Carbon Dioxide: no big deal
Nexus|December 2021 - January 2022
Pure physics climate statistics explained in plain terms
Ian Phillips, based on research by David Coe, Walter Fabinski and Gerhard Wiegleb

Introduction

Important new research on climate change has just been published by David Coe, MA (Physics), a retired researcher with a career in industry, specialising for a large part in the measurement of atmospheric gases using infrared absorption spectroscopy.

His paper, co-authored with Walter Fabinski and Gerhard Wiegleb, challenges the prevailing view on climate change. This view is, firstly, that the carbon dioxide resulting from fossil fuel use is the prime cause of the warming of the Earth's atmosphere and, secondly, that we must abandon our use of fossil fuels by 2050, in a policy of Net Zero, or risk an accelerating and eventually uncontrollable overheating of the planet. We are bombarded on a daily basis from almost every section of the media with stories of impending doom, unless we take immediate and decisive action.

The full version of Coe's paper is titled The Impact of CO2, H2O and Other 'Greenhouse Gases' on Equilibrium Earth Temperatures. It is available to read on Paul Homewood's climate blog, Not A Lot of People Know That, dated 31 August, 2021.

His findings show that the popular claims of carbon dioxide's ability to influence the planet's mean temperature have been grossly exaggerated, and are based on unsound science. Net Zero is therefore an overreaction and a misconceived policy.

What follows is a simplified version. – Ian Phillips

The Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity and HITRAN Database

The scientific yardstick devised to measure the scale of this apparent threat is the equilibrium climate sensitivity, or ECS, meaning the increase in average global temperature caused by a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, no general agreement on this figure exists among the scientific community. Estimates of the ECS throughout the years have varied widely between one and six degrees Celsius, (°C), settling down at this moment to a band between 1.5 and 4.5°C, still a factor of three variation. This is summed up on the UK Met Office website thus, As there is no 'perfect' way of estimating climate sensitivity, it remains a hotly debated area of science and there remains a wide range of estimates of what the ECS could be.

Coe's research takes a pure physics approach to calculating the greenhouse/heat-absorbing capability of the atmosphere's component gases, from their long-established thermal properties. These have been very precisely measured by laboratory spectral analysis at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, whose HITRAN database is the repository for this information.

CO2's Role in Atmospheric Warming Has Been Exaggerated

Coe applies this HITRAN data to a simplified model of the atmosphere and its interaction with solar radiation, but one where all the major influences are nevertheless taken into consideration. The end result is his finding that the ECS of CO2 is only 0.5°C, just one third of even the lowest figure within the currently accepted range, of 1.5 to 4.5°C per doubling. What does this imply?

The graph below (figure 1) is to illustrate the effect of carbon dioxide on its own, without the influence of any other gases. The orange line portrays the amount of warming which would occur if CO2 were the only greenhouse gas present. The blue line is there simply to highlight the Earth's current mean temperature, of 15°C.

The vertical axis represents the Earth's mean temperature in degrees Celsius. The horizontal axis is a scale of atmospheric CO2 concentration in parts per million, ppm.

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