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Richard Betts’ Gloomy Milestone

March 29, 2021

By Paul Homewood



Most people would regard the transformation of human life, from the grinding poverty of the past to the affluence of today, as good news, something to be proud of and grateful for.

Richard Betts thinks it’s all rather gloomy:




This year the climate is passing a gloomy threshold. The concentration of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is reaching 417 parts per million: an increase of 50 per cent since humans embarked on the industrial revolution and began to emit greenhouse gasses at large scales.

Measurements at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii are revealing that CO₂ concentrations have already been above this level on some days, and are expected to remain above this symbolic threshold for around three months.

Atmospheric rise in carbon dioxide from the industrial revolution to the present day

Next year, CO₂ concentrations are expected be more than 50% above pre-industrial across most of the year, and will continue to rise until global emissions reach net zero.

Prof Richard Betts MBE is Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office, and one of his areas of research is forecasting the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Prof Betts said: “Humans began burning fossil fuels at large scales at the end of the Eighteenth Century, and it took about 200 years for the atmosphere to see a 25 per cent increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, but only another 35 years to reach this year’s sorry milestone of a 50 per cent increase.” 



Yes, Richard. It’s gloomy that life expectancy around the world has doubled since pre-industrial times. And that undernourishment in the third world has been falling rapidly. Or that the number of people living in extreme poverty is a fraction of what it used to be. Or that deaths from famine are now a tiny number, most of which are in any event due to wars.









None of this would have been possible without the industrial revolution and the sustained economic growth that has followed, neither of which could have happened without fossil fuels.

Maybe Richard would like to tell us which planet he is living on, because it’s certainly not this one!

  1. March 29, 2021 2:15 pm

    The atmospheric pCO2 value is of interest and importance only if the climatic inferences from different concentrations are known and well established.
    That is not the case with pCO2, as a lone variable which might influence global climate.

  2. March 29, 2021 2:18 pm

    Life expectancy increase since the advent of fossil fuel use has long been one of my comments to the anti-fossil fuel, anti-CO2 and return to the low carbon life style folks. They have no answers other than carbon is bad. I don’t see any of them willing to return to the 6th century lifestyle.

  3. Gamecock permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:21 pm

    ‘Prof Richard Betts MBE is Head of Climate Impacts Research at the Met Office [CRIME?], and one of his areas of research is forecasting the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.’

    It’s going to go up, Richard. Take the rest of the year off.

  4. March 29, 2021 2:27 pm

    Perhaps it is a matter of concern that atmospheric co2 has gone up 50% since the industrial revolution but how was it determined that the rise was caused by the industrial revolution? Concurrence does not prove causation as Tyler Vigen has demonstrated and there are significant natural flows that Mark Maslin says explain the prior warming cycles of the Holocene and perhaps even deglaciation itself.

  5. Coeur de Lion permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:32 pm

    Yet there’s over a billion without electricity. Give me your wristwatch, Betts, your car keys, your iPhone and laptop, I’vr turned off your central heating and your lighting and pulled the fuses. To get a hot lunch you will have to hack down some foliage in the local park, competing with everyone else, best of luck with that, Betts

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      March 29, 2021 6:01 pm

      How to get that message to Betts is the question of the day.
      In short, he needs to go “carbon” negative real soon – to save Earth.

      • Tonyb permalink
        March 29, 2021 10:56 pm

        I have met Richard Betts several times at the met office in Exeter near where I live. He is a nice guy.

        I have offered to take him on a magical mystery tour of nearby upland dartmoor where there is ample evidence of warmer climate than today during the Holocene.

        Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to want to come, although he is not dismissive of warm periods in our past.

        Incidentally Dartmoor is where much of the Beatles Magical Mystery tour was filmed

  6. Andrew Harding permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:32 pm

    If industry is causing atmospheric CO2 to increase why did it not decrease or level off during the pandemic lockdown?

    • Mack permalink
      March 29, 2021 10:51 pm

      Andrew, because anthropogenic Co2 emissions are so tiny in comparison to natural emissions that their signal is barely recognisable. A year of global lockdowns made no noticeable difference at Mauna Loa; the annual autumnal vegetative die off in the Northern Hemisphere caused a 5ppm spike in emissions. I think Betts should take a leaf out of Prince Charles’ book and start talking to the plants. They’ve obviously been very, very naughty and need a good telling off.

      • John Peter permalink
        March 30, 2021 8:24 am

        “the annual autumnal vegetative die off in the Northern Hemisphere caused a 5ppm spike in emissions.”
        That’s it isn’t it? The plants in the Northern Hemisphere grow in the spring and absorb CO2. This is then sent back in the autumn. The Growth in emissions is caused by the warming of the atmosphere mainlly through natural causes.

