Sunday, 6 December 2009

Getting things in proportion, the thoughts of a simple man

The war of words over Earths ever changing climate is based upon one contention; that man is responsible for variations in climate over the past thirty years because of Human generated Carbon Dioxide emissions. This guerilla verbal combat is driven by agenda setting polemicists, broadcasting authorities, politicians, lobby organisations (Fenton Communications, Media Matters to name but two), those seeking funding from government sources, and iiin the blue corner, independent thinkers, retired professors, Meteorological specialists, and half the general public. Never mind the various incarnations of the tinfoil hat brigade, whichever side of the argument they are on. Notwithstanding; there is a saying that the first casualty of warfare is the Truth. Yet from the looks of things, the truth of this particular matter is hiding in plain sight.

Okay, let's look at the crux of the matter dispassionately. How much of a 'warming' effect does CO2 actually have? Yes, it does have an effect, but how much is that really?

Oh. Not that much at all. CO2 only reflects energy up to a saturation point in three narrow wavebands. Atmospheric CO2 is currently above that saturation point. Ah. As for how much energy it lets through, that's another thing, because when it comes to reflecting energy, molecules don't know up from down. Ergo, when it comes to the atmosphere, molecules of CO2 reflect as much outwards as inwards. As far as energy absorption is concerned, one way is as good as another, and the molecules in question don't care which.

Right. How much Carbon Dioxide is actually in the atmosphere anyway? The 388 parts per million as generally quoted is measured at Mauna Loa, right next to a volcano. Uh - huh. So wouldn't that measurement give a false impression depending upon which way the wind is blowing? Because volcanoes give off massive amounts of CO2, SO2 and similar, so couldn't that create a bit of a false positive? If so, by how much? The point is, we only know what we're told, but if the people doing the telling have their own agenda, can we trust them as a source?

Nevertheless, just say for a minute the measurements are honest, and the raw data is good. How much of the Earth's CO2 is mankind responsible for? 2% of 387.75 parts per million according to most reputable sources. Do the sums, 387.75/100 x 2 = 7.755 parts per million per year. Okay. Right, so all the breathing, industry, motor cars, agriculture; in fact all of humankinds activities run to a whopping great...oh. 0.0007755% of Earths measurable atmosphere. That's not really very much at all, is it?

How can that small an amount have an effect upon anything given that reflection absorption is so small? Especially in the magnitudes indicated. If we as a species don't shut everything down and stop breathing then we would only add 775.5 parts per million per century, and most of our output can comfortably be processed by green growing things on land and plankton in the sea. In fact higher levels of CO2 are very good for plants and plankton. They love it, the little tinkers. Because as is common knowledge, CO2 is routinely used for improving plant growth in greenhouses at concentrations of about 1000ppm, over twice current atmospheric levels. Even without that extra uptake of CO2, at current rate of increase, it would take, let's see now, just under a century for atmospheric CO2 to reach 1.163%. Even if you ignore the carbon cycle and outgassing etc. Then there's the old chestnut that CO2 levels lag (not lead) temperature changes, which the warming side of the debate disparage. Hmm.

Given that the infrared absorption of CO2 decreases with concentration on an inverse logarithmic scale, think of a reverse hockey stick. It has to work this way or the planet of Mars, with an atmosphere of 95% CO2 would be far hotter than it actually is. Therefore we can take it as given that our descendants will be safe from the universal heat death widely prophesied. Hooray!

Let's put that in comparison with the rest of the atmosphere, which forgive me if I'm a little out in this;
Figures culled from the Encyclopaedia Britannica
Nitrogen (N2) 78.084
Oxygen (O2) 20.946
Argon (Ar) 0.934
Neon (Ne) 0.0018
Helium (He) 0.000524
Methane (CH4) 0.0002
Krypton (Kr) 0.000114
Hydrogen (H2) 0.00005
Nitrous Oxide(N2O) 0.00005
Xenon (Xe) 0.0000087

Of course there are these variable gases as well.
Water Vapour (H2O) 0 to 7
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) 0.01 to 0.1 (average about 0.032)
Ozone (O3) 0 to 0.01
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) 0 to 0.0001
Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) 0 to 0.000002

How much of an average temperature change are we talking about? How many degrees Celsius / Fahrenheit per century? 0.6 Degrees Celsius or thereabouts? It is also worth noting that temperature records were set in the 1930's which we have yet to surpass, no matter what anyone says. Oh.

My conclusion must therefore be that when you stick the facts and figures up against each other like this, it rather puts everything in perspective. Never mind the fudged code and the e-mails, the simple facts and physics are stacked up against CO2 influenced Climate Change / AGW / MMGW / Whatever.
(Please note that I have deliberately not used Wikipedia as a source because there's been way too much partisan propaganda mongering going on over there. In this specific area of information dissemination, it can no longer be considered trustworthy.)

Fine. Great. Panic over. The world isn't going to end. That's nice. The pubs are open and mine's a pint.


delcatto said...

I've just read one blog which fully supports AGW and refers to all 'AGW deniers' as 'wingnuts'. I guess when one can no longer debate sensibly and sinks to the level of the playground this is what happens. I've spent the past few months reading as much as I can (cope with!)about global warming and I must confess that I remain perplexed. Climatology has moved on from looking at moss on trees but with the exposure of the emails and CRU's reluctance to release/share evidence I become increasingly sceptical. Were they genuinely afraid that the models upon which AGW is based would be exposed as nonsense? I'm not sure I completely buy into conspiracy theories but to abuse, ridicule and ignore healthy scepticism certainlymakes me question the motives of those who promote AGW.
You're doing a good job Bill, keep it up. Del.

Bill Sticker said...

Dear 'Office of CIC'

Have reported your impersonation of the office of Canadian Immigration to the RCMP. They aren't very happy with someone impersonating official Canadian Agencies, and have passed your details on. To whom they did not say.

I'm afraid the lame 'It was all a joke' excuse isn't going to cut much ice with them.



P.S. Hope the handcuffs don't pinch too much.

Anonymous said...

Bill, just thought you would like to know, the BBC has reported this morning that 2010 (yes next year) will be the warmest on record.

Got that? Next year will be the warmest on record.

How do they know all this stuff? Which computer model told them so, or have they already got next year's temperature data on hand to produce at a moment's notice? This same Met Office also told us we would have a BBQ summer in the UK this year. We didn't, it was miserable and wet and temperatures were nowhere near above average.

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