BBC Brain Fart on CO2 Specific Heat

On WUWT in comments on the story about the BBC and biased coverage, is a pointer at a BBC show that “purports” to “prove” global warming. Unfortunately, the “demonstration” pays no attention to “Specific Heat” and would get a flat out “fail” in high school chemistry.

Comment here:

The “story” with video is here:

The second presenter has a clearly paranoid moment where he decides some unknown “Agency” was behind the “hacking” of email and phones in Climategate.

As a computer pro who has done security, I can state that clearly the “hack” was not a hack and not particularly hard. It did not involve sucking out emails over years, but was rather a release of the FOIA Request archive and took fairly little special skill, only knowing what file to grab. I would suspect first that the FOIA folks were peeved at the lies they saw in the stuff and released it themselves.

But far far worse is the “demonstration” of CO2 as a “greenhouse gas” where one bottle is filled with “air” and the other with “air with a lot of CO2” added. This ignores “Specific Heat”. Two bottles, both given what is asserted to be equal heat input from electric lamps (and one just assumes they have the same actual heat production despite no calibration… and that the bottles are the same and the air flow is the same and…)…

OK, what IS the Specific Heat of air?


at 40 C or about 312 K, the specific heat is 1.005 while at 20 C, or about 292 K, it is… 1.005. So I think we can safely say, it’s about 1.005.

How about CO2? This chart is in K (so why I’ve shown K in the above list)

At 300 K (or near enough to that 292 – 312 K range) the specific heat of CO2 is 0.846. (At 275 K it is 0.819 and at 325 K it is 0.871 so it’s pretty much 0.8x in any case.)

The units in both cases are kJ/kgK or amount of energy (kiloJoules) per mass (kg) moved a degree K. Larger numbers take more energy to move a mass of “stuff” to a higher temperature.

OK, what does this mean?

It means that, for the same mass of air, it takes about 8/10 the energy to warm the CO2 to the same point. Put another way, the same energy will make the same mass of CO2 10/8 as hot, or 1.25 x as hot.

OK, the CO2 is heavier. Air is mostly nitrogen ( 2 x 14 ) and some oxygen (2 x 16 ) while CO2 is 12+( 2 x 16). So we do need to “mass correct” these two.


At STP (Standard Temp and Pressure) CO2 is 0.001977 and air is 0.001293. Make a ratio, 1.529 more mass of CO2 per volume at STP.

In theory, one could now divide those two to get the total offset of mass and specific heat: 1.529 / 1.25 = 1.223 times more heat needed to move the CO2 to warmer.


The “scientist” is generating the “CO2” via a vinegar / NaC03 reaction. So the CO2 is being generated very “wet”… The density of water vapor is 18 mass units per mole, not the 44 of CO2 (though per the wiki it’s 1.84 kJ/(kg-K).

So, just how much of this is CO2 and how much is water vapor? What is the temperature of the resultant gas? What is the relative mass of the two bottles of gasses? Just sooo much is unknown. Do any phase changes happen with the wet air vs the dry? Etc.

So then the “scientist” turns on the two warming lamps and finds, golly, the CO2 bottle is not warming as much… So they cut away for 10 minutes and then come back to find the CO2 bottle is now warmer. What happened in the “blank tape” time?

To me, this is no proof of CO2 as anything. It’s proof that a crappy experiment with too many uncontrolled variables can have a large error band. In this case, BOTH ways at different times.

This is, IMHO, pure crap.

If this is a “Top British Scientist” then Britain needs to give it up and find a new line of work.

I can think of worse examples of calorimetry, but not by much.

IMHO, it is, at best, pure unadulterated propaganda. BBC is either incredibly stupid, or lacking in all moral standards, or both.

THEN they go to Dr. Paranoia who has no clue what a hack is and what it takes (i.e. not very much) and leaps to the (bogus) conclusion that a variety of emails were collected (and, one presumes, redacted) by a hacker over months. WRONG. The FOIA file was “liberated” in a fast hit (and probably by a student at an inside terminal or by the FOIA officer who was appalled at what he’d had to collect and that it was being quashed.)

No “Agency” would do it this way. For that matter, no agency would want to do it. They have things they care about, but UEA emails is not one of them. And they certainly would not dump them onto a Russian site. Too easy for the Russians to see where it was coming from and then you “owe them”… Easier to just put it up on a variety of boards with poor logging and under your direct control.

No, Dr. Paranoia has no clue what he’s talking about.

All in all, just incredibly sad. That the (selected?) audience is buying it just shows they are clueless about chemistry / physics / computers and very gullible.

