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Are automobiles a major cause of global warming?

gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
Just read a couple news stories on global warming. It seems the scientific community is as split as the population.

How important is global warming in Maine? Not important enough for local television.

Michael Palmer, the general manager of television stations WVII and WFVX, ABC and Fox affiliates in Bangor, has told his joint staff of nine men and women that when “Bar Harbor is underwater, then we can do global warming stories.”

“Until then,” he added. “No more.”

GHG in Maine


  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Colorado State University's William Gray, one of the nation's preeminent hurricane forecasters, called noted Boulder climate researcher Kevin Trenberth an opportunist and a Svengali who "sold his soul to the devil to get (global warming) research funding."

    Trenberth countered that Gray is not a credible scientist.

    "Not any more. He was at one time, but he's not any more," Trenberth said of Gray, one of a handful of prominent U.S. scientists who question whether humans play a significant role in warming the planet by burning fossil fuels that release heat-trapping gases.

    Hurricanes cause Tempest
  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,994
    I heard cattle manure is one of the major causes to global warming due to the methane produced at the feedlots. It does make a lil' sense to me.

  • Global warming is a directly observable fact. We also know that human activity is contributing to the warming of the earth. The scientific community is split, but, the split is like 99 to 1. Unfortunately, it is also a very complex issue when you try to get all the details worked out. The average person has a "meltdown" when you try to talk about the issue.

    As to your question, are autos a major player, probably not. Human activity contributes to the issue, however, at this point it is hard to say if human activity is causing 10% or 90% of the global warming. The auto contribution is also tough to nail down.

    Power plants add a fair amount of CO2 to the air. The good news is that CO2 injection in the ground looks promising. So I guess when we all buy electric cars the CO2 from the power plants will not be a problem. ;)

    Should we do anything on the auto front? Some tax breaks might be OK. As time goes on higher energy prices will likely reduce global warming contributions more than any government sponsored program.

    I for one am impressed by some of the new cars coming out. The new Altima and Sentra have some pretty good MPG numbers. Honda has also announced a more fuel efficient 2.4L motor. We will be seeing better diesels in the next few years and we now have the low sulfur fuel. Overall, I would say things are headed in the right direction from a global warming/pollution standpoint.

    The fact that the this general manager wants to screen the news, well, that does not surprise me. The analogy to killer bees was just dumb. Bees are important. They can also cause problems.
  • Last I checked...didn't the Government/Courts rule that there was no such thing as Global Warming?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I think you and I see it about the same. There is no reason to add CO2 if it can be avoided. The fact that we exhale the stuff is a contributing factor. The one scientist I talked to in Alaska, while he was studying ice formations, was of the same opinion. It is just not easy to put the blame on any one activity. There may not be anything we can do to change what is going on.
  • And what ever happened to that story about California trying to sue the automakers over global warming. I read the headline and the story in USA TODAY and then never heard anything else about it. Anyone heard what happened with that?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Probably the most sober thing we could say about it at this point in the research (because science, if it is good science, is always learning new things) is that global warming is definitely happening, and at an alarming rate, the causes of which are unclear, but to which a percentage must be ascribed man-made activity...and that automobiles, being a subset of man-made activity, are helping to accelerate what is probably a natural + man-made phenomenon in the first place.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Atmospheric carbon dioxide has been increasing for some time. Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas....) adds carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Automobiles by themselves are only a part of the fossil fuel problem.

    Carbon dioxide is a green house gas, meaning that it traps heat in the atmosphere, which leads to warming of the earths surface. The sunlight adds energy to the earths surface. This energy, which comes in as short wave energy, must be released back into space as long wave energy. Carbon dioxide slows the long wave energy transmission through the atmosphere.

    One point that should be noted, earth has had ice ages in the recent past. Perhaps, without the increased carbon dioxide, we are due for another? So, things could be worse, or at least an ice age would probably not be better.
  • oldharryoldharry Posts: 413
    The globe warmed about a quarter degree celsius between 1900 and 1950. From the early fifties till the late seventies, it cooled about an eigth degree C. That was when activists were screaming that global cooling would end all life on earth, and we 'must do something immediately'.

