Amazing Tale of Two CO2 Graphs

The most politically charged topic in science is climate change. It should be a matter of pure science, but it isn’t.

That is because human-caused global warming (AGW) theory was invented by a political organization with a vested self-interest… The United Nations.

The UN not only invented the theory, but proposes solutions to fix the problem costing $100s of trillions of dollars that it can siphon off to help the emerging nations.

Since the UN blames the developed nations, it passed the legally binding Kyoto Agreement to force them to reduce their “carbon pollution”. Those same nations must also pay emerging nations to offset their costs for fighting human-caused global warming. The UN is uniquely qualified to conduct that symphony.

In politics, truth – even scientific truth – is often misrepresented to achieve a political goal.

That’s the lesson learned from a tale of two CO2 emission graphs plotting the same data!

The Heart of AGW Theory

Famous NOAA CO2 Graph

Author Plot of the Same NOAA Data

Here are two graphs plotting exactly the same set of carbon dioxide (CO2) data. Click on either one to see full sized views.

The data begins in March 1958 when Mauna Loa Observatory first started taking readings.

The left graph is one of the most famous global warming graphics in the world. The one on the right isn’t. That is because the right-side graph is author-made and plotted just this morning from imported NOAA data.

Both graphs plot the amount of atmospheric CO2 (in parts per million) measured at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory. Both plot the same data in the same units from the same source.

The left-side graph is so fundamentally important to AGW theory that it is among the very first shown in the IPPC’s shiny new climate report, “Summary for PolicyMakers”, in Figure SPM.4.

It is crucial because, according to the IPCC, the rise in atmospheric CO2 is the main driver of climate change since 1950.

The left-most plot and the data that it comes from are published by NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory under “Trends in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide“.

Astonishing to number geeks, NOAA does NOT publish this data in tabular format for ready use in spreadsheets. They publish it as strait text. How crude!!!

As author, I first converted the 655 text lines and 4,585 data elements into spreadsheet format before proceeding. That was the hardest part, but made easy knowing tricks of the trade. 🙂

Why is the Author Graph Flatter??

Ahhh… therein lies the rub! The rightmost graph is way flatter!!

The author plot is flatter because it properly uses ZERO ppm as its y-axis starting point, not 300 ppm as NOAA does. It’s better because it visually displays the accurate rate of CO2 increase. That is the whole purpose of the author graph.

The NOAA plot is perfectly fine for an audience of scientists. They understand that its y-axis starts at 300 ppm. They know that it makes the graph look much steeper than it really is.

Non-scientists like politicians, policymakers and the general public who are the UN’s target audience for the graph do NOT understand. They see a steep graph like that and exclaim, “Oh My Gawd! We’re all gonna die!!”. Newspapers, magazines and TV news reports stoke the flames by republishing the NOAA graph countless times for their non-scientist audiences.

Its no wonder the average person thinks greenhouse gas buildup is going upwards at breakneck speed. NOAA’s plot makes it look that way.

But if non-scientists saw the realistic author graph then they’d say, “Heck, that ain’t so bad”. And they’d be right.

Besides a couple cosmetic differences, like the title, the author graph is the same scale as the NOAA graph for a true apples-to-apples comparison.

The NOAA graph, though, is two plots in one. The red squiggly line is made from monthly measurements and the other black line shows the yearly mean average.

The unneeded black yearly plot would wash out the monthly data in the flatter author plot, so it was omitted.

The red lines are squiggly because of growing season cycles. That is when plants absorb a lot of carbon dioxide. Other “carbon sinks” contribute.

The IPCC vs. The Real World

Lets be clear. Global warming is real. Atmospheric CO2 has been rising and it is a greenhouse gas that can trap heat and make the earth warmer. The signature of human-activity in the CO2 is present.

Earth’s measured temperature has risen about 0.85°C since 1850, according to the latest IPPC report just released. Since 1958 It has risen 0.5°.

Therefore, it’s logical to think that human-caused CO2 is to blame.

