Questioning The Greenhouse Theory -- 2012 Review Of Gerlich And Tscheuschner

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Sacred though it might seem, the CO2 atmospheric greenhouse theory is not immune to legitimate challenges.

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Challenging An Iconic Theory

An infamous paper by mathematical physicist, Gerhard Gerlich, and co-author, Ralf D. Tscheuschner, ... Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics ... (first presented in 2007), attracted an outpouring of criticism condemning the two authors, when they concluded that a real, quantifiable and measureable, CO2 greenhouse effect does NOT exist.

In response to Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's paper, several formal responses appeared claiming to refute their conclusion. One high-profile response was presented by American Physical Society member, Arthur P. Smith, ... Proof Of The Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect ... (2008 ). Another high-profile response, Comment On "Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics"(2010)[interestingly, currently unaccessable online], was presented by chemist, Joshua B. Halpern, working in conjunction with five other co-authors. Here Smith, again, participated in a second formal attempt to defend the popular theory where Earth's atmosphere acts similar to a glass house, in which the trace gas CO2 exerts remarkable temperature-determining influences.

Heated Debate

As might be expected, a flurry of outraged replies erupted over the internet, in various blogs, discussion forums and websites. People who valued the greenhouse theory sided with Smith, Halpern et.al. In general, greenhouse theory supporters appeared to perceive that Smith, Halpern et al. decisively refuted Gerlich and Tscheuschner. What greenhouse theory supporters appeared to neglect, however, was the thorough rebuttal by Gerlich and Tscheuschner of Smith's, Halpern's et al.'s supposed refutation. Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's rebuttal was entitled, ... Reply To "Comment On 'Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics' By Joshua B. Halpern, Christopher M. Colose, Chris Ho-Stuart, Joel D. Shore, Arthur P. Smith, J'Org Zimmermann" ... (2010).

In this rebuttal, Gerlich and Tscheuschner answered their critics convincingly, in detail, effectively defending the integrity of their original conclusion -- that physicists cannot derive the mechanism of a CO2 atmospheric greenhouse effect from first principles.

Photo by Jeff Foot
Photo by Jeff Foot | Source

Ebel’s Praised But Imperfect Try

A third high-profile criticism of Gerlich and Tscheuschner, entitled The Greenhouse Effect Does Exist! (2009 ), by physicist Jochen Ebel, gives the impression of being a definitive line-by-line refutation of Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's compelling paper. Surprisingly, defenders of the greenhouse theory most often seem to provide a link to the German language version of this criticism, apparently unwilling to locate the English language version for the majority of readers who cannot read German. An English language version DOES exist, and its subtitle (in English) reads, ... Commentary On The Paper "Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics ... . At one time, Ebel's full criticism of Gerlich and Tscheuschner appeared on the Cornell University website, arXiv.org, but now arXiv.org provides only an abstract of the full criticism, along with a note that reads,

"Removed by arXiv admin because of inappropriate and excessive quotation ..."

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Difficulty Of Details

Understanding the details of all these papers is extremely difficult for non-mathematicians. Understanding specific choices of mathematical variables and nuances of their uses in equations is simply beyond the comprehension of most readers. In many instances, a reader who might cite one of these papers as an argumentative defense probably does not understand the math. Nonprofessionals, thus, must look beyond the technicalities of these papers and draw conclusions based on general patterns of argumentation.

What becomes apparent is that Jochen Ebel adamantly disagrees with Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's choices of relevant mathematical variables. Ebel routinely claims that Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's main choices of mathematical variables have no significance and no importance in establishing the truth of a greenhouse effect, which seems amusing, because Gerlich is a MATHEMATICAL PHYSICIST who is quite experienced in carrying out thermodynamic calculations. Even so, Ebel dismisses Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's primary points as having nothing to do with the greenhouse effect. Ebel begs the question of his readers to attach no significance to Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's numbers that relate to the precise manner in which heat flows and changes within a medium. Ebel quotes Gerlich's and Tscheuschner's entire paper, injecting his comments at will in a different colored (blue) typeface, sometimes forcing the authors' original paper to read the way that he (Ebel) would have written it and sometimes forcing the authors' original paper to become inflated with his (Ebel's) condemning, side-bar criticisms. Ebel's overall attempt to dismantle Gerlich and Tscheuschner comes across as inelegant, confusing and aimed at discrediting thinkers rather than correcting thinkers' flawed conclusions, as he claims.

