Countering the CO2 Is Good For Us Meme

Uprooting the ‘Carbon Dioxide Is Plant Food’ Argument


Two very different pictures of CO2 are again contending in the media. Reconciling these conflicting images remains a challenge in communicating climate change, but effective use of satire may be part of the solution.

When President Obama invoked the phrase “carbon pollution” 30 times in his climate policy address at Georgetown University last month, he was building on a thematic foundation that had been laid three weeks before.

At the end of May, the administration released its “Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis.” In 21 pages, the administration enumerated and tallied detrimental impacts burning fossil fuels has on the nation’s economy, public health, and environment. This “technical support document” treated carbon as a pollutant, whose real costs were previously underestimated and externalized.*


Conservative critics pounced, mounting a counter-campaign focused largely on negative economic consequences they foresee from any effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These predictions often carried dramatic headlines: “Obama’s Global Warming Folly“; “The Cost of War — on Coal“; “In the War on Coal, the Enemy is Us“; or “The War on Carbon (and Jobs) in the Motor City.”

Contesting Carbon’s Character

A few commentators, however, directly contested the carbon dioxide=pollution claim that underlay the administration’s strategy. Their efforts benefited from a piece published in The Wall Street Journal just three weeks before the White House adjusted the social cost of carbon. In their op-ed, “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide,” former astronaut Harrison H. Schmitt and Princeton physics professor William Happer argued that “the demonized chemical compound is a boon to plant life and has little correlation with global temperature” — this latter part in the face of seemingly overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the op-eds, letters to the editors, and online comments written in response to Obama’s June 25 speech and its coverage, several others also defended CO2 by highlighting its service to plants.

Here’s Benjamin Zycher, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrapping up his lengthy piece on “‘Carbon Pollution’ and Wealth Redistribution” for AEI’s online magazine, The American:

In the Orwellian language of the environmental left, ‘carbon pollution’ is carbon dioxide — a natural substance that is not toxic to humans at many times greater than current ambient conditions and that protects plants from various environmental stresses.

Here’s an extract from a letter The Wall Street Journal published under the upbeat title, “Take a Deep Breath, Celebrate CO2“:

President Obama’s administration declares CO2 to be a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. But this gas is exhaled by all mammals, including we ignoramus humans, and is essential for the life of all green plants.

And here’s a comment posted in response to one of this website’s analyses of the President’s speech:

There will come a time when Green Activists will have to face up to the evil their belief in Catastrophic CO2 Climate Change Theory has exacted on Nature and Humanity . . . They will come to understand that increasing CO2 actually benefits the environment: Deserts bloom and plants bear more fruit.

This is the CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument, with a deep breathing exercise on the side.

Moving From Either/Or to Both/And

Carbon dioxide does indeed play a role in the biochemistry of plants. And elevated levels of CO2 will likely affect plant growth around the world, although exactly how this will net-out remains to be seen. Which species will benefit and which will be harmed, and to what extents, remains largely a function of just how high CO2 emissions and concentrations go.

By coincidence, the results of four different scientific studies were publicized in science and environmental news services even as the debate over Obama’s climate policies raged. One study even made its way into The New York Times. Not surprisingly, all then appeared in the weekly e-mails sent out by The Heartland Institute and the closely affiliated “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.”

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Conservative climate skeptics clearly think they have a case. Or rather, they think these studies about the “CO2 fertilization effect” buttress their case about the “slowdown in global warming,” a point highlighted in 12 of the 23 pieces analyzed for this post. In these polemical interpretations of the data, not only may CO2 be less culpable for global warming than supposed, it may also offer real benefits for agriculture.

At the end of weeks-long duels between the choruses of administration supporters and conservative critics, then, the public seems to face a stark policy choice: Should carbon dioxide be treated as a pollutant (as the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA has determined it to be) or as an essential nutrient?

The most simple and direct answer to this question is that it should be treated as both.

Worrying the Facts Versus Challenging the (Hidden) Premise

The CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument, at least as used by conservative climate skeptics, has two parts. The first is the “scientific” claim that CO2 is good for plants. The second is the policy implication: therefore, CO2 should not be regulated so as to slow or reverse its increase. But the implication only seems to follow from the claim. To actually get to this policy, one must also assume a broader rule or premise: things that are good for plants are not regulated.

