CO2: Understanding the basics

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If you believe a slew of articles that are out there like these Tipping Point articles[1], then earth has passed the carbon tipping point (400 ppm of CO2, which we cross the other day), which means 6-7° of more warming is coming, which will; destroy humanity, cook off the planet, flood our cities, and we're doomed. 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, just like they have been for the last couple hundred years.

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 we're doomed. They don’t, by the way. So here's a little primer of the math, scale, history that someone must understand before being qualified to discuss any of this.

Big Three Prerequisites

Three general fact areas that people must understand, or they immediately fall into Dunning-Kruger are:

Forcing Factors

  • What impacts the climate? In order of importance they are: 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
  • Radiative forcing is one of the weakest of the forcing factors impacting the Earth's climate. The greenhouse effect is a second weakest part of radiative forcing. And CO2 is a very small part of the greenhouse effect. And man contributed a minuscule amount of CO2.
  • Every part of forcing factors are still debated, especially the important ones carbon sequestration, cloud albedo, and CO2 scrubbing (how fast can the earth correct for increases in CO2). If the earth wasn't a self-balancing system, then why didn't we cook-off in the last 4.5B years, or back when we had 10x the CO2 we have today?

Greenhouse Effect

  • Radiative forcing is one of the weakest of the forcing factors impacting the Earth's climate. The greenhouse effect is a second weakest part of radiative forcing. And CO2 is a very small part of the greenhouse effect. How small? Mankind contributes 14Gt of the 22,056,773+ Gt of all greenhouse gasses in our system (about .0004%).

Climate History

Climate.png
  • CO2 has never caused any global warming (that we can tell) in the historical record. None.
  • Historically, warming causes the oceans to release more CO2, and then we saw CO2 rise as a result of the other warming.
  • Some speculate that the CO2 released from this warming magnified the warming that was happening, but that doesn't explain why we cooled down again (even with higher CO2 levels).
  • Remember, we had ice ages with 7,000 or 8,000 ppm of CO2, and for the last few million years the average CO2 level has been over 1,000 ppm (twice the current levels).
  • We’ve gone up from 300-400 PPM in the last 200 years -- however, half of that happened before man contributed much to the CO2 cycle at all (beginning around 1950 when man first crossed the 1 gigaton/year level), and much of the rest was due to the Oceans releasing CO2.


  • 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 atmospherically is a [mostly] closed system, we aren’t making CO2, we’re just recycling it back where it came from). (Solar winds blow some atmosphere away, meteors/meteorites add matter, but these are minuscule).
  • 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.

Remember the basics: mankind is a small contributor to CO2, CO2 is a low contributor to greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a small part of radiative forcing, and radiative forcing is one of the least significant of the Forcing factors on our climate.

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?

Reference

  1. Tipping Point articles

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