Climate change theory is all wet
The claims of "catastrophic warming" owing to CO2 are demonstrably nonsense
The atmosphere has a mass of 5.146e18 kilograms. Specific heat capacity is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg of a mass by one degree Kelvin (K). The specific heat capacity of air at 288 degrees K (15 degrees Centigrade) is about 1,004 joules per kilogram per degree K. A watt is defined as 1 joule per second.
Each datum is uncontroversial and the definitions of watts and joules are from the SI measurement system while the specific heat capacity of air (I have used nitrogen which comprises 78% of atmosphere) is from the Engineering Toolbox.
Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory posits that a doubling of CO2 levels will results in as much as 3.77 watts per square meter of energy being prevented from escaping to space in an equilibrium at the new CO2 concentration. This phenomenon is labeled “radiative forcing”. 1 Alarmists rely on the uncontested reality that water vapour combined with a few other trace gases they describe as “greenhouse gases” create an equilibrium where enough energy is retained in the atmosphere to keep Earth’s temperature at about 288 deg. K (15 deg. C), a fact no sensible person disputes. The radiative forcing figures are presented frequently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its many reports, which the IPCC distribute widely. 3.77 watts per square meter of “climate sensitivity” to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels is a high water mark in IPCC reports.
The question is simple.
By how much will 3.77 watts per square meter of added energy across Earth’s surface increase the temperature of Earth’s atmosphere? Climate alarmists claim the issue is more complex and cite dozens of factors which influence the movement of energy and temperature within the atmosphere - radiation, convection, the adiabatic lapse rate, ocean currents, tectonic shifts, and many other complicating factors. Those factors can alter the distribution of heat in the atmosphere but cannot alter the overall heat of the atmospheric mass, which is entirely determined by the laws of thermodynamics. Add 3.77 watts per square meter at a new equilibrium state and a finite change in the temperature equilibrium results, regardless of how it is distributed.
How much of a change?
The earth has a surface area of 510 million square kilometers and even the most evangelical alarmist can convert that to square meters if they can handle multiplation by factors of ten. Once you have the data for square meters, for mass, and for the increased energy arising from the AGW theory (taken at face value, although there is plenty of evidence the estimate is wrong), you have all the data needed to calculate how much higher the new equilibrium temperature will be post doubling of CO2 concentrations.
3.77 watts per square meter x 510e9 square meters x 60 minutes per hour, x 60 seconds per minute x 24 hours per day = 1.66e17, the total number of joules of energy AGW claims a doubling of CO2 will prevent (in the form of long wave infrared radiation) from escaping to space.
The number of joules of energy needed to increase the temperature of the mass of the atmosphere by 1 deg. K is likewise uncomplicated. Multiply the mass of the atmosphere (an estimate really, since the mass depends on the amount of water vapour present at any point in time and thus varies a bit from time to time) by the specific heat capacity of atmosphere of 1,004 joules per kilogram. For those too dense to attempt that arithmetic, it is 1,004 x 5.146e18 = 5.166e21
The quotient of these numbers is 1.66e17/5.166e21 = 0.03, which in deg. K is the increase in temperature arising from the 3.77 watts per meter squared of presumed added energy arising from a doubling of CO2 levels. Anyone who thinks an increase of 0.03 deg. K in atmospheric temperature is cause for alarm needs mental health therapy.
Double CO2 from the 250 ppm of the preindustrial age to 500 ppm (it is currently about 420 ppm) and if AGW theory were correct the temperature of the atmosphere would rise by 0.03 deg. K (accepting the AGW theory at face value, not disputing it although there are plenty of reasons to dispute it). Double it again and the temperature of the atmosphere would rise by another 0.03 deg K. with atmospheric CO2 at 1,000 ppm. Double it again to 2,000 ppm and that adds another 0.03 deg. K bringing the total change from 1750 to 0.09 deg. K. That is an immaterial change and not “catastrophic” but barely measurable by equipment that is incapable of measuring temperature within 0.1 deg. K (about the best we have today and certainly more accurate than what existed in the 1800’s when alarmists rely on historic data with a standard deviation of several degrees in what few measurements existed).
I posted a related article on Twitter and had an interesting exchange with George Carey (@GeoFreC), an amateur astronomer who says he taught physics for 35 years and clearly has some education in physics. My article simply calculated the added energy of 3.77 watts per square meter in joules over 1 square meter of Earth’s surface and with basic physics showed the number of joules of added energy were only sufficient to increase the temperature of the mass of atmosphere over 1 square meter of Earth’s surface by 0.03 deg. Kelvin. Carey immediately disputed this analysis, calling it an oversimplification of a “horrendously complex” process.
Among other comments, Carey claimed my application of the laws of physics was inadequate since it didn’t use “the entire mass of air” and many other factors. This attempt to deflect fails. I wrote this current article using the “entire mass of air” to respond. The other factors listed by Carey may have a role in the distribution of the added heat by cannot themselves increase or reduce the added heat, and cannot effect the degree to which the 3.77 watts per square meter increases the temperature of the entire mass of the atmosphere.
The first law of thermodynamics compels a conclusion that the added energy of 3.77 watts per square meter (the only change in energy entering the atmospheric system arising solely from an increase in carbon dioxide levels) can alter the internal energy of that system by no more (but possibly less) than the energy transferred into the system. The “possibly less” comment is the reduction in internal energy that could result from any work done by the system.
Carey is an admitted climate alarmist. His Twitter posts sound climate alarms.
Carey is typical of many alarmists. He makes claims unsupported by evidence (e.g., “much of that loss is due to climate change”) and when confronted with reality he deflects, distracts and criticizes the source.
