Okay, lets go back and talk about this consensus of scientists for a minute.
So far I’ve mostly confined myself to a critique of the public image side of this whole thing, and poking some holes in the bubble of fake certitude that our erstwhile green priesthood are riding on.
However, that’s not to say there aren’t some grave and compelling flaws in the basic science, because there are. Try and follow along an understand that any errors are my misreading, and not errors in conclusions, which are not mine to begin with.
For starters, I’d be curious to know, of the ‘consensus’ of scientists that put their weight behind something like the IPCC, how exactly does that break down by field? How many chemists? How many computer modelers? How many biologists? How many oceanographers? How many climatologists?
But most of all… how many physicists? How many people trained in elementary physics are there who take this raving apocalyptic scenario seriously?
I’m wondering, because when you google ‘global warming physics’, much of what you get is middling credulity, bordering on outright scorn, for the whole thing. I have yet to see or hear of a climate catastrophist who had any real grounding in basic physcial principles.
One possible exception I know of, who is a vocal AGW agitator is Noam Mohr, who appears to confine himself mainly to the implications of vegitarianism/veganism on the climate. I saw one youtube video of him with a notable skeptic of global warming, and he was unable, or unwilling, to answer any of the raised points. At all. He seemed satisfied to trust that his colleagues had done their work properly, and that if you had a problem with it, you should ask them, or trust peer review to sort it out.
So I’m willing to bet that Mr Mohr’s attitude is typical of some segment of the scientific consensus. Which is too bad, because most physicists that I’m aware of have some pretty interesting things to say about the greenhouse effect.
In essence the global warming effect, when you get down to basic physical principles is about absorption and radiation.
The earth absorbs the sun’s radiation and re-radiates it back into space. The atmosphere stops a lot of this energy from striking the earth at all, including pretty much all the infra red ( heat) radiation. The outer layers absorb it completely and gradualy re-radiate it back into space.
The heat we experience down here comes from the more intense blue part of the spectrum that strikes the earth, and that the earth, once again, re-radiates as longer wave ‘black body’ heat. Greenhouse gasses like co2, water vapor and methane absorb that heat again and re-radiate at longer wavelengths yet, keeping it from going back into space. If it were not for this layer of insulation, earth would be about 33 degrees colder than it is now. The amount of co2 we happen to have now is responsible for about 3 degrees of this warming.
Which is all fine you might say, but what’s the point?
The point, as they say, is this: when you’re dealing with the physics of absorbing and trapping heat, changes in the balance of gasses do not have a linear effect. It’s logarithmic
What does that mean? It means that doubling (for instance) the co2 does not double the amount of heat the co2 is trapping. Our atmosphere is already saturated enough to essentially trap nearly all the IR that can be trapped, in the spectra that co2 can affect. This is important to remember: co2 does not, indeed can not, trap all the heat radiated by the earth, no matter how much of it there is. As it is, much of the heat radiation passes through layers of co2 as if it isn’t even there. The interference spectra simply do not line up, any more than most minerals or gasses affect cosmic rays. All we might do is slow down the process of re-emmitting some of that heat into space, which would, in effect, bring the layers of heat slightly closer to the surface.
I invite you to investigate this and understand it better, but essentially, every time you add co2, the net increase in temperature is less than before. Eventually there is no more heat to absorb, regardless of how much co2 you add. If we were to actually double our atmospheric co2 the increase in temperature would be an estimated 1.5 to 2.5 degrees, proceeding from the baseline mathematics of the warming our atmosphere already does.
Depending on whom you talk to, that 3 degrees equals either something in line with the balmy medieval optimum, or, according to James Hansen in vanity fair, sea levels high enough to drown skyscrapers. History would seem to predispose us to the former.
Keep in mind that in the last 170 years humans accounted for ( at the most) about a 30% increase of atmospheric co2, by my glance at the numbers, and that increase seems to have been less than catastrophic, even assuming we caused all of it:
The twenty year smoothed Law Dome DE02 and DE02-2 ice cores show the levels of CO2 to have been 284 ppm in 1832. As of January 2007, the measured atmospheric CO2 concentration at theMauna Loa observatory was about 383 ppm. Of this 99 ppm rise in 175 years, 70 ppm of it has been in the last 47 years. (wikipedia)
Considering what we’ve already done, and our predicted peak in oil and coal use in the early to middle part of this century, our chances of actually doubling the content that exists is basically nil. About the only thing that might do that is a massive warming of the oceans, catastrophic volcanism, or the mass extinction of all organic life, and subsequent decay of carbon based life systems. The main reservior of co2 is the oceans, and they operate on a centuries long timetable so far as warming and cooling, and no climate theorist in his right mind thinks we can warm the oceans with the greenhouse effect (the reason is that IR only penetrates the top few microns of the ocean surface ) .
Quite simply, while we do indeed warm the earth with co2, it is already about as warmed by our activity as it can get, and for us to do much more is probably not in the realm of our abilties and timeframe . The main greenhouse gas is water vapour and we have no control over this whatsoever, and no clear understanding of how to influence it indirectly, or even model it, which is why climate scientists focus mainly on co2 and methane.
This is not some computer model with a bunch of poorly understood variables. This is pretty simple math, actually, and while our understanding of climate is basically nil ( we don’t even know how clouds form, for instance), the electromagnetic spectrum and gaseous radiation is pretty straighforward.
The projections for catastrophic global warming simply do not mesh with physics as we understand it. So do we overturn physics too, in our rush to ‘reduce our footprint’, or do we give our heads a shake and go back to the chalkboard?