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« They blather to deceive | Main | Looking back at Ehrlich »
Tuesday
Jun022015

Whither DeSmog?

One of the very first briefing papers issued by GWPF was on the greening of the Sahel. The Foundation's then deputy director Phillip Mueller put forward the idea that rather than making droughts on the fringes of the Sahara more severe, climate change was, if anything, actually making things better. This observation was suitably couched in caveats that noted, quite correctly, that we really couldn't say one way or the other what would happen in the future.

I don't remember the paper garnering a lot of attention at the time, but there was a typically wild-eyed response from those mini-Ehrlichs at DeSmog, which included this shot from the hip:

It is wild speculation to assert that any recovery in the Sahel is a result of global warming and to dangle the prospect of a future green Sahara is the exact opposite of the message provided by Mueller's reference on the matter. However welcome the re-greening of parts of the Sahel, it cannot be relied on.

How amusing then to read in the Times that a team of mainstream scientists led by Rowan Sutton are now making just this claim:

Climate change has achieved what Bob Geldof and Live Aid failed to do by ending the drought in the Sahel region of Africa that killed more than 100,000 people in the 1980s, a study has found.

Rising greenhouse gases caused rains to return to the region south of the Sahara, from Senegal to Sudan, boosting crop yields since the 1990s and helping the population to feed itself without relying on foreign donations.

Now the study is a GCM-based attribution study, and as readers here are well aware GCMs don't do rainfall in any meaningful way, so I take the claims with a large pinch of salt. Nevertheless, it's going to be fun to see what DeSmog makes of them. Is a "debunking" of Rowan Sutton on the way or are they going to admit that GWPF might just have had a point?

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Reader Comments (76)

"are they going to admit that GWPF might just have had a point?"

When Hell greens over, I suspect.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:04 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Seriously guys - when has reality ever, ever been a construct at De Smog?

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug UK

Paid trolls

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:34 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

...and the good news is that you don't have to rely on dodgy GCMs being right to account for the greening of the Sahel. A far more straightforward mechanism is already known and peer reviewed. Google "Impact of CO2 fertilization on maximum foliage cover across the globe’s warm, arid environments".

I think this pronouncement is probably just the proprietors of some severely damaged goods trying to claim some relevance and deal themselves back into the game i.e. "See, even though all the disaster stuff was total B.S., and the climate hasn't warmed for nearly two decades, our GCMs still predict some real world phenomena."

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered Commenterjim west

Wither DeSmog...

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Dawkins

Even here though, the claim is incorrect.
The greening is the result of increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, not climate change.
Come on Thunderer, get it right.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Catley

How was the Australian summer the last 6 months?

I havent seen much hysteria from the Left on it, so it must mean it's "against their narratives" a bit??

Jun 2, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterVenusNotWarmerDueToCO2

Only peripihally connected to this posting, but of interest nevertheless.

From the science section of the biased BBC. 'Virgin - born sawfish found in Florida'
Remarkable enough in itself, but what I found really remarkable was that this miracle was NOT due to MMGW.
It is apparently due to a lack of males.
Maybe they should do some research in Dublin into same sex relationships?

Jun 2, 2015 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered Commenterpatrick healy

I guess their summer was a bit like ours last year. It was exceptional only because of how unexceptional it was?

Mailman

Jun 2, 2015 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterMailman

Bish,
Have you tried to contact DeSmog about this?
I'd love to see what excuse they give to explain away their massive error!

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterdavid smith

O ye doom-sayer-philosopher-king-types who see the future clearly, through a glass darkly,
yr record ain't good. Check out Philip Tetlock's studies on experts' cf non-experts' success
rate in prediction. Beth the serf.

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBeth Cooper

Climate change of course caused the problem in the first place....natural climate change.

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

Rising greenhouse gases caused rains to return

Er...how exactly?
Are these the same greenhouse gases that ignored the GCMs and neglected to increase surface temperatures for the last two decades?

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterMuon

Famine in West Africa is caused by corruption and war not by climate. Anyone who has been there can see how fertile the land is.

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBuck

In 200 (ish?) BC, Hannibal led an attack on the mighty Roman Empire, from Carthage (North Africa) using elephants to cross the Alps.

Where did Hannibal get his elephants from, because the climate of north Africa, does not support elephants today?

Carthage was a rich agricultural area. It is not today.

