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CO2 Greenhouse Theory Questionable – Atmospheric Pressure Enhancement Overrules Back Radiation

Updated on April 24, 2012


Back radiation does NOT heat greenhouses, and re-emitted back-radiation does NOT heat Earth's atmosphere, contrary to what the widely accepted greenhouse theory teaches.

"Greenhouse" photo by Robert G. K e r n o d l e
"Greenhouse" photo by Robert G. K e r n o d l e

Truth Right Under Our Noses

We, of the human race, have grown up under a vast ocean of air that encompasses our home planet. We call this ocean of air "the atmosphere". Since genetics has directed our brains to adapt to this ocean, we have never developed the need to be conscious of air pressure on every square inch of our skin. We, thus, forget that air, like other matter, has mass.

Immense volumes of air have immense masses, hence immense weights. Gravity, of course, is what causes the extraordinary mass of Earth’s air to have weight. We deal with atmospheric weight (or pressure) reflexively, without thinking about it. This weight of air, nonetheless, exists as a constant force within the atmosphere we breathe. The entire extent of Earth's air exerts its force over the whole circumference of the globe, throughout its total vertical thickness, from full pressure (sea level) at the bottom of the troposphere to one one-thousandth of sea-level pressure at the top of the stratosphere. How easily we forget this vast source of pressure!

Another thing we easily forget is Earth's primary source of heat, the Sun.

Many of us have failed to realize important, basic connections between the Sun's energy, the atmosphere's mass, and the Earth's gravity.

From Astro To Terrestrial Physics

Ned Nikolov, Ph.D. & Karl Zeller, Ph.D. ... remind us:

"The thermal effect of pressure is vividly demonstrated on a cosmic scale by the process of star formation, where a gravity-induced rise of gas pressure boosts the temperature of an interstellar cloud to the threshold of nuclear fusion."

Is such a thermal-enhancing pressure effect operating at a planetary scale?

Heinz Thieme (2010), a German engineer,... writing about atmospheric physics ...,answers this question in the affirmative:

“Thus, gravity essentially determines the temperature conditions within an atmosphere.”

In an ... article on back radiation ...,Thieme (2010) has also pointed out:

An assessment conducted in the light of the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the principles of vector algebra of the key greenhouse theory concept of ‘atmospheric back radiation’ suggests that it is simply a mirage.”

Paradigm Shock

Imagine someone suddenly coming to realize that Earth is spherical instead of flat and NOT the center of the universe, after believing differently for many years. Imagine someone suddenly coming to realize that Earth circles around bigger centers, that circle around still bigger centers, in a universe that has NO center, or, alternately, in a universe where every point is equally its center. Such realizations are shocking, and they signal crucial changes in a world-view or paradigm.

In a similar way, the realization that Earth's atmosphere heats by atmospheric pressure enhancement, instead of by back-radiation, might be equally shocking to people who have always believed in the greenhouse theory. A change in world-view is precisely what Nikolov and Zeller suggest, as they emphasize the fact that Earth's lower troposphere emits 44% MORE radiation toward Earth's surface than the TOTAL solar flux absorbed by the ENTIRE Earth-Atmosphere System.

These researchers note specifically that radiative heat transfer alone CANNOT explain this effect, since the heat-storing capacity of air is negligible (in agreement with Thieme). The question, thus, arises, "How does the lower atmosphere contain MORE kinetic energy than the Sun provides?"

Perhaps an even more pressing question is, “Why do so many people still believe that the greenhouse effect is what they believe it is, in the face of clear evidence that does NOT bear out the greenhouse theory’s claims?”

The major claim of the greenhouse theory is that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations cause increases in Earth’s average temperature.

Evidence, however, shows that accelerating rates of atmospheric CO2 concentrations exist simultaneously with decelerating rates of global temperature change:

Mathematical Problems With The Current Greenhouse Theory

A number of respectable people still endorse the same old energy-balance diagrams and the same old beliefs that emphasize the importance of so called “greenhouse gases”, particularly the gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Close examination of the mathematics, however, seems to reveal significant problems with these beliefs:

The current Greenhouse Theory calculates magnitude of atmospheric warming INCORRECTLY.

The current Greenhouse Theory fails to account properly for convection.


Nikolov and Zeller apparently have caused quite a stir with their paradigm-shocking publications, from which the present HubPages article draws its information. As might be expected, the work of these two researchers has attracted many, detailed criticisms, to which the authors have provided ... detailed replies ... .

