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What about the water in climate change models?

I have a simple question: if clean combustion of hydrocarbons produces so much carbon dioxide (CO2) that it causes a significant greenhouse effect, what about all the water that's also produced?

You've heard the official story from so many sources: clean (complete) combustion of hydrocarbons, i.e., reacting hydrocarbons with enough oxygen to achieve a complete conversion of the hydrocarbons into CO2 and water produces so much CO2 that it causes the temperature of the earth to rise by acting as a "greenhouse gas." This is turn causes ocean levels to rise by the direct melting of glaciers in the Arctic. Because the melting rate of the glaciers is so great, this shows the great effectiveness of CO2 to warm up the earth. We know this because when we plug all these variables into a type of statistical model called a "regression equation," it shows that CO2 and earth temperatures are highly correlated.

But how about this alternative story? Lots of water is produced via clean combustion, too. Some of it winds up in the ocean, helping to raise its levels. In fact, as scientists showed Balog in his documentary "Extreme Ice," melting of the glaciers is hastened by water from the ocean forcing its way into and under large chunks of these glaciers, in part by the force of gravity as the water pours down from the top of glacier to places far below. The glaciers, broken apart by this process, slide on these rivers into the ocean, which warms them further. And all this turbulence has to generate (local) heat in itself, I would think, aggravating the glacier melting. In other words, maybe dramatic glacier melting can be accounted for just by ... more water.

The point here is that there is no substitute in model development for 1) direct observation and 2) accounting for all the factors involved. What are the relative contributions of CO2 and water to climate change? That is the next question we should try to answer.


Balog, J. (2009) "Extreme Ice" http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/extreme-ice.html

AUS-e-TUTE n.d.,
    Chemistry Tutorial : Combustion of Hydrocarbons,
    viewed 5 January 2014,

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