One can challenge either part of the CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument. Most climate change communicators who have taken on the argument have focused on the first part; they carefully explain that the net results of increased CO2 levels, for the plants themselves and for humanity’s food security, may not be so clear.

Writer and film producer Adam Welz offers a good example of this approach in a June 13 piece posted at Yale Environment 360. An African savannah “greened” by the CO2 fertilization effect, scientists he interviewed suggested, may actually be less productive, for humans, because grazeable grasslands are replaced by scrub forests, which may then also tie up more of the ecosystem’s water resources. Each of the recent studies of the CO2 effect was accompanied by an analysis that raised questions about the net results (see here and here).

But it is the policy implication part of the CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument that is most vulnerable.

Re-Viewing the CEI Commercials

To see the real vulnerability of the CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument one need look no further than the two commercials the Competitive Enterprise Institute created in 2007 in response to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The two commercials have different emphases, “Energy” and “Glaciers,” but both emphasize CO2‘s links with breathing and with plants — “it’s what we breathe out, and plants breathe in.” And both end with the same kicker: “Carbon Dioxide: They Call It Pollution; We Call It Life.”

These commercials celebrate the reciprocal relationship humans and plants share through carbon dioxide. But the reciprocal relationship of plants and humans is actually much broader. Anyone who has tended a garden or lived on or near a farm knows that other substances come out of bodies that plants will gratefully take in. Indeed, darkly comic mystery writers will sometimes highlight a lush garden as a clue for those who know that plants also thrive on what oozes from human bodies as they decompose. To explode the policy implication of the CO2-Is-Plant-Food argument, then, one need only plug these other substances into the CEI kicker.

Urine: They Call It Pollution; We Call It Life.
Excrement: They Call It Pollution: We Call It Life.
Corpses: They Call It Pollution; We Call It Life

In fact, CO2 is exactly analogous to urine and excrement in one important respect: it’s a waste product of human metabolism. Nevertheless, important differences must be acknowledged. Carbon dioxide is wholly one substance (and a fairly simple one), and it’s far less dense, a gas rather than a liquid or solid. CO2 can thus diffuse through the environment much more rapidly than excrement or urine or corpses. This doesn’t negate the analogy, but it does require that the analogy be refined, which one can do by considering the problem of scale.

The Problem of Scale

Repugnant though they seem to us, urine, excrement, and corpses are no more toxic, in and of themselves, than CO2. But despite their benefits for plants, modern human communities have still chosen to regulate disposal of urine, excrement, and corpses. Why? Because even though not directly toxic, these bits of nature can alter local environments in ways that give rise to toxic or dangerous substances, organisms, or consequences.

It is not mere coincidence that plants take in the CO2 we exhale and that we breathe in the oxygen they produce in response. Nor is it mere coincidence that we eat many plants while they thrive on the wastes we produce as a consequence — including, at our deaths, the very flesh they nourished. Through these interrelationships, Earth’s ecosystems keep valuable materials in circulation.

But these ecosystems are not immutable. Overwhelm one side of the ledger and the rest of the system must find a new balance. It’s a matter of scale.

A very small village need not take great precautions in handling its dead or its wastes. If the village is sited on the banks of a major river, both can be dumped into the flowing waters without adversely affecting villagers’ health.

But as the village expands into a town and then into a city, its wastes and its dead become too much for the river to absorb and still retain its own ecological integrity. Algae, bacteria, diatoms, and/or fungi will displace more complex organisms, and in these degraded ecosystems organisms or byproducts that are deadly to humans can arise.

For these reasons, even though urine and excrement and corpses can increase plant growth, humans now carefully regulate the processing of sewage and corpses, especially in and around large cities. Major modern urban centers like London first developed comprehensive sewage systems shortly after global human population passed the one-billion mark.

From Exhaling to Exhausting

Human population has reached such a size that another waste product of its collective metabolism, CO2, is also now altering Earth’s ecosystems. But the real problem is not the CO2 exhaled by humans breathing — as some skeptics like to single-out — it is the gases and particles released by the fossil fuels that humans burn.**

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is not wrong to remind us that “the fuels that produce CO2 have freed us from a world of backbreaking labor, lighting our lives, allowing us to create and move the things we need, the people we love.” But it is wrong simply to assume that these benefits come without any environmental or societal costs.

