Why the Drake equation is overrated


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The uncertainty of science: An astrophysicist explains why the Drake equation is useless for predicting the number of alien species in the universe.

While the Drake equation may have spurred the early scientific discussion of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, it doesn’t have much value beyond that. We can’t use to it further our understanding, and we can’t use it to properly guide our thinking. The huge uncertainties in the parameters, the unknown ways those uncertainties mix, and the absolute lack of any guidance in even choosing those parameters robs it of any predictive power. Prediction is at the heart of science. Prediction is what makes an idea useful. And if an idea isn’t useful, why keep it around?

I just wish this same logic was applied to all climate models. They are as useless. Their own huge uncertainties have made them utterly unable to predict anything, for decades. Yet, despite this ongoing failure, vast amounts of research money continues to be poured into the cottage industry that produces them. Worse, too many people in both the intellectual and journalist communities take them far too seriously.

It is a tragedy that is hurting science badly.

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32 comments

  • Hello Mr Zimmerman. My name is Gary Leggiere, I am host of The Martian Revelation Show, airs every Saturday night.
    I am trying to reach you sir, to see if we can set a date for you to be a special guest to the show. It would be an awesome show & the listeners would love hearing you speak on the show. Please reply to me at: marsrevealer@gmail.com
    Thank you for your time sir. :-)

  • Brian

    Frankly I found that article about as useful as the author claims the Drake equation is.

  • JOhn L

    Well, climate models may not be that good, but weather forecasting models are spot on, 100% of the time, in all circumstances, for long periods into the future. All the different weather models typically agree too! It’s great, you want to know the weather next week just look at your NWS forecast page. https://www.weather.gov/ And since climate is just long term average weather… Oh wait, never-mind.

    Also, I’ve done an extensive analysis on all the parameters of the Drake equation, and solved it. The answer is four (4).

    The uncertainty of my calculation is plus a few hundred thousands, minus four. My paper will be published in one of those prestigious pay to play journals.

    Post script- I don’t mean to offend weather forecasters, they don’t have an easy job, and they’re definitely getting better, at least in shorter time intervals.

  • pzatchok

    Who in the scientific world uses the Drake equation for anything serious?

    Its like predicting the amount of emeralds on a sandy beach. Without sampling the beach. Its just a fun guess calculation.

  • Ryan Lawson

    The Drake equation is a general guide and thought experiment. There simply isn’t enough information to fill it out and get a decent answer. What we need is a thorough examination of Mars and Europa to find the value for the abundance of nonintelligent life on worlds that have all the ingredients to support life before the equation really starts to tell us something useful. We are close!

  • wayne

    Serendipitously last week, whilst checking for the new Winter lectures from the Silicon Valley Astronomy folks, I wound up watching:

    “Estimating the Chances of Life Out There”
    Dr.Paul Drake
    Silicon Valley Astronomy lecture April 20, 2005
    https://youtu.be/mucWk4zjSBU
    (1:14:32)

    He fleshes it out a bit more than I’ve ever heard explained, but yeah— it’s pretty useless from a practical standpoint. (He does expand on the “habitable zone” concept a bit more realistically as well.)

  • Eric Elsam

    The entire climate -disasters-will-destroy-us-all-and-we-must-stop-them scam has been around for decades in various formats, but the underlying (pun?) motivation has always been the destruction of Western society and Capitalism.

  • Edward

    The difference between the Drake equation and climate models is that no one thinks that we know enough about the Drake equation’s parameters to find a reasonable answer but people actually think that we know enough about climates to forecast them accurately decades into the future.

    Sutter misdirected his audience by claiming that the equation is supposed to help us to understand how life originates. From his second video (6:07): “The Drake equation gives us a false direction. The Drake equation says, ‘if you want to understand how life originates in the Milky Way galaxy and who we can potentially talk to, you must follow this path.’” The equation says no such thing, as demonstrated by the Drake’s own SETI Institute, which is not working so much on the path Sutter thinks the equation specifies as it is searching directly for other communicating civilizations by using the Allan Telescope Array. Drake’s institute already does as Sutter says should be done.