Should we blame the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, for changing the climate?

Obviously the simple answer, is that climate changes naturally, but I am sure Real Climate scientists would rather change historical and archaeological records.

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:43 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Why would Desmog debunk such manna from heaven?


Professor Sutton added: 'These positive short-term impacts were accidental. No-one was trying to bring them about.

'Nevertheless, such major changes show that by continuing to emit greenhouse gases, we are seriously upsetting a natural system that we don’t even fully understand, and this system is our home.

'Our new study shows that our activities are not just causing problems for future generations. They are causing major changes now.

'Continuing on the current path of greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more serious and widespread impacts.

'I trust the governments meeting later this year in Paris will appreciate the gravity of this message.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3105940/Climate-change-bringing-rain-Africa-30-years-Live-Aid-tried-help-end-famine.html

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterCraigM350ppm

The rare positive effect of climate change…
Notice how that was levered in? How rare is “rare”? Certainly more common than any negative effects of climate change, of which the sum total so far has been, erm… nil. All identifiable effects to date have been positive, be it warmer winters, increased growing season, higher latitudes and altitudes for crops, greater crop yields, reduced severity of storms, reduced number of tropical revolving storms (hurricanes, typhoons, etc.); the list could probably fill an entire page of “rarities”.

(As an aside: GC, can you please keep your commas under control – they are running rampant through almost everything you write, right!)

Jun 2, 2015 at 1:06 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

[Snip - raise the tone please]

Jun 2, 2015 at 1:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid@aol.com

Our new study shows that our activities are not just causing problems for future generations. They are causing major changes now.
Blink and you miss it. Note how the "problems" for future generations have morphed into major "changes" by the next sentence.
And of course no matter how hard Sutton tries he would be struggling to justify either of these claims.
I come back yet again to a furrow I've ploughed before. I blogged more than three years ago about the work of Professor Calouste Juma so rather than repeat myself you can follow the link if you're interested.
Buck is right. While drought is natural, famine is (almost) always political. There is nothing in nature to prevent Africa feeding itself to western standards (albeit with the assistance of a bit of technology here and there). The problems lie with local warlords who suck every cent they can out of foreign aid (Cameron, please, please pay attention) and the quite unnecessary protectionism of the US and the EU.
Raised CO2 levels will only make the situation easier to solve, not harder.

CraigM350ppm
Not your given name, I assume.
In case you hadn't noticed we're well past your (talis)manic 350ppm and I'm still waiting for the sky to fall in, or indeed anything dramatic to happen that hasn't already happened in the last few centuries.
You might (but probably won't) care to take a look at this . For the last 3000 years each temperature peak has been lower than the previous one and we are currently about 1° below the MWP, 2° below the Roman Warm Period and 3° below the Minoan Warm Period.
Which would seem to suggest that CO2 levels are largely irrelevant.

Jun 2, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The claim the end of the drought was caused by rising greenhouse gases is just that, a claim. It could more likely be a result of the AMO.

Jun 2, 2015 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered Commenterlonetown

The return of the Sahel rains may be encouraging.

A monsoon exists because there is a large enough Summer temperature gradient between land and adjacent ocean for the latter to pull in moist air. The Indian monsoon is the classic example.

The Sahara monsoons began 10500 years ago and ended 5500 years ago. They turned a desert into liveable land, for a while.

This coincided with the peak Holocene temperatures shown in a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-0UtrItVc9RA/UVjnUMFb6XI/AAAAAAAACks/GEbpGKABqUc/s640/marcott1.jpg">Marcott et al. The monsoon started as temperatures peaked around anomaly 0.4C 10,000 years ago and declined as temperatures decreased 5000 years ago.

The Met Office uses same baseline as Marcott et al and is recording 21st century temperature anomalies above 0.4C, with peaks of 056C in 2010 and 2014.

As we move above peak Holocene temperatures, warming of the Sahara and a return of the Sahara monsoon is only to be expected. For populations struggling to survive in the Sahel this is good news.

Jun 2, 2015 at 1:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Second attempt

The return of the Sahel rains may be encouraging.

A monsoon exists because there is a large enough Summer temperature gradient between land and adjacent ocean for the latter to pull in moist air. The Indian monsoon is the classic example.

The Sahara monsoons began 10500 years ago and ended 5500 years ago. They turned a desert into liveable land, for a while.

