## Wednesday, August 17, 2011 ... /////

### SciAm, Gavin Schmidt despise climate facts

Scientific American, one of the most ideological and most persistent defenders of the dying climate alarm, has decided that John Cook's memes-vs-slogans format of presenting the climate orthodoxy is the most efficient format that alarmists have ever invented - despite the fact that John Cook is just a former candidate to become a student of physics. Cook has been more successful - at least in his attempts to indicate that some climate alarmists are interested in science - than An Inconvenient Truth and 10:10 No Pressure combined.

So they borrowed their closest "expert" hired gun denier of the fact that the climate nonsense is sinking and approaching the bottom of the sea - glob glob glob - and decided to "fight" against important facts presented by the Australia-based Galileo Movement in a booklet:

Why Carbon Dioxide Is a Greenhouse Gas (Gavin)

Nicely enough, at the beginning, Gavin Schmidt admits that every single fact presented by the Galileo Movement is true (at the end he tries to contradict himself a little bit but he fails). However, while he tries to explain that these inconvenient facts are "irrelevant", he says a lots of things that are unfortunately untrue and many other things where his bias is flagrantly obvious.

If you're a hired gun such as Schmidt and your task is to cherry-pick 3 facts among thousands out of the tree of science, deny the rest, and "derive" far-reaching, religious conclusions out of the 3 holy facts you like, it's pretty much inevitable that you say lots of silly things. Let's look at them in some detail.

Below, the text is attributed to the skeptical Galileo Movement (GM), alarmist Gavin Schmidt (GS), and your impartial humble correspondent (LM).

GM: CO2 is Nature's colorless, odorless, tasteless gas essential for all life on Earth. It's not toxic. It doesn't make land, water or air dirty or unsafe to use. It does not cause disease.

GM: CO2 comprises less than 0.04 percent of the air.
GS: True but irrelevant in the global warming debate.

Nitrogen, oxygen and argon together make up close to 100 percent of the atmosphere. But all three are invisible to incoming "short-wave" radiation from the sun and outgoing "long-wave" radiation from the Earth's surface. They play no role in regulating the planet's atmospheric temperature.

But carbon dioxide and other trace gases in the atmosphere do absorb the outgoing long-wave radiation.

So while their concentrations are minuscule, their effect is anything but: If the atmosphere didn't have those trace amounts of greenhouse gases, New York City would be covered in ice sheets – not sweltering  – on a typical summer afternoon. The globe's average temperature would be almost 60 degrees Fahrenheit lower.

Similarly, toxicity is not an issue in the climate change debate. Yes, crops need CO2. Breathing a little more of it while out on the links won't impair your golf game. But earlier findings that suggested higher CO2 levels could increase crop yields have been disproved by recent research showing that other nutrients are more often the limiting factor.

(LM: There may exist other limiting factors but the food is still damn important for the growth of an organism and the video above is what happens in a rather generic situation: an $N$-fold increase of carbon dioxide leads to an $\sqrt{N}$-fold increase of the biomass growth rate.)

The relevant questions for climate science are how CO2 changes atmospheric temperatures and circulation and alters the oceans' chemistry and heat capacity.
LM: Gavin Schmidt first says that nitrogen, oxygen, and argon make nearly 100 percent of the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the average concentration of water vapor is 2 percent so the right figure should have been only 98 percent or so. Big enough inaccuracy. More seriously, it is actually water vapor, and not CO2, that is responsible for those 30 °C of greenhouse warming: Schmidt "cleverly" denies the existence of water in his whole presentation of a freezing New York, self-evidently attempting to make the lay readers think that this extra warming is due to CO2 (which only causes a few degrees of warming, including all the natural CO2).

He also says that these gases - N2, O2, Ar - play no role in regulating Earth's temperature. Unfortunately, this statement is completely preposterous, too. What is true is that they don't absorb the infrared radiation.

But the infrared radiation - the thermal radiation emitted by the Earth to the space - is not the only kind of radiation that is going through the atmosphere. It may sound shocking to Gavin Schmidt but visible light and ultraviolet radiation are also coming through the atmosphere - from the Sun to the Earth.

