The Politics of Global Warming
Clearly, one’s political stand or a company’s profit margin is not a valid factor in a debate concerning global warming. Clearly, a company’s profit margin for its widget “global-warming-fixer” is no more a factor than is another established company’s unwillingness to invest or waste capital on widgets. No matter what public relations claims they make, both are driven to be successful as measured by profits yet they face different hurdles. The widget maker is forced to enter the market in an unnatural way- by lobbying authorities for legislation mandating the consumption of their widgets; all of which increase consumer costs for essential energy and transportation; while established companies in their own naturally competitive environment are generally forced, by competition, to cut costs to win more consumers and increase profits.
If one strips away the “global warming” politics, what remains is a technical topic complicated by the many unknowns of geology, and the inherent inaccuracy of global measurements. Had a sound case been made, there would be no debate; there would be a sound consensus. There is anything but a sound consensus on “global warming”; no consensus that it is occurring and if it is occurring, no consensus as to its cause or solution. There is an absence of consistent data supporting “global warming” claims.
Often it is suggested that very few people really understand the “global warming” phenomenon. However, if those few do in fact understand it, why can’t they logically explain it to others beyond emphatically claiming, “It’s true- I’m sure- everybody agrees”? Why are the many with their inferior understandings counted as agreeing?
Arguments presented on global warming’s behalf lack essential logic. For instance, often a catastrophe such as a volcanic eruption is used to illustrate a “nuclear winter scenario”; a scenario that clouds the skies long-term causing severe and catastrophic temperature drops. The “nuclear winter scenario” convincingly suggests that nuclear war would kill many who were untouched by radiation by clouding skies and causing freezing draught. Clouded skies cause reduced insolation and do cause temperatures to drop. Yet volcanic eruptions outgas massive amounts of CO2 and if “global warming” arguments were logical, the CO2 should cause sudden runaway warming conditions. Volcanic eruptions do not cause temperature increases but instead they cause temperature drops and draught. Volcanism’s erupted CO2 rapidly saturates into water both atmospherically and at Earth’s surface. Rain fertilizes plant life with CO2. In the sea, CO2 sustains Earth’s humanly essential plankton and eventually re-solidifies into carbonates at the sea’s bottom. The tectonic subduction and melting of carbonates at the sea’s bottom is the reason volcanoes eject CO2- the carbon dioxide cycle.
Moreover, if a runaway “greenhouse” scenario exists, how did Earth recover in ancient times of higher natural CO2 percentages? If no logical means of recovery exists, no logical runaway scenario exists.
Some even suggest in an amazing irony, that cold weather trends and extremes before the dooming heat are as expected! Is the ironic saying “cold as hell” applicable here? It has become common for all extremes both hot and cold to be blamed on global warming’s “greenhouse gases.” Any unpopular weather is attributable to global warming.
There is a lot of cynicism- maybe not enough.
There are really only two possible “global warming” debate outcomes.
First, global warming is real and except for preparation, there is little if anything at all that can be done about it. There are no economies able to survive without fossil fuels. Except for going along with treaties in hopes that the compliance of all others will allow for cheating, no nation will comply with limited fossil fuel consumption. Sure, one country can give another money for their compliance. Their appearance of treaty compliance will last until the money is gone. There are tremendous incentives for nations to cheat. Nations that “cheat” will make gains on nations that comply. Nuclear power might have helped stem carbon based fuel consumption, yet the same people that dislike the use of abundantly available carbon based fuels often loathe the ultra clean nuclear energy.
The second possibility is, the supposed crisis is like a Gilligan’s Island episode where the Professor is sure, others panic, the Skipper opportunistically seizes control and rallies the passengers and crew, but intense corrective efforts are a futile waste of energy- the problem never really existed. The island wasn’t really sinking; Gilligan was moving the water depth stick. Once Gilligan’s indiscretion is discovered, things trend back toward normal in Gilligan’s world- at least until the next episode’s crisis. In the real world, the scars that remain are an impoverished people subordinate to the very few that capitalized on the created chaos.
Every human should hope “global warming” is all just a Gilligan’s Island episode. Search the motives of those that do not share this hope.