    Thirty years later, global warming is going to end all life on earth, according to the same people.

    Use of fossil fuels was not curtailed in the period of cooling. We have insufficient data to show human activity is a significant cause of global temperature change. Those who claim we do are invariably seeking money for their research, or have political goals.

    I support energy conservation for other reasons, but am not in a state of panic over global warming.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    These figures are from NASA and seem to imply a strong correlation between C02 gases and global mean temperature. I dunno. I got a c+ in statistics.

    Year CO2 Temp
    1959 315.98 14.07
    1960 316.91 14.01
    1961 317.65 14.07
    1962 318.45 14.04
    1963 318.99 14.09
    1964 319.52 13.83
    1965 320.03 13.90
    1966 321.37 13.98
    1967 322.18 13.98
    1968 323.05 13.96
    1969 324.62 14.08
    1970 325.68 14.02
    1971 326.32 13.89
    1972 327.46 14.00
    1973 329.68 14.12
    1974 330.25 13.89
    1975 331.15 13.94
    1976 332.15 13.86
    1977 333.90 14.11
    1978 335.50 14.02
    1979 336.85 14.10
    1980 338.69 14.16
    1981 339.93 14.22
    1982 341.13 14.07
    1983 342.78 14.25
    1984 344.42 14.07
    1985 345.90 14.04
    1986 347.15 14.12
    1987 348.93 14.27
    1988 351.48 14.30
    1989 352.91 14.19
    1990 354.19 14.37
    1991 355.59 14.32
    1992 356.37 14.14
    1993 357.04 14.14
    1994 358.88 14.25
    1995 360.88 14.38
    1996 362.64 14.24
    1997 363.76 14.40
    1998 366.63 14.56
    1999 368.31 14.33
    2000 369.48 14.31
    2001 371.02 14.47
    2002 373.10 14.54
    2003 375.64 14.52
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Look at 1959, when the CO2 was 315.98 and Temp was 14.07

    Then in 1984, CO2 was 344.42 and Temp was STILL 14.07
    And in 1982, CO2 was 341.13 and Temp was STILL 14.07

    Then between 1988 and 1989, CO2 went up and Temp went down.
    Again in 1990 and 1991, CO2 went up and Temp went down.

    The only "upward trend" I notice is that both data points went up together from 2000 thru 2003.

    But then 1998 was hotter than 2003, so how did CO2 fall into that equation?

    Anyway - science tells us that CO2 is a problem, and there are LOTS of other sources of CO2 besides cars.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788

    This paper reviews papers that have been published. There are a number of graphs that some of you may find interesting. You will need to read the paper to understand them and I do not claim to have a clear understanding myself.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    The only "upward trend" I notice is that both data points went up together from 2000 thru 2003.

    The only conclusion we can draw from that is the Hybrids have caused the increase in GHG :blush:
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    There were about 150,000 hybrids in the WORLD by the end of 2003, of about 500 million + cars and trucks and motorcycles in operation.

    So, YES, I'm sure they had a MASSIVEglobal warming effect. :P
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    You a funny guy, have a good week! How warm is it in Phoenix? I have friends from Alaska visiting your city for the first time.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Today's high to be 89/90/89 for Mon-Wed this week, lows in the upper 50s.

    currently 61 at 9:51 AM
  • rorrrorr Posts: 3,630
    "...and seem to imply a strong correlation between C02 gases and global mean temperature."

    Well, it would seem to show that higher CO2 levels occur at the roughly the same time as higher temps. Of course, it looks like CO2 levels are up not quite 20% since 1959 (375/315), while global temps are up by 'only' about 3.5% (14.5/14).

