Philosopher Bertrand Russell ridiculed the existence of God by positing a teapot in space between Jupiter and Earth. It has not been falsified nor can it be. Below I liken the Enhanced Greenhouse Effect to such a teapot.
Some people believe there is a teapot (Enhanced Greenhouse Effect) that is causing tea (global warming). Their belief is bolstered by hot Venus (96.5% CO2) and glasshouses (glass acts as a convection barrier) that are supposed to be warmed by a similar teapot (conditions are so different the analogy is irrelevant). Infra-red back-radiation rains down like tea, causing temperatures to rise and ice caps to melt. The teapot uses ‘teabags’ (GHGs: carbon dioxide and methane) made from the waste products of combusting fossil fuels. Their conclusion is that we must stop producing teabag GHGs. Believers do not acknowledge that the ‘tea’ (global warming) could come from something else.
Global warming could be resulting from one or more of these processes:
- natural changes in the Sun’s interior;
- natural changes in the Earth’s interior;
3. non-anthropomorphic thermal pollution, from bushfires, volcanoes, biochemical processes;
4. anthropomorphic thermal pollution from energy production inefficiencies and consumption;
5. thermal pollution from enhanced agriculture, biodecomposition, biodegradation and cows’ digestive processes;
In view of the above alternative explanations for the ‘tea’, a teapot may not exist. It is not possible to dismiss the possibility of a teapot. The case for it would be improved had its hypothesised tea-producing effect ever been measured and reported accessibly. I have heard of it only as a supposition elaborated by qualitative theories. In some instances, the relationships have been acknowledged by the theorists who have confounded them. The absence of experimental data is preeminent in the websites I have perused.
Is it possible that a teapot could send its ‘tea’ to stay on Earth in daytime without much going out into space, even at night, having an effect like an electric blanket? Classical modelling of radiant transfer processes by Stefan Boltzmann has energy absorbed equal to energy emitted. I have not been able to find a method of calculating a Greenhouse Effect based on measurements in controlled experiments.
You may want to dismiss my lack of success in finding this evidence as incomplete or indicative of incompetence at desk research. Although I have not been employed as a climate scientist, I am a chemical engineer and during a career spanning 50 years I have studied thermodynamic processes, including radiant heat transfer, worked as an energy supply engineer, applied complex numerical simulators to problems, analysed climate reports and data as a high school science teacher, written educational materials on climate science for Education Queensland, been a blogger on climate topics, witnessed the proposal of a greenhouse effect teapot and the apotheosis of renewable energy technologies. My fruitless search for the ‘teapot’ has been mostly online — my research skills have been acknowledged by employers.
I am not at all convinced by the predictions of climate models because overfitting occurs when there are too few degrees of freedom. The ‘degrees of freedom’ is the number of observations minus the number of explanatory variables. If the number of variables is the same as, or greater than the number of observations, there are not enough observations and predictions are not sufficiently deterministic to have any confidence in them. I would like to hear from any modeller who has explained more global climate observation averages than variables he/she has tweaked.
If a teapot is causing the tea heating Venus, then the teabags it uses are 2500 times more concentrated, the sulphuric acid clouds on Venus are absent on Earth and the tea there is so much stronger, over 400oC, that the planet’s thermodynamic balance does not substantiate that a teapot there would have processes able to be scaled down to conditions on Earth with any reliability. There is nothing about Venus that is evidence for a teapot in the Earth’s atmosphere.
A greenhouse effect is a theory that lacks the respectability of being validated by empirical science.
Glasshouses warm up in daytime and cool down at night. They have heaters. Is there a greenhouse somewhere that is getting warmer and warmer, as it is supposed Earth is?
Karl Popper’s philosophy of science is that anyone can put up a hypothesis without evidence, like a ‘teapot’. In his view, it is scientists’ role to try and falsify it. A dearth of evidence for the Greenhouse Effect does not falsify it, but you should be doubtful because I have presented several sound alternative explanations. My explanations, which are 6 hypotheses that explain the ‘tea’ and increased presence of ‘tea bags’, are respectable and demonstrably testable. If the ‘teapot’ has other evidence for it, let’s hear it. If you cannot provide such evidence and the ‘teapot’ story has captured your imagination, then think again. Faith is not a sufficient reason to abandon technologies that are serving the public well.