Wind generated electricity is horribly expensive yet advertisements promote wind as a viable alternative. Solar electric power, beyond its emergency use in a power outage and its limited use in remote areas away from a power grid, is useless and expensive. Electric cars can only work in limited quantities and only in a few areas; the power grids in populated areas will not support their simultaneous recharge. In addition, power plants that burn fossil fuels supply much of the power grid. Government subsidies only insure that these “alternatives” will remain horribly expensive. They are a tragic waste of capital- capital that could be used to clean up polluted land and water, or to cultivate fisheries and in general, improve health and food production.
Be it war, famine, or pandemic, eventually some major catastrophe will limit global population. Wealth and technology will always counter anything subtle just in time to meet the rising need- the economics of capitalism. If an atmospheric catastrophe is imminent, it may be more sensible to prepare to weather the storm (or draught) rather than to try to stop it.
Nevertheless, a potential disturbance in Earth’s atmosphere and Earth’s rain cycle is at the core of the “global warming” debate, and the atmosphere and rain cycle are the topics of this appendix. Again, I have no opinion as to whether or not global warming is occurring. There are certainly conditions that can cause temperatures to change both up and down.
Properties of Water
Earth’s transition to its modern rain cycle explains a great deal about Earth’s evolution. The transition occurred sometime over a span of 4 or 5 billion years. During the Hadean eon, hot Earth was a gas giant radiating heat away into the very cold surroundings of space. Initially there was no sunlight or solar wind. Earth’s atmosphere was overcast and for its atmosphere to ever clear, Earth had to cool off and re-condense gases onto its cooling surface while other gases were blown away by solar wind. Cooling off is a slow process for an Earth sized body. The question is “How slow a process is it?”
Fortunately, for life as we know it, Earth had cooled enough for oceans of water to re-condense on its surface before sunlight. Atmospheric pressure was still very high and surface water was very hot- much hotter than the STP boiling point. Then, as the Sun began shinning and outputting solar wind, Earth’s upper most atmosphere began to erode away. Pressure began to decline rapidly and the decline steamed the lower atmosphere up to the colder reaches where water vapor was at its dew point. After reaching its dew point, water rained back down and completed a continuous cycle. All the while, solar wind swept away the highest-level non-condensable gases.
An aggressive water cycle had become an early source of heat transport away from Earth’s surface. Water’s cycling effects were pronounced as atmospheric pressure rapidly declined. As the rate of pressure decline became gradual, the rain cycle diminished to non-existence.
The early Sun had a mostly negligible or even a negative effect on Earth’s surface temperature. Earth’s atmosphere was at extremely high albedo. Although counter intuitive, the Sun’s only significant early effect was to cool Earth’s surface by removing atmosphere. Early conditions would not last forever. How long did they last?
For as long as Earth was the primary source of heat at Earth’s surface, the atmosphere was overcast with clouds of water. Earth’s entire surface pushed humidity into the atmosphere where it climbed to high, and sufficiently cool atmospheric levels to become cloud cover. Although not clouded with water, Venus is a good example of a hot planet’s continuously clouded condition but without a chemical cycle similar to rain. How long was Earth the primary source of heat at Earth’s surface?
Cloudy conditions were continuous as Earth cooled. Eventually Earth cooled enough at its high albedo to allow landmasses to freeze over. If situated at the poles, frozen landmasses resulted in clear skies- skies clear to sunlight’s insolation. In fact, if only one hemisphere’s pole had frozen landmasses, that hemisphere would clear while the other remained overcast- all due to Coriolis wind currents. Temperatures below freezing at the poles were essential to an eventual modern rain cycle.
About 120Mya, Earth’s surface temperature jumped about ~20 degrees indicating when Earth’s overcast condition cleared and indicating when the Sun had become Earth’s dominate source of heat. That is not ~20 degrees above modern temperature- it was likely much hotter than modern temperature already. Earth’s albedo had changed. Conifers declined in regions nearest the equator. The decline was probably due to intense direct sunlight as opposed to, or in addition to, the added heat.
