German Physicists Debunk the CO2 Greenhouse Model?

I’ve been sitting on this article for awhile in order to have a chance to digest the paper published by Dr. Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner.   If, like me, you get all excited when describing the physics of particle decays, then I suggest you take a look at their paper.  Now, it must be pointed out that there is a refutation of their paper (written by Global Warming alarmist, Arthur P. Smith) which can be found HERE.  I haven’t yet had a chance to fully analyze that paper (it’s on my “to-do list”—Refute the Refutation), but a quick read of it shows that it DOES NOT even come close to refuting some of the central claims of Dr. Gerlich and Tscheuschner, two of which are:

1) The mechanism of warming in an actual greenhouse is different than the mechanism of warming in the atmosphere, therefore it is not a “greenhouse” effect and should be called something else.

2) The climate models that predict catastrophic global warming also result in a net heat flow from atmospheric greenhouse gasses to the warmer ground, which is in violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Any machine which transfers heat from a low temperature reservoir to a high temperature reservoir without external work applied cannot exist—That would be a perpetual motion machine…

Politics and Greenhouse Gases
By John McLaughlin – American Thinker

Advocates and sympathetic politicians claiming that man-made global warming from use of carbon-based energy sources mandates international controls on economically prosperous nations were already worried that their victory is slipping. Now another blow has been struck against the basic “science” used to support their case. Following an extensive theoretical analysis, two German physicists have determined that the term greenhouse gas is a misnomer and that the greenhouse effect appears to violate basic laws of physics.

To briefly review, the entire argument for immediate political action on carbon-based emissions rests upon three premises, formulated over the last twenty years by scientists affiliated with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

1. The planet is experiencing worldwide atmospheric warming, threatening life as we know it.

2. This warming is unprecedented because average worldwide temperatures for at least a thousand years have shown no significant variation until the last seventy years, which correlates with a thirty-percent increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) gas generated by industrial activity.

3. Invoking a “greenhouse effect” model, the IPCC claims that CO2 exhibits a property involving special characteristics of long-wave energy absorption and radiation with altitude (called “radiative forcing”) which accelerates near-surface warming and, as the CO2 quantity increases, spells planetary disaster unless reversed.

In an AT article posted September 27, I laid out the case for why the first two premises were flawed, if not outright fraudulent. Now, the IPCC “consensus” atmospheric physics model tying CO2 to global warming has been shown not only to be unverifiable, but to actually violate basic laws of physics.

The analysis comes from an independent theoretical study detailed in a lengthy (115 pages), mathematically complex (144 equations, 13 data tables, and 32 figures or graphs), and well-sourced (205 references) paper prepared by two German physicists, Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf Tscheuschner, and published in several updated versions over the last couple of years. The latest version appears in the March 2009 edition of the International Journal of Modern Physics. In the paper, the two authors analyze the greenhouse gas model from its origin in the mid-19th century to the present IPCC application.

The Greenhouse Model

The paper initially tackles the concept of thermal conductivity of the atmosphere (vital for any discussion of radiative heat transfer) and how it is affected by carbon dioxide, which, they point out, is a trace gas. The current estimated concentration of CO2 is 0.04% by volume and 0.06% by mass. Gerlich and Tscheuschner show that even if CO2 concentrations double (a prospect even global warming advocates admit is decades away), the thermal conductivity of air would not change more than 0.03% — within the margin of measuring error.

The authors then devote nearly twenty pages to a detailed theoretical and experimental model analysis of the classic glass greenhouse. This model posits that glass surrounding a large volume of air allows solar radiation to pass through to heat the greenhouse surface and then selectively blocks resulting infrared energy from escaping. However, calculations show that no property of glass can adequately explain the temperature rise. Normal glass assumed in the model just cannot selectively screen and filter sufficient radiation energy by spectral absorption or reflection. Thus, assumption of a dominant radiative heating model must be incorrect.

Gerlich and Tscheuschner rely on referenced experimental evidence to show what is really going on. The dominant heat transfer mechanism is not radiation, but convection.

Experimental evidence shows a greenhouse interior warms merely because the glass physically traps interior rising air, which then becomes warmer and warmer relative to air outside the greenhouse, which conversely can rise and cool unimpeded.

If the classic glass greenhouse model is obviously wrong, then this raises suspicions about the atmospheric “greenhouse effect” itself. The authors examine definitions of “greenhouse effect” by three respected sources (the Dictionary of Geophysics, Astrophysics, and Astronomy; the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics; and Encyclopedia Britannica Online). They show how each uses ill-defined global concepts (such as “mean temperature”), confuse infrared radiation with heat (they’re different), incorrectly describe the physics inside a glass greenhouse, and use other terms unsupported by the laws of physics.

