Return to Website

Number Watch Web Forum

This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

Number Watch Web Forum
Start a New Topic 
View Entire Thread
Re: (WT)^2 10/12/09

This is typical BBC and a wonderful piece of misdirection.
It says, for example:
"SF6 is 23,000 times more potent, weight for weight, than CO2, whereas CF4 endures in the atmosphere for about 50,000 years."
This is the sort of use of data popularised by the Activist sites like Oceana, Friends of the Earth and so on.
It fails to report any useful information other than that it was thought that of man's contribution to the greenhouse effect, these gases collectively accounted for 1% of anthrpogenic gases.
It does not say what proportion of the range of anthropogenic gases CF4 is or might be.
But the headline is:

"Emissions higher than thought."

and then:

"Emissions of some greenhouse gases are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists."

So, what is "substantially"? 10%? that would b substantial under many conditions.
50% more than substantial, I'd say.

Well suppose it is 100%.
That doubles their impact to 2% of the anthropogenic and the key anthropogenic gas we are told is CO2.
So just how serious should we take this piece of reporting?

Clearly the intent is that readers of a sensitive nature will interpret the headline badly because it is unqualified. How many, I wonder, suspected that it meant higher CO2 and have had that fear lodged somewhere in their minds even after they have read on.

Then we get to 23,000 times as potent but but while it says this of SF4 it says that CF4 endures about 50 years.
But it doesn't tell us how much less potent than SF4 it is nor how long SF4 endures in the atmosphere.
So for al we know, SF4 is emitted and is briefly in the atmosphere and then disappears and for all its potency has little or no effect.
It doesn't tell us how much of each of these gases is released.

It could be that the situation is far far worse but poor reporting has failed to catch on. But what is more likely given the BBC agenda, is that there is no real story here but an opportunity for alarmism and the use of "a Big Number".

The story is designed to exploit natural guilt and of course to blame nasty old industry.
But had there been any real meat in the story, then it would be there red top style.

But how could there be? CO2 is the villain because it comes from fossil fuels and every one uses those, not everyone thinks they use SF4. Plus the data and the models, which we are assured are correct, all point to CO2 don't they?
We ought to have several step changes in the rate of warming telling us that CO2 started to have an impact here, SF4 started to have an impact here (modern electronics is very short period) so where is the signature.
Of course, if we gave them some time they could change the "value added" algorithms to show exactly that. Give it a few years and someone's research will.