With Earth Day coming up tomorrow, millions of American schoolchildren have no doubt been commanded to write an essay on global warming to prove they’ve been properly indoctrina– I mean, educated on the topic.  And, kids being kids, I’m sure many of them procrastinated and are now scrambling to find enough information to put together the required thousand words or so.

Fear not, kids.  I’m here to help with a Global Warming Q & A.  Feel free to plagiarize at will.

What does “global warming” mean?

It means the planet is slowly getting warmer.  According to some scientists, it’s happening because of something called The Greenhouse Effect.  Here’s how it works:  human beings are emitting a lot of carbon dioxide, so it’s building up in the atmosphere and trapping heat.   It’s a bit like when your car sits in the sun with the windows up.

So carbon dioxide must be at record levels.

Absolutely.  The current concentration is 385 parts per million, which, as Al Gore pointed out in An Inconvenient Truth, is the highest it’s ever been … except for when it was a lot higher.

A lot higher?!  What are you talking about?

I’m talking about the periods in earth’s history that Al Gore doesn’t talk about.  Actually, that would be most of the earth’s history, at least if we’re talking about the last 600 million years.

CO2 was higher than 385 parts per million for most of earth’s history?

Heck, yes.  We’re talking about crazy-high concentrations:  4500 parts per million in one era, 3000 parts per million in another, etc.

Wow!  It must’ve been hotter than blazes!

Nope, not always.  Sometimes it was hotter than today, and sometimes it was colder.  Sometimes the earth’s temperature plummeted even while carbon dioxide was going way up.

But how can that be?  You just said carbon dioxide produces heat.

No, I said some scientists say that.  But as for an explanation, apparently the laws of chemistry and physics changed over time.

That doesn’t seem possible.

Well, let’s try this, then:  Carbon dioxide and the earth’s temperature dated for a long time, often breaking up and going their separate ways.  But they decided to get married several thousand years ago and now travel together.

Okay, so at least in relatively recent times, when carbon dioxide goes up, it caues the temperature to go up.

Actually, the temperature goes up first, then carbon dioxide goes up.  Carbon dioxide is so powerful, its heat-producing effects can go backwards in time.

But … uh … so is higher CO2 causing warmer weather in modern times or not?

That’s what some scientists say.  However — and it’s very important you grasp this — it’s also causing record-cold temperatures like the ones we’ve had for the past few winters.  So if you sit in your car on a sunny day with the windows rolled up, the interior of the car will become very hot, but also very cold now and then.  And you’ll get more snow.

In the car?

No, on the earth.  You see, according to Al Gore, the record snowfalls we saw all over the northern hemisphere this winter were caused by global warming.

I don’t understand.

Not to worry; Al explained it to everyone in an editorial a few weeks back.  Global warming is increasing the rate of evaporation from the oceans, you see, so there’s more moisture in the atmosphere, which means we’re getting more rain and more snow.

But I thought global warming was going to create more deserts.

That’s correct … more rain and snow, but also more deserts.  You see, if you mix higher temperatures with more moisture, you get a desert, just like in a greenhouse.

I thought the purpose of a greenhouse is to grow more plants, like in a jungle.

No, no, no.  The earth is a special kind of greenhouse.  According to the IPCC, global warming is making the dry areas on earth drier, but also making the wet areas wetter … except in really wet areas like the Amazon rainforest, where global warming is causing the jungle to dry out.

Wait, let me get this straight:  the dry areas are getting less rain because of global warming, and the wet areas are getting more rain because of global warming, except for the wet areas that aren’t getting enough rain because of global warming?

You’re catching on.

But at least we know it’s getting warmer, right?

That’s right.  The temperature has been rising steadily, except for when it hasn’t.  But those are just decadal variations.

What’s a decadal variation?

It’s what global-warming scientists call a long period of time when there’s no rise in temperature.

Decadal … so that would mean 10 years?