    Indeed, Drake himself was the very first person to do as Sutter says should be done. A year before he created his equation, he pointed a radio telescope at a couple of stars — the first time anyone searched for signals of life anywhere other than Mars. Drake already knew what Sutter advocates and believed that to be the correct thing to do, rather than solve an unsolvable equation. Obviously, Drake did not intend for his equation to be a map for finding life or finding communicating civilizations; it does not point in some direction for a search or for a discussion with another civilization. Clearly, the equation is not intended to be predictive, although if you find a number of civilizations and know all but one of the parameters, you can solve for that parameter in order to estimate, for instance, an average length of time during which civilizations release radio signals into space.

    Of course, in order to find several of the parameters, other civilizations would have to be found and studied.

    Sutter asks: “Prediction is what makes an idea useful. And if an idea isn’t useful, why keep it around?” Here is what Wikipedia (that bastion of truth) says about the equation’s usefulness:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation#Usefulness

    Obviously, the equation is kept around because some people — even scientists — believe that it has uses other than prediction. What kind of astronomer is Sutter, who does not do proper research on his topic of discussion?

    Thus, I am in complete agreement with Brian.

  • Max

    Here’s an non answer to Cotour’s question which I never posted from the last time we discuss this.

    Cotour:
    Edward’s link references the Drake Equation which is the answer best suited for your question.
    https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1350/are-we-alone-in-the-universe-revisiting-the-drake-equation/
    The equation had to be updated due to the new information of planets being more common than first thought.
    You said;
    “How do you detect something that is undetectable unless they allow detection? And this is what leads to all of those great mind experiments in imagination attempting to imagine what the reality might in deed be.”
    Michio Kaku talks about advanced civilizations basing them on their energy requirements. (type zero would be like ours, burning wood or nuclear fuel. Type one would use the energy of the planet, type two civilization would use the energy of the star, type three could utilize the energy of the galaxy… I don’t think any of these examples would care to hide themselves from us ants that they would step on without knowing or caring)
    As for what reality might indeed be is anyone’s guess. The speculation crosses every line imaginable. I’ve heard people speak of UFOs and Bigfoot as being trans dimensional. Existing on this planet, but in a different frame of reference that we cannot see or explain. Just like The world of the dead or heaven. The world of ghosts surrounds every culture. Inner space is as large as outer space, “Horton hears a who” has opened many young minds to the possibilities. From the astral plane to transcendental and hyper space… Who knows. The Drake equation is only the beginning of our understanding.

    The simple answer is that life only needs to take place once. If it becomes space capable it will spread through the universe in only a few million years resulting in life everywhere.

  • mpthompson

    Of all the time’s I’ve run across the Drake equation since first reading about it in the 70’s, I’ve never seen it presented to be anything other than an interesting thought experiment. The author of the article seems to be setting up a strawman argument which is essentially pointless. He should have at least presented some evidence the output of the Drake equation is somehow misused in serious research.

  • Max

    Thanks for the lecture link to Dr. Drake, Wayne. You commented;
    (He does expand on the “habitable zone” concept a bit more realistically as well.)

    I was pleasantly surprised when he admitted that planets do not need to be in the habitable zone to have life. Even rogue planets are capable for many unusual types of life just like bacteria on the ocean floor near volcanic vents. He made a point that Jupiter puts out twice as much heat as it receives from the sun and Saturn three times as much. If Saturn was a rogue planet, it’s temperature would decrease by only 10°.
    I was disappointed when he talked about Venus having a runaway greenhouse effect, the temperature under Venus atmosphere is higher than the temperature above the atmosphere… Even mercury with no atmosphere in direct sunlight is cooler than Venus dark side.
    After 40 years of satellite observation, the greenhouse effect is still just a theory with no evidence to back it up. Al gores satellites that monitor our atmosphere for 10 years came to the conclusion that energy entering the atmosphere, also left the atmosphere at the same rate… There was no measurable difference that they can point the finger at and say “there it is or here it is”, where the energy is coming in, but not leaving. The theory has been soundly disproven due to the lack of evidence either here or on any other planet. (Clouds here on earth hold out more energy then they hold in. Clouds slow down heat loss but never generate heat)
    Venus upper atmosphere is 200° below zero. Thus proving that the suns heat does not penetrate very deep. The laws of thermo dynamics are ignored by the global warming political scientists in the name of their power hungry religion.