Surprising Conclusion

Again, the clearest effect of Ebel's criticism is to establish Ebel's belief in an atmospheric CO2 greenhouse effect. Less clear is whether Ebel supports the idea that human beings have a measureable effect on the magnitude of the greenhouse effect. In other words, reading Ebel’s criticism raises the question, “Does Ebel’s belief in the greenhouse effect imply his belief in human-caused global warming?” On page 93 of his supposed refutation, the following passage is highlighted in blue:

"The greenhouse effect exists - for the Authors [Gerlich and Tscheuschner] it does not exist only because they reject basic knowledge like Einstein’s equations. There are so many unsolved and unsolvable problems in non-linearity, and the climatologists believe to beat them all by working with crude approximations leading to unphysical results that have been corrected afterwards by mystic methods, flux control in the past, obscure ensemble averages over different climate institutes today, by excluding accidental global cooling results by hand, continuing the greenhouse inspired global climatologic tradition of physically meaningless averages and physically meaningless applications of mathematical statistics. In conclusion, the derivation of statements on the CO2 induced anthropogenic global warming out of the computer simulations lies outside any science."

The first sentence in this passage is clearly Ebel speaking. The remaining sentences of the passage are Gerlich’s and Tscheuschner’s words, but the blue highlighting (perhaps an error in transposing) causes a reader to believe that Ebel is supportive of these words, since his convention is to highlight his favored points of view in blue type.

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Sanctity Of Greenhouse Theory Uncertain

So, is the foundational pillar supporting the human-caused global warming argument secure? Does a greenhouse effect, in fact, exist?

I honestly do NOT know, and I honestly believe that non-specialists and non-mathematicians cannot find a final answer in the current quagmire of conflicting data and arguments. The fact that both sides of the human-caused global warming debate produce equally convincing arguments leads me to conclude that nobody really knows whether human beings currently influence Earth's climate or not, and if we do, then such influences, most likely, are not significant enough to matter much in the long run.

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Comments 12 comments

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

I agree with your last sentence. Voted up.

Confession: Although I've been following the Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) controversy on heretical blogs, I have not read the G&T paper. Nevertheless I'm beyond skeptical about AGW.

That said, there's considerable confusion, because the Greenhouse Effect (GE) has precious little to do with real, glass-and-steel greenhouses.

In the latter, the glass walls keep out chilly Winter breezes. More to the point, the glass roofs goof up convection cells.

GE theorists focus on certain atmospheric gases: mainly CO2 and methane. They state that the gases in question absorb in the infrared and then re-emit in all directions, including downward. This 'back-radiation' has a slight warming effect.

Some scientists do not understood that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a macroscopic generalization, rather than a microscopic one. They claim that the putative back-radiation violates the Second Law. This claim is an ignorant one. As the old saying goes: With friends like these, who needs enemies?

However I have a bigger beef with GE theorists. In their pious pronouncements to the infotainment media, they conveniently ignore the fact that gas-phase H2O accounts for a far greater proportion of the back-radiation than CO2 and methane. I regard this oversight as lying by omission.


scottcgruber profile image

scottcgruber 4 years ago from USA

Larry: climate scientists don't ignore H2O. They include it in their models. The difference is that H2O remains in the atmosphere for a far shorter time span than CO2. They consider it part of the positive feedback loop - warming caused by greenhouse gases causes more water to evaporate, intensifying the greenhouse effect.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Scottgruber wrote:

"Larry: climate scientists don't ignore H2O."

