Back to the Cretaceous! Because… CLIMATE CHANGE!

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Guest AEUHHH??? by David Middleton

We are heading for a New Cretaceous, not for a new normal

Peter Forbes is a science writer whose work has appeared in New Scientist, The Guardian, The Times, Scientific American and New Statesman, among others. His latest book, co-authored with Tom Grimsey, is Nanoscience: Giants of the Infinitesimal (2014). He lives in London.

1,200 words

A lazy buzz phrase – ‘Is this the new normal?’ – has been doing the rounds as extreme climate events have been piling up over the past year. To which the riposte should be: it’s worse than that – we’re on the road to even more frequent, more extreme events than we saw this year.

We have known since the 1980s what’s in store for us. Action taken then to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2005 might have restricted the global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius. But nothing was done, and the welter of climate data mounting since then only confirms and refines the original predictions. So where are we now?

Last November, the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn reported that warming by 3°C by 2100 is now the realistic expectation. With no check on emissions, we are on course to see preindustrial levels of CO2 double (from 280 to 560 ppm, or parts per million) by 2050 – and then double again by 2100. In short, we’ll be generating climate conditions last experienced during the Cretaceous period (145-65.95 million years ago) when CO2 levels reached over 1,000 ppm. What might that mean, given that we already achieve such levels of COin bedrooms at night and in poorly ventilated crowded places, and when we know that, under sustained conditions of such high carbon-dioxide concentration, people suffer severe cognitive problems?

As it happens, the Cretaceous is one of my favourite geological periods.  It gave us the great chalk hills and cliffs that straddle Europe. It gave us figs, plane trees and magnolias. It nurtured little mammals, who suddenly blossomed when the then-lords of creation – Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus and their cousins – went extinct at the end of the period. It was also very warm, with global temperatures 3-10°C hotter than preindustrial levels.


The next 955 words were even worse than the first 245… Including this gem:

It is now widely accepted, by scientists at least, that human beings have become geological agents, hence the assignment of a new geological epoch: the Anthropocene.

The FRACKING Anthropocene is fictional.  It has not and will never be recognized as a geological epoch.

How can such a distinguished science writer be so ignorant?


Peter Forbes is a science writer with a special interest in the relationship between art and science. He initially trained as a chemist and worked in pharmaceutical and popular natural history publishing, whilst writing poems, and articles for magazines such as New Scientist and World Medicine. He has written numerous articles and reviews, many specializing in the relation between the arts and science, for the Guardian, Independent, The Times, Daily Mail, Financial Times, Scientific American, New Scientist, World Medicine, Modern Painters, New Statesman, and other magazines.

Back to the CretaceousMiocene Pleistocene

We aren’t even headed for a new Miocene, much less a new Cretaceous.  All of the warming in HadSST3 time series is dwarfed by the noise level of the FRACKING PLEISTOCENE!!!

High Latitude SST (°C) From Benthic Foram δ18O (modified after Zachos, et al., 2001) and HadSST3 ( Hadley Centre / UEA CRU via plotted at same scale, tied at 1950 AD.

The Cretaceous Period was “3-10°C hotter than preindustrial levels” for TENS OF MILLIONS OF YEARS! Even if the models were right, 3 °C of warming over 100 years is not comparable to tens of millions of years of 3-10 °C hotter average global surface temperatures.

The Cretaceous Period was much warmer than the Miocene Epoch.

Phanerozoic temperatures and carbon dioxide. The Miocene is the first epoch of the Neogene Period (Berner et al, 2001 and Royer et al., 2004).

Compare Cretaceous  CO2 to that of the “Anthropocene.”

The Cambrian through Cretaceous are drawn from Berner and Kothavala, 2001 (GEOCARB), the Tertiary is from Pagani, et al. 2006 (deep sea sediment cores), the Pleistocene is from Lüthi, et al. 2008 (EPICA C Antarctic ice core), the “Anthropocene” is from NOAA-ESRL (Mauna Loa Observatory) and the CO2 starvation is from Ward et al., 2005.

Fortunately, the models are wrong… 95% wrong.  They’ve been wrong since 1988 and they haven’t improved much.

UAH 6.0 vs Models

UAH 6.0 vs Hansen et al., 1988. Scenario C has humans un-discovering fire in 1999.

UAH vs IPCC TAR (2001)

UAH vs AR4 (2007)

UAH vs IPCC AR5 (2014)

UAH vs RCP4.5 (a strong mitigation scenario) from Carbon Brief (2017).

It gets even worse if the models are initialized earlier

Models initialized to 1979-1983. (Dr. Roy Spencer)

Why are the models so wrong?

All other factors held equal, it would take an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 2,000 to more than 10,000 ppmv to raise the bulk temperature of the atmosphere by 3-10 °C.

Phanerozoic temperatures and carbon dioxide. (Berner et al, 2001 and Royer et al., 2004).

And that’s only if the equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) is actually as high as 1.28 °C per doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration.

About the Author

David Middleton has been a geologist/geophysicist in the “Climate Wrecking Industry” since 1981.  His favorite geological periods are the Pliocene and Miocene because he has discovered a fair bit of oil & gas in the rocks of those two epochs.

Selected References

Berner, R.A. and Z. Kothavala, 2001. GEOCARB III: A Revised Model of Atmospheric CO2 over Phanerozoic Time, American Journal of Science, v.301, pp.182-204, February 2001.

Pagani, M., J.C. Zachos, K.H. Freeman, B. Tipple, and S. Bohaty. 2005. Marked Decline in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Concentrations During the Paleogene. Science, Vol. 309, pp. 600-603, 22 July 2005.

Royer, D. L., R. A. Berner, I. P. Montanez, N. J. Tabor and D. J. Beerling. CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate.  GSA Today, Vol. 14, No. 3. (2004), pp. 4-10

Tripati, A.K., C.D. Roberts, and R.A. Eagle. 2009.  Coupling of CO2 and Ice Sheet Stability Over Major Climate Transitions of the Last 20 Million Years.  Science, Vol. 326, pp. 1394 1397, 4 December 2009.  DOI: 10.1126/science.1178296

Ward, J.K., Harris, J.M., Cerling, T.E., Wiedenhoeft, A., Lott, M.J., Dearing, M.-D., Coltrain, J.B. and Ehleringer, J.R. 2005. Carbon starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, southern California. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA102: 690-694.

Zachos, J. C., Pagani, M., Sloan, L. C., Thomas, E. & Billups, K. Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present. Science 292, 686–-693 (2001).

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