Imagine, for a moment, the waste that would be produced if all the horsepower we harness in our vehicles, machines, and power plants was actually supplied by horses. (Former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu conducted a similar mental exercise in a speech he delivered in September 2011. Cities would be buried in manure. But instead of gathering and then disposing of the millions of tons of plant matter these horses would have consumed and then excreted, humans now burn high-density fuels — coal, natural gas, and oil — that were formed as, over millennia, millions of tons of plant matter were decomposed, fermented, condensed, and compacted. But this burning still produces wastes that interact with our ecosystems. This time, however, it is the global atmosphere — rather than a river flowing through a particular village or city — that is affected.

To avoid overwhelming the ecosystems on which they depend, humans in advanced societies process their liquid and solid wastes through large-scale civil-engineering systems. Is it really so surprising that with a global population that just passed the seven-billion mark, and with technologies that multiply the power of these 28 billion limbs by burning fossil fuels, humans need now to address the ecological consequences created by excreting so much CO2?

Upgrading Our Understanding of ‘Pollutant’

CO2 is indeed good for plants, and for some more is better. Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will produce measurable “greening effects” in some, but not all, terrestrial ecosystems around the globe. But humans know from past experience with urine, excrement, and corpses that improved plant growth is not the only, and often not the most important, consequence of increasing the local or global levels of substances that come out of human bodies.

Focusing only on one aspect of CO2 or the other may make it more difficult for the public to recognize this fact. Thus the more important task for communicators may involve not merely providing Americans with new facts but smartly and sharply reminding them about the facts they already know — as, for example, to avoid their adverse side effects, humans have routinely regulated “plant foods.”

“CO2 Is Plant Food.” Conservative climate skeptics call this a sound argument. Climate change communicators should call it what it is: a clever sound-bite that depends on cherry-picked facts and on a major premise that is demonstrably false.

*Conservatives have responded to administration efforts to regulate carbon dioxide as if these entailed a radical re-definition of what we have traditionally meant by “pollution.” But as Mike MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs at the Climate Institute, recently recalled in an extended analysis posted at CommentVisions, the first reference to CO2 as a “pollutant” (specifically, “the invisible pollutant”) appeared in a report drafted for President Johnson in 1965.
**Estimates of CO2 emitted each year as a result of energy and goods consumed by the average American run as high as 48 tons, but 20 tons is the most frequently cited figure. By contrast, different calculations of CO2 exhaled each year by the average human cluster somewhat more tightly around a much smaller number: ~330 kilograms. Because increases in human population are likely offset by decreases in animal populations, humans have probably not increased the CO2 content in the atmosphere through their breathing. But through the energy burned in powering machines and in producing goods for his or her lifestyle, each American adds 20 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year, roughly 60 times the amount of CO2 he or she exhales.

Michael Svoboda

Michael Svoboda, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Writing at The George Washington University with a long interest in climate change communications. (E-mail:
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13 Responses to Uprooting the ‘Carbon Dioxide Is Plant Food’ Argument

  1. ian drever says:

    Horrible analogy. If I doubled or tripled the amount of natural background excrement, urine, and dead bodies in the forest or fields behind my home there would be a positive effect on the ecosystems. Are you saying that elevated amounts of C02 work the same way?

  2. Marlin Turby says:

    Perhaps the usage of the word “pollutant” opens the doors for the critics.

    Webster defines pollutant as: something that pollutes, as a harmful chemical discharged into the air. Pollute, is defined as; to make unclean, impure, corrupt or defile.

    I too celebrate CO2 as a natural greenhouse gas, as a gas used for photosynthesis, and as a by-product of respiration.

    I also celebrate water for all its’ contributions to life.

    Carbon dioxide, as a natural greenhouse gas, contributes to the natural climate that we have. It does so due to it’s ability to absorb long wave infrared energy and then reradiate the heat back into the atmosphere.

    It stands to reason that carbon dioxide in the appropriate quantities is vital. If we increase or diminish the quantity we can expect a proportionate change. Scientific observation has confirmed this as well as the processes involved.

