Arrhenius – Earth To Boil

23 Oct 1902, Page 1 – The News-Herald at

And 115 years later, Stephen Hawking was parroting the same nonsense.

Stephen Hawking: Earth Could Turn Into Hothouse Planet Like Venus | Live Science

Arrhenius made a fundamental error in that he didn’t recognize  H2O is a greenhouse gas.  Knut Angstrom pointed this out in 1901, and showed experimentally that adding CO2 has very little impact on climate.


Rasool and Schneider confirmed this in 1971.


I generated this graph using the RRTM-LW model, which shows how little impact CO2 and CH4 have on earth’s radiative balance.  Even a huge increase in CO2 or CH4  has minimal impact on climate.  H2O is far and away the dominant greenhouse gas on earth.

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48 Responses to Arrhenius – Earth To Boil

  1. Norilsk says:

    How can the Earth warm to a boil like Venus with an atmosheric pressure of 14.7 psi and a CO2 level of only .04%? Venus is hotter than Mecury because it has an atmoshere, a thick atmoshere. So you can’t say Venus is hotter because it’s closer to the Sun. Basic physics tells us that the high air pressure on Venus generates the heat.

    • RealUniverse says:

      The heat on Venus is totally accounted for by gas laws not any GHG effect.
      Yes 100bar – 450C! The IR reaching Venus (very high albedo as pointed out) surface is very small even though it is closer to the Sun. Mercury has no atmosphere therefore its surface temperature is meaningless in terms of gasses.

      • Phil. says:

        So why isn’t the nitrogen in the cylinders in my lab (2,000 psi) hot?
        Near the surface of Venus the atmosphere certainly doesn’t obey any gas laws (not even the non-ideal gas ones) since the CO2 is super-critical.

        • RonnyLee says:

          Because the heat generated to get that nitrogen into the cylinder was dissipated during the work expended to get it there. Also, your gas cylinder is not a massive, gravitational body, continuously rotating in space–orbiting close to an incandescent Sun–which acts as a continuous forcing pump. Let the nitrogen quickly out of your cylinder and see the freezing cold (equal, opposite reaction) that is generated. Do you understand fluid dynamics and head pressure? By your logic, cylinders full of CO2, exposed to a heat source, would be hotter than those full of nitrogen or other gasses.

          • Phil. says:

            Exactly my point, RealUniverse, to whom I was responding, asserted that the temperature on Venus is “totally accounted for by gas laws”, and that “100bar-450ºC”. Like you I know that to be incorrect.

    • Archie says:

      I’m still not clear on how high pressure alone can account for the heat since after compression it would cool. Doesn’t atmosphere act more like an insulating blanket, keeping heat in?

      • Disillusioned says:

        When I pump my car tires, I fill them to about 40 PSI. The friction caused adds some warmth, and yes that warmth escapes.

        The atmospheric pressure on Venus is ~1330 PSI, or about 90 times greater than the pressure at sea level here on Mama Gaia, which is about 14.5 PSI.

        There is no blanket high in the stratosphere, nor at the top of the troposphere, where the predicted carbon dioxide-caused “hot spot” at the equator was supposed to be proof of the “greenhouse effect.” It does not exist. Heat is dissipating [escaping] into space as it always has.

        CAGW is a massive fail. It is long past the time to throw it on top of the mountain of failed scientific hypotheses.

      • Ed Bo says:


        It isn’t the increased pressure itself that does it — it’s the increased “optical thickness” that goes along with it. That is, for a given atmospheric composition, twice the “amount” of atmosphere results in twice the surface pressure, and also twice the absorption of surface radiation.

        When an atmosphere is more opaque to longwave surface radiation than it is to shortwave solar radiation (and this is the case for all planetary atmospheres that we know about), it generally gains energy near (or at) the bottom, and loses it from near the top. This is is what creates the negative lapse rate (temperature decreasing with height) that we usually see.

        But basic physics tells us that if the magnitude of the negative lapse rate exceeds adiabatic, convection will occur, rapidly taking warmer air from lower heights to higher heights, where it can radiate to space much more readily. Lapse rates larger than adiabatic are therefore called “unstable”.

        This phenomenon sets a firm upper limit on how much “greenhouse warming” can occur in a given atmosphere. Fundamentally, it is the product of the adiabatic lapse rate and the “emission height” of the atmosphere.

