August 7th 2020
We have been trained to think of carbon dioxide as a pollutant. Use of the phrase ‘carbon pollution’ has become standard, by both politicians and the media. Often, ‘carbon’ is used interchangeably with ‘carbon dioxide’ in order to link the two and implant the idea that this clear, odourless gas, an essential component of the Earth’s atmosphere and the airborne food of plants, is somehow dirty and corrupting.
It’s true that there are real problems with our air quality, particularly in cities. This is to do with ‘particulates’ – tiny particles of solid or liquid matter which are suspended in the air and which can be inhaled. These are known to be dangerous to our health, and are linked to heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and various respiratory diseases. But CO2 is not one of these. Obama tried to blame his daughter’s asthma on CO2, but this was absolute nonsense.
The Mainstream Argument
To be frank, I don’t understand the mainstream argument for carbon dioxide driving temperature change and ‘global warming’. This could be because I’m just not very bright. Or perhaps it’s because it doesn’t make sense. It seems to centre around the following idea: that CO2 is a component in the ‘greenhouse effect’, which helps warm our planet by trapping infrared radiation from the sun that has bounced off the Earth and is heading back out into space. The argument also seems to involve some kind of positive feedback, whereby CO2 amplifies the warming effect of water vapour, the main greenhouse gas.
Here is an edifying quote (!) from The Guardian (28 Jan 2011): ‘This is an example of a positive feedback loop: humans release CO2, which causes warming, which boosts evaporation, which in turn amplifies the warming’. This is ‘driving the observed change in temperatures’.
There are so many problems with this argument, it seems to me. One: we’re not actually warming – there has been no rise in the average global temperature since the late 1990s. Two: CO2 is just a tiny fraction of greenhouse gas; along with methane, nitrous oxide and others, it forms just a few percent, the rest being water vapour (clouds) – over which we have no control whatsoever. Three: CO2 levels are low – yes, low. Current levels are around 400 parts per million (PPM). Over the course of the Earth’s history, CO2 has tended to be in the thousands rather than the hundreds of PPM. If CO2 is so dangerous, and drives increases in temperature, how come the Earth hasn’t boiled like a pot again and again throughout its history?
Another point which is seldom raised is that human activity is only responsible for a small part of the 0.04% of the atmosphere that is CO2. Most is the result of natural processes. We could turn our world upside down in the effort to cut CO2 emissions without making a significant difference.
It’s worth noting, too, that the rhetoric used to be all about CO2 driving ‘global warming’. We don’t hear that phrase so much nowadays… Given the embarrassing lack of warming and the stubborn refusal of the Earth to follow the predictive models, ‘climate change’ has replaced ‘global warming’ as the expression of choice (ignoring the fact that ‘climate’, by definition, is about change; the climate, of course, never stands still…). Recently, the attention has shifted to ‘extreme weather’ events, as the alarmists hope to pass those off as our fault, too. The inconvenient truth that extreme weather events have actually been in decline (as explained so well by Paul Burgess; please see his video on this) isn’t mentioned.
It’s my suspicion that climate alarmists are hoping that most of us won’t educate ourselves on this – that we’ll just take the scary headlines at face value. This is what I did for decades: I just assumed the work had been done by people much cleverer than me and that their conclusions could be trusted.
The Making of a Myth
So where did the idea of CO2 being bad come from?
It seems that the story of the demonising of CO2 started with a scientist called Roger Revelle, who was Professor of Science and Public Policy at the University of California San Diego. During the 1950s, Revelle came up with the idea that increases in atmospheric CO2 might be linked to human activity – the burning of fossil fuels – and that this in turn might be contributing to temperature change. One of Revelle’s students (though not a particularly gifted one), Al Gore, took up the idea and ran with it… passing his enthusiasm for the idea on to Congress. Before long the funding was rolling in and a movement was born. A Canadian called Maurice Strong, who worked at the UN, took the idea there, and the alarm began spreading around the world. In 1988, the UN created the IPCC – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – on which governments have relied for information and guidance on the subject ever since.
Meanwhile, Dr Revelle was having second thoughts. By now, he had retired. A cynic might say he no longer needed to pull in or justify funding. It does appear that he was genuinely concerned about how seriously his idea was being taken and the consequences of this for the world. In 1988, he wrote twice to Congress, advising caution: ‘My own personal belief is that we should wait another 10 or 20 years to really be convinced that the greenhouse effect is going to be important… we should be careful not to arouse too much alarm…’
Three years later, Revelle wrote an article for Cosmos magazine with colleagues Fred Singer and Chauncey Starr. In it, he urged scientists and governments to be cautious about trying to curb CO2 emissions, given the lack of knowledge about the effects of this and the potential negative impacts of doing so. I have read this article, and it really does read like someone trying to undo a mistake, whilst trying to save face at the same time.
Needless to say, Revelle’s attempts to undo the harm he’d done and put the brakes on were in vain. His D-grade student Al Gore, for one, was not listening.
Is Carbon Dioxide Good for the Planet?
William Happer, Professor Emeritus of Physics at Princeton University, is a world expert in carbon dioxide. He has spent decades researching the molecule. I’m inclined to pay more attention to what he says about it than, for example, Greta.
Professor Happer exudes enthusiasm about carbon dioxide. He explains that, as far as life on Earth is concerned, and the health of plant life in particular, the more the better. Rising CO2 levels do not threaten human life: on space flights, for instance, the upper limit is set at 7,000 PPM. In plants, growth occurs in direct correlation with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. This is why commercial growers pump CO2 into their greenhouses. Furthermore, plants require less water when CO2 levels are higher. Crop yields have been increasing in some parts of the world by up to 25% because of the rising levels. If you put ‘NASA Greening’ into your search engine, you should see pictures of areas of the world that are starting to become green, having previously been desert; it is estimated that around 80% of this new growth is down to rising CO2.
I learned something completely new, and crucially important, listening to Professor Happer: that CO2 follows the ‘logarithmic dependence scale’ in its behaviour as a warming gas. In layman’s terms, this is effectively the law of diminishing returns. The impact of carbon dioxide is not linear: it’s not a question of the more there is, the more warming occurs. Instead, there’s a natural levelling out, or saturation, effect. Going forward, the values will have to double to achieve the same effect. If we assume, say, we’d get 1 degree C of warming if CO2 doubled from 400 PPM to 800 PPM, it would need to double again, to 1600 PPM, to get the next 1 degree of warming… And so on. In short, there would need to be a truly dramatic increase in CO2 from now on to generate any discernible warming.
You have to wonder at human perversity: environmentalism is focussed obsessively on reducing ‘carbon pollution’, yet you could make a convincing case that the one good thing humans are doing for the planet is helping raise CO2 levels. Alarmists such as Extinction Rebellion want to get CO2 levels down to pre-industrial levels – i.e., around 280 PPM. Below 150 PPM, all plant life dies. Meanwhile, we are distracted from the serious environmental issues of plastic pollution, habitat loss, the quality of our air, the oceans, species decline, and the obscene quantity of waste we generate year after year.
Perhaps most concerning, however, is what the status of environmentalism will be, when the scale of the lie finally comes to the public’s attention.
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