That being said, very little in AGW theory is based on actual measurements. Its forecasts are from models whose predictive track record since 1988 have been abysmal. The newest IPCC report is chucked full of Rube Goldberg explanations for model prediction failures.

For the sake of discussion, though, let’s assume that AGW theory is correct and that all CO2 and temperature increases are human caused.

Given that, what does real world data, not the models, tell us about future global warming?

According to NOAA’s Mauna Loa data, CO2 has increased by 21% in the last 55 years. That means, at it’s current unchecked rate, it will double 1955 levels in the year 2171.

It has a wide range, but the IPCC says doubling carbon dioxide will raise earth’s temperature by about 2.7°C.

In 1958, the earth’s average global temperature was around 14.0°C. Now, in 2013, the current Earth temperature is 14.5°C. Earth’s global temperature has risen +0.5 degrees in 55 years.

The IPCC has targeted a +2°C threshold as the maximum safe rise in earth’s temperature before irreversible effects start.

At the current rate of temperature increase the +2° threshold will be reached in the year 2178…  165 years from now. And that is if we do nothing.


Mother Nature and the IPCC disagree. IPCC models say climate changes will arrive much sooner than fundamental measurements indicate.

NOAA’s graph makes the IPCC look credible. The author graph provides visual confirmation of nature’s handiwork.

Nature tells us that destructive climate change is a more distant proposition than IPCC models predict. No rise in earth’s temperature in over 15 years suggests IPCC models are flawed..

Who are you gonna believe, Mother Nature or IPCC computer models?

That is the $580 trillion question.


About azleader

Learning to see life more clearly... one image at a time!

Posted on Oct 22, 2013, in Climate, economics, Economy, environment, Government, IPCC, nature, news, Politics, science. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.

  1. If Al Gore would shut his trap, CO2 would be lower by a half.

  2. we must pay the un for our crimes of co2 pollution, what a laugh, co2 pollution that is like calling oxygen a pollutant, so are they going to give the money to the poor people? or are they simply using this to line their own pockets? the members of the un aer mostly of poor nations and no doubt they actually believe that the developed nations are responsible for their poverty, how convenient, blame someone else for your created problems, and send a bill for it. nice way to change theft to obligation payments.

    • For the record…
      Carbon dioxide is two atoms of oxygen for each atom of carbon… and oxygen has a higher atomic weight than carbon… So, it isn’t “like” calling oxygen a pollutant… it IS calling oxygen a pollutant!!

      The point, though, is that AGW theory isn’t about science… it is about politics. The science behind AGW theory is unraveling on its own accord.

    • Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen. So is hydrogen peroxide. Try drinking the latter and tell me that because the elemental incredients are the same you can treat these two different chemicals compounds interchangably. Heck try breathing in some carbon monoxide. Try drinking methonol instead of alcohol or changing all the carbohydrates in your diet to include only cellulose instead of starches and sugars. They’re made of exactly the same elements, so you should be fine, ey?

      • this is a strawman arguement, doesn’t apply.

      • “co2 pollution that is like calling oxygen a pollutant” no it’s not; because different compounds do different things. CO2 released en mass to well above natural levels: a pullutant (try breathing in a room full of it). Of course almost anything can be a pollutant in the right (wrong) circumstances, even oxygen (as ozone in smog, for example). You need to learn the difference between a strawman and using some more obviously incorrect examples of equivalent statements for effect. They’re similar argumentative technique, but a strawman misrepresents the original statement. Which I didn’t.

      • One organism’s waste product is another organism’s breath of life. Ask any green plant if they call CO2 “carbon pollution” .

      • I understand the carbon cycle, azleader. Do you understand systematic equilibrium? (Earth is not a closed system, I grant you, we ‘borrow’ energy from the Sun and exchange it for complexity to overcome the universal tendency of entropy, temporally, but all the other cycles maintain a basic equivilbrium, shifting, yes, but slowly over immense periods of time). Basically ‘right amount of x = good, too much of x = bad’ with current models predicting the presently disturbed (and being further disturbed) balance will not right itself in our favour. By the way, It’s not about saving the planet (the planet will be fine either way in the long run) it’s about trying to maintain a climate that suits us.

