Relationship between CO2 and the Earth’s Temperature

By: Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Logarithmic Relationship: A post in No Tricks Zone on earth’s climate being governed by the Sun led TWTW to search for a 1971 article on global cooling by S.I. Rasool and Stephen Schneider, then of NASA-GISS, now both deceased. Rasool was an atmospheric chemist who has written on the atmospheres of other planets as well as the earth. Stephen Schneider was a climatologist who was a lead author of the Third Assessment Report (TAR, 2001) of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and a strong advocate for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The abstract of the paper states:

“Effects on the global temperature of large increases in carbon dioxide and aerosol densities in the atmosphere of Earth have been computed. It is found that, although the addition of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does increase the surface temperature, the rate of temperature increase diminishes with increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For aerosols, however, the net effect of increase in density is to reduce the surface temperature of Earth. Because of the exponential dependence of the backscattering, the rate of temperature decrease is augmented with increasing aerosol content. An increase by only a factor of 4 in global aerosol background concentration may be sufficient to reduce the surface temperature by as much as 3.5 ° K. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease over the whole globe is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”]

The paper made the headlines of the New York Times, the authors later backtracked on their claims in the paper stating they underestimated the warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) and overestimated the cooling effects of aerosols. Schneider also gave a famous interview with Discover magazine in which he said:

“On the one hand we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but & which means that we must include all the doubts, caveats, ifs and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists, but human beings as well. And like most people, we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climate change. To do that we have to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So, we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This double ethical bind which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.” Schneider’s views on abandoning the scientific method to be effective is a major problem in climate science and some other sciences today. That is one reason why policy makers and the public should discount the term “scientists say” as possibly meaningless. What is meaningful is the evidence.

The first quote shows that the authors and the editors of Science Mag realized that decades of laboratory experiments showed that the influence of carbon dioxide on the surface temperatures of the earth is logarithmic. This was in the early 1970s when the fear was that the earth was cooling. By 2001, the fear was that the globe was warming.

Page 6 of the “Summary for Policymakers” of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report (TAR, 2001) shows that the recognized logarithmic relationship – the declining influence of CO2 with greater concentrations – has been replaced. It is now the inverse, an exponential relationship –increasing influence of CO2 with greater concentrations. No supporting physical evidence was offered. But discredited Mr. Mann’s hockey-stick was thrown in for good measure. The section is followed by the statement:

“Concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases and their radiative forcing have continued to increase as a result of human activities.”

The IPCC, Science Mag, NASA-GISS and other government science organizations conveniently eliminated past concerns of an oncoming ice age and continue to ignore contradicting evidence to assert the popular claim of the day. Is there any reason why the public should believe government scientists who assert dangerous global warming? Or the politicians who claim a climate emergency? See links under Problems in the Orthodoxy, and by Tim Ball

Radiation Transfer: As discussed in recent TWTWs, physicists such as William Happer, who specializes in Atomic, Molecular and Optical physics (AMO), which deals with the greenhouse effect, call the specific topic radiation transfer, not radiative forcing as the IPCC calls it. Also, the IPCC and its followers ignore the tremendous benefits of the greenhouse effect. Without it, the planet would not support complex life, perhaps except for geothermal vents. Certainly, land masses would be too cold at night to support plant life and animal life that depends on it.

This knowledge of the tremendous benefits of the greenhouse effect is ignored by those who claim carbon dioxide is causing dangerous warming, even though it was established around 1860 with experiments by John Tyndall who showed different greenhouse gases have different properties in absorbing radiant energy (heat). This was a landmark in the history of absorption spectroscopy of gases. Tyndall demonstrated and quantified that visually transparent gases absorb and emit infrared energy. If the goal of the IPCC and its followers is to show the warming effects of CO2, they are using the wrong field of physics.

The high-resolution transmission molecular absorption database (HITRAN) is a molecular spectroscopic database used to simulate and analyze the transmission and emission of light in gaseous media, with an emphasis on planetary atmospheres. Using the HITRAN database, Wijngaarden & Happer and Howard Hayden have shown the effectiveness of CO2 in blocking infrared transmission of energy transmission from the surface to space declines significantly even when CO2 concentration reaches about 100 parts per million (ppm) (a concentration below the IPCC-asserted “pre-industrial level” of 280 ppm). Further, CO2 blocks only a rather narrow range of infrared energy. Organizations that ignore the rather narrow limits of CO2 blocking of infrared radiation are ignoring the scientific method and are not engaged in science, regardless of name.

