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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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More climate research needed

Recent headlines announced that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide had reached a “feared” and “scary” 400 parts per million, with emphasis on the 400. That ratio would not be so scary if we imagine a Minnesota Wild game with 10,000 seated spectators where the announcer asks the carbon dioxide people to stand, and just four people rise out of 10,000 in the total arena — the ratio of carbon dioxide to other atmosphere gases like nitrogen and oxygen. The fear is because carbon dioxide responds to a portion of the earth’s infrared radiation and warms the atmosphere, becoming a greenhouse gas.

Therefore, more carbon dioxide should eventually cook us. What is not mentioned is something called band saturation. There is enough carbon dioxide in the air now to absorb most of the small segment of the earth’s infrared band that affects carbon dioxide, so more carbon dioxide in the air doesn’t actually do very much. This is one reason that data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s Climate Data Center shows that global average temperatures haven’t risen in the past 15 years, even though carbon dioxide levels continue rising.

Or as Stanford’s Nobel physicist, Robert Laughlin, put it recently, “Global warming forecasts have the further difficulty that one can’t find much actual warming in present-day weather observations.”

The warming forecasts in the four previous reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have so far been much higher than the actual global temperature experience. It’s time for more climate research before we panic or spend billions on renewable clean energy schemes that are so intermittent that they require backup from greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. This backup is normally supplied by natural gas plants that then run in start/stop mode when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun isn’t shining. This wastes fuel and increases costs and emissions.

Our resources are better spent on climate science and renewable energy research. An example is the University of Minnesota Center for Nanostructure Applications, which is working on technology that promises to enhance the efficiency of solar panels. There is also the University’s new Wind Energy Research Station at UMore Park in Rosemount, Minn.

Human activity is adding more than 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year, unabated by world climate conferences, energy legislation and intermittent renewable energy. But actual global warming remains at rest, and we don’t know why.

 There are theories. The oceans are taking up some of the heat; the waters acidify and damage coral reefs. But the atmosphere content of carbon dioxide still rises. The solar sun spot cycle has paused, meaning slightly lower solar output.

 It is time for us to pause as we study what is really happening with our climate.

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