Yes.  Except there was a decadal variation from 1945 to 1975, and the current decadal variation has lasted for 15 years now.  See, if the temperature rises for 21 years, that’s a long-term trend.  But if the temperature holds steady and then starts dropping over a period of 15 years, that’s a decadal variation.

But what if the temperature goes down again for, say, 20 or even 30 years?  Wouldn’t that be a long-term trend?

Of course not.  That would be two or three decadal variations strung together.  Totally different thing.

This is getting kind of confusing.

No, it’s simple.  Let me summarize:  carbon dioxide is higher now than it’s ever been except for it when it was several times higher, and that’s bad because carbon dioxide traps heat and makes the planet warmer, except for when the temperature goes down anyway. Meanwhile, the rising temperatures are making wet areas wetter and dry areas drier, except for the wet areas that are becoming drier. Is it all clear now?

No.  That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Well, I’m afraid you might have a logical mind.  It’s mostly a good thing, but it’s not going to help your academic career.  Good luck with that paper.

13 Responses to “Homework Help On Global Warming”
  1. Chad Wallace says:

    You got this right on Tom. My daughter mentioned something they learned about ‘climate change’ in school the other day, and said they learned how we are ruining the environment….. Well, I had a discussion very similar to what you have written here, and she obviously knows not to ask the old man about this topic again!

    That’s the dilemma faced by parents who have doubts (very well-founded) about global-warming hysteria: do you tell your kid to do some research and possibly form an opinion that the teacher won’t like, or just fake it and go for the good grade? My nephew recently wrote a paper poo-pooing the whole theory, but I haven’t heard what kind of grade he received yet.

    Give your daughter a copy of “Air Con” and see if she still believes humans are warming the planet … assuming you could get her to read it.

  2. scott says:

    fantastic…really sharp wit. listen if you can hit a ball into a hole or maybe change color and write a book about your dreams I would really respect you, but as you are with all these “facts” and wit, it just dosn’t make me want to wear a tshirt.

    global warming is absolute garbage, and trust me, i’m not a climate scientist (mathematician actually).

  3. Rachel says:

    I’ve been on the fence about the whole climate change thing for a while, especially when people started making serious money off of it. The thing is, I think it’s actually a good thing that people are starting to open their eyes to some of the really crappy things we’re doing to the environment. I’m not just talking about pollution, but a significant loss of natural habitat and various species of animals being wiped off the planet forever. And as Lierre Keith explained in her book, the loss of topsoil and the effect of industrial agriculture has been catastrophic.

    I’m always excited to see more people shopping at farmer’s markets and recycling whenever they can. I’m still somewhat concerned that this is all a fad and people are going to get tired of bringing their own bags to the grocery store and move onto whatever they decide is the next “lifestyle of the moment”, but I’m hoping the Mayan calendar superstition is right and in 2012, we’ll all have some sort of epiphany and start thinking clearly. Hey… a girl can dream.

    While I haven’t read into the rickety concept of climate change, and therefore can’t really state an official opinion, I can accept that climate change and global warming are over-hyped and being used to manipulate people. The point I do want to make is this: Even if climate change is a hoax, we should still move toward a more environmentally friendly future. With the multitude of other problems we’re facing, like peak oil, Monsanto cramming their GMO seeds down the throats of starving people in third world countries (and then charging them each year for the seed and fertilizer, rather than teaching them how to be self-sufficient, thus creating a cycle of debt and dependence), and the pollution of our rivers, lakes, and streams by factory farm waste, global warming isn’t the only reason to wake up and start taking care of the planet.

    So while the climate change theory may be built on a shaky foundation, I am happy to see more and more people doing what they can to make a difference. And if people stop driving so much and start walking, biking, etc. more? Hey, that’s not such a bad thing; exercise is good for the collective heart.

    I actually consider it very unfortunate that climate-change hysteria has become so thoroughly intertwined with the environmental movement. Environmentalism was once a more or less bipartisan movement. Nixon proposed the creation of the EPA and signed it into law, for example. Cleaning up pollution … not many people are against that.

