24 November 2019
Chris Colose is a NASA Climate expert working on a new global climate model (GCM). It’s called ROCKE-3D, and is designed to be used not only on earth but on extraterrestrial planets! I can show you could destroy civilization because Chris did it in the new GCM by taking out the CO2 and Methane in one of his model runs, but there’s something you should know first.
Were you taught in school that Earth is just the right distance from the Sun for liquid water and life?
This is Wrong!
We are too far from the sun.
If we had no greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, most of the oceans would eventually freeze with miles of ice on top of the continents. This has been known for many years, but Chris Colose did it because a magazine asked him what would happen. The magazine never wrote the piece, but you can see for yourself below what happens!
Imagine a Hollywood thriller where some evil person develops a chemical that suddenly turns all of the CO2 and methane in the atmosphere into water vapor or some other inert substance. Based on what I know of chemistry this will never happen (but it would make a great James Bond movie plot). We did come close to accidentally destroying our entire Ozone layer though, thanks to a gentleman named Thomas Ridgley.
Let’s pretend it does happen. Would you notice it?
No. Not as first. Your ears will not pop, the sun will keep shining, all will appear as normal. So, if all the methane and CO2 disappeared while you were out walking the dog, you would not notice a thing. At least for a few hours, but then things will start to happen.
Note: It would be noticed quickly in Hawaii and Antarctica where the current atmospheric concentration of CO2 is constantly measured. I suspect at first an error in the instruments would be investigated, but it would not take long before a stunning announcement would be made: The greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are gone and the world as we know it is doomed.
Meteorologists like me would notice fairly quickly as well. My forecast overnight low would be far too warm. My friend and fellow Meteorologist Mike Nelson in Denver would have serious forecast errors of dozens of degrees because of the high elevation and dry climate there. (The lack of water vapour and no greenhouse gases would easily cause 60+ degree day-night temperature drops in Colorado!)
Still, the next day life would go on as usual, but not for much longer. The Earth would begin to cool very rapidly because the only thing keeping the heat from escaping to space at night would be water vapour and that would decrease as the Earth cooled. Everyone away from the oceans would notice in a day or two but near the equator, it might be several days or weeks because of the warm ocean and high water vapour content in the atmosphere.
Obviously, our current problem is just the opposite.
The rapid increase in greenhouse gases and the much hotter planet that will result. That tiny amount of CO2 and Methane is a powerful thermostat on our climate, but the physics is clear: It goes both ways.
When Chris Colose turned off the 410 parts per million of CO2 and the tiny amount of methane 1800 parts per billion) that exists in Earth’s atmosphere, he modelled the end of civilization! At my request, he posted some animations of the result to share with you.
Look what happens to Earth with no CO2 or methane.
and here is the snow and ice evolving month by month.
Within a couple of decades, the climate here in Maryland would be that of Baffin Island in the High Arctic! That tiny amount of greenhouse gas has a powerful effect on Earth’s temperature and this has been well understood for a century now. Obviously, the current problem is not loss of these greenhouse gases, but a rapid increase in them.
I often get emails (after posting something about climate change) claiming CO2 has no effect on our temperature. “It’s all a myth!” they say and a few go deep into the tin-foil hat society and claim “It’s all a hoax started by the Chinese!”.
The physics makes it hard not to laugh at these comments. To be honest, though I’m not sure there is anything you can say to someone who believes these conspiracy theories that will have any effect.
Note: The scenario above may have actually happened to Earth somewhere around 650 million years ago. This is long before land-dwelling life or even Trilobites evolved.