CO2

Earth has passed the carbon tipping point, and that was 400 ppm of CO2 (which we cross the other day), the first time ever (if you ignore back when we had ice ages and the CO2 level was an unbelievably low 5,000-8,000 ppm). To a few, this increase means 6-7° of more warming coming, which will destroy humanity, cook off the planet, flood our cities, and we’re doomed. So says those who think the Milankovitch cycle is a fancy Polish Motorcycle, in articles like these: 

Good, now maybe the know-nothings will shut the hell up and let us get on with our lives, while they’re repeatedly proven wrong over the coming decades.

If I seem cynical, it’s because most people saying this stuff don’t understand the basics of what they’re talking about, and lecturing those who do. The gas leaking from the between their ears is a bigger threat to the planet. You can tell when they repeat things like the delusion that 97% of scientists agree. (They don’t). 

Here’s a little primer of the math, scale, history that someone must understand before being qualified to discuss any of this:

  • Radiative forcing is the second weakest of the forcing factors impacting our climate
  • The greenhouse effect is a fraction of radiative forcing
  • CO2 is one of the least significant of the greenhouse gasses in the greenhouse effect: responsible for less than 14% of the total. 
  • Man is responsible for releasing about 14Gt (Gigatons) of the 22,056,773Gt of greenhouse gasses in our system (773 Gt that cycles yearly), worst case, that’s about 1.8% of yearly CO2, and about 0.00006% of the greenhouse gases contained in our biosphere.
  • Every gram of CO2 that man releases into the ecosystem by burning oil, making cement, or burning trees, was once in our atmosphere in the first place. (Remember the planet is a closed system, we aren’t making CO2, we’re just recycling it back where it came from). 
  • We used to have between 5,0000-8,000 ppm (parts per million) of CO2. But it was trapped and sequestered into the land and sea by a process called carbon scrubbing. Almost everything is part of this scrubbing (counter-balancing carbon output), plants breathing and growing, animals dying, rain, fog and evaporation (CO2 is water soluble), other gasses combining, and so on. 
  • Back when we had 18 times the CO2 we have today, we used to have ice ages, and the Earth was often far cooler. (There’s a chart of CO2 versus temperature in the geological scale for those who’ve never seen it). Since then, all the processes involved in carbon scrubbing have sequestered the CO2, and our temps have gone up. (The fraud chart they’ve seen of last 50,000 years has all the data skewed and smoothed to show what they want, but it’s not what the data really looks like. )
  • Each doubling of CO2 results in 1° of warming. In the past 200 years, we’ve seen CO2 go up from 300-400 ppm, and every prediction about rate of increase (in CO2 or Temp), and the impacts, have all failed to come true — and most of that CO2 wasn’t from man. 
  • CO2 has never driver of temperature in the geological record (that we can tell). What’s happened is that temp goes up (we warm), then the oceans warm and release CO2, and we continue warming. CO2 may have contributed to that, or may not, we can’t prove either way and there’s a ton of dispute over whether it net warms or not and by how much. This time appears no different. We started warming 150 years before 1950’s, when mankind first put out over 1 Gt of CO2, and the rate of temp increase appears more or less constant before and after that time.
  • Most of the increase in CO2 is not because of man, but because as temps warmed, the oceans released more CO2. 
  • For the last 18 years we’ve seen a pause in temperature, despite putting out 18 Gt’s/year of CO2, and the models predicted many times more warming than we’ve actually seen. We know the models are broken and don’t work. Some are starting to admit that the reason for the lack of warming is because of decreased solar activity, but that means the models aren’t accounting for solar forcing properly. 
  • If CO2 can cause a run-away rise in temperatures, then why hasn’t it ever happened in 4.5B years? Despite much more volcanism and meteors, releasing far more CO2 than the entire history of man, (18x more CO2 than today), we never had a run-away CO2 event that the models predict will happen, when historically more CO2 meant more clouds (to reflect sunlight) and more plants (to absorb CO2) and we survived just fine. The system is either self-regulating (which explains our survival), or it’s balanced on a razor blade and just waiting to tip over (which contradicts how the planet survived this long). 

So those basics help some understand the basics of how overblown the hype is.

I don’t care if you believe in Global Warming, or the tooth fairy. I just care that people understand what the debate is about (for real), and why so many top scientists (like Dyson) believe that the hype is overblown. Read on for a deeper dive in the topics above. 