Scott, I'm sorry that your reading comprehension skills are so abysmal. I'll try to rephrase that short paragraph in a way that even you can understand.

The leading Warmist 'scientists' are two-faced. They say one thing in their academic publications, and they say something different when speaking with the press, just as the late Stephen Schneider advised, in his infamous quote in Discover magazine in the late 1980s.

When addressing the Great Unwashed, they tend to gloss over the fact that gas-phase H2O is the mother of all Greenhouse Gases, in terms of its effect on our fair planet. However that is not my biggest beef with IPCC pseudoscience.

The various IPCC models are ALL 100% garbage, because thus far, they have had ZERO predictive value. Where's the mid-tropospheric hot spot over the tropics predicted by ALL of the IPCC models? They can't find it, because it's not there.

Why do the satellite data show a zero warming TREND for more than 13 years, in the face of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations?

REAL scientists go back to the drawing board when their pet hypotheses are falsified by real-world data. They don't make lame excuses. And they don't try to palm off GIGO computer models as 'evidence'. Repeat after me: Computer models are NOT reality.

Why does GISS release hallucinatory--I mean 'adjusted'--surface station numbers, while fighting tooth and nail to fend off FOIA requests for the ALL of their RAW data, the gathering and processing of which was done on the public dime? All they need to do is to push a button.

Why did Phil Jones at the CRU-UEA conveniently lose the RAW data with which he was entrusted, when the truth hounds were getting too close for comfort, after stating in a Climategate 1.0 email that that would be his preference, rather than disgorging the requested information?

It's because the RAW surface station temperatures are consistent with the satellite non-trend, and the fraudsters would be out pounding the pavement looking for real jobs (or rotting in jail) if that fact became widely known.

REAL scientists GLADLY share their data and the associated computer programs. We're not talking A-bomb secrets or proprietary Coca-Cola secret recipe here.

At the moment, there's ZERO evidence that we should be the least bit concerned about our CO2 and CH4 emissions.

In light of the available information about gross misconduct on the part of leading Warmist pseudoscientists, we should immediately cut off all government funding for the giga-buck climate fraud industry.


scottcgruber profile image

scottcgruber 4 years ago from USA

Larry: you're entitled to your opinion, wrong as it is.


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Scott, let me see if I've got this straight. Because you regard my 'opinion' as 'wrong', you're implying that you DISAGREE with the following points:

•Real scientists go back to the drawing board when their pet hypotheses are falsified.

•Real scientists gladly share their data.

•GISS is hiding raw temperature data from the individual surface stations.

•Phil Jones 'lost' a huge amount of raw temperature data, with which he was entrusted.

•Computer models are not reality.

•Computer models that have zero predictive value are garbage.

•The satellite data show no warming trend for more than 13 years.

•There is no mid-tropospheric hot spot over the tropics.

It sounds to me like you're woefully uninformed on the subject, and that you're scientifically illiterate. I'm reminded of an old saying:

"You're entitled to your interpretation, but you're not entitled to your own facts."

What about me? I have an MS in analytical chemistry. I have a publication in the top journal in my field. I've created a new data compression technique. I've written an article for the Mensa Bulletin about electoral systems from a Game Theory perspective. I've done a preliminary investigation of the climate history of the Northern Sierras, and guest-authored that in a top science blog.

If you want a long-term perspective on climate change, please read Robert's outstanding hub about the cosmological connection.


Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 4 years ago Author

Larry and Scott,

Thanks for adding the insightful exchange.

I am still trying to get a handle on the basic physics of the supposed atmospheric CO2 greenhouse effect.

I keep coming across quite convincing arguments showing that the effect of CO2 (in TRACE amounts) --even up to a doubling of the present amount-- has virtually NO empirically measureable effect on Earth's atmospheric heating.

