Global Warming and Other Bollocks: The Truth About All Those Science Scare Stories

Global Warming and Other Bollocks: The Truth About All Those Science Scare Stories

by Professor Stanley Feldman
     
 

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The idea that we are one step from calamity is as old as history itself. Every step on the road of progress has always been countered by those who think that we should keep to a primitive lifestyle that they claim is more compatible with nature. But despite the fact that they've been proved wrong, the pessimists are undeterred by their abysmal record. They

Overview

The idea that we are one step from calamity is as old as history itself. Every step on the road of progress has always been countered by those who think that we should keep to a primitive lifestyle that they claim is more compatible with nature. But despite the fact that they've been proved wrong, the pessimists are undeterred by their abysmal record. They continue to echo a deep-seated fear that unless we repent and change the way we live, we will be instrumental in destroying our own world. Today industrialization, genetically modified crops, scientific medicine, nuclear power, and the car are held up as the harbingers of doom. Politicians and persuasive pressure groups play on this same basic fear. They scare us with tales of an inevitable global warming catastrophe blamed on CO2 emissions, they stoke the fires of terror that an epidemic of obesity will kill all our children, and they sternly tell us that our indulgent lifestyle will consume the earth's precious resources. But will pesticides kill off life in our oceans, will chemicals in food poison us all, and invisible rays from power cables and cell phones kill us with cancer?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781844547180
Publisher:
John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date:
09/06/2009
Pages:
338
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Global Warming and Other Bollocks


By Stanley Feldman, Vincent Marks

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2009 Stanley Feldman and Vincent Marks
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-85782-848-1



CHAPTER 1

GLOBAL WARMING

STANLEY FELDMAN

We have to ride the theory of global warming, even if it is wrong.

— Timothy Wirth, ex-president, United Nations Foundation

Solutions to climate change must be based on firm evidence, not dubious ideology ... Policies must be based on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement.

— Pope Benedict XVI, December 2007


DOGMA

Manmade CO2 is causing global warming, which will cause catastrophe.

SINCE THE INVENTION of the telescope, the possibility that there was life on other planets has excited astronomers. As we learned more about our galaxy we soon came to realise that most planets are such inhospitable places that life, in any recognisable form, is improbable. One of the most compelling arguments against there being life on most of the planets is the extremes of temperatures that occur on their surface. When they are exposed to the full effect of the sun the temperatures soar, but once the sun sets the cold is so intense that most forms of life would freeze.

The reason why Earth is not subjected to these extremes of temperature is the presence of its peculiar 'atmosphere', which provides a protective blanket of gases, containing nitrogen, oxygen, water, argon and a tiny amount, 0.038 per cent, of carbon dioxide. Without this atmosphere the average temperature on the planet would be about minus 18ºC. It is thanks to their effect that our planet is habitable.

It was the observations of the French mathematician Baron Joseph Fourier in 1822 that led to our understanding of the importance of the atmosphere in making our planet habitable. He suggested that it was the presence of particular gases in the atmosphere that moderated the extreme heat produced by the sun. Some years after Fourier, John Tyndall – the Irish physicist who described the Tyndall effect caused by refraction of light – demonstrated that, of the various gases in the atmosphere, only a few of them had a significant effect in preventing the full force of the sun's energy reaching the surface of the Earth, causing it to become unbearably hot and, by preventing the warm surface losing its heat at night, they prevented it from freezing. He suggested that these gases captured and stored the sun's energy that made the Earth warm. As a result, they acted as a buffer for solar energy. He studied some of the gases that occur in the air and found that, of the gases he investigated, CO2 was the most important buffer.

In fact, molecule for molecule, water is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, since it absorbs energy over a far wider energy-wave spectrum. One has only to consider the effect of supplying energy, in the form of heat, to water in a kettle, or in the form of microwaves in an oven, to appreciate its ability to absorb energy. It is this energy-absorbing property that makes it useful in dowsing fires.

Methane is also about 20 times more potent than CO2 as a buffer of energy because it absorbs energy over a larger energy-wave spectrum than CO2, but it is present in only minute amounts in the atmosphere and its overall contribution to this effect is very small. In spite of their high concentrations, nitrogen and oxygen do not absorb energy in the infrared energy spectrum and do not contribute significantly to this buffering effect.


Birth of the greenhouse analogy

It was the Swedish polymath Svante Arrhenius (1859–1927), who in his dissertation in 1896,'The influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air on the Temperature on the Ground', first used the greenhouse analogy. He prepared the way for our understanding of the 'greenhouse-gas effect'. In his experiments he confirmed the importance of CO2 in preventing the Earth from cooling rapidly when the sun goes down. He believed the effect was so powerful that, as a result of the large amount of wood burned in winter in Sweden, sufficient CO2 would be given off to increase the greenhouse effect and to produce a warm, productive climate all the year round. Using the Stefan–Boltzmann equation, he calculated that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would increase the temperature on the ground by an overall 4–4.8ºC. At the time he made his observations there was no way of measuring the concentration of CO2 at the very low levels present in the atmosphere. As the actual concentration of CO2 is less than 0.038 per cent, it is easily doubled by what, in global terms, is a very small increase in CO2. It is the fear that in the next hundred years human activity will add significantly to the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere that has provoked the present global-warming panic.