The conclusions of their original paper, thus, remain firm:

  • Global surface temperature is independent of greenhouse or back radiation.
  • Solar heating and air pressure provide the pool of atmospheric kinetic energy that warms Earth.
  • Changes in the rate of surface convective cooling completely counterbalance variations in downward long-wave radiation, because this is how the Earth-atmosphere system conserves its internal energy.
  • Changes in atmospheric chemical composition CANNOT change the total kinetic energy of the Earth-atmosphere system; hence, chemical composition CANNOT alter the magnitude of atmospheric warming.


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    • Robert Kernodle profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Kernodle 

      6 years ago


      I look forward to reading your future hub. Maybe let me know when you have posted it.

      This exchange has also inspired the madening task of trying to settle this question for myself once and for all, by writing a future hub on The Second Law as it relates to CO2 back radiation (or lack thereof).

      I just do not understand how you can subtract an atmospheric emitted source of infrared radiation from a ground emitted source of infrared radiation without a physical MECHANISM that enables such a subtraction.

      If we cannot add the supposed back radiation into the ground radiation to increase the outgoing by this exact amount, then how does this exact amount of back radiation add itself to the heat without radiating from cold to hot?

      I mean, does precisely the amount of back radiation cause some sort of pressure that slows down the outgoing ground radiation? Does it create a filter or membrane at some interface between outgoing infrared and re-entering back radiated infrared?

      Again, I would ask, "What is the physical mechanism that allows us to subtract the backradiation from the outgoing radiation?" There seems to be no reality beyond the simple math to allow it.

      You can say that there is no violation of the Second Law by simply performing that subtraction and calling it an "inhibition of cooling". But how do you "inhibit cooling", without maintaining heat, and how do you maintain heat, without adding heat from the cooler entity, and how do you add heat from the cooler entity, without violating the Second Law Of Thermodynamics?


    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Robert,

      Since I was not able to grok what you were saying in the last two comments, my preliminary response may have been slightly 'off-target'. And it's become so lengthy that I've decided to write a future hub about it when I can find suitable graphics, rather than writing a tome in the Comments section of your hub.

    • Robert Kernodle profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Kernodle 

      6 years ago

      I am still pondering the Second-Law conundrum (or lack thereof):

      If NET thermal radiation is in the direction of the cooler entity (FROM the hotter entity), then how does the cooler entity's radiation become incorporated into additional heat?

      It still has to somehow ADD to the greater heat, in order to prevent cooling. It has to maintain heat by adding itself, in order to prevent the hotter body's radiation from moving totally away from it to cool.

      Why would the hotter body's dominant radiation not somehow push the less dominant back radiaton onwards and upwards, until it "found" a cooler place?

      Why would the cooler body's less dominant back radiation not somehow merely resonate with the dominant hotter body's radiation, merely being "enfolded by" the dominant radiation, rather than adding anything to the whole heating effect?

    • Robert Kernodle profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Kernodle 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the link, Larry.

      Backradiation is a tricky idea to make stick, even if you admit that the Second Law is NOT being violated.

      In the SUN-EARTH-ATMOSPHERE system:

      * Radiant sun energy enters through Earth's atmosphere.

      * Earth's surface absorbs radiant sun energy.

      * Earth's surface radiates long-wave radiation.

      * Greenhouse gases absorb long-wave radiation.

      * Greenhouse gases emit long-wave radiaton back to Earth.

      * This reduces the amount of long-wave radiation radiating from Earth, which means we add it back to the amount of short-wave radiation coming in from the sun, which now adds up to more TOTAL radiation than the Sun itself originally supplied.

      We, thus, allow the same radiation to BOTH radiate AND back radiate, to multiply itself beyond the amount of the original source's radiation.

      Can greenhouse gases really do this? Even if they could, can they do it to create a sufficient quantity of radiation to really be significant? Even allowing for a reasonable contribution from backradiation, this quantity is both insignificant and unmeasureable.

      Any inhibition of radiative cooling is overcome MANYfold by the power of CONVECTIVE cooling, which moves significant masses of air kinetically.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      6 years ago from Northern California

      Hi Robert,

      You mentioned the Second Law of Thermodynamics in passing. I'm reminded of an old saying: Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. In that spirit, Jo Nova posted an article about the pesky 2nd Law and the Greenhouse Effect at her blog last year.

      It would be so much simpler if we all agreed to call it the Larry Effect. Oh well, that's life.


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