Then, the sudden and immense spread of grasses away from swamps and streams and into great savannas is evidenced at about 60Mya. The spread of grasses shows when atmospheric pressure had dropped enough to allow a rain cycle. Intermittently clear skies and adjacent hot and cold bodies of air caused by sunlight, and suitable atmospheric pressure are all factors in a rain cycle.
The thermal properties of water explain Earth’s modern rain cycle. Modern weather reports demonstrate the properties of water but only on a regional scale. If conditions change globally, weather changes become global in scale. At current global pressure levels and with stable insolation, Earth’s water cycle overwhelmingly controls Earth’s surface temperature. Earth’s water cycle is more aptly called Earth’s Refrigerant Cycle.
The Earth System has its own built in global heat pump. Earth’s natural refrigerant just happens to be water, and at constant atmospheric pressure and at constant solar irradiation, Earth’s surface temperature will remain within a stable range.
Earth’s range of surface temperature exists due to wind currents, sea currents, temporarily clouded skies, and seasonal variations attributable to Earth’s orbit. Water’s capacity to cool Earth is much greater than is the Sun’s capacity to heat Earth- at current solar output.
The Sun’s energy is the energy that powers Earth’s refrigerant cycle and the refrigerant cycle has an added means of limiting insolation- the ability to cloud the sky when overwhelmed by heat at Earth’s surface.
Earth’s surface is the Earth System’s built in evaporator while condensation occurs atmospherically, at the poles, and on landmasses in the form of early morning dew. Warmed and evaporated water rises away from Earth’s surface to high atmospheric levels and dissipates heat to space until at its dew point, then it forms clouds. The engine (or compressor) of the refrigerant system is the energy from the Sun itself since Earth’s residual internal heat has little remaining influence.
Earth exists comfortably within water’s three common states- solid, liquid, and gas. Although water’s gas state implies boiling temperatures, for reasons of vapor pressure, liquid water evaporates based on surrounding pressure even at low temperatures.
Four hypothetical cases of sudden atmospheric pressure fluctuation and temperature fluctuation deserve mention. These four cases are based on modern Earth’s conditions where solar energy controls surface temperature. Heat emanating from inside Earth is not a significant factor. In each case, fluctuations are naturally counteracted. In every case, the natural tendency is rapidly back toward the equilibrium of a normal rain cycle.
Case 1- Temperature Rise: At a given atmospheric pressure on Earth and with fixed insolation, if global temperature goes up then evaporation increases and there is more rain, more cloud cover, and more snow collecting as ice at the poles. The added heat directly increases water’s evaporation rate. The engine that drives evaporation, rain, and subsequent ice production at the poles has been turned up.
In response, the Earth System counteracts the sudden temperature increase by creating more cloud cover and moderating insolation at Earth’s surface while the rain cycle and its cooling effects become more aggressive. In an extreme case of sudden elevated temperature, overcast conditions overwhelmingly counter the heat. In every case of added heat, an especially active evaporation/rain cycle or completely overcast skies set Earth on a cooling trend that quickly rectifies the heightened temperature.
How do warmer temperatures create more ice at the poles? An analogy follows. Consider a house with a pot of water warming on the stove and, within the same house there is an open freezer. The warming pot of water adds humidity into the house’s air while the open freezer removes humidity by re-condensing it and converting it into ice. Now, turn the heat up under the water. With the added heat, there is more humidity in the air and a higher air temperature within the house, and it follows, a more rapid formation of ice in the open freezer. The rate of ice accumulation in the freezer is proportionate to the temperature of the pot of warming water. This is true no matter what mixture of gases make up the house’s air.
To complete the analogy, the Sun is the primary source of heat that creates humidity on Earth while the open freezer is everything not heated by the Sun. Except for its exposure to sunlight, Earth exists within surrounding space that is near absolute zero. The house’s “air” other than water vapor could be entirely nitrogen, CO2, or any mixture of gases at constant pressure. The non-water air mixture makes no difference to water’s evaporation rate.
The atmosphere’s capacity to store heat reduces Earth’s temperature swings, as does the heat capacity (specific heat) of the sea and land. The atmosphere combined with the water cycle adds stability, not instability. More atmosphere, and subsequently more atmospheric pressure, produces more stability, but at higher average temperatures.
