Clouds, Vapor, and CO2

In attempting to refute the science behind the City of Santa Barbara’s sea rise planning as reported in the Independent, the writer of No Need for Adaptation repeats two common climate-denier misconceptions. First, she claims warming waters and the resulting increased evaporation actually reduce planetary heating by increasing the cloud cover, thus shielding more of the sun’s rays. The truth is the opposite: more clouds and more water vapor actually trap more heat, not less, and warmer waters also absorb less CO2 than colder water. Thus, warmer waters create a self-perpetuating feedback loop by increasing atmospheric heat-trapping, which causes even warmer waters.

Second, she argues that carbon dioxide is only 0.04 percent of the atmosphere, a trace gas essential for plant growth that is “released in the eco-balance determined by nature (not man).” What she misses is that CO2 levels throughout all human history were at about 0.03 percent until about 200 years ago, when they started to rise, thanks mostly to the burning of fossil fuels. This is a 33 percent increase in a relatively short time, caused by man, not nature. Plant cycles and other natural systems cannot adapt to this large and sudden increase. The writer sarcastically admonishes the Independent to “go back to school.” I would instead recommend the book Beyond Debate; Answers to 50 Misconceptions on Climate Change, by Dr. Shahir Masri.


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