Bertrand Russell used his teapot analogy to illustrate the idea that the burden of proof lies on the person making the unfalsifiable claim rather than shifting the burden of proof to others. This is more demanding than Popper’s position. Because a Greenhouse Effect teapot cannot be falsified, then the onus is on scientists to ‘prove’ that it exists and does not require me to prove that it does not. When I apply Popper’s more relaxed condition, am able to dismiss the teapot as whimsy until I obtain evidence to the contrary. It is logical for me to adopt a sceptical position.
The energy we consume warms up the Earth: energy does not disappear. It all ends up in the environment as entropy, or thermal pollution that is at too low a temperature to be re-used. It stays in the environment, only slowly being radiated away into space and replaced by energy from the Sun. The amounts are enough, I have calculated, to account for all of the warming reported. I can show you my numbers. The amount of warming by greenhouse gases is relatively uncertain and I know of no incontrovertible evidence that they cause any warming at all.
It is logical to reduce entropy production to decrease atmospheric warming. This should be pursued by insisting on the most efficient energy supply technologies to convert fossil fuel and renewable potential energy with least wasting of energy due to production technology inefficiency. Coal fired base load technology has been relatively efficient. Renewable energy has so far been relatively inefficient, see hypothesis #4, and would increase global warming. Redirection of electricity production to efficient and away from inefficient technologies is not occurring as it should. The redirection of electricity production to the least efficient technologies has raised the cost to electricity consumers. Falling electricity demand will mitigate the increase in entropy production, so might be less ‘tea’ but not less than there would have been without the ‘teapot’ and without the ‘teabag’ scare. The hysteria has impose costs on ordinary consumers that are unwarranted. The concern about ‘tea bag’ production should be put aside until there is more evidence of a ‘teapot’. It could take evidence that does not exist anywhere, as far as I know, to change my mind.
CORRECTION: I apologise for my post on this topic last week. It contained errors.
The table compares environmental warming by a coal station, with a solar panel and a wind turbine, which have equal capacity to convert and transfer electrical energy.
All input energy ends up in the environment, whether absorbed, converted or used.
Energy conversion efficiency E is electrical output/total energy input.
Different energy sources and technologies can be compared with equal electricity output as environmental energy input, or warming, in the table below. Relative environmental warming per unit of electricity produced is the reciprocal of conversion efficiency 1/E. It is ‘inefficiency’ of conversion, or input for output.
After subtracting 10% for reflection due to albedo or whiteness of a panel, typically 15-30% of incident solar energy is converted (0.15-0.30).
* Environment warming would be reduced when the solar panel is installed on a roof above a cooled interior.
Assume efficiency of rotary multi-blade turbine is 30% or 0.30.
Assume station thermal efficiency = 40% or 0.40
Coal would have a 25% lower environment warming effect (3.33-2.50)/3.33 X 100. A renewable energy technology could warm the environment more than coal. A technology of lower thermal efficiency is more thermally polluting. It is one of several important factors such as cost to be considered before installing it to replace a more efficient technology.
Renewal of energy input is ultimately from the Sun, for solar and wind, or by combusting coal. The heat flows from hot to cold, cooling down to ambient temperature, ending up as heat warming the environment as entropy: heat that cannot be used. For technologies having low efficiency, the amount of ambient warming is significant. This thermal pollution could be sufficient to disadvantage individuals of many species, locally and globally.
No amount of warming has been included from an Enhanced Greenhouse Effect, due to CO2 and CH4. I am not convinced that the postulated mechanism exists and I would need a method I can use to calculate any effect.
It is claimed burning fossil fuels to produce electricity or heat is responsible for roughly half of global warming (Google, April 13, 2014). Installing solar panels and erecting wind turbines to replace coal may not reduce warming and could increase it.