Case 2- Temperature Drop: At a given atmospheric pressure on Earth and with fixed insolation, if global temperature drops for some hypothetical reason, there is reduced evaporation, continuously clearer skies with draught conditions, and less ice collecting at the poles. Since more sunlight reaches Earth’s surface, insolation quickly rectifies the global temperature drop by warming Earth.
As per the analogy of Case 1, the heat under the pot of water had been temporarily reduced but was rapidly counteracted by conditions that increase insolation even at fixed solar output.
Case 3- Pressure Increase: At a given temperature at Earth’s surface and with fixed solar output, if global atmospheric pressure were to go up, it would reduce evaporation causing the rain cycle to diminish- low humidity draught conditions would prevail in the short term. Added pressure in the atmosphere directly reduces water’s rate of evaporation and subsequently, reduces its capacity to cool Earth’s surface. Clear skies would result in more insolation at Earth’s surface.
To reach levels of evaporation equal to levels before the pressure increase, temperature must increase. Temperature would increase until the rain cycle had normalized- but at higher global temperature. Polar ice would diminish. Slowed evaporation would reduce water’s partial pressure contribution to the atmosphere- a small pressure reducing feedback. Under heightened pressure, there would be a diminished accumulation of ice with continued perimeter melt in the Polar Regions. Sparse cloud cover would form but only at higher levels in the atmosphere with scarce rain.
With more sunlight down to its surface, Earth would become warmer. Earth would continue to warm until rain cycle activity had returned to normal. The given situation of increased pressure rectifies itself back toward a normal rain cycle by warming Earth.
The “global warming” scenario’s best fit is a pressure increase, yet the only way to increase atmospheric pressure is to put more gas into the atmosphere. There have been no claims of increased atmospheric pressure due to the combination of all volcanism, respiration, wild fires, and fossil fuel consumption. Through it all, global atmospheric pressure has been considered constant.
Case 4- Pressure Drop: At a given temperature at Earth’s surface and with fixed solar output, if global atmospheric pressure were to drop, evaporation would increase and a deluge of rain lasting long enough to reduce Earth’s surface temperature would flood Earth. As a global average, the temperature reduction would continue until the rain cycle declined to normal levels of activity but the temperature drop would remain.
In the case of a major pressure drop, glaciers spread. Major glaciations that begin to cover seas begin to increase atmospheric gas content since ice does not absorb gases; volcanism’s out gassing goes relatively unchecked, and pressure goes up countering the pressure drop. Reducing atmospheric pressure directly increases water’s evaporation rate while cooler temperatures directly reduce water’s evaporation rate.
The Earth System would find a new equilibrium. Temperature would drop until the increased evaporation rate had been offset by cooler global surface temperature. More ice would accumulate in the Polar Regions. The given situation of reduced pressure rectifies itself toward equilibrium by cooling Earth.
In an extreme case where pressure has dropped radically, the seas would boil until Earth has cooled considerably. Rain would be profuse and eventually Earth would reach a new equilibrium of normal rain cycle at much cooler temperatures.
Catastrophic pressure drops have occurred in the past and in fact have been Earth’s most frequent atmospheric catastrophes. An atmospheric pressure drop likely occurred ending the Mesozoic. A pressure drop is a perfect fit for the flood of Noah as well.
The end of any atmospheric catastrophe occurs when the rain cycle has reached an activity level similar to the modern rain cycle. A normal rain cycle is the benchmark for an atmospheric recovery. However, with reduced pressure, cooler conditions will prevail; with increased pressure, warmer conditions prevail.
With constant insolation, pressure controls temperature on the refrigerant covered Earth. Trouble is, the given fixed conditions above are never a given in the real world. In the real world, all conditions are changing simultaneously and to make things worse, because random wind and sea currents are a big factor, there is added uncertainty. Add to that an occasional temperature changing tropical storm, hurricane, volcanic eruption, or solar maximum/minimum.
However, in every scenario of small changes in both temperature and atmospheric pressure, the Earth system corrects itself toward equilibrium of a normal rain cycle after a short time of unusual weather. Extreme changes in temperature and pressure require longer periods of self-correction back to a normal rain cycle.