15 February 2011
Lord Monckton kindly engaged with authors of 'Slaying the Sky Dragon' recently in an email exchange that shone some light on specific errors that the climate science community is repeated making. Climate scientist are by training generalist scientists lacking expertize in higher math and atmospheric physics; as such they are repeatedly failing to understand the essence of why carbon dioxide (CO2) cannot act 'like a blanket' or 'add warmth' to our atmosphere. Here is one example of where Monckton goes awry:
Lord Monckton: "There is a greenhouse effect; increases in greenhouse-gas concentrations add to it; CO2 is a greenhouse gas; at the quantum level it mimics the dipole moment of a more complex molecule; accordingly at its characteristic absorption wavelengths a quantum resonance is established in the molecule, radiating heat that would otherwise have passed harmlessly out into space; and, therefore, adding CO2 to the atmosphere, as we are doing, will cause some warming. "
Let us start by reminding ourselves that a gaseous substance can not be compared to the surface of a theoretical blackbody, which is solid and two-dimensional. Below is a question and answer guide to understanding the essentials of why there can be no greenhouse effect in Earth's atmosphere:
Q1. Does it matter that at the quantum level a quantum resonance is established?
A1. No, it matters not. Any re-radiation off any substance will scatter the energy in a random direction and on probability that means at best half but likely only about one third of the original energy is directed back at the emitter. The flux of such re-radiated energy can have no effect upon the emitter, as its intensity is now lower than that of the emitter. If that was not the case, endless energy amplification would be possible and all of our energy problems would be solved in a flash (see below).
Q2. Can a cooler atmosphere ever make the earth warmer?
A2. No, never. Radiation from a cooler object can never make a warmer receiver of such radiation even warmer, but more, an atmosphere coupled to the earth's sun-heated surface (oceans included) acts as a convecting fluid, constantly removing heat from the surface and carrying it aloft. The only transfer of heat from the atmosphere to the earth takes place during atmospheric temperature inversions, but never when the atmosphere is cooler than the earth, which is almost all of the time.
Q3. Is sunlight scattered by so-called greenhouse gases on its way to earth?
A3. Yes. At the equator, at midday with the sun directly overhead, the atmosphere in its entirety reduces the solar energy reaching the earth's surface by some 25% and so-called "greenhouse gases" play a role in this. The temperature of the surface of the earth is not some 33 degrees "warmer than it should be" due to our atmosphere, its water vapor or its carbon dioxide content, for water vapor and clouds add vast thermal capacity and thus reduce solar energy available for warming the earth's surface. This aspect of our atmosphere can easily be seen by comparing a dry desert area to a humid area at the same latitude. The dry desert area will be several degrees warmer during the day than the humid area. At night this reverses as it takes longer for water and water vapor to lose its heat, but at no stage is heat added to the earth. Taking our airless moon as an example and using the same formulae as used for planet earth, it is shown that our moon has an even greater "greenhouse effect" than our planet is supposed to have. 
Q4. Does planet earth need the atmosphere as a blanket to keep it warm?
A4. No. The vacuum of space is the best heat-loss insulator possible and our atmosphere actually acts as a cooling agent during the hours of sunshine and, depending on the level of humidity, only as a retarder of cooling during the hours of darkness. Even in the highest humidity tropical zones the temperature drops between sundown and sunrise.
Q5. Is there any empirical proof of the insulating powers of the vacuum of space?
A5. Yes. NASA's ISS has a huge problem ridding itself of excess heat, as explained below (emphasis mine):
The Station's outstretched radiators are made of honeycomb aluminum panels. There are 14 panels, each measuring 6 by 10 feet (1.8 by 3 meters), for a total of 1680 square feet (156 square meters) of ammonia-tubing-filled heat exchange area. Compare that majestic radiator with the 3-square-foot grid of coils found in typical home air conditioners and you can begin to appreciate the scope and challenge of doing "routine" things in space.
Editor's note: One reader asks, "If the temperature of the shadowed side of the Space Station can plunge to -250 F and if the freezing point of ammonia is only -107 F, why doesn't the ammonia in the station's radiators freeze?" The reason is that the heat-bearing ammonia can't lose heat fast enough to reach its freezing point before the liquid circulates back inside the warmer confines of the Space Station. If (as a thought experiment) we turned off the pumps and oriented the Station so that the radiator was in the shadow of, say, a solar panel, the ammonia would likely freeze after some period of time.
My note on the editor's note: the ammonia would eventually freeze not because the vacuum of space is so cold but because all of the energy contained within the ammonia will continue to radiate its energy away until it reaches the level of cosmic background radiation.
Lord Monckton: "The question, therefore, is not whether our adding CO2 to the atmosphere causes warming, but how much warming will result. This is the central scientific question in the "global warming" debate."
To ascribe any additional warming of earth to the increased level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is a misinterpretation of laboratory experiments and a misunderstanding of how IR thermometers work. IR thermometers report what the target is emitting at its surface, NOT how much radiation the observer is being exposed to.
This graphic illustrates the accepted version of our atmospheric "greenhouse effect". It is just wishful thinking to believe that radiant energy can be doubled by re-emission, yet this is modern climatology's introductory lesson. Were this fantasy to come true, however, we would have solved all of our energy problems and in the process have disproved the first and second laws of thermodynamics:
Having a mathematical formula to "prove" a point does not make it so in reality. Phlogiston had a myriad formulae and even the geo-centric universe had its physical models besides its formulae.
It is not Siddons who remains unconvinced, it is all of you who continue to insist upon some "climate forcing" parameter for carbon dioxide and the existence of some sort of "greenhouse effect" who refuse to step outside and check the real world.
There is no greenhouse effect and increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will not add extra heat to this imagined effect.
Until the "only debate in town" changes from "how much warming is caused by carbon dioxide" to "no warming at all is possible from carbon dioxide" the climate alarm and shrills to reduce our "carbon emissions" will continue unabated.
Laboratory experiments using carbon dioxide trapped in bottles stand in no relation at all with carbon dioxide in our freely circulating atmosphere.
Given the growing number of reputable individuals who are now disputing this "settled science", a categorical insistence on the reality of the greenhouse effect is no longer a tenable position. You yourself are finding that there is "no greenhouse signature in our atmosphere" and that "climate sensitivity" is very low. Consider, then, that the final figure may well approach zero - or even beyond. For the only possible physical attribute that can be ascribed to atmospheric carbon dioxide is one of increasing the cooling efficiency of the atmosphere in toto via the quick release of IR radiation.
With kind regards,