An old volcanologist by the name of Peter Langdon Ward (ed note: John McCormack points out in the comments a possible confusion with paleontologist Peter Douglas Ward an entirely different bunch of bones) is holding forth at various places on his theory of everything. Now Eli's considered judgement is that, as Walter Hannah puts it "His Theory Is Garbage". But as Ray Pierrehumbert said some garbage is more amusing than others, mostly because it exposes things that have to be explained to the naive, and occasionally because the mistake is subtle enough to deepen Eli's own thoughts about this and that.
Hannah (and Eli) spot the G&T, a common mistake amongst phenominologists
Greenhouse warming theory also assumes that the heated air radiates energy back to Earth’s surface, and that this return flow of heat energy warms Earth. The problem with this is that the [lower atmosphere is] colder than Earth’s surface. Heat cannot physically flow from cold to hot. You do not stand next to a cold stove to get warm.”OTOH, you could put on a coat which limits the rate at which your body radiates heat just as greenhouse gases limit the rate at which the Earth radiates to space. Hmm, Eli did talk about that, but so does Hannah
Heat “flows” in a few different ways, but heat is radiated in all directions. In a way, he is correct that the net “flow” of heat is always from warm to cold, but the downward radiation from the atmosphere slows this net cooling of the planet considerably. This downward radiation is actually really important, it is a key reason why Earth is not a lifeless ball of ice. He is obviously confused about how global warming works, because no one is proposing that there is a net gain of heat from downward radiation. Instead, the idea is that the net loss of heat from the surface is slowed by CO2, which naturally results in a net warming.What greenhouse gases do is hinder the cooling of the surface.
Let's go a bit further today. Ward writes in a 2010 paper
Note that a body can only be warmed by radiation from a warmer body that contains higher frequencies and higher amplitudes. The dashed black line shows Wien’s displacement law, the frequency (ν) of peak spectral radiance as a function of a body’s temperature (T) where ν = 5.88 x 1010 T. Radiation consisting of a narrow band of frequencies close to this value or larger could warm a body to temperature T if absorbed in sufficient quantity. Radiation with peak spectral radiance less than ν can only warm a body to a lower temperature. This means that it is physically impossible for Earth to be warmed by its own radiation as assumed, for example, in energy budget calculations for greenhouse gasesSo Eli is a simple bunny, and for the hell of it he substituted 300 K into that equation and got 1.76 x 1013 Hz, and then if you divide by the speed of light 3.0 x 1010 cm/sec, the frequency in wavenumbers is ~590 cm-1 real close to where CO2 absorbs and emits (670 cm-1). The Bunny is not going to sign on to this, but by Ward's own reckoning CO2 emission could warm the surface to 340 K which is higher than 300 K.
Yet it is late, there are students to work with tomorrow, and Ms. Rabett is hot to pick up the special extra Christmas present tomorrow. So to bed