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using the link in the description. We’ve all heard of Climate Change. Greta
has told us all about it. David Attenbourgh has forced us all to watch walrus’s die.
Icecaps are melting, Australia is burning. It’s been intense. The vast majority of
scientists believe that human industries are radically transforming the climate.
Looking at the headlines you’d think climate change snuck up on us suddenly out of nowhere.
Surely we’ve only known about greenhouse gases for a few decades at the most. Yeah,
Exxon knew about the effects fossil fuels were having on the climate back in the 70’s
did their best to suppress it. But surely it couldn’t go back much further than that
could it? Yeah….Try about 200 years. —-Intro—-
Cogito is more of a humanities type person and not a scientist. Any of the science explained
in this video is simplified and is to the best of my understanding. I am not a scientist
nor am I a warlock. Feel free to correct any mistakes in the comments and I will address
them. Climate Change is happening for a number of
different reasons, but the main culprit is Greenhouse Gases like carbon dioxide, emitted
from the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil.
So what exactly is a greenhouse gas and how do they affect our climate?
This is our planet. This is the sun. The sun shoots solar radiation towards Earth and these
solar rays can easily pass through the gases in our atmosphere. The Earth absorbs these
rays, heats up, and then emits them as thermal radiation or heat. This radiation however
can be absorbed by certain gases in our atmosphere. So some of this heat goes back down towards
Earth and warms it. This forms a greenhous-like heating trapping barrier around Earth. The
more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere the more heat gets trapped.
Since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide levels have risen more than 30% and our desire
for more land has caused us to chop down or burn huge amounts of carbon absorbing forests.
BUT DON’T LET THE EXISTENTIAL DREAD SET IN…DON’T LET THE EXISTENTIAL DREAD SET
The first human person to theorise something like the greenhouse effect was Joseph Fourier.
This clever Frenchman was trying to figure out why the Earth wasn’t a frozen wasteland.
He calculated how much energy the Sun bombarded the Earth with and realised that our planet
should be much colder. Something must have been trapping the sun’s
heat. In an 1824 paper he hypothesised “heat in
the state of light finds less resistance in penetrating the air, than in repassing into
the air when converted into non-luminous heat.” This was description of the greenhouse effect,
and it was made by a guy that was friends with Napoleon. Fourier never actually used
the term greenhouse. He didn’t even conduct an experiment to test his hypothesis or pinpoint
which gas could cause the effect. Foote
That answer would come from the most unlikely of creatures, a hobbit…no it wasn’t a
hobbit? You’re telling me someone with the name Eunice Newton Foote isn’t a hobbit?
Ok whatever. Foote was a woman however, so in the eyes of 19th century scientists, her
opinion was about as relevant as a hobbit’s anyway. Which we’ll see shortly.
Having made the awful decision to be born a woman in 19th century America, Foote didn’t
have much hope at becoming a scientist as women were not offered much scientific education
at the time. But she did enjoy science and had a curious mind, so she conducted her own
amateur scientific experiments. Eunice wanted to know how gases interacted
with sunlight. So she conducted an experiment. She placed
thermometers in glass cylinders and added different gases and varying amounts of moisture
with an air pump. She then placed the cylinders in the sun to
measure the temperature difference over time. She tested gases such as water vapor, common
air, and CO2. She noticed the cylinders filled with water vapor or CO2 heated quicker and
remained hot longer. From this she speculated that “An atmosphere
of [carbon dioxide] would give to our earth a high temperature; and if as some suppose,
at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present,
an increased temperature…must have necessarily resulted.”
Her paper was presented by a male scientist on her behalf at the American Association
for the Advancement of Science in 1856. And published the same year in the American Journal
of Arts and Science. Foote had built upon Fourier’s idea, but
she actually tested it and discovered that CO2 was one of the greenhouse gases that trap
heat in our atmosphere. She correctly hypothesised that changing the levels of CO2 would change
the Earth’s temperature, laying the foundation for modern climate science.
But no one paid attention to her work. No one saw how significant of a hypothesis this
was. Eunice became a footnote in climate history. Tyndal
Instead, the credit for the discovery of the greenhouse effect and greenhouse gases is
given to Irish scientist John Tyndall. Tyndall was obsessed with a question that
dominated Victorian era science: The Ice Age Theory.
It had recently been discovered that large parts of the Earth were once covered with
ice and scientists were fascinated with answering what had caused the ice ages.
Which there are 5 of somehow. How did they rope Patrick Stewart in this….. Name Ariscratle,
a saber-toothed squirrel that lives on Scratlantis. Fur is Grayish-brown apparently….that’s
nice. Where were we again? There were a few theories floating about on
what could have caused these ice ages. The first and most obvious was Frost Giants. But
Tyndall like Fourier and Foote argued the atmosphere could change the Earth’s temperature.