    Is it possible that the elevated CO2 atmospheric content is NOT just from the addition of CO2 from fossil fuels, but also from removing large swaths of earth's rainforest (removing portions of the CO2 sink)?
  • "Is it possible that the elevated CO2 atmospheric content is NOT just from the addition of CO2 from fossil fuels, but also from removing large swaths of earth's rainforest (removing portions of the CO2 sink)?"

    I would say yes. We can also add to that the trees that have been removed in temperate climates over the last few hundred years. Some scientist are even suggesting that there may be a problem with burying a lot of vegetation under water in reservoirs behind dams.

    So it appears that cars are just one of many things causing global warming besides methane producing termites and cows.

    I would make a hot air joke about politicians causing global warming, being that it is the day before elections here in the states, but we all know there is no evidence to support that theory :D
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    No hot Co2 gases spewing from us edumacated folks.
  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    Even a 'clean' diesel-powered 4x4 will produce cancer-causing soot and global warming CO2. Also, diesel exhaust fumes are a major contributing factor to acid rain.


    Global Warming
    Diesel exhaust not only threatens public health,it contributes substantially to global warming through emissions of carbon and other heat-trapping gases.
    Transportation is the source of roughly one-third of all heat-trapping gases released in the United States. This is more than most countries release from all sources combined.


    Diesel Soot adds to Global Warming

    It's dirty, smelly, causes respiratory and cardiovascular disease and shortens life, true, but now there's another reason to hate diesel exhaust: Its soot exacerbates global warming. Reducing soot emissions will slow global warming faster than will reducing carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gases, says a Stanford pollution expert.

    "If you want to control global warming, the first thing to go after is soot," says Mark Z. Jacobson, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. "But you should not neglect carbon dioxide. Controlling fossil-fuel soot will not only slow global warming but also will improve human health."

    So please don't try to give us the "diesel eliminates global warming" line. Not flying with this edumacated fellow. :shades:
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    Can you find any older anti-diesel smut to sell here? If you had studied the situation you would know that sulfur is the primary ingredient in the soot from diesel engines. So a study based on high sulfur diesel is of little value to an educated population. Get us some recent studies of modern diesel engines using ULSD and it will give your argument a bit more credence.

    The best selling car in America puts out about 1.5 tons more GHG per year than a VW TDI diesel car. That is based on high sulfur diesel. Think how much better the score with ULSD.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    If you want to talk about the relative change in temperature, you need to look at the absolute temperature, which in kelvin is celsius plus 273. However, if carbon dioxide is doubled, the expected change in temperature is about 2 to 5 degrees K.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    well I did use "correlation", not causation...which I think is the proper conclusion to make from statistics alone.

    HOWEVER---the polar ice is definitely absolutely, no argument, no contest......MELTING.

    Interestingly this is causing a big BEEF between USA and Canada, on Canada's right to supervise the Northwest Passage (previously nearly unpassable, but soon to be a major highway for anybody....or NOT anybody, if Canada gets its way).

    Unfortunately for Canada, they haven't much in the way of equipment to enforce their claim.

    WEIRD FACTOID: one future cause of global warming? Flat screen TVS, which use 3X normal electricity, which means more coal burning, etc......

    The point of all rambling post? That the problem of global warming will have to be addressed on a VERY broad front, not just cars....
  • That was an interesting article. Soot can come from a variety of sources, however.

    "In earlier work, Bond estimated that burning firewood -- the principal fuel for cook stoves in the developing world -- produces 800,000 metric tons of soot worldwide each year. In comparison, diesel cars and trucks generate about 890,000 metric tons of soot annually. These two sources each account for about 10 percent of the soot emitted into the world's atmosphere each year, she said."

    I agree with gagrice in that ULSD will have a beneficial impact in reducing global warming gases and soot.

    "The massive forest fire in Indonesia (1997/1998) released approx. 2.57 gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere (source: Nature magazine, November 2002). During 1997-1998, the total amount of Carbon Dioxide released to the atmosphere was 6 gigatonnes."

    This article suggests that forest fires might be one of the biggest GW contributors. Forest fires also produce a lot of soot.