Water vapor, whatever the exact mechanism, is king. For every 1 molecule of CO2 in the air, there are 100 to 400 molecules of water vapor. Rather than supposing that a constant concentration at 4 molecules CO2 per 10,000 air units dominates the heating proces, a seemingly much more reasonable idea is that a variable 100 to 400 H2O molecules per 10,000 air units runs the show. And any minute contribution from the trace CO2 piggy backs on top of the water vapor, NOT controlling it!


Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

Robert wrote;

"I keep coming across quite convincing arguments showing that the effect of CO2 (in TRACE amounts) --even up to a doubling of the present amount-- has virtually NO empirically measureable effect on Earth's atmospheric heating."

Here's a consequence the Lambert-Beer Law. Suppose that a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration increases the average global temperature by x°F. Then if we double it again, the second increase will also be x°F. Of course, this is assuming, "other things being equal."

However there's some overlap between the IR absorption bands of CO2 and of gas-phase H2O. Therefore the actual warming effect is a bit smaller than what I said above.

Feedbacks muddy the waters even more. Warmies assume that essentially all of the feedbacks are positive, and that negative feedbacks either don't exist, or are small enough to be negligible. However there's zero evidence for this sweeping claim. In the real world, some feedbacks are positive, and others are negative.

Scott mentioned that global warming causes more water to evaporate, thereby adding more IR-absorbing gas-phase H2O to fragile atmosphere. And he claims that this is a positive feedback.

Here's what the Scotts of this world are incapable of understanding. Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations hasten the formation of raindrops in clouds. Why?

CO2 is reasonably soluble in water. When CO2 dissolves in a nascent raindrop, it increases the surface area slightly, thereby increasing the rate at which gas-phase H2O condenses on the nascent raindrop. The overall effect is to decrease the average residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is an example of a negative feedback.

By the way, studies that estimate residence times of CO2 in the atmosphere differ by as much as two orders of magnitude. Before taking any of these seriously, I'd need to have a much closer look.


eec2011 profile image

eec2011 4 years ago from California, USA

So Larry, anyone who disagrees with you is stupid?


Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 4 years ago Author

eec2011,

I do not believe that Larry is implying that anyone is "stupid". He is pointing out details that people who are caught up in a popular uproar can overlook in their zeal.

A truly eye-opening (i.e., mind-opening) review of knowledge reveals that atmospheric heating has very little to do with trace-gas concentrations and their optical qualities. Instead, atmospheric heating has mostly to do with the entire MASS of Earth's atmosphere under the influence of Earth's gravity, as solar irradiation heats it.


Craig Thomas 4 years ago

This article states, "the popular theory where Earth's atmosphere acts similar to a glass house, ".

This sentence indicates the author does not understand the topic he is trying to discuss


Yves30 3 years ago

Funny...

The image is cute : 2+2=4 and 2+2=6 collide. What'll be the outcome ? 2+2=5, maybe...

The commenter is on par:

"A truly eye-opening (i.e., mind-opening) review of knowledge reveals that atmospheric heating has very little to do with trace-gas concentrations and their optical qualities. Instead, atmospheric heating has mostly to do with the entire MASS of Earth's atmosphere under the influence of Earth's gravity, as solar irradiation heats it."

Back to Aristotle, at full speed...


Robert Kernodle profile image

Robert Kernodle 3 years ago Author

Craig Thomas wrote:

"This article states, 'the popular theory where Earth's atmosphere acts similar to a glass house'. This sentence indicates the author does not understand the topic he is trying to discuss.

My Response To Craig:

Craig's claim is simply wrong. I understand (as do a number of people) that the popular conception of the Greenhouse effect is based on a simple (erroneous) VISUALIZATION of Earth's atmosphere as a glass enclosure. Look at the name - GREENHOUSE - a house made of glass that retains heat by blocking convection. What don't I understand - that people who have traditionally visualized this image are now getting more sophisticated, by retaining the same OLD name, but now admitting that the mechanism with the OLD name has NO resemblance to a greenhouse? ... and now they contrive further complicated means of demonizing CO2 with yet further degrees of erroneous complexity that are ALSO wrong?

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