Why is anthropomorphic global warming so difficult to prove?

I have been thoroughly entertained by a related post on this board, but that has become more political than scientific. I am curious as to why anthropomorphic global warming is so difficult to prove when to me it is so obvious. Here is my proof. I have never studied climatology but I am a chemist so I know what chemicals do.

  1. Carbon Dioxide absorbs significant radiation - Known from personal experience.
  2. The energy that is absorbed is converted to heat - Conservation of energy.
  3. Burning things releases carbon dioxide - Do I trust my teachers to much?
  4. Humans burn things like fossil fuels - I drive to work way too often.
  5. Humans are releasing extra carbon dioxide - 3,4
  6. This extra carbon dioxide produces heat when radiated by the sun - 1,2
  7. Therefore humans produce heat
  8. Heat that is produced by the actions of humans is anthropomorphic - Definition of anthropomorphic

I realize that this proof says nothing about the extent of heat that humans are responsible. From what I have read we have been releasing 20,000 million metric tons of CO2 every year since 1980. That’s 20,000 million metric tons that would not be released into the atmosphere if man did not burn fossil fuels.
Of course some of this carbon dioxide based on Le Chatelier’s Principle will be absorbed by the non-atmospheric earth (So if the atmosphere doesn’t take the hit the oceans do? That doesn’t sound good). Nevertheless when you add a reagent to the right side of the reaction arrow the reaction rate may increase but you still end up with a larger concentration of that reagent on the left side of the equation in a true equilibrium (notice I think like a chemist.).
Besides, solubility of most gasses in liquids is inversely proportional to temperature so if the temperature gets high enough won’t the oceans actually be putting more CO2 into the atmosphere?

What are the complexities of climatology that I am missing?

The short answer is that the sun has the capacity to overwhelm any puny contribution that humans make. So the dispute boils down to whether a difference in the sun’s heating, for any of a variety of reasons, is much more responsible than human factors or whether the sun’s contribution is essentially stable and the human factors are the difference.

That’s something that can’t be determined by any of your points.

Because it is so difficult to figure out whether the Earth wants to warm up or cool off.

(Anthropomorphic - in the form of humans, generally a fallacy in which non-numan entities are assigned qualities (such as personality) that are typically “human” to explain actions in which they engage or similar phenomena.
Anthropogenic - “born from” or caused by humans, an adjective identifying phenomena that are the direct result of human activity or are strongly affected by human activity.)

First off, I believe in global warming and I also believe that humans have something to do with it but that wasn’t your question.

The heart of the problem is the classic correlation does not necessarily equal causation rule. You just described what humans are doing but the climate is a tremendously complicated system. Our fastest supercomputers model it as an approximation at best and they often make completely wrong predictions (no hurricanes hit the U.S. this year despite completely contradicting models). Your simplistic inputs and outputs may not cut it with such a complex system. There is also the role of plants and maybe some other process that we don’t understand. Science isn’t as complete as it is often made out to be.

One key point that the skeptics point to is that the earth has warmed up and cooled down dramatically many times in history. It has even had fairly significant climate fluctuations during the past several hundred years with no obvious human influence. The question is how do we know this time is different and it is a valid question in science and should be explained thoroughly.

The control Earth, on which humans aren’t producing excess greenhouse gasses - in order to demonstrate that the effect is significantly greater than the natural change.

I don’t think most global warming “critics” are arguing that humans have no effect on the climate, just that the effect is tiny compared to “natural trends.”

Also remember, most people can’t (or rather, won’t) evaluate science. This has become a purely political issue. The sides were formed before most of the evidence was in, and now that it is (the US is almost alone in still maintaining that human-caused global warming isn’t real), no one’s likes to say “I was wrong.” So the burden of proof is set to an impossible standard (see also: evolution) - 100% certainty that the proposed theory is right (including repeated debunking of every counter-claim, no matter how outlandish) before they’ll accept it.

intention gives a pretty good explanation of why understanding climate is so complicated in this thread.

You are right my proof makes the suns contribution irrelevent. The earth is getting warmer as a result of human interaction. If the sun gets warmer then it gets that much warmer. The earth would still be cooler in the absence of human activity according to my premise. The suns activity is irrelevent.

The earth has desires? Is this standard climatology?

Did I use the wrong term? Sorry I didn’t look it up, I just stole it from the other post.