Paul Homewood posted on his website, in two parts, a study by physicist David Coe who for the past 20 years has been developing a range of sensors for the monitoring of gaseous emissions to atmosphere using infra-red absorption spectroscopy. Coe uses the HITRAN database and concludes:

“CO2 levels of 3000ppm [parts per million, currently the CO2 level is about 410 ppm] will only raise temperatures by a further 1.5K. These temperature increases are in fact well within natural variations seen in the past, including the medieval warm period and the little ice age of some 300 years ago.

“The possibility of positive feedback from water vapour is discounted by the simple fact that the H2O spectrum is incapable of absorbing significant further amounts of radiated energy and the modest increase in temperature due to increasing CO2 levels is unable to deliver any significant increase in H2O concentration due to the specific relationship of H2O saturation vapour pressure and temperature. It would take an increase in temperature of 10 deg C to double the mean H2O atmospheric concentration, and that doubling would only result in a temperature increase of 2 deg C.”

“The ‘greenhouse effect’ is dominated by the absorption spectrum of H2O with a little help from CO2. At current concentrations of both gases, it is inconceivable that further increases in concentrations will lead to any significant warming. Increasing CO2 concentration to 3000ppm and doubling the mean H2O level to 2% would result in a global temperature increase of 3.4K.

“In short, there is no climate emergency, at least due to ‘greenhouse gases’.

”An addendum posted a week later deals with problems from using the concept of “equilibrium climate sensitivity.” Using this concept requires a large set of assumptions that may be refuted. A major issue is what happens if water vapor changes (the dominant greenhouse gas).

Coe presents numerous tables of calculations for concentrations of CO2 between 0 and 3000 ppm and concentrations of water vapor (H2O) ranging from 0% to 4% of the atmosphere. He added a number of calculations for climate sensitivity, not “equilibrium climate sensitivity.” Coe concludes:

“In producing these results no assumptions have been made about the mechanisms of heat transfer within the atmosphere, other than the fraction of absorbed outgoing IR radiation that remains with the earth/atmosphere lies between 0.4 and 0.6. Values outside this range result in unreasonable equilibrium earth temperatures.

“These results are totally at odds with the IPCC version of climate sensitivity ranging between 1.5 and 5deg C and suggest quite clearly that CO2 is not, repeat not, a significant driver of global warming and climate change.” In his Figure # 1 (not shown here) Coe plots the Atmospheric IR (infrared) Absorptivity change with CO2 concentrations changing from 0 to 3000 ppm and atmospheric water vapor at 0%, 0.1%, 0.25%, 0.5%, 1.0%, 2.0% and 4.0%. As suggested in the Hayden paper using calculations from Wijngaarden & Happer, at concentrations of CO2 above 100 ppm the influence of CO2 on temperatures quickly flattens out. There is little change in influence going from 500 ppm to 1000 ppm or above. Those claiming “runaway warming” on earth have no basis for their speculation. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

Climate Sensitivity: Fortunately, Coe added the addendum giving specific calculations for a range of CO2 and H2O values. Pursuing climate sensitivity by using models is like hitting a barn with an arrow then drawing a target around it. It is whatever the modeler seeks. As stated above, Schneider quickly adjusted his values for CO2 and aerosols depending on the direction the wind is blowing. Is it an ice age or global warming?

Last week TWTW discussed the Climate Change Information Brief by Christopher Essex: “Can Computer Models Predict Climate?” When discussing the current fad of “ensemble averaging” he writes:

“The average over these is presented as the future. It seems technical, but in terms of the future it is something like the difference between, ‘You will meet a tall handsome stranger,’ and ‘you may or may not meet an average person.’ Forecasts like that are difficult to falsify.

“The depth of difficulty of the scientific problem is obscured by the machinery inherited from the radiative-convective-model picture originating in the 60’s, which is peculiarly imposed on modern models. We imagine in accordance with radiative-convective model thinking that an integral over a temperature field (temperature index) is proportional to an integral over the radiation field (changes in infrared [absorbing] gas amounts). The constant of proportionality is known as the ‘climate sensitivity.’ Much effort has gone into determining its ‘correct’ value in the context of climate models. But such a relationship implies that these integrals can be related to each other in a function, which can ignore the underlying meteorology. That is, it is a claim of closure, and tantamount to a definition of climate. There is no reason to support this claim in Nature. If this function does not exist, neither does climate sensitivity, and the models that conform to this picture are falsified.” See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy.

