A new report released this week by the U.N.-funded WMO said that the levels of the three most potent ‘greenhouse gases’ in our atmosphere reached new levels in 2014. The good news is that CO2 rose less than 2 ppm, with the other two gases barely climbing at all. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said carbon dioxide (CO2) levels increased to only 397.7 parts per million (PPM), up 1.9 PPM from 2013.
They also said methane levels measured 1,833 parts per billion (PPB) in 2014, and were up only 9 PPB from 2013. The globally averaged level of nitrous oxide in 2014 grew to 327.1 PPB, which is 1.1 PPB above the previous year. The largest greenhouse gas in our atmosphere is water vapor, which makes up 95% of all so-called greenhouse gases. All of which may be bad news if you’ve instituted economy-crippling policies ahead of a UN-sponsored climate treaty.
But if you’ve ever wondered what the greenhouse gas/effect means, this may help: A greenhouse is a glass-covered enclosure that is pumped with higher amounts of CO2 (usually around 1,800 PPM) to promote plant growth. As the sun’s visible and ultraviolet light passes through the glass ceiling and walls, it gets absorbed by the floor, ground, and greenhouse contents. This heat then radiates off the items in the greenhouse and, because it’s in an enclosed structure (the glass), is unable to escape into the cooler air around the structure.
Think of it like your car in the hot sun. It’s not filled with CO2, but the heat has no way to escape because of the glass and steel enclosure. Scientists believe that gases like water vapor and CO2 act like the glass and steel, preventing the heat from escaping into space, giving you an Earth-sized greenhouse. Hence the term “greenhouse effect” and “greenhouse gases.”
The theory of global warming involves a lot of assumptions. First it states that, with all things being equal, the Earth “maintains a constant average temperature averaged out over the course of a year.” As sunlight comes in, it heats the air and Earth, some gets absorbed, some gets emitted back into outer space, and what’s left maintains a relatively moderate temperature for the planet. Remember, energy can’t be destroyed. So what comes in has to either be converted into something else, absorbed, or reflected back into outer space.
How fast this energy is radiated back into outer space depends on how much of a particular gas is in the atmosphere, like water vapor, clouds, carbon dioxide, and methane. The more of a particular gas we have in the atmosphere, the less energy can get bounced back out into space.
This causes the lower atmosphere to stay warmer (near the surface), but also warms the upper atmosphere (remember, energy can’t be destroyed). Water vapor is the most potent shield for keeping this energy from escaping the Earth. For a more in-depth tutorial and examples, go here.
Global warming theory also says that increased levels of carbon dioxide and certain other gases are causing an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. It predicts that the upper atmosphere will warm from trapped heat, just like in a greenhouse. The surface of the Earth warms later to reach equilibrium. Except since 1979, we’ve had orbiting satellites measuring the atmosphere and it shows the upper atmosphere is warming much less than expected by this theory.
Because nature abhors imbalances, global warming theory also says that the lower atmosphere must then respond to this upper atmospheric heat by increasing in temperature until the energy coming in equals the energy going out. To do this, the Earth’s temperature at the surface goes up to meet the temperature of the upper atmosphere and balance is restored. But as noted above that isn’t happening. That fact alone should put the global warming theory into the coffin.
But there is far too much money involved in the global-warming cottage industry and, as less hysterical climate scientists keep trying to say, the planet is not as sensitive to imbalances as some people would have you believe. In fact, the Earth is quite adept at keeping up with changes as it has done so for the last 4.5 billion years.
The largest CO2 sponge on the planet are the oceans around us. The largest emitter of CO2 on the planet are microbes that produce CO2 as they consume decaying organic matter. What man contributes, while significant, barely registers when compared to natural, ongoing processes (including, but not limited to, volcanic activity beneath the oceans).
Regardless of all this, the 2014 CO2 level is actually a 12-month average as CO2 in the atmosphere fluctuates throughout the year, and is lower when the Northern Hemisphere is in full bloom (plants absorb CO2) and higher in the winter (when more ocean is covered in ice and fewer plants are in bloom).
To put this in context, CO2 levels went up on such an infinitesimal scale as to be unquantifiable. Methane, which is considered to have 21-23 times the heat trapping power of CO2, rose to 1,833 PPB in 2014. That’s up 9 parts per billion (with a B). Mix 9 red marbles into a billion white marbles, and you begin to understand the silliness that ensues every time one of these reports come out.
Which always seem to happen right before a UN-sponsored climate conference like the one coming up in December.