Surprisingly, the authors find that the term “atmospheric greenhouse effect” does not occur in any fundamental work or text involving thermodynamics, physical kinetics, or radiation theory. They then attempt to fill that void. They first derive the generalized equations a computer would have to solve to calculate an average radiative temperature for a rotating smooth globe without oceans (half exposed to the sun and half not) and inclined relative to the sun (as is Earth). They show that for a globe the size of Earth, even this simple non-convection model would be unsolvable by the most powerful computers available today or for the foreseeable future — not only because of the quantity of calculations required, but also because of the impossibility of setting the initial boundary conditions at every point needed to even begin the calculation process.

Relevant Atmospheric Physics

Gerlich and Tscheuschner next show that even the simplest forms of the special equations needed for a true analysis of magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) relationships involved in planetary atmospheric heating cannot be solved — even for small-space regions and small-time intervals — because of the inhomogenities of each fluid involved and relevant solid, liquid, and gaseous phases to be considered.  The real world is just too complex.

However, they are able to show that MHD-type equations offer no terms corresponding to absorption of electromagnetic radiation, do not include equations for “radiative transfer,” and give no indication of the point where the concentration of carbon dioxide would even enter into the computations. Further, they go on to show that any mechanism whereby CO2 in the cooler upper atmosphere could exert any thermal enhancing or “forcing” effect on the warmer surface below violates both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.
There are too many different transfer phenomena (radiative transfer, heat transfer, momentum transfer, mass transfer, energy transfer, etc.) and types of interfaces (static or moving) between solids, fluids, gases, plasmas, etc. for which no applicable scientific theory nor ability to determine boundary conditions exists. “Hence, the computer simulations of global climatology are not based on physical laws,” the authors conclude (their emphasis). “Nevertheless, in their summaries for policymakers, global climatologists claim that they can compute the influence of carbon dioxide on the climate.”

Dr. Roy Spencer, in his book Climate Confusion, points out how man-made global warming alarmists attempt to mislead the public by claiming that global CO2 emissions total about 50 billion tons per year while failing to acknowledge that the total weight of the atmosphere is 5 quadrillion tons. In other words, the 50 billion tons adds to 5 million billion tons, or a mere 10 parts per million — relatively speaking, a trivial change each year.

Spencer shows how with oceans covering nearly seventy percent of Earth, water vapor and ocean currents totally dominate our global climate. He attributes oceanic and atmospheric circulation in the North Pacific as the dominant modern climate forcing mechanism. As for infrared radiation, Gerlich and Tscheuschner agree with earlier studies that water vapor is responsible for most of the IR absorption in the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, any infrared radiation absorbed by carbon dioxide represents only a tiny part of the full IR spectrum and is affected little by raising CO2 concentration.

Gerlich and Tscheuschner state without equivocation that there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effect which explains the relevant physical phenomena. They call the terms greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases “deliberate misnomers” and a “myth beyond physical reality” and conclude:

The point discussed here was to answer the question, whether the supposed atmospheric effect has a physical basis. This is not the case. In summary, there is no atmospheric greenhouse effect, in particular CO2-greenhouse effect, in theoretical physics and engineering thermodynamics. Thus it is illegitimate to deduce predictions which provide a consulting solution for economics and intergovernmental policy.

Thus, scientific support for the man-made global warming hoax slowly collapses while politicians rush to lock in massive international wealth-redistribution in its name. Those pesky “greenhouse gases” just don’t behave in a politically correct manner.

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13 Comments on “German Physicists Debunk the CO2 Greenhouse Model?”

  1. tgusa Says:

    Here’s a tip for these brain surgeons. Stop calling it a Greenhouse. A Green house does not exist on Earth naturally. A human or two must construct it. You know, to separate what is inside from the elements….outside.

  2. PB-in-AL Says:

    “…without external work applied cannot exist—That would be a perpetual motion machine…” But Algore invented the internets, surely he could invent a perpetual motion machine that will solve all of the world’s energy problems. That’s probably what he has powering his humongous house in Tennessee.

  3. Gramfan Says:

    This is all over the internet but not on the MSM
    Just found a Lord Monckton’s assessment:

    Click to access Monckton-Caught%20Green-Handed%20Climategate%20Scandal.pdf

    9Hope I don’t have any trouble with wordpress today.)

  4. ciccio Says:

    A brilliant simplification for all laymen. The deeper the ocean, the colder. Heat rises. Since there is no glass roof on the earth to trap the excess heat, it can only go up. Copenhagen is about to invent a glass roof for the earth.