        While it is certainly possible that increasing the concentration of absorbing gasses like CO2 could raise the emission height slightly, this is a marginal effect. Venus has so much more atmosphere than Earth that its emission height is tens of times higher than on earth. So it is not possible to get a “runaway” warming from the type of CO2 increases we are seeing.

        People who claim we could face runaway warming simply do not understand the underlying physical mechansims.

        • Robert Austin says:

          Ed Bo,
          Good explanation.
          I would add that if one looks at the atmosphere of Venus from the 1 bar altitude up, the temperature and temperature profile looks remarkably similar to that of Earth’s from sea level up. To me, this is an indication that the hot surface temperature is largely governed by the density of the Venusian atmosphere and the high concentration of CO2 is irrelevant. The Venusian atmosphere with an equivalent mass of Nitrogen substituted for the CO2 would be similarly hot.

          • Ed Bo says:


            I don’t quite agree. You do need the absorption of longwave surface radiation to be greater than that for shortwave solar radiation to set up the negative lapse rate in the first place. Nitrogen does not provide that.

            But the fact that a lapse rate larger than adiabatic cannot persist puts a firm upper limit on the warming effect. Many alarmists do not understand this.

      • Norilsk says:

        Archie, The surface heat is virtually constant at about 460 C, night and day, poll to equator. At the highest point on Venus the temperature is about 380 C, so it is a similar response to Earth. It certainly doesn’t have runaway global warming as is claimed, since the heat is constant. On Venus you have to get to an elevation of at least 50 km to approach an Earth type pressure.

        So if the CO2 is trapping the heat, why isn’t increasing?

  2. Georg Thomas says:

    Empirical testing/refutation of CAGW (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) is of the essence, of course.

    Very important empirical results have been produced that refute CAGW, amply ferreted out recorded by Real Climate Science.

    However, there is another angle from which the subject needs to be approached: the chemistry and physics of CO2.

    I have criticised my fellow sceptics for not paying enough attention to the physics and chemistry of CO2, which holds the key to direct refutation of CAGW.

    I am not natural scientist enough to get involved in, let alone spearhead, such efforts, instead I am very slowly accumulating insights from that front – which actually seems to rely in large measure on long-standing knowledge. One wonders why these scientific findings did not act as deadly circuit breakers for CAGW.

    An excellent synopsis is available here:

    • Jason Calley says:

      Hey Georg! Facts will not refute political and emotional beliefs. CAGW was never about science.

      • Robertv says:

        Some countries even have still a decent news channel left.

        Geologist and earth scientist Ian Plimer says the globe is not facing a climate emergency, telling Sky News that “we are actually still living in an ice age.”

        • Disillusioned says:

          Thanks Robertv. I get a big grin on my face every time I watch Mr. Plimer. Conservatives know the data. Alarmunists only know the propaganda talking points. CAGW is a dead hypedpothesis walking.

      • Georg Thomas says:

        Hi Jason Carey,

        In a way, I am sympathetic to your view. People over here in Germany are trapped in a state of emotional conditioning such that it is enough to claim something is hurting the environment, and they will accept it without checking. In fact, they will accept any pseudo-ecological nonsense.

        In this way, the Greens have managed to destroy environmental consciousness/discernment/competence/concern in Germany and replaced it with a thoroughly unecological religion.

        However, it is fortunate that there are still people like Tony who care about ecological facts — and the scientific method behind it.

        Relentless dissemination of the correct method of dealing with environmental issues is an important factor in reverting to proper respect for science.

        Alarmism is full of contradictions and beginning to hurt people in their real lives.

        Most people experience “catastrophic global warming” in a vicarious manner. But even here in Germany, their alarmist convictions prove very thin, the moment alarmism becomes a palpable event: they quickly turn against it, when there is suddenly the noise of a wind turbine to be heard in their living room.

        For most, believing in CGW is a convenient way to be like everybody else, which in itself makes life easier (you can’t get closer to absolute truth than believing what everybody else believes, and you save the effort of thinking for yourself).

        Alarmism is going to hurt people increasingly, and this growing pain will prove just how shallow alarmist convictions are. Political forces will arise that take up and reinforce this trend and the dominoes will start to tumble.

  3. Petit_Barde says:

    Manabe & Möller did a great article about active gases in the infrared spectrum and the heat balance of the atmosphere :

    See also Kondratyev – Radiation in the atmosphere – chap. 11, Temperature variation in the atmopshere due to radiative heat exchange.

    All these studies concluded that the CO2 cools the atmosphere (see the chapter on heat budget in the Manabe & Möller article p.525).
    The only area where some could desagree (Plass, Goody for example) were at the tropopause at tropical latitudes (see Manabe & Möller article).