The once respected BBC joins the “reality shows” for being completely divorced from reality…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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14 Responses to BBC Brain Fart on CO2 Specific Heat

  1. R. de Haan says:

    Defying Climate Deal like appeasing Hitler: UK Minister


    Key BBC Trustee is climate activist

  2. Thanks, E. M. for the message.

    Leaders of nations, the news media, and scientific organizations are not stupid. Why do they act so?

    Thanks to the actions of Al Gore, the UN’s IPCC, and the response of world leaders, the news media, and scientific organizations to data manipulation in the Climategate affair, I was finally able to piece together puzzling events over my 50+ year career into a historical pattern that seems to make sense.

    The conclusion is not comforting, but it seems inescapable:

    Climategate, consensus science, social and economic unrest all seem to stem from the secret agreements made in China on the week of 21-28 February 1972. That week was described by Richard Nixon as, “the week that changed the world.”

    From my perspective as a PI for NASA’s Apollo program, that was the week when international agreements were reached to convert government science into a propaganda tool to unite nations against a common enemy – Global Climate Change !

    Here is the summary as pdf or word documents:

    Click to access 20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

    Comments or questions would be appreciated.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

  3. Adrian Vance says:

    I have a very nice paper on this at that documents CO2 is not only a trace gas in air, but a poor absorber of IR energy from sunlight compared to water vapor which is seven times better per molecule and has 80 times as many molecules generating 560 times as much atmospheric heating or 99.8% of it. CO2 only makes 0.2% of all atmospheric heating. Specific heat has nothing to do with it. IR absorption is the issue and any physicist or well-taught junior high school General Science student should know it.

    For sharp analysis, science and humor see The Two Minute Conservative at Now on Kindle.

  4. In my opinion, the greatest danger we face now is:

    a.) Not CO2-induced global warming
    b.) Not corruption of science (my first love), but
    c.) A tyrannical world government like “1984”.

    Check out Agenda 21 and ICLEI – “ICLEI is a UN accredited Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that implements the Action Plan of Agenda 21.”

  5. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    Steve G has some graphs he puts up sometimes which say it all. If Venus had an atmosphere as thick as Earth’s its temperature would be a bit warmer because its nearer the Sun, but not by much.

    In short a bottle of CO2 weighs roughly 50% more than a bottle of air. When you compare apples with oranges you get fruitloopery.

  6. Verity Jones says:

    LOL ‘Dr Paranoia’ is Professor Sir David King, former government Chief Scientific Advisor.

  7. Pascvaks says:

    It’s nearly impossible to look at or listen to anything or anyone that isn’t trying to sell you something. I’ve tried. Worse still, the “anyone’s” want you to pay for it in fees and taxes before you see or hear what they have to say or show you. Nothing’s free. You pay a lot more than you can imagine for anything the government wants you to buy.

  8. H.R. says:

    Everyone hold your noses. That wasn’t actually a brain fart by the BBC. It emanated a little further south of the waist thanks to all the fruitloopery they swallowed whole (loved that term, Bruce).

  9. Jerry says:

    Brain farts and earth burps (CO2 trigger of course – more study, funding required).

    Old Ernie spake it true “if the right one don’t get you then the left one will” Bing Sixteen Tons for context if this is afore yo time :)

  10. pyromancer76 says:

    The math-physics-chemistry lesson is excellent and thank you. Found the following comment on WUWT re the BBC post.

    “Anton says:

    July 23, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    The BBC has five billion in retirement funds invested in carbon trading. If they and others can’t keep the AGW scare going, their stock, already worth muss less than it cost, will become worthless. That’s five billion reasons to do what they’re doing.”

    Another commenter asked for a reference. If true, no wonder they are doubling-down on the idiocy for propagada purposes — unless the owners-managers-elite employees are not (and choose not to be) vested in a BBC pension and high stock prices to fund their lavish retirements. They don’t care about failing basic chemistry; they only care about lying to preserve their fraudulent gains and affluent lifestyles. How many others are like this? Are all the so-called reporters (and owners-managers?) of the so-called mainstream media dependent on retirements (and stock prices) that come from the AGW-carbon trading scam?

    (The comments above took on a life of their own below. I thought about deleting, but since you have a liberal (meaning “freedom”) commenting policy, I thought why not.)

    From another perspective, it (CAGW) can seem like a “reasonable” free enterprise effort with the original capital coming from tax payers (and “bleeding hearts” who gave a lot to “charities”, especially the environmental type; unfortunately I include myself). I have a product, “Save the World”; you wanna buy? From here we don’ need no leftist authoritarian conspiracy to explain the phenomenon; only a lot of “smart” people who have found a new way — outside the “old” economy where they did not “win” — to “get rich”. Maybe something like the Mafia during prohibition. Great “capitalists”.

