January 13, 2010
Cheating On Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reports?

BusinessWeek has an article on how more potent green house gases are rising more in the atmosphere than would be predicted by various reported industrial sources for them. The worry is that users are cheating and hiding the extent of their use of gases like sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), which is 23,900 times more potent a warmer than carbon dioxide.

If you believe the reports, emissions of SF6 are declining. The reports are wrong. When researchers actually measure the chemical in the air, they find it in quantities more than three times greater than what the reported amounts would indicate—and levels are increasing, not declining. The findings were a surprise, says NOAA's Tans: "It wasn't on anyone's radar screen."

What happens when carbon taxes raise the economic stakes for compliance?

It's a cautionary tale. "If we can cheat on something like sulfur hexafluoride, what happens when carbon dioxide is worth $50 or $100 per ton?" asks Michael R. Woelk, CEO of Picarro, a measuring instruments company in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Nitrogen trifluoride is a similar story.

SF6 is not unique. Scripps' Weiss has found more than three times as much nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in the atmosphere as he expected. NF3 is a chemical used in flat panel manufacturing—and is a powerful greenhouse gas.

The article says that since China doesn't have to report its greenhouse gas emissions (and strongly opposed a requirement to report emissions in the recent Copenhagen negotiations) we do not know how much of these emissions are coming from China. Given China's rapid economic growth if they are a major source of these rare but potent gases they are probably going to become a much bigger problem.

Click thru and read the full article for the details.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 13 11:04 PM  Pollution Green House Gases

Hong said at January 14, 2010 6:14 AM:

Exactly why Copenhagen was probably a waste of time and money. What is an agreement on a questionable theory worth when entire nations can simply cheat? And what can be done to those countries? Whose going to embargo or sanction China or India when it doesn't seemingly work with smaller states like Iran or N. Korea?

Engineer-Poet said at January 14, 2010 7:59 AM:

We haven't embargoed gasoline to Iran (yet).

The failure of Copenhagen supports the proposal I've been making for a while:  eliminate the WTO and replace it with a trading bloc which enforces environmental, labor and human-rights standards.  China would fail on all 3.  Freezing Chinese products out of the West would reduce unemployment here, eliminate much of the GHGs at the source, and possibly topple the government.  Win/win/win.

Hong said at January 14, 2010 10:56 AM:

We probably won't try serious embargoes because the same countries likely to cheat on carbon emissions will either cheat or vote against fuel embargoes. Big surprise.

All the quasi legal arrangements can't be enforced without the threat of something more than judicial rulings. WTO or whatnot, just how is it enforceable? Who's going to stop trade with China? Us? Not when so much of our debt and trade are already tied to them and they know this. Plus, lets be real, they'll always be states that'll bypass such an embargo. Iraq kept illicit oil sales through Syria and Jordan despite 12+ years of sanctions. And the dictator of North Korea is still there. Sanctioned states always find enough loopholes to continue enriching the ruling body, even if it means starving the masses.

Bruce said at January 14, 2010 10:59 AM:

Thank goodness. Imagine how many people (and birds and animals) would have died this winter if it was any colder!

"Yvonne Doyle at the Department of Health has predicted up to 40,000 excess winter deaths this year thanks to the prolonged cold spell. This would be 3,000 more than last year which also had several shorter cold snaps.

Paul Wilkinson, an environmental epidemiologist, said: "The number of deaths a day is directly related to how cold it is. For each degree colder it gets there is a corresponding 2 per cent rise in the number of deaths which occur."



K said at January 14, 2010 11:00 AM:

There are so many possible flaws in both the reporting and measuring processes that we should not use the "cheating" word recklessly.

The article points to several reporting gaps. China doesn't report at all. And the numbers from many other areas are probably useless too even if those reporting have good intentions. In fact the areas well measured are probably exceptions. The EU, Japan, North America, and a few others.

And you must know the residence time and distribution of each gas in the atmosphere. No doubt they do. But to what accuracy?

