A new paper in GRL by Xiaochun Zhang and Ken Caldeira works out how long it takes for the greenhouse forcing by CO2 to exceed the combustion warming by fossil fuels. The heat from burning fossil fuels is soon outpaced by the heat retained from putting the CO2 into the atmosphere, released when those fossil fuels were burnt.
Update: See below
The abstract sums up the findings:
The Earth warms both when fossil fuel carbon is oxidized to carbon dioxide and when greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide inhibits longwave radiation from escaping to space. Various important time scales and ratios comparing these two climate forcings have not previously been quantified. For example, the global and time-integrated radiative forcing from burning a fossil fuel exceeds the heat released upon combustion within 2 months.
Over the long lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cumulative CO2-radiative forcing exceeds the amount of energy released upon combustion by a factor >100,000. For a new power plant, the radiative forcing from the accumulation of released CO2 exceeds the direct thermal emissions in less than half a year. Furthermore, we show that the energy released from the combustion of fossil fuels is now about 1.71% of the radiative forcing from CO2 that has accumulated in the atmosphere as a consequence of historical fossil fuel combustion.
If we want to curb global warming we need to shift to energy sources that don't release greenhouse gases.
The paper looks at three aspects:
- Instantaneous Pulse Emissions From Fossil Fuel Combustion
- Steady Continuous Combustion of Fossil Fuels
- Historical Emissions of Heat and Carbon Dioxide From Fossil Fuel Combustion
From the press release at ScienceDaily.com:
They found that the carbon dioxide-caused warming exceeds the amount of heat released by a lump of coal in just 34 days. The same phenomenon is observed in 45 days for an isolated incident of oil combustion, and in 59 days for a single instance of burning natural gas.
“Ultimately, the warming induced by carbon dioxide over the many thousands of years it remains in the atmosphere would exceed the warming from combustion by a factor of 100,000 or more,” Caldeira said.
For a power plant that is continuously burning, the warming caused by atmospheric carbon dioxide exceeded the heat released into the atmosphere by combustion in less than half a year–just three months for coal plants. With this kind of steady continuous combustion, it takes 95 days using coal, 124 days using oil, and 161 days using natural gas.
Caldeira explained: “If a power plant is burning continuously, within 3 to 5 months, depending on the type of power plant, the CO2 from the power plant is doing more to heat the Earth than the fires in its boiler. As time goes on, the rate of burning in the power plant stays the same, but the CO2 accumulates, so by the end of the year, the greenhouse gases will be heating the Earth much more than the direct emissions from the power plant.”
The second case, looking at steady continuous emissions is shown in Figure 2 below. The chart compares the thermal forcing from CO2 with that from combustion of the fossil fuels from which that CO2 came - showing the instantaneous forcing from continuous emissions (top panel) and the time-integrated forcing from continuous emissions (bottom panel).
Anthony Watts fails logic and arithmetic
I don't know why Anthony Watts can't understand this when he claims to accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. What he wrote (archived here), with his usual "claim" headline, was:
Claim: Greenhouse gas-caused warming felt in just months
Anthony Watts / 7 hours ago June 2, 2015
Caldeira It seems in the desperation to erase “the pause” in time for Paris, Ken Caldeira has jumped the shark with this claim. Basically he’s claiming that the heat from fossil fuel combustion is a factor, not just the posited slowing of infrared from Earth’s surface to the top of the atmosphere by increased CO2 concentration.
This headline “Greenhouse gas-caused warming felt in just months” is in contrast to what Caldeira previously said in this Institute of Physics publication saying:
…we find the median time between an emission and maximum warming is 10.1 years, with a 90% probability range of 6.6–30.7 years.
Just why Anthony thinks one finding contradicts the other is a puzzle. If he was driving a car and passed a pedestrian in two seconds, but didn't get to maximum speed for two minutes, does it mean he couldn't have passed the pedestrian in two seconds? In Anthony's topsy turvy world you'd have to say - yes. (Anthony isn't good with numbers - he's shown that on numerous occasions in the past. The simplest arithmetic is beyond his capability. One can rightly argue he is innumerate.)
(Strange that Anthony argues that burning coal, gas and oil doesn't produce heat. He's out on a limb with that one. Very few deniers would dispute the fact. Burning wood produces heat too. If anyone in Chico, California has a gas stove or oil heater or a barbecue, perhaps they can invite Anthony around and give him a demonstration.)
It was pointed out to me that Anthony Watts has in the past decided that "Waste heat [has] a bigger climate effect than once thought". And that reminded me of the time he decided that global warming was caused by steam pipes in the backblocks of Russia. It must be dreadfully taxing on the brain being a denier and believing (or not believing) so many contradictory things all at the same time.
From the WUWT comments
Anthony has plenty of bad company. The "thoughts" of his commenters were equally vacuous.