  • Andrew_W

    I agree with others, the Drake Equation is nothing more than a thought experiment.

    Max: “After 40 years of satellite observation, the greenhouse effect is still just a theory with no evidence to back it up.”
    “Venus upper atmosphere is 200° below zero. Thus proving that the suns heat does not penetrate very deep.”

    . . . nope, not going to bother.

  • Andrew_W

    Edward: “The difference between the Drake equation and climate models is that no one thinks that we know enough about the Drake equation’s parameters to find a reasonable answer but people actually think that we know enough about climates to forecast them accurately decades into the future.”

    What “people”? I assume you’re not refering to the IPCC as I wouldn’t describe a “medium confidence” “likely” range of between 1.5C ans 4.5C as forecasting “accurately”.

    The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5): “there is high confidence that ECS is extremely unlikely less than 1°C and medium confidence that the ECS is likely between 1.5°C and 4.5°C and very unlikely greater than 6°C.”

  • Edward

    Andrew_W asked: “What “people”?

    The people who actually think that we know enough about climates to forecast them accurately decades into the future.

    As for the IPCC, their predictions have fallen short of the reality that has passed. They are an example of what Robert complained about as models that are taken too seriously. Because the IPCC has such a poor track record of prediction, especially based upon their models, I do not take the IPCC seriously. They prove my point that we know tso little about climates that, as Andrew_W noted, we cannot forecast them accurately. There is far too much uncertainty, because the science is far from settled. If the science were settled, then the predictions would be precise and accurate.

    Since the group that is most respected for its climate work is incapable of being correct about climate, then who can be considered as being able to correctly predict future climates?

    Andrew_W has confused accuracy and precision. Accuracy is the correctness of, for example, a temperature measurement, and precision is the amount of uncertainty of the measurement. A thermometer may be able to be read to a precision of a tenth of a degree, but if the markings are off by one degree you will have an inaccurate reading to high precision.

    IPCC’s models may have a low precision prediction that 2018 surface temperatures would be between, say, 1.5°C and 4.5°C higher than 1992 temperatures, but if the temperature stops increasing from 1998 to 2016, they miss the low prediction by a degree, making the prediction both low precision and inaccurate.

  • wodun

    Climate change alarmism has nothing to do with the climate other than using the evolutionary fear of an uncertain future to control people through religiosity in pursuit of a naive utopian political philosophy of totalitarianism.

  • Max

    Great comments from all, intelligent debate I have rarely found anywhere else.

    Edward said;
    “A thermometer may be able to be read to a precision of a tenth of a degree, but if the markings are off by one degree you will have an inaccurate reading to high precision”
    Were you thinking of the Earth monitoring satellites with decaying orbits that they recently recalibrated? It’s funny how they all read an increase of Global temperature now…
    I would trade all of their fancy computer climate models for simple “check book” math.
    Divide 400 ppm carbon dioxide into a million, the result is 2,500 air molecules for every one carbon dioxide molecule.
    If carbon dioxide is responsible for heating the air just 1°F for a second, it would need to be a minimum of 2500°… 500° more than a carbon dioxide molecule can tolerate.
    To raise the temperature from the low of the night to the high of the day just 30°F, all carbon dioxide molecules would need to radiate continuously near 80,000°F… That’s eight times hotter than the photosphere of the sun.
    Hold your breath, then blow on your coffee. Your exhale is approximately 5% carbon dioxide, 50,000 ppm. If your coffee boils and your mug melts, let me know.

    References For Andrew who said;
    “. . . nope, not going to bother”

    Venus upper atmosphere measured at -283F.
    https://m.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Venus_Express/A_curious_cold_layer_in_the_atmosphere_of_Venus
    And
    https://www.space.com/17850-venus-atmosphere-cold-layer.html
    Why is this important? The claim is made that the heat from the sun, which is less than 400°F above Venus, is penetrating through a layer of dry ice, to heat the surface of Venus with more than twice the available heat to near 900°F???
    A magic greenhouse?
    That’s like saying you are going to use a Sun lamp to shine through a layer of dry ice on the glass in front of an oven to cook a turkey at 860° without melting the dry ice.

