Monday, April 02, 2007

Hanging to the Ledge by Slimmest Edge (Mass v. EPA)





The opinion

Respected scientists believe ... [that] when carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, it acts like the ceiling of a greenhouse, trapping solar energy and retarding the escape of reflected heat. It is therefore a species —the most important species—of a “greenhouse gas.”

... In the late 1970’s, the Federal Government began devoting serious attention to the possibility that carbon dioxide emissions associated with human activity could provoke climate change. In 1978, Congress enacted the National Climate Program Act, 92 Stat. 601, which required the President to establish a program to “assist the Nation and the world to understand and respond to natural and maninduced climate processes and their implications,” id., §3. President Carter, in turn, asked the National Research Council, the working arm of the National Academy of Sciences, to investigate the subject. The Council’s response was unequivocal: “If carbon dioxide continues to increase, the study group finds no reason to doubt that climate changes will result and no reason to believe that these changes will be negligible. . . . A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late.”

25 comments:

David Wozney said...

Carbon dioxide released by man near ground level is heavier than air and sinks in air rather than rising up to the upper atmosphere to become a so-called greenhouse gas. While sinking, it stratifies from air. After sinking and stratifying, it tends to remain close to the ground and may find its way down to low-lying water bodies or down to ocean level where it can mix and react with water to form weak carbonic acid. Carbon dioxide is also removed from the lower atmosphere by rainfall.

Step Back said...

Well that is certainly a strange argument to toss out there. I have not seen this one lofted in yet.

Clearly if we are talking about dry ice (frozen CO2), a block of dry ice is heavier than the warm gases in the "air" and will sink rapidly.

But we are not talking about dry ice or cold CO2 or a pure flow of CO2. The "air" already has CO2 in it, even high up in the atmosphere. The height of the CO2 is a function of the energy absorbed by the CO2 (a function of its temperature). Since CO2 molecules are constantly being bombarded by IR radiation and absorbing the same, they are kept aloft in the atmosphere rather than sinking as you suggest.

See also this discussion of carbon "sinks" (but here we are talking about a different kind of sinking).

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