    Then the environmental movement became a home for renegade socialists, many of whom love the earth but can’t stand people. (The founder of Greenpeace quit his own organization for that reason.) They latched onto global warming as yet another way to bludgeon capitalism and institute the high taxes they so dearly love. They’ve managed to equate CO2 with pollution, when it’s nothing of the sort. So now, if you don’t support carbon taxes or other climate-change nonsense, it somehow means you don’t care about the environment, which is a load of b.s.

    As a result, when I hear someone described as an environmentalist, or worse, as an environmental activist, I am immediately hostile, as are many others who don’t favor socialism or big government. Global warming hysteria has therefore created a partisan divide that wasn’t necessary.

    And from an economics point of view, every dollar we waste fighting a non-existent problem like climate change is a dollar we can’t spend to clean up the real pollution.

  4. Bruce says:

    From Wikipedia.

    The principal components of volcanic gases are water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur either as sulfur dioxide (SO2) (high-temperature volcanic gases) or hydrogen sulfide (H2S) (low-temperature volcanic gases), nitrogen, argon, helium, neon, methane, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Other compounds detected in volcanic gases are oxygen (meteoric), hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen bromide, nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur hexafluoride, carbonyl sulfide, and organic compounds. Exotic trace compounds include methyl mercury, halocarbons (including CFCs), and halogen oxide radicals.

    The abundance of gases varies considerably from volcano to volcano. However, water vapor is consistently the most common volcanic gas, normally comprising more than 60% of total emissions. Carbon dioxide typically accounts for 10 to 40% of emissions.[1]

    Volcanoes located at convergent plate boundaries emit more water vapor and chlorine than volcanoes at hot spots or divergent plate boundaries. This is caused by the addition of seawater into magmas formed at subduction zones. Convergent plate boundary volcanoes also have higher H2O/H2, H2O/CO2, CO2/He and N2/He ratios than hot spot or divergent plate boundary volcanoes.[1]

    Look at the CO2 being released!! A tax on all volcanoes must be enacted IMMEDIATELY!!!!!

    Question teacher. Would a volcano, such as the one in Iceland affect our climate? What about the marine volcanoes that are a gajillion miles, more or less, under the sea that we know little or nothing of, and are erupting continuously? Do the gases they emit stay in the ocean never to appear again? Or, do the gases bubble to the surface, to be released into the atmosphere and then cow flatulence is blamed.

    Damn cows…

    At least that mean Americans are scheming to tax Europeans instead of the other way around. The ocean volcanoes are apparently quite active these days, but of course they’re not taken into account in any of the alarmists’ models.

  5. Andrew says:

    Brilliant. I love how no-one’s mentioned that this big ball of fusion fury in the sky known as the ‘Sun’ has been getting hotter recently too. I wonder if that has had anything to do with this ‘warming.’

    You mean the sun produces heat?

  6. Amy Dungan says:

    Well, now you’ve done it. My kids read this and now I can’t trick them into believing their messy rooms cause global warming. I was going to either demand they keep their rooms clean to help the environment, or tax their allowance in the name of carbon credits to make up the difference (and save me some $$ in the process). Since that makes as much sense as Gore’s argument, I figured it would work. But between their functioning brain and this post, they see right through my charade. That’s what I get for teaching my kids to think logically… and for teaching them to read.

    Good thing you teach them at home. If they’re going to start thinking for themselves, they’d be in real trouble at a government school.

  7. Be says:

    But aren’t we overdue for the mini ice age that cycles about every 10,000 years? Maybe we should be cranking up the thermometer to prevent glaciers from trampling our rhododendrons.

    Nice post, but don’t expect to be elected anytime soon!

    Heck, I’d never run. I wouldn’t last two days in Congress.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I hope your post isn’t supposed to be accurate or funny; because I didn’t find it to be either. You may find it totally impossible to conceive of a finely-balanced global weather system exhibiting multiple chaotic effects under a small perturbation of variables, but perhaps that’s because you’re not a climate expert (although you appear to be trying to pose as one).

