"On a warm day CO2 will heat up faster than the other air molecules, but on a cold day it will cool faster and lose its heat. So how exactly is CO2 supposed to warm the planet if it loses its heat?
HERE is how science is supposed to be done, with research, empirical verification, and a healthy dose of native intelligence and humor. Citing Specific Heats and Thermodynamics, Pinn follows a simple yet sound approach. Indeed, if the key to an atmospheric greenhouse effect is just the ability of certain gases to hold onto heat, thus yielding up the warmth they've stored when the earth rotates into night, Pinn's conclusions are very solid. The most important hint the earth offers us is that it is cooler than predicted by day and warmer at night. With only minor quibbles here and there (for instance, the confusion between the specific heats of water vs water vapor) I'd call this essay quite a gem.
Surrounded by a vacuum, the earth can only lose heat by radiation. And what are 'greenhouse gases' famous for? Radiating. AS.
Why Carbon Dioxide is Not a Greenhouse Gas
Published August 26, 2008 by: William Pinn
I'm sitting here typing on my computer and basking in the coolness of another summer day here in Roseville, California. Did I say coolness? Yes I did. You see, we folks in Roseville are experiencing a summer with record cool temperatures.
It is times like these when I think of the global-warming issue and the one variable that is allegedly the sole cause of global warming: carbon dioxide (CO2).
It is always been my understanding that climate change involves a lot more variables thus making predictions about future temperatures difficult; however, supposedly a majority of scientists believe that CO2 is in fact a greenhouse gas and the only variable worth considering.
But when was the majority ever right? The majority of scientists at one time believed that the world was flat until a sea merchant by the name of Christopher Columbus straightened them out.
In fact if you look at the history of science, the majority at any given time believed in some sort of nonsense: earth, water, air and fire are the elements, light moves through a substance called the aether, the earth is the center of the universe, Y2K, killer bees, ad nausea!
Now the "majority of scientists" are proposing that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and that's bad for the planet, because everything mankind does is bad and because it's hard to sell carbon credits unless you can convince people that it is bad. So it is bad!
Given the state of affairs here in Roseville, I have my doubts, so I have decided to delve into physics and calculus, crunch some numbers, perform experiments and review and analyze experiments performed by others.
Here is one actual experiment performed on CO2 that I found on the Internet:
I really appreciate the fact that an actual empirical experiment was performed here. Basically one jar is filled with CO2 and another filled with air. Heat lamps are shined on both jars. Both jars have temperature probes to measure the difference in their temperatures.
The prediction made was that the jar containing the CO2 would record a higher temperature after a certain period of exposure under the heat lamps.
The prediction came true: the jar containing CO2 was four degrees warmer than the jar containing air. However, I could not help notice that the jar containing CO2 contained a much higher concentration of CO2 than in our atmosphere. .0384% of our atmosphere is CO2 and that number could increase to an alarming .0385%!!!!
This is just my gut talking, but my guess is that it would take a hell of a lot more carbon dioxide to cause a rise in temperature on a global scale, which would in turn cause the poles to melt and the oceans to flood... So I decided to try to repeat the above experiment using a smaller concentration of CO2.
I locked myself in my bathroom with a thermometer. I made sure there was exactly a concentration of .0384% CO2. I made the following prediction: the next time I exhaled, the temperature in my bathroom would rise substantially, causing my toilet water to heat up, rise and flood the bathroom; I would then be invited to do guest spots on all the major talk shows...
So I exhaled. Alas, nothing. The thermometer would not budge. However, after about 20 minutes, the temperature began to drop. I thought this was strange given the pseudo-certainty of the "majority of scientists."
Chances are, the temperature drop had nothing to do with CO2, but other variables were in play -- like the fact I opened the window and a cold breeze flew in. Then I had an epiphany! Maybe other variables are responsible for global warming.
After all, we are in the interglacial period of an ice-age cycle, and because of this, the earth has been warming for the last ten thousand years. So it does not really follow that global warming is man-made, per se.