    A detail analysis of how much solar radiation reaches Earth’s ground. (22% directly)
    https://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/lectures/radiation_hays/
    Although the numbers are correct, the assumptions or not. For instance, they talk about layers heating from one layer to the next ignoring the fact that the hottest layer starts at ground level, not from the top down. At night, this phenomenon is exasperated in the extreme. The shadow of the earth cools to 300° below zero absorbing all heat. The ground level losing only between 20 and 40° temperature radiating heat all night, while the upper atmosphere drops quickly.

    They also dedicate a large amount of lip service to the greenhouse effect listing large molecules as being the driver of global warming. But they fail to indicate that these large molecules are so rare that they cannot make a measurable difference. (With the exception of water) 99.9% of our atmosphere is nitrogen and oxygen.
    A considerable amount of lipservice is also given to methane with out mentioning that it makes up 1.8 ppm of our atmosphere. The equivalent of $1.80 cents out of $1 million dollars. It is more likely that a butterfly flapping its wings could create a hurricane…

  • Andrew_W

    Max, before you right-off the existence of the Green House Effect you should endevour to understand what it actually is. In a nut shell: The longer wavelengths that enter through an atmosphere that is transparent to them, hit objects on the surface that are opaque to those wavelengths, this converts that energy to shorter wavelengths to which the atmosphere is largely opaque, The energy gets in easily in one form but is trapped when it’s been converted to another form.

  • commodude

    Okay, I’ll bite….

    How do longer wavelengths (lower energy) of light impact solid objects, reflect off, losing energy in the process, and become shorter (higher energy) wavelengths?

  • Andrew_W

    You could have just pointed out that I should have said:
    “Shorter wavelengths (visible light) enter through an atmosphere that is transparent to them, hit objects on the surface that are opaque to those wavelengths, this converts that energy to longer wavelengths (infrared) to which the atmosphere is largely opaque, The energy gets in easily in one form but is trapped when it’s been converted to another form.”

    You’re obviously not supporting Max’s claim that the GHE isn’t real, why not say so?

  • commodude

    Okay, let’s try this again without the browser glitch.

    Climate change is real, and is a constant on this rock we call home. What is the natural climate of our third rock from the Sun? The worldwide jungle during the Cretaceous period? The ice age(s)?

    We’re taking a very tiny sampling of massaged, poorly controlled and gathered data, cherry picking for sample bits that match the orthodoxy, and attempting to create a worldwide political demand for regression to the pre-industrial revolution standards of energy use, and also cherry picking the inputs into the equation, giving a blatantly changing energy input (sun output) a static value in the process.

    The anthropogenic climate change church also treats disagreement with derision without rational counterpoint, instead treating those who question the science with the same dangerous zealotry of the inquisitors of Spain.

    Not only do I doubt the science of climate change as currently formulated, I bear nothing but derision and total antipathy for those who promote the religion as science.

  • Andrew_W

    commodude, is the GHE real?

  • commodude

    Greenhouse effect is a demonstrable physical phenomena.

    The devil is in the details.

    Wavelengths and amounts of input, a precision model of the gases and their interactions with the energy input into the system, and all in continually varying relatively chaotic amounts and mixes of inclusions in the atmosphere.

    We simply DO NOT have the computational power to model it accurately, and relying on the “science” to affect policy and destroy an economy is irrational at best, and pure evil as currently practiced.

    Follow the money.

  • Andrew_W

    Like pulling teeth, but we got there.
    For the vast majority of commenters here their political motivations around anthropogenic global warming are far stronger than their motivations to promote sound science, they have to be dogged to just publicly admit the basic fact that the GHE is real.

  • commodude

    The question is what mix of gases produces the effect, and what mixture of solar output in terms of wavelength produces the effect?

    We cannot, at present, model the greenhouse effect accurately enough to produce any actionable results.

    As such, any action based on the nascent science involved with GHE becomes not based on science, but based on the cult religion.

    Did saccharine cause cancer in lab rats?

    Possibly, but at levels which it would be physically improbable for a human to consume.

    The :”science” of global warming is nothing more than religion funded by the same political faction who funded the communists. The Green party and its fundstream looks damnably red.

  • wayne

    commodude–
    extremely well stated thoughts.