The downgoing solar visible light and the ultraviolet rays are being partially (25-30%) absorbed by the atmosphere which is approximately as important as the absorption of (70-85% of) the upgoing thermal infrared radiation by the greenhouse gases. The former is more important for us because this absorption protects us against harmful UV radiation from the Sun. Ozone itself is enough to absorb most of the UV radiation but even if all ozone were removed, there would still be lots of absorption of the solar radiation.

So it is in no way true that the greenhouse gases are the only gases whose absorption affects the Earth's temperature. Such an opinion only focuses on one side of the equation - the outgoing radiation - and completely misses the other side of the equation - the incoming radiation - which is actually equally important.

If you filled the atmosphere with gases that are not greenhouse gases but efficiently absorb most of the solar visible and ultraviolet radiation, the top of the atmosphere would become hot while the surface would become cool. The tropopause - the height above which the temperature increases with the height (because the higher layers are "closer to the warm Sun") - would move closer to the surface (the realm where the "proximity to the Sun" is the key would expand). If you dramatically changed the concentration of non-greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the surface temperature would also change by dozens of degrees.

In particular, oxygen absorbs a big part of UV radiation shorter than 200 nm. This directly contradicts Schmidt's assertion that oxygen is transparent even for short-wave radiation coming from the Sun. It's surely not! I don't know whether Schmidt is really so breathtakingly ignorant about basic atomic physics and spectroscopy or whether he's deliberately lying to make up a "simple story" that the laymen might repeat. But even if oxygen were transparent for the solar radiation - it's not - Schmidt would still be distorting the truth by omitting the ozone that absorbs most of the UVA, UVB, UVC radiation.

His clear desire is to make the reader think that the greenhouse gases are the only important ones. Moreover, by not mentioning water vapor that makes up about 90% of the greenhouse effect on Earth, he wants the readers to irrationally identify the greenhouse effect (and those dozens of degrees added by water vapor) with CO2.

This exhibition by Schmidt is just another example of the breathtaking double standards that the whole climate fearmongering orthodoxy is based upon. They always like to present one side of the story only. A warm or extreme weather is surely caused by global warming; a normally cool weather (we're having in Czechia this whole summer) is just some weather. Outgoing radiation (and its absorption) is important for the energy budget but the incoming radiation from the Sun (and its absorption) is surely not important, is it? And so on, and so on, and so on.

At least, Schmidt admits that carbon dioxide is a harmless and healthy gas that is beneficial for the plant life and therefore also agriculture - and everyone who depends on plants or agriculture. There exist people who try to obscure - or directly contradict - even this basic fact. The fact that the "direct", chemical effects of CO2 are much more important than "indirect", e.g. temperature-related effects will be discussed below.

GM: CO2 stays in the air only five to seven years, possibly less than 12 months before Nature cycles it into plants, animals and oceans.

GM: Of Earth's annual production of CO2, humans produce just 3 percent.

In this case, the claim confuses residence time of individual molecules in the air with the much longer perturbation to the whole system.

Carbon dioxide is continuously cycling among the earth, plants and animals, the atmosphere and the ocean's surface, with the deep ocean serving as a gigantic long-term reservoir.

Up until the last two centuries, this carbon cycle had been in close balance for the last 10,000 years. But society has pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 278 parts per million at the start of the industrial revolution to 392 parts per million today, a 40 percent increase.

What's more, the bulk – some 57 percent – of carbon emitted from tailpipes and smokestacks is not even in the atmosphere. It has cycled into the ocean, and scientists generally agree that most of our carbon emissions will ultimately come to a rest in its deepest depths. But that will take  centuries. In the meantime, those extra CO2 molecules will slosh around from earth to atmosphere to upper ocean and back, absorbing energy, acidifying the seas and changing the planet in profound and potentially unwelcome ways. In other words, CO2 emitted today will still be impacting the planet for hundreds of years.
LM: I agree that 3 years is the residence time of individual CO2 molecules. Every year, the equivalent of something like 100 ppm or so is being absorbed by various parts of Nature, 102 ppm is being emitted, so the concentration grows by 2 ppm. We are emitting the equivalent of about 4 ppm; because the concentration only increases by 2 ppm, it follows that Nature is already absorbing (by a different 2 ppm) more than it is emitting (absorption is "privileged" because the CO2 is elevated which supports the processes that "consume" or "collect" CO2 over those that "produce" or "emit" it). If we dropped our emissions by 50% and introduced a global military junta that would stop any expected further growth, the CO2 concentration would instantly stopped rising. If a world dictator didn't care about the destruction of the civilization, it would be an easy goal to achieve.

