by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) drives global warming or “climate change” now enjoys unquestioned authority and near universal approval. As burgeoning public policy, nationally and in some states, it is seeping into what once were private matters of choice (e.g., light bulbs, kitchen cooktops). Many scientists, primarily physicists, consider the belief pure supposition, however, and colossally off track.
John Stuart Mill observed in chapter six of his System of Logic, on ratiocination or logical thinking, that a doctrine may endure because inferences from it lead to ostensibly sound conclusions — while belief in the doctrine’s truth may exist only by excluding evidence it is false.
Evidence is that CO2 is overall a coolant. First, it radiates incoming solar energy and outgoing terrestrial heat away to space. This is visible as cooling in satellite images not only of Earth but also of Mars and Venus, climate change’s orbiting poster child.
It is an “infrared radiation active” gas, absorbing and emitting radiant energy from the sun — but not the entire spectrum. Like any molecule, it absorbs only “spectral bands” (beams) of solar energy (sunlight) that “resonate” with its “quantum number,” a measure of the energetic space between its nucleus and electron rings as developed by Max Planck and Albert Einstein in the early 20th Century.
A resonant band of energy from a radiating source causes the molecule’s energy to jump to a higher electron ring then fall back in a tiny fraction of a second. Total energy does not increase in its passage; the molecule is merely a conduit.
Nor is “delay” of the energy’s passage through the molecules likely to raise temperatures. The mean free path of a quantum wave, in the 0.0001 second before it collides with a CO2 molecule on the Earth’s surface, is about 33 meters. So wide a chasm between collisions casts serious doubt on the chances of a “warming CO2 blanket.” The effect from the energy’s fleeting passage through molecules of this trace gas can only be trivial.