Although the term 'greenhouse-gas effect' has come to be used to describe the total effect of all elements in the atmosphere on the temperatures we enjoy on the surface of our planet, it was only the part played by CO2, methane and sulphur dioxide, in preventing Earth from freezing when the sun sets, that was highlighted by Arrhenius.

The sun is the only major source of heat on our planet. When it shines it warms us up. Some of that energy is absorbed by the Earth's crust, warming it up. Some of that heat diffuses from the surface into the soil and rock below. This is geothermal heat and it can be tapped into by the heat pumps that are used to supplement domestic heating. As the surface of the Earth gets hotter, it acts like a radiator, dispersing its heat back into the atmosphere. Because this radiation is in the infrared, invisible spectrum, we cannot see it happening, although we can feel its effect as it warms us up. It is the infrared radiation given off by the planet once it has been warmed that is buffered by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. They do it by absorbing the energy within their molecules. It was Arrhenius who pointed out that it was those gases that had the capacity to absorb energy with a wavelength in the infrared spectrum that could buffer heat energy in this way. He studied CO2, methane and sulphur dioxide, all of which share this property. However, it is water molecules that are the most potent of the greenhouse gases because they absorb energy over a very wide range of wave bands, from infrared to visible light.

Were it not for the blanket of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the temperatures on the earth would be boiling hot during the day and freezing at night. It is the result of the presence of these gases in our atmosphere that some of the infrared energy that would otherwise reach the surface of the Earth when the sun is shining is absorbed, reducing the extreme heat that would otherwise ensue.

Because of the greenhouse gases, much of the Earth's warmth, acquired during the day, is prevented from being dissipated into space at night. The proponents of the theory of anthropogenic global warming (i.e. global warming caused by humans) point out that, as a result of this effect, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will reduce the amount of heat dissipated into space at night and therefore, over time, it is likely to cause the earth's temperature to rise.

Arrhenius failed to persuade the climatologists of his era of the significance of his theory. The wood burning in Sweden did not produce the warm winters he forecast. His predictions, based on the greenhouse-gas effect of CO2, turned out to be wrong. The theory did not explain the recurrent swings in temperature that have occurred since the Earth was born. It failed to answer the question of why, in the not-too-distant past, his Scandinavian ancestors had been able to live, farm and colonise Greenland and the frozen north of his country but had been forced to abandon their settlements due to the encroaching ice in the 16th and 17th centuries, without evidence to suggest there had been any reduction in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration. It seemed more likely, to the climatologists, that the explanation lay with the small deviation that occurs in the axis of Earth as it circles the sun and the flattening of its slightly elliptical circuit, the so-called Milankovitch effects.


A new ice age?

In 1938, a British scientist, G S (Guy) Callendar, drew attention to the potential beneficial effect on the agriculture and farming of a rise in temperature as a result of an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but his views were largely ignored. His predictions were based on the observations of Dr Keeling's team of scientists on the CO2 content of the atmosphere at the top of a mountain in Hawaii. They had demonstrated that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere in the Pacific was slowly rising each year. Callendar's words went unheeded as, in spite of his prediction of a warmer world, it was followed by a 35-year period, from 1940 to 1975, of progressively colder times. Before we accept that an increase in CO2 causes warming of the planet, the fall in temperature that occurred in this period in spite of a documented incremental rise in CO2 must be explained.

It is almost certain that the levels of atmospheric CO2 would have increased rapidly during World War II and the post-war reconstruction period, and that this should have caused a rise in temperature due to the greenhouse-gas effect. But the temperatures actually fell by 0.3–0.4ºC. The effect was sufficiently worrying for climatologists, at that time, to warn of the advent of a new ice age.

CHAPTER 2

GREENHOUSE GASES

STANLEY FELDMAN


DOGMA

Greenhouse gases are all the fault of human activity.

ANYONE LYING ON an English beach enjoying the summer sunshine could be excused for jumping to the conclusion that it was the occasional cloud that obscures the sun that causes their world to cool. They are probably right. Under cloudless skies the temperature drops dramatically the moment the sun sets or one moves from the sunshine into the shade, although the CO2 levels do not change.

When one listens to the weather forecast, it is clear that it is the cloud cover that determines whether the sun will shine and the weather will warm up. It is the amount of energy in the water molecules that make up the clouds that determines whether or not a particular wind will warm us up or cool us down. It would be nonsense to consider the effect of gases in the atmosphere on Earth's temperature without accepting a major role for these clouds, especially those at the lower levels. To concentrate solely on the CO2 ignores the fact that many different processes are involved in determining the planet's temperature.