    Later, the tenants of GCM models told us that the warming effect of the CO2 should be very important in this same area and that this should be observed with the increase of the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere.

    Despite the observed CO2 concentration increase in the last 40 years, 40 years of satellite data (from UAH) showed no such warming in the tropical tropopause area.

    • rah says:

      Yep! The perpetual hot spot in the upper troposphere over the tropics which the assumptions and physics the climate models that project out of control warming demands has never shown. And still they go on as if the projections of those models are correct.

  4. The problem is not that water vapor is a GHG and absorbs a lot, the problem is that albedo is modulated by water condensation. Albedo is not a fixed value at 0.305, it varies during the day to reflect solar as needed. The entire planet is albedo controlled, and NO gas is going to do anything about that. More heating gives exponentially more evaporation, which results in higher cloud mean coverage, and higher precipitation turnover.

    Shading is the first control, latent heat is 2nd. Latent heat can go over 1 million watts/m^2 (at the highest rain rate) (and it can’t be radiated away at that rate, so the heat moves into adjacent “grid cells”). The total size explains the total thunderhead area compared to the raining area (about 500x area at 1″ per hour)

  5. Phil Salmon says:

    Another scientist who is agreed with the Arrhenius story was Albert Einstein.
    Albert Einstein, in his 1917 paper:

    says this about radiative heating of a gas:

    During absorption and emission of radiation there is also present a transfer of momentum to the molecules. This means that just the interaction of radiation and molecules leads to a velocity distribution of the latter. This must surely be the same as the velocity distribution which molecules acquire as the result of their mutual interaction by collisions, that is, it must coincide with the Maxwell distribution. We must require that the mean kinetic energy which a molecule
    per degree of freedom acquires in a Plank radiation field of temperature T be

    kT / 2

    this must be valid regardless of the nature of the molecules and independent of frequencies which the molecules absorb and emit.

    “Regardless if the nature of the molecules and independent of the frequencies at which molecules absorb and emit.”

    Only now are people coming to understand what Einstein meant – that the absorption-emission phenomena at the heart of the CO2 warming conjecture account for a small fraction only of atmospheric heat dynamics. The majority of heat movement is by Maxwellian momentum transfer interactions, as well as convection and evaporation.

    • Petit_Barde says:

      Indeed, a fundamental article from Einstein.

      You surely meant “who disagreed” …

    • Phil Salmon says:

      Yes I meant “disagreed”

    • Tel says:

      The molecule which absorbs a photon becomes excited, and can then re-radiate some short time afterwards. This is elastic in as much as no energy is lost and all the energy comes out in the same form that it went in. However entropy increases because the new radiation goes in some random direction, and the general name for this is “scattering”.

      If you have an infra-red radiator (i.e. Earth) in a pure vacuum, then all radiation will travel away from the radiator. If the same infra-red radiator is surrounded by a scattering “blanket” of atmosphere, then it will radiate slightly less efficiently because scattering changes the direction of some radiation back towards the original radiator. NOTE: the radiator still cools down, thermodynamics does what it says on the box and heat moves away from the hot radiator towards the cool surrounding space. However, it simply cools down somewhat less efficiently.

      However, if the molecule absorbing the photon (the excited molecule) has a collision with another molecule before it can re-radiate then it might transfer that energy into heat within the gas and never radiate out the photon. This is energy in the photon being converted to kinetic energy which then disperses out into your standard distribution of energy amongst the mechanical degrees of freedom. The reverse process can also happen: the gas does slightly radiate as by random chance the exact set of collisions manages to achieve excitation in a molecule (reverse energy conversion). This process is inelastic and also entropy increasing. Therefore in aggregate the Earth will radiate at somewhat longer wavelength than it would otherwise. How significant this effect becomes depends on whether the excited molecule is more likely to have a collision, or more likely to re-radiate. At low atmospheric density, collisions are rare so most scattering is elastic.

      All of these effects are quite small and largely irrelevant. The lion’s share of the surface heat from Earth is moved by convection of water which carries the latent heat of evaporation. This has a number of effects, lifting surface heat up to the tropopause (thus increasing the surface area of the radiator, allowing it to cool more efficiently) and also shunting heat away from the place where the sun is shining and sideways to cooler regions (thus also increasing the surface area of the radiator, and redistributing heat to create a much larger part of the Earth’s surface comfortable for life).

