Why Copenhagen will Fail
I have not written about my pet peeve, Global Warming™ in quite a while. This is mostly because I do not feel the need to continue to waste my breath either preaching to the choir or shouting over the protestations of the obstinately ignorant. Nonetheless, my unique background in atmospheric science, law and policy compel me to again explain what I see as what should be painfully obvious.
In advance of yet another international climate change conference, the media and liberal fear-mongers (but I repeat myself) are fretting over what might not be done in Copenhagen. In the medal for the most idiotic overstatement, Gordon Brown is currently in the lead for saying “we have only 50 days to save the world.” In the spirit of a far better, and far more intelligent Englishman, Douglas Adams, and with full knowledge that “stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following fact will now be revealed in advance:” Nothing of significance will be accomplished in Copenhagen.
(Except, perhaps, someone may sustain a slight bruise to their upper arm. The safe bet is that Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden will both later claim sniper fire was involved.)
Here is why, in a bulleted list, nothing will come of the Copenhagen Climate Council:
- Global Warming™ is only a theory (and growing less accepted each day).
- The Earth has not warmed, but in fact has cooled, over the past 11 years. Yes I said 11.
- In order to noticeably reduce CO2 emissions on any meaningful time frame, draconian measures are required that would destroy every civilized economy. That is not a point capable of exaggeration. Every world economy would grind to a halt.
- Politicians, regardless of their political stripe, are not that stupid.
Taking each point in turn, allow me to explain:
Global Warming as a Theory.
Science is a funny business. Even if everyone agrees that something is true, it is still, in almost every case, a theory at some level. Generally accepted scientific principles like Evolution and Relativity (general and special) remain merely “theories.” But all theories are not equal. For example, Flat Earth is also a theory, as is Nemesis Earth. These are discredited theories, but they are still, technically theories.
The theory of Global Warming™ is built on successively weaker bricks, in much the same was as a government highway project would be.
Global Warming, like many theories that liberals embrace, is simple on a third-grade level. (They love that poster: everything I needed to know, I learned in Kindergarten.) The problem, however, is that real life is played at the graduate level and above. But at a simple level, Global Warming says the following:
- CO2 absorbs light more efficiently in the IR end of the spectrum than in the visible end. (True)
- So it acts like a filter, allowing sunlight in and “trapping” heat coming off of the Earth–much like a greenhouse. (Maybe).
- As humans continue to emit more CO2 (by burning fossil fuels, among other things), we will continue to add to the levels of atmospheric CO2–in other words, there is no removal mechanism. (Not so sure.)
- As the amount of atmospheric CO2 increases, the “trapping” factor will cause the global temperature to increase and nothing will act to counteract the effect–in other words, there is no negative feedback mechanism. (Probably not true.)
- All of this will lead to polar bears drowning, or swimming to your house in St. Loius and killing you in your bed. (Now you’re making stuff up.)
The theory of global warming is built on successively weaker bricks, in much the same was as a government highway project would be. Point 1 is absolutely true and has been verified in laboratory experiments. CO2 molecules do absorb more IR light than visible. The rest, however, is just a theory and has never been proven. When you get to point 2, the problem becomes that you have to move from a controlled laboratory environment to the atmosphere. And there, things get messy. CO2 is barely noticeable in the atmosphere. If you took 1,000,000 Poland Spring bottles and filled them with air; and then separated them into the different gases in the atmosphere, you would have about: 781,000 bottles of Nitrogen, 209,250 bottles of Oxygen; 9,350 bottles of Argon; and only about 350 bottles of CO2. (You would also have 18 bottles of Neon; 1 bottle of Methane; and 1 bottle of Kryton, plus some trace gases.) This also assumes a static atmosphere. The atmosphere is not static, lightning strikes, particulate matter, ozone and a host of trace chemicals acts as catalysts to scrub and convert atmospheric gases constantly.
