What is the Greenhouse Effect?

The “Greenhouse Effect “is the under-pinning of global warming and thus climate change theory. If it can be shown that there is no substantial “Greenhouse Effect” then the whole Catastrophic Anthropenic Global Warming (CAGW) argument is non – existent.

Finding a universal definition of the “Greenhouse Effect “ is relatively difficult. There are many varied and sometimes contradictory definitions.  It is surprising how little detailed information is available from the major Government Climate and Scientific bodies regarding the physics of the GH effect.

I will start by using an explanation from Australia’s major scientific body, the CSIRO [1] which I have put into a point format;

  1. Sunlight passes through the atmosphere, warming the earth’s surface.
  2. In turn, the land and oceans release heat, or infrared radiation, into the atmosphere, thus balancing the incoming energy.
  3. Water vapour, carbon dioxide and some of the other trace gases absorb part of this radiation, allowing it to warm the lower atmosphere, while the remainder is emitted to space.  This absorption of heat, which keeps the surface of our planet warm enough to sustain us, is called the greenhouse effect.
  4. Without heat-trapping greenhouse gases the surface would have an average temperature of –18°C rather than our current average of 15°C.

This brief outline captures the main popular tenants of the GH effect theory. I will look at each point but I will start with point 4 as this introduces the idea of energy balance and the temperature of the Earth.

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