  7. Broadlands permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:41 pm

    “Next year, CO₂ concentrations are expected be more than 50% above pre-industrial across most of the year, and will continue to rise until global emissions reach net zero.”

    NET-zero emissions will require massive industrial capture and storage, none of which could be enough to even show up at Mauna Loa. There is no way that our collective emissions will soon stop rising simply because it cannot be done instantly. Even a long-term reduction will be hard on all economies. We have found that out because of the pandemic travel lockdowns.

    If Professor Betts would take the time to plot the year-to-year increases in Mauna Loa CO2 he would see that they are not at all steady, and recently seem to correlate better with the El-Nino and La-Nina cycles. All natural of course.

  8. Colin R Brooks permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:53 pm

    This music should be played full blast to the elusive Mr Betts (try asking him a question and you will not see him for dust),the music will not be to the taste of recent generations but the message has been given since the days of Malthus, and is still true today.

  9. March 29, 2021 2:54 pm

    How regrettable that plants, trees etc. have more carbon dioxide to boost their essential photosynthesis processes 🥱

  10. Colin R Brooks permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:55 pm

    ups music —>

  11. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 29, 2021 2:57 pm

    Following Chaamjamal’s points, there is still some doubt about the pre-industrial CO2. It is all based on the Keeling approach which rejects earlier quantitative analysis of CO2. All of the earlier CO2 “history” is based on proxy values which are far from certain, despite the claims of the doom-mongers.

    Of course, the LIA & MWP are not explained by this CO2-driving hypothesis, but why spoil a good fear-campaign.

    • Broadlands permalink
      March 29, 2021 3:09 pm

      With respect to pre-industrial CO2:

      Nature 461, 1110-1113 (22 October 2009) “Atmospheric carbon dioxide through the Eocene–Oligocene climate transition” by Paul N. Pearson, Gavin L. Foster, Bridget S. Wade

      “Geological and geochemical evidence indicates that the Antarctic ice sheet formed during the Eocene–Oligocene transition 33.5–34.0 million years ago. Modelling studies suggest that such ice-sheet formation might have been triggered when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels fell below a critical threshold of ~750 p.p.m.v. During maximum ice-sheet growth, pCO2 was between 450 and 1,500 p.p.m.v., with a central estimate of 760 p.p.m.v.”

      The Eocene climate was mild and plant life on land as well as in the oceans thrived when CO2 was more than double its current value. A climate emergency?

      • March 29, 2021 3:24 pm

        Modelling studies suggest…

        Oh dear. Next!

    • Ian Magness permalink
      March 29, 2021 3:14 pm

      To expand upon your point with regard to data integrity, Jack, you will note that:
      1) the caption on the the Met Office’s graph above reads “CO2 at Mauna Loa now reaching 50% above pre-industrial levels”
      2) the source of 1760 and onwards data pre-1950s is not specified but the graph is explicitly presented as continuous;
      3) the graph clearly shows that CO2 concentration increase accelerates markedly after the mid-50s;
      4) the Mauna Loa site only started recording climate data, gosh, around the mid-50s.
      I wonder if points 1) to 4) are in any way connected?

      • March 29, 2021 4:48 pm

        Let me see … Mauna Loa is directly downwind of that rather large country which might be putting rapidly-increasing amounts of CO2 into the air and letting bit drift out to sea. Hmmm….

  12. T Walker permalink
    March 29, 2021 3:40 pm

    Back in the Hey-day of Bishop Hill – you know, I’m not a bishop and my names not Hill. Prof. Betts would come along and engage with the sceptic legions in polite terms – that at least marks him out as a gent.

    The arguments woud get a bit above my head, but I do remember at least a decade ago commenting to him that I was amazed that he still thought he was modelling the Earth’s atmosphere. The models are very clever and look a bit like Earth.

    Strange though that I never appreciated that he was a such a Mathusian – is it just that everthing has to be viewed through an half-empty attitude to the world?

    What have FF’s ever done for us? (Apologies to Monty Python) – Well as Matt Ridley puts –

    One reason we are richer, healthier, taller, cleverer, longer-lived, and freer than ever before is that the four most basic human needs-food, clothing, fuel, and shelter-have grown markedly cheaper. Take one example: In 1800, a candle providing one hour’s light cost six hours’ work. In the 1880s, the same light from a kerosene lamp took 15 minutes’ work to pay for. In 1950, it was eight seconds. Today, it’s half a second. In these terms, we are 43,200 times better off than in 1800.