    Mark Levin/ Brian Sussman
    “it’s the flat-earth-no-growth-enviro-marxist-types”
    July 2009
    https://youtu.be/3P86L1rbiUA
    5:42

    Mark Levin-
    “Marxist Degrowther-ism”
    September 2015
    https://youtu.be/-8zQazY-u_A
    2:23

    pivoting-
    Totally tangential, but I guess we’re already down the rabbit hole; I love the hipster weed farmer types, who use tanks of CO2 for atmospheric enrichment in their grow rooms.

  • Edward

    Max asked: “Were you thinking of the Earth monitoring satellites with decaying orbits that they recently recalibrated?

    It was a general comment, but “recalibrating” satellites so that they conform to theory rather than reality is a good example of high precision but low accuracy measurements. Most people assume that if it has high precision then it must also be accurate. It is a good example of politicizing science.

    Andrew_W asked: “is the GHE real?

    This has been long established. None of the comments here suggest otherwise, but do say that Max has misunderstood the phenomenon.

    Max, unfortunately, described the Greenhouse effect (GHE) as certain molecules being far hotter than the rest. The reality is that, although certain molecules tend to absorb more heat energy from sunlight than other molecules, the warmer molecules transfer that increased energy to their surrounding molecules in a very short amount of time, so greenhouse gas molecules do not get as hot as Max suggested. The GHE causes very few molecules to become energetic enough to dissociate. Ultraviolet (UV) light can do this to some molecules, such as ozone, and most plastics degrade under UV light, which is why you want to be careful about which plastics are used out of doors and how they are used.

    The effect of water vapor on the Earth’s temperature is enormous, at around 22C, but the effect of CO2 is relatively small, at around 1C. If all the water vapor were to go away, then the Earth would get pretty cold and most of the plants would die. If all the CO2 were to go away, then the all the plants would die — er — the Earth would hardly notice the drop in temperature. GHE is real, but apparently misunderstood.

    We could create a “Drake’s equation” for all the greenhouse gasses, but it would be additive to give us a larger final temperature than any one gas contributes. Drake’s equation is multiplicative, where all the factors are one or less, giving us a smaller final answer than any one factor contributes.

  • Andrew_W

    Edward: “This has been long established. None of the comments here suggest otherwise,”
    But Max claimed: “After 40 years of satellite observation, the greenhouse effect is still just a theory with no evidence to back it up.”

    Edward: “The effect of water vapor on the Earth’s temperature is enormous, at around 22C, but the effect of CO2 is relatively small, at around 1C.”

    Nope.
    https://web.archive.org/web/20111022111918/http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2010/2010_Schmidt_etal_1.pdf

    Edward: ” If all the CO2 were to go away, then the all the plants would die — er — the Earth would hardly notice the drop in temperature.”

    Nope, because the atmosphere can hold a lot of water vapor at higher temperatures and very little at lower temperatures the contribution of water vapor to the GHE over the poles is relatively small, take out the CO2 contribution and the polar temperatures would plummet, removing more water vapor from the atmosphere, the Earth would quickly freeze over from the poles with a viscous cycle of lower temperatures leading to less atmospheric water vapor leading to still lower temperatures.

  • Edward

    Andrew_W wrote: “Nope.

    Yup. His interpretation of his linked paper is that CO2 is responsible for more than 6C.

    Andrew_W wrote: “Nope.

    Yup. CO2 is not responsible for as much heat as he thinks, even at the poles.

    Some day Andrew_W may learn something about the greenhouse effect as well as Global-Warming/Climate-Change/Climate-Disruption/Whatever-the-PC-name-of-the-day, but so far he has shown very little actual knowledge of any factor of these phenomena, depending instead on whatever he finds on the web at the time that he makes his arguments, and from these small samples he draws poor conclusions — often that contradict what the “settled” climate science states (not so settled as Andrew_W may believe). Instead, a more thorough study of these topics would do him well when he argues, because he will know about the topic and won’t embarrass himself with bogus argument points.

  • Andrew_W

    “His interpretation of his linked paper is that CO2 is responsible for more than 6C.”

    The paper puts the CO2 contribution at between 14 and 24.6%, this range is due to the fact that the contributions of the various GH gases cannot be simply added together, so I’m not making an “interpretation”,of what the paper says, I’m stating what it says.

    “Yup. CO2 is not responsible for as much heat as he thinks, even at the poles.”

