Friday, August 7, 2009

More Global Warming Nonsense

This article boggles the mind. The plan is to create artificial clouds to block more of the sun. Since global temperature is controlled by the sun, this almost makes sense. However, the article never acknowledges this. Rather, it argues both that particles/gases in the atmosphere would decrease the temperature and also that we should still worry about reducing particles/gases if they come from your car. Which is it?!?


Sarah and Maggie said...

I would like to address your comment: "Rather, it argues both that particles/gases in the atmosphere would decrease the temperature and also that we should still worry about reducing particles/gases if they come from your car. Which is it?!?"

I am an astronomer and study climate on planets and would like to try to answer your question. It can be resolved simply by understanding a bit more of the details of the greenhouse effect. Clouds are made of water droplets, and do scatter sunlight and contribute to our Albedo (the amount of energy from the Sun that is reflected before reaching the Earth). Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (not droplets) let in visible light and trap re-emitted infrared heat from the earth. If Earth had no atmosphere, the average temperature would be very cold, around -19 deg Celsius. This can be calculated by balancing the incoming flux (energy) from the Sun by the outgoing flux, which is emitted in by infrared (thermal) radiation.

Because of our atmosphere, the average temperature of Earth is much warmer, around 15 degrees Celsius. So greenhouse gases are not bad in and among themselves. You are right, the Sun is the largest contributor to global climate, it accounts for 255 degrees of warming. BUT, greenhouse gases compose of that very important 33-34 degrees of warming that keeps us above freezing. So greenhouse gases are very important, but have negative consequences in excess.

Water vapor/humidity (not just clouds) in the atmosphere is the biggest greenhouse gas, followed by carbon dioxide and methane. Thus, injecting clouds in the atmosphere will increase the Albedo (amount of energy from the Sun that is reflected) of Earth will increase, and thus cool the planet. There is a good video by NOVA called, "Global Dimming" which goes into this. Adding more greenhouse gases, such as CO2 from driving your car, absolutely will warm the planet and contribute to global warming.

Therefore to stop global warming, we should have to do a combination of reducing emissions and environmental engineering (to reverse the effect we have already caused). Thus yes, it makes logical sense to stop driving your car so much and to look at possible geoengineering solutions at the same time for the most economical solution.

Why should we care?
Global warming is a serious issue, even for just a 1 degree rise of temperature. Melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is very worrisome as it most definitely will cause a rise in sea level, up to 7 meters. By some estimates, 1 meter rise in sea level is almost inevitable at this time. Consider, then, that 25% of the world's fertile growing regions are within 1 meter of sea level. Preventing 25% of our loss of food will take a huge effort and amount of money.

I hope this clarifies some of your questions. I come from a very conservative background in Montana, and notice that most people who are against global warming, are only against it because it's "the conservative thing to do" not because of any real understanding of the science behind the issue. Scientific literacy should be a concern for every voting American in making decisions on such issues. The main logical fallacy in your post is that all particles/gases are not equal in their effects on climate. Especially since particles often cool the planet (such as pollution or clouds) and gases often warm the planet (such as CO2 or water vapor).

Philip said...

Thanks for your comment. You seem to know quite a bit about climate science (certainly much more than me). What do you make of the negative corrolation between temperature and CO2 over the last 10/50/100/500 years as opposed to the positive corrolation between temperature and solar activity over the same time?

I don't doubt that our climate changes and cycles. What I disagree with is the idea that paople have anything much to do with it. Volcanos and the gas expelled by cows would surely register a larger (albeit tiny) effect.

Your worst-case scenario has us spending lots of effort and money to compensate for food shortages. Have you looked at pending climate legislation? The cost to "fix" the problem will cost just as much, if not more, effort and money. And if you like ethanol, we get food shortages on top of it!

I don't want to see our planet destroyed, but I also don't believe we could do that if we wanted to. And I certainly don't want to see our economy and standard of living destroyed based on misinterpreted science.

Sarah and Maggie said...

I would first like to ask you, why (philosophically) are you opposed to the idea that humans are influencing climate. Isn't it possible that with our technological advances we are having a far greater impact on the Earth than before the industrial revolution? Also you admit you don't really understand the science behind the issue, however you claim the science is bad or misinterpreted. Upon what basis?

Next, what is your source for the statement: "of the negative corrolation between temperature and CO2 over the last 10/50/100/500 years as opposed to the positive corrolation between temperature and solar activity over the same time?"

First, the solar activity is an 11 year cycle, so this is really unrelated to warming trends over longer time periods. Secondly, there is a positive correlation between CO2 and temperature -- it's a greenhouse gas. Physics and chemistry explain it quite well.

Pre-industrial revolution levels of CO2 were around 285ppm (as measured from ice cores and since the 1960s directly in the atmosphere: Now the level is pushing 384ppm. That is a substantial relative increase of around 35%. The volcanic output of greenhouse gases has, on average, been constant on human timescales.

Secondly, there is a lag time effect of CO2 emissions and final CO2 concentration. In essence due to the residence time or "turnover time" of CO2, even if we were to suddenly stop ALL emission of CO2 into the atmosphere, we would still measure an increase CO2 levels in the atmosphere for the next 150 years before it reached a steady state (leveled out).

On geological timescales (~400,000 yrs), yes the Earth does regulate climate. Solar luminosity (energy flux) has increased steadily since the formation of Earth yet the climate has been relatively constant. This is due to the Carbon-Silicate cycle which is controlled by biology and geology. So yes, in 400,000 the Earth should resolve whatever damage we cause now. But are you willing to wait that long? We need to do something now, as this issue will directly affect our children and grandchildren.

Finally, my worst case scenario is not about money, it's about massive famines and millions of people dying. Do you think the wealthy nations (after causing a large part of this problem) are really going to help prevent the loss of agricultural land in poorer nations? How much do you monetary value do you put on each human life if dealing with the problem later is supposedly less expensive that reducing emissions?

I don't believe our planet will be "destroyed" just that we are not being the best stewards of the resources and Earth God gave us. And we are causing ourselves undo harm. Ironically, the environmental movement was originally Republican and from Biblical teachings, I'd expect Christians to be the most staunch supporters of being "green". Materialism (which is a huge part of the Global Warming issue ) is sure not on Jesus' priority list.

Sarah and Maggie said...

I would also like to mention that before I really understood more about climate science, I was also skeptical of Global Warming. Since it's become so politically charged, it's difficult to look at unbiased reports on it and everyone and their mother has their own opinion supposedly backed by "science". Climate is a very complex system, and there are many unresolved questions, such as the amount of predicted warming, the rate the ice sheets will melt etc. But there are a few things that remain sure 1) carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. It has in the past, it does so now, and it will warm the Earth and 2) human activity has added substantially to the carbon concentration since the industrial revolution. This is independent from volcanic activity or other non-human sources.

Philip said...

See HERE for further discussion.