Scale and Scope of CO2 in the bigger picture

If you don’t know this stuff by heart, then you really are arguing from a position of ignorance. So learn all of this, and if you find any errors, please let me know so that I can fix them. 

Forcing Factors

What impacts the climate? Almost everything. The Earth’s climate is constantly changing due to the following factors (IN ORDER OF IMPORTANCE):

  • Solar output
  • variations in the Earths Orbit (Milankovitch cycle)
  • Volcanism
  • Meteorological events
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Ocean Variability
  • Radiative forcing (greenhouse effect is a small part of this)
  • Flora and Fauna

Man only contributes a minuscule amount to the weakest two — and higher CO2 increases flora and fauna (plants thrive and plants are food), so that helps regulate temperature. 

Greenhouse effect – understanding scale

The greenhouse effect is a small part of radiative forcing (the second weakest), and CO2 is a very small part of that. How small? 

  • About 90% of our warmth comes from the sun, about 10% from the earth itself.
  • Of that 90% (343W/M^2), about 30% is reflected into space immediately before getting into the atmosphere. 70% goes into our atmosphere.
  • Of that 70%, 50% is absorbed by the earth (plants, ocean, land, etc.),  20% of that light is captured by the atmosphere (greenhouse effect), and 30% goes back into space.
  • So the entire greenhouse effect is a very weak factor compared to minor fluctuation in something like solar output (which is constantly changing, and something not usually factored at all, into most of our climate models). But polemics can’t blame solar fluctuations or earth’s wobble on man, and demand higher taxes to fix it. So they focus on this minor one instead. 
  • The atmosphere is made up of about 77% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% water vapor, and .03% CO2.  We’ll start by ignoring the complexities of non-compounds that don’t "count" as a greenhouse gasses even-though they do trap heat and insulate, and just look at the compounds for simplicity — so we’re only paying attention to 1% of the atmosphere to start with.
  • Of that 1%, water vapor (clouds) are responsible for 75% of the remaining "greenhouse effect", and CO2 between 9-20% (14% is the most common agreed upon number), with methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (NO2), and ozone (O3) making up the rest.
  • Man is responsible for far less than 1% of all the CO2 that cycles each yearwhich is only 14% of the greenhouse compounds, which are only 2% of the gasses in the atmosphere, and all of that combined is the second weakest of the forcing factors on our climate. So the AGW argument is that the Earth survived for 4.5 billion years (and 18x the CO2 concentrations of today), but man’s .0025% increase in the greenhouse effect is going to cause some catastrophic tipping point that will destroy the earth, if you don’t give them your money, and the keys to your car, right now. So they fly corporate jets from Climate event to Climate event to protect us. 

The point is, most of the greenhouse effect isn’t CO2 , and most CO2 isn’t manmade. But you never hear that, because if you knew the truth, you might not be as malleable.  

To put actual numbers to that:

  •  man contributes about 14 Gt (9-12 billion tons directly, and a few indirectly through secondary effects like deforestation) to the 22,056,773+ Gt of just the greenhouse gasses we’re talking about (or about .0004%). That’s not even counting all the nitrogen and Oxygen which make up 98% of the atmosphere. And man never put out more than 1 Gt until the 1950’s. (The industrial revolution was a non-event for the planet, even if it impacted a few cities that occupy like .00001% of the land mass of the globe). 
  • There’s approximately 4,000,000 billion tons of H2O in the atmosphere, 18,000,000 billion tons of water vapor in the oceans, another 56,000 billion tons of CO2 locked away in carbon sinks, like soil, earth, plants, sediment and deep ocean.
  • And the real question is carbon scrubbing and the sequestration cycle — how fast does the earth scrub and trap carbon? But those numbers are hardly studied at all. What the models did is assume that scrubbing is a constant at rate it was at pre-1950’s — and not an adaptive system where rain dilutes more CO2 (as CO2 rates go up), or that more plants will grow just because it warms and becomes wetter and has more CO2 for them to breathe. And so on. We know that to be false, but their models don’t factor it in. 

