A new paper by Professor Qing-Bin Lu PhD is purporting to demonstrate that chlorofluorocarbons, not carbon dioxide, are behind global warming. Since CFC production has tapered off, he therefore predicts that we’ll see global cooling for the next 50 years or so.
CFC’s or Chlorofluorocarbons were widely used as refrigerants until it was phased out for the ozone friendly R-410A due to the Montreal protocol. CFC’s do in fact have high global warming potential as do all halogenated molecules. As much as 10,000 times the global warming potential of CO2. So this theory has plausibility. I think it is reasonable to turn the colloquial “Skeptical Eye” of Skeptoid toward this claim and the science involved.The findings of Professor Lu’s paper – “Cosmic-Ray-Driven Reaction and Greenhouse Effect of Halogenated Molecules” would be dramatic and ground breaking. Like most extraordinary claims I require extraordinary evidence. Lets review the paper, the claims, it’s author, and the publisher.
The CFC paper (PDF) originated from University of Waterloo Ontario Canada. I am no chemist nor physicist, still on quick evaluation the math appears appropriate. In addition there does appear to be a correlation between CFC’s and global temperature. I quickly find glaring flaws even to a lay person. There does not appear to be any consideration for ocean based warming. The temperature figures are for land based temperatures only. Secondly he makes claims that the global temperatures have been cooling for the last decade. This is not supported by the temperature measurements from multiple lines of evidence. This makes me suspicious that there are more subtle but significant errors in the paper that I lack the expertise to find.
I also have concerns about the author, related to his expertise. He is a physicist not a climatologist. This is a red flag in science for pseudoscience. He is working outside his field. It is unlikely that a physicist can suddenly trump a generation of climatologists research. The Galileo gambit is another red flag for pseudoscience. People from outside a complex field of science suddenly coming up with a simplistic answer to complicated problem is likely bogus.
The publisher International Journal of Modern Physics B is not a peer reviewed climatology journal. Frankly another red flag. Getting your trauma surgery study published in Nature and not in The Journal of trauma and acute care surgery usually means that it has no real basis for surgical publication. Journals are like all publications, sensation sells, and publishing a controversial paper with good physics in it makes a lot of sense. That does not mean that there is any basis for guiding climate science.
For me the final “nail in the coffin” is that the author published a similar paper in 2010 with the same theory and it was roundly criticized then. “Cosmic-ray-driven electron-induced reactions of halogenated molecules adsorbed on ice surfaces: Implications for atmospheric ozone depletion and global climate change. Qing-Bin Lu.” In Physics Review.
So from a non-climatologist perspective. We have a physicist publishing a paper in a physics journal about climate change. Who ignores ocean temperatures, indicates that the planet is cooling when it is not, and bucks what 97% of experts in that field say.
In my opinion implausible and unlikely to pan out. That does not mean I think that CFC’s have no effect on climate. It is part of a global picture of climate change. AGW is multi-factoral. The science and the experts indicate that CO2 is still king. All other factors deforestation, CFC’s, methane, albedo changes, water vapor et al… All play a role but CO2 is still the major player.
It is a pleasant fantasy to think that the problem is already fixed and going away on its own. Unfortunately it is fantasy not science.