June 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm
They are making it up as they go along.
Kevin Kane can't understand science, but he does like quote-mining emails
June 2, 2015 at 1:17 pm
Would be interesting if there was another release of emails just before Paris.
Paul Westhaver doesn't understand science either. It's all 'technobabble' to him.
June 2, 2015 at 1:19 pm
But… the earth ain’t warming no mo.
Obfuscation and techno babble to conceal the fact that I am still burning oil to heat my house in bloody June.
It is frigging cold.
Bob Tisdale is another greenhouse effect denying quack who thinks scientists are loons.
June 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm
Do alarmists get loonier around the full moon?
Someone needs to perform a study about the effects of the phases of the moon on the bizarreness of the claims by the CO2 obsessed.
Double on Tundra is the first one to get close to understanding part of the paper, though he's not quite sure:
June 2, 2015 at 1:25 pm
When I turn on the heater in my car, it warms me almost immediately. This is what he means, right? He can’t mean that because I drive my car, I don’t need a heater.
Mark and two Cats thinks that the earth cannot radiate any heat. Even if he rejects greenhouse warming, I wonder where he thinks that all that solar energy hitting earth ends up?
June 2, 2015 at 1:28 pm
“The release of CO2 into the atmosphere contributes to the trapping of heat that would otherwise be emitted into outer space.
Heat cannot be emitted into outer space.
Latitude writes more nonsense. Did he bother to read the press release Anthony copied and pasted? It was all about burning fossil fuels to keep "everything above freezing all winter" and more.
June 2, 2015 at 1:31 pm
warming caused by the carbon dioxide……No one knows
So he figured all the heat from heaters in the winter, air conditioneers in the summer…
I don’t suppose keeping everything above freezing all winter counts
The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley might not understand any climate science but he can't resist posting his "thoughts" at WUWT. This is why WUWT exists. It's a steam valve for deniers:
June 2, 2015 at 1:35 pm
These people are just pissing on their own chips.
DaveH lives in a cold climate, I'd say. And he thinks that excessive heat waves, flash floods, worse droughts, famine, severe storms and rapidly rising seas are worth it if it means that the plants that survive will grow a bit more:
June 2, 2015 at 1:37 pm
If you can believe this, it sounds like good news to me. Warm is better than cold and CO2 benefits the planet through the plants so it’s a win-win-win we get the energy from the lump of coal, then we get a warmer planet and finally we get more CO2 for the planet. I’m a bit skeptical that burning a lump of coal really has a meaningful long term impact on warming the planet but this article sounds like coal is a miracle substance.
Admad mistakenly thinks that CO2 is different depending on the source.
June 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm
So. There are at least three different kinds of human-generated carbon dioxide with different properties, from combustion of coal, oil and methane. This is a major breakthrough in chemistry which should earn them a Nobel.
Oddly for WUWT, someone takes the time to correct him. JohnB replied:
June 2, 2015 at 1:57 pm
No. Same CO2, but less of it from methane per unit of heat generated by combustion.
anthonyvioli spouts more WUWT-style nonsense and asks what denier would ever believe any science:
June 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm
And as everyday goes by, not only does it refuse to warm but alarmists become more stupid.
Who actually believes this stuff?
On a side note, don’t worry about measuring temperatures, just follow water vapour.
Its decreasing, for a good reason.
dbstealey, like Anthony, fails simple logic and writes:
June 2, 2015 at 1:53 pm
If warming from CO2 is that quick, it seems to be contradicted by the IPCC’s own claim of long residence times for CO2.
He also misses the point. The reason that there is such a long warming effect from burning lumps of coal is because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for so long, not despite that.
dbstealey tries to recover, and explains that he made that mistake because he can't read a temperature chart:
June 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm
I understand that, John. Maybe you didn’t get my point. If not, sorry about that.
If, as the IPCC claims, the CO2 residency time is a century, then with all the CO2 emitted over the past 50 – 60 or more years, we certainly should have seen some fast-accelerating global warming by now.
But there isn’t any accelerating global warming — there isn’t even any global warming at all! For many years now, global warming has been stopped.
I think whoever said it upthread was right: at this point, they will SAY ANYTHING. Facts and evidence have nothing to do with it. This is all political spin; pablum for the masses.
This is for Smokey (dbstealey) and all the deniers out there who mistakenly think that earth hasn't been getting a lot hotter.
|Data source: GISS NASA|
Xiaochun Zhang and Ken Caldeira. "Time scales and ratios of climate forcing due to thermal versus carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels". Geophysical Research Letters, May 2015 DOI:10.1002/2015GL063514 (Open access - early release is here)
Denier weirdness: Russian steam pipes are causing global warming, sez Anthony Watts @wattsupwiththat