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A Retiree’s Reminisces on the “Glasshouse Effect”

The crucial question is – where is the simple clear scientific evidence that relates an increase in CO2 to warming? Here I shall look at Global Warming’s key points as they seem to me now. I do not intend to delve once again into the literature. I researched all of that for a paper on Kaawa-Ohuka that I published over 50 years ago. Among other things then, I related change of climate to change of sea level at the onset of the then-accepted First (or Ross) Glaciation, of around 1.8 Ma.

The basic facts are clear enough. Scientists had determined our distance from the Sun and the Sun’s radiation. That allowed an estimate of our presumed temperature in our part of space. But we are some 35C warmer than that – why? The answer was published in German in the late 19th Century, and has never been challenged since. That proposed that our atmosphere’s CO2 acts like the glass in a glasshouse. Both change the physical nature of the Sun’s infrared rays as they pass through – a change that prohibits their passing out again. Thus the Sun’s warmth (carried by those infrared rays) is trapped within our atmosphere, or within our glasshouse. Both become heated.

In English-speaking countries there was a choice between “glasshouse” and “greenhouse” for the naming of this effect. Historically, greenhouse won the day. By that, the most crucial feature of 19th Century science was dumped. Whenever recalled, “glasshouse” would have emphasised the vitally important linking of CO2 with glass. Instead, the words “Greenhouse Effect” and “greenhouse gases” were created; the latter eventually including other gases, like methane.

No-one doubts that, since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the CO2 content of our atmosphere has increased exponentially due primarily to our ever-increasing use of fossil fuels. Thus a wonderful “Alarmist Banner” was presented to those whom I call “Global Warmers”. If CO2 were the cause of our being 35C warmer, they argued (to themselves at least) that the accepted increase in CO2 should cause an increase in global temperature as well. They called it “Global Warming” and claimed that it would cause dire consequences for our planet. They demanded it must be countered at all costs. Politicians seized the heaven-sent vote-catching opportunity – “vote for us and we shall save you from all this, whatever the cost to you”.

The PR machine was happy to overlook some key points. Horticulturalists had long aimed at maximising their greenhouse/glasshouse yields. They found it beneficial to provide extra warmth with conventional heaters inside the houses, and to add CO2 to the greenhouse atmosphere. Indeed, a heat source that emitted carbon dioxide would seem ideal. Thus CO2 has long been the only true “greenhouse gas” – not because it makes the greenhouse warmer, which it doesn’t, but because photosynthesis is more productive in a warmer carbon-dioxide-enriched atmosphere.

The Global Warmers ignored the failure of the horticulturalists’ attempts to increase yields by increasing glass thickness. Those attempts concluded (as any experiment today would show) that additional (i.e., thicker) glass does not increase the internal temperature. By the 19th Century’s scientific analogy, additional CO2 in the World’s atmosphere, should not (and does not) increase our World’s temperature either. Happy as Global Warmers were to embrace CO2, they decided that accepting any relationship between glass and CO2 would not be their interests. They never mention CO2 as being a “greenhouse gas” in that different, well-researched, horticultural sense.

Excerpted from “Public Relations versus Science – A Major Dilemma Today”, by David Kear: Geoscience Society of New Zealand Newsletter 3, March 2011.

David Kear, Ph.D., FRSNZ, CMG, is a former Director of the New Zealand Geological Survey and a former Director-General of the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (both now extinct). His name often appears in lists of ‘scientific experts’ who dispute anthropogenic global warming.

Schweinsgruber says: Why don’t the gobal coolers and free-market alarmists mention solar cycles in a horticultural sense?