If we stopped emitting CO2 completely, the decrease by 2 ppm a year (I explained above) would continue but it would no longer be overcompensated by any emissions. In 20 years or so, we would reach McKibben's holy figure, 350 ppm (down from 392 ppm today), while billions of people would starve to death and nothing would change about the climate. It would take less than a century (by linear extrapolation 50 years - (390-280)/2 - but the speed of decrease would eventually slow down so it would be more than 50 years) for the concentration to get very close to 300 ppm again.

I don't understand in what sense all these numbers and considerations could possibly be "irrelevant". This whole climate alarm is based on CO2 in the atmosphere so it is very important to know the numbers and the laws that dictate what is actually happening with the CO2. The human annual CO2 emissions are just 3% of the annual CO2 budget of Nature and indeed, 1/2 of those emissions are seen as an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.

But even this process is temporary because within 50-100 years, Nature absorbs almost all the excessive CO2 from the atmosphere again. That's how the excess CO2 differs from the debt of the fiscally irresponsible governments. In the CO2 case, the "inflation" or "negative real interest rate" is such that your debt - and your problem - automatically disappears within a century. Be careful: this doesn't necessarily work for the finances. ;-) If you wanted to liquidate the U.S. debt in this way in 50 years, you would need negative real interest rates (nominal interest rates minus inflation) of -2% or so (the current ones are positive).

You can see how unbalanced Schmidt's reactions are. He knows - and admits - that the Galileo Movement's assertion is perfectly valid but he still chooses to team up with a crackpot science magazine and attack them. On the other hand, the media are full of assertions that CO2 stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years. That's a lie and Schmidt knows that but he won't correct those widespread claims in the media because they are convenient lies for him. Most of the lies about the climate are convenient for the likes of Gavin Schmidt.

Today, the time needed for "most of the CO2 excess" to disappear from the atmosphere again is shorter than 100 years. That's because the oceans are happy and circulating and the plant life is able to adapt quickly - because the CO2 levels are high to start with and the temperatures are warmer than during the ice ages. However, when the Earth was much cooler and getting warmer (e.g. when it was leaving ice ages), it was harder for the (rare) plants and the (partly frozen, static) ocean to absorb CO2 too quickly so it took up to 800 years. That's why the lag between temperature and CO2 (CO2 follows the temperature as we will recall momentarily) has been as long as 800 years in the past: continental ice isn't too efficient in absorbing "excessive" or emitting "missing" gas. ;-) The required time would be much shorter today.

His text above shows that Schmidt clearly knows that. He just doesn't want other people to know it. He doesn't want other people to know anything except for the cherry-picked and distorted claims that combine to the climate alarm orthodoxy.

GM: Measurements reveal that CO2 levels are a consequence of temperature, not the cause. Temperature drives CO2 levels.
GS: True before 1800. But false today.

Some 800,000 years' worth of ice core records indicate that temperature rises did drive an increase in CO2 levels. But that was before humans started digging up huge quantities fossil fuels and transferring all that sequestered carbon to the atmosphere.

It is worth noting, however, that even in the past CO2 had an impact on temperatures, given its role as a greenhouse gas.

It's also worth noting that ancient temperature and CO2-level changes happened over thousands of years. The Earth needed, for example, 5,000 years to bring atmospheric CO2 concentrations up 80 ppm after the last glacial period.

With the onset of industrialization, the tables turned. Humans have increased atmospheric CO2 levels almost 80 ppm in just 60 years. Now humans are the drivers of CO2 level, not temperature.

