November 27, 2009
Politics and Greenhouse Gases
Advocates and sympathetic politicians claiming that man-made global warming from use of carbon-based energy sources mandates international controls on economically prosperous nations were already worried that their victory is slipping. Now another blow has been struck against the basic "science" used to support their case. Following an extensive theoretical analysis, two German physicists have determined that the term greenhouse gas is a misnomer and that the greenhouse effect appears to violate basic laws of physics.
To briefly review, the entire argument for immediate political action on carbon-based emissions rests upon three premises, formulated over the last twenty years by scientists affiliated with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
1. The planet is experiencing worldwide atmospheric warming, threatening life as we know it.
2. This warming is unprecedented because average worldwide temperatures for at least a thousand years have shown no significant variation until the last seventy years, which correlates with a thirty-percent increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) gas generated by industrial activity.
3. Invoking a "greenhouse effect" model, the IPCC claims that CO2 exhibits a property involving special characteristics of long-wave energy absorption and radiation with altitude (called "radiative forcing") which accelerates near-surface warming and, as the CO2 quantity increases, spells planetary disaster unless reversed.
In an AT article posted September 27, I laid out the case for why the first two premises were flawed, if not outright fraudulent. Now, the IPCC "consensus" atmospheric physics model tying CO2 to global warming has been shown not only to be unverifiable, but to actually violate basic laws of physics.
The analysis comes from an independent theoretical study detailed in a lengthy (115 pages), mathematically complex (144 equations, 13 data tables, and 32 figures or graphs), and well-sourced (205 references) paper prepared by two German physicists, Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf Tscheuschner, and published in several updated versions over the last couple of years. The latest version appears in the March 2009 edition of the International Journal of Modern Physics. In the paper, the two authors analyze the greenhouse gas model from its origin in the mid-19th century to the present IPCC application.
The Greenhouse Model
The paper initially tackles the concept of thermal conductivity of the atmosphere (vital for any discussion of radiative heat transfer) and how it is affected by carbon dioxide, which, they point out, is a trace gas. The current estimated concentration of CO2 is 0.04% by volume and 0.06% by mass. Gerlich and Tscheuschner show that even if CO2 concentrations double (a prospect even global warming advocates admit is decades away), the thermal conductivity of air would not change more than 0.03% -- within the margin of measuring error.
The authors then devote nearly twenty pages to a detailed theoretical and experimental model analysis of the classic glass greenhouse. This model posits that glass surrounding a large volume of air allows solar radiation to pass through to heat the greenhouse surface and then selectively blocks resulting infrared energy from escaping. However, calculations show that no property of glass can adequately explain the temperature rise. Normal glass assumed in the model just cannot selectively screen and filter sufficient radiation energy by spectral absorption or reflection. Thus, assumption of a dominant radiative heating model must be incorrect.
Gerlich and Tscheuschner rely on referenced experimental evidence to show what is really going on. The dominant heat transfer mechanism is not radiation, but convection. Experimental evidence shows a greenhouse interior warms merely because the glass physically traps interior rising air, which then becomes warmer and warmer relative to air outside the greenhouse, which conversely can rise and cool unimpeded.
If the classic glass greenhouse model is obviously wrong, then this raises suspicions about the atmospheric "greenhouse effect" itself. The authors examine definitions of "greenhouse effect" by three respected sources (the Dictionary of Geophysics, Astrophysics, and Astronomy; the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics; and Encyclopedia Britannica Online). They show how each uses ill-defined global concepts (such as "mean temperature"), confuse infrared radiation with heat (they're different), incorrectly describe the physics inside a glass greenhouse, and use other terms unsupported by the laws of physics.
Surprisingly, the authors find that the term "atmospheric greenhouse effect" does not occur in any fundamental work or text involving thermodynamics, physical kinetics, or radiation theory. They then attempt to fill that void. They first derive the generalized equations a computer would have to solve to calculate an average radiative temperature for a rotating smooth globe without oceans (half exposed to the sun and half not) and inclined relative to the sun (as is Earth). They show that for a globe the size of Earth, even this simple non-convection model would be unsolvable by the most powerful computers available today or for the foreseeable future -- not only because of the quantity of calculations required, but also because of the impossibility of setting the initial boundary conditions at every point needed to even begin the calculation process.
Relevant Atmospheric Physics
Gerlich and Tscheuschner next show that even the simplest forms of the special equations needed for a true analysis of magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) relationships involved in planetary atmospheric heating cannot be solved -- even for small-space regions and small-time intervals -- because of the inhomogenities of each fluid involved and relevant solid, liquid, and gaseous phases to be considered. The real world is just too complex.
However, they are able to show that MHD-type equations offer no terms corresponding to absorption of electromagnetic radiation, do not include equations for "radiative transfer," and give no indication of the point where the concentration of carbon dioxide would even enter into the computations. Further, they go on to show that any mechanism whereby CO2 in the cooler upper atmosphere could exert any thermal enhancing or "forcing" effect on the warmer surface below violates both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
There are too many different transfer phenomena (radiative transfer, heat transfer, momentum transfer, mass transfer, energy transfer, etc.) and types of interfaces (static or moving) between solids, fluids, gases, plasmas, etc. for which no applicable scientific theory nor ability to determine boundary conditions exists. "Hence, the computer simulations of global climatology are not based on physical laws," the authors conclude (their emphasis). "Nevertheless, in their summaries for policymakers, global climatologists claim that they can compute the influence of carbon dioxide on the climate."
Dr. Roy Spencer, in his book Climate Confusion, points out how man-made global warming alarmists attempt to mislead the public by claiming that global CO2 emissions total about 50 billion tons per year while failing to acknowledge that the total weight of the atmosphere is 5 quadrillion tons. In other words, the 50 billion tons adds to 5 million billion tons, or a mere 10 parts per million -- relatively speaking, a trivial change each year.
Spencer shows how with oceans covering nearly seventy percent of Earth, water vapor and ocean currents totally dominate our global climate. He attributes oceanic and atmospheric circulation in the North Pacific as the dominant modern climate forcing mechanism. As for infrared radiation, Gerlich and Tscheuschner agree with earlier studies that water vapor is responsible for most of the IR absorption in the Earth's atmosphere. Thus, any infrared radiation absorbed by carbon dioxide represents only a tiny part of the full IR spectrum and is affected little by raising CO2 concentration.
Gerlich and Tscheuschner state without equivocation that there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect which explains the relevant physical phenomena. They call the terms greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases "deliberate misnomers" and a "myth beyond physical reality" and conclude:
The point discussed here was to answer the question, whether the supposed atmospheric effect has a physical basis. This is not the case. In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.
Thus, scientific support for the man-made global warming hoax slowly collapses while politicians rush to lock in massive international wealth-redistribution in its name. Those pesky "greenhouse gases" just don't behave in a politically correct manner.