    But no, well done for your brilliant insights – I’m sure all those thousands of scientists who have dedicated their careers to understanding the intricacies and nuance of the unbelievably complex interplay of thousands of factors that make up our weather systems *really* appreciate your contribution, and I for one eagerly await the publication of your latest paper in Nature, presumably titled “Hey, boffins: I thought about this for a whole two hours!”.

    So let me get this straight: weather systems are made up of the intricacies and nuances of an unbelievably complex interplay of thousand of factors … but the IPCC can accurately predict how much warmer the planet will be in 40 years? They know, with a degree of certainty that justifies trillions of dollars in new taxes, that the temperature will rise, even though it’s been falling? Do you actually not see the contradiction here?

    Those dedicated scientists who have declared that by gosh they just KNOW we’re warming the planet (but not for the past 15 years) rank right up there with the dedicated scientists who gave us the Lipid Hypothesis and other scientist-approved nonsense.

    As for all those “finely balanced” systems that explain how CO2 makes the world hotter, colder, wetter, and drier all at the same time, those are known as “ad hoc” theories, with purpose of explaining why nothing in reality is matching what the computer models predicted. (No surprise there, since the programmers who wrote the programs left comments about how they couldn’t make the programs spit out the results the researchers wanted.) Real scientists who aren’t manipulating their research to keep the funding spigot flowing have a word for ad-hoc theories: bull@#$%.

    And by the way, 31,000 scientists have signed a document stating there is no evidence that humans are warming the planet, including 9,000 scientists with PhDs in climate-related sciences. I bet they thought about it for more than two hours before risking their careers by signing. Despite what Al Gore says, the science is nowhere close to being settled, and there is no consensus among real scientists.

    If you’d like to put more than two hours into forming your own opinion, I’d suggest reading Heaven and Earth or Air Con. Or watch the lecture by professor Carter in a previous post (link below). Then tell me you believe the climate-hysteria science is solid, consistent, and unbiased.


  9. The effects of Global Warming is getting much stronger these days. We should concentrate more on alternative energy to reduce carbon emissions.

    I think it would be great to come up with alternatives for fossil fuels, for all kinds of reasons. But the idea that we must all reduce carbon emmisions right now or we’ll overheat the planet is based on wild speculation not backed up by evidence or history.

  10. Kate says:

    If more talking heads and politicians would take a vow of silence, this whole man made global warming trend would be over in a few weeks.

    LOL. It would also do wonders for everyone’s blood pressure.

  11. Dave, RN says:

    You are MADE of awesome. Ron Paul for President and Tom Naughton for Vice President!
    I remember the 70’s when I was a teenager and we were all told that an ice age was coming and that we were all going to freeze to death.

    That’s exactly what I was taught in high school (class of ’77).

  12. Anna says:

    Today is a sad, sad day for Science. The National Academy of Science is urging swift government action to curb global warming by way of a carbon tax. The NAS members’s brains must be addled by all the statins they’re taking…they’ve forgotten their role as seekers of knowledge and now imagine themselves as public policy makers and bureaucrats. Sad, really sad.

    Isn’t it amazing how government solutions always seem to involve giving more money to the government?

  13. Bill Davis says:

    Tom I just reread this about 4 months after it originally was published. I found it as good or better on second reading.

    My wife is an elementary school teacher and has asked me if I could find some good lesson plan material on this topic for use in the public/private schools which is age appropriate and based on sound science to provide resources for teachers concerned about this issue. One elementary teacher in the teachers lounge at her school said she just presents what is available in the official science text books.

    In your connections have you come across an educator who has addressed this. If so I would be grateful for a contact.

    I can’t think of any educators who’ve addressed it. The book “Air Con” is written at more of a consumer level than most books on the topic, so I believe someone could easily interpret it for elementary-age kids. Professor Bob Carter’s lectures are also pretty easy to follow. You can see those in a previous post.

    Glad to know an educator is giving the topic a critical look.

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