“How dare you!” Will Happer “calls methane ‘irrelevant’ to climate”.

by David Middleton

From the American Association for the Advancement of Science of America…

In unpublished paper, former White House climate adviser calls methane ‘irrelevant’ to climate
By Scott Waldman, E&E News Nov. 27, 2019 , 12:35 PM

Originally published by E&E News

A climate skeptic with ties to the White House is back—this time as the co-author of a new paper that could help the Trump administration roll back climate rules.

William Happer, an emeritus Princeton University physics professor, previously worked within the White House to conduct a hostile review of climate science. While that effort didn’t go far, Happer at the same time worked on research into methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

[…]

A summary of Happer’s latest research was released by the CO2 Coalition, the group he founded and on whose board he now serves, which claims that the world needs more carbon dioxide emissions to thrive. Happer’s latest research claims that “much of the concern over climate change and greenhouse gases comes from misunderstanding basic physics.” The paper lays out a case as to why methane emissions are not worrisome, and says proposals to regulate emissions therefore are not justified.

“Given the huge benefits of more CO2 to agriculture, to forestry, and to primary photosynthetic productivity in general, more CO2 is almost certainly benefitting the world,” the authors wrote. “And radiative effects of CH4 [methane] and N2O [nitrous oxide], another greenhouse gas produced by human activities, are so small that they are irrelevant to climate.”

Happer’s research was submitted to EPA by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which has received funding from the oil and gas industry and the Koch network. In its EPA comments, the foundation argued that methane does not contribute to air pollution that harms public health.

The world’s leading science agencies have found that increased carbon dioxide emissions will reduce crop yields and crop health and increase heavy precipitation events that destroy vegetation, and that worsening droughts—as well as longer periods of more intense heat—will kill plants and threaten humanity.

[…]

Science! As in she blinded me with…

As frackingly stupid as this article is, I think this is the stupidest bit:

The world’s leading science agencies have found that increased carbon dioxide emissions will reduce crop yields and crop health and increase heavy precipitation events that destroy vegetation, and that worsening droughts—as well as longer periods of more intense heat—will kill plants and threaten humanity.

I don’t think a more vapid, empty-headed, falsehood-filled paragraph has ever been written by human beings, perhaps with one exception: The 1941 ultimatum delivered by Japanese Ambassador Nomura to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, while the IJN was attacking Pearl Harbor. (Speaking of World War II… Midway – Two Thumbs Up!!)

Getting back to the subject… Dr. Happer is correct. If anything, he gives methane more credit than it deserves by calling it “irrelevant to climate”.

The major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36-70% of the greenhouse effect on Earth (not including clouds); carbon dioxide, which causes 9-26%; methane, which causes 4-9%, and ozone, which causes 3-7%.

Science Daily

Let’s just accept these numbers for the purpose of this exercise. CH4 causes 4-9% of the greenhouse effect (GHE).

Without naturally occurring greenhouse gases, Earth’s average temperature would be near 0°F (or -18°C) instead of the much warmer 59°F (15°C).

NASA

The general assumption is that the average surface temperature of the Earth would be about 33 °C cooler than it is without the GHE.

Given that CH4 causes 4-9% of the GHE, the average surface temperature of the Earth would be 1-3 °C cooler than it is without CH4. However, the Earth’s atmosphere has always contained at least some CH4.

In the standard run the CH4 release reached the maximum value during the Carboniferous coal swamp era (Figure 6f). Consequently, the atmospheric pCH4 increased to 10 ppmv (Figure 7) during the middle Phanerozoic. The next two peaks were reached in the Cretaceous and Jurassic, with maximum contents of 1.5 ppmv approaching the pCH4 level prevailing in the modern atmosphere.

Bartdorff et al., 2008

Did you catch that? Allow me to repeat it:

The next two peaks were reached in the Cretaceous and Jurassic, with maximum contents of 1.5 ppmv approaching the pCH4 level prevailing in the modern atmosphere.

Cretaceous and Jurassic pCH4 level were lower than today, while the maximum of the Phanerozoic Eon occurred 300 million years ago during the Carboniferous Period.

Phanerozoic pCH4 (Bartdorff et al., 2008)
Phanerozoic pH-corrected temperature (Royer & Berner) and CO2 (Berner). Older is toward the left.