  13. March 29, 2021 4:03 pm

    Perhaps the Met Office have changed their role, without telling anybody? Meterology is all rather dull and meningless. Far better to proselytise around climate change, spend vast sums of taxpayers’ money to buy ever more powerful super-computers which still fail to accurately forecast weather with any reasonable degree of accuracy. That way nobody can say you’ve failed in what you are supposed to be doing; please find another job, as far away from here as possible.
    If this gentleman represents the level of scientific qualities in the Met Office one wonders if they qualified from the same alma mater as the ‘scientists’ involved in misleading everyone re COVID-19?

    • T Walker permalink
      March 29, 2021 4:34 pm

      Yes dbb – the same thought had occurred to me. But they stopped doing science a long time ago – why do any science when you already know the answer??

      “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” – Confucius

      “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
      ― Daniel J. Boorstin

    • March 29, 2021 9:36 pm

      I recall his academic achievements were pretty poor, which is probably why he went into climate science.

  14. March 29, 2021 4:18 pm

    The bonus system for repeating the moronic mantra hasn’t been put in lockdown, I see.
    John Doran.

  15. March 29, 2021 4:22 pm

    My father told me “Only asses spell gases with two ‘S’s”.

  16. Curious George permalink
    March 29, 2021 4:47 pm

    If we don’t repent, Siberia, Alaska, and Canada might become habitable.

  17. A man of no rank permalink
    March 29, 2021 5:16 pm

    Your graphs are enjoyable and reassuring Paul. Somehow the mass-deception needle keeps getting stuck on CO2. I follow the comments on online newspapers and I am ready to insert this:
    “CO2 on Earth = 0.04%; on Venus = 96%; Mars = 95%. No increase in temperature on Venus or Mars due to this greenhouse gas. CO2 has no effect on Climate so why send us on a route to destitution with zero carbon policies? Confirm this Science by reading Nikolov and Zeller, confirm the politics via the manifesto of ANY UK party.”

    • A man of no rank permalink
      March 29, 2021 7:43 pm

      Just in passing, there is a young political party called ‘For Britain’ whose Paul Burgess leads an impressive Climate change campaign.

  18. MrGrimNasty permalink
    March 29, 2021 5:36 pm

    Shame for Betts that the only temperatures that strongly correlate with atmospheric CO2 are the adjustments manufactured to greatly enhance the warming trend.

  19. Stephen Wilde permalink
    March 29, 2021 6:26 pm

    It is weird how CO2 is rising though.
    My guess is that it is highly variable quite naturally but the ice cores do not adequately record shorter term variations.

    • Colin R Brooks permalink
      March 29, 2021 6:59 pm

      CO2 always rises after warming, it is rising because of temp NOT the other way round, the ice core records show this

      • Jackington permalink
        March 29, 2021 8:18 pm

        This has been confirmed by Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” graphs!

  20. Peter permalink
    March 29, 2021 7:03 pm

    The obsession with current and future carbon dioxide concentrations demonstrated by Richard and his colleagues tends to make one forget that, according to the theory, the effect has already raised temperatures by about 33 degrees Celsius to the comfortable average temperature of about 14 degrees that we enjoy today. That represents a great deal of absorbed IR considering that carbon dioxide and water vapour IR absorption is restricted to the characteristic wavelengths associated with the vibrations of these molecules.
    Much as some of us would be very pleased to see a little bit more warming, particularly delivered as milder winters, sadly, there is a limit to the IR radiation being emitted at these particular wavelengths. More greenhouse gases have very little to absorb at these wavelengths. This has been very eloquently discussed on this site in previous posts concerned with absorption wavelength saturation.
    Just as people talk about “Goldilocks” planets where it is not too cold and not too hot perhaps we have Goldilocks greenhouse effects where the zero IR blocking makes it not too cold and maximum greenhouse blocking is not too hot. According to the HITRAN database we are close to the maximum.
    This would explain a great deal. During the last 600 million years, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have frequently been several thousand ppm and as high as 8,000 ppm. If Mr Bett’s models were correct then the evolving life forms would have been burnt to a crisp on a regular basis. If IR radiation at these wavelengths has a limit then it explains why high concentrations of CO2 created a massive expansion of life forms without toasting them. If you are concerned about the huge timescales, be aware that life is thought to have started 4 billion years ago.
    It explains why we have been within a temperature pause for about two decades, confused by several El Ninos. Many locations that have been showing local cooling over these two decades.
    So, Dr Betts, perhaps you should stop trying to impose model projections on reality and spend more time explaining real observations. Earth’s climate has been remarkably stable apart from the ice ages and we think that an orbit wobble causes these. The trouble is, Richard, that if you take my advice, you may be out of a job because there is no reason to fear increasing CO2 emissions.