This coincided with the peak Holocene temperatures shown in Marcott et al. The monsoon started as temperatures peaked around anomaly 0.4C 10,000 years ago and declined as temperatures decreased 5000 years ago.

The Met Office uses same baseline as Marcott et al and is recording 21st century temperature anomalies above 0.4C, with peaks of 056C in 2010 and 2014.

As we move above peak Holocene temperatures, warming of the Sahara and a return of the Sahara monsoon is only to be expected. For populations struggling to survive in the Sahel this is good news.

Jun 2, 2015 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

The claim the end of the drought was caused by rising greenhouse gases is just that, a claim. It could more likely be a result of the AMO.

It does make it difficult to claim that increased CO2 causes drought.

Jun 2, 2015 at 2:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterSlywolfe

Entropic Man, are we rising above Holocene temperatures? Haven't we stopped temperatures rising anyway, or is 20 odd years too soon? Or would you like to quibble about hundredths of a degree now, or more or less than 10, 000 or more years ago?

Simply repeating the sweeping rhetoric that fooled you, makes you a hero of modern science. Right?

Jun 2, 2015 at 4:14 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

How many papers can you link that claim we are now warmer than the Minoan Maximum EM?

Jun 2, 2015 at 4:43 PM | Registered CommenterDung

The role of increased rainfall in the Sahel, causing "greening" is minor.
The main effect is that increased CO2 levels enhance plant water-use efficiency, allowing plants to grow in aeas previously too arid.

I'm a plant physiologist, by training. Unlike climate "psientists" I actually understand the role that increased CO2 has on plants.

Jun 2, 2015 at 5:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Jun 2, 2015 at 12:43 PM | golf charlie

"Carthage was a rich agricultural area. It is not today."

I thought it was because the Romans salted the fields. But, it appears that is a myth.

Jun 2, 2015 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBart

Don Keiller, thanks for your input. Global Warming experts appear to believe that CO2 is a herbicide, more lethal than DDT.

Jun 2, 2015 at 5:40 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Bart, Carthage, in modern day Tunisia was rich and fertile. The Romans may well have salted the fields, but that would have used a lot of a very valuable commodity. As a short term way of rendering soil sterile it would have worked. Sea water would have worked.

As an explanation of Tunisia being predominantly desert, salt would have seemed a logical explanation in the 1800's and through the desert campaigns in WW2. Global Warming alarmists don't like to examine some bits of history too carefully. Too many pieces of the Jig Saw, are from a different puzzle, and nothing fits.

Jun 2, 2015 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

"Where did Hannibal get his elephants from, because the climate of north Africa, does not support elephants today?"

The North African Elephant was exterminated by overhunting during roman times, not climate. And Maghreb could support elephants today easily. The elephants in northen Namibia survive in much drier and poorer habitat than much of Maghreb.

Incidentally (indian) elephants were living in Turkey, Syria and Iraq until approximately the same time.

Elephants are actually extremely adaptable and can live in almost any habitat from rainforest to semi-desert, though they seem to prefer savannah.

Jun 2, 2015 at 6:46 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Don Keiller

Do not forget that the increased productivity due to CO2 comes at a price. Nutrient availability, especially nitrogen, rapidly becomes the limiting factor. The effect you claim is self limiting.

There is also the effect of increasing CO2 on biome boundaries. A Californian farmer will hardly welcome increased yield from CO2 when his crops can no longer be grown due to lack of water.

Jun 2, 2015 at 6:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Dung

Marcott et al was an ensemble analysis based on 70 proxies from various sources. Call it 70 papers minimum.

What is the Minoan Maximum? How warm was it? Can't you document it properly (ie with peer reviewed papers )or have you made it up?

Jun 2, 2015 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"As we move above peak Holocene temperatures.."

At peak Holocene temperatures Pond Turtles were living in southern Sweden, the northernmost record is actually at 58.5 degrees north near where I live. Currently their northern limit is in Brandenburg, Germany about 400 miles south. The summers are too cold for their eggs to hatch further north than that.

I'm eagerly awaiting the return of the pond turtle 'as we move above peak Holocene temperatures'.
But I'm not holding my breath. We just had the coldest May in 200 years here in Sweden and the temperature as I write this is 55 degrees, and we haven't been over 70 yet this year.

