AGW – I’m still having doubts!


Year-over-year increase of atmospheric CO 2

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The greenhouse effect of CO2 is beyond question – a simply(sic) test using a thermal camera, an IR emitter and a chamber in which you can change the CO2 concentration can illustrate this to be a fact. Likewise, we know for a fact that the increase in CO2 concentration is the result of our industrial activity as fossil sourced carbon has a different signature due to being isolated for millions of years. Also, the chemistry behind ocean acidification is equally understood. We also know that over the past 30yrs – the bulk of which have been the warmest on record – solar activity hasn’t matched the global temperature anomaly at all.

These things we know for a fact.

As for the associated warming, no qualified scientist rejects the one degree warming solely related to a doubling of CO2 concentrations – even the hyped up Lindzen. .”

The above is part of a reader comment on my post “Questioning the “Science” that the AGW promoters promote‘”  [Whole comment by Moth available on that post]

I had written, in brief: “So the question must be asked, “is the science of the IPCC-based conclusions reliable, unbiased, exact, beyond question, falsifiable (whatever that means), irrefutable and dependable”?”

Thus we have a debate which might be more appropriately published as a new post to give it due respect.

“The greenhouse effect of CO2 is beyond question”! This I cannot accept on face value and will go into a lot of detail to show why. ‘A’ greenhouse effect, maybe, but ‘the’ greenhouse effect, definitely not! Why?, because this statement is being used to justify world-wide financial and social upheaval on the basis that atmospheric CO2 increases are causing destructive global warming. The intended clarification of “a doubling of CO2 relating to a 1 degC warming not being rejected by any ‘qualified scientist’ also requires a challenge.  There is reason to suspect that the continuing rise in CO2 emissions is not being accompanied by a corresponding rise in global temperature.

What I believe to be scientific fact, and/or believed by respective and respected, qualified scientists, is as follows:

Atmospheric gasses:

1. Atmospheric CO2 concentration is roughly 390 ppm = 0.039 % of total atmospheric gasses.

2. Balance of atmosphere, if humidity zero, Nitrogen approx 80%, Oxygen approx 20%.

3. Minute amounts of other gasses, some of them also greenhouse active, we will come to later.

4. Added to this mix is water vapour H2O, varying widely in concentration on a daily basis.

5. If we add clouds to this, the H2O is assumed to be in the droplet form, separately assessed from greenhouse effects, but of major importance.

Greenhouse gasses: (recent, and approx) [important, but excluding H20]

Carbon Dioxide,  CO2,  390 ppm,  390,000 ppb;   %of total 99.46

Methane,  CH4,   1800 ppb;   0.46%

Nitrous Oxide,  N2O,   320 ppb;   0.08%

TOTAL:    392,120 ppb

Miscellaneous (CFC’s etc) < 50 ppt and for the sake of this discussion can be ignored.

(ppm = parts per million, ppb = parts per billion, ppt = parts per trillion.)

A hugely dominating proportion of these GHG’s is thus CO2. However their effect on planetary warming is a function of their heat retention, each gas has a multiplying factor to enable their heat retention values to be correctly compared.

CO2, (reference) 1.0, has warming effect 1.0 x 390,000 = 390,000; % warming 74.167

CH4, factor 21;   21 x 1,745 = 36,645;  6.968%

N2O, factor 310;  310 x 320 = 99,200;  18.865%

Total,   525,845;  100%

So, if the known, accepted green house gasses above were on their own, they would provide warming and re-radiation amounts in the relative % proportions shown. The warming and its radiation would emanate in all directions, a certain percentage back to the surface, if warmer than the surface.

CO2 on its own is thus the most significant GHG, to the extent that it is judged here to be about 75% of all GHG’s , neglecting for the moment H2O.

Next we need to look at the GHG levels in the atmosphere. As mentioned above the atmosphere consists basically of nitrogen and oxygen, again neglecting water vapour, to the tune of say 99%, CO2 has the esteemed level of roughly 0.04%.

The CO2 amount is such that the total IR radiation from the earth’s lower altitudes will be only minutely absorbed compared to that which simply passes through and escapes from the atmosphere. Not only that but the CO2 is only effective in absorbing IR radiation at a few small wavelength bands and thus its absorption level is reduced to between 5 and 8%.

Thus, let’s say 10% of the CO2 level of 0.04% of its volume in the atmosphere is effective as a GHG. So at this stage CO2 is trapping 0.004% of the total upward radiation and re-radiating it back to either create warming or to counter some of the upward radiation.