  21. Harry Passfield permalink
    March 29, 2021 7:11 pm

    “This year the climate is passing a gloomy threshold. The concentration of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere is reaching 417 parts per million.”

    First prize for best non-sequiter to the man from the Ministry of Wet.

  22. March 29, 2021 10:45 pm

    I am glad I found this in the margin of TrustYetVerify. For the longest I defended nuclear energy on grounds of safety and life expectancy as did Petr Beckmann and Fred Hoyle. The ignorant fearmongers masquearding as scientists at the time have–excepting only those since dead of old age–become fearmongering advocates of misanthropic global warmunism. All of them also advocate economic systems reliant on the initiation of force.

  23. echo797 permalink
    March 30, 2021 1:09 am

    Paul, you mention “None of this would have been possible without the industrial revolution and the sustained economic growth that has followed, neither of which could have happened without fossil fuels.”

    Fossil fuels are finite. Sometimes I think the whole climate change thing is a smokescreen to soften this fact. The answers put forward for supposedly fixing climate change appear to be the answers we’d put forward for fixing the finite fossil fuels issue as well. If we don’t use climate change as the excuse to change our ways, we’ll end up having lack of fossil fuels forcing the same change. I always think it would be better to save the oil for the agricultural machinery and the space exploration than continue to use it to drive multiple times around a racing track or jet to The Bahamas for a holiday.

    If the answers to supposed human-caused climate change aren’t needed, what are our solutions to the finiteness of fossil fuels?

    • March 30, 2021 1:55 am

      Everything is finite, even death and
      The predicted remainder of fossil fuels, including coal, is several centuries’ worth. During that lengthy prospect, if the planet and mankind have survived, it must be extremely likely that revolutionary advances will allow in every way better energy generation than with fossil fuels.
      Meanwhile the purported “clean” fuels and power generation methods are relatively dud, a blind alley.and terrible value in cost and efficacy.
      Pure electric cars and windpowered electricity generation exemplify, despite the crazy pressures supporting them.
      AGW is also a Quixotic windmill which we are being forcibly enjoined to tilt at!!

      • Gamecock permalink
        March 30, 2021 11:01 am

        Correct. It is hardly relevant to us whether Man runs out of fossil fuels in 2685 or 2723.

      • echo797 permalink
        March 31, 2021 12:08 am

        There are conflicting statements about how long fossil fuels will last. Keeping coal in the equation certainly pushes the timeline out nicely. However, I can’t see our cars, space rockets and aeroplanes running on coal any more than I can see them all running on electricity. I’d be interested in Paul’s analysis of how long fossil fuels will last, especially based on our current usage. (If he’s already done this analysis, I’d be grateful if someone could point me to it, thanks.)

      • March 31, 2021 1:25 am

        The fundamental point is that fossil fuels in general are predicted to last longer than I believe it should take to devise, invent/develop improved means of energy generation and employing them more efficiently than at present.
        The poor “renewables” based on wind and water power do not achieve any of that.
        Like you, I’d be interested to learn Paul Homewood”s comments on this vital topi

      • March 31, 2021 9:10 am

        It’s not my speciality! But everything I read suggests we have decades at least, probably much much more.

        Don’t forget there have been regular warnings in the past about oil running out which have never materialised

      • Gamecock permalink
        March 31, 2021 3:44 pm

        It’s a trick question. We (sic) run out of zinc, antimony, lead, silver, and gold before we run out of fossil fuels.

  24. cookers52 permalink
    March 30, 2021 9:05 am

    How can CO2 levels have risen last year when the industrial world , aviation, transport, etc was closed down?

  25. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 30, 2021 12:18 pm

    Peter comments above about the root fallacy of the CO2 argument: i.e. that CO2 is in fact a weak absorber, his comments are close to the very detailed expose of the scientific error by David Coe recently. The error started with the early IPCC technical reports, where the value of the radiative forcing function that underwrites all of the “science” was decided by a technical group. This estimated RFF cannot be proved or disproved but has massive effects on the models outputs. The effects of particles, moisture and VM were passed-over in a few lines because they are not understood.

    The models are no more than calculations of what happens if the heat flux to earth increases, they do not model what is actually happening; and of course, their biggest strength is that they cannot be tested and disproved, even tho’ the onus ought to be on these “scientists” to offer a proof of their claims.

    • Vic Hanby permalink
      March 30, 2021 7:53 pm

      +1 well said

  26. Gamecock permalink
    March 31, 2021 10:38 pm

    True, Jack.

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”

    We get no evidence at all. Just consensus of beliefs by people on the payroll.

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