    How much of a contribution do you claim that I think it makes? Have you been reading minds again Edward?

    “Some day Andrew_W may learn . . . ”

    Where as Edward just spouts whatever it is he wants to believe without a need to actually check his facts to ensure his claims are sound, case in point his nonsense claim that “The effect of water vapor on the Earth’s temperature is enormous, at around 22C, but the effect of CO2 is relatively small, at around 1C.” a nonsense claim simply because the contributions of the various GH gases cannot be so easily summarized and a claim for which he offers no supporting evidence – because there is none.

  • Edward

    Andrew_W,
    You wrote: “I’m stating what it says.

    Actually, you did not state what it says, you suggested that it said a value other than 1C by stating: “Nope.

    How much of a contribution do you claim that I think it makes? Have you been reading minds again Edward?

    1) as you may not recall, your claim was: “take out the CO2 contribution and the polar temperatures would plummet” Plummeting temperatures suggests more than a single degree of reduction. Far more.

    2) Nope.

    Where as Edward just spouts whatever it is he wants to believe without a need to actually check his facts

    I don’t need to check my facts, whereas you have too go searching for cherry-picked facts, because you do not know the subject. For you to have any facts, you have to find them, and even then you fail to check whether they are correct or just fit whatever it is you want to believe.

    a nonsense claim simply because the contributions of the various GH gases cannot be so easily summarized and a claim for which he offers no supporting evidence – because there is none.

    These facts have been known for decades, but you are the one who has failed to search for them.

    As you obviously missed the point I made earlier, go learn these facts on your own. You reject them when anyone else tries to educate you, as is evident by your past refusals to accept the links that I have previously presented to you in other threads. Discussions directly with you are futile, which is why I didn’t do so earlier, and once again I do not expect you to change your ways. This is not the first time we have had this discussion about your willful ignorance. However, since I am talking directly to you again: to really know the subject, you have to educate yourself on the reality, not your own cherry-picked beliefs. That is what the internet is all about.

  • Max

    You are right Edward.
    https://twin.sci-hub.se/41142a4e95d5171cd2d8063c4bc7404e/blaauw2017.pdf

    A paragraph shortened to post;

    “The mean temperature of the Earth’s surface has gone up over the past 250 years. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)1 the temperature rise during 20th century was 0.78k+/- 0.07 K. Most people accept the Panel’s view that the warming owes to the so-called greenhouse effect, viz. the increase of the internal energy of the Earth’s climate system by the growing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. However, a genuine proof of the effect has not been given in spite of many indications brought forward. Maybe the strongest point in favour of the greenhouse idea is the “absence of a credible alternative”, possibly additional explanation for the global warming.”
    And
    “Basically, as there are no other significant energy inputs to the Earth, we can conceive just one alternative: the varying solar irradiation. However, the IPCC has reported that the climate forcing by the solar radiation only accounts for about 10% of the full forcing. The minor role of the Sun…”

    Andrew_W asked: “is the GHE real?”

    Edward said;
    “This has been long established. None of the comments here suggest otherwise, but do say that Max has misunderstood the phenomenon.”

    That should have said, that “Max has been misunderstood” Because you went on to describe what is actually happening, not the scenario that the math of the warmatolgest would indicate. You said;

    “Max, unfortunately, described the Greenhouse effect (GHE) as certain molecules being far hotter than the rest. The reality is that, although certain molecules tend to absorb more heat energy from sunlight than other molecules, the warmer molecules transfer that increased energy to their surrounding molecules in a very short amount of time, so greenhouse gas molecules do not get as hot as Max suggested. The GHE causes very few molecules to become energetic enough to dissociate.”