Next we look at H2O which can be at levels up to 80%, but maybe only 20% at the altitudes where the important gas mixing and GH effect is taking place. It is a strong GHG making the total GHG level now at least 20% with CO2 now becoming a proportion of about 5 x 0.004% = 0.02%.  of the total GHGs, (maximum).

Mankind’s contribution to this CO2 warming effectiveness is taken to be 100ppm  of the 400 = 25% and if doubled, will be 40% of the resulting 500ppm. Even if they are talking about doubling the total CO2 to 800ppm, the contribution to GHG warming is still only 0.04%, at worst, because H2O levels can be much higher. This is the theoretical warming factor.

After all that, when any warming occurs, evaporation from the water at the planet’s surface increases creating increased clouding. This messes up the whole scenario completely as clouds block the original UV heating but do create some GH warming effect at night (ie., reduced loss of heat). Precipitation and further cooling of the earth results. A net negative feedback situation, modifying the scientists’ excessive claims.

Many other factors are relevant to the issue of mankind’s contributions to, and ability to, control planet climate. But it would be surprising if 0.04% contribution to planet warming was a real issue. 0.04% of our temperature in absolute terms (273 + 20 = 293) is still only 0.109 degK.

If a real-life experiment could be set up as suggested, with controlled amounts of CO2 and H2O in air, with known surface simulation, and free of the closed circuit effect of a container, it would be a valuable improvement over what at the moment seems to be ‘computed science’.

I suggest that what are accepted as known facts by the AGW proponents are not universally accepted. Until some real-life experiment proves the claimed relationships, reliance on models which are only man-made assumptions should be judged as such, and not taken to be reliable factual evidence.

To say that pro-AGW scientists are qualified and others are not, is illogical. Reliance on so-called peer review as a measure of scientific validity is demonstrably inadequate. An example that shows it may be of little value – The commenter cites a reference “Knutti and Hegerl (2008)“.  Figure 3a shows a diagram labelling 3 levels – ‘most likeley’, ‘very likely’ and ‘likely’, which are labelled in the wrong places.  A minor point but it is not difficult to find other issues deserving criticism.

To indicate how the pro-AGW scientists deal with H20 vapour as a GHG, read and wonder about the following:

“Water vapor is a natural greenhouse gas which, of all greenhouse gases, accounts for the largest percentage of the greenhouse effect. Water vapor levels fluctuate regionally, but in general humans do not produce a direct forcing of water vapor levels. In climate models an increase in atmospheric temperature caused by the greenhouse effect due to anthropogenic gases will in turn lead to an increase in the water vapor content of the troposphere, with approximately constant relative humidity. This in turn leads to an increase in the greenhouse effect and thus a further increase in temperature, and thus an increase in water vapor, until equilibrium is reached. Thus water vapor acts as a positive feedback (but not a runaway feedback) to the forcing provided by human-released greenhouse gases such as CO2. Changes in the water vapour may also have indirect effects via cloud formation. Most scientists agree that the overall effect of the direct and indirect feedbacks caused by increased water vapour content of the atmosphere significantly enhances the initial warming that caused the increase – that is, it is a strong positive feedback.( [5], see B7). Water vapor is a definite part of the greenhouse gas equation even though not under direct human control: IPCC TAR chapter lead author ( Michael Mann) considers citing “the role of water vapor as a greenhouse gas” to be “extremely misleading” as water vapor can not be controlled by humans [6]; see also [7] and [8].”

The IPCC discuss the water vapor feedback [9].

“It is not really possible to assert that such-and-such a gas causes a certain percentage of the GHE, because the influences of the various gases are not additive. The 1990 IPCC report says “If H2O were the only GHG present, then the GHE of a clear-sky midlatitude atmosphere… would be about 60-70% of the value with all gases included; by contrast, if CO2 alone was present, the corresponding value would be about 25%”.

About Ken McMurtrie

Retired Electronics Engineer, most recently installing and maintaining medical X-Ray equipment. A mature age "student" of Life and Nature, an advocate of Truth, Justice and Humanity, promoting awareness of the injustices in the world.
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4 Responses to AGW – I’m still having doubts!

