Correlation Falsification: The Missing Global Warming - CO2 Link

Unless you have either been asleep or out of the country for the last two years, you are fully aware of the contention made by climate alarmists in the media that rising atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are responsible for global warming.

In fact, this is such a common press theme that in just the last month alone, there have been more than 3,000 English-speaking news reports (LexisNexis search limit) around the world containing the words carbon dioxide and global warming/climate change.

It therefore goes without saying that this is a large part of the junk science folks like former Vice President Al Gore claim is settled, as they avow there is a significant correlation between the amount of CO2 in the air and the surface temperature of the planet. To save us all from imminent doom, the presence of this heinous greenhouse gas must be reduced immediately.

Yet, with all this finger-pointing at CO2 being the culprit for all earth's ills other than those caused by George W. Bush and every politician with an "R" next to his or her name, there's a tremendously inconvenient truth Gore and his media sycophants can't possibly refute:

Since 1850 -- the period climate alarmists cite as proof of this unholy connection -- if you look at temperature and CO2 fluctuations on a year-over-year basis, there appears to be absolutely no correlation between the two items.

The Great CO2 - Temperature Debate

Despite assertions to the contrary, there is great debate concerning what atmospheric CO2 levels have done in the past, especially prior to the establishment of a detection center at the Mauna Loa Observatory in 1957.

Without rehashing all of the arguments on both sides, there are many scientists that contend CO2 estimations for the years prior to the start of tracking at Mauna Loa are specious and inconclusive, and that such levels have often been far greater than at present. In fact, some think that due to Mauna Loa's proximity to a volcano, even its data are faulty, while others maintain that alarmists have this whole correlation backwards and that rising temperatures are actually responsible for increasing CO2 levels.

However, without ambling into that debate, the folks at the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center informed me that since around the year 1850, it is their belief that CO2 levels have increased virtually every year. The following chart sourced from Mauna Loa and the Scripps Institute depicts unabated increases in CO2 levels from at least 1870:

Assuming for the sake of this discussion CDIAC is correct, and also taking on faith that there is a high correlation between CO2 and climate, one would expect that temperatures have risen virtually every year since 1850.

After all, this is how highly-correlated items act: they should both increase at the same time, and decrease at the same time. If they don't, there isn't a correlation.

Of course, those who remember their high school science are fully cognizant of the fact that correlation does not mean causality.

There is a perfect correlation between children going back to school at the end of the summer and leaves beginning to fall off trees in the subsequent two months. Obviously, despite this incontrovertible correlation, nobody believes children returning to school cause leaves to die and fall to the ground.

However, ignoring the folly of those like Gore and his media minions that don't seem to understand this immutable fact, let's instead focus on the supposed correlation regardless of what it might or might not mean.

The Missing Carbon Dioxide - Temperature Link

As the following chart of temperature deviations from the norm shows, there have been 72 years in the past 156 when global average temperatures declined year-over-year:

If the folks that believe CO2 has risen every year since 1850 are correct, then how come temperatures have only increased in 53.8 percent of those years?

For those familiar with statistics, this is a possible outcome of heads appearing on 156 coin tosses.

Yet, if the correlation between CO2 and temperature was high, regardless of its meaning or lack thereof, one of two things should have happened in the past 156 years: temperatures rose virtually every year, or; in the 72 years that temperatures declined, CO2 levels also declined in an overwhelming majority of them.

Once again, this is indeed how highly-correlated items behave.

As a result, in the critical years that global warming alarmists use to prove there is such a high correlation, we saw virtually no year-over-year connection between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature.

Media's Mathematical Madness

Now that you've seen this in black and white, it seems so simple, doesn't it? Of course, like most things, it's even better in color:

Seems pretty obvious that on a year-over-year basis, there's absolutely no connection between what CO2 does and whether temperatures rise or fall. But that's not what Al Gore and the media have been telling you, is it?

Now, in fairness, the climate alarmists don't use year-over-year figures to create their correlation. Instead, they point to what CO2 levels and average temperatures were in 1850 or 1900, compare that data to where we are today, and say that since they've both increased, voila, there's your connection.

The warmers would also say that looking at year-over-year data is too narrow a focus. Yet, at the same time, they'll point to the number of years in the past 20 that global temperatures have set annual historical records as proof that the planet is warming.

As such, yearly data is important when it proves their point, and irrelevant when it doesn't. Pretty convenient, wouldn't you say?

On the flipside, skeptics would counter that given the age of the planet, even comparing centuries is too narrow, and that this is one of the failings of alarmists who like to exclusively look at what's happened in the past 150 years whilst ignoring climate and CO2 data over the millennia.

In the end, what timeframe you focus on might be moot, as it seems fairly obvious that if you are trying to prove a connection between events to mean that one is causing the other, the correlation between said items should be very high across any period one looks at.

This seems especially important as the real planetary warming during this cycle has occurred since the mid '70s. Yet, as CO2 rose unabated during this period, temperatures declined year-over-year almost half of the time.

If CO2 really is the big, bad bogeyman Al Gore and his media minions claim, shouldn't temperatures have risen virtually every year in the past 30 as carbon dioxide levels exploded?

Maybe more importantly, aren't these questions a truly impartial media would be asking whenever the issue of CO2's connection to global warming was raised?

Or would that be asking too much of folks who call themselves journalists?

The preceding was an elaboration of a column first published by CNSNews. Thanks go out to all the scientists around the world as well as NewsBusters readers who assisted me both with researching this issue and identifying applicable charts and graphs.

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Noel Sheppard's picture