Global Warming Violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

Brief Responses to Climate Change Denialism Statements

CPSG 200 Science & Global Change Sophomore Colloquium

Global Warming Violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics states that heat cannot flow from a cold body to a hot body without some form of work being done. Therefore, deniers claim that the heat trapped in the air and greenhouse gases cannot possibly warm the earth because the earth’s surface is hotter than the gases. If heat flowed from the colder air to the hotter surface that would be in contrast with the second law. However, these deniers are incorrect in the fact that the greenhouse gases do not directly warm the earth’s surface, they just prevent the amount of heat being lost from the surface. As the earth releases heat to go to space, the greenhouse gases act like cell walls and block the amount of heat that is being passed through. The earth’s surface is not warming because as heat flows out of the gases, it is warming because the rate at which heat is being released from the surface is being slowed. Deniers are viewing greenhouse gases as a heating pad that directly warms a body when greenhouse gases are much more like a blanket just preventing heat from leaving the body. The earth is being heated by its own heat, not by the heat of the greenhouse gases which is therefore in agreement with the second law of thermodynamics.

For More Information:

Climate Science Glossary. (n.d.). Retrieved October 7, 2018, from

Contributed by: Miranda Casanova, Danielle Lawhorn, Tori Marella

Last modified: 22 October 2018