  1. Moth says:

    It’s illogical to compare greenhouse gas to the amount of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere because the latter two have little to no effect. It is correct to not directly compare water vapour as it is a condensing greenhouse gas while the others are not. The percentage approach is misleading.
    The review article given is a good one for beginners. Even the few contrarian scientists whom actually work in related fields, most notably Lindzen, are in agreement that a one degree of warming directly from doubly CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels is to be expected. It’s a matter of feedbacks that account for whatever else happens.
    The review article highlights many attempts to understand these dynamic interactions – almost all agreeing that 1 degree is the very lowest value that we can expect. Between 2 and 3 seems the most likely. It’s not just the result of “computer science” or random shots in the dark, but any decades investigation and many thousands of research hours that leads us to this conclusion. Had it been otherwise, there wouldn’t be such support for the very likely climate change effects as noted by every major scientific body.
    It’s far easier to therefore attack the “consensus” or peer-review process than to demonstrate how the work behind the review paper is wrong – and that is, after all, what every scientist is trying to do to make a name for themselves.
    Dana recently wrote a great article on typical climate model confusions ( http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=923 ). They are only one of numerous attempts at understanding our climate and they are doing a good job – as do our weather models (for their respective focus limitations) – as is also explained in that review paper. All hypotheses are, after all, models which we test to refine how we understand the world. If they don’t work, we scrap them. If they do work, or tend to be close, we explore it further, testing each variable for the known physical laws.
    Another paper that does an excellent job in explaining to a wider audience is Lockwood (2010) ( http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/466/2114/303.full ).
    As yet, I’ve seen little to genuinely challenge the findings of the bulk of the available scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change. That’s why, as with many scientists, I much conclude that to the best of our understanding it’s highly likely that we will see a couple degrees of warming for a doubling of CO2. A couple degrees is large in a climate sense as there is around 5 degrees between now and the previous glacial maximum. From a lay perspective, the major non-condensing greenhouse (are you correctly label above), CO2, is also the only way that we can explain the diurnal surface temperatures between say, the Earth (little fluctuations), the moon (same distances, no atmosphere, major fluctuations and an average around 40 degrees lower than Earth’s), Venus (thick, hot CO2 atmosphere – long diurnal periods explaining the fluctuations) and Mercury (little atmosphere, much closure to the sun, but cooler than Venus – even potentially holding snow at the surface, incredibly).
    Whether it’s “catastrophic” or not is of no relevance to science as “catastrophic” is a judgement call, based on personal values which cannot be measured any more than how strongly you feel for another person. Some people use this approach to undermine the science, but it’s illogical and thus meaningless.

    • Ken McMurtrie says:

      Thanks, Moth for your response.
      You had previously said I needed to address the science. Now that I have, you are responding with commentary and rhetoric more so than the science.
      Taking your comments in order:

      “It’s illogical to compare greenhouse gas to the amount of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere because the latter two have little to no effect”.
      Unscientific and incorrect! Why is it illogical? The fact that the 98% oxygen and nitrogen atmospheric content has negligible effect means that the GHG’s (neglecting H2O), held responsible for global warming problems are minuscule IR reflectors/absorbers. Most of the IR “escapes”, or would if there was no H2O.

      “It is correct to not directly compare water vapour as it is a condensing greenhouse gas while the others are not. The percentage approach is misleading.”
      Whatever name you wish to give H2O, it does two important things. In vapour form it absorbs and re-radiates outgoing IR. In cloud form it blocks incoming UV and if warmed, also acts as a GH contributor. Its percentage of atmospheric gases is certainly not misleading as its presence significantly overwhelms the GH effects of the other gasses. Take away the H2O – slight global warming, take away the other GHG’s – practically no reduction in global warming.

      “Even the few contrarian scientists whom actually work in related fields, most notably Lindzen, are in agreement that a one degree of warming directly from doubly CO2 concentrations from pre-industrial levels is to be expected”
      What I see Lindzen saying is:
      1. “The main absorbers of infrared in the atmosphere are water vapor and clouds. Even if all other greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide and methane) were to disappear, we would still be left with over 98 percent of the current greenhouse effect.”
      2. “What we see is that the past record is most consistent with an equilibrium response to a doubling of about 1.3 degrees centigrade–assuming that all the observed warming was due to increasing carbon dioxide. There is nothing in the record that can be distinguished from the natural variability of the climate, however.
      If one considers the tropics, that conclusion is even more disturbing. There is ample evidence that the average equatorial sea surface has remained within plus or minus one degree centigrade of its present temperature for billions of years, yet current models predict average warming of from two to four degrees centigrade even at the equator. It should be noted that for much of the Earth’s history, the atmosphere had much more carbon dioxide than is currently anticipated for centuries to come. I could, in fact, go on at great length listing the evidence for small responses to a doubling of carbon dioxide;”

      “It’s a matter of feedbacks that account for whatever else happens.”
      This is the very crux of the matter. Besides the irresponsible minimising of H2O effects, the feedback issues are a huge impact on the end result, and are more likely to be negative because of increased cloud cover.