And what frightens climate scientists is that temperature hasn't caught up yet.
LM: First of all, Schmidt's first sentence that the physical laws applied before 1800 but not after 1800 is just amusing. While there are some numbers that may justify it, as we will see below, Schmidt is probably unaware how nicely his quote about the "new physical laws since 1800" summarize the irrationality of the fearmongering movement. Much like the Young Earth creationists' beliefs, the basic tenets of Schmidt's orthodoxy is based on the denial of the fact that the same physical laws operated 6,000 years ago (and in Schmidt's case, even as recently as 200 years ago).

You should have no doubts about it: the physical laws didn't change in 1800. The only thing that changes are the values of various dynamical variables that describe the system. Because of these changes, some terms in various equations were higher before 1800 than they are today; others are greater today than what they were in the past.

Before 1800, human CO2 emissions didn't exist so the primary term that affected the CO2 - and also CH4, among others - concentration were the changing temperatures. The natural variability we're still seeing - coming from the complex atmospheric phenomena as well as the orbital irregularities of Earth's motion - needs about 1,000 years in average for the temperature to change by 3 °C in a direction, to pick an example. An increase by 3 °C induces about 35 ppm increase of the CO2 concentration.

(Schmidt's figure of 5,000 years is just a random number meant to create a flawed impression that everything that is "natural" is "slow". But this figure has nothing to do with the relevant time scales. In 5,000 years, Nature and its Milankovitch cycles were able to change the Earth's average temperature by more than 5 °C. Using current technologies, we couldn't do it faster, either. For example, by burning all carbon-based stuff near the surface of the Earth, we would still get less than 3 °C and the effect would disappear in less than a century, anyway. But there's a lot of variability at shorter time scales as well - see the chaotic graphs of the ice ages.)

So to change the average CO2 concentration in the atmosphere by 35 ppm during the glaciation cycles, Nature typically needed a millennium. Today, we can do so by 20 years of industrial activity. But this observation doesn't mean that the impact of our activity on the temperature is high. Quite on the contrary, it means that the temperature changes associated with CO2 changes are very low.

Today, we're changing CO2 much more quickly than it was changing because of the fluctuating temperatures in the previous 1 million years. But we're clearly not changing temperature in any faster way because the causal relationship goes in the opposite direction. Temperature drives CO2 changes. The opposite relationship is the CO2 greenhouse effect and as Schmidt correctly admits, there's no evidence in the geological data before 1800 that would support a CO2-based greenhouse effect. In fact, there's no direct experimental evidence that would show a role of CO2 for the temperatures at all, whether before 1800 or after 1800.

So the only related, scientifically established relationship with at least approximately known a coefficient is the influence of temperatures on CO2: a 3 °C temperature increases raises CO2 by 35 ppm or so. Clearly, this law can't work in the opposite direction: 110 ppm of CO2 increase we have already caused would bring about 10 °C of warming which it clearly hasn't - which falsifies the claim that the relationship goes in both ways.

At least, I am happy that Schmidt admits that the argument about the two closely matching graphs in Gore's An Inconvenient Truth - which was clearly designed to make the viewers think that CO2 mattered in the glaciation cycles - was a lie. There could have been some greenhouse effect during the ice ages but it is not behind the correlations in the graphs: in fact, there's no empirical evidence for such a greenhouse effect. Still, it is despicable that Schmidt fails to explicitly say that he realizes that this only scientifically sounding argument in Gore's movie was a complete lie.

What has changed in 1800 is that a new, much more important source of CO2 concentration changes than the temperature-driven effects - human activity - has emerged. This dramatically influenced all predictions about the CO2 concentrations but it didn't visibly influence predictions of the temperature simply because the effect of CO2 on temperatures is very small.

Also, this modified dynamics since 1800 will be temporary. In 100-300 years from now, the mankind will probably de facto stop using fossil fuels. CO2 reaches about 600-1000 ppm as the peak value which may mean a climate that is -0.5-2.0 °C warmer than today in average. After the peak is reached, temperatures start dropping and within a century after fossil fuels stop being a dominant contributor to CO2 changes, Nature returns to its pre-1800 equations governing the CO2-temperature relationships.

GM: In every 85,000 molecules of air, just 33 are CO2. For every 33 molecules of CO2, 32 are from Nature and known to be essential to all life on Earth. How can one molecule of the same gas produced by humans be blamed for supposed imminent, irreversible, catastrophic global warming? It cannot.
GS: False.