      • Stick to accounting… something, hopefully, you are better at than pseudo-science.

  3. It has never been about saving the planet. It’s about redistributing the worlds wealth; i.e., socialism on a world scale.

    • It’s also about power and control. I read in the new AR5 where the IPCC rejected other better, cheaper alternatives to cap and trade to solve the global warming “problem”.

      That makes sense only if you are into wealth redistribution or control or power…. or all three.

  4. The population of the world has doubled in the last 40 years, anyone that cannot see the connection between this and climate change is not paying attention to the big picture.

    • You are correct, human overpopulation is and has been this planet’s #1 threat for a long time.

      There is a great irony…
      Even though earth’s population has doubled improvements in technology with an assist from global warming has greatly improved human ability to support the population growth. It can’t last indefinitely but humans are doing better than I thought they could.

  5. You’re making a couple of errors in your basic math

    1. It is not proper to start a graph with the y-axis at 0. Accepted professional methodology has (for centuries) been to choose a relevant starting point, which in this case is 300, since there has never been a point in recorded history where atmospheric CO2 ppm has been below this level. We don’t insist temperature graphs start at 0K or time graphs start at 13.8 billion years (approximately) BC.
    Instead, we chose our appropriate, relevant range for the data we are trying to display. I would expect policy makers and politicians understand this.

    2. Neither increase in C02 ppm nor increases in global mean temp since 1958 have been at a steady rate. The rate of temperature increase, particularly, has been accelerating upwards (even when taking the slowdown of atmospheric warming of the prior 15 years into consideration). So your extrapolation that: since there has been a 0.5 increase since then, it would take 3 time as long to increase the further 1.5 degrees; is faulty.

    Signed, an accountant

    • Welll… Mr. Accountant…

      Item 1:
      It may be convention, but the purpose of the 2nd graph is to ACCURATELY display the TRUE slope of global CO2 increase for non-scientific layman readers. That can only be done with a 0-point start.

      I downloaded and imported the Mauna Loa CO2 data into an excel spreadsheet to make that graph. It’s as accurate as the Hawaiian data.
      The NOAA dataset is located here:

      You are correct that Earth’s temperature has not increased linearly. You are incorrect that temperature is “accelerating upward”.

      An annotated version of the earth’s land-sea GISS temperature anomaly data is shown here:

      Look at the anomaly… it is obvious the only temperature increase since 1955 was all in the 20-year period 1978-1998 where it was very steep. Everywhere else it’s flat. It doesn’t look anything like the CO2 curve.

      As can been seen… the 1997-present temperature “pause” is not the first one. There have been two others since 1880 of much longer duration.

      Roughly speaking, CO2 has risen linearly since 1880. About 21% of that increase has occurred since Earth’s temperature leveled off. Perhaps not in the accounting world, but in the world of empirical science that is a serious blow to AGW modeling theory.

      Until AGW theory can explain and correctly model temperature change accurately, including the pauses, it cannot be taken seriously.

      • Aw, precious! Did you just linked to your own graph to support an argument? It’s funny, but in the world of empirical science people don’t normally misunderstand the title of their own graphs. Go back to the

      • …original data, son, and re-read the descriptions.

      • Clarification: I know the graph comes from the ar5. You’re misrepresenting it.

      • Please clarify whatever it is you are trying to say… and be specific. I’ll be more than happy to respond. You may be confused.

        You are correct that the graphic I linked in the above comment came from AR5. It is graph SPM-1 from the AR5 Summary for Policymakers (SPM) which is finalized here:

        I just annotated it. The IPCC did not provide links to the original dataset(s) for that graph. There is nothing in their text description of SPM-1 I disagree with, nor is there anything they say that is incompatible with what I said.