Paul said at January 17, 2010 9:33 PM:

And you must know the residence time and distribution of each gas in the atmosphere. No doubt they do. But to what accuracy?

The mixing time of the troposphere is much shorter than the residence time of these gases, so to first order they are evenly spread around the globe. SF6, in particular, is even more rugged than CFCs. Only very short wavelength UV (or the inside of a lightning bolt) will dissociate it, so its residence time should be very long. It has to be transported above the ozone layer, into the mesosphere, to be broken down. The details of this mixing are uncertain, and as a result so is the lifetime.


"The atmospheric lifetime is uncertain, and may be shorter than the current conventional lifetime of 3200 yrs. More balloon measurements as high as the mesosphere are needed."

Bruce said at January 18, 2010 3:39 PM:

The IPCC guesstimated CO2 lifetime at up to 200 years. It may be as low as 5.

The IPCC guesstimated that the Himilayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. It might be 2350 or later.

Never, ever believe anything the IPCC says (or anything anyone who works for the IPCC says).

Engineer-Poet said at January 18, 2010 6:07 PM:

Okay, Bruce.  Let's see you support this "as low as 5" claim.  I'd go for experiment:  eliminating fossil CO2 emissions and seeing what happens.

Bruce said at January 19, 2010 2:39 PM:

"The first assessment report, in 1990, said that CO2's lifetime is 50 to 200 years. The reports in 1995 and 2001 revised this down to 5 to 200 years. Because the oceans suck up huge amounts of the gas each year, the average CO2 molecule does spend about 5 years in the atmosphere.. "



EP: eliminating fossil CO2 emissions and seeing what happens.

Well ... only 3% of the CO2 is attributed to man ... therefore all of it would disappear into the oceans in 5 years or so. Nobody would notice a thing.

"Anthropogenic (man-made) CO2 additions comprise (11,880 / 370,484) or 3.207% of all greenhouse gas concentrations, (ignoring water vapor)."


Bruce said at January 19, 2010 5:10 PM:

"In a paper recently published in the international peer-reviewed journal Energy & Fuels, Dr. Robert H. Essenhigh (2009), Professor of Energy Conversion at The Ohio State University, addresses the residence time (RT) of anthropogenic CO2 in the air. He finds that the RT for bulk atmospheric CO2, the molecule 12CO2, is ~5 years, in good agreement with other cited sources (Segalstad, 1998), while the RT for the trace molecule 14CO2 is ~16 years."


"The first assessment report, in 1990, said that CO2's lifetime is 50 to 200 years. The reports in 1995 and 2001 revised this down to 5 to 200 years. Because the oceans suck up huge amounts of the gas each year, the average CO2 molecule does spend about 5 years in the atmosphere."


Engineer-Poet said at January 20, 2010 5:20 AM:

Ah, the "lifetime" argument.  Never mind that the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere, the biosphere and the oceans can make the residency time of any given molecule rather short without removing any net carbon from the air.

That's already on the list of deceiving arguments used by denialists.  Way to lie, Brucetroll.

Bruce said at January 20, 2010 7:42 AM:

Poor EP. Facts mystify him. Asks me for evidence abour CO2's lifetime in the air, I provide it and then he claims he asked for evidence about "net carbon".

Look idiot, the earth has numerous processes for creating and usig Co2. Man's contribution to CO2 is about 3%. Mans contribution to "greenhouse gasses" is a paltry .28% when water vapor is taken into account.

The most likely reality is that the earth warmed a little after the Little Ice Age, and a slightly warmer ocean holds less CO2 than a slightly colder one. Mans contribution is very very small.

The earth most likely stopped warming around 2000 and has just fluctuated a little up and down as it usually does.

Its still isn't as warm as the MWP or the Roamn Optimum.

Its extra-pathetic that you use a term traditionally reserved for those who deny the holocaust took place (deniers) against those who don't accept the lies the IPCC tells based on severely flawed models.