      “The review article highlights many attempts to understand these dynamic interactions – almost all agreeing that 1 degree is the very lowest value that we can expect. Between 2 and 3 seems the most likely. It’s not just the result of “computer science” or random shots in the dark, but any decades investigation and many thousands of research hours that leads us to this conclusion. Had it been otherwise, there wouldn’t be such support for the very likely climate change effects as noted by every major scientific body.”
      My response can only be that there are many attempts because the climate system is of immense complexity and cannot be reliably and accurately understood, certainly not modelled in any way that can be expected to forecast meaningful future trends. It is circular to rely on support as an argument for authenticity as there are logical arguments and proofs for bias, applicable to ‘both sides’, and the science is again being ignored.

      “It’s far easier to therefore attack the “consensus” or peer-review process than to demonstrate how the work behind the review paper is wrong – and that is, after all, what every scientist is trying to do to make a name for themselves.”
      Well, attempts to demonstrate the failings of the ‘science’ are proving to be a waste of time, not because they are wrong, but because they are ignored and/or irrationally disputed, as we are experiencing here. Attacking the “consensus” is easy because the consensus is obviously flawed.

      “Dana recently wrote a great article on typical climate model confusions ( http://www.skepticalscience.com/news.php?n=923 ). They are only one of numerous attempts at understanding our climate and they are doing a good job – as do our weather models (for their respective focus limitations) – as is also explained in that review paper. All hypotheses are, after all, models which we test to refine how we understand the world. If they don’t work, we scrap them. If they do work, or tend to be close, we explore it further, testing each variable for the known physical laws.”
      I see nothing here which adds any convincing evidence that the AGW science is compelling. More to do with what is not known and how little is actually known. “Confusions” was an appropriate term.

      “Another paper that does an excellent job in explaining to a wider audience is Lockwood (2010) ( http://rspa.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/466/2114/303.full ).”
      This paper is highly technical and not much use to lay people. I personally wonder if it is much use to a climate scientist. It shows that there are numerous variables, complex relationships and uncertain scientific methods and outcomes. I fail to see how it supports the belief that less than 10% of the 0.04% absorption properties of the CO2 component of the atmosphere can have a controlling influence on the planet’s so-called average temperature.
      The sun and earth are treated as discs, where in fact they radiate and receive energy in a spherical mode. Ie., radially with anything other than the two immediately aligned surface areas having oblique angular relationships. Then the earth is spinning, so the duration that any surface is directly aligned with a heat source is relatively small. Most areas are always oblique to the radiation.
      The differences in planet temperatures, especially at the surface, are huge relative to the 1 or 2 degrees average we are arguing about. The average equatorial day/night differences are not great but away from then equator they can be of the order of 30 degreesC. Differences between equatorial averages and polar averages are up to maybe 60 degreesC. Summer/winter average differences are significant, even day to day variations are significant.
      Here are we, trying to measure and compute some almost fictitious global average and make absolutely earth/people/economy-shattering decisions based on an almost negligible temperature trend rate, using a science that is swamped with variables, assumptions and uncertainties.

      “As yet, I’ve seen little to genuinely challenge the findings of the bulk of the available scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change.”
      I, and many others, see much to challenge these findings. In many areas, in fact, (the CO2 factor, temperature measurement methods, computation of global average, trend assessment, natural influences). The eyes of the beholder, or perhaps the mind-sets, obviously play a large part in assessing evidence and the accompanying conclusions.

      “……..CO2, is also the only way that we can explain the diurnal surface temperatures between say, the Earth ………..”
      The problem with this assertion is that the question of proof has not been answered. It is claimed by some that CO2 explains such things but it is also claimed by others, who have a right to do so, that CO2 on its own, is not the reason for our planet warming, if it is, in fact actually warming!. Without the water vapour, it is claimed that CO2 is insignificant, here on earth. Perhaps on Venus it is ‘thick’ enough to be a factor. Otherwise your argument applies to GHG’s in general and does not prove the claims for CO2 here.

      “Whether it’s “catastrophic” or not is of no relevance to science as “catastrophic” is a judgement call, based on personal values which cannot be measured any more than how strongly you feel for another person. Some people use this approach to undermine the science, but it’s illogical and thus meaningless.”
      I find this a bit difficult to understand. I would say that the word ‘catastrophic’ is appropriate if you consider the urgency and extent of the demands to which countries are being subjected, in the name of “climate change”, (yet another propaganda term). I agree it is not scientific, but neither are most of the claims being made and unfortunately being accepted, as part of the political and economic scenario travelling under this guise.
      What happened to the good old term ‘AGW’? It was dropped because there was no proof that it was accurate!
      Once again, thanks for your input.

  2. ask says:

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