There is one principal source of heat, and that is the sun; it far exceeds any other influence on the global temperature. Nevertheless, significant but comparatively small amounts of geothermal energy are constantly being released from the molten mass in the depths of the Earth. This energy warms areas of the oceans, through the hydrothermal vents of underwater volcanoes, and the land where the Earth's crust is sufficiently thin to allow thermal warming, as in, for example, Arizona, Iceland, New Zealand and Antarctica. However, their global contribution of energy is tiny.

There is good evidence that the sun's heat varies from time to time and that this is related to magnetic activity and sunspots. There is strong correlation between the number and frequency of these changes and the sun's energy output. When there are a lot of sunspots the energy is reduced and the temperature, not only of Earth but of other planets such as Jupiter and Mars, falls slightly. Sunspots affect not only the amount of heat given off by the sun but also the amount of cosmic bombardment from outer space, due to their strong magnetic effect.

The mean temperature on Earth depends upon how much of the sun's energy reaches the surface of our planet when the sun shines and how much of this heat is lost from the Earth when it gets dark. There is no doubt that this is affected by the atmosphere.

Over the past century, solar irradiance has increased, which in itself would account for a 0.2ºC rise in surface temperature if no other mechanism existed to affect the transfer of this energy from the sun to the Earth. However, various factors in the atmosphere affect this process.

The most obvious is the effect of the clouds.


The importance of water

Clouds are composed of water vapour and droplets; the higher the concentration of water droplets, the darker and more thunderous are the clouds. By and large the lower the clouds, the higher the concentration of water droplets. When a cloud appears to obscure the sun it does so by reflecting the sun's energy, including that in the visible spectrum, back into space, so that its light fails to reach us on Earth. This reflective action depends largely on the concentration of water as droplets. Because molecules of water also absorb the warming, shorter-wave, infrared energy, we also lose much of the sun's heat when it is cloudy.

The water molecules in the clouds also affect the surface temperature of the Earth in their role as a greenhouse gas. They blanket over the Earth and prevent the escape of infrared energy from its surface, stopping it cooling. That is why cloudy nights are much warmer and balmier than clear nights. On cloudless nights the temperatures tend to drop rapidly once the sun sets as the atmosphere lacks the greenhouse effect of the water in the clouds. It is evident on these occasions that our comfort depends to a much greater extent on the water in the atmosphere than it does on CO2.

We are coming to realise that clouds themselves, especially their disposition and composition, are also affected by solar activity, although the contribution this makes to the temperature of our planet is difficult to quantify.

The concentration of water in the atmosphere varies. Even on a 'dry day' the air we breathe is moist and the air we exhale is saturated. If one looks at the amount of ice deposited in the freezer compartment of a refrigerator it is evident that the air in the refrigerator, which may have appeared to have been dry, in fact contained a lot of water, some of which was deposited as ice when it was trapped inside the refrigerator when the temperature fell.

Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and water, merely store part of the energy that originated in the sun. They absorb some of the energy that radiates from the sun when it shines and from the Earth after it has been warmed by the sun. At night CO2 and water vapour act together as a blanket over the Earth, minimising the loss of heat as the atmospheric temperature begins to fall.

The effects of the various components involved in determining the Earth's temperature are difficult to separate quantitatively. The overall effect of the clouds is especially difficult to measure, as it varies enormously from time to time and from place to place. Its effect on the sun's energy depends upon whether it is present as a vapour or as droplets. If all the water in the atmosphere acted effectively as a greenhouse gas it would contribute a massive 96 per cent to this effect, dwarfing any contribution from CO2.

It is generally agreed that the water vapour and droplets in the clouds contribute, at the very least, 50 per cent of the total global warming effect, although many others suggest that the figure should be much nearer 93 per cent. The trouble is that the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere varies from time to time, and it is impossible to predict.


A year without summer

A lot of polluting particles in the atmosphere will enhance the effect of the clouds in insulating Earth from the effect of the sun. It is believed to be responsible for the absence of significant global warming in southern China and parts of India over the past 15 years (2008 saw their coldest winter for 50 years). Volcanic eruptions spew out polluting particles (as well as CO2 and other greenhouse gases), which influence the climate. The Tambora volcanic eruption of 1815 produced a year without a summer due to the water vapour and the particles released when it erupted. They formed a cloud over large parts of the planet. The Krakatoa volcanic explosion of 1883, which released huge amounts of debris, CO2 and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, affected the temperature of the world for two to three years. Although CO2 and sulphur dioxide are greenhouse gases, the world cooled.

As a result of the reduction in the concentration of particle pollutants that used to hang in the air over London, before the Clean Air Acts of the 1950s, the sun's rays are now better able to penetrate the atmosphere. This has led to an average increase in temperature in the city of about 2ºC. This is as great as the increase in temperature predicted in the next hundred years by some of the models of global warming! Together with urban warming, this has resulted in the temperature in central London being up to 4ºC warmer than the neighbouring countryside.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Global Warming and Other Bollocks by Stanley Feldman, Vincent Marks. Copyright © 2009 Stanley Feldman and Vincent Marks. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Professor Stanley Feldman is the author of several books, including From Poison Arrows to Prozac. He and Professor Vincent Marks are coauthors of Panic Nation.

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