Two hundred years ago, only 24 of those molecules would have been CO2. Today, 33 molecules are – a 40 percent rise of a key greenhouse gas.

The reference to "one molecule" is misleading: By talking ratios, the Galileo Movement obscures the staggering amount of carbon dioxide society has pumped into the air. In the last two centuries, society has dumped 220 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels. It added another 110 billion tons via deforestation and land-use changes.

The atmosphere weighs about 5 quadrillion tons, and carbon dioxide, despite our emissions, remains a small component of that. But it grows larger every year. The International Energy Agency expects annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels alone to top 40 billion tons a year by 2030.

The math gets complicated from here, but there is an enormous quantity of molecules in those 330 billon tons of CO2.
LM: The statement by the Galileo Movement is obviously right, totally accurate, and immensely important for this whole discussion.

It just says that 33 molecules among 85,000 - not sure why this number was chosen (I guess that it was 100,000 to start with but they wanted the final small numbers to agree with something else) - are CO2 molecules and none of these CO2 molecules can individually be identified as "harmful". In fact, when you ask each molecule how they got into the atmosphere the last time they did, 32 of them will reply that they got to the atmosphere from natural sources.

This small percentage of the "fresh man-made molecules" boils down to something we discussed at the beginning - the man-made CO2 emissions are just a small portion of the annual CO2 budget. Schmidt is right that the total number would be close to 24 and not 33 or 32 molecules if there had been no industrial activity. But that doesn't mean that there's anything inaccurate about the statement by the Galileo Movement.

You may say that 24 molecules would be there regardless of the humans - you can't say which ones among the 33 molecules, of course. They're identical to each other. 1 molecule was added by humans during the last loop of the carbon cycle. And what about the remaining 33-25=8 molecules? They were added by Nature during the most recent cycle but Nature wouldn't be able to add them if men didn't previously get them to the circulation.

In this sense, you might call the recently emitted 1 molecule a "recent stimulus package" and the remaining 8 molecules are "results of Nature's activity that boils down to the historical stimulus packages in the past". At any rate, the main point is that the CO2 molecules that have been added to the system in the past have been recycled dozens of times and became a standard part of the cycle of Nature. That's what Nature does with any molecules, especially the totally inherent and like-like molecules such as CO2 that have been driving life for billions of years.

These 8 molecules are the same molecules - in principle, totally indistinguishable - as the 24 natural molecules. So you can't even say which one is which. There is no physical experiment that would distinguish the 24 "totally natural molecules" from the 8 "natural now but man-made in the past" molecules or 1 "recently man-made molecule". (There might be heavier isotopes and their percentage in different sources may differ but biochemical processes don't distinguish the isotopes and all of them are ultimately mixed with everyone else.) If you admit that the 24 molecules are very important and beneficial for the plant life, you must admit that we have increased the happiness of the plants on Earth by 40%, while causing no disadvantages for anyone else.

The alleged disadvantage that the climate fearmongers made up - the temperature - would actually also be an advantage. But more importantly, its magnitude is totally tiny. In the language of economists, it's an externality but its value is much smaller than the value of the "internalities" that are never talked about because they're inconvenient (even though they decide about 99+ percent of the key quantities).

Just try to imagine that you're a plant. And you are offered this deal: your food happiness may increase by 40% - because the amount of CO2 will grow by this figure - but you may dislike the temperature change that is connected with this deal with may be about 0.6 °C of warming (and I am generously assuming that all temperature change in the last 100 years is due to human activity). Will you accept the offer? You bet. Half a degree in either direction is totally irrelevant in comparison with a 40% increase of your food supply. (And I am generously overlooking that the warming would be good for almost any plant, too.)

As some children already know, plants are important even for those people who prefer meat because the meat comes from animals that either ate some plants :-) or they ate other animals that [....] and ultimately the final animals eat plants which is why everyone depends on CO2. Some children even call this insight "food chain".