An increase in atmospheric CO2 to 2,000 parts per million would have little impact on climate but would be a return to earlier periods in Earth’s history that fueled the development of plant life and to the best of paleoclimatologists ability to discern, did not result in higher temperatures.
Many estimates from paleoclimatology put historic CO2 levels in the atmosphere at over 2,000 ppm with no evidence of higher temperatures in those periods. That makes sense, since even accepting AGW at face value it points to an immaterial change in temperature from going back to 2,000 ppm CO2 concentration, more or less where the most extreme models suggest CO2 levels would reach by 2500 A.D.
Climate alarms have been targeting a state labelel “NetZero” meaning zero CO2 emissions. If achieved, NetZero would see atmospheric CO2 levels fall by 3 or 4 ppm annually and within 60 or 70 years fall below the 150 ppm level needed to support plant life. If plant life fails, human life also fails. Net Zeo is a dangerous goal.
The IPCC reports are published after considerable editing by left wing activists with an agenda, and that agenda is to attack fossil fuels as a threat to humanity. I find it fascinating that much of IPCC reports contain information that would help guide sensible policy. In particular, this paragraph which I quote verbatim.
In a nutshell, the scientists contributing to IPCC reports recognize that if CO2 were removed from the atmosphere, water vapour would also be removed and Earth’s temperature would fall to a “frozen state”. This creates a logical dilemma - Add CO2 and catastrophic “warming” is predicted; reduce CO2 and earth becomes an ice cube. Reduce CO2 far enough and plant life dies and with it all life as we know it. Tinkering with CO2 levels is not without consequences according to IPCC contributing scientists.
No one disputes that CO2 is a so-called “greenhouse gas” but it is a minor player.
Alarmists use terms like “feedback loop” to exaggerate the role of CO2 in climate, with elegant charts like this one.
All “feedbacks” deal with redistribution of the 3.77 watts per square meter they claim CO2 has added and none can or do add more energy than the 3.77 watts per square meter they claim a doubling of CO2 adds except by adding more CO2. - as the arrow claiming the feedback of thawing tundra etc. releases more CO2. But the thermodynamic analysis I present already deals with increases in CO2 to 2,000 ppm from its current 420 ppm. and demonstrates that such an event would add 0.09 deg. K at most to Earth’s temperature. Claims of “catastrophic warming” evidence the fallacy of composition, not a “scientific breakthrough”.
Notwithstanding, alarmists cling to their quasi-religious belief in “climate change”, even alarmists with credentials (like George Carey) that suggest they should have a solid understanding of physics and thermodynamics. But they just suppress what they learned, claim it is “horrendously complex”, cite the inaccurate models presented in papers published by the IPCC, and double down on their delusion.
The answer to why is that climate science moved from atmospheric physics to political science abouth 1960 when the Club of Rome was formed and included the late Maurice Strong and former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Concerned about over-population of Earth, the Club of Rome then saw (and now sees) climate alarm as the best way to rally support for a post-national global socialist government which could deal with problems facing the entire world instead of just those facing any particular country. The idea was to use climate fear to bring about global cooperation to fight a common threat and install global socialism to remedy income and wealth inequality seen by the founders of the Club of Rome as the most serious problem facing humanity other than overpopulation.
This dream echoed the sentiments that made Marxism popular in the early 1900’s, another utopian idea that hoped to solve inequitable distribution of income and wealth by having a central government control the means of production and all citizens contribute to the extent of their ability and share in accordance with their needs. An elegant solution that has worked nowhere ever, but has led to millions of lives lost and freedoms sacrificed in Russia, China, Vietnam, Brazil, and Venezuela.
The modern socialist movement simply claims that Marxism and other socialist governments were just “doing it wrongly” and dreamed they could do a better job of managing the economy of the world. Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, Catherine McKenna, Jonathan Wilkinson, Steven Guilbeault and Chrystia Freeland are among world leaders who pretend CO2 is harmful but lack any understanding of the related physics. They want to make the world more equitable and are embarked on a path which will destroy economic growth. Gullible, dedicated, uninformed, inept, foolish, and indifferent to the destruction their policies wreak on the citizens they represent are descriptors that come to mind. Like the Aztecs and Incas who sacrificed their own children thinking it would change the weather, or the Popes of the middle ages who tortured or killed heretics to ensure they could enter heaven, these modern leaders think they are doing good.
We are on a dangerous path and can only derail it by voting these people out of office and installing leaders with common sense, objectivity and a desire to improve economic outcomes based on the fact that wealth must be created before it can be shared regardless of what policies are enacted to share wealth. Wealth creation requires free market capitalism, a reality proven over the past two centuries. Central government intervention in markets has yet to demonstrate a benefit.
I do not argue the Earth is not “warming”. I don’t know if it is or is not, and the evidence is scant. In 1975, climate alarmists claimed Earth was going to freeze over. It didn’t. They don’t know either. But if Earth is warming it is clear that CO2 cannot be responsible for anything but an immaterial quantum of that warming and the attack on fossil fuels, the NetZero agenda, and a carbon tax aren’t going to make any difference.
It is time to drop the AGW nonsense and if evidence grows that the Earth is warming, spending the resources dedicated to “renewables” which have their own environmental problems to adaptation rather than depriving developing economies of the benefits of low cost, reliable and available fossil fuels. Millions will benefit and no-one will be harmed.
IPCC AR6 estimates the radiative forcing for a doubling of CO2 from 1750 levels at 3.93 watts per square meter plus or minus .47 watts per square meter. The higher number is not comparable to earlier estimates but the difference is immaterial to the analysis presented in my article which uses a 3.77 watts per square meter figure.