      We already have an experimental test of what temperature on Earth’s surface would be like without any atmosphere. You might be surprised but it’s nothing like what the so called “climate scientists” say it would be. The hot patch would be 400K (very hot) and the cold regions down around 120K (freezing cold), with almost zero percent of the surface being comfortable for life. This is a solid empirical result having been measured from the surface of the moon.

      Thus, in terms of life on Earth, what matters almost entirely is the heat transport and temperature stabilizing effect of water convection. The infra-red scattering effect (while real) is two tenths of bugger all in the scheme of things. Water is highly non-linear so very small increase in the surface temperature of the sea, has a massive increase in evaporation. For this reason the surface temperature of the Earth’s oceans cannot get significantly hotter than 303K and we have excellent empirical measured data for that as well, coming from the Argo buoys.

      • Phil. says:

        The molecule which absorbs a photon becomes excited, and can then re-radiate some short time afterwards. This is elastic in as much as no energy is lost and all the energy comes out in the same form that it went in.

        Not true, it’s inelastic, in the case of fluorescence the energy of the photon that is emitted is lower than the energy of the exciting photon.

  6. DMA says:

    ( ) for radiosonde evidence that the atmosphere obeys the ideal gas law and no greenhouse effect is present. It falsifies the greenhouse warming hypothesis that is being used as fact to support the claims of “climate crisis” that are frightening and demoralizing our children and youth.
    So the the mechanism causing the “crisis” is itself missing and could not have been the cause of recent warming let alone any crises resulting from any warming that they might have measured no matter its cause.
    It is interesting that both Angstrom’s refutation of Arrhenius mentioned in the main post and the Einstein postulate mentioned by Phill Salmon above are presented in this video.

  7. NavarreAggie says:

    You cannot refute a religion or ideology with data or experiment.

    This topic is beyond the scientific debate because it ceased being a scientific hypothesis long ago when it morphed into a vehicle for totalitarian control.

    No amount of scientific data, experimentation or endeavor will open the eyes of true believers. They are merely useful idiots by those seeking to impose worldwide communism on the weak-minded, ignorant, and uneducated.

  8. RealUniverse says:

    Hawking and Arhenious were both wrong.
    Hawking, I know he did allot for the promotion of astrophysics to the public, but his theory is wrong! (As Feynman would have said). His Freidman model of the Universe starting from a singularity is WRONG!. His black holes dont exist. He didnt start life as a nuclear physicist (unlike Hoyle). You can push neutrons together like balls, the universe wont let you. Therefore gravity cannot surpass neutron degeneracy. No black holes!
    The Big Bang theory is the Big BS Theory.

  9. JeffK says:

    The basic flaw in their hypothesis is CO2 would concentrate itself to a “thin layer” like glass in a greenhouse. They’ve been assuming this for over 100 years, the idiots!

  10. Aussie says:

    Methane cannot be considered a functioning greenhouse gas as where it absorbs in the spectrum we already have water vapour absorbing. It is not a problem at all. (and it disappears within a few years anyway)

    See link below.

    And for the Stephen Hawkings of this world if we look back at the geological record we see many times the current CO2 levels in the atmosphere and we had ice ages occurring at these levels.

    The science and past history tells us that CO2 is not an issue

    • Terry Shipman says:

      It makes me wonder if Stephen Hawking was making a political argument as a closet leftist? A man of his intellect could surely understand that the geologic records clearly show that CO2 in the thousands of PPM in the past never led to a thermal runaway. In fact in certain instances CO2 was rising as temperature was falling. Hawking’s position puzzles me.

  11. JeffK says:

    But does increased H20 really increase temps, or decrease? Rain forests are cooler than deserts. Clouds increase shade on the surfaces below. Deserts have very little cloud cover.

    • arn says:


      Clouds decrease temperatures at day
      and increase them during night –
      this can be observed in any desert on cloudy days.

      Though the term increase is not realy correct
      as the clouds do not increase the temperatures at night they .
      They are more of an isolator that slows down the cooling process.

      Overall-the more clouds there are the lower the extremes of cold and hot weather = a more balanced climate,

    • Ed Bo says:


      There are many different things going on here, and temperature is an incomplete measure of the thermodynamics here.

      A much more complete measure is the “moist enthalpy” of the atmosphere, which includes the latent heat of evaporation involved in humid air.

      For example, the moist enthalpy of the air at 30C (86F) and 80% relative humidity — typical for summer days in humid areas — is significantly higher than that for air at 40C (104F) and 20% RH, which is typical for deserts in the summer.

