Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why Increases in CO2 Entering the Atmosphere Can Not Cause Global Warming

In response to my post, Thinking Outloud About Climate Change, where I ask how can additional quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere cause global warming since the there is a limit to the amount of  absorption and emission of infrared radiation that can go on in the atmosphere, a commenter links to a paper by Miklos Zagoni, who discusses Ferenc Miskolczi's Saturated Greenhouse Effect Theory.

Miskolczi's theory appears to fall in line somewhat with my speculative theory. Zagoni explains part of Miskolczi's theory (my bold):
Surface warming is possible only if the available energy increases. This may happen through changes in the activity of the Sun, or through variations of our planet’s orbital parameters,or through long-term fluctuations in the exchange of heat between the ocean and the atmosphere.There are also some man-made sources. Air-pollution by aerosols (soot, black carbon, dust,smog etc.), and large-scale surface modifications according to urbanization and land-use change may—and probably do—alter the amount of absorbed and reflected short wave energy, and can hence lead to change in the long-term energy balance.
But Miskolczi's theory goes on to explain another phenomena. Zagoni explains:
Here is the picture. The Earth’s atmosphere maintains a constant effective greenhouse-gas content and a constant, maximized, “saturated” greenhouse effect that cannot be increased further by CO2 emissions (or by any other emissions, for that matter). After calculating on the basis of the entire available annual global mean vertical profile of the NOAA/NCAR atmospheric reanalysis database, Miskolczi has found that the average greenhouse effect of the past 61 years (from 1948, the beginning of the archive, to 2008) is –constant, not increasing; equal to the unperturbed theoretical equilibrium value; and
equal (within 0.1 C°) to the global average value, drawn from the independent TIGR radiosonde archive.During the 61-year period, in correspondence with the rise in CO2 concentration, the global average absolute humidity diminished about 1 per cent. This decrease in absolute humidity has exactly countered all of the warming effect that our CO2 emissions have had since 1948. Similar computer simulations show that a hypothetical doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the air would cause a 3% decrease in the absolute humidity, keeping the total effective atmospheric greenhouse gas content constant, so that the greenhouse effect would merely continue to fluctuate around its equilibrium value. Therefore, a doubling of CO2 concentration would cause no net “global warming” at all.
In other words, there is kind of a balancing that goes on between gasses that results in a general equilibrium, which further means that increases in gases, like say CO2, will result in a decline in other atmospheric gasses, specifically absolute humidity.

I want to emphasize that I am far from an expert in the area of climate but am posting these notes and observations as I examine the topic. There could very well be opposing views to the theories expressed here that I am not aware of, but the logic, from my perspective of limited knowledge in the area, sounds strong.



  1. Of course, even if man-made global warming were one day disproved beyond any shadow of a doubt, that won't stop the "climate change" claims and "climate denier" finger pointing whenever there is a storm, cold front, drought, or anything else formerly known as "the weather."

    Even years ago, when the Keystone XL debate started up, political groups were issuing dire warnings with incredibly vague language like, "NASA climatologists warn that Keystone XL pipeline will be game over for the climate."

    Emphasis on "the climate," with no qualifying claim that it would be hotter, colder, or disastrous in any specific way. They danced all around "global warming" and made sure to leave themselves an out.

    I don't see them talking up pollution anymore, either, which the average person can see with their own eyes is not an issue. At least they're running out of scary words.

    Their "message" has now degenerated to Elizabeth Warren's "11 commandments of progressives" stating that, "We believe in science."

    You don't win the kids over by putting a 65 year old lady on TV and openly claiming that science is about secular religion, not proof.

    "Progressives" are now about the most conservative group around. They have had no new ideas in decades, possibly even a century.

  2. Yes, but what is the balancing mechanism? The Thermostat Hypothesis is the best source I've read on this subject:

  3. Climate change (formerly global warming) is the biggest scam since central banking. It's goal is the centralization of power, regardless of how bogus its rationale might be.

    My fear is that the looming global economic collapse will be so devastating that people will clamor for a strong man to plan our future for us. If you thought putting an community-organizing economic ignoramus in the White House was a terrible idea (is there any legitimate debate after six sorry years?), imagine someone micro-managing the lives of 7 billion people!

    You can bet that such a development would impoverish all but the politically-connected, and any vestige of individual liberty would be squashed. No guns (except for the government goons), no privacy, no rights they don't grant us. In other words, we all become serfs serving the parasitic elites.

  4. It's all about the supposed positive feedback for the alarmists and their models. So this won't make any difference to them (not that any legitimate criticism or questions about the science make any difference to their ideologically driven "science").