    Again, correct. You are exactly right. The only air molecules that routinely get disassociated is between the O-Zone layer and space. X-rays, UVB,UVC disassociate nitrogen and oxygen in to mono atomic atoms and cause havoc with satellites.
    But that is certainly not happening with carbon dioxide or any air molecules to any great degree in the lower atmosphere. That’s the point… If carbon dioxide re-radiated any heat at all above normal it could be measured. That’s why I made the challenge to blow on your coffee to melt the cup… (50,000 ppm) or burning up a building using a chip of dry ice… (1,000,000 ppm)

    If carbon dioxide radiated anywhere near the amount they claim it does, it would be dangerous in any concentrated form. The fact that it isn’t, is proof the carbon dioxide does not retain, absorb, or radiate heat in any great amount. There is no there there.
    I am hoping I communicated effectively this time, I do not wish to be misunderstood. I could express in other forms, but it will not change the outcome. For Instance, The limited amount of available CO2 in the atmosphere is 4/ 100s of 1%… One molecule of carbon dioxide for every 2,500 molecules of air. (O2,N2)
    To heat that much air, CO2 must be 250° to heat all the air 1/10 of a degree for 1/10 of a second.
    Now you do the math, how much heat must the carbon dioxide molecule continuously receive, then re-broadcast, to heat all of the air 30° every day? What is the source? Sun? Then why does earth’s surface radiate heat even at night or on cloudy days? Why, with 24 hours of sunlight all summer, is the Antarctic not the hottest place on earth?

    Science is “cause and effect”. There are answers, it’s not hard to figure out. Follow the thermometer, it does not lie to you like a politician or a pre-programmed climate model. Do not violate the laws of thermodynamics, and remember “all heat is friction”

  • Edward

    Max asked (among other things): “Then why does earth’s surface radiate heat even at night or on cloudy days?

    All objects with temperatures above absolute zero radiate heat. The hotter the object, the more it radiates, depending upon the material’s emissivity coefficient and also increasing with the fourth power of the temperature. Thus, the Earth radiates heat into deep space on a cloudless night. On cloudy nights, the surface of the Earth radiates to the clouds, which radiate back to the surface and and radiate to space.

    Even during the day, the Earth radiates to space, but the heat coming from the sun is greater than the heat lost to space, so days tend to warm up, and nights tend to cool down.

    Max’s linked paper adds more complication to the process, but the basics are the same.

    Why, with 24 hours of sunlight all summer, is the Antarctic not the hottest place on earth?

    After a winter of cooling down, it takes time for the surface of the Antarctic to warm up. We can see this phenomenon in more temperate regions where the first month of spring is cooler than the first month of autumn. In spring, the ground is still cool from winter and it takes time for the sun’s energy to warm it up, and in autumn the ground is still warm from summer.

    In addition, the low angle of the sun in summer means that the Antarctic (and the Arctic) does not receive as much heat as equatorial regions; it receives less than half at peak heating times (sun is highest in the sky) and significantly less at other times.

    Max,
    I’ve seen this paper before. Its main point is that the current climate models have oversimplified the heat transfer through the Earth’s atmosphere and the end of the “Little Ice Age” (LIA) could happen without an increase in CO2 or other greenhouse gasses. This explains how it is possible for temperatures to increase without a preceding increase in CO2 or other greenhouse gasses.

    Perhaps the reason for the “absence of a credible alternative” is that climate scientists have caved in to the politicians’ idea that the science is settled, which indicates to them that their funding will dry up if they attempt to find any alternative. This is one reason why it is a bad idea for politicians and government to hold the purse strings on scientific research; we only get the science that the politicians and the government want us to have rather than the credible alternatives that we need in order to make educated choices.

    What we do know is that ice core samples have shown that temperature changes have always preceded CO2 concentration changes for many centuries and millennia. We also know that we have been coming out of the LIA for the past two or so centuries — well before humans were putting any measurable amount of CO2 into the air (the past 75-ish years) — and that before that there was a lengthy Medieval Warm Period (MWP) that was warmer than it is now — also a time before humans contributed to CO2. In addition, we know that during the warmer and lengthy MWP, the ocean level was not much different than it is now.

    We know that there have been temperature changes over the past few thousand years, long before humans were putting any measurable amount of CO2 into the air. We also know that it is difficult to fool with with Mother Nature.* We know that there have been significant temperature swings lasting many millennia in which the Earth has gone between glacial periods and interglacial periods of a millions-of-years long ice age and that the Earth was warmer before that.

    Mother Nature makes these changes happen without human input. We are fooling ourselves by saying that the warming since the LIA is human caused.

    * According to one 1970s margarine advertisement, it isn’t nice to fool with Mother Nature, either:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijVijP-CDVI (30 seconds)

    Fool, fool with, almost the same thing.

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