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When Science & Ideology Collide

When Science & Ideology Collide10-08-2015 10:02
Unless one is immersed in academia, it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate ideology from actual science these days. This is particularly true with "Climate Change." Just to be perfectly clear, nobody has ever once denied that the climate changes. That is simply a denigrating canard used by left-wing ideologues in order to silence any opposition. The reality is that "Global Cooling," "Global Warming," and "Climate Change" are all politicized misnomers. The actual scientific term is "Radiative Forcing."

The primary greenhouse gases responsible for radiative forcing include water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and ozone (O3). If we take the ideology out of the topic and look solely at the mathematics, we get some interesting results. For example:

Current atmospheric CO2 levels as of July 2015 was 401.3 ppm

The molecular mass of CO2 is 44.0095 g/mol.

The molecular mass of dry air is 28.97 g/mol.

Therefore, the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere can be calculated as follows:

0.04013 V% x (44.0095 / 28.97) = 0.06096 m%

According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, "[t]he total mean mass of the atmosphere is 5.1480×10^18 kg."

Therefore, the total weight of CO2 in the atmosphere is:

0.06096 m% x 5.1480E+18 = 3.1384E+17 kg = 3.1384E+14 metric tonnes = 313.838 trillion metric tonnes

According to the trends in global CO2 emissions (2014) the human contribution to tropospheric CO2 world-wide is 36 billion metric tonnes.

That would put the human contribution of atmospheric CO2 at 0.01147% or 46.03265 ppb (0.04603 ppm) annually. Assuming the human contribution of atmospheric CO2 remains relatively unchanged for the next century, humans will have contributed less than 1.25% of all the atmospheric CO2 over the next 100 years.

As the math demonstrates, humans are contributing a surprisingly small amount of atmospheric CO2. This is not an opinion or ideology, it is demonstrable mathematics. Please feel free to double check my sources and mathematics, and point out any flaws you may find.
Edited on 10-08-2015 10:05
11-08-2015 17:44
climate scientist
Hi Glitch

The term 'climate change' is one chosen by the scientific community because it reflects all the changes associated with increased CO2 in the atmosphere (e.g. ocean acidification, sea ice melting, ocean O2 depletion, etc.), not just surface temperature/atmospheric temperature changes, which are only one element of climate change.

I'm afraid that there are some errors in your calculations. You've found some good sources for your information though, so I am happy to demonstrate the correct answer using your initial values.

First, the information:

CO2 in atmosphere today: 401.3 ppm
molecular mass of CO2: 44.0095 g/mol
Total mass of global atmosphere (water excluded): 5.1 *10^21 g
Relative molecular mass (RMM) of global atmosphere (water excluded): 28.97 g/mol
Moles of dry air in atmosphere ( = total mass of atmosphere/RMM of atmosphere): 1.76 *10^20 mol
Annual emissions of CO2 from human fossil fuel combustion (from EDGAR): 36 Gt CO2, or 3.6 *10^16 g CO2

Now, the calculations:

The total moles of CO2 in the atmosphere based on 401.3 ppm is:
401.3/10^6 * moles of dry air in atm = 7.06 *10^16 mol
This is because ppm is parts per million, which is essentially the fraction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The annual fossil fuel CO2 emission from EDGAR database in moles is:
3.6*10^16 / 44.0095 = 8.18 *10^14 mol.

If we divide this number by the moles of CO2 currently in the atmosphere, then we get the percentage increase that the annual CO2 ff emissions contribute to the total CO2 in the atmosphere:

8.18*10^14 mol / 7.06 *10^16 mol *100 = 1.157%

If ff CO2 emissions stay exactly constant (i.e. 36 Gt CO2 per year, every year), then after 100 years, atmospheric CO2 will be 865.96 ppm, based on 8.18*10^14 mol of CO2 added from ff every year:

atm CO2 in 2115 = atm CO2 now + ((100*8.18*10^14 mol)/total moles of dry air in atm * 10^6)

So over the next 100 years, atmospheric CO2 will have more than doubled it's value today from fossil fuel burning emissions.