  5. I agree that if there really was a significant first-principles effect of CO2 concentration on temperature, we probably should have seen it already. What is the alarmist's response to all of the data from sun activity?

    From what I hear, they don't seem to adhere as much to the warming aspect as they do to just "climate change". So instead of CO2 causing warming, it just causes change, and change is bad. Without CO2, apparently, we would have the same climate always. This doesn't explain ice ages very well (or anything else).

    I just have a hard time believing either side's conclusion on this issue. It's difficult enough to calculate a heat balance in a Ford F150 engine (where we can measure and quantify every single component), but suddenly a bunch of people are going to tell us they can calculate the same for the planet?

    Both sides lose credibility when talking in absolutes, but the alarmist view seems to have a lot more work to do.

  6. Here's my take for what it's worth. I take my cue from George Carlin. There's been life on Earth for about 3 billion years. Compared to volcanoes and oceanic methane burps, man's "greenhouse" output is like a fart in a hurricane. So, 3 billion years of massive CO2 belches and life on Earth persists. The Earth is a self-corrected system. QED

  7. Bob,

    I respect your work in advancing libertarian ideas too much to let you get the physics behind atmospheric absorption of infrared radiation by CO2 incorrect. If the theory of CO2 "saturation" was correct, then one would not detect any infrared radiation in the area of the infrared spectrum where CO2 absorbs when measured with a spectrometer on a satellite in the outer atmosphere when it is pointed towards the Earth. But, that is not what we see experimentally.

    As I said yesterday, all are directed to the ACS Climate Science Toolkit for comprehensive details on the subject of absorption of infrared radiation in the atmosphere by CO2. Specifically, see this page:

    Apparently the link is not enough, so let me quickly summarize. The Earth emits infrared radiation as a "greybody" because it has energy (temperature). The infrared radiation emitted by the greybody is absorbed by various greenhouse gas molecules in the atmosphere. What you are missing is that there are other things in the atmosphere including gases, clouds, and particulate matter, that are also emitting greybody radiation simply as a result of having energy (temperature). So, to summarize, the Earth is not the only emitter of radiation that is subsequently absorbed by CO2. The theory of CO2 "saturation" in the atmosphere is false.

    1. The argument about satellites still seeing supposedly fully absorbed radiation is, of course, nonsense. Anything which absorbs radiation at some frequency is also capable of emitting radiation at exactly the same frequency. What happens when a molecule interacts with a photon is that it gets to the higher energy level, from which it decays back to low energy level by re-emitting the photon at the same frequency (but in a different direction), or by emitting multiple photons at lower frequencies. The same-frequency process is the most common in gases, and is called Rayleigh scattering. So no matter what you do, if all scattering is elastic the amount of outgoing radiation (in both direction equally) is going to be the same as amount of radiation emitted by the surface - it will just simply bounce from molecule to molecule until it gets out. It effectively lengthens the path of the outgoing radiation, and at smaller concentrations returns up to half emitted radiation back to the surface, until practically all photons are scattered. After that increase of concentration has no effect. Basically, this changes opaqueness from fully transparent (letting 100% of radiation to escape directly) to fully opaque (with 50% photons reflected back, to be reflected back from the surface, etc).

      Now, there's the second process, Raman scattering, which is inelastic,and converts part of the photon energy into vibrational modes (I.e. increases temperature). Raman scattering is also reversible (i.e. it can be used to increase photon energy). This process, however, is a lot less important in gases.

      So, a model which treats all absorption as inelastic (i.e. thermal) like a "gray" body is seriously unrealistic: the thermal equilibrium is affected only by a small portion of the scattered radiation. There are also issue of *where* the scattering takes place (at some point the gas becomes thin enough to stop being opaque, allowing more than half of the radiation to escape). It is what happens at that interface what matters: the rest of atmosphere is opaque (i.e. scatters strongly) at the relevant frequencies.

      As it happens, the interface layer lays above the tropopause, so there's no convective thermal coupling, so the main effect of increase of CO2 is raising the level at which atmosphere becomes transparent higher (so that effective thermal resistance grows).

      In other words: the absorption saturation model is bunk, but so are the simplistic thermal equilibrium models. And, of course, there's also a question of atmospheric H2O, which is also a strong infrared scattering gas, much more relevant to what happens at the surface, particularly because increased surface temperatures lead to increased atmospheric H2O, which directly leads to increased efficiency of convectional heat transport from surface to the sub-tropopause layer of the atmosphere, and increased cloud cover (which due to high albedo reflects more of the visible light to space). In other words, the real Earth DOES have a thermostat, unlike Venus (which doesn't have liquid water at the surface).