Archive
2014
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
2013
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2012
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2011
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2010
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2009
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2008
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2007
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2006
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
Jun. 11, 2010

Global Warming 101: The basic equation

by Neil Wagner

Click to enlarge images
Post on Twitter
Share on Facebook

 

The equation behind human-induced climate change is as simple as 1+2=3.

Welcome to Global Warming 101. It’s the first of a four-part series aimed at the staunchest of climate change skeptics. Rather than having the goal of convincing skeptics manmade global warming is real, the aim of this series is simply to show that those of us who are convinced have arrived at our convictions through a rational thought process based on logical conclusions.

As Bebbo says in today’s strip, all legit scientists agree on the basics of how the greenhouse effect works and that humans have been putting additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. If a lawyer were laying out the following four statements, he or she might lead off by saying, "These are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.":

 

  • Greenhouse gases are a natural part of our environment. When heat radiates from the planet and attempts to leave the atmosphere, some of it runs into tiny greenhouse gas particles, which absorb the heat. The particles, in turn, radiate the heat back out in all directions, some heading out of the atmosphere and some heading back towards earth.
  • The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon. The delicately balanced sequence of events described above has been happening on our planet for a long time. It’s called the greenhouse effect.
  • The greenhouse effect is a good thing—not only natural, but critical to our survival on this planet. Without any greenhouse effect, our planet would be 50° F colder on average. And remember—just an 8° F drop would give us an ice age.
  • Human activities are putting additional amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

 

…Which leads us to manmade global warming. Those little greenhouse gas particles up in the atmosphere capture SOME of the escaping heat, returning SOME of it to our atmosphere to keep earth nice and warm. But what about the additional particles people are producing? Couldn’t the increased density of particles up there absorb—and radiate—additional heat?

While there is likely nothing that will convince the staunchest skeptic that anthropogenic climate change is real, I’d be interested to know if anyone can reasonably argue the concept is illogical, in light of the widely-accepted information in the bullet points above. Please let me know!

Here are some examples of noted climate change skeptics (and I emphasize skeptics) acknowledging the role of greenhouse gases, the likelihood that people have at least some responsibility for warming the planet, or both…

"Is the globe warming? Yes. Is the greenhouse effect real? Yes. Is carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, being increased by men? Yes. Would we expect this warming to have an effect? Yes. Do human beings in general affect the climate? Yes."
—the late Michael Crichton

"It seems incontrovertible to me that there is a global warming effect and that it is going to be serious, probably not in the amount of, say, six degrees warming, but it’s likely that we’ll get two to three degrees warming and that will be serious enough."
—Bjørn Lomborg, author of "The Skeptical Environmentalist"

"It has been known since 1872 that as we emit more and more carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, each increment results in less and less warming. In other words, the first changes produce the most warming…Once human beings start to warm the climate, they do so at a constant rate."
—Patrick Michaels, climate scientist, American Senior Fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, former program chair for the Committee on Applied Climatology of the American Meteorological Society

 

"No doubt that warming is happening…A lot of these things are not anything to do with human activities…So it certainly wasn’t due to human activities, most of the time…But certainly, most of it is not due to human activities."
—Excerpts from an interview with Freeman Dyson, Princeton physicist

 

"If you closed the whole carbon economy for 41 years you would only forestall one degree of warming."
—Lord Monckton of Brenchley, a former advisor on scientific policy to Margaret Thatcher’s government.

 

About Neil Wagner

Neil Wagner's What on Earth? comic strip uses humor to discuss global warming.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

topics