    Going a little further, the role of CO2 with respect to long term climate change, as in the carbon cycle itself, is well established. This planet has witnessed its’ share of climate variability and CO2 has been a major player in that game. This too is well understood, funny that our denying community fails to mention it.

    The deserts bloom comment mentioned above is amusing. Early climate modeling suggested that the world deserts at the 30 degrees latitude both north and south of the equator would likely expand from global warming. The models were dead on. This is one of the observed changes in world climates. So who ever coined the “blooming deserts” were also, dead on, nice work. The deserts are expanding, they even have a name for it, desertification.

    In spite of any enhancement of plant growth CO2 levels continue to rise. Apparently the rate of emissions is out pacing the expansion of plants. Mr. Keeling picked up on this. It’s hard to imagine conservatives celebrating natural reforestation but truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

    Personally I respect carbon dioxide too much to call it a pollutant. I wouldn’t be here without it. I don’t take it personally either that CO2 regulates the natural climate and stabilizes it too. I’m not offended that the combustion of fossil fuels increases atmospheric CO2 concentration and this in turn alters the climate. It’s just the way it is.

    I respect water equally. Waters great stuff but I wouldn’t want a stream flowing my living room but it’s nice when I can dispense it from the faucet. Water is like CO2 it has its’ place where its welcomed and it can also over stay its visit.

    I would not choose to alter the climate by encouraging policies that favor the continuation of a carbon based energy supply any more than I would choose to sleep with my head in a pale of water. In each case a desirable substance is in an over abundant state at a given place.

    I think the conservatives make a good point in claiming that CO2 is not a pollutant. Too bad they don’t extend that logic else where. I think it’s cowardly and immature to cherry pick information and paint a false picture.

    I wonder what it is like though…just imagine…wake in the morning in a big fancy house, get dressed and jump in a pricy car and speed off to work knowing full well that your vocation is to lie to and deceive an suspecting public, who has complete faith and adoration for you. The job pays well and that helps the economy so this is a good thing.

    Have you ever noticed that nobody has ever challenged the physics of gravity ? Gravity leaves little to the imagination, everyone has experienced its’ nonnegotiable nature, that of free falling.

    Climates have been demonstrated to have abrupt shifts in the distant past long before humans burnt a single thing.

    We are presently forcing a rate of change in a known greenhouse gas that has not occurred in millions of years. That forcing may induce an abrupt shift of climate in the near future. It may feel like free falling as we attempt to adapt to an unpredictable changing climate. A sense of gravity may settle in.

    The good news is that the man in the fancy house with the pricy car will be grounded in a new reality.

  3. Marlin Turby says:

    A worthy follow up article riding on this one’s heals would be on Dr. Jennifer Francis. Her research on the Arctic Amplification is compelling as it demonstrates a cause and effect relationship between extreme weather and climate change.

    I am not a scientist but from what I can tell this is cutting edge climatology. Her presentation at the Weather and Climate Summit in January of this year is a breakthrough in potential evidence.

    This could stop the deniers dead in their tracks.

    I invite the Yale Forum to feature a number of articles on Dr. Francis. I understand she testified to the Senate on July 18, 2013. How was that received ?

    • John says:

      Marlin, I suggest you put ‘francis’ in the Forum’s search window? One of the articles on Dr Francis even has a reply from her, which explains AA, and also answers Trenberth. That said, yes, it would be good to get an article on how her Senate testimony was received.

      • Marlin Turby says:

        Yes my last post did not appear in time for you to read it as you will see. I was aware of her previous appearance here.

        John you have encouraging things to say, I’m curious what are your thoughts on the weather/ climate connection ? Did you view the video from Day 3, Jan 16,2013, at the Weather and Climate Summit ?

        Since I’ve seen her presentation it seems reasonable that the Arctic is the probable region for the signal of a CO2 forcing, to be distinguishable from the noise of natural variability within a specific weather event.

        The warming Arctic, the slowing of the jet stream, the increase of amplitude of the Rossby Waves and the stalling or blocking as they call it of the jet stream adds up rather well.

        I’m anxious for the peer review process to complete. If I were a betting man I think Dr. Jennifer Francis hit pay dirt !