In terms radiative transfer (the transfer of heat through light), atmospheric CO2 is not going to have a noticeable impact on global temperature, regardless of its absorption profile–there just is not enough of it in the atmosphere. But that is my opinion. Other scientists have their opinions. Many people, scientists and lay people, base their opinions on climate models. A quick word about those: useless. A climate model is a large, expensive, horribly complicated program that is only as useful as the theory you put into it. They are very useful at telling you what your theory means, but they are utterly useless at telling you whether or not your theory is accurate.
For example, if you programmed into a climate model that a .5% increase in CO2 would cause a zombie virus to infect mankind–guess what? You would find that, if what don’t cut down our emissions, we would all living a Will Smith movie. Using a climate model to prove the theory that went into it is complete idiocy. That brings me back to the essential difficulty with point 2. We do not actually know what happens in the atmosphere when CO2 interacts with the menagerie of gases and particles.
Moving on to points 3 and 4 in the immediately above list, there are natural feedback mechanism that cutoff any impact that CO2 might have on temperature. Mother nature may abhor a vacuum, but it also abhors excess. We are already seeing huge increases in CO2 absorption in seaweed as the oceans act as a sink, causing predicted levels of CO2 to drop off. Moreover, as temperatures rise (whether or not due to CO2) convection will usually increase, leading to cloud cover and rainfall. This acts as a natural break in any runaway temperature increase. Just as with tax increases, liberals have applied their rules and assumed nothing will changed because of their rules.
The Real Inconvenient Truth
The second important reason why nothing will happen in Copenhagen is that, as the BBC noted last week, the warmest year on record was 11 years ago. How is that possible to reconcile with the prophecies of doom? Al Gore and the IPCC can talk about El Niño and solar variability (when it suits them), but 11 years is a long, long time. No one is willing to destroy their economy on the word of a former Vice President when faced with the coldest winter in decades and there has been no net warming since their teenager was in diapers and Clinton was in office. The thing that amazes me is that no one has thought to say that this means Kyoto, which occurred in 1997, was a success. (It was a patent failure, but moving on….)
If you want to know what it will really take to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050, look at the person next to you; now kill them.
If you want to know what it will take to cut the world’s CO2 emissions in half by 2050, look at the person next to you; now kill them. CO2 comes from everything. It is a natural part of the human biological process–you are emitting it right now–you filthy polluter–just by breathing. Of course, it is also part of the Krebs cycle (one deranged lunatic’s pollutant is another man’s plant food.) Even if you could (and you cannot) switched overnight to solar, wind and other “renewable” power sources–where would those power sources come from? How can you manufacture an enormous wind turbine without plastics? Plastics are made from refined petroleum products, which, in refining, produce CO2.
In addition, a lot of “greenhouse” emissions are not even fossil fuel based, but are from farm animals, rice paddies and termites, all of which give of methane, another “greenhouse gas.” In order to actually reduce true greenhouse emissions, you would have to convince the worlds population to stop eating beef and rice and stop making their homes out of wood–oh, and stop using plastics as well. And don’t forget–give up your car and take the bus or bike to work. And you can forget about air travel unless you are the type of person who now takes a private jet anyway.
All of this in an environment where, again, the weather is getting colder (long-range forecasting is calling for the coldest winter in a decade or longer) and there has been no global warming in 11 years. The scientific consensus (which never really existed, as much as a code of silence in exchange for funding) is collapsing and the climate of fear is giving way to one of ridicule.
Politicians are not that Dumb.
This brings me to my final point. Politicians are not that dumb. They know that businesses have to kowtow to environmentalists, as do they, the politicians. They also know that the hemp wearing, no soap, trust fund hippies will never be happy no matter what you do, so there is no point in trying to satisfy them anyway. The point of these conferences is to give the appearance of moving forward, blame the large developing countries (India and China) for not being able to reach a meaningful agreement and agree to meet again in a few years. On the plus side, the weather in late fall is gorgeous in Copenhagen. Try the hot chocolate.
Thanks for an excellent summation of the topic.
Unfortunately I can’t share your confidence that politicians aren’t that dumb. I fear the ones here in the US are and will do incredibly foolish things given the chance. I only hope they stay too busy to get around to the climate bill.