This calculation makes several assumptions, such as the CO2 ff emission rate. Also, we have not accounted for the global ocean and land carbon sinks. If we assume that the land and ocean carbon sinks will each take up 25% of the ff CO2 emitted, then atmospheric CO2 will be about 630 ppm in 2115.

There are still lots of variables that I haven't accounted for, such as land use change, which affects the land carbon sink/land carbon storage, but you can see the general idea from the basic mathematics.

I hope this makes sense to you - please let me know if you have any more questions. I hope I haven't made any errors myself!
14-08-2015 10:33
"Climate Scientist" - First, you are mistaken about "Climate Change" it is not a scientific term, it is a political one. It began as "Global Cooling" during the 1970s, then changed to "Global Warming" by 1980, and then changed again to "Climate Change" by 2000. The actualy scientific term is called "radiative forcing." Nor is CO2 the only greenhouse gas in the atmosphere that effects temperatures. Radiative forcing encompasses all greenhouse gases and their combined effects whose energy is expressed in Watts per square meter.

Explained: Radiative forcing - MIT News

Second, your value for dry air in the atmosphere is off by an order of magnitude. The total weight of the atmosphere is 5.1480E+21 grams. Not 1.76E+20 grams.

Third, the 401.3 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere is a measure of volume, not mass. In order to convert it to the percentage of mass you must divide the molecular mass of CO2 by the molecular mass of dry air and multiply it by the volume of CO2 as a percentage. Hence:

(401.3 / 1,000,000) x 100 = 0.04013 V%
0.04013 V% x (44.0095 / 28.97) = 0.06096 m%

Therefore, there is 0.06096% of CO2 by weight in the atmosphere. When multiplied by the total weight of the atmosphere (dry air) in metric tonnes it yields 313,838,000,000,000 metric tonnes.

The annual human contribution of CO2 to in the atmosphere world-wide is ~36,000,000,000 metric tonnes. Which means the total human contribution of CO2 in the atmosphere is ~0.01147% by weight annually. Therefore, assuming the rate humans contribute CO2 to the atmosphere remains unchanged for the next century, the total human contribution will be ~1.147%.

This value also ignores all the other greenhouse gases that contribute to radiative forcing. By far the most predominate greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapor. CO2 is responsible for 1.9 W/m^2 of all radiative forcing, while water vapor is responsible for ~23.77 W/m^2, or ~5,000 ppm. Methane (CH4) is also a greenhouse gas and retains between 25 and 29 times the amount of heat that CO2 does, but since there is so little CH4 in the atmosphere (2,373 ppb) it has a much smaller effect (0.61 W/m^2) on radiative forcing.

For a more comprehensive list of the greenhouse gases responsible for radiative forcing see Recent Greenhouse Gas Concentrations - DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/atg.032
Edited on 14-08-2015 10:36
14-08-2015 18:43
climate scientist
Hi "Glitch"!

I am actually a climate scientist. I work in the Environmental Science department of a university and I am well aware that CO2 is not the only GHG. This is because my job is to make and analyse GHG measurements in the atmosphere, including CO2, CH4 and N2O, as well as some other related species.

Climate change is definitely a scientific term. The IPCC stands for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and was established in 1988 and is largely written by academics from the international science community. The IPCC is not policy prescriptive because it is so intergovernmental/international. The physical science volume of the IPCC AR5 report is called "Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis". The publishing group, Nature, has a scientific journal called Nature Climate Change (see: If I type 'climate change' into Web of Science, which is an online search engine of peer-reviewed academic journals, then I get 197,885 academic papers returned. There are also other scientific journals with climate change in their name, such as 'Climatic Change' (see:

The term radiative forcing refers to "the change in net (down minus up) irradiance (solar plus longwave; in W m–2) at the tropopause after allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface and tropospheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values" (from Ramaswamy et al. (2001)). Climate change is a scientific term that encompasses the radiative effect of increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and also the impacts of increased GHGs in the atmosphere, such as melting ice sheets, ocean acidification, etc. The climate science community prefer the term 'climate change' because it encompasses all of the impacts associated with increased global surface temperature, rather than the term 'global warming', which does not. Also, although the planet is warming over the long-term, the global surface temperature record does not increase every year due to inter-annual variability, therefore climate change is a more accurate term than global warming.

