The “Greenhouse Effect” Hypothesis—Much Ado About Nothing
Written by Carl Brehmer
To understand the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis do this experiment:
Schedule a transfer of $100 from your checking account to your savings account.
Schedule to occur simultaneously a transfer of $100 from your savings account to your checking account.
Then check the balance on both accounts to see if either was affected by this action.
Unless your bank has some serious accounting problems you will find that the effect of this action will be “null” or zero—the balance in both accounts remained the same. This experiment reveals a question that is at the heart of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis debate. Did the bank actually do the transfers or did they just leave the money where it was? Yes, those transfers will appear on your bank statement, but nothing changed; the effect of this action was “null”.
Now do this second experiment:
Take a radiometer down into an empty cellar that is in a state of thermal equilibrium at 12C and let the emissivity of each wall be 0.95.
Take readings of all four walls.
Take temperature readings of all four walls at the same time to see if the temperature anywhere is changing?
You will find that the readings on the radiometer when pointed at all four walls is ~356 W/m2 and that the temperature of all four walls remains constant throughout. Here again is a question that is at the heart of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis debate. Are the walls of the empty cellar constantly exchanging ~356 W/m2 of energy with one another or is all of the internal energy within walls just staying where it is seeing as how there is no change in the temperature of the walls? Those who believe in the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis insist that the west wall is transferring 356 W/m2 of energy to the east wall, while the east wall is transferring 356 W/m2 of energy to the west wall and the north wall is transferring 356 W/m2 of energy to the south wall while the south wall is transferring 356 W/m2 of energy to the north wall.
Key Point: Even if this exchange of Prevost’s Energy is real and not imaginary its effect is “null”. That is, an equal exchange of energy between two bodies of matter will not affect the temperature of either.
Let’s now take a look at the Trenberth, et al Earth’s Global Energy Budget diagram which has been used extensively as proof of the existence of an atmospheric, radiative “greenhouse effect”.
Figure 1. The global annual mean Earth’s energy budget for 2000 to 2005 (W m–2). The broad arrows indicate the schematic flow of energy in proportion to their importance. From Trenberth et al (2009).
As you can see, there are two numbers highlighted on this diagram. The first is 396 W/m2 of “surface radiation” and the other is 333 W/m2 of “back radiation”. Based on these numbers the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis asserts that there is, on average, globally a 333 W/m2 continuous exchange of energy occurring between the surface and the atmosphere, but unlike the bank transaction and the empty cellar experiments above the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis insists that this exchange does not have a “null effect”. Rather the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis claims that this 333 W/m2 exchange of energy via IR radiation between the surface and the atmosphere is causing a 33 C increase in the temperature of the surface!
“. . . the Earth . . . radiates . . . primarily in the infrared part of the spectrum. Much of this thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds, and reradiated back to Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect.” IPCC, AR4
“When [greenhouse gases] absorb the energy radiating from Earth’s surface, microscopic water or greenhouse gas molecules turn into tiny heaters— like the bricks in a fireplace, they radiate heat even after the fire goes out. They radiate in all directions. The energy that radiates back toward Earth heats both the lower atmosphere and the surface, enhancing the heating they get from direct sunlight.” NASA
“. . . our atmosphere absorbs some of the infrared heat radiation [from the surface], and some of the trapped heat is reradiated downward to warm the planet’s surface and the air immediately above it.” Tufts University
“. . . infrared radiation [from the surface] is absorbed by the greenhouse gases and clouds in the atmosphere and then re-emitted in all directions . . .
“Some of the re-emitted energy remains within the atmosphere or returns to the surface and warms the lower atmosphere and surface.” American Chemical Society
“Some of this terrestrial radiation is trapped by greenhouse gases and radiated back to the Earth, resulting in the warming of the surface known as the greenhouse effect.” Harvard
“When there are greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere, some of the radiation emitted by the earth is absorbed again before it escapes to space. This radiation absorbed by the atmosphere can then pass back down to the surface, warming it further.” Berkeley
“The atmosphere, heated by the absorption of Earth radiation by these greenhouse gasses, in turn radiates heat back to the Earth’s surface increasing the Earth’s surface temperature.” Columbia
“The heating of the ground by sunlight causes the Earth’s surface to become a radiator of energy in the longwave band . . . This emission of energy is generally directed to space. However, only a small portion of this energy actually makes it back to space. The majority of the outgoing infrared radiation is absorbed by the greenhouse gases . . .
“Absorption of longwave radiation by the atmosphere causes additional heat energy to be added to the Earth’s atmospheric system. The now warmer atmospheric greenhouse gas molecules begin radiating longwave energy in all directions. Over 90% of this emission of longwave energy is directed back to the Earth’s surface where it once again is absorbed by the surface. The heating of the ground by the longwave radiation causes the ground surface to once again radiate, repeating the cycle described above, again and again, until no more longwave is available for absorption.” Physical Geography
What all of these definitions of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis have in common is the notion that when the surface exchanges energy with the atmosphere via IR radiation the result—the effect—is an increase in the temperature of the surface. This is like believing that when you transfer funds from your checking account to your savings account and then back again that action will increase the balance of your checking account or that a continuous exchange of energy via IR radiation between the walls of an empty cellar will cause the temperature of the walls to steadily increase. Even though these definitions of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis all violate two of the four laws of thermodynamics—the first and the second—they are still being taught by government agencies, institutions of “higher learning” and certain science organizations.
Even if there is a continuous exchange of energy via IR radiation between the surface and the atmosphere as the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis asserts, such an exchange can have nothing but a “null effect”. The “greenhouse effect” hypothesis is therefore much ado about “nothing”. In fact, it shouldn’t even be called an “effect” since “nothing” is “caused” by it, in the real world that is; in the physical world that is separate from the imagination. Within the imagination of course anything is possible.
No doubt there will be those who say that this article misrepresents the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis and that the real “greenhouse effect” hypothesis is something else. If so, reread that above quotes; they all say that an exchange of energy via IR radiation between the surface and the atmosphere causes the temperature of the surface to increase.