The idea that there is something wrong about our addition of the CO2 molecules just doesn't add up. It's complete rubbish. What propagandistic articles such as Schmidt's tirade in SciAm want to achieve is something that can't really be achieved: they want all the people to abandon all of their common sense and 99% of their knowledge of science and mindlessly repeat some cherry-picked 1% of science factoids, add 100 times larger pile of myths to this scientific core, and convince themselves that these cherry-picked factoids as well as myths are important for their lives - or the life on Earth - even though they are demonstrably not important.

The Galileo Movement must be applauded for producing a booklet that actually and accurately explains many more key scientific points about the CO2 and temperature dynamics than all the movies ever shot by the climate alarmists combined.

You can't achieve the outcome you apparently want to achieve, Gavin. The year is 2011 now and only hopeless morons, hired guns who are eager to fool their environment as well as themselves, or ideologically blinded loons may continue to believe that there is a climate threat and that the "ultimate conclusion" of analyses such as yours is trustworthy. You happen to belong to all three groups, Gavin.

And that's the memo.

Will Happer, physics professor at Princeton University, wrote a new GWPF text called Truth about Greenhouse Gases.

#### snail feedback (9) :

Dying climate alarm? Maybe. But not dying anthro climate change. And that is THE difference...

Dear Alexander, indeed, they're different things. Climate alarmism only began to fade away in November 2009 when the ClimateGate exploded. An actual man-made warming, one that should occur in each five-year period, already disappeared more than ten years ago. It takes some time for many of the humans to notice.

None of this on atmospheric absorption is authoritatively true, it is still a mixed bag of vague observation and speculation (the latter called "theory" to give it a semblance of authority in today's degenerated science environment). If you want true authority, in this time of universal ignorance, I strongly advise you to go to the definitive evidence, which is my comparison of the temperatures in the atmospheres of Venus and Earth. There you will find that the composition of the atmosphere (especially the concentration of CO2) has no effect on the temperature at any given atmospheric pressure, over the range of Earth tropospheric pressures (where the negative temperature lapse rate heat structure prevails over every other consideration -- there is no surface effect, no albedo effect, no atmospheric composition effect, nothing but incoming solar radiation). I wrote to the Galileo Movement of the authoritative view provided me by the Venus/Earth comparison, but was ignored, except now I find them and you finally at least emphasizing the direct absorption of incident solar radiation (and it's infrared absorption by all the gases, in the troposphere), which I have been harping on alone since last year. (Only Will Pratt was independently saying this, I think well before me, from his own studies, but the Venus/Earth comparison is definitive, and should be emphasized by all as it corrects a handful of fundamental mistakes made by the climate consensus.) Nobody knows enough to dismiss, or ignore as even the skeptics have been doing, the definitive evidence of two detailed atmospheres showing such a clear indication of the true physics. It is an indictment of everybody on every side of the climate debates, and everybody should be ashamed.

Scientific American is not the only magazine that is obsessed with global warming. Discover magazine is now devoting half of its stories to climate change. It has become so bad I am canceling my subscription.

Lubos, just a small disagreement with what you said about ozone: it is perhaps the most unstable gaseous molecule known. It barely absorbs some wavelengths. Try to calculate which is ozone quantum energy and you will see it absorbs zero UV-C, some UV-B, and nothing whatsoever of UV-A.

When two ozone molecules touch each other they produce 3 O2 molecules and give away 64 Kcal/mol. O3 + O3  3 O2 + freeing 64 Kcal/mol. The splitting one O3 would take 32 Kcl/mol from any photon. Compare that to: O2 will absorb 111,118c Kcal/mol from any photon, while N2 will take 118,000 Kcal/mol.

Oxygen and Nitrogen are the real UV shield Earth has. Ozone is only a useless sub product as sparks are useless sub products when you press an iron bar against a grinding wheel.

Come on, Eduardo. O3 molecules absorb over 95% of both UV-A and UV-B and some UV-C, too.

See this intro. In the process, two O3 molecules touch to create three O2 molecules, but they absorb a UV photon at the same moment.

Oxygen itself is important for UV-C.

Lubos, thanks you, the page you sent me is for second graders. Have you any information on ozone quantum energy? It is very difficult to find such info. If you find it, or if you can calculate it, you will understand why ozone absorbance of UV radiation is a long standing urban myth.