Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Carbon Dioxide is a Weather Wimp and a Climate Pygmy

The Sun and Solar Cycles rule the Climate;
Wind and Water rule the Weather;
Carbon Dioxide is a Weather Wimp and a Climate Pygmy.

by Viv Forbes

Rising carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is blamed for every weather emergency, but as a weather maker, water is far more important.

Without water, Earth’s weather would be dramatically different. We would have no clouds, no rain or snow, no rain or hail storms, no hurricanes, no seas, rivers, lakes or ice sheets – just cold, cloudless nights and hot, clear days with dry winds and fierce dust storms; a dead planet like Mars.

Water has many weather effects. It cools Earth’s surface by evaporation, and transfers that heat to the upper atmosphere as it condenses into drops of rain, hail or snow. Water forms the wispy high cirrus and stratus clouds, the fluffy fair-weather cumulus and the ominous nimbus thunderheads that can produce rain, hail and storms as well as cyclones, hurricanes and tornados. Some high clouds help to retain surface heat while lower clouds shade and cool the surface as they intercept and reflect incoming solar radiation.

Where there is no water in the atmosphere we get hot deserts like Sahara or frigid deserts like Antarctica. And when solar energy wanes, as in ice ages, it is water, not carbon dioxide, that creates a real climate emergency with life-killing sheets of ice.

Carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere and the oceans as a trace amount of invisible, non-toxic, non-flammable gas – quite a boring unspectacular gas really. But it gets the gold medal for feeding the biosphere – it is the gas of life and increased carbon dioxide is responsible for the recent measurable greening of the planet.

In theory, carbon dioxide can warm the climate by retaining surface heat. However, its so-called “greenhouse effect”, has never been quantified in climate records despite being given a key role in IPCC climate models. There is no evidence that carbon dioxide is creating dangerous global warming. Water vapour has a far bigger “greenhouse effect” over more radiation bands, and there is far more of it - Earth’s atmosphere has about 8,500 times more water than carbon dioxide. Earth’s water cycle also has a large moderating effect on any greenhouse warming from carbon dioxide. A climate tax on water makes as much sense as a tax on carbon.

In our great climate machine, the sun is the combustion chamber, the oceans are the stabilising flywheel and carbon dioxide is merely the temperature gauge – its concentration in the atmosphere rises as the oceans get warm and expel some of their dissolved CO2.

The sun and cycles in the solar system rule Earth’s long term climate. Solar energy drives winds and water to create the complexities of the weather. Carbon dioxide is a climate pygmy and largely irrelevant in creating the daily weather.

We have enough real environmental problems on Earth without inventing climate crises supposedly caused by the relatively trivial quantities of carbon dioxide recycled by man’s industries and machines.

Water vapour and carbon dioxide are the gases of life – the biosphere needs more of both. We should stop all foolish attempts to capture and bury carbon dioxide and devote those resources to capture and store fresh water.


  1. Always good to read Viv's down-to-earth, commonsense comment.

  2. Another letter from Viv Forbes

    The Gases of Life are NOT Pollutants

    Our atmosphere contains the four gases of life – nitrogen, oxygen, water vapour and carbon dioxide.

    Nitrogen is the most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere (78%). It is an essential building block of amino acids present in all proteins. It is a very stable unreactive gas, but micro-organisms in the soil and some plants are able to extract nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it available to growing plants. Lightning also manages to oxidise some atmospheric nitrogen.

    Oxygen is the second most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere (21%). Every animal absorbs oxygen with every breath, using it to fuel bodily digestion of the foods they eat. This process builds bodies and provides the energy of muscles. In the great oxygen cycle, plants extract oxygen from carbon dioxide and exhale it to the atmosphere for animals to breathe.

    Water vapour is the third most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere (varies up to 5%). Water vapour is part of the great water cycle where water is evaporated into the atmosphere from salty seas, surface water and plants. Rain and snow return it to the surface supply of fresh water. No animals, plants or sea creatures could exist without water.

    Water vapour is the most effective “greenhouse gas” in the atmosphere with far more effect than carbon dioxide. It reduces incoming solar radiation by day, and reduces surface cooling at night. Water is also a global temperature stabiliser – heat is transferred from oceans and land as latent heat by evaporation, forming clouds that often cool the surface.

    Finally, carbon dioxide is the least abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere (0.04%) - just a mere trace, but a vitally important trace. No plants could exist on Earth without carbon dioxide and no animals could exist without plants. Plants extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to form proteins, sugars and carbo-hydrates and animals add essential minerals to turn these into protein, fat, sinews and bones. The carbon from carbon dioxide is the building block for all life on earth, for every bit of organic material, and for every carbon fuel – oil, gas and coal.

    Carbon dioxide is a “greenhouse gas” which tends to retain some surface warmth, but there is no evidence in ancient or modern temperature records to suggest that carbon dioxide is a dominant factor controlling global temperature.

    None of these natural gases are toxic to life under any feasible atmospheric conditions, but all can be toxic above certain levels. For carbon dioxide, toxic effects on humans don’t even begin until it is fifty times the present atmospheric level – our exhaled breath is 100 times current levels in the atmosphere.

    No thinking person could class any of them as an atmospheric pollutant – they are all naturally occurring, non-toxic, essential “Gases of Life”. Together they make up 95% of the human body, which is effectively 68% carbon dioxide – if carbon dioxide is a pollutant, the human body is badly polluted.


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