The Climate-CO2 Causal Chain
Dai Davies, 190114
This is a view of the causal chain between Earth's rising surface temperatures and our industrial production of carbon dioxide which has developed over this decade from new evidence.
Link 1: Carbon dioxide absorbs infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface.
This was demonstrated in laboratory experiments in the 19th century and is not seriously disputed. It is, however, all that 19th century physics has to offer. Beyond that we need 20th century physics, particularly quantum mechanics and reliable models of molecular spectroscopy and mechanics.
Link 2: The absorbed energy significantly heats the atmosphere.
That the Earth's atmosphere warms its surface is not seriously disputed, but the specific mechanism is the key to this problem. There are two possible mechanisms.
The initial assumption was the greenhouse effect, but that's never been quantified experimentally, and theory1 suggests that it's negligible. Whether greenhouse heating is significant depends on how quickly the energy absorbed is transferred up through the atmosphere to space. Upward radiative transfer though the atmosphere via collision induced radiation has been recognised by consensus climate science in the lower and upper troposphere but ignored in-between. This is the missing link in the standard energy balance analysis. Energy is not “trapped”, just delayed a little.
An alternative has emerged over this decade. NASA's 2009 DIVINER mission to the moon, which measured lunar surface temperatures, showed that its mean temperature was higher than would be expected for a thermally inert body. The rock surface was smoothing the day-night temperature extremes by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night. As discussed in reference 2, this has the effect of raising the mean temperature. On Earth, our atmosphere adds significantly to that effect – enough to account for our current temperatures without any contribution from the greenhouse effect.
Link 3: By burning fossil fuels humans have increased atmospheric CO2.
The magnitude of our contribution is still uncertain3, but if Link 2 is broken this is relegated to an academic curiosity unless we want to try to deliberately increase atmospheric CO2 to green the planet further. Carbon dioxide is vital for all carbon based life and its atmospheric levels are near an historical low. They may have been around ten times higher in the past.
A basic apparent causal link reversed?
A common basis for believing that our CO2 emissions are causing temperatures to rise is seeing graphs that show both rising together over the last century. That was what first caught my attention. But correlation doesn't imply causation, and it's been pointed out that the large fluctuations in industrial CO2 production over that time, major deviations from a steady rise through wars, economic crises and particularly the dramatic rise of Chinese industrialisation at the turn of the century, are not reflected in global atmospheric CO2 levels.
There is another causal connection between these parameters. The Little Ice Age created brutally cold conditions. Demand for coal was high but a limit to coal mining was created by the need to pump water from mines. The steam engine was re-invented for use in pumping mines. (It had been dismissed in classical times as a toy.) This was a positive feedback process: better pumps, more and cheaper coal, expanding industry, massive population shifts to cities where wood was scarce, so still more coal needed.
Detailed articles containing further links to relevant literature
1: Dai Davies, Radiative Delay in Context
2: Dai Davies, Energy and Atmosphere Revisited
3: Dai Davies, IPCC CO2