The IPCC lied about many, many things (including CO2 lifetime in its early report) and about glaciers disappearing in the Himilayas and about warming being all evil when in fact their was massive benefits to a slightly warmer earth.

Escpecially when the IPCC lies about "unprecedented warming" are based on ONE tree in Yamal.

Engineer-Poet said at January 21, 2010 2:31 AM:

Let me explain to you why your "removal rate" is bogus.  There's a swimming pool with a hose feeding it.  I want to know how long the hose can run before the pool is full and overflow runs the risk of washing out the base.

You say, "Don't worry about it!  The filter is running, and the residence time of water in the pool is only 3 hours!  The hose can't overflow it."

Of course, for every water molecule going from pool to filter there's one going from filter to pool.  The only NET removal is evaporation, which is much less than the input from the hose; the pool overflows, your "logic" notwithstanding.

If your explanation held water, the increase in world CO2 levels over historic would be about 5 times annual human inputs (20% per year removal).  That's about 10 ppm over the base of 285 ppm.  One look at the Keeling curve proves you wrong, and your "de-mystification" is, to put it charitably, a "creative" misinterpretation of the actual science.

That's the epitome of trollishness.  I'm astounded that Randall hasn't banned you yet.

Paul said at January 21, 2010 1:50 PM:

Bruce: there is a difference between the average residence time of a molecule of CO2 in the air, and the response time of the system to an increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.

The latter can be much greater than the former.

Alan Kyro said at May 1, 2010 1:28 PM:

Global warming debunked with “SCIENTIFIC” truth!
Carbon dioxide does not have some mystical power to absorb or hold heat.
There are basic well proven scientific principles that govern how any material heats up. Our building codes make use of this science every day when heat loads are calculated for a building.
It does not matter what the material is, it always takes one BTU of heat applied for one hour to raise one pound of mass one degree Fahrenheit. Carbon dioxide does not have much mass compared to water vapor and water droplets, or the total mass in the air. There is a lot more mass in water vapor and droplets than there is in dry air, therefore the mass of the dry air is insignificant compared to the mass of water vapor and droplets. In addition, when the sun heats up snow or water to form vapor, it requires approximately one thousand BTUs applied for one hour to make the phase change for each pound of mass. The mass of water does not get warmer while making the phase change; the heat is all going into the phase change. Once it changes phase then the temperature will rise again. What wonderful air-conditioning properties!
Back in about 1980 I had a class on Air Pollution as a part of the civil engineering ciriculum.
They taught us way back then that when the sun strikes a dark colored object it changes wave length and then the CO2 absorbs the heat. Somehow the other gases did not do this. They never explained the mysterious property that CO2 had. A closely related fact that was not discussed in air pollution class is that when the sun hits snow it reflects back into space going out as easy as it came in with a very small warming effect. The CO2 does not absorb light reflecting off snow very well.

A couple of days ago the light came on a while after making an excel spreadsheet for calculating heating loads for a house. It must have been an answer to prayer that removed the false teaching, leaven of Herod (false teaching by political leaders) we are suppose to beware of. Here it is. All materials are created equal at the level of mass. It does not matter what it is. It is all about mass. Carbon dioxide does not have some mystical power to hold heat. There are some basic scientific principles that govern how any material heats up no matter what the material it is; it always takes one BTU of heat applied for one hour to raise the temperature of one pound of mass one degree Fahrenheit. The only thing in the atmosphere holding or absorbing heat is mass. In the engineering of heat calculations they always look at the mass of air as a constant. The level of CO2 has a very small effect on the big picture. The mass of air has not changed. It is going back and forth with the plant animal cycles between oxygen and carbon dioxide. All the carbon buried in the ground use to be plant and animal life (it is organic) from before the flood, so it was in balance before it got buried, so it will still be in balance if it all comes out of the ground again, but it is not possible to get it all out of the ground again.