      The reason for this is that much of the solar energy in a moist region evaporates water rather than increasing temperatures. This happens much less in a desert region.

  12. Jeff Jones says:

    that first clip is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. Reminded me of killing ants with a magnifying glass.

  13. G W Smith says:

    Great post, Tony! This gets at the heart of the myth and even gets Einstein aboard.

  14. Tel says:

    There’s two measurements which demonstrate that the surface temperature of Venus cannot be driven by the mechanism whereby sunlight heats the surface which then fails to efficiently radiate away the heat via infra red because of CO2 scattering of that outgoing radiation (that being the description of the driver of Global Warming on Earth).

    First important measurement is that not much sunlight even gets to the surface on Venus … there is such thick cloud that direct sunlight simply cannot penetrate. So that’s one part of the theory out the window.

    Second even more interesting measurement is that Venus has an orbit such that the “day” very nearly matches the “year” resulting in a long period of full sun on one side, with a long period of dark on the other side. Surprisingly, both sides of the planet’s surface are the same temperature to within a degree or two. So that’s the whole theory of Venus greenhouse completely busted (from a surface temperature perspective at least).

  15. Phil. says:

    I generated this graph using the RRTM-LW model, which shows how little impact CO2 and CH4 have on earth’s radiative balance. Even a huge increase in CO2 or CH4 has minimal impact on climate. H2O is far and away the dominant greenhouse gas on earth.

    Except of course that on Earth water is a liquid not a gas, to increase the vapor pressure by a factor of ten as Tony has shown in his graph would require a surface temperature of about 50ºC.

    • AlJones1816 says:

      As I understand it, the increase Tony has modeled in water vapor is completely unphysical. I don’t think you could increase the atmospheric concentration that much without the earth being much, much warmer, as you say.

      Additionally, the radiative forcing for CO2 is dependent on water vapor concentration – for every factor-increase in water vapor you reduce substantially CO2’s radiative forcing (you can easily see this by planing around with U Chicago’s MODTRAN app*). So because Tony has run the model with completely unphysical assumptions about water vapor concentration, it has produced completely unphysical results about CO2’s radiative forcing. Hypothetically, yes, if earth were in a runaway hothouse state like Venus, where liquid water could not exist at the surface, adding CO2 would do essentially nothing. I don’t think that tells us anything important about today’s earth, though.

  16. Michael says:

    Thank you for your informative videos, Mr. Heller.
    I have a question concerning CO2 level rising as a result of temperature increase. Available sources mention that CO2 levels rise around 800-1,000 years after temperature rise.
    Could it be that CO2 levels rise in the past century should be explained as the resulf of the temperature rise during the Medival warm period?
    Looking forard to your insight.

  17. gatchaman says:

    Why doesn’t someone replicate Dr Koch’s experiment from over a hundred years ago and publish the results?

    I am disheartened by the lack of experimentation on both sides of the global warming debate. If the greenhouse gas effect is understood then it can be modeled. I eagerly await a demonstration in which CO2 is controlled and temperature (or IR radiation) is measured.

    • Disillusioned says:

      I am disheartened by the lack of experimentation on both sides of the global warming debate.

      There has been plenty of experimentation. The AGW hyperbole … I mean hypothesis … assumes there will be amplified warming from greenhouse forcing above the equator at the top of the troposphere – a “hot spot.” Observational datasets from both satellite and radiosondes (weather balloons) have not yet found it.

      It will be found sometime between now and 2030. The operators will make sure of it. /

      • gatchaman says:

        You are describing observations in nature. The experimentation I am describing is physical modelling. CO2 concentration can be controlled. Temperature (or IR radiation) can be measured. The results can be graphed. Let’s see the relationship between CO2 and temperature (or IR radiation) in the lab. Does anyone else think that a real world replication of Koch’s experiment, videoed and presented on youtube, would be more convincing than referencing the unpublished over 100-year-old data?

    • Gator says:

      The greenhouse gas effect is not understood. That is the whole problem. After decades of failed model attempts, this should be abundantly obvious to everyone by now. It’s time we bury this dead hypothesis.

  18. Wolfgang Black says:

    Stephen Hawking: Earth Could Turn Into Hothouse Planet Like Venus

    Sure, it is possible but I think as likely as monkeys flying out of Hawking’s butt.
    Maybe when the sun turns into a red giant but that is so far off that there is a good chance at least a few monkeys fly out of someone’s butt before then.

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