Jun 2, 2015 at 7:13 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Re. Carthage: that was in the Roman province of Africa, which corresponded to Tunisia and was considered a very rich province and a useful source of grain for Rome, if ever Egypt couldn't stump up. The emperor Nero once filled his coffers by the simple expedient of having the six wealthiest landowners in Africa executed on charges of treason, which meant their estates went straight to the imperial exchequer. Carthage itself had been destroyed in 146 BC, when the site was supposedly made sterile, but the Romans re-colonised it a century later. Later on, it was home to the Vandals for a while.

I've always been led to understand that the mediaeval desertification of North Africa (in the continental, rather than the narrow Roman sense) was primarily due to poor herding of goats. I remember a photograph of the tomb of a muslim holy man, where the ground within the enclosure, inaccessible to goats, was verdant, but everything outside the enclosure was just sand.

Re. the Sahel: I'd include northern Nigeria in the Sahel. That's where boko haram has been committing the most vile atrocities for quite some time now. Is it my imagination, or has Obama actually claimed that "climate change" is a principal cause of the existence of boko haram?

Jun 2, 2015 at 7:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Dung

I've been looking for more on your Minoan Warm Period. There seems to be nothing in the conventional literature, only on "sceptic" websites. Those are based on a transient spike in one Greenland ice core generally regarded as of poor reliability.

Can you link me to something more rigorous?

Jun 2, 2015 at 8:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921818111001457

Jun 2, 2015 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

TTY

Patience. I doubt that the Pond Turtles can extend their Northern limit that fast, unless you fancy transplanting them.

Owen Morgan

When a country comes up against over It does not require a US president to see the obvious.population and food supply limits normal order breaks down. This has already happened in Rwanda, Sudan, Syria and Egypt. Under such conditions organisations such as boko haram flourish.

Jun 2, 2015 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

TTY

Thanks for the reference. Unfortunately it uses the same GISP2 core I referred to earlier, which among other defects shows a millennial oscillation which appears nowhere else.

Jun 2, 2015 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

TTY

Thanks for the reference. Unfortunately it uses the same GISP2 core I referred to earlier, which among other defects shows a millennial oscillation which appears nowhere else.

Jun 2, 2015 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic Man- the "progressive nitrogen limitation" hypothesis you refer to has been debunked many times. It is a phenomenon of pot-based trials where the volume of soil is limiting.
Outside, in the real World, this is not the case. Enhanced root growth exploits a larger soil volume and also provides extra photosynthates to mycorrhizal fungi, further improving nutrient uptake.

Where do you get your info? Wikipedia?

Jun 2, 2015 at 9:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Admit it, EM, there will be nothing that can be produced by any here that you will find acceptable. “Why not get a graph from a ‘warmist’ site/paper?” you may well ask. Well, think about it: if a “warmist” site ever linked to one, or a paper ever produced one, it would undermine the story that now is the “hottest evah!” They would be a bit daft to do that, wouldn’t they? What about the forests that are now reappearing from under the ice? Do they not indicate temperatures were once a lot, lot warmer than now, and for long enough for the trees to grow? I have little doubt you will find a rebuttal for that, too.

Odd as it might be to you, most on here are not rabidly “anti-” climate change, even though they might accept being referred to as “deniers”, mostly on sufferance. My own perception is that most are like me, in that they are sceptical of the claims made, and seek further evidence; should any be provided, I would have no qualms whatsoever about accepting what we are being told we should believe. It is being told that we must not question the belief that makes most of us balk, and get suspicious – there is absolutely NO evidence to support any of the claims being made about AGW/ACC/call it what you will: temperatures are not rising; storms are not getting more violent; hurricanes are not occurring more often or getting more ferocious; floods are not getting worse, nor are droughts; sea-levels are not engulfing coastal states; climate refugees are not swamping their neighbours; ice caps are not melting.

Can you not see the irony that those who are vilified as deniers seem to deny very little, yet those who use that term against them seem to deny so much? As Richard Feynman said: “It is better to have questions that cannot be answered than answers that cannot be questioned.” You, EM, are in the fold of those who are of the opinion that some answers cannot be questioned, which is a very silly place for anyone who claims to have a scientific mind to put themselves.

Jun 2, 2015 at 9:48 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Entropic man, I am not going to go into details on the Bishop's website as to why it is entirely ridiculous to daisy-chain Rwanda, Sudan, Syria and Egypt. There is no reason on Earth to connect those. They have different politics, religions, histories and ecosystems. If you have some evidence of some global phenomenon (for convenience, let's call it "global warming") which is malignly and consistently affecting all five*, please share it.

