Thursday, September 2, 2010

Philosophy and Analysis of Climate Change - Global Warming - CO2 Significance on Global Temperatures

This may be just because of ignorance on my side but I can't seem to find any evidence of the significance of CO2 in our atmosphere contributing to Global warming. (Let alone that being from man-made sources or not)

Here is what I did learn that I was unsure about before:


Global Warming Trend
(This section has nothing to do with C02. We're just discussing a trend that the world is warming without discussing it's cause first.)

It seems from all the information in this article, that to deny a trend in rising temperature, seems an assault on science and data itself.

So that means if the data and science is strong, at it appears to be so, then no assault on such data will give you any success, and their opinion that a trend in global warming is occurring would remain victorious.

A review of the data published on the site, that tries to imply a trend in global warming:

So the author says:

"There is simply no room for doubt: the Earth is undergoing a rapid and large warming trend."

I would tend to agree with him on this point because of the data he has presented.


CO2 level rise

I think at this point it's fairly obvious that 100 years after the Industrial revolution, we have released a lot more CO2 in the air than would have been naturally produced.

So I think just from a common sense perspective, CO2 rising makes sense with the general facts I've observed in the world and learned from history.

Here is a graph to add some evidence to the conversation that CO2 levels have indeed risen:

I am very critical of graphs that have no true zeros for their x-axis, as all people who know statistics should be.

It hides the true significance of the curve upward or downward when you zoom in on a graph like this one does.

You get a much higher trend upward than you would if you had a true zero on the graph.

So to mathematically describe the change better, you could take the highest value, subtract it from the lowest, and divide by the lowest to get a percent change.

So the percent change in carbon dioxide since the 1960's is approximately 19% higher; which is still a significant increase in CO2.


Greenhouse Effect - Causation

So the causation between CO2 and Temperature rise is the green house effect.

It seems that CO2 though is much weaker than other influences that warm the earth, historically speaking, and that CO2, historically speaking, has LAGGED temperature.

Meaning in the past first temperature went up, before CO2 went up. That just meant that historically speaking, there always seems to be forces stronger than CO2 that change the earth's temp more.

So what I'm getting at is that even if we accept the common and sound science that CO2 increases temperature, we found it does so weakly, compared to other things that have done it in the past such as large volcanic eruptions.

But that doesn't mean CO2 has no effect, just because it doesn't initiate the change from a cold planet to a hot one. It still helps in the background.


Imagine you're in a home and that home represents the earth. Now when the sun comes up and the light shines through the windows, the home starts to warm up, but what if during that time, you also had a heater going at 76 degrees?

If the home is 70 degrees, it would take the heater a while to get it to 76, but it's having an effect regardless. At the end of the day the sun is doing most of the hard work, as it'll get it to 76 before the heater does, but again the heater is having a small effect anyways.

So it's wrong to say that the heater has no effect, just like it's wrong to say CO2, even if it's not the initiator of warming cycles, automatically has nothing to do with warming cycles. It still helps.


Now here is where my ignorance seems to meet the crux of the argument, or if this was music I'd say here is the crescendo; for the writers we'll say we're getting to the climax :D.

We agree that the world is warming and we also agree CO2, according to current science, through the greenhouse effect contributes to it.

But is the role CO2 plays in our environment significant?
Is it a strong enough force on it's own to cause the types of damage we worry about?


If I could convince 100 people to all rub their hands together for 10 minutes, at the same time, every day, for 10 years, could we as a group increase the world's temperature?

I think you're probably laughing as you read that, or at least chuckling slightly, because you know that the small amount of heat we create isn't nearly enough to warm the entire earth.

It isn't significant enough.


So the question now goes to CO2, is it's power significant enough to rise global temps?

As we admitted before CO2 is hardly the initiator of global temperature changes, historically speaking, but it may have a role in keeping temperatures high and spreading the temperature evenly across the world.

But again, are high CO2 levels, a significant risk to increasing world temperatures?

