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since June 19, 2001


Overheated argument flawed

People produce a minuscule amount of planet's greenhouse gases


Overheated argument flawed
People produce a minuscule amount of planet's greenhouse gases

Sun 17 Nov 2002
Page: A14

Carbon dioxide -- CO2 -- is not a pollutant. Therefore, the Kyoto accord is not a pollution-control treaty.

Carbon dioxide does not cause smog. Instead, carbon dioxide is what is known as a greenhouse gas, a GHG. It occurs naturally, as well as being generated by humans. According to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nature releases between 150 and 153 gigatons of CO2 each year; we humans emit about six to nine gigatons. That's nature, 93 to 97 per cent; humans, three to six per cent.

So the Kyoto accord will not make the air cleaner. Just what will it accomplish?

Greenhouse gases, primarily water vapour and CO2, trap energy from the sun after it bounces off the Earth's surface and keeps it from returning to space, ensuring it remains to warm the planet. It is the only reason the Earth is warm enough to support life.

The global warming theory holds that because the concentration of carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect will be magnified and Earth's temperature increased.

The increase in CO2 alone will only cause warming of about one degree C over the next century, though, even if its atmospheric concentration doubles as the IPCC predicts. By itself, manmade CO2 will not cause much warming. To achieve the kind of extreme warming -- three to six degrees by 2100 -- the kind forecast by the IPCC, green lobbyists and Ottawa, the kind that might lead to disastrous floods, droughts, tornadoes and hurricanes, the spread of tropical viruses, dislocations of entire peoples, and so on, CO2-induced warming has to be magnified three-, four- or even six-fold by what are called "feedbacks."

Here is where the global warming/Kyoto science goes off the rails.

Only thermometers on the ground have detected any warming in the past 25 years. Weather satellites and balloons have not, which is surprising if only because the global warming theory suggests warming should be greater in the atmosphere than on the ground. So it is a significant setback for the overall global warming theory for measurements of the atmosphere to turn up no warming yet.

So far, significant global warming exists only in computer models of future climate. And to achieve it even there, the global warming modellers have to create "feedbacks." As Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT and a lead author of both the IPCC and the U.S. National Academy of Science 2001 reports on global warming, explains it "in the models, clouds and water vapour increase in response to warming so as to greatly amplify the warming." In essence, manmade CO2 in the atmosphere causes a minor warming that then triggers an enormous natural warming.

But, as Lindzen points out, we are more than half way to a doubling of CO2, yet nowhere near the cataclysmic temperature rise forecast by the UN, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club, federal Environment Minister David Anderson and others. If temperature rises in response to CO2 , the 20th century should have witnessed an increase of 1.5 to 2.0 degrees C, rather than just the 0.5 degrees that actually occurred. Lindzen says there is "some unknown process cancelling the difference." Perhaps the increased cloudiness caused by the initial CO2 warming prevents solar radiation from reaching the ground, so it is never bounced back to be trapped by the greenhouse effect.

How water vapour and clouds affect climate is almost unknown, yet those who believe in Kyoto and the coming global warming disaster base most of their theory on these two factors working exactly as they predict and tripling, quadrupling or even sextupling the manmade warming.

Add in one last wrinkle. Green house gases make up just one per cent of the atmosphere. Of that one per cent, water vapour makes up 97 per cent and CO2 just two per cent. Of the tiny sliver that consists of CO2, just three to six per cent is manmade; the vast majority occurs naturally. And of the tiny amount of CO2 that is manmade, the amount that would be stopped by Kyoto is, at most, one-sixth, if the U.S. were in the treaty, which it is not.

The global warming theory holds that a fraction of a fraction of CO2 (the manmade portion generated by industrialized nations), will distort the natural greenhouse effect so much that even though manmade and natural CO2, together, are a tiny fraction of greenhouse gases, and greenhouse gases are themselves only a tiny fraction of the total atmosphere, this industrialized-nation CO2 is enough to cause an unnatural temperature rise of such potency that it will trigger a natural rise of two to five degrees, even though we have no idea what would cause this natural temperature rise, which so far is not showing up as predicted. I won't bet on it.

Lorne Gunter
Columnist, Edmonton Journal
Editorial Board Member, National Post

Index to some of Lorne Gunter's articles

On global warming

On other issues

See also:

  • Global Warming — A collection of information by reputable scientists from around the world who disagree with the David Suzuki crowd and the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], and who provide irrefutable evidence that debunks the global warming hype.

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Thoughts are Free

Posted 2002 11 17