        I am fully aware that I am not in the least bit qualified to have my view mean anything however as a citizen interested in climate communication, I think she nailed it. I also have complete respect for Kevin Trenberth.

        Unfortunately peer review doesn’t appear to have much weight in Washington D.C. these days but if the peer review concludes that her findings are valid, then we can expect that it is only a matter of time until extreme weather defines the climate change, even in the minds of the most reluctant.

  4. Marlin Turby says:

    I am aware that Dr. Jennifer Francis has had her work published here at Yale recently and I did view it some time ago. It didn’t sink in at that time, that she had linked extreme weather to climate change. Last evening I watched her more extensive version, the 2 hour presentation that I found at another site. Then, I heard what she was saying.

    I do not think that I am alone in that I am neither a scientist or a journalist in posting comments here at Yale. I have read many responses and that is fairly obvious.

    I know that climatologists have traditionally avoided connecting specific weather with climate change beyond statistical probabilities. From the eyes of a common citizen it appears that Dr. Francis has made a very strong case for causation. I also know that peer review can take a year or more and I assume that is occurring presently.

    Is it just me or is this an epic breakthrough in climate science ?

    • Nullius in Verba says:

      I’ve only had a very quick look, so I may be missing something, but it sounds like a recapitulation of the index cycle which was recognised back in the 1930s-40s by Carl-Gustaf Rossby and Hurd Willett. It’s not a new phenomenon, or a new discovery.

      Pole-tropic temperature differences increase the pressure difference (called the zonal index) which measures the strength of the westerly winds at mid latitudes. A strongly negative zonal index causes an increase in Rossby wave amplitude, which results in bubbles of cold air moving south and warm air moving north, and long periods of hot or cold weather across the northern latitudes. It varies routinely, the variations being referred to as the index cycle, the Arctic Oscillation (AO), or the Northern Annular Mode (NAM).

      It’s also related to the Arctic sea ice extent. The positive phase of the AO is associated with wind patterns that blow floating ice south through the Fram straits into warmer waters, where it melts. The reduction in Arctic ice is not due to higher temperatures (which are still generally below freezing), but due to changing wind patterns. The wind removes the ice, which causes more sunlight to be absorbed raising the temperature.

      Edward Lorenz (the guy who invented chaos theory) studied the index cycle and concluded that it was chaotic, and could give rise to apparent long-term trends that were nevertheless just random noise.

      See the paper here. He says:

      “A one- or two-degree local temperature change is not a spectacular event. The significance of Fig. 4 is that the globally and annually averaged temperature is changing by this amount, and corresponding changes in the real atmosphere seem to be of comparable magnitude. In all likelihood an overall warming or cooling of the atmosphere resembling what appears in Fig. 4, say from year 30 to year 60, year 115 to year 135, or year 350 to year 375, would, once detected, be interpreted as a climatic change by many observers, and attempts would be made to determine the cause.

      In Fig. 4 the changes simply represent the model’s natural variability; there are no variations in external conditions. However, the nonlinearity associated with the moist processes leads to weak interactions between the mean temperature and the cross-latitude temperature gradient. If these interactions were suppressed, T0 would in due time approach equilibrium. It appears, then, that the variability in the temperature gradient and its associated westerly wind current, i.e. the index cycle, is acting as a weak quasi-random forcing upon the mean temperature, producing the “climatic” variations.”

      Prescient, eh?

      No, it’s not going to “stop the deniers dead in their tracks”. They already know about it. You have got the same problems you have for any weather-is-climate argument. Correlation does not imply causation – you can’t tell what is cause and what is effect. The background noise is larger than the effect you’re trying to observe – and there are indications such variations have happened before. The climate models didn’t predict it – the calculated effect of climate change is of a much slower decline that only becomes significant around 2080, and is roughly the same at both poles. (See the IPCC report AR4 WGI Figure 10.13.) And it’s very noticeable that the claimed effects of climate change change to suit whatever is happening now – when we had a series of mild winters that was climate change warming things up; when we had a series of cold winters that was climate change moving the jet stream and cooling things down. If every possible outcome is predicted (with hindsight) by climate change, the hypothesis is not falsifiable, and is therefore not scientific. You have to make a prediction and stick to it.