History

  • CO2 has never caused any global warming that we can tell in the historical record. None. It might have magnified some of the natural warming that was happening, but it never "caused" it
  • The key word is cause. We did warm in the past (because of the other forcing factors), and that warming caused the oceans (one of our carbon sinks) to release more CO2 — and then we saw CO2 rise as a result of the other warming. Some people speculate that CO2 released contributed to more warming (after a couple hundred years) — but that theory is far from proven. And it doesn’t explain why we just started cooling and the CO2 went down. 
  • People get confused here. Why isn’t it proven? They think CO2 warming is a fact. Well, CO2 does catch wavelengths of light, and that’s "warming", so that part is known and is what most scientists are asked about ("Q: does CO2 cause warming? A: Yes"). But there are many other things at play that cause cooling as well. And all the variables in how much more is captured than is being lost (and why) is in big debate (this is called positive versus negative feedbacks). We know that the IPCC climate models don’t work, and they are where most of the scare comes from. There is consensus that the IPCC models are broken, the debate is only over how wrong they are. 
    • Think of what happens if CO2 doesn’t convert the light to heat. If it didn’t do that, the light would continue on to the earth and get mostly absorbed anyways — and with more insulation (distance) between where the heat is absorbed and space, that would have a BIGGER effect than in the upper atmosphere. So for it to matter, more has to be getting absorbed by the atmosphere than would have been absorbed anyways: and that seems highly unlikely. 
    • As the climate warms, we release more water vapor: which becomes clouds, which reflect light (albedo effect), resulting in cooling. As it warms, and CO2 is released and goes up, we get more plants that absorb more CO2 (especially algae’s), and sequester the CO2. 
    • Since so much of the energy is already captured by changes in atmosphere, even the biggest alarmist admit that each doubling of CO2 is at MOST worth 1-3° of warming, and that’s a worst-case scenario (and that’s based on the flawed simplification that is the IPCC models). In the last 200 years, we’ve gone from about 350 to 400 ppm of CO2 — and most of that happened long before man put out any globally measurable increases in CO2.
  • Remember, we had ice ages with 7,000 or 8,000 ppm of CO2, and for the last few million years, over 1,000 ppm has been the norm (over twice current). While we’ve gone up from 350-480 PPM in the last 140 years, most of that was before 1940 (when man started putting out more than 1 billion tons per year, over 99% of the additional CO2 in the atmosphere is from the oceans releasing more as we heat up, not from man) — and this warming trend starting in either 1800 or 1100 (with a mini-ice-age between).

Conclusion

If CO2 can cause a run-away rise in temperatures, then why hasn’t it ever happened in 4.5B years?

Despite much more volcanism and single meteors, releasing far more CO2 than the entire history of man, (18x more CO2 than today), we never had a run-away CO2+heating event that the models predict will happen. So either our historical record (and current observations) are wrong, or the models are wrong. You just put in them 7,000 ppm and see what happens to the temperature and they say we’d be like venus, not that we’d be like the ice planet of Hoth (which it sometimes more closely resembled). When the observations contradict your model, science says that your model is broken. Politics says you just spin it for the gullible rubes and keep selling it. The UN’s IPCC and the global warming alarmists keep doing the latter. 

We know there are forcing factors under-represented in the models. People that study solar forcing said their area was under represented. The atmospheric researchers pointed out that cloud albedo (reflectivity) was wrong and that more CO2 means more clouds, which don’t absorb as much light as they reflect (e.g. they have a net cooling effect, not warming). The AGW advocates and their models ignored their advice. When Michael Mann created the now debunked "Hockey Stick" the author of the "tree ring proxy" that Mann used for some of the temperature reconstruction said, ‘whatever you do, don’t use tree rings as a proxy for temperature, it’s better at representing precipitation than temps’. Michael Mann (and the IPCC) ignored the authors advice, and used it as a temperature proxy (that contradicted other proxies and the historical record), and it artificially misrepresented the record. And so on. 

The loudest voices supporting that the world is coming to an end, and quote all the reason why the models prove it, come in two flavors: (a) those completely ignorant about each of the data points they quote from freely (b) those that know better, but think this cause is too important to tell the truth over. 

But one of two things is happening: either the system is either self-regulating (which explains our survival) and this CO2 hokum is way overstated, or our entire ecosystem is balanced on a razor blade and just waiting to tip over (which contradicts how the planet survived this long), and if so, then CO2 is unlikely to be the biggest of our worries, since the next volcano is likely to set off a catastrophic cascade that wipes out humanity. But remember the Malthusians (chicken little’s) all predicting doom, have a long, long recorded history of predicting doom if you don’t give them money/power to fix it, and then complete failure (and are disproven) when most of society just wisely ignores them. I have to ask, why do you think this time it is any different, just because the choir is slightly larger? 

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