More Misinformation from Big Soil

The Independent has a new article warning us that climate change is worse than we thought. I know you’ve already read a thousand like this, but I thought it was interesting as an indication of the way the discussion [sic] is likely to develop in the next few years. I’ve reproduced it in full, condensing its primary-school-length paragraphs and dropping the photos of power stations, deserts, gliders, polar bears, glaciers and someone in a Donald Trump mask holding a “TRUMP CLIMATE GENOCIDE” placard.

New study rewrites two decades of research and author says we are ‘beyond point of no return’ – Peter Walker

Global warming is beyond the “point of no return”, according to the lead scientist behind a ground-breaking climate change study. The full impact of climate change has been underestimated because scientists haven’t taken into account a major source of carbon in the environment. Dr Thomas Crowther’s report has concluded that carbon emitted from soil was speeding up global warming. The findings, which say temperatures will increase by 1C by 2050, are already being adopted by the United Nations.

Dr Crowther, speaking to The Independent, branded Donald Trump’s sceptical stance on climate change as “catastrophic for humanity”. “It’s fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can’t reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them,” said the biodiversity expert. “Climate change may be considerably more rapid than we thought it was.”

The report, by an exhaustive list of researchers and published in the Nature journal , assembled data from 49 field experiments over the last 20 years in North America, Europe and Asia. It found that the majority of the Earth’s terrestrial store of carbon was in soil, and that as the atmosphere warms up, increasing amounts are emitted in what is a vicious cycle of “positive feedbacks”. The study found that 55bn tonnes in carbon, not previously accounted for by scientists, will be emitted into the atmosphere by 2050.

“As the climate warms, those organisms become more active and the more active they become, the more the soil respires – exactly the same as human beings,” said Dr Crowther, who headed up the study at Yale Climate & Energy Institute, but is now a Marie Curie fellow at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. “Our study shows that this major feedback has already certainly started, and it will have a significant impact on the climate in the coming decades. This information will be critical as we strive to understand how the climate is going to change in the future. And it will also be critical if we are to generate meaningful strategies to fight against it.”

Dr Crowther, a 30-year-old Cardiff University PhD graduate originally from North Wales, predicts climate change will lead to widespread migrations and antagonism among communities. “These effects of climate change will certainly be felt disproportionately by poorer people, particularly the billions of people whose livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the land,” he added.“But the impacts on sea-level rise, ocean currents and the health of natural ecosystems are equally devastating for a vast multitude of reasons.”

During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump described climate change as a “total hoax” and said it was a concept created by the Chinese to manipulate US markets. The billionaire tycoon also tweeted in 2014: “It’s late in July and it is really cold outside in New York. Where the hell is GLOBAL WARMING???” White House chief of staff Reince Preibus has since said the 70-year-old will “have an open mind” but Mr Trump’s threat to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate deal still lingers. The increasingly popular right-wing Breitbart News website’s reporting has repeatedly poured scorn on climate change theories.

“I think this is catastrophic for humanity,” said Dr Crowther. “Uncertainty is nothing like a reason enough to suggest climate change isn’t happening. There’s a nice analogy; if you step in front of an oncoming bus, no doctor in the world can tell you how damaging the impact is going to be. But we do know the damage is going to be huge. This alone should be enough information to persuade us to avoid the bus.”

The last two decades of the 20th century were the hottest in 400 years.

He added: “Sceptics often say that scientists are just saying that climate change is real so that they can keep their jobs. I would just like to stress that I could get a hell of a lot more money than academia offers me if I were to do a study that suggests that climate change is not real.”

Prof Ivan Janssens, seen as one of the godfathers in the global change ecology field, said the research had provided essential data to the climate change model. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN and World Meteorological Organisation, is incorporating the study’s data. “This study is very important, because the response of soil carbon stocks to the ongoing warming, is one of the largest sources of uncertainty in our climate models,” said Prof Janssens, of the University of Antwerp. “I’m an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product. If this happens by 2050, then we can avoid warming above 2C. If not, we will reach a point of no return and will probably exceed 5C.”

The subject of the article, Dr Thomas Crowther, is a soil scientist, and there’s a link to the Nature paper by him and 49 other people entitled: “Quantifying global soil carbon losses in response to warming” which is the subject of the article. From the abstract we learn that experiments on three continents (yes, this is a real scientific paper) suggest that 1°C of warming will add CO2 from the soil amounting to around 12–17 per cent of the expected anthropogenic emissions over this period.