    The vast majority of these new players, it seems to me, are bureaucrats, winning more and more pay (expense accounts, conference junkets, beautiful benefits packages, and lucious retirements) from U.S. fed and state govts, or the EU or individual European “nations” or the UN and their lackeys — politicians, mainstream media, professional societies, academics, NGOs or Non-Profits like The Sierra Club, etc. All of these lackeys want IN, too, on our, taxpayer, dime. Few of them get “fired” or “laid off”.

    In this sense, and only in this sense, I am not sure about “the socialism shiny thing” as much as I think this might be about a Hollywood version “capitalism” and the affluent life that can be won through smarts and hard work (lying in every which way about CAGW and Save the World). The efforts put into this lie are phenominal. What did it take John D. Rockefeller to gain vertical control of “oil” and become the, or one of the, “richest men in the world”? It seems to me that libertarians go gaga over the kind of “freedom” that Rockefeller had — and defrauded for — with no inclusion of the workers that made his enterprise profitable, or the environment, or the local societies. He, and others like him, sucked up most of the profits.

    In the U.S., it took two giant political battles to establish or reestablish “freedom of opportunity”. Then we got the opportunities of the twenties, but no increase in the necessity for transparency and accountability that maintains a “level playing field”. The “capitalist” “liars” (not including the Mafia) were given free reign. Now we have the “bureaucrat-capitalist” “liars” and their lackeys. Like all other “capitalists”, they will fight to the death to keep what is “theirs”. (A long-winded) therefore, the BBC is doubling-down.

  11. John F. Hultquist says:

    If it sounds like a fart and smells like a fart, it is . . . Oh, sorry.
    Isn’t this old news — okay, that’s an oxymoron; but has the BBC rebroadcast this material? WUWT claims it was aired in 2009 on December 17th.

    However, a surprisingly honest and interesting gaseous story has just appeared in the Scientific American (Aug., pp. 58-65) by David Biello. The bottom line being that the biofuels thing isn’t working out as envisioned just a short time ago. They failed basic back of the envelope arithmetic but did learn some neat things about plants and bugs.

  12. pyromancer76 says:

    More on these purposeful “brain farts” for “capitalistic” purposes (of the new bureaucrats): Comment by Tim Ball on WUWT 7/24 The Great Dying at 12:14 pm on “climate research” in Canada. “An Assistant Deputy Minister of EC chaired the pivotal meeting of the IPCC in Villach, Austria in 1985….Maurice Strong (a Canadian) set up the IPCC through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). This meant all national weather agencies controlled who was appointed to the IPCC. This meant EC controlled almost all climate research funding [in Canada]….[Findings of IPCC] put control of climate research and funding in complete bureaucratic control.” “The Auditor General estimated in 2005 that $6.8 billion over 7 years were directed to climate change research.” If Tim Ball’s assertions are correct, this is not a bad haul in only one country for the newly rich. They have lots left over for their minions and lackeys who will help them control, through all means necessary, especially government regulation, all the “old rich” — owners and workers who made their money through profits in the private sector. In this sense crony corporations are among the minions.

    I view the TeaParty as an 21st c version of the Populist and Progressive Movements of the end of the 19th C and begnning of the 20th. Attempting to get some leverage on new rich “authoritarians” whether corporate or bureaucratic.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Well, the guy seems to have a degree, then… but had the job of Chief Science Conformance Officer… I see… “Given these policies what ‘science’ can we fabricate?”…


    So, more idle speculation by someone about C isotope ratios and greenhouse gasses… fantasy dressed up as “sciency stuff”…

    They have no idea what caused the extinction. It could just as easily have been a load of space methane snowballs…


    Well, I see you know your “Monopoly Practices 101”! And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m NOT in favor of “free capitalism”… It “has issues”… and needs ‘countervailing force’ to keep it “free” for all…

    But yes, the tendency for government to be corrupted in similar ways is also well known. I fact, in one of my ‘early 1970’s era’ classes in Econ we covered the point that “Regulators and regulatory agencies go through a life cycle that ends with them being ‘captured’ by the industry and working to promote the industry goals” (along with a lot of revolving door job swapping and double dip pension plans…)

    FWIW, this process of what you call the “bureaucrat-capitalist” is substantially the goal of the 1930’s era Progressive Movement. It reached it’s zenith with the Fascists of Italy as “Corporatism” but with the government dictating to owners what they could do. Since then it’s been ‘refined’ so that owners now tell governments what to tell them what to do… So a new competitor finds they are banned via ‘regulations’ they can not meet, while an old one gets a ‘bailout package’ after some campaign contributions and some “liberal” application of pre-written laws for the Congressman they have purchased to advocate… and they have enhanced the process to include hordes of “experts” to tell them what to do in exchange for a large payment and retirement package… that it just HAPPENS to match what they asked to be told is surely just a coincidence.