The real significant mass in the air is water vapor and water droplets. Ever notice in the winter how much warmer it gets when it is cloudy versus clear and cold. Ever notice how it really gets extremely cold in the winter when the water vapor freezes out of the air. There is much less mass to hold in the heat. It isn’t until the clouds roll in again that the air temperature warms up significantly.

Here is the biggest single factor by a thousand times. When the sun warms water (dew, puddles, lakes, and oceans) and the liquid water changes phase to vapor it takes an incredible amount, approximately one thousand BTUs applied over one hour to change one pound of water to one pound of vapor. And the temperature does not rise because of this process; it is all going into the phase change, not into temperature rise. What a wonderful air conditioning property. What this means is the water is absorbing most of the sun's heat without raising one degree in temperature, and not until after it becomes vapor it can raise in temperature again. But we all know warmed vapor rises until the atmosphere becomes so thin and cold that it condenses again at the level of the bottom of the clouds and higher. The heat is then given off with another phase change into the thin air in upper or outer space that cannot hold it very well because of so little mass, and the vapor that is now water again falls as rain cooling the air it falls through. The hottest recorded temperatures are all in deserts where it can get well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit where there is little water to absorb the sun's heat at ground level without raising the temperature, because of the awesome property water has with phase change. The most temperate regions are near or over the oceans because of the water phase change effect. In real humid climates it rarely gets much over 90 degrees. The only thing we could do to affect the suns warming ability is to keep the lawn green with water and start recovering deserts with wet plant life and protect rainforests from devastation. There is already so much water on the earth our redistribution would have a small overall effect. Remember, plants eat carbon dioxide and give off oxygen and provide food, shade, shelter and thousands of other products for people and animals so it would be worth having more plant life anyway.

Imagine for just a moment if carbon dioxide could be heated up only, or faster, than the other air molecules, or that the other air molecules do not heat up!
Let us say this could somehow happen for one mystical moment in time. As soon as the carbon dioxide became warmer it would start to rise faster than all the other gases it was in the middle of because it would get lighter as it heated up. The other air molecules would remain cool while the carbon dioxide heated up. The faster carbon dioxide would rise through the atmosphere, the faster it would “cool off” as it rises into thinner and colder atmospheres, further and further away from the heating source of the sun warmed ground. And the remaining other cool gases would remain down low. This is how ridiculous it is to say it is all about carbon dioxide and not about mass.
The U.S. Department of Energy did a study on algae and they found out that if you pump carbon dioxide into the water algae will grow faster. I wonder how global warmists plugged this into their computer model. This would wreck their whole calculation if you considered the effect of “ALL” the plants using it up faster.
Another fact that is ignored by global warmists is that when the sun strikes snow on the ground it reflects back into space just as easy as it came in. Ever notice how the temperature drops about ten degrees or more after we get snow on the ground for the first time in the late fall. It is only when sun hits a dark colored object that a warming effect takes place, and then it is able to heat up “ALL” the various air and water vapor molecules.
Remember, the only source of the heat is from the sun, and the sun does not even shine for a long period in the winter at the poles. So when the heater is turned off for a long time the temperature will always drop well below freezing at the poles in the middle of winter when there is snow on the ground and the vapor is frozen out of the air.
Moving along now to even simpler math and science concepts, let us consider the false threat of flooding from global warming. Check your basic research skills against this fact. It takes a number times ten to the fourteenth power in gallons to raise the oceans “only” one quarter of an inch. Another fact that is totally ignored by global warmists is that “IF” all the ice were to melt on the poles, it would not go into the oceans “ONLY”, it would also go into the soil, the water table underground, the lakes, the rivers, and the atmosphere. Just how much water can a few thousand feet of atmosphere hold if it were a few degrees warmer? Warm air can hold more vapor than cool air. And do not forget, the ice in the Arctic Ocean is already displacing ocean water, so the level would not change if ice already in the ocean water melted. It might even drop a little because ice takes up more volume than water does.
Demystified Scientific Disclosure by Alan Kyro, sticking to the simple scientific facts,

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