Global Warming: A Whole Lot of Mistakin’ Going On2-Jul-2008
Ok kids, it’s time for your global warming quiz. Sharpen up your number 2 pencils, and answer the following questions:
1. Approximately what percent of annual CO2 release to the atmosphere are humans responsible for?
There is a lot of hand waving about how much CO2 we are “polluting” the earth with. However, nature sources about 97% of the CO2 gas released annually.
2. Which chemical is responsible for the vast majority of the “greenhouse” affect?
a) CO2 – Carbon Dioxide
b) CH4 – Methane
c) H2O – Water
Answer: c, Water. Source: realclimate.org (estimates 67% to 85% of greenhouse affect), and Freidenreich and Ramaswamy, Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models (estimates 95% of greenhouse affect). (Note, I have not personally seen the latter paper).
Despite all of the concern over CO2, water constitutes between two-thirds and nineteen-twentieths of the total “greenhouse” affect.
3. If the concentration of pre-industrial revolution CO2 in the atmosphere were doubled (a 100% increase), this would increase the total CO2 affect on global climate by:
b) 100% (or double).
Answer: c: 12% increase. Source: A combination of the following: using calculation from the International Panel on Climate Change This professor thinks the IPCC estimates are high. This site also offers a radically different interpretation from the IPCC. Note: ALL sources predict a logarithmic relationship (this is known from basic chemistry) – the disagreement is one of scale.
Because of saturation, CO2 (and other “greenhouse” gasses), have a logarithmic, not linear, relationship with the amount of gas versus the amount of energy the gas can hold. Therefore doubling CO2 concentrations would not double the affect.
Climate change is a natural occurrence. Our world has experienced many cycles of warming and cooling over the last 400,000 years or so. Many “ice ages” have occurred, and “global warming” has followed.
We are seeing climate change today. We will see it in every era, because of the natural cycles. The question really is: are our activities as humans having a significant affect on the earth’s climate? Are we causing “global warming”?
Frankly, I don’t know. But people hand waving and frothing at the mouth about poorly understood items are not helpful. I do not claim that spewing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is a good idea. However, the public at large is ignorant of what “greenhouse” affects are, how we came up with the idea of man-made climate change, and where the numbers come from that predict dire increases in temperatures.
Yet, we are insisting our politicians make decisions based on our own ignorance.
Our data sets are narrow. Precision temperature measurements are only good for the past 100 years or so. Predicting a .5 degree Celsius average temperature increase using data with an error factor of a +- 2 degrees, is just foolish.
We also must understand how the predictions for a future rise in average temperature is made. This is done using computer models, that are very simplified, and make many assumptions. These assumptions have been wrong before. This NASA data resulted in large scale changes to the models in 2004. Lately, more sattelite data, has shown some of the basic premises of human contributions to global warming to be incorrect. The result; the current models are mere guesswork, not scientific fact.
What should be done? We need to let the scientists do the science. They will eventually figure it out. But when politics mixes with incomplete data, the science debate changes. It becomes a creationism vs. evolution debacle, where fanaticism overrides concrete data and common sense.