Bandwagon Science: Last week TWTW asked the question what to call the thousands of papers that seem scientific but have highly questionable assumptions that are not tested or ignore physical evidence that the researcher or supporting entity wishes to mask. Richard Courtney’s term Bandwagon Science appears appropriate. The bandwagon fallacy is a form of Argumentum ad populum, an appeal to a common belief or to the masses. For example, “97% of scientists believe….”

A great example appeared in “Science Advances” put out by Science Mag. The effort is to find examples in history where high levels of CO2 coincided with high temperatures to claim the CO2 was the cause of high temperatures. This one covered the Cenozoic Era which started about 66 million years ago after a great extinction wiped out three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth, the K–Pg extinction event.

Since the beginning of the Cenozoic Era, the earth experienced significant periods of warming and cooling and CO2 dropped significantly from about 3000 ppm to about 180 ppm during glaciation periods in the current Quaternary Period, an ice age starting about 2.6 million years ago.

Rather than presenting current observations of the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere, where it occurs, Science Mag is focused on speculating what the climate was like 66 million years ago when the Pakicetus, the probable ancestor of whales, such as the blue whale, walked on land on all fours. There is no way to realistically apply whatever value the research indicates for CO2 and temperatures to today’s earth. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy – Bandwagon Science

Urban Heat Island Effect: Writing in WUWT, Andy May brings attention to a new paper by Nicola Scafetta in Climate Dynamics, “Detection of non‐climatic biases in land surface temperature records by comparing climatic data and their model simulations.” The Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) is largely discounted by the IPCC. Scafetta points out that from 1950 to 2020 the world’s population tripled, going from 2.5 billion to 7.5 billion, an increase of 5 billion. Given that surface measurement instruments are largely located near population centers, this increase has to have a significant impact on measurements, particularly in areas undergoing urbanization. The only temperature-measuring system that averages over the entire earth, giving no excess weight to urban areas is the satellite system.

Urbanization is a major issue in the developing world. Prior to his death Fred Singer was convinced that locating many instruments near airports was influencing the measurements because the land around airports was being developed, also resulting in an increase in UHI. See links under Measurement Issues – Surface

Change in Administrations: No doubt, some of those who joined the Trump Administration to foster an open debate on how increasing CO2 increases the greenhouse effect are frustrated by the experience. He appeared as erratic as wind power. The American public deserves an independent investigation of the strengths and limits to the claims that carbon dioxide is causing dangerous global warming. The Trump Administration was not willing to provide one. The Biden Administration probably won’t. The demand by some Senators to review the science used to justify the Paris Agreement is a positive step, but one that will likely fail.

Biden has made clear that he is rejoining the Paris Agreement. At this time, the terms are not clear. It is important to remember that the Paris Agreement is an executive agreement, not a treaty. According to Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution:

“He [The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;”

In the US, a treaty has the force of law, an executive agreement does not. Obama danced around the issue of was it an agreement or a treaty? Yet, Obama made last minute changes assuring it was an agreement so he would not have to send it to the Senate for approval.

Given Biden’s climate team, no doubt they will pretend it is a treaty when it’s convenient for them. They will pretend they use the correct field of physics when they do not; they will pretend they use the correct databases to establish evidence of dangerous global warming when the databases do not; they will pretend that the models they use establish dangerous global warming when the models do not. They will pretend the resulting work is rigorous science when it is deficient speculation. It is questionable whether the team understands the difference between science and science fiction.

Given what has happened in the past, the finger pointing and personal attacks against those who dare stand up and demonstrate deficiencies in the claims of a climate crisis will only intensify, not diminish. But this has been part of the history of the US, and the schoolyard name-calling is minor when compared to what occurred in the effort to abolish slavery in some states and limit it in territories before the Civil War.

Number of the Week: 6.3 times. According to the calculations by David Coe, using the HITRAN data base that is well established and verified, an increase in atmospheric CO2 from current levels of about 410 ppm to 3000 ppm will increase temperatures by about 1.5 K (ºC), well within the range since the Little Ice Age. The increase in CO2 concentrations will be 6.3 times the current level. A warming of 1.5 K since 1880 is the latest number the UN and other organizations are claiming to be a climate crisis. To get to 3000 ppm, massive volcanoes will have to erupt, creating a real crisis. See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy and