I discover something the booklet has not truly prepared me for. Some of the Trace Gases* are really powerful. The nitrogen, oxygen and argon atoms and molecules have hardly any heat but molecules like H2O CO2, NH4, NO2 and O3 can be real warm. I am jumping to keep out of their way and can really feel their heat as they go past. So these are the Warmer Trace Gases
JOURNEY index Look back to 3 Next: Land of the Lost Trace Gases
Chapter Six - Land of the Lost Trace Gases - Dancing Tiny with the Air.
Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy: All materials on this site are copyright and you are free to use them with care
2009 Back ground comment
Earth's atmosphere is made of 'permanent' gases such as nitrogn (78.1%), oxygen(20.9%) and argon(0.94%) and these make up over 99.9% of the volume of the air. All the other gases make up the remaining tiny fraction of the air, including the 'variable' gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide , ozone and methane. The distribution of these gases in the atmosphere varies in both time and space. It is essential we communicate to our children what tiny portions of the atmosphere these vital gases constitute and their potent thermal leverage.
Below are sample pages from the NZ Government "Climate Change" booklet for our primary schools and their communities. Though it was printed in 2002 it is still in circulation. Below is a photo of a recent large New Zealand Government (Ministry for the Environment) poster in our schools.
Note the multiple evocation of images of the Earth's atmosphere as a greenhouse.
The script reads "Scientists tell us that air has:
0.1-2% water vapour in the air and as clouds
o.36% carbon dioxide (CO2) and tiny amounts of other gases. including methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)"
Note Argon is excluded (approx 0.9 %)
Again the pages make multiple evocations of images of the atmosphere as a greenhouse.
There is no mention at all of the existence of water vapour, less any indication of its profound role as a Warmer Trace Gas. As discussed in my submission on the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme this omission serves the ethos of those pushing for a global carbon trading system.
Again the evocation of images of Earth' atmosphere as a greenhouse supplemented by an image of it as a blanket - both human technologies that primarily work by suppressing thermal convection. This obscures the central issue, which is that if human's increase the capacity of the atmosphere to retain thermal energy then we risk more extreme weather events as it becomes more turbulent.
The central cartoon contains many other serious flaws. Again we see water vapour omitted from the process.
The message that the planet gets sick and that the sun cares is unhelpful . The physics of the situation is human existence is threatened if we ignore the solar balances that sustain us.
New Zealand is portrayed as a oasis of green in cool blue. The reality is most of the forest cover of the nation has been burned off over the last 150 years and New Zealanders have some of the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world. When I pointed this out to a senior Government "climate change" official the response was " That is how you interpret it - I prefer to think it shows how lucky we are because we will not be affected by climate change as most other countries because its impacts is moderated by the oceans around us". (I may paraphrase one or two words.)
There are no less than six evocation of the greenhouse image of atmospheric processes here.
The statement (2002) that our emissions of Kyoto Protocol gases were "about 8% above what they were in 1990" was probably a major understatement. Official 2008 figures suggest they are at least 24% up.
The Newsflash! states "There are even more ways to achieve our reduction target!! One is through "carbon trading". As I attempt to make clear in my 2009 submission into the Government Review of the Emissions Trading Scheme, such statements lack science. The bulk of current evidence suggests the "carbon trading" is fatally flawed and its ethos results in high risk uses of carbon.
Again multiple evocations of the greenhouse image of our atmosphere (5).
In NZ the light bulb symbol is associated with incandescent lamps. Even in 2009 supermarkets only stock tubular compact fluroescent lampls. The statement reads: "Ask at your local supermarket if they have energy-efficient light bulbs". Effectively this page equates intelligent thinking and energy efficiency with the use of incandescent bulbs. Note: One of the first acts of the new Administration in 2008 is to repeal legislation banning the use of incandescent bulbs.
New Zealand's Greenhouse Gas Emissions
This recent (2008?) NZ Government (Ministry for the Environmemt) poster again makes multiple evocations of Earth's climate as a greenhouse and reinforces the flawed notion that carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane are by far the dominant Warmer Trace Gases.
Return to Welcome Page
Return to Update Page
Next: Land of the Lost Trace Gases Chapter six panel four
Return to Submission to NZ Government Review of Emissions Trading Scheme.