertion slide by…

Audio version: Rosen/Delingpole 11/20/13 MP3

Rosen: 713-8585 our telephone number in Castle Rock. Cliff, you’re on 850 KOA. James Delingpole our guest. Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Mike and James, good morning.

Rosen: Morning

Delingpole: Hi Cliff.

Cliff: Hey, I finally think I have somebody who can actually answer this question.

Rosen: Alright.

Cliff: Ah, you know we’ve got, the greenies are all against cars and the exhaust, and you know, all this pollution that we put in the air. Ah, whats the equivalency of a volcano that’s erupting and spewing stuff into the air thirty miles high.

Delingpole: That’s a good question. You remember that volcano that erupted in Iceland a couple of years ago?

Cliff: Yep, that’s the one that made me start thinking about it

Delingpole: Yeah, I think that, I think that that – that volcano produced more CO2 than I think humans have produced in the last, in the last fifty years.

Cliff: Watta we gonna do about that? (…unintelligible…)

Delingpole: We should ban volcanoes.

You  can hear the entire interview (Wednesday, 10AM, 11/20/13) on KOA’s podcast

What are the facts?

The facts are well know, easily accessible, and have been presented to Delingpole before now.  Here it is summed up by the USGS…

Do the Earth’s volcanoes emit more CO2 than human activities? Research findings indicate that the answer to this frequently asked question is a clear and unequivocal, “No.” Human activities, responsible for a projected 35 billion metric tons (gigatons) of CO2 emissions in 2010 (Friedlingstein et al., 2010), release an amount of CO2 that dwarfs the annual CO2 emissions of all the world’s degassing subaerial and submarine volcanoes (Gerlach, 2011).

The published estimates of the global CO2 emission rate for all degassing subaerial (on land) and submarine volcanoes lie in a range from 0.13 gigaton to 0.44 gigaton per year (Gerlach, 1991; Varekamp et al., 1992; Allard, 1992; Sano and Williams, 1996; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). The preferred global estimates of the authors of these studies range from about 0.15 to 0.26 gigaton per year. The 35-gigaton projected anthropogenic CO2 emission for 2010 is about 80 to 270 times larger than the respective maximum and minimum annual global volcanic CO2 emission estimates. It is 135 times larger than the highest preferred global volcanic CO2 estimate of 0.26 gigaton per year (Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). 

It is an embarrassment to me, as a skeptic, that the alarmist site “Skeptical Science” gets it right while Delingpole, a well know mouthpiece for skepticism, gets it wildly wrong.  This meme has been around for years and was long ago thoroughly debunked.  

I would forgive an acquaintance at a coffee shop or around the water cooler for making this mistake.  Then I would gently try to set him straight with the facts  But if you are going to put yourself forth as some kind of expert, then you need to get your facts straight.  This type of mistake may win converts to your side in the short run, but when people realize how wrong you have were, then they will not believe you even when you are right.  Worse yet, they will also be less inclined to believe other skeptics when they are right.

So, James, please fess up on this issue.  Admitting this mistake will only improve your credibility in the long run.

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By the way, this reminds me of another misinformed claim:that underwater volcanoes in the Gakkel ridge were causing reduced sea ice in the Arctic.

One comment

  1. Actually you really can not say how much CO2 volcanoes emit. Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998 are just making SWAG.

    Why do I say this? 70% of the earth is covered by oceans.

    2007 Thousand of new volcanoes revealed beneath the waves “…researchers who have counted 201,055 underwater cones. This is over 10 times more than have been found before.

    The team estimates that in total there could be about 3 million submarine volcanoes…”

    2008 Arctic Volcanoes Found Active at Unprecedented Depths

    2011 Giant Undersea Volcanoes Found Off Antarctica

    Nor can you actually say how much CO2 humans are emitting
    Dr. Tim Ball: IPCC Control Calculations of Annual Human CO2 Production For Political Agenda “…All the CO2 numbers used by the IPCC are very poor estimates and designed to underline the human impact. They are meaningless figures ..”

    I agree with Dr. Ball the figures are completely meaningless and THIS is what Delingpole should have pointed out.



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