Observations on life; particularly spiritual

A robust climate?

The polar bear has been used as a symbol of climate change by some activitists“By not doing enough to fight global warming, we’re trashing the planet” says National Geographic magazine. “How hot can it get before truly catastrophic changes are set in motion?”. And Wikipedia warns of “abrupt climate change as it approaches and surpasses 2°C above pre-industrial levels”. It also mentions the possibility of “accelerated global warming”, “runaway climate change”, “climate collapse” and “climate apocalypse”. Others mention a “climate emergency”, “climate crisis”, “climate breakdown”, “irreversible climate destabilization”, “abrupt and irreversible environmental changes” and “interconnecting calamities”. That’s alarmist. It’s creating a culture of fear and panic. And climate change is blamed for any extreme weather. But are these warnings justified?

In my previous post I claimed that “God created the universe to be robust and resilient, with built-in redundancy”. If this principle applies to the earth’s climate, then the alarming statements above are not true and earth’s climate is indeed robust and there will be no real climate emergency.

And in a post on climate change I wrote, “God designed earth and its physical and biological systems to be robust, resilient, stable and self-correcting. They are not fragile or unstable. Consequently, life thrives on earth.” And, “In the (climatic) models, positive feedback seems to dominate negative feedback. This means that it can go out of control and keep on getting hotter. I don’t think God designs like that. For example, the human body regulates its temperature within a tight range. Similarly, because God is in control, I think there will be negative feedback processes that will keep changes in the atmospheric temperature within a certain range. I believe that the earth’s atmospheric system is designed to be stable and not unstable.” And, “Because it’s God’s creation and not the product of random natural processes, the atmosphere is designed better than we think. It’s more complex than we think.”

A recent study

A recent scientific study by the physicists van Wijngaarden and Happer (2020) indicates that for carbon dioxide and water vapor, the atmosphere is very close to saturation (see Appendix). In radiation physics the technical term “saturated” implies that adding more molecules will not cause more warming (this is like diminishing returns or asymptotic behavior). As a result, more carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere will not warm the planet in any meaningful way. The results of this study have not yet been published in the peer-reviewed literature. However, because the authors are climate change skeptics, the paper may be refused for publication. Is this fair? You could say that as they are biased, then it’s fair to reject their paper. But all scientists are biased in some way! They all have a particular worldview.

One of the authors reported that a major physics journal refused to accept the paper for a review. He blamed it on a conspiracy to keep those who question climate science from established periodicals, which is a form of academic censorship.

I can see no evidence on the internet of any review of this paper. Does this mean that it withstands scrutiny, or is it being ignored by those with vested interests in the idea of threatening climate change? However, a version of the paper was presented at a Climate Seminar at Princeton University in December 2019.

A false alarm?

van Wijngaarden and Happer (2020) say that the emission of more greenhouse gases will not warm the planet in any meaningful way. This means that any global warming will only be slight and not have a significant impact on the earth’s weather or climate.

This more comprehensive treatment of atmospheric radiative transfer shows that the simplified treatment in climatic models is probably deficient. The models fail to capture this aspect of the complexity of atmospheric processes.

This is consistent with the earth’s climate being robust and stable. If this is true then there is no climate threat or emergency and there will be no catastrophic, irreversible, or runaway climatic changes. And we don’t need to “fight global warming” by limiting the emission of greenhouses gases.

The climate change and global warming warnings seem to be like a false alarm. It’s also like the story of “The Emperor’s new clothes”! The Emperor has no clothes! Are Wijngaarden and Happer the truth-telling boys of atmospheric science?

Past experience

The greatest climatic impacts on earth have been the flood (Gen. 6-8), which was followed by the ice age. This was a miraculous event as the flood was God’s judgement on the wickedness of humanity. After the flood, because there was no ice on earth, the sea level was at its maximum height, which is about 70 metres (230 feet) above its current level. During the ice age, the sea level went down to its minimum height, about 100 meters (330 feet) below its current level. The lowest sea level is marked by the edge of the continental shelf. The flood was a unique event, never to be repeated. And because the flood caused the ice age, the ice age was also a unique event, never to be repeated. Instead God would provide regular seasons as long as the earth endured, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Gen. 8:22NIV).