* By the way, of the countries you name, only North (partially) and South Sudan are even in the Sahel. I note that you treat "Sudan" as still a single country.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterOwen Morgan

Don Keiller

I think the last paper I read on this topic was Reich and Hobbie(2013)

They did not confirm the PNI hypothesis, but did note that under limited nitrogen conditions their grassland plots were 50% less productive, even under elevated CO2 conditions. Methinks you oversimplify.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Owen Morgan

All four countries went through food crises.

In Rwanda the genocide was triggered when the population overran the food supply.

Sudan split due to a civil war triggered by famine.

In Syria a drought forced a wave of rural farmers to abandon their land and move into the cities. The government's failure to do anything about it triggered the unrest.

Egypt raised bread prices after the 2010 Russian crop failure. The resulting food riots brought down the government.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"Patience. I doubt that the Pond Turtles can extend their Northern limit that fast, unless you fancy transplanting them"

Actually they have been transplanted inadvertently many times. They are fairly popular as pets and escape frequently. They are sometimes found in good health several years later, so they have no problem surviving in Sweden per se. But they never establish breeding populations.
And the same is true for the German/Polish/Lithuanian/Latvian populations. They show no tedency to expand north.

As a matter of fact in Brandenburg they are only just barely hanging on, thanks to their longevity that enables them to "wait out" the occasional exceptional summer:

http://www.senckenberg.de/files/content/forschung/abteilung/tierkunde/phylogeographie/biologia/schneeweiss_2004b.pdf

Notice how few were apparently hatched during the cool 1945-75 period.

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:55 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Radical rodent

"temperatures are not rising; storms are not getting more violent; hurricanes are not occurring more often or getting more ferocious; floods are not getting worse, nor are droughts; sea-levels are not engulfing coastal states; climate refugees are not swamping their neighbours; ice caps are not melting."

Wotta lotta notta!

Are you sure you are not a denier?

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Entropic Man the abstract of the paper you refer to states "elevated CO2 stimulated plant biomass half as much under ambient as under enriched nitrogen supply, an effect mirrored over this period by more positive effects of elevated CO2 on soil nitrogen supply (net nitrogen mineralization) and plant nitrogen status under enriched than ambient nitrogen supply".

In words that even you can understand. Limiting nitrogen limits plants growth. However plants still grow bigger under increased CO2 and improve soil nitrogen content.

Now back in the real world farmers already know that most soils are nitrogen-limited- which is why they use fertilizers.

Bet the climate psientists never guessed those farmers could be so sneaky....

Jun 2, 2015 at 11:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

” In Syria a drought forced a wave of rural farmers to abandon their land and move into the cities. The government's failure to do anything about it triggered the unrest.”

If so it seems that the Syrians themselves were unaware of it. It so happens I was in Syria when the civil war started, and nobody ever mentioned drought as a reason. It was seen as a matter of politics/religion (inseparable in the moslem world), with the sunni on one side and the Assad regime/clan (alawit) on the other side, with some support from the shia, druze and christians.

Jun 2, 2015 at 11:12 PM | Unregistered Commentertty

Don Keiller: Do you have any photomicrographs of leaf stomates under high and low CO2 concentrations? Seeing is believing, for most people. Thx.

Jun 3, 2015 at 1:36 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Mike Jackson

I should have put /sarc on. :)

Craig is my real name. I had to think of something when I set up my twitter account. M was arbitrarily chosen but the 350ppm was a backhander to McKibben's whole 350.org nonsense - although I was in the warmist camp until the turn of this decade. I am pro carbon dioxide choice, especially for the poor and don't appreciate the #GreenImperialists that the Bishop has been highlighting. Barry Woods' recent twitter exchange on how coal works for electricity was illuminating on certain mindsets.

Anyway I was just trying to point out the overt advocacy of Prof. Sutton in the run up to the UN summit, hence the bold bit. With statements like that Desmog will be salivating. Never mind that the rains are pretty much as they were before - it could only be the extra ppm that 75% caused their return ;)

https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/sahel-droughts-perhaps-they-should-have-read-hh-lamb/

Jun 3, 2015 at 2:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterCraigM350ppm

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