Climate change

Warming is caused by water vapour

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 November, 2012, 2:21am

Numerous articles regularly appear in the South China Morning Post on cutting carbon dioxide emissions to tackle the problem of global warming.

However, cutting carbon dioxide cannot be the solution. Doing so may also be detrimental to the Hong Kong economy, leading to a loss of jobs, increasing the cost of electricity and further widening the gap between the rich and poor.

The conclusion drawn in the 2007 assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that carbon dioxide is mainly responsible for global warming, is now being reassessed. It is incorrect for a number of reasons.

The role of water vapour is grossly underestimated and that of carbon dioxide grossly overestimated.

Unlike carbon dioxide, water vapour in the atmosphere is rising in tune with temperature changes even on a monthly scale.

Furthermore, there is good correlation existing between sunspot cycles and global temperatures.

There have been advances in knowledge since the IPCC's 2007 report, revealing, for example, the underestimation of the contributions of stratospheric water vapour to decadal changes in the rate of global warming.

This discovery was made by a team under the leadership of Susan Solomon, lead author of the IPCC's 2007 report.

Heat generation rather than carbon dioxide emissions during the consumption of fossil fuels is the main problem because this leads to an increase in evaporation, causing more water vapour to enter the atmosphere. In Antarctic ice cores, the level of carbon dioxide lags the rise in temperature by 800 years.

Climate change is a complicated subject even at the regional level.

Articles promoting the reduction of carbon dioxide have warned of doom and gloom if such a reduction is not achieved. So it is excellent news for Hong Kong that carbon dioxide is not mainly responsible for global warming.

After all, our carbon dioxide emission per person must exceed that of the mainland because almost all of what is consumed locally is imported and transport-generated carbon dioxide emission is not fully taken into account.

If we are serious about tackling global warming, action is needed to reduce heat generation and the predominant atmospheric greenhouse gas - water vapour.

Wyss Yim, Pok Fu Lam