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Luiveton's avatar

Can you provide an argument against CO2 being the main cause of Global Warming?

Asked by Luiveton (4142 points ) November 4th, 2011

So most documentaries, scientists and whatnot always give information about how CO2 is the main reason for global warming seeing that it causes the greenhouse effect and all. Let’s see if we flutherites can provide a detailed argument against this. Surely there are other reasons for Global Warming. A detailed scientific argument would be appreciated. You can include examples, quotes, causes. We have to win our imaginary opponents. Please don’t give responses about how CO2 is the main cause as this post is against the fact that CO2 is the main cause for Global Warming.
If you think that it is the main reason, would you be able to temporarily change your opinion and argue with yourself? Challenge.

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13 Answers

tom_g's avatar

I think this question could get real ugly. You’re asking people to provide legitimate scientific information to argue against the scientific consensus. In other words, a bunch of programmers, English majors, sociologists, and psychologists are somehow going to be capable of filtering through the peer-reviewed literature in a way that will overturn all that climate scientists know about climate change.
This is not an argument from authority. Rather, science works a particular way. I am not a climate scientist. My only chance of understanding what we know about climate change is to understand the scientific consensus.

AdamF's avatar

Would you mind defining what you mean by a “detailed scientific argument”?

Because to me a truly scientific argument is one that has been independently and repeatedly substantiated in the peer-reviewed scientific literature…but there is only one explanation for recent climate change which has managed to achieve this level of evidence based support when trying to account for the majority of recent climate change..(but for some reason you don’t want that one to be mentioned….)

So if you’re after sciency explanations that don’t stand up to scrutiny, then you might want to look here.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

But if you really want people to just pretend, then my vote is for there being too many dragons.

tedd's avatar

We know for fact that CO2, caused by humans, is a prime cause of global climate change…. the catch is we don’t know how much.

The planet regularly goes through cooling and warming periods, where the CO2 counts go up. We know this because of the Volstok ice cores, we can gather ice/atmosphere from hundreds of thousands of years ago and measure the CO2 present in them with pretty accurate results. If you measure that you’ll see that we’re actually in one of those warming periods right now.

The catch (and it’s a big one) is that we are something to the tune of 100ppm higher in average atmospheric CO2 than we were at any of the peaks in recorded history.

The real question is just how drastic will the consequences be? It may not be pleasant, but think about this…. man kind lived through the last ice age living in caves wearing animal skins.

Nullo's avatar

At least one argument suggests that this is a phase in Earth’s climatic cycles, the opposite extreme of the Little Ice Age of the Middle Ages.

wonderingwhy's avatar

You could argue that water vapor is actually the worst based on it accounting for anywhere from 33% to 85% of the greenhouse effect. It’s also believed that water vapor concentrations will increase with the increase of other greenhouse gases, thus exacerbating the problem.

Methane (CH4), nitrous oxide, HFC’s, and sulfur hexafluoride (and several others) are all worse in the sense that they all have greater global warming potential and may be more difficult to remove than CO2. Additionally while CO2 is by far in greater production than any of these, we understand and have the means to significantly reduce its production today where the other gases would take more research, money, time, and consideration before being able to be as effectively reduced; thus implying that CO2 is no longer the threat we should be focused on.

You could even go as far as to explicitly blame CH4 over CO2 because if you take combustion as the primary source of CO2 the particulate matter the process expels actually has a countering cooling effect. Thus so long as we are consistently increasing the particulate matter in the atmosphere the effects of CO2 are mitigated.

Further CH4 is believed to have a pretty dramatic feedback effect which makes it even more dangerous, particularly at this point where the question of CH4 vs CO2 concentrations escaping from permafrost could point to CH4 making a much more dramatic rise than previously expected. although now we’re talking about future effects

Keep in mind the focus of all of these points is only to back a claim that CO2 isn’t the main cause of global warming (it could even be more narrow, saying “today it is no longer the biggest threat”). Very effective counter arguments abound, the best you can hope for in such an argument is to get your opponent to agree that there are other things just as potentially dangerous. Instead of focusing on bringing down only CO2 emissions we should be focusing on a broader range and getting others such as CH4 under control too. If you try to use this in a debate to claim CO2 isn’t an issue and we need to abandon our efforts to curb it, frankly, you’re screwed.

If you want the details to support this you’ll have to dig them up (or fork over some class credits) wikipedia should have most or all of it.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, I’m not even going to touch this one with a 10 ft. pole.
Suffice it to say that our planet in under myriad assaults from myriad sources, bottom line, it doesn’t matter trying to pinpoint ONE source exclusively.

Eliminate one source such as CO2 and well, there are still about 100 icebergs threatening to sink our Titanic.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know if it is the main cause, I definitely believe there are cyclical climate changes at work as part of the reason our planet is warming. What I also believe is I don’t give a damn whether CO2 is the main reason, no matter what it seems wrong to be polluting and raping our planet, and giving money to foreign countries for their resources who we have little in common with and don’t agree with many of their policies. I wish some of the marketing would play into those things and not the climate change schtick. Too many Americans seem to easily dismiss science. I guess they easily ignore how we acquire much of our oil, and how people are poisoned by toxic chemicals also.

I think it will be difficult to come up with science against CO2 not having an influence on climate change, but I will be following this Q. Probably many people didn’t buy into their hairspray creating holes in the ozone layer back when that was a big deal.

flutherother's avatar

I could argue that increased concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere do not tend to trap the sun’s heat and increase global temperatures but it would not be true. Or I could ignore the fact and concentrate on other reasons why the world might be warming. I might even deny that the world is warming at all. I could argue and believe just about anything but I prefer to stick with the truth. It is less dangerous that way.

Qingu's avatar

I think the question needs to be rephrased. Because CO2, pound for pound, does not cause global warming as much as other gases (notably methane and water vapor).

the issue is whether or not the huge increase in atmospheric CO2—from burning fossil fuels—is the primary cause of global warming.

cockswain's avatar

Ever study multivariable calculus? Picture any of those functions not perfectly modeling atmospheric behavior for any one of many variables. You could try and argue our computer models, as elaborate as they are, aren’t comprised of perfectly accurate functions of many of the variables as we don’t have centuries of data from which to derive all functions with a higher degree of accuracy. You could try.

gorillapaws's avatar

This isn’t my personal position, but I think one might argue that there is a correlation between CO2 and global climate change, but still insufficient evidence to establish firm scientific proof that the relationship is not just correlation, but actually causal. It may be possible that there is some third variable that is causing both climate change and an increase in CO2.

Personally, I prefer to follow the concensus of global climate scientists, and I believe it’s better to play things safe than risk making our planet uninhabitable, while the science takes its time to build more evidence.

flutherother's avatar

There is no doubt the relationship is causal. The relationship has been well understood scientifically for a long time and is called The Greenhouse Effect.

mattbrowne's avatar

One could argue that the main cause of global warming in the meantime is Earth’s decreasing albedo in both polar areas (lack of seawater ice). Yet what is the main cause of the decreasing albedo? It’s CO2. Not because it’s the most potent greenhouse gas. But because of the sheer volume.

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