  6. Well, fairly simply, the original graph isn’t showing average temperature change, it’s a graph of the change in frequency/severity/type (in mean average by year as compared to the combined mean of the base years) of anomaly events (individual extreme weather conditions i.e. heat waves/cold snaps outside of `normal’ conditions averaged across the data sets). The `second pause’ you’ve annotated is because that’s the period they’ve used to set a base figure (0 degree).

    The original doesn’t go into specific analysis, you’re right, but to me it looks like your `first pause’ is an indication of where extreme whether events started occurring more frequently, rather than when global temperature began to rise and that the `third pause’ is an indication that the frequency/severity of anomalies has paused, not that temperature has (although other graphs/data may indicate that-you can do your own homework on that-this one doesn’t).

    Basically, neither of us are scientists from what I can gather (you’re a landscape photographer?) but I’ve had training in maths, data and statistical analysis (of economic data sure, but the principles of reading a graph still apply).

    When I see information I don’t quite understand because I’m not a scientist I make the assumption that the thousands of people who worked on these reports, and who all previously chose to pursue knowledge in their particular fields, know what they’re talking about (if the graphs/charts/data they present, that I do understand, supports their stated conclusions). You seem to think you know more than the IPCC and I’m at a loss to how you can justify that based on the analysis I’ve seen here.

    This is not me falling for some kind of `appeal to authority’, but rather an acknowledgement that there really are `experts in their field’ and that, in a complicated knowledge rich age, experts are even more important than ever. I consider myself a sceptic (and an economic conservative) but I know scientists, researchers etc in various fields (both related to and not related to climate science) and I know how hard all such qualified people work to achieve their expertise and esteem, and that the bulk of the people involved in the report preparation have made a lot less money from their work than detractors like Nigel Lawson, Lord Monckton or Professor Plimer have from theirs.

    Many climate change sceptics accuse the scientists the IPCC employs and/or have utilised as being in on some kind of massive scam for the money, but a young student interested in science at almost any time over the last 40 years in any western country on earth could have seen there’s far more money to be made (based on average employment figures and salaries plus bonuses, including for publishing) in chemical engineering (especially food related), medical research, pharmacology etc (or in being an expert for hire by an individual company) if that was their chief motivating factor. Regardless of one’s feeling about the use, effectiveness and aims of the united nations, their pool for this project has been too wide for the consensus to merely be a case of corruption – the various nations hate each other too much for that.

    Also, far from being an attempt to force a redistribution of wealth on the world, I see the need to cap and trade carbon (and other pollutants) as the incorporation of a measure that should have existed within the free market in the first place. One that was omitted due to the lack of foresight (and appropriate knowledge) of our early industrial forebears: i.e polluting resources not owned by the agent (which can be defined as `making less suitable for use’ and includes many, many examples of chemicals that are otherwise useful, and that aren’t toxic, but that can `pollute’ a system. Think about getting water in your oil filter.) such as the atmosphere or oceans, should always have been paid for. The ICPP’s rejection of other methods, to me, seemed like a recognition of the various political and economic positions held by individual UN member governments and an attempt to make a compromise somewhere between pure `left’ and `right’ ways of doing things.

    • The AR5 graph is what it is… a temperature anomaly plot vs. time. The “pauses” are pauses because the anomaly remains a constant for an extended period of time. It matters not if one is the pause used to set the zero point or not. It is still a pause… and one longer than the current pause.

      The measured truth is that we are 13% the way through the 21st century without any statistical rise in sea/air temperature. There have been two other similar pauses since 1880. IPCC modeling neither predicts nor explains any of them… even the past ones

      IPCC temperature modeling is off the mark and that is a serious problem for AGW theory.

      You need to wake up to the fact that extreme weather and climate events have always existed. They are no more common now than millions of years ago. Shifts of +/- 20 degrees C are not uncommon in the geologic record…. without any human help. What do you think happened 12,000 years ago to melt North America and put us into the Holocene?

