OWN VOICE. ~ InPerspective by Gregg Dieguez
The science that proves our current Climate Crisis is man-made is over 150 years old. Despite climate change skeptics, who insist that ‘fancy computer models’ are unreliable, you already learned the proven science behind this Climate Crisis in grade school – it doesn’t require a computer to understand. And you’ve experienced that science firsthand, as when you get in the car on a hot day: if the Sun’s energy can’t escape as fast as it enters, the car heats up. In grade school you studied other planets:
- Remember the Moon? Very Cold. Why? No atmosphere to hold heat in.
- Remember Venus? Very hot. Why? Dense atmospheric blanket of Carbon Dioxide (CO2).
- Remember Mercury? Also Very Hot. Almost no atmosphere. So Why? Closer to the Sun.
These other planets are nature’s experiments, confirming the 19th century science which proved the causes of our current Climate Crisis. Let’s review those basics…
- What makes us hot?
- Are we getting hotter now?
- What could be making us hotter?
- What caused the extra greenhouse gases?
1. Being close to something hot makes you hot.
Of course, we knew this from getting closer to campfires on a cold mountain night. And on a cold night, you can feel the obverse by moving away from the fire. Back in the 19th century two scientists, Stefan and Boltzmann, came up with a mathematical theory to explain this campfire fact, which was confirmed by other scientists. We’re in the neighborhood of the Sun, which radiates heat.
So how hot should the Earth be?
Based on their Stefan-Boltzmann constant, you can run the math for a black body – which would absorb all the Sun’s heat – of Earth’s size and distance from the Sun, and then adjust for the greater reflectivity of Earth’s non-black/blue/brown/green/white surface and get the answer: about 0ºF expected surface temperature of the Earth. But instead, we were about 60º F – until our latest climate mischief. Why the temperature difference? Because: Atmosphere. Our atmosphere holds in heat and spreads it around, unlike the Moon.
2. Is it getting hotter? YES!! Images: most will enlarge for improved readability in a new window when you click on them.
For some time, fossil-fuel sponsored skeptics argued even this simple fact. But yes, it’s clear now that – with the world’s five warmest years in human history all occurring since 2015 and with nine of the 10 warmest years occurring since 2005 – and with the temperature trend obvious over the past century- it is getting hotter. In fact, we WERE headed toward another one of those ice ages we get about every 90,000 years, but our carbon burning put a stop to that.
3. Adding Greenhouse Gasses Makes you hotter.
The Earth isn’t moving closer to the Sun, so what else could cause the temperature rise? Well, back at that campfire, putting on a down jacket and woolen hat makes you warmer, because it traps the warmer air from your body closer to your skin. And that’s what the Earth did – we gave it a warmer coat. Or put another way, we rolled up the car windows on a hot day.
Back in the 19th century, a Swedish scientist named Svante Arrhenius (who studied with Boltzmann and earned a Nobel Prize in 1903), developed a rule to explain how a doubling of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) would lead to an increase in earth’s surface temperature, as that “greenhouse gas” blocked emissions of heat back out into space. As we know, on the moon, this is not an issue. However, Earth’s atmosphere traps heat, and allows us to live. Note that it’s NOT the oxygen and nitrogen in air that traps the heat – it’s the small fraction of air that is greenhouse gases.
A woman – Eunice Newton Foote – first demonstrated that CO2 is a “greenhouse gas” back in 1856. That same observation was also later made by a famous Irish scientist, John Tyndall, who experimentally demonstrated the “greenhouse effect” in 1859, and included the infrared radiation aspect that Foote had omitted. This Greenhouse Effect is estimated at between 2 to 4.5ºF temperature increase in the short run, rising to 2.7° to 8.1° Fahrenheit over hundreds of years as the planet responds to increased CO2 in the atmosphere and reaches a new temperature equilibrium.Just as your car doesn’t reach top speed the instant you step on the gas, Earth’s temperature doesn’t react instantly to each year’s new record-high carbon dioxide levels. Thanks to the high heat capacity of water and the huge volume of our global oceans, Earth’s surface temperature resists rapid changes, like the inertia of your car. One reason is: part of the excess CO2 and heat is absorbed by the ocean. This delayed reaction means rising greenhouse gas levels don’t immediately have their full impact on surface temperature. But the connection is clear as our “car” has gathered momentum since 1900.
We humans did, by burning fossil fuels. Many of the great advances in human civilization in the past 200+ years have come from burning fossil fuels: the heat in your house, the gas in your car, the fuel in airplanes – all made possible because of the massive returns on investment from those fuels. Those fuels were immensely profitable and popular, starting at over 50:1 energy gained over energy invested (EROI) to produce, then declining to 30:1 EROI, and on down to about 10:1 today. But those fuels came with a Cost that is not reflected in their Price. The hidden Cost is that fossil fuels have dumped many pollutants into our air and water: soot, smog, lead and mercury in
the water (and in your tuna fish), acid in the rain and the ocean, but most importantly in volume and climate effect: Carbon Dioxide. Arrhenius talked about “evaporating our coal mines into the air”, and in fact we have put more than 2,000 billion tons of carbon dioxide into our air and oceans since the start of the Industrial Revolution. That’s CO2 that would NOT have been emitted without human activity. And our CO2 pollution dwarfs natural sources of CO2 like volcanoes, as shown on the chart at right.