I can't find any exact proof of that. It may be again because of my own ignorance, but I can't seem to find how significant CO2 specifically is in respect to global temperatures and greenhouse gases.


Man Made Greenhouse Gases v.s Naturally Made

So this discussion is about Greenhouse gases, rather than CO2 because as the argument goes, it's their effect that warms the earth, and if they're correct that effect is significant enough to change global temps.

To be exact, here are all greenhouse gases we should worry about according to those that say they're a threat:

Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F).[1]The major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect; carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone (O3), which causes 3–7 percent.[2][3][4] Clouds also affect the radiation balance, but they are composed of liquid water or ice and so have different effects on radiation from water vapor.
  1. 1) IPCC (2007). "Chapter 1: Historical Overview of Climate Change Science" (PDF). IPCC WG1 AR4 Report. IPCC. pp. p97 (PDF page 5 of 36). Retrieved 21 April 2009. "To emit 240 W m–2, a surface would have to have a temperature of around −19 °C. This is much colder than the conditions that actually exist at the Earth’s surface (the global mean surface temperature is about 14 °C). Instead, the necessary −19 °C is found at an altitude about 5 km above the surface."
  2. 2) Kiehl, J.T.; Trenberth, K.E. (1997). "Earth's Annual Global Mean Energy Budget" (PDF). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society 78 (2): 197–208. doi:10.1175/1520-0477(1997)078>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  3. 3) Schmidt, Gavin (6 Apr 2005). "Water vapour: feedback or forcing?". RealClimate. Retrieved 21 April 2009.
  4. 4) Russell, Randy (May 16, 2007). "The Greenhouse Effect & Greenhouse Gases". University Corporation for Atmospheric Research Windows to the Universe. Retrieved Dec 27, 2009.

A simple question comes back to mind when people talk about fighting Climate change:

Is the man-made portion of CO2 WE release significant enough on it's own to cause climate change?

If we only release 1% of all greenhouse gases, then we have no hope in stopping it's effects.
If instead we release 20% or more of all greenhouse gases, we may have some effect if we limit our release of gases.

So how much greenhouse gas do we emit compared to nature? Again this is only an important question if we answer the first one mentioned above, if Greenhouse gases are even a significant factor in Global Warming. If they are the cause of it.

If greenhouse gases are significant, and they're not like my 100 friends that rub their hands in vain, then what percentage of those gases do we contribute?

There is a nice article about this here, which basically states that we only contribute about .28% of the Greenhouse Gases in the air, and that number becomes 5% if we ignore water vapor as climate scientists do because they say it's not a forcing variable. That means if we were to cut all Greenhouse Gas creating processes in half, we'd save only 2.5%.

That fact is unreasonable of course, to cut back by that much, but is a 2.5% savings going to help us much?

Even if it does help us, there's still the other 2.5% that plagues us, so is it worth it?


Final Thoughts

So at least we learned some things as we went through this process of analysis.

We learned that warming is occurring and that CO2 levels are rising by about 20% since the 1960's.

But what we learned as far as Greenhouse gases are concerned is that in general, we have a small effect on how much we send into the air.

Only about 5%(ignoring water vapor) of Greenhouse Gases in the air, are up there because of us, and even if we cut all output in half, we'd still have put 2.5% up.

Again that's assuming the 5% we put up there is a significant increase in Global temperatures at all.

So there remains a lot of unanswered questions for me at the end of this.
Maybe that's why this issue isn't definitively decided.

At the end of the day the argument is not about whether the Earth is warming or not, or if we increased levels of CO2.

The argument is about how much of the greenhouse gases we're responsible for and to what extent the amount we put up there affects global temperatures.

If that question was clearly answered I don't think any skeptics would remain.

Until I get a clear answer to that I remain a skeptic of Carbon Taxes, Cap and Trade, and Carbon Regulation.

I'm more concerned with stopping Malaria, Cancer, Poverty, and giving every child a decent Education. I mean even Renewable energy is more important and more dire/urgent a situation than Climate change is now.

Those I think should be our focus and where our priorities stand until the Climatologists can get their argument properly explained.

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