Please be more specific, honestly I can handle it. I realize that I have simplified the problem but to me it is that simple. It makes no difference if plants or the ocean are absorbing CO2 the same principles apply unless the CO2 is going someplace log term like back to fossil fuels. Tell me specifically why my simple model doesn’t work rather than telling me that “Oh gee its just too complicated for you to understand”.

Once again, this point is irrelevent to my my proof. My proof is essentially humans are putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere therefore humans are responsible for global warming.

Now THAT’s a simulpost!

A point I neglected: I continue to insist that “Did we cause it?” isn’t the important question–it’s barely relevant, except that it gives us data toward answering the real question: “Can we fix it?”

20,000 metric tons sounds like a lot of CO2 to me. Couldn’t we just calculate the molar concentration of the atmosphere then use Beer’s law to determine how much radiation is being converted to heat from man-made CO2? Even using very favorable numbers for the equilibrium between atmospheric CO2 and non-atmospheric CO2 I bet the quantity of heat absorbe3d is enormous.

I just want to know why some people think that we didn’t cause it.

It’s not that simple. A certain amount of the excess CO2 has been converted into oxygen by plants, and the oceans have absorbed some of it, too.

Because the earth has warmed up and cooled down before. Both historical records and ice core samples from the arctic prove this. In the late Middle Ages, a major cold snap hit the earth. Before this happened, Greenland was actually green, at least at the southern end. The cold snap, known as the “Little Ice Age,” killed off Viking settlements that had survived for centuries. This same cold snap caused cool summers in Europe and North America, and was a major cause of famine in Europe.

Nobody doubts that we’re currently in a warming trend. What remains to be proven is how much of it is due to human activity, and how much of it would have occured anyway.

Actually, that CO2 thats absorbed by plants is only temporarily converted to O2. Inevitably the plants die, decompose, and the carbon is decomposed by bacteria back into the same amount of CO2 they initially absorbed. That is why I am considering plants and oceans to be part of the overall equilibrium between atmospheric and non-atmospheric CO2. That’s why I say even with very favorable number like say 5% of man made CO2 is atmospheric I bet contibution to global warming is enormous. My question is why isn’t it that simple.

The history of the earth is irrelevent to the amount of man-made CO2 in the air today. CO2 absorbs radiation and is converted to heat. Humans makes CO2 by burning fossil fuels. Apparently 20,000 million metric tons of it are burned every year. Therefore humans are responsible for a certain amount of heat that the earth has absorbed.

I guess the real question is how much CO2 could possibly be absorbed into non-atmospheric reservoirs. Is it really higher than 95% because that doesn’t sound reasonable in a solubility equalibrium where the solute is very soluble in the atmosphere (seeing as it is a gas.)

All you have shown is that humans are contributing some heat to the atmosphere. What your proof doesn’t show is how that heat compares to the natural cycle of the Earth.

Consider this. A person is standing holding a huge boulder above his head. He’s been standing like that for 10 years. Sometimes he buckles under the strain but then he manages to straighten up. At present he is starting to buckle and struggle with the weight. We see that a fly is currently sitting on the rock.

Question: Is the fly causing the person to buckle under the strain of the weight? There is no doubt the fly is adding some extra weight, but how much is it compared to the weight of the stone? If the fly had not landed in that spot would the person still be struggling?

Some people believe that the impact of humans on the atmosphere is insignificant compared to the other natural factors that cause periods of warming and cooling of the Earth.

Right. Certainly there is *some *contribution, but is it significant? :confused:

Don’t be confused with the now 99% certain fact that the Earth is getting warmer, with the Hypothesis that humans are causing it.

We are coming out of the “Little Ice Age”, this may be normal fluctuations. Or perhaps we are making it warm up faster.

Don’t you mean “anthropogenic”?

Where do fossil fuels come from in your analysis?

The reason it is difficult to PROVE (as in convincing of it someone who is of a different persuasion) is that we have a sample size of 1. With only one earth and so many variables at work, a naysayer will always have a dozen excuses, doubts and questions to hide behind. It doesn’t matter how much science you have behind your argument (for either position), there is a ton of (good or bad) science behind the opposing view.

Sadly, this is not something that can be solved unilaterally so the “carry on” option wins by default.

On what scale is 20 000 metric tons a lot? On a global scale this could be a small amount. This site claims that 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide are produced by both autotrophic and heterotrophic respiration alone. That would make 20 000 metric tons are very small amount.

My error, thats 20,000 million metric tons or 20 billion metric tons. About 20% of your figure for respiration.