Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory Broché – 15 décembre 2010
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This is a book that purports to discredit the hypothesis of man-made global warming due to carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. However, it contains much of what I would term "crackpot science" and so the book cannot be taken seriously. Worse than that, it is seriously misleading if used as a source of scientific information. Finally, it enables CAGW believers to say "Deniers are talking nonsense as usual".
My own position
My review of "Slaying the Sky Dragon - Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory" is not complimentary so, for the avoidance of doubt, let me make my own position clear:
- I think that belief in catastrophic man-made climate change is akin to a religion which has many passionate believers, whose belief is based on faith rather than evidence.
- I think that the global warming mass delusion has resulted in immense harm in numerous ways.
- The evidence for global warming was based on analysis of temperature data with numerous problems of reliability but in any case the data has failed to show continued global warming for the past ten years or so.
- The evidence for CO2 being a threat is non-existent. The only "evidence" is computer models, which have been programmed by people with a strong desire to produce evidence for a strong relation between CO2 and global temperatures. But, as someone said, a computer model is an illustration of a hypothesis, it is not evidence.
I am sure that, at some time in the future, perhaps not in my lifetime, the whole thing will be recognized as the greatest mass-delusion of all time. However, there are now so many people and organizations who benefit from it, not to forget a generation of indoctrinated school children, that I don't think this will happen soon.
Let me make clear my understanding of thermal radiation, because the explanations in the book differ very greatly from radiation physics as taught in normal texts. Here is how it is normally understood:
- A black body absorbs all radiation that impinges on it, irrespective of the temperature of the black body or the wavelength of the radiation. Equivalently, every photon impacting a black body is absorbed by it, irrespective of the energy of the photon or the temperature of the body that emitted the photon. The temperature of the black body absorbing the photon is irrelevant to anything - it absorbs all photons whatever its temperature.
- A spherical black body emits radiation whose total power is determined solely by its surface area and its absolute temperature, the radiated power being proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature. The spectrum of its radiation is described by the Planck's law formula.
The book has numerous explanations of radiation that disagree totally with what I have written above.
Nine chapters, covering about 50 pages, are by Alan Siddons generally dealing with radiation, greenhouse effect and claiming to expose misconceptions of physics that are to be found in climate science.
There are two chapters by Tim Ball "Analysis of Climate Alarmism" parts one and two which reviews how climate research became politicized and how the IPCC came into existence as an organization whose mission was to convince governments that they needed to introduce policies based on the danger of man-made global warming. I found these chapters interesting and informative.
There are ten more chapters, by six other authors, including two by Claes Johnson, entitled "Climate Thermodynamics" and "Computational Black Body Radiation".
The book contains numerous misconceptions of physics. To correct or explain all of them would need a document almost as long as the book itself. I will focus on two examples from two chapters. However note that misconceptions abound throughout the book - it is not simply a matter of just one or two errors here and there.
"Examining Greenhouse Theory" by Alan Siddons.
This chapter starts with a diagram from a Washington University course. Many readers of this review will be familiar with similar diagrams showing:
- 342 W/m^2 arriving as solar radiation
- 102.6 W/m^2 being reflected to space immediately
- 239.4 W/m^2 continuing downwards and then warming the earth (taken to be 240 W/m^2 in the text)
The earth then re-radiates 240 W/m^2, as it is in thermal equilibrium.
It is assumed that the 240 W/m^2 radiation leaving the earth is absorbed by an atmospheric layer and re-radiated 50% upward and 50% downward, so that 120 W/m^2 goes to space and 120 W/m^2 goes back to earth, where it is absorbed and the 120 W/m^2 is then re-radiated.
I see no problem with this. Of the 120 W/m^2 re-radiated by the earth, 60 W/m^2 returns again, then 30 W/m^2, and so on. So we have going spaceward 120 + 60 + 30 +... = 240 W/m^2. This is the same as originally arrived at the surface, so things are in equilibrium, with as much power being radiated spaceward as originally arrived at the surface directly from the sun.
Nothing wrong with that that I can see. The earth's temperature is being maintained but it is not receiving any additional heat from anywhere - including the cooler greenhouse gases above its surface so there is no need to argue that cold objects do not heat hotter objects.
Yet Alan Siddons immediately says "If people are gullible enough to believe such a scenario, and apparently millions do, they deserve what's coming down the road at them."
Then he says "Substitute an infrared filter for that layer of 'greenhouse gases.' Direct a radiant heater at an infrared filter, then. (sic) According to greenhouse physics you will now have the equivalent of two radiant heaters. (...) Two heaters for the price of one. But no, that's not all. Remember that the radiant heater will be heated by its own re-directed energy (...) It's not only a perpetual motion machine - it accelerates to boot!"
This is a fallacious argument. The earth is not equivalent to a radiant heater generating its own heat and radiating it. The greenhouse gasses are not equivalent to an infrared filter.
Other chapters by Alan Siddons contain many misconceptions. Most can be translated as equivalent to a belief that photons emitted by cool body cannot be absorbed by a warmer body.
"Computational Blackbody Radiation" by Claes Johnson
At a quick glance, this chapter seems to be a detailed discussion of radiation physics from a mathematical viewpoint, with plenty of mathematics - no shortage of integral signs and formulas. But looked at in any detail, it is simply nonsense - scientific sounding nonsense but still nonsense.
In section 1.1 he says "The purpose of this note is to show that particle statistics can be replaced by deterministic finite precision computational wave mechanics. We thus seek to open a door to restoring rational physics including climate physics, without any contradictory wave-particle duality".
