Global Warming? Do the Math

Worth A Look, Climate, Frontier Centre

“UN Report Proves Canada Must Act Now On Climate Change,” trumpeted the headline of a Liberal party press release on Friday, timed to correspond with the release of yet another alarmist UN summary on climate change.

“Canada must act aggressively now to avert the destructive consequences of climate change,” the Liberals insisted.

“Canada must be ready for a carbon-constrained future,” said party leader Stéphane Dion. “Human beings can’t continue to use the atmosphere as an unlimited and free dump … It is within our power to prevent the worst of the effects of climate change.”

This, of course, marks the second alarmist release by the UN this year, both coming before its own scientific report on global warming is even out.

Just why would the UN release these teaser summaries before its actual scientific findings are available? It could it be that the science is becoming less alarming as scientists learn more, so the UN wants to maximize the public hysteria before its catastrophic forecasts for the future can be checked against the more moderate scientific truth.

We already know that the coming report — the fourth by the UN in 15 years — will say that maximum projected temperatures over the next century will not be nearly as high as projected in the last report in 2001; that man has contributed less to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than originally thought; and that sea level rise will be only a few inches, rather than the several feet once thought.

Yet the so-called “summaries for policy makers” are becoming more shrill each time: Species will be wiped out, crime will rise, starvation will kill hundreds of millions, disease will become rampant, islands will disappear beneath the waves, deserts will consume entire continents.

Science goes down, UN hysteria goes up. Curious, isn’t it, how that plays into the UN’s desire to be at the centre of a global effort to plan human activity?

But let’s look at just what the global-warming theory implies and at Mr. Dion’s charge that humans, Canadians included, are dumping massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Think of the atmosphere as 100 cases of one-litre bottles of water — 2,400 litres in all.

According to the global warming theory, rising levels of human-produced carbon dioxide are trapping more of the sun’s reflected heat in the atmosphere and dangerously warming the planet.

But 99 of our cases would be nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), neither of which are greenhouse gases. Only one case — just 24 bottles out of 2,400 — would contain greenhouse gases.

Of the bottles in the greenhouse gas case, 23 would be water vapour.

Water vapour is the most abundant greenhouse gas, yet scientists will admit they understand very little about its impact on global warming. (It may actually help cool the planet: As the earth heats up, water vapour may form into more clouds and reflect solar radiation before it reaches the surface. Maybe. We don’t know.)

The very last bottle in that very last case would be carbon dioxide, one bottle out of 2,400.
Carbon dioxide makes up just 0.04% of the entire atmosphere, and most of that — at least 95% — is naturally occurring (decaying plants, forest fires, volcanoes, releases from the oceans).

At most, 5% of the carbon dioxide in the air comes from human sources such as power plants, cars, oilsands, etc.

So in our single bottle of carbon dioxide, just 50 ml is man-made carbon dioxide. Out of our model atmosphere of 2,400 litres of water, just about a shot glassful is carbon dioxide put their by humans. And of that miniscule amount, Canada’s contribution is just 2% — about 1 ml.

If, as Mr. Dion demands, we honoured our Kyoto commitments and reduced our current CO2 emissions by one-third — which would involve shutting down all the coal-fired power generating plants in Canada (and living with constant brownouts and blackouts); or taking all the cars or all the commercial vehicles off the roads; or shutting down the oilsands; or some combination of all these — we would be saving one-third of 1 ml — the tip of an eyedropper.

And somehow, that is supposed to save the planet from warming; the tip of one eyedropper out of 2,400 bottles of water.

That might be true if carbon dioxide were the most toxic substance ever discovered by man. But it is not. We each expel it every time we exhale.

It’s hard to imagine how such a tiny amount of a benign substance could cause the end of the planet. Maybe Mr. Dion could explain that in his next press release.