Of the ten paragraphs into which I’ve divided the article, three are about the results of the research; one is about Donald Trump’s views on climate change, one is about Dr Crowther’s views of Donald Trump, three are about sceptics and Dr Crowther’s predictions for the future (“widespread migrations,”, “catastrophic for humanity,” “There’s a nice analogy; if you step in front of an oncoming bus, no doctor in the world can tell you how damaging the impact is going to be”) one is about how hot the last two decades have been, and one is a quote from another soil scientist, professor Ivan Janssens, who says the research has provided essential data to the climate change model and that the IPCC is incorporating the study’s data.

Let’s stick with that last quote from “one of the godfathers in the global change ecology field.” His point about the IPCC incorporating the study’s data is presumably what the journalist means when he says in the first paragraph: “The findings, which say temperatures will increase by 1C by 2050, are already being adopted by the United Nations.” No, the findings don’t say that, and no the Security Council has not yet adopted a resolution on Dr Crowther’s paper, but never mind. As to Professor Janssens’s statement that “the research has provided essential data to the climate change model,” this presumably means that this 15% extra forcing from soil emissions will be added on to current model predictions, making them 15% more inaccurate than they are already.

And that’s it. A soil scientist says Trump’s scepticism is catastrophic for humanity. Trump’s views on soil science are not known. The journalist wrongly attributes a prediction of a 1°C temperature rise by 2050 to one soil scientist and and also (probably wrongly) a rise of 5°C to another.

Remember, 97% of climate catastrophe believers and activists get their information from articles like this one. And all such articles from now on will be accompanied by pictures, not just of polar bears, but of men in Trump masks holding placards saying GENOCIDE.


  1. From the summary of the report (it’s not a peer-reviewed scientific study):

    “Despite evidence that warming enhances carbon fluxes to and from the soil, the net global balance between these responses remains uncertain . . . . .
    Despite the considerable uncertainty in our estimates, the direction of the global soil carbon response is consistent across all scenarios.”

    From the editor’s summary:

    “The authors find that the effects of warming are contingent upon the size of the initial soil carbon stock, with considerable carbon losses occurring in high-latitude areas. Extrapolation of their findings to the global scale provides support for the idea that rising temperatures will stimulate the net loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere . . . . . . . ”

    They extrapolated highly uncertain estimates of net carbon loss from soils under various warming scenarios to the world as a whole, using a few experiments conducted in high latitudes. This is seemingly enough to proclaim that carbon mitigation is even more urgent than is currently supposed and that Trump is the alt-right anti-Christ.

    Talking of soil, I’m pretty certain that, if there were forests growing in it (on it), net carbon emissions to the atmosphere would be very much reduced; in fact, I might even hazard a guess that carbon in such areas would be pulled out of the atmosphere, rather than released into it. Which is odd, because Greens are happily chopping down trees with gay abandon to fuel biomass plants. There’s no uncertainty when it comes to assessing the madness (or not) of Europe’s ‘sustainable energy policy’ – it is unequivocally stark raving bonkers, environmentally destructive and the cause of increases in net CO2 fluxes to the atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jaime
    At least the abstract is quite open about the uncertainty:

    “Our empirical relationship suggests that global soil carbon stocks in the upper soil horizons will fall by 30 ± 30 petagrams of carbon to 203 ± 161 petagrams of carbon under one degree of warming, depending on the rate at which the effects of warming are realized.”

    So we’re talking about a loss of 30 ± 30 petagrams of carbon as a percentage of (203 ± 161) + (30 ± 30) petagrams of carbon original stock, whiich, if my primary school science hasn’t failed me, gives a figure of somewhere between 0 and 143% of the total carbon in the soil disappearing with 1°C warming.

    This is backed up with a reference to two other papers, tha abstract of one of which (Ballantyne et al 2015) says:

    “The 2σ uncertainties in fossil fuel emissions have increased from 0.3 Pg C yr−1 in the 1960s to almost 1.0 Pg C yr−1 during the 2000s due to differences in national reporting errors and differences in energy inventories. Lastly, while land use emissions have remained fairly constant, their errors still remain high and thus their global C uptake uncertainty is not trivial. Currently, the absolute errors in fossil fuel emissions rival the total emissions from land use…”

    So soil scientists are trying to estimate something of the same order of magnitude as the error caused by countries fiddling the books. No wonder they’re such a bunch of wet blankets.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another nauseating look into the well-soiled machinery of the politics of alarm.

    Soil will be hardest hit by climate change, because even people who are dirt poor aren’t as poor as dirt.

    Soil, like all the downtrodden of the world, is in no position to afford air-conditioning. So even without climate change, the soil in a given climate might suffer temperature swings of 40ºC per 12-hour period already. So it simply can’t afford the stress of another 1.5ºC per hundred years—a rate many climate scientists fear may already be “locked in” by our failure at Paris.

