Wednesday, August 10, 2011

CO2 traps energy in atmosphere

FOX News doesn't get. Or are they paid not to get it? Are they willfully stupid?

From Media Matters for America: August 09, 2011 4:42 pm ET by Jocelyn Fong:

'Those who watched Fox News over the weekend were treated to a brief but ambitious science lesson on "Why CO2 Can't Cause Warming":

Oh boy. Let's take these one at a time.

During the segment Fox's global warming expert, Joe Bastardi, who is employed by the WeatherBELL meteorological consulting firm, declared that the theory of human-induced climate change "contradicts what we call the 1st law of thermodynamics. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So to look for input of energy into the atmosphere, you have to come from a foreign source."

It's not clear what to conclude from this except that Fox and Bastardi are not familiar with the greenhouse effect. Climate scientists aren't claiming that humans are creating energy. They're saying that humans are trapping more energy by increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Duke University scientist William Chameides, who called Fox's claims "utter nonsense," explained via email:

It is true that global warming requires a source of heat. In this case it comes from the sun. What CO2 does is trap a larger amount of the heat from the sun, preventing it from escaping and thus driving up temperatures. To argue otherwise is to argue that the greenhouse effect does not exist. In fact the existence of the greenhouse effect was established by scientists more than a century ago. It would be impossible to explain the temperatures of Mars and Venus, as well as the Earth, without invoking this effect.

Bastardi went on to claim Le Chatelier's Principle "says that any system in distress, physical or chemical in the atmosphere, tries to return toward normalcy. And that is why you're seeing temperatures level off."

In fact the notion of a system moving toward "normalcy," or more accurately, toward a new "equilibrium," explains why greenhouse gases do cause warming, rather than "Why CO2 Can't Cause Warming." By preventing infrared energy from efficiently escaping to space, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make it more difficult for the earth to maintain its previous energy balance, and thus its previous temperature.

Kevin Trenberth, Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained via email that the system "re-creates equilibrium" by heating up, since the surface and atmosphere radiate more at a higher temperature. As a result, "it reaches a new equilibrium but at a higher temperature," he said, adding: "And of course we keep adding more CO2 so we have not reached that new state yet."

Though it appears that Bastardi cites Le Chatelier's Principle in a general sense and not in reference to any specific process, the principle does have implications for "the uptake of fossil fuel carbon by the ocean," according to David Archer of the University of Chicago's Department of Geophysical Sciences. He said, "Without Le Chatelier's principle, the climate crisis would be much worse than it is, but even with this buffering, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is rising and will continue to remain elevated for tens of thousands of years into the future. So to suggest that Le Chatelier's principle is going to save us is wrong." And the principle certainly doesn't establish that "CO2 Can't Cause Warming."

And that's not all Fox got wrong.'

Read more here. Why is FOX News trying so hard to disprove what 97% of scientists agree on?

I like Media Matters!


Maury said...

I don't dispute the science. My problem is, we're looking a gift horse in the mouth. CO2 levels before the industrial revolution were barely adequate to grow a plant. Today, plants and crops are at least 20% larger, thanks to increased CO2. When CO2 levels go from 300 ppm, to 500 ppm, crops will produce up to 40% more. We know this, because greenhouse operators pipe in extra CO2 now.

Where would we be without all this extra CO2 that has accumulated over the last 100 years? Starving, that's where. World grain stocks have been shrinking over the last 10 years. There never would've been a surplus had CO2 levels not jumped so high.

On the flip side, global warming can be cured by blocking 1% of the sun's rays. There are numerous, inexpensive ways to do just that. These butthole scientists and policy makers would rather we wring our hands in gloom and despair instead. Thanks, but no thanks.

Muhannad said...

"The greenhouse effect is unquestionably real and helps to regulate the temperature of our planet. It is essential for life on Earth and is one of Earth's natural processes. It is the result of heat absorption by certain gases in the atmosphere (called greenhouse gases because they effectively 'trap' heat in the lower atmosphere) and re-radiation downward of some of that heat. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas, followed by carbon dioxide and other trace gases. Without a natural greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would be about zero degrees F (-18°C) instead of its present 57°F (14°C). So, the concern is not with the fact that we have a greenhouse effect, but whether human activities are leading to an enhancement of the greenhouse effect by the emission of greenhouse gases through fossil fuel combustion and deforestation."

Muhannad said...

"Human activity has been increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (mostly carbon dioxide from combustion of coal, oil, and gas; plus a few other trace gases). There is no scientific debate on this point. Pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide (prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution) were about 280 parts per million by volume (ppmv), and current levels are greater than 380 ppmv and increasing at a rate of 1.9 ppm yr-1 since 2000. The global concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere today far exceeds the natural range over the last 650,000 years of 180 to 300 ppmv. According to the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES), by the end of the 21st century, we could expect to see carbon dioxide concentrations of anywhere from 490 to 1260 ppm (75-350% above the pre-industrial concentration)."

Pisa said...

I'd like to know how did they measure the pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide. There were no means to do that back then. Did they extrapolate from the current increasing rate? That would be a bit though, since the rate varies pretty much.

I think the reason Fox News don't like the global warming is because it has become a political tool for leftists and opportunists. Puts some polish on tired anti-capitalism slogans.

If we talk about the distant future, there's no place for Earth in it. We have to take into account that our sun will get old and senile one day. Global warming or not, this ball of dirt will become unhabitable anyway. We should invest more in the search for a new home somewhere in the Universe.

Franky said...


You're a tool of the green energy companies.

Iraqi Mojo said...

I am a tool of the green energy companies? Cool!

Maury said...

Like I said Mojo, I don't dispute the science. But, the science also says the increased CO2 can feed 30 or 40% more people. That little benefit far outweighs the risk imo.

Anonymous said...

"I'd like to know how did they measure the pre-industrial levels of carbon dioxide. "

For older measurements, air bubbles in ice cores are used. But there are direct measurements for the past century or more, the period of rapid increase.

Most of the increase in crop yields is due to plant breeding, and irrigation, fertlisers and pesticides. I doubt the increase in CO2 helps much - CO2 concentration is not the limiting factor on plant growth in most cases.

On the other hand, the acidification of the oceans may be quite harmful to plant cells.