27 November 2010

Thinking Through the Greenhouse Effect

An imaginary planet surrounded by a thin transparent shell a few kilometres above the surface (vertical scale exaggerated). The top of the transparent shell has been temporarily removed to clarify the physical layout. For our thought experiment, the transparent shell completely encloses the planet, with no holes. There is a vacuum both inside and outside the transparent shell_WUWT_Eschenbach

Willis Eschenbach imagines a thin transparent shell "greenhouse" completely surrounding the Earth. Then he thinks through the implications of this shell -- with regard to radiative balance and global temperature. As a simplified model of the Earth's actual "greenhouse effect," it serves well enough as a useful starting point. And we know that the starting point is merely a place where one begins, not where one ends.

This is not Willis' first thought experiment about the greenhouse effect. He presented an earlier thought model called "The Steel Greenhouse," but the transparent shell greenhouse is a bit closer to the actual situation. But Willis warns readers that this thinking analogy will simply not serve. Then he asks his readers, "Why not?" Comments are entertaining and occasionally enlightening.

One commenter linked to the "Bad Greenhouse" website, which provides a sort of FAQ for the greenhouse effect.

Another comment points to "Greenhouse Confusion Resolved" by Stephen Wilde, Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. Worth a read.

The CO2 web is a useful look at atmospheric, ocean, and terrestrial effects of CO2, with a number of downloadable papers.

Once you think you have a handle on the greenhouse effect, you may want to read a bit about climate feedbacks in Warren Meyer's Layman's Guide to AGW

Finally, you may wish to observe expert opinions from both pro-AGW and a more skeptical (and better reasoned) anti-climate doom viewpoints. Richard Lindzen provides a great counterpoint to Andrew Dessler in the video below, filmed at the U. Virginia Law School. Dessler goes first, followed by an absolutely incisive Lindzen. The last half of the video is lawyers debating some policy points of AGW, so you can watch that as you wish..  Video H/T Nuclear Green

No one said these things were going to be easy to understand. After all, Al Fin started out as a believer in AGW (possible doom) and Peak Oil (doom), as well as having been a deeply religious soul. It was not easy to change any of those beliefs. But given a significant amount of applied logic and data, the changes came. We were born into a sea of delusion, and not one of us escapes it entirely. But we really should try, all the same.


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Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

A question -- Mr. Fin:

You started off as a believer in the gospel of Anthropogenic Global Warming. Can you recall at what point you started to have real doubts? And what triggered those doubts?

Monday, 29 November, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

Kin: Here is a more pertinent question: "When did you begin to break with the gospel of CATASTROPHIC Anthropogenic Global Warming -- CAGW?"

You see, without the element of doom or catastrophe, AGW becomes irrelevant in comparison to the many significant problems we face.

My break with CAGW began when I started to acquire a sense of scale and perspective on the planet's age, geologic evolution, and immense complexity of the carbon cycle. Where is the carbon, in what form, and how has it been dealt with when its concentrations in the atmosphere fluctuate?

Just as important: During the large fluctuations of temperature and CO2 over past eons, how did life cope? How high were CO2 and/or temperature when much of modern life evolved? The answers do not suggest doom or panic in the face of the small changes we face.

It was later that I looked at feedbacks, and discovered the essential bias and malfeasance of the modeler's approach to feedbacks.

The non-scientific nature of much of the activity within the infant science of climatology certainly doesn't bolster confidence in the science press' and politicised IPCC's public pronouncements, either. Climategate was not the beginning of these shennanigans, but merely the first that the generally uninformed masses had heard of them. Glaciergate, and other examples of collaboration between the environmentl-industrial lobby and the politicised climate lobby simply dug the hole more deeply for anyone paying attention.

Most climate scientists do not promote doom, but the ones who do tend to be modelers, not experimentalists.

Tuesday, 30 November, 2010  
Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

Thanks for the feedback. Good to know that scale was the key point -- may help in future conversion efforts.

Your distinction between alleged "Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming" and alleged "Anthropogenic Global Warming" is precise, but in a sense is giving in to the armies of the dumb.

There is very little discussion of Non-Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming, and even less discussion of Beneficial Anthropogenic Global Warming -- even though the most dangerous place to be in northern Europe is between a Greenie and the airplane which will take him to his vacation in a warmer clime.

I have had unproductive discussions with brain-dead Greenies who claim that anyone who acknowledges CO2 is a Radiatively Active Gas is thereby agreeing with alleged "Catastrophic" Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Tuesday, 30 November, 2010  
Blogger al fin said...

The reason for the distinction between CAGW and AGW, is that one cannot deny that humans affect the climate, and some of those effects can cause some warming. Whether AGW is cancelled by AGC is another matter.

Regardless, AGW is not a relevant concern in the Al Fin universe.

Similarly, peak oil is trivially true (eventually), in the narrow sense that someday we can look back and say that a historical production peak in crude oil has occurred. But since it is not likely to lead to catastrophe or doom, it is not a relevant concern.

Instead, the concern is to make sure that civilisation is provided with ample energies and fuels to progress into the age of virtually unlimited energies that are there -- but currently inaccessible.

Tuesday, 30 November, 2010  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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