    Again, it appears from the current evidence that autos are not a major source of global warming. Still, that does not mean we cannot work on reducing their contribution to the problem. If we are heading toward a tipping point, even a small reduction might help us avoid going over the edge.
  • Your weird factoid at first had me a bit puzzled. I was under the impression that the new TVs were more energy efficient. A quick Google search turned up an article at

    * Microdisplay rear projector: 0.11 to 0.15 watt per square inch
    * LCD: 0.16 to 0.41 watt per square inch
    * CRT: 0.25 to 0.40 watt per square inch
    * Plasma: 0.30 to 0.39 watt per square inch

    The 40 inch LCD was 214 watts. The 42 inch plasma TVs scored a toasty warm 357 & 360 watts. On the other hand, a 50 inch plasma TV was 229 to 236 depending on if the power save was on. The 20 inch LCD only used 18 watts.

    So I guess in the TV world, like the auto world, bigger is generally bad for global warming.

    More on topic, I find the trend in high HP cars a bit disappointing from a GW perspective. Do people really need a 262 HP Camry? How about the new Mercedes-Benz S65 AMG which has 604 hp and 738 lb ft of torque?

    HP = Heat & CO2 = Global Warming :(
  • Interesting discussion.
    My twist will be to know the actual effect air traffic is causing.
    The air traffic has increased exponentially in the last 25 years.
    I'm ignorant of what really causes this so called " global warming". But for sure would love to understand the effect of the emissions created by airplanes and in addition to that, if the effect is worst when emitting directly up at 35,000 feet.
    Just a thought. Also, what are the emmissions of one plane (commercial medium size) compared to cars. Is it 1 to 50, 1 to 1000?
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    compared to cars. Is it 1 to 50, 1 to 1000?

    I researched NoX from jets and cars. The latest cleanest Gulfstream emits 500 times as much NoX as a VW diesel car. When you consider how many 1000s of miles a Gulfstream will get flown in a year compared to a car it is a very significant. And the Gulfstream is clean compared to many military and commercial aircraft. The key is people flying in a Gulfstream have a lot more stroke than the average person driving in a car.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Are you factoring in the # of people on the planes, that is, "people-miles per NoX particle?

    For instance, I'm sure a city bus emits more NoX than a VW diesel, but it's carrying a lot of people per mile, so it works out to be better.
  • gagricegagrice Pahrump, NevadaPosts: 31,432
    I picked the Gulfstream as an upscale very efficient jet. I doubt they carry more than 5-7 people on most jaunts cross country. Diesel buses are a whole different situation. How many have any smog equipment? I would seriously doubt they are as clean per passenger mile as a new VW TDI. I think city buses in general are better than school buses. With school budgets always getting messed with, I can imagine that school bus upgrades are a very low priority in most districts.
  • sls002sls002 Posts: 2,788
    Global warming is caused by an increase in the "green house gases". Green house gases trap heat in the atmosphere. The basic heat balance of the earth is that the Sun sends short wave energy (light) to the Earth which passes through the atmosphere easily and heats the surface of the earth. This heat must then escape by radiating back through the atomosphere as long wave energy. Green house gases absorb long wave energy, so the heat at the surface passes part way through the atmosphere before it is absorbed. Then the atmosphere re-radiates the longwave energy, both upward and downward, so that some the longwave energy reheats the surface. More green house gases will trap the longwave energy closer to the surface so that less longwave energy gets out of the atmosphere.

    With say half the green house gases, the longwave energy may get half way out before absorbtion. Now, with twice the green house gases, the long wave energy may get absorbed twice before escaping. Actually, the longwave energy is absorbed continuously, and re-radiated continuously, but some longwave energy will escape without being absorbed. The effect of more green house gases is that less energy will escape from the surface to outer space directly. That means that more energy will re-radiate, which means that the surface will get more secondary heating from the re-radiated long wave energy trying to escape.

    I hope this helps.
This discussion has been closed.