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Anthropogenic Global Warming: the Basic Argument

  • Rycke Browne said in a comment to an article in Science News:

    “According to this video, global warming and cooling are real, and so is climate change. What is not real is trace gases causing such warming, rather than following it.

    Warming definitely increases CO2 and methane, from increased decomposition. What is not proven and is contradicted by the graphs, is that these trace gases cause warming. Correlation is not causation, especially backward correlation.”

    This part caught my eye: “What is not proven… is that these trace gases cause warming.”  Since the basis of the whole Anthropogenic Global Warming argument is that “trace gases” (CO2) do indeed cause global warming, and that the increase in CO2 concentrations has caused increasing warming that will disrupt the climate, I felt that this assertion had to be contravened if AGW is to be supported.
    My reply to this comment:

    In fact, this was proven by Arrhenius back in the nineteenth century and can be confirmed by simple lab experiments: take a glass container and fill it with air, with concentrations of CO2 varying (the independent variable)… shine a “sunlight” beam through it and measure the transmission of infrared light. Keep the concentration of water vapor the same, as that greatly affects the results. You will find that air with low concentrations of CO2 will transmit more infrared light (the dependent variable) than air with high concentrations of CO2… and this is readily measurable when you take concentrations of 280 ppm versus 400. This simple experiment showed, and reproducibly will show, that CO2 in the air absorbs infrared light, even at “trace gas” concentrations.
    As mentioned above, water vapor also absorbs infrared light, and this is a very important effect. Naturally, as temperature rises, the air can hold more water vapor, so this affects the results as well.
    Bottom line: AGW has been proven to my satisfaction by simple, reproducible experiments, starting with the one above. A lot of people, careful scientists, agree with me. Not very many people disagree.
    My question is: what part of this do you not understand?
    In reference to the article that started this comment thread, a lot of observations, complex math and adjustments have been done to try to demonstrate that the effect predicted by these simple experiments is actually happening now.
    Instead of doing these multiple observations, complex experiments, and mathematical adjustments, we could just wait 50 or 100 years and measure the temperatures, to see if it got warmer or not. By then, if the predictions are accurate, there will be some major problems. If predictions are wrong, then there won’t be. Wouldn’t you like to know now what the weather will be in 50 years, in case you should move away from the coast, increase the power of your air conditioner, retrofit your house with a tornado resistant roof, etc.?– or, if the predictions say things will be good in your area, you can relax.

     In a later post I hope to extend the AGW argument with more simple experiments.


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