First of all, I am not a climatologist, a meteorologist, a chemist or physicist, a geologist, not a scientist of any kind. As a matter of fact I have been a maker of expensive musical instruments for the past forty years. So if you’re looking to hear from an “expert,” stop here; don’t bother reading on.
On the other hand, if you’re a reasonably intelligent citizen and, like me, an inveterate skeptic, you should find the following argument unusual, perhaps even unique. You will need nothing more intellectually sophisticated than minimal data, provided by me, simple logic and even simpler arithmetic. So, let’s get started.
So, I find myself sitting around a patio table next Independence Day sipping on the perfect mimosa with some friends and a couple of folks I haven’t met before. One of the new acquaintances brings up the subject of “climate change.” I know from the term used that this one is probably a sorta believer but not a hard-core, unshakable advocate; were that so, he would have used the latest, hippest, most with-it name-change term “climate disruption.” Now it’s time for my Favorite Global Warmism Question #1:
- Did you know that there’s no such thing as a greenhouse gas?
The conversation around the table stops dead in its tracks. Everybody’s looking quizzically at each other. No one is looking at me. After a few seconds, a dear friend of many years says, “C’mon, Flyoverpen, you must be kidding. Everybody knows greenhouse gasses exist.” I cross my arms, put on a smug pursed-lip smile and repeat, “Nope, there’s no such thing as a greenhouse gas.
I then proceed to explain that the word “greenhouse” in that term is a misnomer. In a real-world earthbound greenhouse — we all know what they look like even though there aren’t many in existence anymore — the sun’s short-wave infrared light penetrates through the glass roof, warming up what’s inside the greenhouse: air, plants, soil, etc.
As the things inside the greenhouse absorb the short-wave infrared, they convert it into heat — long-wave infrared. This long-wave infrared, instead of readily penetrating glass on the way out, is partially blocked; greenhouse glass is said to be opaque to long-wave infrared. Inside heat can escape from a greenhouse more readily if the temperature between inside and outside air increases. However, the mechanism — convection — by which the greenhouse cools under such circumstances is altogether different from what the sun does to heat up the greenhouse.
And, of course, if that bratty neighbor kid pitches a rock at the greenhouse roof and breaks a glass pane, warm air escapes, by air convection, in a hurry. In other words, a real greenhouse does its job primarily by suppressing convection.
Not so with the so-called “greenhouse” gasses, among them water vapor, methane (CH4) and, most controversially, carbon dioxide (CO2). In this case, long-wave infrared radiation radiating back from earth is absorbed by these gasses; some of it is then radiated out into space, and some is radiated back to earth, creating more warmth here. There is no phenomenon quite like this that we experience in everyday human life, which is probably why we don’t have an apt word for it in common discourse. Maybe someday somebody smarter than I am will come up with such a word, one that really fits. Until then I’ll keep using the term “greenhouse” gas but not without the irony quotes; take those quotes to mean “not really.”
Hey, I admit it: Question #1 is something of a semantic teaser. But now it’s time for Favorite Global Warmism Question #2, and this one is really serious:
- How much actual CO2 is there in the atmosphere?
Shoulders are shrugging all around the table, and folks are muttering, “I have no idea…not a clue…beats me,” the way just about any normal citizen would respond to this question…except the other new acquaintance, whose arms are folded and whose face is bearing a smug pursed-lip smile. “That’s one I happen to know: the actual CO2 in the atmosphere today is 379ppm.” Aha! Now I strongly suspect that I have a global warmism true believer in front of me, so I’m gonna have to be careful. I respond, “You’re absolutely right! And that number is virtually undisputed.” And it so happens that number comes straight from the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a notoriously pro-global-warmism U. N. entity.
At this point, I’m going to depart from the fantasy conversation in order to play some games with that number. The IPCC, along with the rest of the global-warming “consensus,” would just as soon nobody even be aware of that IPCC number; notice how global warmists never refer to it in their advocacy propaganda. However, if somebody has to know, best that the data be presented in the format of their choice. They wouldn’t like one bit what I’m about to do with it.
First, let’s take a look at IPCC presentation of present-day CO2 (actual data from 2005) compared with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (1750):
- CO2 2005=379ppm
- CO2 1750=280ppm
- Increase: 99ppm
A normal citizen looking at these numbers would probably be thinking, “Hmm, those are pretty good size numbers, several hundred; the difference between them is substantial. But, uh, what does ‘ppm’ mean? Oh, yes, parts per million, I get it.” But even following that cognitive eureka, the full import of the data is unlikely to really sink in: people can come close to conceiving a hundred in human experiential terms, but a million? That will always remain an abstraction. So far so good for the cause of global warmism: the truth is still very opaque if not completely disguised.
To get closer to human experience, we need to play with the IPCC data format by presenting the numbers like this:
- CO2 2005=379ppm=0.000379=ca 4/10,000
- CO2 1750=280ppm=0.000280=ca 3/10,000
- Increase: 99ppm=0.000099=ca 1/10,000
Whoa! You’re trying to tell me a change of one part in ten thousand threatens to plunge the earth into climate catastrophe? Atmospheric CO2 is just a trace gas and a miniscule one at that. What kind of a super-mega gas is that CO2, anyway? This whole “climate disruption” thing is preposterous before it even gets out of the starting gate. Pshaw, I say!
OK, I’ve calmed down. Now I’ll try to speak rationally.
New scientific inquiries often as not entail a form of logic known as abduction, or abductive reasoning. Another name for this is “inference to the best explanation.” Another way of putting it might be “make your best guess with the data you’ve got.” Inquiries that rely on historical data often begin and end at the level of abduction if there’s no possibility of acquiring new evidence.
Abduction can also sometimes act as a hypothesis gateway, giving cause for acceptance, even if only provisional, of a hypothesis…or dismissal of a hypothesis as prima facie implausible. Global warmism manifestly deserves the second response. The poison pill is the sheer paucity of CO2 in the atmosphere. Just in case you’re still not convinced of the magnitude of that paucity, consider this image:
While water vapor is known to be a less potent “greenhouse” gas than CO2, it utterly dwarfs puny little CO2 in terms of sheer quantity.
This much we — skeptics and advocates of global warmism alike — agree on: CO2 is a “greenhouse” gas (the simplest high school science project can demonstrate that); atmospheric CO2 has increased during the industrial era due to human activity; this has added more heat energy to earth’s atmosphere and surface than previously. However, this is not enough to break through the paucity-implausibility gateway. To accept the global warmist hypothesis that anthropogenic global warming is leading to climate catastrophe, we need to know not just that industrial-era anthropogenic CO2 emissions are merely effectual; this variable must be shown to be determinative.
This means that anthropogenic CO2 emissions must be examined in full context with numerous other climate variables such as solar activity, volcanism, magnetic field shifts, etc. An inquiry like this is certain to be dauntingly, perhaps overwhelmingly, complex if conducted like authentic, inductive science. Global warmism advocates have shamelessly evaded this monumental evidence burden — and the burden is entirely on them — by resorting to garbage-in-garbage-out computer models, even outright data fraud and deceitfulness like the now-infamous “hockey stick” graph.
Global warmism remains the most colossal hoax ever perpetrated.
(This article first appeared in an edited version in American Thinker on June 4, 2014. A decimal-point error of mine regarding whole-number CO2 levels, pointed out by a number of readers, has been corrected. It turns out I got my own “simpler arithmetic” wrong! Nevertheless, I stick by my original point: one in ten thousand is still miniscule.)