[asa] global warming

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Fri Feb 02 2007 - 18:09:56 EST

In all the discussion about global warming it occurs to me that a basic fact sometimes gets left out: There is nothing at all suprising about the idea that burning of fossil fuels would contribute to the heating of the earth, & in fact it's hard to see how it could not contribute something. Determining how much is the hard part.

It's understandable that people have trouble accepting the idea of evolution through natural selection. Apart from religious issues, the idea that a lot of small undirected changes could end up with something like the eye or the bacterial flagellum is pretty surprising. It takes some time to get used to. & its not at all surprising that on 1st exposure many people think special relativity is nonsense because it really is non-commonsensical to say that you can never catch up with a beam of light, that a moving clock runs slow, &c. You have to start to learn a new common sense to understand those things.

But with global warming, you have the following.

1) Everyone in modern society has experienced what happens when you get into your car which has been parked with the windows rolled up on a sunny day: It's hot. Glass lets through the shorter wavelengths coming in but absorbs the longer ones reradiated by the interior. & a little experience with hot pokers &c tells one that the wavelength of radiation from a heated body decreases as its temperature increases (Wien's law for the more curious).

2) CO2 in the atmosphere lets solar radiation through but absorbs radiation in the part of the infrared where the earth is reradiating most of its energy, & thus acts like the glass in the car windows (or a greenhouse). Admittedly the absorption spectrum of CO2 isn't something that the average person on the street (or even the average scientists who doesn't work in molecular spectroscopy) has at hand, but there's nothing very surprising or secret about it.

3) Burning hydrocarbons produces CO2.

4) Since the beginning of the industrial revolution we've been burning lots of hydrocarbons.

Now this hardly proves that the earth has been warming up or that, if it has, burning of fossil fuels has been a significant cause. There might, of course, have been other factors. But to suggest that there is anything preposterous about the idea that there has been global warming & that it's been anthropogenic is - well, preposterous.


To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Feb 2 18:10:14 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Feb 02 2007 - 18:10:14 EST