Still, CO2 does get hotter than normal air according to the first experiment. So I thought it would be prudent to take a closer look at CO2 and other substances. The following are some specific heat coefficients (J/g*deg. K) from highest to lowest:
Notice that the greenhouse gases are high on the list. They absorb heat slowly and lose it slowly. Thus they can prevent heat from earth from escaping to outer space. Water is the highest and water vapor is the strongest greenhouse gas.
Mercury is last on the list. This is not surprising since mercury gains and loses heat the fastest. In fact all metals gain and lose heat quickly. You might say they are anti-greenhouse.
After water on the list, comes methane -- another powerful greenhouse gas with a coefficient of 2.34! Then comes nitrogen gas. Most air consists of nitro-- HEY! Wait a minute?! After nitrogen comes oxygen? What?!
Then comes aluminum? Aluminum is a metal not a greenhouse gas. Finally, we get to CO2 which has a coefficient that is so low, it among the metals, the conductors -- not the greenhouse gases.
CO2 can transfer heat more efficiently than aluminum which is used to make electrical wiring. This makes no sense if the "majority of scientists" are to be believed. However, real scientists came up with specific heat coefficients and the following formula:
Amount of Heat Energy (Q) = cm(T1 - T2).
c = the specific heat coefficient, m = mass, T1 - T2 = change in temperature.
This formula is used to determine how hard or easy it is for a substance to gain or lose heat. Given its small coefficient, CO2's temperature increases quickly when a small amount of heat is applied.
This fact would certainly account for the results of the original experiment mentioned above. The problem with that experiment is that it is incomplete. The experimenter neglected to put the jars in the freezer to see which jar would cool the fastest. According to Q = cm(T1-T2), the jar containing CO2 would cool faster than the jar containing air.
On a warm day CO2 will heat up faster than the other air molecules, but on a cold day it will cool faster and lose its heat. So how exactly is CO2 supposed to warm the planet if it loses its heat?
The greenhouse theory proposes the sun's radiation enters Earth's atmosphere in small frequency waves that are not absorbed by CO2. These waves are absorbed by the earth's surface. Longer infrared waves are reflected back towards outer space.
Allegedly, prior to industrial society, these long heat waves made it to outer space, and the world was safe. Then came Man! He lit fires and put more CO2 into the atmosphere!
Instead of transferring to outer space, the heat waves now get absorbed by CO2 molecules. They make up a whopping .0384% of the total mass of the atmosphere! There is no way the heat can get around that fence!
It must be absorbed by the CO2 molecules. Then the CO2 molecules do a little dance due to the excitation caused by the extra heat. They then expel that heat in all directions. Some transfers to outer space, but some goes back down to the lower atmosphere to make it hotter.
The problem is with the proposal that the heat heading back to the lower atmosphere must succeed. The assumption is made that the heat flowing up from the Earth's surface takes a break and fails to push the weaker heat waves coming down back to outer space.
According to real scientists who ascribe to the real second law of thermodynamics--and not computer models--heat flows to where it is cooler. The coolest thing closest to a CO2 molecule is outer space with a temperature of around zero degrees Kelvin. The lower atmosphere is more than 273 degrees hotter, so why would heat go that way?
It is the equivalent of pushing a toy boat upstream. Eventually the toy boat ends downstream. By the same token, the second law of thermodynamics should win out, and the heat ejected by CO2 molecules should transfer to the cold, dark abyss of outer space.
Therefore, good reader, I submit to you that CO2 is NOT a greenhouse gas. Oxygen and nitrogen are better greenhouse gases. Specific heat coefficients don't lie, but scientists in the business of selling carbon credits do.
Water vapor, methane, oxygen and nitrogen are true greenhouse gases. They heat up slowly and give up heat slowly. As a result, they keep our planet nice and warm and suitable for life -- and that's a good thing.
Written by William Pinn: Writer, musician, athlete, mathematician, scientist, philosopher, comedian, programmer.