Clouds’ Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters


This article is about how 97 percent of working climate scientists regard global warming as a serious risk. A small group of scientific dissenters offer us an alternative view based on their theory that the clouds will save us. Clouds, which can either, warm or cool the earth, depending on the type and location will shift to offset the expected temperature rise and preserve the adequate climate on which our world depends. Richard Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at MIT, is the leading proponent of this theory. Dr. Lindzen claims that clouds react to counter the effects of greenhouse gases on Earth. He believes that less coverage by high clouds in the tropic will allow more heat to escape to space thus countering the increase in temperature on Earth. Dr. Lindzen agrees that e agrees that: carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, that level of it is rising because of human activity and that this should warm the climate. He says the earth is not especially sensitive to greenhouse gases because clouds will react to counter them. Sunlight is Earth’s primarily source of energy. To maintain equilibrium, Earth returns the energy it receives to space primarily as heat. Clouds alter the energy flow in both directions. The low-lying clouds are mostly responsible for cooling Earth as they reflect considerable sunlight back to space. On the other hand are the high and thin clouds, which allow sunshine to pass through but also trap heat trying to escape to space thus increasing Earth’s temperature. Dr. Lindzen has said that when surface temperature increases, moist air rising in the tropics will rain out more of their moisture, leaving less to fall as ice, which forms the thin, high clouds known as cirrus. Just like greenhouse gases, these cirrus clouds act to reduce the cooling of the earth, and a decrease in cirrus would counteract the increase of greenhouse gases. Dr. Lindzen calls this mechanism the iris effect, which just as the iris of the eye that opens at night to let in more light, Earth’s “iris” would be open as cirrus decrease in number to let more heat escape. Dr. Lindzen suggest that we do not have to spend money to fight climate changes as nature (clouds) will adapt to counter act the effects of rising temperature, but the risk of uncertainty as to the accuracy of his theory is too high for us to gamble and remain idle in the mean time waiting for time to prove or disprove his theory.

-Sofia Guerra

Topic and category- Nutrient Cycles and Climate Change (global warming)

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