    IMHO, it breaks down ‘soon’. We’re seeing the start in the PIIGS and the USA is showing faults too. It is the way “Progressive” and “Socialist” governments always break down. “Sooner or later you run out of other peoples money to spend.” We’re hitting the wall now. 211 $Trillion of unfunded liabilities. $1.5 T annual budget gap NOT counting that unfunded bit. Declining industrial base. From that set you can pretty much conclude it’s just a question of “how fast”. Then comes “what next”?

    BTW, the Greek bailouts “to date” have mostly been ‘for a coupe of months duration’. Nothing has been fixed in Greece. Just the “kick the can down the road” interval has shortened from “couple of years” to “couple of months”. Next stop is “couple of weeks” then “couple of days” then CRASH!

    USA is at the “couple of years” kick step… Just after 2012 it will move to “couple of months” stage…

    I’d worry that “terrible things might happen” except that NOT having it blow up would result in even worse things… Like trying to actually pay that $211T of outgo…

    The simple fact is that when it comes to money, people are evil, and when it comes to power, people are evil. So mix money and power and you expect things to end well? Enormously powerful and rich governments and corporations vs “you and me”?

    So we’ll play “kick the can” until we swap to “ring around the rosy”…

    @Oliver K. Manuel:

    Interesting stuff, interesting thesis… Unfortunately I don’t have time to follow it up right now. (Seems I have a job starting next week and need to do some prep work for it…) But “in the fullness of time”. I’ve saved a copy to “Dig Here!” sometime when I have time…

    @R. de Hann:

    Two interesting links about various kinds of power. Too much power, concentrated, leading to abuse. Eventually resulting in an irrational ‘rationality’ on AGW. Too little power (due to removal of personal choices and the abandonment of cultural control of the society via too open borders) leading to a ‘rational irrationality’.

    Curious how both ends lead to a very similar place…

    Curious, too, how the writer seems to think that it is obvious that “Save London / Bomb Berlin” would now be seen as “We look upon those same people differently now, and ask how they could have killed people on an industrial scale – innocent women and children amongst them.” Perhaps it’s an American Thing. Or perhaps just too much familiarity with history… But, for me, it is a quite rational sign, and those people did exactly the right thing. Even from a viewpoint of today. If someone has declared war on you, has avowed your destruction: Then the question of morality is done with; their destruction is condoned; any act needed to survive is acceptable. Kill or be killed. I’ve no problem with that.

    Perhaps this is something that the folks who supported the 9-11 attacks should think about… We had 2 buildings destroyed. As a result, a couple of countries had their governments replaced and untold thousands of “combatants” died. Someone wants to “do more”, we can keep going until the world runs out of countries. Iran wants to put a nuke together? Well, if everything from Morocco to Indonesia needs to “glow in the dark” to keep Main Street USA safe for a stroll, so be it. I will protect the rights of innocents in foreign lands to live in peace any time they want. However, attack me or mine and it’s a no holds barred demolition derby. I will advocate for “getting the hell out of Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, etc. ad nauseam as we have no business telling other folks how to live their lives; but let them be places from which folks attack me and mine: Well, we don’t really need any of them to continue to exist; and by their actions they have granted permission to “clean them up” as needed.

    Is it an older way of seeing things? (Prior to PC – polluted consciousness…)

    Is it an American Jingoist way?

    Is it an ‘inherent rights’ way?

    Don’t know, don’t care.

    I’ve been beat up before. I’ve tried to be reasonable with the irrational bully. It does not matter if they are now wearing business suits and have the title of “Premier”. A bully is a bully. Only thing you can do is squash them. As fast and as effectively as possible. Some may learn to be nice and be friends. Some may just learn to lie convincingly and not attack me. Some may need a few more ’rounds’ before they change or “die not trying”…

    So Hitler was a bully. His population did not toss him out. He threatened America and was attacking England. End of story. End of Nazi Germany. Lessons learned. Next!

    The BBC Advocate

    Interesting… A good example of how the Progressives work the system. It needs to be ended. Just shut down.

    Oh, and on the “Defying” article: If they are invoking Hitler, then they have lost… (IIRC, that’s someone or others rule… Godwin’s Law?

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