      I think it would be wise if climatologists continued to avoid connecting weather events to climate change. The science only supports long-term statistical connections. While dramatic weather events in the media are powerfully persuasive, they can be equally powerful at dissuading people when the speculation turns out to be wrong and the story changes. Remember the fable of the boy who called wolf.

  5. Myrrh says:

    It is insanity to call carbon dioxide pollution, it is the building block of all Carbon Life.

    We are Carbon Life forms, comprising 20% carbon and the rest mostly water, and we get our carbon from plants and from the critters which eat those plants.

    Without carbon dioxide there would be no life on Earth as we know it.

    Carbon dioxide is a trace gas which is practically all hole in the atmosphere. It is physically incapable of raising the temperature of the Earth. There is no sense of scale or understanding of heat energy and heat capacity in the AGW Greenhouse Effect.

    The AGW Greenhouse Effect is an illusion, there is no “33°C warming by greenhouse gases without which the temperature would be minus 18°C”.

    Traditional science contradicts this and comparison shows the AGW GHE to be exactly what it is, built on sleights of hand manipulation of real physics changing properties and processes and producing a nonsense through the looking glass with Al world, where any number of impossible things can be thought before breakfast..

    From traditional physics:

    Temperature of the Earth with atmosphere, mainly nitrogen and oxygen, 15°C

    Temperature of the Earth without any atmosphere at all, minus 18°C

    Compare with the Moon without atmosphere, minus 23°C

    Temperature of the Earth with atmosphere, but without water, 67°C

    That is the temperature of the Earth without the main “greenhouse gas” water – 67°C – think deserts.

    Where is the AGW Greenhouse Effect claim of minus 18°C without its “greenhouse gases”?

    It does not exist. That 33°C “warming by greenhouse gases” is a science fraud.

    The AGW Greenhouse Effect has excised the Water Cycle, and it has no rain in its Carbon Cycle. The residence time of water in the atmosphere is 8-10days, carbon dioxide is fully part of the Water Cycle.

    The real thermal blanket is the heavy volume under gravity of the real gases nitrogen and oxygen.

    These also help regulate temperature from the extremes of cold and heat of the Moon.

    In heat transfer by convection as their individual volumes expand when heated and so less dense and lighter than air they rise taking away heat from the surface, where they cool and condense and now heavier than air sink back to the surface flowing into the less dense hotter low pressure area, in convection currents, winds.

    Hot air rises, cold air sinks & Winds flow from high to low. Basic real world meteorology.

    Then the fake fisics of the AGW Greenhouse Effect gets even more absurd in the claim that we get no direct radiant heat energy, longwave infrared, from the Sun.

    Claiming thermal infrared is either stopped by some invisible unknown to traditional science barrier “like the glass of a greenhouse at Top of Atmosphere (TOA)” and/or, “the Sun gives off insignificant amounts of longwave infrared and we get insignificant of insignificant”.

    The last from the claimed temperature for the Sun of 6000°C, calculated by some planckian sleight of hand on the thin 300 mile wide atmosphere of visible light around the millions of degrees hot surface of the real Sun.

    Absurdity piled on absurdities. In place of the direct radiant heat we actually physically feel from the Sun, which is longwave infrared, aka thermal infrared which in traditional physics is simply called Heat to differentiate from Light from the Sun, AGW Greenhouse Effect fake fisics claims shortwave, mainly visible light, heats the Earth’s surface of land and water. This is a physical impossibility in real physics.

    Visible light from the Sun is not a thermal energy, it impacts matter on the much smaller electronic transition level which does not heat matter.

    The electrons of the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen bounce visible light around the atmosphere, for example, hence our blue sky, and, water is a transparent medium for visible light, it does not get absorbed at all, not even on the electron level but is transmitted through unchanged.

    We would have no life if the ocean was heated by visible light from the Sun.

    It takes the bigger energy of longwave infrared heat to move whole molecules of matter into vibration, which is heat.

    How is it that so many “climate scientists” have not seen the absurdity of these claims? How come they are all, apparently, ignorant of the basics of real gases with mass therefore weight under gravity, and volume and attraction? How can so many calling themselves scientists claim our great, blazing millions of degrees hot Star which we call the Sun, is a cold 6000°C, – roughly the temperature of the Earth’s innards?

