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Climate change – a very difficult, very simple idea

December 4, 2015

Excerpt from an OUPblog article, published on 3rd December, by Jennifer Coopersmith, Honorary Research Associate at La Trobe University. She is author of Energy, the Subtle Concept: The Discovery of Feynman's Blocks from Leibniz to Einstein, which is now available on Oxford Scholarship Online.

Energy, the Subtle Concept: The discovery of Feynman's blocks from Leibniz to Einstein

 "Planet Earth doesn’t have ‘a temperature’, one figure that says it all. There are oceans, landmasses, ice, the atmosphere, day and night, and seasons. Also, the temperature of Earth never gets to equilibrium: just as it’s starting to warm up on the sunny-side, the sun gets ‘turned off’; and just as it’s starting to cool down on the night-side, the sun gets ‘turned on’. The ‘temperature of Earth’ is therefore as much of a contrived statistic as the GDP of a country. (If the Earth was in equilibrium, that is, if it absorbed and re-emitted the Sun’s radiation perfectly, as a ‘blackbody’, then its rotation would be irrelevant, and the temperature would be a constant 6 Celsius. Mocking up the effects of Earth’s albedo brings the ‘blackbody’ temperature down to -18 Celsius"

Discover more: Read more about climate change, and whether it can be reversed, in Jennifer's article 'Climate change – a very difficult, very simple idea'. The first chapter of her book, 'The Quest for Perpetually Acting Machines' is now freely available until the end of January. Get access to the full text of this book, as well as hundreds of Oxford Physics titles, by recommending OSO to your librarian today.