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Correcting GHG Theory: Black Body Assumption Changes GHE from 33C to Nothing

Written by Dr. Pierre R Latour

By Pierre R Latour, PhD ChE (and N. Kalmanovitch)


In 1827 celebrated French Mathematician Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier determined that the theoretical temperature of the Earth based on just the thermal radiation from the sun was cooler than the actual temperature due to atmospheric insulation. He named this insulation effect “un effet de verre” (an effect of glass) after work by French Scientist de Saussure who demonstrated this insulation using glass panes for insulation.


Later work by physicists Planck, Stefan, and Boltzmann provided understanding of the relationship between temperature of a body (blackbody) and the intensity of radiation allowing for the calculation of the Earth’s theoretical radiative temperature exclusive of atmospheric insulation according to the formula  Te = [So(1-A)/4σ]1/4 derived from Planck’s equations using the Stefan Boltzmann constant “σ”.


We can measure planet surface temperature from its radiative spectrum.  We can also calculate Te by making some estimate of both solar Irradiance (So) and the planet albedo (A). The subtraction of Te from the planetary temperature provides a metric for comparing the relative atmospheric insulation of the planets essentially calibrating the insulation effect first noted by Fourier back in 1827. This theoretical temperature difference depicting atmospheric insulation was renamed “the greenhouse effect” relating the insulation against thermal transmission by conduction by the glass in a greenhouse to the insulation against thermal radiation provided by the atmosphere of the planets.


Preying on overall public ignorance of science unscrupulous scientists rebranded the greenhouse effect as some sort of physical effect driven by CO2 emissions causing catastrophic global warming. This fraudulent use of the term greenhouse effect was introduced over 25 years ago and spawned a series of equally fraudulent terms such as “greenhouse warming” and “greenhouse gases” providing the propaganda vocabulary that has created a climate change issue out of nothing to serve the political agenda of the climate change scam perpetrators.


While the term greenhouse effect is perfectly valid in its geophysical scientific context; it is completely ludicrous when used as a mechanism whereby increased CO2 creates energy out of nothing and causes the Earth to warm to catastrophic levels as a result of an enhanced greenhouse effect. This article takes the fraudsters to task exposing the fraudulently rebranded version of the greenhouse effect for what it is.


In 1981, James E Hansen assumed Earth radiates as a theoretical black body, with emissivity = em = 1.0. (J Hansen, et. al., “Climate Impact of Increasing Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide”, Science, V213, n 4511, pg 957-966, 28 Aug1981)

Hansen converted the measured solar constant 1366 w/m2 of the sunbeam intercepted by Earth’s circular disk to Earth’s spherical area of average emission plus reflection intensity back to space, 1366/4 = 341.5 w/m2 of the globe’s surface. Then he accounted for its reflectivity, mostly by clouds, assuming albedo = 0.30, to estimate Earth’s average radiation absorption and emission intensity to space to be I = 1366*0.7/4 = 239 w/m2 of its spherical surface.

James Hansen Coal Trains

Using Boltzmann’s equation for a radiating temperature, Te, by Earth’s surface corresponding to this estimate of its average radiating emission intensity:

I = 5.67*em*(Te/100)4 = 239, Hansen calculated Te = 100(239/5.67)0.25  = 254.80K = -18.30C. (Subtract 273.1K = 0C.)

In doing so, Hansen made a simplifying assumption that Earth’s emissivity em = 1.0

The average thermal temperature of Earth’s atmosphere is difficult to measure equator to poles, surface up to 100 km, night and day, over seasons, for a decade, but was estimated to be about Ta = 288K = 15C.

Hansen declared the difference, Ta – Te, to be the greenhouse gas effect of gases and clouds, GHE = 15 – (-18) = 33C. As a conjecture, he attributed much of this “anomaly” to the presence of increasing CO2 because he had no explanation verified by evidence.

This famous 33C global warming by CO2 conjecture has caused great concern, controversy and research since his declaration and subsequent Congressional testimony. Humanity, through the UN IPCC, has struggled since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to fashion a thermostat to throttle fossil fuel combustion to reduce this GHE to hold Ta = 15C to save the planet from runaway global warming. (Said thermostat was proven by control system engineering mathematics to be unworkable in 1997.)