    Whatever they are, these people claiming to be climate scientists while pushing these fake fisics basics, are not scientists.

    Who created the fake fisics for the KT97 and ilk to claim we get no direct radiant longwave heat from our millions of degrees hot Sun and so attribute real world measurements of this to “backradiation by greenhouse gases downwelling from the atmosphere under TOA?

    The Solar Constant is the real world physics measurement of how much heat energy, longwave infrared, heats the Earth at the surface.

    AGWScienceFiction fisics in its comic cartoon energy budget has attributed this to shortwave from the Sun at TOA. This is science fraud.

    Why has the AGW Greenhouse Effect claimed this? Because, it is a scam. I repeat, AGWScienceFiction uses real world physics measurements of the direct longwave infrared heat we get from the Sun to claim this comes from “backradiation by greenhouse gases downwelling from the atmosphere under TOA”.

    Look at these comic cartoon energy budgets – notice how KT have more heat radiation upwelling from the Earth then they have shortwave entering at the surface..

    How many examples of the science frauds in the AGW Greenhouse Effect do you require to see the con for what it is?

    What you have is the creation of a ridiculous fantasy world of a fictional Earth and its cold 6000°C star with no heavy voluminous real fluid gas atmosphere, but instead, empty space populated by the imaginary ‘hard dots of massless not subject to gravity ideal gas travelling at great speeds under their own molecular momentum miles apart from each other bouncing off each other and the sides of an invisible container to thoroughly mix’.

    And yet another imaginary “invisible container” around this pretend Earth. Maybe its the same invisible one preventing the heat from the real Sun entering, this time to keep these fictional ideal gas molecules from diffusing at great speeds to the ends of the universe.. This imaginary “well known radiation physics” from AGW GHE goes straight from the Earth’s surface to empty space.

    The AGW Greenhouse Effect has excised the whole of our heavy ocean of real gas atmosphere around the Earth.

    And apparently, none of those calling themselves climate scientists have noticed they do not have sound in their world – can you hear this?

    You have been had.

    If that does not make you angry as scientists then you are not scientists.

    • Nullius in Verba says:


      The greenhouse effect, although badly named and commonly misunderstood, is real physics. I’ve got no stake in supporting the consensus, but I do understand the science.

      The moon is at a different temperature because it has a different albedo. I don’t know where you got the idea that a world without water would be at 67 C; I’m sure that’s not true. The only case I know yielding that temperature was for a world without convection, as calculated by Manabe and Strickler.

      The models do include rain, and the water cycle.

      Visible light does cause a heating effect – you can feel the warmth of sunlight even through glass, which blocks IR. And the IR in sunlight is only a small fraction of its energy, insufficient to keep the Earth warm on its own.

      The photosphere of the sun that emits most of the light is at 6000 C, as measured by the black body spectrum of the light it emits. The corona is a lot hotter, about a million degrees, but is a billion times less dense. At such temperatures most of the energy is emitted as X-rays, and is not visible. The core of the sun is also much hotter, around 15 million, although the nuclear fusion that heats it is a slow process and only generates about 275 W/m^3. The high temperatures are due to the slow rate at which heat can diffuse out, and the equations modelling stellar atmospheres developed by Schwarzchild were also the basis of the modern greenhouse effect theory. It’s perfectly standard physics, and nothing at all to do with climatologists.

      The greenhouse effect does not work by “backradiation by greenhouse gases downwelling from the atmosphere under TOA”. That was the old Fourier/Tyndall/Arrhenius theory, falsified shortly after 1900. The modern theory was developed in the 1950s/60s, based on Schwarzchild’s work in the 1930s, and works by a somewhat different mechanism. The fact that even climatologists keep on trotting out the old theory in introductory explanations is confusing, but the models don’t work this way, and the atmospheric physicists who developed them don’t subscribe to it.