As shown in the chart below, CO2 has been controlling Earth’s temperature for a long time, and CO2 hasn’t been this high for at least 800,000 years; further, some studies say for millions of years. No other theory explains what triggered the rapid temperature rise we are experiencing: not solar activity, cosmic rays, volcanoes, water vapor, nor long term celestial factors, etc. If natural factors alone were at work, we’d be entering another ice age. In fact, the UPPER atmosphere IS COOLING, which tells us that the ever-thicker blanket of greenhouse gases down here is trapping enough heat to reverse the natural, very slow process of celestial climate change which could lead to the next Ice Age. There is much more to the story of how earth’s climate changes over millions and billions of years – stories of asteroids, giant volcanoes, more flavors of greenhouse gases, countervailing climate forcings, and an earth moving gradually from snowball to swamp and back again. But the basics you needed to know about this Climate Crisis, you learned in grade school, and the science behind it has been proven since the 19th century.
 CLOSE TO HEAT:
While near the campfire, you can also feel the difference in temperature between your side facing the fire – and your side facing away from the fire. Just as the Moon, without an atmosphere, varies from 260ºF to minus 280ºF – because it has no atmosphere to capture and spread the heat around as Earth does.
 HOW HOT SHOULD IT BE?
The theory of how hot a ‘black body’ should be while absorbing energy from an energy source at a certain distance was formulated in 1879 by Austrian physicist Josef Stefan. In 1884 Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann developed the same theory by other means. Stefan’s insight was based on John Tyndall’s 1864 experiments. “The law was almost immediately experimentally verified. Heinrich Weber in 1888 pointed out deviations at higher temperatures, but perfect accuracy within measurement uncertainties was confirmed up to temperatures of 2217° F by 1897.”
 REFLECTING HEAT:
Called the ‘albedo’
noun: albedo; plural noun: albedos
Definition: the proportion of the incident light or radiation that is reflected by a surface, typically that of a planet or moon.
Example: “the lunar craters have a lower albedo than the surrounding terrain” (because of shadows)
 BIG DIFFERENCE:
The actual numbers are -1 ºF and 59ºF , but let’s not get picky. It’s still a 60ºF life-giving temperature difference.
 IT STARTED WITH COAL:
Notice in the diagram how the slow decrease in temperature since about 950AD started trending sharply upwards in the early 19th century, as the Industrial Revolution – driven by coal – ramped up.
 ATMOSPHERE IS KEY:
Beginning with work by Joseph Fourier in the 1820s, scientists had understood that gases in the atmosphere might trap the heat received from the Sun.
 IT’S THE CARBON DIOXIDE…
Arrhenius was the first person to predict that emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels and other combustion processes were large enough to cause global warming. In his calculation Arrhenius included the feedback from changes in water vapor as well as latitudinal effects, but he omitted clouds, convection of heat upward in the atmosphere, and other essential factors. His work is currently seen less as an accurate quantification of global warming than as the first demonstration that increases in atmospheric CO2 will cause global warming, everything else being equal. His work was carried forward by E.O Hulburt, who calculated that doubling CO2 would create approximately a 4°C rise of surface temperature, and thus “the carbon dioxide theory of the ice ages… is a possible theory”. Hardly anyone noticed this paper. Hulburt was an obscure worker at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, and he published in a journal, the Physical Review, that few meteorologists read. The then-established consensus was stated in such authoritative works as the American Meteorological Society’s 1951 Compendium of Meteorology: the idea that adding CO2 would change the climate was never widely accepted and was abandoned – temporarily.
 A WOMAN LEADS:
Three years before Tyndall, an American painter and amateur scientist, Eunice Newton Foote, had already demonstrated that CO2 absorbs heat. She simply measured the temperatures of glass tubes exposed to sunlight, one filled with air and one with CO2. Foote went on to speculate that if there had been a period when the atmosphere held more of the gas, the planet would have been warmer. The scientific community ignored the brief note from an unknown female in a scientific backwater (i.e., America), and Foote has seldom been given credit for her discovery.
 BROADER PROOF OF GREENHOUSE EFFECT:
Tyndall was the first to correctly measure the relative infrared absorptive powers of the gases nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, and other trace gases and vapours. He concluded that water vapour is the strongest absorber of radiant heat in the atmosphere and is the principal gas controlling air temperature. Absorption by the other gases is not negligible but relatively small. Prior to Tyndall it was widely surmised that the Earth’s atmosphere warms the surface in what was later called a greenhouse effect, but he was the first to prove it.
 THE SKY’S THE LIMIT:
Of course, we’ll only reach a new temperature equilibrium if we STOP adding more CO2 than the planet can absorb naturally in plants and rock weathering – otherwise, Venus is the limit (864°F; read Jame’s Hansen’s book for if we pass the tipping point and reach the Venus Syndrome).
 GREENHOUSE MOMENTUM: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-qa/if-carbon-dioxide-hits-new-high-every-year-why-isn%E2%80%99t-every-year-hotter-last
 MERCURY IN FISH:
A single serving of some types of tuna may surpass the maximum amount of mercury that you can safely consume per week. (click for details)
 HUMANS ARE 59 TIMES FASTER:
The speed at which CO2 is rising has no comparison in the recorded past. The fastest natural shifts out of ice ages saw CO2 levels increase by around 35 parts per million (ppm) in 1,000 years. It might be hard to believe, but humans have emitted the equivalent amount in just the last 17 years. [Source]
 JOINING THE DINOSAURS:
 WORSE IS YET TO COME:
For instance, things continue to get WORSE: https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1065732
Mr. Dieguez is not a climate scientist, but he co-founded the award-winning Energy & Environment Program for the MIT Club of Northern California in 2003, reads a lot, and took the MIT Climate Science Course. He is also open to correction, because the Truth Is Out There.