  5. B Louis79 Says:

    Since there is no CO2 greenhouse, perhaps we can explain warming by thermal pollution as Nordell did

    The Kiehl/Trenberth Global Energy Budget does not seem to make any account of earth-generated thermal pollution. Neither does IPCC. Hence climate scientists have trouble understanding Nordell’s analysis of energy, which claims to account for 74% of observed warming. I think there are some missing assumptions in Nordell and Gervet’s work but not sure of their magnitude – ie how much energy is stored in industrially generated materials and not turned to heat.

  6. palindrom Says:

    I’m an astrophysicist, completely independent from global warming funding and hoopla, and I teach thermodynamics at the university level. I can’t comment on AGW with any real expertise — but I can comment on the T&G paper. From a physics point of view, it’s weirdly, deeply, basically, incorrect. If you’d like to build a case against AGW, you’d better look somewhere else — they’re simply wrong, over and over again, on the most basic points. How they ever got PhDs is a mystery.

    • I would be quite interested in hearing your rebuttal to their paper. Please, by all means, explain your findings. I’m a physicist, myself, so no need to worry about going over my head. That’s simply not going to happen.


      • palindrom Says:

        Well, basically they’re saying that the greenhouse effect conflicts with the second law, because heat can’t be spontaneously transferred from the cool atmosphere to the warmer ground. Well, of course it can’t, but that’s not the point — the point is that the CO2 and so on make it more difficult for heat to escape, so the ground reaches a warmer equilibrium temperature. If their argument were correct, there’d be no point to insulating your house against cold weather, since the insulation is cooler than the interior of the house. Their deep conceptual error is that insulation doesn’t actively heat a house — it simply makes it difficult for heat to transfer out, so that when energy is dumped inside the house at a constant rate, a higher equilibrium temperature is maintained.

        Essentially, what T&G do is ignore more than a century of the development of radiative transfer theory — astrophysicists pioneered this subject, because of the need to correctly interpret the radiation that emerges from stellar atmospheres. Radiative transfer is an extremely mature subject, and the earth atmosphere models that predict AGW treat radiative transfer in a physically sound and accurate way.

        The paper is also very weird. They suggest that Feynman diagrams are somehow relevant, and MHD, and a bunch of stuff like that which sound impressive to the layman, but which have nothing to do with the subject. They spend many pages explaining how a literal greenhouse is a bad analogy for the greenhouse effect — something that’s been fully understood for many decades.

        So, like I say, I’m not a climate scientist and I don’t have a dog in this fight. But this paper is really no good, and I’m amazed that it made it past peer review. The second law is (as you know) very easy to misapply, and boy, did they ever.

      • palindrom Says:

        On reading my reply over, I’d like to offer one small clarification: I said “the earth atmosphere models that predict AGW treat radiative transfer in a physically sound and accurate way”. I don’t mean to imply that this means that AGW is necessarily correct, only that if it’s wrong, it’s not because of any fundamental errors in radiative transfer theory such as those that T&G purport to discover. Like I say, I don’t have a dog in the AGW fight, but the T&G paper is simply incompetent.

  7. suibhne Says:

    Like palindrom I have read G&Ts paper but have come to quite different conclusions.
    He said that he agrees with G&T that heat cannot flow from the colder atmosphere to the warmer Earth.
    However this is exactly the claim that is made in the IPCC consensus.
    G&T are very careful to distinguish between energy work and heat.
    Others either do not know or do not care about such distinctions.
    Others make wild speculations without the need to tie these to observations.
    The huge size of the “back radiation” from the clouds should be easy to measure.
    Where is there an experiment to support this magnitude of an effect?
    A good summation on this aspect of the debate is

  8. Scott Says:

    I think Palindrom may have missed an important point. The home insulation analogy doesn’t hold if the thermal conductivity of the walls has not significantly changed after installing the insulation. I think the authors pointed out that the change in thermal conductivity due to small changes in CO2 concentrations is trival. In fact, so small that the overall earth atmospheric conductivity change is beyond measurement accuracy.

  9. dan Says:

    Palindrom is wrong to compare an insulated internally heated building with an externally heated planet. Insulation will slow heat transfer from hotter to cooler. It cannot facilitate heat tranfer from a cooler to warmer place. An insulated house with no internal heating will be cooler on a hot day than a non-insulated house. If GHGs are insulating the planet, the planet would be cooler during the day and the temperature would drop less at night, but the total heat transfer from the sun would be reduced.If this is not true buildings with insulation would need no heating system. Empirically, greenhouses are not a fire risk, whatever radiative transfer theory has to say.

    • palindrom Says:


      The incoming radiation is mostly visible light, and the outgoing radiation is mostly infrared. The transfer characteristics of these are entirely different — the atmosphere is largely transparent to visible light, but more opaque to infrared. That’s the whole reason that there is a greenhouse effect. The reason for the different spectral distributions is that the temperature of the sun is much higher than that of the earth, so its thermal radiation peaks at a much shorter wavelength.

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