      The greenhouse effect depends on the average altitude of emission of radiation to outer space. The temperature at this altitude has to settle at a level sufficient to radiate all the energy the Earth absorbs, i.e. -18 C. And because it is 5 km up due to greenhouse gases, the surface is warmer than -18 C because of the adiabatic lapse rate. (And similarly, the upper troposphere is cooled to about -50 C because of the same lapse rate effect.) This explanation, you will note, does not involve backradiation. An increase in greenhouse gases raises the altitude of emission to space, increasing the distance between the level that settles at -18 C and the surface, raising the surface temperature via the lapse rate. Backradiation exists and is a part of the mechanism, but is only cited to explain how the surface can radiate more heat than it absorbs from the sun without cooling. It is cancelled out in a convective atmosphere, and has no effect on the surface temperature.

      Scientists don’t get angry about people getting the science wrong. It’s a natural part of science anyway, it allows us to develop better explanations, and find gaps in the arguments. It keeps the debate lively, and under continual challenge, which is healthy. It can be vaguely irritating when people don’t listen, or make an effort to learn how the theory actually works – you wind up correcting the same old errors again and again instead of exploring new ones. But if you got angry every time someone got some science wrong, you’d never stop.

  6. Marlin Turby says:

    Well, as I said, I am not scientist and climate change gets rather messy in the calculations so I understand my limits and do the best I can.

    I have watched numerous presentations of Dr. Jennifer Francis and I find it convincing. I know that the scientific method will sort it out, all in good time.

    Thank you Nullius in Verba for the tour, I have learned some new things and that’s always a good thing.

    With all due respect Myrrh, if these “fake fisics” that the so-called climatologists rely upon, are as you claim, then where could I find the “real physics” ? Can you give me an author(s) and a specific book title with an ISBN number ?

    Trust me, if this is really a hoax, I want to know, because I could find plenty of other ways to bide my time. I have noooo desire… to chase ghosts.

    I’ve asked others this question and they send me to Rush Limbaugh, the Heartland Institute, Fred Singer and the gang, plus a few other shadowy characters… but it just isn’t happening for me. It must be the fisics books I’ve been reading, although mine are spelled with a “ph”.

  7. Paul Quigg says:

    Shouldn’t any discussion of the social cost of carbon include both the pro and con effects of this staple of life? Greenhouses maintain 1000ppm of carbon dioxide, growing seasons are getting longer with some crops producing two plantings per season, real estate is booming in Labrador. You don’t read this in the climate change literature where warming will inevitably lead to catastrophic outcomes. The IPCCWGII which documents observed changes in the weather gives short shift to any positive results of a warming climate. How have we let our warming climate be turned into a doomsday scenario with no alternatives? We thrive in warm weather and endure the cold winter, the death rate in winter is considerably higher. We stay in our warmed winter cocoons, and long for a warming spring. If we studied potential positive warming effects with the passion we have put into negative effects we might find it is a draw. What harm would be done if we made an unbiased analysis of a warming climate. In this country we go south in the winter and back north when it warms up. It’s going to get warmer for a long, long time and we will adapt to whatever it brings and prosper along the way.

  8. Dan Rogers says:

    Nitrous oxide is a powerful greenhouse gas. It is more “powerful” than carbon dioxide when it comes to intercepting infrared radiation and contributing to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. Does anyone dispute either of those statements? It is also a Criteria Pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

    Nitrous oxide is also “plant food” inasmuch as it is created in the atmosphere by lightning bolts, then dissolved in rainwater and deposited in the soil where it constitutes the principal source of nitrogen fertilizer for all plants. It is like carbon dioxide — essential to all life on earth — but a “pollutant” nevertheless.

    Just as we humans are becoming increasingly aware of our relationship with our bacterial environments, isn’t it about time that we become similarly aware of the fact that not every air and water “pollutant” in the world is one hundred percent nasty and should be eliminated to the maximum extent possible?

    With nitrogen making up about eighty percent of the atmosphere, and lightning bolts hitting the earth more than once every second, it doesn’t seem likely we are going to run out of nitrous oxide any time soon. But carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere in what seems to be a dangerously minuscule amount when you consider that all green plant photosynthesis depends upon a steady supply of carbon dioxide and that all of the oxygen we breathe comes from that green plant photosynthesis.

    • gws says:

      Nitrous Oxide = N2O, not produced by lightning. Inert in the troposphere, main source: denitrification, boosted by fertilizer use

      Nitrogen Monoxide = NO (part of NOx = NO + NO2), produced by lightning, but that is only a minor source; major atmospheric sources: combustion and nitrification