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OWEN JENNINGS: Radio Spectra and Methane

I am old enough to remember getting out of bed at 3.00am on cold mornings to listen to the radio broadcast by Winston McCarthy of the All Blacks playing in South Africa. No TV’s back then. McCarthy’s inimitable voice captured not just the passage of play but managed to lift excitement levels several notches even in dull games.

Our radio – a Gulbranson – was a walnut, wooden box with a fabric covered speaker and a dial – the short and medium wavelength – where one searched for stations. Dad had fixed a long rod onto the knob that selected the stations so he could make minor adjustments to get a clear message. We had to get the precise wavelength to get the commentary. Any other wavelength was ineffective.

What intrigued me was that the signal carrying McCarthy’s voice was in the room, everywhere, but only useful to us at a very particular point on the radio spectrum. This radio spectrum is a section of the whole electromagnetic spectrum. The latter spectrum is the full range of radiation in various wavelengths – X-rays, gamma rays, visible light, radio waves etc. Radiation is packages of energy, invisible, able to penetrate space, most objects, sometimes dangerous, sometimes helpful.

We receive radiation from the sun. It comes through our atmosphere, some bounces off clouds or surfaces like snow and ice, or even tarmac, warming the surface before heading back into space. This radiation or packets of energy passing back up through the atmosphere runs into the molecules of the various gases in the atmosphere. Most of these gases have no effect on this outgoing energy. About 1% of them do interact and they are the greenhouse gases – water vapour, CO2, methane, ozone and a few minor ones.

This interaction fizzes up the molecule, slowing down the outgoing radiation and heat is detained a little longer than it might be. That is the nub of global warming. Thank goodness that radiation does not go straight back into the atmosphere. We would be very cold if it did. The theory of global warming is that by adding greenhouse gases there are more interactions, therefore more warmth.

Methane is one of those molecules that gets excited by radiation bumping into it. But, here is the critically important thing, the issue that most so-called climate scientists do not want to go near. Methane can only operate at two very narrow bands on that electromagnetic spectrum. Methane may be all around us in minute quantities but most of it is of no consequence because it is only effective in two narrow wavelength spots. It gets worse. One of the wavelengths that methane can operate in there is no radiation to interact with. It does nothing. Nada. Zilch. See the diagram below.

But wait! There’s more. The other wavelength that methane operates in is dominated by water vapour. For every two methane molecules trying to interact with the out-going radiation there are 5,000 to 8,000 H2O molecules all chasing the same radiating energy. Methane doesn’t get a look in.

Too many scientists and commentators want us to focus on the relative strength of each individual molecule and what harm an extra molecule can do. They don’t want to go on in their calculations and face the reality of what happens in the atmosphere on the spectrum every minute of the day. If they did the arguments about each molecule’s potency and what happens when extra molecules of gas are added to the atmosphere become redundant and have no credibility in science.

Analogies can help us understand relative size and strength. If the whole of the atmosphere was a rugby field all the ruminant methane from all the world's sheep, goats, cattle, bison, etc would represent an area 40mm X 40mm or an inch and a half square. New Zealand’s contribution would be about a quarter the size of your little fingernail.

It is no wonder that the country’s leading climate scientists and IPCC contributors admitted under pressure that our sheep and cattle are warming the planet at 4 millionths of a degree C per year. And that was calculated before the dominance of water vapour was factored in.

For that infinitesimal, impossible-to-measure amount there are apparently serious and intelligent people demanding we slash our dairy herd by over 20% and remove at least 5% of sheep and beef farms.

As my grandson would say, “what are they smoking, Pop?”.

Owen Jennings is a former ACT MP

3,609 views158 comments


The last word should go to the IPCC :-

The IPCC has concluded that a signal of climate change has not yet emerged beyond natural variability for the following phenomena:

  • River floods

  • Heavy precipitation and pluvial floods

  • Landslides

  • Drought (all types)

  • Severe wind storms

  • Tropical cyclones

  • Sand and dust storms

  • Heavy snowfall and ice storms

  • Hail

  • Snow avalanche

  • Coastal flooding

  • Marine heat waves

Furthermore, the emergence of a climate change signal is not expected under the extreme RCP8.5 scenario by 2100 for any of these phenomena, except heavy precipitation and pluvial floods and that with only medium confidence. Since we know that RCP8.5 is extreme and implausible, that means that there would even less confidence in emergence under a more plausible…


This is climate scam is just another mass formation psychosis, in the same vein as Covid.


  1. Unlike other greenhouse gasses has a decay rate of about 7 years. So, as long as the herd remains the same size, the ppm remains the same.

  2. Greenhouse gasses are ( in parts per million) water (6,500ppm), CO2 (400ppm), Methane (2ppm) YES 2.

  3. There are several sources of methane throughout the world. Ruminant methane (produced by animals) of which is 86% of NZ methane, is just 14% of the overall 2 ppm. That's one-fourth of one part per million.

  4. When considered with all the various sources of methane, agriculture, fossil fuels, decomposing land fill, and swamps, from through out the world's polluting countrie…

May 05
Replying to

Yes. In my view the agricultural sector (our food producers) would largely be supported by the general populace, including us 'townies' - possibly with the exception of Wellington.

If push comes to shove, I'll listen to a farmer over a politician any day.


if you haven't already, everyone needs to watch the documentary film 'The Cold Truth' - very informative and factual......politicians will avoid it like the money in it for them....


Another excellent and informative article by Owen Jennings.

If you take the time to read the IPCC Working Group 1 reports ( apparently nobody but me does) you will you will learn that very little is known about the sources and sinks of methane. It is mostly speculation. As the quote below shows, as much as 30% of the source of methane in the atmosphere comes from living plants and this was only discovered in 2006. The fact that New Zealand is making economically damaging policies based on on very poor quality information is beyond belief.

Since measurements began in 1983 at Mauna Loa, methane has increased by 0.3 ppmv.

If you read the reports you will find the reason…

Replying to

Methane emmission from cows is not measured in a paddock while grazing and while she is breathing and belching into the grass Where methantrophs hang out


Well that's a relief. We can stop worrying about methane. But let's not make the mistake of assuming everything's going to be all right. The science shows it's CO2 that is the prime driver of global warming. And it's no coincidence that CO2 levels took off just when the industrial revolution was in full swing. So its a pretty good bet that human activity is contributing to climate change. And while our CO2 emissions may be miniscule by world standards, neglecting our Kyoto obligations hardly puts us in a position to preach to the rest of the world about their bad carbon behaviour. Carbon management is increasingly being woven into our international trade deals and these are hard enough t…

Replying to

Hi Jonesboy.

Perhaps I was a bit flippant but no, I did not miss the reference to the ice core data. However, you are making an understandable and commonly made mistake of assuming that the ice core measurements for CO2 can be compared to the modern measurements. They are measurements of very different things and it simply not valid to conclude that the values in the ice core data accurately describes the actual concentrations at the time. This is a complicated subject and it is too big to adequately address here.

I know a little bit about ice core data. I have attached a graph that I made using data from Vostok. These data are useful in showing relative changes…

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