      Unlike you, I make no assumptions one way or another about graphs I don’t understand. Fortunately, that isn’t a problem for the ones I comment on. Instead of thinking ‘landscape photographer’, think ‘Swiss patent clerk’!

      Has the IPCC ever made a quantitative prediction that has actually come to pass? If so, I’d like to know what it is. Nowhere in science are “confidence level” assessments taken as anything other than what they are… glorified guesswork.

      The IPCC is not a scientific organization. It’s a U.N. government panel made up of appointees of member states. It doesn’t conduct nor even fund any research. Nobody on the panel has to be a scientist. It does its work in strict secrecy and its reports are NOT peer-reviewed by anyone other than themselves before they are published.

      And you, a self-declared skeptic, accept that??

    • It’s a mistake to accept science consensus as reality…
      If it were then we’d still believe:
      1-The world is flat and at the center of the universe
      2-Light is transmitted by luminiferous aether
      3-There are only four elements – earth/fire/air/water
      4-Living organisms arise from spontaneous generation
      5-The universe is static and unchanging
      6-Piltdown Man is the “missing link”
      7-21st century temperature rise is 100% human-caused by CO2 emissions

      Need I explain more?

    • Walt… consider this:
      1 – I accept the earth has warmed +0.85 degrees C since 1880 as the IPCC says.
      2 – I accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (as are others) that can warm the earth.
      3 – I accept that humans are responsible, at least in part, for the increase in CO2 in earth’s atmosphere.
      4 – It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… I believe climate change is real (Who doesn’t?).
      5 – I believe the measurements that say Arctic sea ice has decreased about 40-45 percent or so are correct.

      Walt… a request:
      Since you “had training in maths, data and statistical analysis” it should be duck soup easy for you to show me, a lowly photographer, these statistical links:
      1 – The link showing what percentage of the CO2 rise since 1880 is human caused.
      (this should be easy)
      2 – The link or links proving that the observed CO2 rise cause the observed temperature rise
      3 – The link or links proving any increase in the number and/or intensity of any type of extreme weather event.
      4 – The link or links proving that measured sea level rise is not just the tail end of natural melting started at the beginning the Holocene

      I only ask because these four items are the heart and soul of AGW alarmist theory. If not true then AGW alarmist theory must be rejected.

      In science, the burden of proof rests with persons making claims. I don’t have to prove your claims are wrong… you have to prove they are right. I bet you can’t.

  7. Perhaps you could make the X scale of your “author plot” skinnier, to reflect the fact that the ~50 years you are plotting are a blink of an eye on geological scales? I agree that plots that leave out the zeros can be deceptive, but your plot is also “leaving out the zero” for the x axis by starting in 1958. If you included data going back a few thousand years, even your author plot would be scary, as it’d show a nearly flat line with some small variations, followed by a sharp uptick, going higher than any previous fluctuation, in the last fraction of an inch on the right.

    • In this case, 1958 is the x-axis zero point! The graph plots NOAA’s COMPLETE record of CO2 measurements made at the Mauna Loa Observatory. They started in 1958.

      If you are suggesting the plot somehow is inaccurate, you’ll have to take that up with NOAA. It’s their data. NOAA’s data used to make both plots above is found here:

      My point is simple: Avoid deceptive graphs. The plot I made contains 100% of the data. It is 100% accurate to scale. It properly displays the real slope of the CO2 curve of one of the most fundamental data graphs in all of AGW theory. The exaggerated slope of NOAA’s 310ppm Y-axis “zero point” implies the growth rate of CO2 is much more alarming than it really is.

      Every day the media is filled with horror stories of catastrophic climate change caused by CO2.

      The truth is that for every 10,000 molecules of earth’s atmosphere today, there is only 1 more CO2 molecule than there was before the industrial revolution. – 1 in 10,000!

      Graphs, like statistics, can be manipulated to exaggerate the look of a measurement for any number of legitimate purposes. That is what NOAA did.

      But for something as important as “fixing” climate change that will cost hundreds of trillions of dollars, the people paying all those costs should be shown the data plotted accurately.

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