Thursday, June 26, 2008

If you can’t stand the heat, keep out of the kitchen

Devil's Kitchen is having a tedious grappling match with Labour MP Paul Flynn over whether humans are causing climate change.

I've read and posted on this before so, with a sinking sense of deja vu, I am going to wade back into the fray and make exactly the same points as I did last time. See, told you it was tedious!

The devil is not in the detail of whether global warming is happening. Therefore, to whine on about any of the following is to miss the point: the Stern review; the accuracy of any one graph; the equations used in any model or models; the beliefs held by a majority of UK MPs; and the number of eminent academics publicly demanding action.

Here's all you actually need to know if a climate change denialist crawls out from under a damp log near you and claims humans are having no effect on global temperatures.

Do CO2 and other gases affect the Earth's temperature?

Yes. Gases like CO2 and methane are responsible for keeping the Earth's temperature 33 degrees C warmer than it would otherwise be. See this Encyclopedia Britannia diagram for an explanation of this natural greenhouse effect.

Can relatively small changes in the gases and particles in the atmosphere have a profound effect on global weather and temperatures?

Yes. In 1815, a volcano called Tambora in Indonesia erupted, belting 100 - 150 cubic kilometres of ash and debris into the atmosphere. 200 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide, the same weight as 100 million SUVs, entered the upper atmosphere (stratosphere). It sounds like a lot of sulphur dioxide, but the weight of the whole atmosphere is around 5 quadrillion tonnes (50 with 14 zeroes *).

The ash, debris and sulphur dioxide in the upper atmosphere blocked sunlight reaching the Earth and meant that 1816 was 'the year without a summer'. The Asian Monsoon was affected and, in New England and Canada, snow fell in June.

How much CO2 and other gases have humans added to the atmosphere?

760 billion tonnes of CO2 between the industrial revolution and 2005, assuming the figure for the weight of the atmosphere I have here is correct! That's 3800 times the amount of CO2 than sulphur dioxide.

Bearing in mind that CO2 is a pretty pathetic global warmer compared to the cooling effect of sulphur dioxide, that's a still lot of CO2. And it's hanging around too, unlike sulphur dioxide, which tends to leave the atmosphere relatively quickly.

It's entirely possible to argue about the exact amount average global temperatures will rise for a given rise in CO2. After all, climate scientists are arguing about this too. But what is clear, is it's not tenable to argue all this CO2 is sitting about in the atmosphere with no effect at all. Zero. Nada. Nothing.

* Actually somewhere between 4.7 and 5.5 quadrillion, depending on whether you're using US or European tonnes. It's a lot, basically.

The Devil's Kitchen: Paul Flynn MP: criminally ignorant moron

5 Comments:

  • At 10:13 pm , Blogger Jennie said...

    * bookmarks *

    This is going in my "things to show stupid people" folder, along with JFGI, conversational terrorism, and "here here"

     
  • At 6:55 am , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    I'm loving conversational terrorism. Madsen Pirie, President of the Adam Smith Institute, wrote a book called "How to win every argument" on how to beat your enemies into submission using said techniques.

     
  • At 10:16 am , Blogger Jennie said...

    Ah, you see, I use CT as a link to show people why they are using invalid techniques. LOL

     
  • At 10:49 pm , Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

    "Do CO2 and other gases affect the Earth's temperature?

    Yes. Gases like CO2 and methane are responsible for keeping the Earth's temperature 33 degrees C warmer than it would otherwise be."


    I'm sorry, but you are wrong here. Even the AGW enthusiasts admit that the single biggest contributor to the greenhouse effect is water vapour.

    Please remind yourself that CO2 is present in the atmosphere in about 0.03%, or 380 parts per million. Its effect is actually quite small.

    Further, CO2 only traps heat in a certain wavelength. Radiation, which heat is, exists along a spectrum of wavelengths, and CO2 blocks a far smaler wavelength than water vapour. There is also far less of it.

    Maybe if you stopped dismissing the rather more considered science and stopped instead to wonder why we measure all of these different things via different methods, you wouldn't be so mistaken.

    DK

    DK

     
  • At 6:47 am , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    Yippee! A climate change denialist! [rubs hands together]

    As you will notice, I write 'gases like...' when discussing the natural greenhouse effect. I give two examples relevant to the argument I was making - 'like' means it is not an exhaustive list. Other gases, such as nitrous oxide, are also greenhouse gases.

    Hence, I never actually disagreed with you that there were other greenhouse gases apart from CO2 and methane.

    What this has to do with the price of fish, however, escapes me.

    Perhaps you can go into details of the argument you are trying to make so that I can refute it.

    > Please remind yourself that CO2 is present in the atmosphere in about 0.03%, or 380 parts per million. Its effect is actually quite small.

    That means its volume is quite small. The effect of something, as I mention when discussing sulphur dioxide and CO2, is not a direct function of its volume.

    Methane, for example, is in the atmosphere at a concentration of 1750 parts per billion, but is 21 x more effective as a greenhouse gas than CO2 (not CO2 is usually measured in parts per MILLION).

     

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