The Corner

Thinking Outside The Box

From a reader:

Jonah:   I heartily agree that the left seems to be using global warming as a pretext to shut down the economy.  Controlling carbon dioxide is not a rational approach to the problem of artificially modifying the climate.   Even assuming that the greenhouse effect is the cause of potential global warming, carbon dioxide is only a minor player.  The primary mechanism is that the increased manmade CO2 increases surface temperatures a bit, which in turn increases the levels of water vapor in the atmosphere.  Water vapor is a much more efficient greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and so leads to a much higher greenhouse effect temperature.   What’s the problem with this?  If you have too much water vapor, it condenses into clouds.  Clouds, by reflecting sunlight, have a cooling effect on climate. Also, cloud formation depends on the presence of atmospheric constituents such as aerosols as condensation nuclei.  One might argue that a more efficient way of controlling any global warming would be to seed the upper atmosphere with condensation nuclei (say, by an additive in jet fuel) to increase the cloud level.  This is much more efficient than trying to control CO2.  Funny, haven’t heard any discussion about this approach. 

 Note: I like posting email like this, but I do it with major dread in that 1 billion engineers will write me in outrage. I don’t think people understand A) how much free time engineers have to write me with scolding or corrective email or B) how scarred I am from previous volcano-lancing, earth-boring , and other creative technological speculations which inconveniently fail to correspond with the rules of “science.”

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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