"Earth and Venus are almost exactly the same size, and have almost exactly the same amount of carbon. The difference is that most of the carbon on Earth is in the ground... and most of the carbon on Venus is in the atmosphere.
As a result, while the average temperature on Earth is a pleasant 59 degrees, the average temperature on Venus is 867 degrees. True, Venus is closer to the Sun than we are, but the fault is not in our star; Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury, which is right next to the Sun. It’s the carbon dioxide."
Al Gore's latest NYTimes oped is plenty scary, but the prospect of Earth falling prey to a Venereal meltdown " cosmic in scale " is less atmospheric science than the stuff of popcorn movies. The reflexive hyperbole that left millions of inattentive viewers of An Inconvenient Truth in terror of a 20 foot sea level rise within decades shows no sign of abating
Having literally no kind of atmosphere, Mercury has no legitimate place in his analogy--It literally exists in a vacuum, while far from being akin to Earth's our sister planet’s massive gas mantle exerts pressure enough to crush a submarine hull.
100 times more massive than the Earth's atmosphere, its veritable ocean of air is equal to 3000 feet of sea water with a concentration of CO2 two thousand times higher than the Earth's. What's more, it rotates only once in 243 earth days, and the two-month run-up to midsummer makes for a mighty warm high noon. Little wonder lead flows like water in its alien abyss
That's not scary enough for Al, -- in March he told Congress that Venus is "hotter the boiling point of lead." in reality Venus is over a thousand degrees cooler than the heavy metal's1,749 degree Celsius boiling point , but no one on the committee was scientifically literate enough to gainsay him. But why should he know better? For one thing, he inherited a major lead-zinc mine in Tennessee.
Reviewing An Inconvenient Truth , I gave Al a gentleman's C
,for keeping its factoid to fib ratio below 4 to 1. Not this time-
his abuse of scientific analogy has reached disaster movie
proportions. His expertise at blowing hot and cold is indisputable, but
mathematics is clearly not his metier. It's time to remind him that
sometimes a bad scientific analogy is worse than none at all.
What exactly is he trying to imply when he declares "Venus is three times hotter on average than Mercury"? That 289 F. is one third of the "867 Fahrenheit " he cites? "867 Fahrenheit " is indeed 463 Celsius, or 736 degrees above absolute zero, but while adding and dividing Earthly day and night temperatures by 2 may be convenient, the truth about planets twisting slowly in the solar wind is not easily captured by a single number Who would guess from Al's molten prose that Venus' acid upper troposphere is colder than the heights of Antarctica?
Mercury broils on one side while the other freezes in a vacuum, as cold as the dark side of the moon. And while lead can't boil on Venus, on Mercury, mercury can. With sunrise and sunset 88 Earth-days apart, it reaches 800 degrees Fahrenheit in Mercury’s noonday sun, and stays hotter than a pizza oven in Al's pool house for months on end. Yet Mercury’s dark side temperature is less than a third of 763 Kelvin- or “867 Farhenheit.” It’s minus 180C , or minus 292 F, - since Mercury has no kind of atmosphere, Al is pointing to an ephemeral band of equatorial twilight in motion.
Lacking a magnetic field, Venus lost its water vapor eons ago, as the solar wind stripped its atmosphere of hydrogen. Lacking water, it never had a hydrogeological cycle to rain out CO2 escaping from its volcanoes. So though similar in size, its geochemical evolution has been radically different , and its natural history simply does not speak to the fate of the Earth.
Yet Al's op-ed is not without educational value. It testifies to the hazards of polemic indifference to inconvenient scientific facts. If fuel reserves were infinite-- and they aare not, it would take two million years of today’s conspicuous coal and oil consumption to realize Al's fears.
We've only got one atmosphere, and turning it into pure CO2 simply beggars science fiction. Sending a fleet of gas interplanetary tankers to fetch hydrocarbons from Titan would need, but how would we pay for oxygen enough to burn their cargo? Could a LiveEarth concert help?
Let's see: 100 Earth atmospheres is about 75,000,000 tons per capita --Lord, the tickets are going to cost a mint.