A Good Explanation of How C02 Works
Posted by greg2213 on August 6, 2010
One of the things often missing from the discussion is an explanation that those of us without advanced degrees in physics or math can understand. Dr. Bob, PhD in Whatever, may understand something well enough to write, and have accepted, a paper on the subject. But if he can’t teach it then the people who don’t already know “won’t get it.”
Like the Number Theory class I took once. The teacher certainly knew his stuff, as he zipped through it, never looking at the class, never asking questions, never interacting. High score on the final was 28% (by a sharp math major.) So he knew his stuff, but could not teach it.
I think Jeff ID is a much better teacher.
From WUWT, a guest post by Jeff ID from The Air Vent:
Radiative physics of CO2 is a contentious issue at WUWT’s crowd but to someone like myself, this is not where the argument against AGW exists. I’m going to take a crack at making the issue so simple, that I can actually convince someone in blogland. This post is in reply to Tom Vonk’s recent post at WUWT which concluded that the radiative warming effect of CO2, doesn’t exist. We already know that I won’t succeed with everyone but when skeptics of extremist warming get this wrong, it undermines the credibility of their otherwise good arguments.
My statement is – CO2 does create a warming effect in the lower atmosphere.
Before that makes you scream at the monitor, I’ve not said anything about the magnitude or danger or even measurability of the effect. I only assert that the effect is real, is provable, it’s basic physics and it does exist.
here’s the rest: A reply to Vonk: Radiative Physics Simplified II
A commenter makes a great point: sometimes the language gets sloppy. The “greenhouse” effect doesn’t work like a real greenhouse, so three brownie points to the people pointing that out. Still, calling it a greenhouse is a lot easier than whatever the most accurate physical term might be. CO2 does seem to have some warming effect (likely completely countered by feedbacks) so using the term “greenhouse effect,” even though it’s wrong, seems to me to be close enough for government work.
Of course, saying that CO2 warms to atmosphere says nothing about the credibility of the CAGW arguments. There are a lot of physical steps between some slight CO2 based warming and CAGW and those steps don’t seem to exist in the real world.
Now, if the feedbacks completely or mostly cancel out any warming effect of CO2, then it seems to me that it’s fair to say that CO2 does not warm the atmosphere (significantly). Not perfectly accurate, perhaps, but close enough for government work.
So maybe this works for me:
C02 + [massively complicated, chaotic, and poorly understood feedback system] = unknown amount of warming, but most likely trivial.
More WUWT comments on the article, just because I like them:
The layman might find it helpful to know that long before the AGW fuss, combustion engineers routinely included the effects of CO2 and water vapour in their calculations of radiative heat transfer in furnaces. This is not contentious stuff, it’s bog standard physics.
As for the implied suggestion that credible AGW skeptics must accept that CO2 warms the atmosphere to avoid accusations of extremism – well that isn’t science either. That’s politics.
comment: …And the air is worthless as a heat sink. We normally use it as an insulator. When nightfall hits the desert, it chills down rapidly. The air does not keep it warm. (The heat capacity of air is dominated by the condensibility of water vapor.)
My professional expertise includes performing detailed analysis of the radiative balance of high-energy laser beams engaging military targets. We have a definite interest in what happens to IR photons zipping through the air and how they affect solid materials. Tom is on firm ground. Try to understand it….