One difficulty is GHE is the difference between two different types of temperature, thermal Ta measured by thermometers and radiant Te measured by photometers and spectrometers. Two different phenomena in nature. Everyone can sense the distinction between the two on a bright winter day ski slope. Facing the sun Te = 25C and turning away, Ta = -5C. At night Te approaches -270C while Ta may drop to -10C. They are naturally different; CO2 is not the cause. GHE has been explained to represent a meaningless Whatchamacallit.

The black body assumption that Earth absorbs and emits all incident radiation, em = 1.0, is very poor for many reasons, including because it does not account for photosynthesis by land plants and ocean plankton. Flora consume solar power and store it in hydrocarbon molecules they make: starch, sugar, cellulose, animal food. Which means Earth’s forests, grasses and jungles do not emit as much as they absorb, so emissivity < absorptivity. A cooling effect. Besides, the globe is not black.

Emissivity of different materials varies between near zero (0.022) for polished silver to near 1.0 (0.98) for lamp black. Measuring or estimating emissivity of the whole radiating globe; ocean, land, ice, desert, jungle, mountains and atmosphere, is not easy, so Hanson made his simplifying black body assumption, em = 1.0. But it surely is not black. em < 1.0.

We now know Earth’s emissivity is much less than 1.0, so its corresponding radiating temperature to emit at 239 w/m2 must be higher than -18C.

Global Climate Model, under Zero-dimensional models provides an estimate em = 0.612 without reference. It goes on to state “Taking all this properly into account results in an effective earth emissivity of about 0.64 (earth average temperature 285 K (12 °C; 53 °F)).

Using Earth’s emissivity em = 0.612 rather than 1.0 and the same Boltzmann equation Hansen used, Te = 288.08K = 14.98C.

So GHE = 15.0 – 14.98 = 0.02C, not 33C. 

Using the other reference em = 0.64 and T = 285K gives Te = 284.88K and GHE = 0.12C.

The GHE collapses to zero when the black body assumption is abandoned for colorful Earth, within any margin of error. It doesn’t exist! There is nothing to it! Much ado about nothing! The sky is not falling after all. Another inconvenient truth. Good news. Problem solved! CO2 is innocent! UN IPCC can close shop and go home. No more climate change research needed. No need to collect temperature data for a billion years to discern a correlation with CO2, which cannot prove causality anyway. Everyone can relax and return to normally exhaling CO2, nonpolluting green plant food, and burn as much inexpensive, abundant fossil fuel as they can afford.

There is no new science here, just careful attention to assumptions, definitions, logic and accurate parameters

CO2 and H2O are radiating gases because they are dipole (asymmetric) molecules; O2 and N2 are not. But they don’t trap heat beyond natural thermal heat capacity, they just absorb some IR in the sunbeam vector and emit it in all directions. This scattering does modify the EMR field in Earth’s atmosphere slightly, but doesn’t really affect average temperature very much. If anything it is a cooling effect below. The basic GHG theory notion that cold atmospheric CO2 does not absorb/emit incoming solar IR, only upwelling IR from Earth’s surface, and back radiating it down to warm the hotter surface below is false. If it were true that cold CO2 molecules high in the sky can transfer heat back down to the warmer surface, it would constitute creation of energy, a perpetual motion machine (just what AGW promoters need to drive AGW), because the Second Law of Thermodynamics does not allow energy transfer from cold to hot bodies. It is a one way street, hot to cold. Always and everywhere.

CO2 may increase Earth’s emissivity slightly. Which would cause it to radiate Te < 14.98C, another cooling effect. [CO2] has been steadily increasing recently at about (386 – 316)/(2009 – 1959) = 70 ppm/50 years. Temperature has stabilized since 1998.

In 2010, Earth emitted at 233 w/m2, less than 1981 because solar intensity dropped with sunspot activity, on its normal 11 year cycle. Albedo may have changed also. You are now in a position forecast this effect on Earth’s Te assuming em = 0.612. Like Hanson you can calculate Te = 286.3K = 13.2C. It turns out measured Ta = 287.7K = 14.6C and GHE = 1.4C = 0 within the margin of error again. This is a remarkable confirmation of your prediction! I would congratulate you for your model’s predictive power of global warming/cooling. All you need to do is estimate emissivity and predict solar intensity disturbance on Earth’s radiation emission rate. Now you see J Hansen’s monumental mistake.

Greenhouse gas theory is hereby refuted, three ways: Whatchamacallit, blackbody, perpetual motion machine. The political and financial ramifications of these discoveries are enormous. Consensus is irrelevant because correct science and engineering trump consensus. Skepticism is the foundation of the scientific method of Newton.


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