Combined plot…

Phanerozoic pCH4 (Bartdorff et al., 2008), pH-corrected temperature (Royer & Berner) and CO2 (Berner). Older is toward the left.

The highest Phanerozoic pCH4 level coincides with the only period over the past 540 million years when it was as cold as the Quaternary Period. That’s a geological CH4 face plant. I couldn’t make this sort of schist up if I was trying.

According to the IPCC, Earth’s average surface temperature would be about 1 °C cooler than it is without our evil GHG emissions.

Modified after IPCC AR4

Take away the CH4 we’ve added to the atmosphere since “The Ice Age Cometh” and Earth’s average surface temperature would be 0.04 to 0.09 °C cooler than it is. I’m already not losing sleep over the ~1 °C … So, 0.04 to 0.09 °C doesn’t even rise up to insignificant.

Even if we accept the IPCC assertion that nearly 30% of the anthropogenic radiative forcing is due to CH4, it still only amounts to 0.29 °C. If I have a choice between eating and a 0.29 °C lower temperature, I’ll take eating. Particularly when CH4 levels 5 times that of today coincided with the Late Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian)-Early Permian ice age.

According to the sacred climate models, if not for The Climate Wrecking Industry, the planet would be colder than The Ice Age Cometh

This proud member of the Climate Wrecking Industry says, “You’re welcome.”

And… No! The Climate Wrecking Industry hasn’t caused the recent rise in atmospheric CH4.

Ruling things out
The post-2007 uptick in global methane levels roughly coincides with the rapid deployment of natural gas “fracking” in the United States, making fugitive emissions a logical suspect. But attempts to verify the connection have produced counter-intuitive results, according to Stefan Schwietzke, a methane expert from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (a NOAA-University of Colorado Boulder partnership).

Schwietzke’s research suggests that methane emissions from fossil fuels are higher than countries’ self-reported inventories suggest, and they may even be increasing. And yet, he explained via email, methane derived from fossil fuels is enriched with carbon-13—a rare, heavy isotope of carbon—and air samples show that the amount of carbon-13-flavored methane is dropping worldwide.

The drop seems to rule out fossil fuel emissions, wildfires, or biomass cook stoves as the reason for the post-2007 methane surge. All those sources of methane, to a greater or lesser extent, are enriched in carbon-13, not depleted.

It’s a counterintuitive finding: methane from fossil fuels is higher than we thought, but it seems to be making up a smaller share of total global emissions. In his email, Schwietzke wrote, “The decline in the 13-C isotope of methane in the atmosphere indicates that microbial sources must have an increasing share of total methane emissions globally.”

Climate-Dot-Gov

“Methane concentrations (dark lines) and the amount of carbon-13 in the methane (light lines) from 1998-2014 for four latitude zones: Northern and Southern Hemisphere tropics (green and orange) and Northern and Southern high latitudes (blue and gray).  Starting in 2007, methane concentrations in all latitude zones began to rise, but the amount of methane carrying “heavy” carbon-13 started to fall.  NOAA Climate.gov graphic, based on data from Nisbet et al., 2016, provided by Martin Manning.”

Notes

“American Association for the Advancement of Science of America” and “Science! As in she blinded me with…” are humorous (at least to me) pop culture references to the movie Dodgeball and Thomas Dolby’s 1982 hit song, She Blinded Me With Science.

References

Bartdorff, O., Wallmann, K., Latif, M., and Semenov, V. ( 2008), Phanerozoic evolution of atmospheric methane, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB1008, doi:10.1029/2007GB002985.

Berner, R.A. and Z. Kothavala, 2001. “GEOCARB III: A Revised Model of Atmospheric CO2 over Phanerozoic Time”.  American Journal of Science, v.301, pp.182-204, February 2001.

Royer, D. L., R. A. Berner, I. P. Montanez, N. J. Tabor and D. J. Beerling. “CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate”.  GSA Today, Vol. 14, No. 3. (2004), pp. 4-10

 

 

This article appeared on the Watts Up With That? website at https://wattsupwiththat.com/2019/12/04/how-dare-you-will-happer-calls-methane-irrelevant-to-climate/