To test whether gases could trap heat he built this insane looking thing, however it’s
actually quite easy to understand. Basically, heat is pushed through this tube.
The tube is filled with the gas being tested. The heat leaves the tube, hits this cone and
the heat level is compared against the heat hitting this control cone. Using this heat
difference Tyndall could calculate how much heat the gas in
the tube had absorbed. His results showed that water vapor and CO2
along with some other gases were the primary heat absorbers. He found that CO2 could trap
1,000 times as much heat as common air. “The solar heat possesses, in a far higher
degree than that of lime light, the power of crossing an atmosphere; but, when the heat
is absorbed by the planet, it is so changed in quality that the rays emanating from the
planet cannot get with the same freedom back into space. Thus the atmosphere admits of
the entrance of the solar heat, but checks its exit; and the result is a tendency to
accumulate heat at the surface of the planet.” —John Tyndall (1859)
He had perfectly described the greenhouse effect and proven it with his cones, which
is why he is normally credited with discovering it.
His experiment revealed what Foote had discovered 3 years before. But in Tyndall’s later writings,
he claims “With regard to the action of other gases upon heat, we are not, so far
as I am aware, possessed of a single experiment.” One could argue the Tyndall must have seen
her work since the journal that carried Foote’s paper also carried one by Tyndall on color
blindness. If he went to go look at his published work he easily could have seen hers. We’ll
unfortunately never know if he read her paper or not though.
But Tyndall’s experiment did correct some problems with Eunice’s by being able to isolate
heat radiation for example. Which isn’t surprising due to his advanced
scientific education. His experiment has been much more influential in the field of climate
science than hers. But Eunice’s great idea, in the end, wasn’t
her experiment. It was her hypothesis that changes in the amount of carbon dioxide in
the atmosphere could alter our planet’s temperature. And, as far as I know, she was the first person
to think this. This was 150 years ago, this is pre American Civil War.
Who knows what she would have achieved if she’d had Tyndall’s advantages.
Arrheius The final piece of the climate change puzzle
was put together by Swedish physicist Svante Thunberg Arrhenius in 1896. Who created what
we could call the first climate change model predicting that human industry could severely
affect the climate. And yes this Svante Thunberg Arrhenius is
related to Svante Thunberg, father of Greta Thunberg. I guess that family just has a knack
for pointing out the dangers of climate change. Like Tyndall, Arrhenius, was also interested
in the Ice Ages debate. He liked Tyndall’s idea that changes in the atmosphere like decreased
CO2 levels could have caused Ice Ages. So he wanted to calculate how much CO2 it
would take to change global temperatures. Luckily for him another Swedish scientist
Arvid Högbom, had recently published an essay estimating how much CO2 been in the athmosphere
throughout history. With this information at hand Arrhenius began
calculating how much heat would be trapped if levels of CO2 changed. Arrhenius did tens
of thousands of calculations. All by hand, with no calculator.
He discovered that cutting the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere by half could lower the
temperature in Europe some 4-5°C. Which is an ice age level.
This explained how the Earth might have cooled but this sparked another interest for Arrheius.
Could this also cause the Earth to heat up? Arvid Hogborn in his calculations of how much
CO2 was in the atmosphere throughout history included things like emissions from volcanoes
but he thought to include the emissions from human industry, like factories.
Looking at this Arrhenius realised if you doubled the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,
it would raise the world’s temperature by 5-6°C Celsius and that if humanity continued
to burn fossil fuels and pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere we could trigger this
rise in temperature. Which is according to Isabel Hilton “a conclusion
that millions of dollars worth of research over the ensuing century hardly changed at
all,”. Arrhenius was the first person to predict
that our burning of fossil fuels could cause global warming.
Predictions Arrhenius however didn’t think it would
ever be a problem. For him this was all hypothetical. He didn’t imagine we could ever manage to
burn enough fossil fuels to ever seriously impact the climate. Arrhenius predicted that
climate change would happen….eventually. But he thought it would take 3,000 years for
CO2 levels in the atmosphere to rise by 50%. They’ve shot up by 30% in only a 100. DON’T….LET….THE…EXISTENTIAL…..DREAD….SET….IN
Anyway temperature increase probably didn’t sound too bad these Swedish scientists. Some
scientists like Walter Nernst even thought about burning more coal for no reason other
than to release CO2 to purposefully heat the Earth. Dafuq Walter…come on.
Arrhenius even liked the idea of global warming. “By the influence of the increasing percentage
of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better
climates” They couldn’t imagine the negative effects
of climate change. The mass extinctions, the negative feedback loops, the environmental
collapse, the depressing David Attenbourgh documentaries. Seriously everyone, the walrus
scene ruined my life. I haven’t been the same since.
Climate Change might seem like it arrived all of a sudden, if you judge by panic tweets,
depressing headlines, and global protests. But the science predicting it is very old.
We just weren’t paying attention This channel is all about paying attention
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