    You can tell Crowther loves dirt. It’s in his blood. He fidgets his way through the interview, shifting acathetically from buttock to buttock like a little kid who’d much rather be outside soiling himself.

    He even spent his twenties as a rent boy to a series of “increasingly perverted” elderly clients, “just to chase that feeling of… you know, feeling as if you’re dirty.”

    But it was all part of a plan, Crowther assures me.

    “I was never going to be a gigolo forever. It was a day job. The pounds were nice, sure, but the pounds I earned from them went straight to my studies. At teatime, when they fell asleep watching their Murder She Wrote, I would let myself out and sneak off to Night Soil College.”

    It was the happiest time of his life, Crowther recalls.

    “Actually, I still volunteer to teach night soil studies to inner-city kids just like me. I guess it’s my way of giving something back,” says the overpaid wanker.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Chris Mooney has written the story up for the WaPo.

    Scientists have long feared this ‘feedback’ to the climate system. Now they say it’s happening

    It’s the kind of click-bait-ey Buzzfeed title for which its author (not necessarily Mooney) deserves to have his fingers stamped on — until he promises to do his job like a grown up. But that’s besides the point.

    However, even Mooney can’t hide the gaping hole:

    — “The authors correctly point out the lack of information from tropical ecosystems, in fact the southern hemisphere is not represented. Thus we need more data,” said Charles Rice, a soil microbiology professor at Kansas State University who pointed out several limitations in the paper. But Rice nonetheless concluded that “the high latitudes are particularly vulnerable and a large source of CO2 back to the atmosphere. This highlights the need to do early action.”–

    Which is interesting, because on the one hand the research was sufficient for the sub editor to announce the end of the world in the title, but on the other, the dearth of research on the subject is sufficient reason to call for ‘action’ regardless of the status of the ‘science’, along with more money for the research, of course.

    It’s amazing, the places people will search for Signs of the impending Day of Judgement: at the poles, at the bottom of the ocean, in the dirt. It’s always hiding somewhere we can’t, as ordinary people, find it.

    That’s the point though, isn’t it.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Rubbish.

    Given that AFAIK the majority of soil on the planet is to the South of latitude 45 degrees N, and that the majority of the warming – according to the climate “scientists” – is going to take place to the North of that latitude and that soil south of that latitude is on average considerably warmer than soil to the North of it, that soil should already be emitting its carbon.

    Further, during the epoch when the Earth was at its most ecologically prolific – to the extent that the coal and oil fields were laid down, both temperature and CO2 levels were higher than they are likely to be in even the fairly distant future.

    Just another of alarmist claptrap, IOW.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like my death sentences peer-reviewed – even if it’s just lightly over-easy (also known as “climate style”).

    Consuming them raw gives me a gut-ache.

    I think they didn’t have time for peer-review because they wanted to catch Nature’s Christmas subscription market. It’s dog-eat-dog in the seasonal climageddon trade.

    Liked by 4 people


    This makes a lot more sense if you just insert the word ‘paranoia’ after ‘climate change’.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. These salarmists love their weird analogies:

    “There’s a nice analogy; if you step in front of an oncoming bus, no doctor in the world can tell you how damaging the impact is going to be. But we do know the damage is going to be huge. This alone should be enough information to persuade us to avoid the bus”

    I would fully expect a doctor to be able to tell me that I will be smashed to a pulp if i am hit by a bus at 30 mph, badly bruised if it is travelling at say 5 mph, and completely unharmed if it is rolling slowly down a shallow incline. I might even be able to avoid the bus.

    “I would just like to stress that I could get a hell of a lot more money than academia offers me if I were to do a study that suggests that climate change is not real”

    He might soon get the chance to demonstrate that. I wonder who would ever think to employ him?


  9. @barrel man

    yes – love the “I could get a hell of a lot more money than academia offers me if I were to do a study that suggests that climate change is not real”

    wonder what he earns now & what he thinks the “deniers” would up his wage with their scary “DARK MONEY” just to prove “that climate change is not real” whatever that means !!! (I give up trying to make sense of it all).

    ps – every time I cross a ZEBRA crossing the bus stops for me, but, look left, look right, remember what the old ones taught you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope no one here thinks my comment implies that there is any linkage between climate “science”, GCMs and people walking in front of buses. However, the fact that this analogy occurred to a practitioner in the field does make me wonder. Maybe this is another example of conspiracist ideation?


  11. And Alice is at it again in the Guardian…it seems that people are not talking enough about climate change. Perhaps they are too worried about having enough time to buy food for Christmas what with the shock of Brexit, Trump and the Italian referendum , and Zac Goldsmith and The Grand Tour.


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