As for the calculation - I never said that 1.76 *10^20 g was the weight of the dry atmosphere. I said that this is the number of moles in the dry atmosphere, which is calculated by taking the mass of the atmosphere and dividing by the molecular mass of the atmosphere.

I did the calculation by converting everything into moles CO2, rather than mass of CO2, since I tend to prefer working in moles. But I have followed you calculation through, based on converting everything into mass CO2, and have found your error.

0.06096% of 5.148 *10^21 g is 3.138 *10^18 g, or 3,138,000,000,000 metric tonnes, *not* 313,838,000,000,000 metric tonnes as you state above. This means that the annual increase in CO2 from EDGAR ff emissions is 1.147%, not 0.01147%, which is about 4.6 ppm per year. After 100 years, therefore, the % increase in CO2 from today will be 114.7%, and so atmospheric CO2 will be about 860 ppm. Again, if you assume that half of the CO2 added from ff is taken up by the land and ocean carbon sinks, the 2115 CO2 mole fraction in the atmosphere will be 630 ppm, which is the same as the answer that I got by converting everything into moles, instead of mass.

I will comment about water vapour another time, if that is okay with you.
15-08-2015 09:30
Hi Climate Scientist & Glitch,
Any comments on the attached article about global warming.
The full peer review paper is available at
15-08-2015 15:52
"Climate Scientist" - Climate Change is most certainly a political misnomer, as you amply demonstrated with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These are politicians, not scientists, who erroneously represent scientific data for political purposes.

As you well know, water vapor has ~12.5 times more effect on global temperatures and the climate than atmospheric CO2 ever could. There has never been any correlation between atmospheric CO2 and global mean surface temperatures, yet we continue to destroy our economy in an effort to curb atmospheric CO2 which every honest scientist knows will have absolutely no effect on the global climate.

"Global Cooling," "Global Warming," and "Climate Change" is nothing more than a Marxist hoax in a effort to redistribute global wealth. There are two economic truisms that anyone with a modicum of common sense should know: 1) You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it; and 2) What one receives without work, another must work without receiving.
Edited on 15-08-2015 15:57
15-08-2015 15:54
arthur18 - There was no link or article attached to your post.
Edited on 15-08-2015 15:55
16-08-2015 04:40
Sorry Glitch, here it is.
16-08-2015 14:51
arthur18 wrote:
Sorry Glitch, here it is.

CFCs are certainly responsible for some radiative forcing, but we are talking about parts per trillion (ppt) which is a truly minuscule amount.

This data was updated last in 2014, but it gives you a good idea of all the greenhouse gases involved and the amount of radiative forcing involved.

Recent Greenhouse Gas Concentrations - DOI: 10.3334/CDIAC/atg.032, Updated February 2014

In order of magnitude, by the amount of radiative forcing, the greenhouse gases are: water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3), CFCs and all other hydrocarbons.
Edited on 16-08-2015 15:14
19-08-2015 10:01
climate scientist
Hi Glitch

You really think that the IPCC reports are written by politicians?!? The reports are written by scientists, most of whom contribute to the IPCC in their spare time. Don't believe me?? Look in the first few pages of the reports, find some authors, and then find their affiliations. I don't think you will find a single politician. I also happen to know many scientists, both in my department and at other universities who have contributed to the IPCC.

Water vapour is a more potent GHG than CO2, CH4, or N2O, but it is not the primary driver of climate change. This is because it's lifetime in the atmosphere is only 9 days. Humans have not caused a long term increase in H2O in the atmosphere. H2O in the atmosphere has increased as a feedback process, because the planet's atmosphere is warmer. Therefore H2O amplifies anthropogenic climate change, but it does not cause it. We know this because changes in the long wave outgoing radiation to space have been primarily in the absorption band for CO2, not for H2O. H2O also does not account for all the impacts of climate change, such as ocean acidification, which is drived by increased CO2 in the atmosphere.

As your own calculation demonstrates, humans are contributing significantly to atmospheric CO2.

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