This doesn’t rule out any global climatic changes. But “seedtime and harvest” are guaranteed. Plants will continue to grow and provide food. So any climatic changes will not be catastrophic. The earth will remain habitable. And God told Noah that the earth would never be destroyed again by a flood and the rainbow is the symbol of this promise (Gen. 9:11-17).

Conclusion

A scientific investigation into the complexities of atmospheric processes seems to confirm that the earth’s climate is indeed robust and stable. Any climatic changes will not be catastrophic. But will this study be given fair peer-review? And will it be accepted for publication?

Appendix: This study says that more carbon dioxide will not cause much more warming

A blogpost by Dr J L Wile.

Carbon dioxide absorbs the infrared radiation that the earth emits, trapping it before it leaves the planet. This warms up the atmosphere, making the earth a haven for life. Obviously, then, the more carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, the warmer it will get, right? Not necessarily! As I tell my high school and university students over and over again: Science isn’t simple! As a result, conclusions that seem “obvious” to most people (even most scientists) are often absurdly wrong. A recently-produced study that has not yet been published in the peer-reviewed literature makes this case about carbon dioxide and global warming (or “climate change”).

The “obvious” conclusion that more carbon dioxide means more global warming ignores the fact that carbon dioxide doesn’t absorb all the infrared radiation it encounters. Instead, it only absorbs specific wavelengths. In addition, the amount of each wavelength that carbon dioxide can absorb varies with wavelength, the temperature at which the absorption happens, the concentration of the gases in the surroundings, and so on. Because of such effects, there comes a time when adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere has a negligible effect on the amount of infrared radiation absorbed (the response asymptotes). When that happens, you have reached saturation, and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide will not increase the atmosphere’s warming.

Now all of this is well known, and most global warming models attempt to include these effects in their calculations. The problem is that they treat them in a crude way. This is understandable, since a model that is trying to simulate the entire atmosphere has to consider a lot of things. As a result, most of them are treated crudely so that the model doesn’t become overwhelmingly convoluted. That’s where this unpublished study comes in. The authors test the effect of treating the science related to saturation crudely, and they say it renders the models pretty much useless when it comes to understanding how carbon dioxide affects the present atmosphere.

How do they come to this conclusion? They consider more than 300,000 different infrared wavelengths that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (water, ozone, methane, and dinitrogen oxide) absorb. They compute how much the gases will warm the atmosphere by absorbing each wavelength. First, they make the computation without considering details like the temperature, the other gases in the atmosphere, etc. This is roughly equivalent to how current models treat the situation. Then, they do it considering all those details, using the present makeup of the atmosphere. They find that in the present atmosphere, the amount that more carbon dioxide can contribute to global warming is 10,000 times smaller than what current models assume. The same can be said for water vapor. For carbon dioxide and water vapor, then, the atmosphere is very, very close to saturation. As a result, more carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere will not warm the planet in any meaningful way. Ozone, dinitrogen oxide, and methane are also close to saturation, but not nearly as close as carbon dioxide and water vapor.

How do we know that their analysis is correct? We don’t. When they compare their calculations of how much infrared radiation is being absorbed for each wavelength to what satellites have been measuring, they see virtually no difference. Thus, their calculations seem to reflect reality very well. However, I am not very knowledgeable about the details, so there might be fatal flaws in their analysis that I am not seeing. Once again, science isn’t simple. I really hope this gets published in the peer-reviewed literature so that experts can weigh in on the conclusions. Unfortunately, I am not confident this paper will get that far. If its conclusions are correct, then there is absolutely no basis for the fear-mongering that surrounds carbon dioxide emissions. There are so many scientists whose careers have been made based on that fear-mongering, they may simply keep the paper from being published.

Fortunately, science is self-correcting. One way or another, we will figure out the details related to this issue. It might take longer than it should, and it might be after terrible decisions have been made based on faulty climate science, but at some point in the future, we will find out whether or not these authors are correct. I hope it is sooner rather than later!

Reference

van Wijngaarden W A and Happer W (2020) “Dependence on Earth’s thermal radiation in five most abundant greenhouse gases”, Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics arXiv:  2006.03098.

Acknowledgment

I became aware of this scientific paper through Jay Wile’s “Proslogion” blog. A copy of his blogpost on it is included in the Appendix.

Written, November 2020

Also see: A robust and resilient creation
What about climate change?

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