June 19, 2008

Please Stay Away From Science!

So I really am tired of dealing with the evolution and vaccine denialists, but the climate change denialists have taken it to a whole new level. Here's an example of someone claiming that greenhouse gases can't cause global warming.

Kate McMillan has officially given up on reality. Here's my favorite line of the whole piece:

Moreover, the actual trapping of heat cannot raise an object's temperature in the first place. It only slows down heat loss.
Really, Kate? Here's a little experiment for you. Car, rolled-up windows, sunny day, then get back to me on how heat transfer works. Holy mother of Jesus that woman is an imbecile, but guess who else is willing to swallow the same utter bunkum? You guessed right, the fundie republicans.

Now for everyone out there that hasn't been schooled in physics or chemistry I'll go into the basics of greenhouse gases and why this argument, that trapping heat can't raise an object's temperature, is completely false (and another example of people who don't understand science using it as a justification for their beliefs).

First we'll talk about what a greenhouse gas is. Water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone are the major players in the greenhouse effect, with the above being listed by their relative abundance and importance. There are many other gases considered greenhouse gases, including: nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, chlorofluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride, but they are not major players. The mechanism of their effect is very simple. As the sun is very hot it emits very short wavelength energy that has enough energy to pass directly through the atmosphere. When the energy waves hit the Earth some of it is absorbed and warms the surface while most of it is reflected back out to the atmosphere. As the Earth's surface is much cooler than the sun's, it radiates energy at much longer wavelengths, peaking in the infrared at about 10 micrometers. The atmosphere (read: greenhouse gases) absorbs these longer wavelengths much more efficiently than the shorter wavelengths from the sun. The absorption of this energy warms the atmosphere as does the transfer of latent and sensible heat from the surface of the Earth. Greenhouse gases also emit longwave radiation both upward to space and downward to the surface. The downward part of the emitted radiation from the atmosphere is the "greenhouse effect." The major atmospheric components (nitrogen, N2 and oxygen, O2) are not greenhouse gases because homonuclear diatomic molecules (a molecule made of only two atoms of the same chemical element) neither absorb or emit infrared radiation.

So now that we've had a very very short primer on greenhouse gases (you could write books about their properties and actions) let's look at Kate's arguments again to see what science has to say about it.

Kate uses the example of a coffee thermos for this comparison. "Neither does coffee in a thermos get hotter because its heat is trapped. It just retains its temperature for a longer time. Otherwise...the thermos would self-ignite."

You're right Kate, heat can only be transferred from a hotter object to a cooler one, and being trapped in a container will cause the heat transfer to happen slower. But you've missed one big part of the problem, the coffee is warmed to a certain temperature and then no net heat or energy is transferred to it, unfortunately we can't get the sun to warm up the planet and then stick it in a thermos to keep the temperature the same, the sun is always adding new heat.

Correcting Kate's example, if you took the thermos and placed it over a burner (a constant energy source) your coffee would heat up and yes, eventually self-ignite. But if you took the top off of the lid (ie. removed the greenhouse gases), the coffee could radiate more of its heat energy back out into the air and maintain a cooler temperature for longer.

This is just another example of why science should be left to the professionals, you wouldn't trust someone who learned how to pull teeth from a youtube video to be your dentist and you shouldn't allow those with little understanding and training in the sciences to be the guiding voice on the subject. This is all getting a little ridiculous, and its unfortunate that so many experts have to spend their time debunking a bunch of stupid theories and outright falsehoods instead of working on gathering more information.

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Drewsky said...

"unfortunately we can't get the sun to warm up the planet and then stick it in a thermos"....HAHAHA well done sir!

another good example of how the passion of these dumb bitches interferes with logic. can i put her in a thermos and roll it down a hill?