Opinion » Letters

Water vapor, greenhouse gases, and global warming


This is a response to the May 24 commentary by Katie Ferrari ("Battling oil"). She states that "once the groundwater is mixed with the chemicals used in steam injection (of oil wells), it becomes toxic." However, she fails to provide proof that the groundwater actually is mixing with the chemicals used in steam injection. She is making a claim with no scientific study showing that the ground water is mixing with the chemicals. It sounds logical, but is it?

Further confusing the issue, she states, "In addition to the above-ground destruction, such an earthquake could allow wastewater to migrate and further contaminate [water] wells. Even without an earthquake, injected toxic waste could be migrating into the Santa Maria basin, which provides water for more than 46,000 people in the Five Cities region."

Sounds good, but "could allow" is speculation with no scientific basis.

Her article is just another attack on fossil fuels based on the belief that burning fossil fuels is causing manmade climate change by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But not all gases in the atmosphere absorb outgoing Infrared Radiation (IR). The gases that absorb the IR radiation and create the greenhouse effect are mainly water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Water vapor and water in clouds absorbs nearly 90 percent of the IR radiation, whereas CO2, CH4, and the other minor greenhouse gases together absorb little more than 10 percent of the radiation ("A Guide To Global Warming;" George C. Marshall Institute: Washington, DC, 2000).

So global warming is mostly caused by water vapor, which we can do nothing about, yet the blame today for global warming is CO2, which is a very minor greenhouse gas.

Peter Byrne

Paso Robles

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