Immediately my alarm bells started sounding. Anyone who announces that he will replace the physics of the twentieth century with a new alternative immediately runs the risk of being thought to harbor delusions of grandeur. "...contradictory wave-particle duality." Sounds impressive but does it mean anything? I don't think so.
He says "A blackbody thus can be seen as a system of resonators with different eigen-frequencies which are excited by incoming radiation and then emit radiation. An ideal blackbody absorbs all incoming radiation and re-emits all absorbed radiation below cut-off"
This is simply rubbish. See my note above as to what a black body actually does.
"As a transformer of radiation a blackbody thus acts in a very simple way: it absorbs all radiation, emits absorbed frequencies below cutoff, and uses absorbed frequencies above cut-off to increase its temperature. A blackbody thus acts as a semi-conductor transmitting only frequencies below cut-off, and grinding coherent frequencies above cut-off into heat in the form of incoherent high-frequency noise."
"We here distinguish between coherent organized electromagnetic waves of different frequencies in the form of radiation or light, and incoherent high-frequency vibrations or noise, perceived as heat."
This all sounds impressive but it is simply gibberish. It is nonsense. A black body acts as a semi-conductor? Does he know what a semi-conductor is?
A blackbody grinds coherent frequencies above cut-off into heat? This is meaningless waffle. As I said, see above for my note of what a black body actually does.
I've taken just two snippets from two chapters. It's too bad that the book is filled with scientific nonsense like this, as there is plenty of global warming pseudo-science that needs to be debunked.
But you cannot debunk global warming pseudo-science with gobbledegook science. Worse, it enables The Faithful to say "There you are, you see? Deniers talk nonsense".
The only adverse comment I make is that at the end of the book it allows the reader to download a complimentary companion eBook in PDF format. I downloaded it but the PDF simply would not open, instead an error message appeared. I downloaded it a second time but the same problem occurred. I have no idea what else I can do.
The two chapters that I have read online, written by Claes Johnson, seem to adopt an interesting "strategy" (whether it is a conscious choice or not, since it is hard to tell whether or not the author is deluding himself along with his audience). He presents a lot of mathematics almost sure to go over the heads of most of the readers of the book, but interspersed with some simplistic conclusions and analogies related to AGW that don't follow from the mathematics that he has presented. Thus, the reader who wants to believe these conclusions is left thinking, "See...Here is someone who has shown mathematically what I have suspected all along!" Alas, they don't realize that they are simply being duped.
One example of those who have unfortunately been duped is the reviewer here who states: "The global warming mechanism of carbon dioxide infrared radiation is impossible because heat can not flow from a cooler area (the atmosphere) to a warmer area (the earth surface). If this impossibility was the case it would violate the Clausius statement of the Second Law of Thermodynamics." I teach thermodynamics and have published many papers in top physics journals in the field of statistical physics, which provides the underpinning of thermodynamics, and I can state categorically that this claim is utterly wrong. In all models of the greenhouse effect, be they toy models that one can work out on the back of an envelope or full-blown climate models that occupy the world's fastest supercomputers, the flow of heat is from the earth's (warmer) surface to the (colder) atmosphere as the 2nd Law requires. In fact, the equations of radiative transfer are formulated in a way that there is never a violation of the Second Law if they are correctly applied.
The role of increasing greenhouse gases is simply to reduce the amount of radiation that the earth sends back out into space for a given surface temperature, thus requiring the surface to warm in order to restore the radiative balance of the earth. It is really no more mysterious than a person putting on a coat rather than going out naked when the temperature is 40 below zero in order to prevent themselves from getting hypothermia!
It is sad that some people with scientific and mathematical backgrounds who should know better have such strong ideological biases that they are led to write such pseudoscientific nonsense as this book.
So if actual science isn't working anymore. what's the solution?
Simple! Physics is wrong!
Apparently, quantum mechanics, the best tested, most accurate and dependable development in physics in history is wrong. You see the capacity of particles to behave as both particles and waves is schizophrenic crazy science! It's been proven time and again but no matter. The authors are convinced that science took a wrong turn in the middle of the eighteenth century and only they have the ability to steer it back.
They argue that conventional physics explanations of heat transfer from the atmosphere to space are flawed because they assign a very cold temperature to space. This is an error because space is a near perfect vacuum and thus has no significant matter to have a temperature. This acts as a near-perfect insulator, which is why the Space Station and spacesuits need radiators to dissipate heat. Except that if space is a near-perfect insulator, how do the radiators work? Energy from the sun has no problem travelling through space to earth but when that energy tries to leave, space is no longer so accommodating. This very convoluted attempt to demonstrate an obviously wrong concept is just one of the many pleasures to be had reading this book.
The authors also take issue with the idea of back-scatter radiation. This is the phenomenon where if you have a heat radiating body (a furnace say) if you place an object near it, heat from the source will heat the object, causing it to radiate heat in all directions. Some of this heat will be directed back to the source, raising its' energy density and, thus, its' temperature. The authors see this as impossible. Heat travels from high temperatures to low, period, down to the photon! They are adamant that below a certain energy content, photons can't be absorbed by a hot object. Now those wave/particle cultists will point out that the object is sending back far less energy than the source is sending to the object so the aggregate flow will be toward the colder object but the authors will have none of it!
Of course, this means that every cent paid for refractive linings for kilns, smelters, furnaces and fireplaces has been a complete wast of money. In fact, it means that insulation is impossible and that winter coats are useless. In fact, by adding mass that can conduct heat, they actually make you cooler.
Read this book if you want to see seemingly intelligent people tie themselves into knots to justify an ill-thought ideology but for gods' sake don't spend money on it!