CO2, the life-giving gas, not “Carbon Pollution”. A Limerick – and explanation.
What then is this “Carbon Pollution”?
A sinister, evil collusion?
CO2, it is clean,
Makes for growth, makes it green,
A transfer of wealth, a solution.
Let me first state I am serious about this Limerick. It is not even tongue in cheek. I am an engineer by training and look at the earth as a “living” organism that responds to changes in its environment.
First, the increase in CO2 concentration itself and how nature responds to it.
Second, the effect it has on the earth’s temperature and all its consequences, and finally
Third, the acidification of the oceans.
CO2 concentration has increased from about 280 ppm in pre-industrial times to nearly 400 ppm today, and is increasing at a rate of 2 ppm per year. We are way past the point of no return, 350 ppm which would lead to a temperature catastrophe. (1) But instead, something rather interesting is occurring. The earth is getting greener! (2) This 40 % increase in CO2 the last 250 years has led to a more than 30 % increase in agricultural production all by itself without adding fertilizer or using higher yielding seeds. (3) Thanks to this we can now feed an additional two billion people on earth without starvation. The news are so good, that the per capita food production is increasing, even as the population is increasing. (4)
Look at it this way. The value of basic agricultural products is more than 1.5 trillion dollars worldwide. 30% of that is due to increased CO2. That means that the CO2 emitted is worth 450 billion dollars, spread out over all farmers and ranchers worldwide. This wealth transfer is occurring right now, and knows no national boundary. It is a gift from the developed countries to the rest of the world. Who could be against that?
It turns out that this wealth transfer occurs without global governance. The leaders of the world will not have their say in who gets the wealth transfer, the U.N. bureaucrats will not get their cut, and politicians cannot get a campaign issue since it occurs without their involvement.
So to recapture the initiative they renamed this life-giving gas “Carbon pollution” and managed somehow to get the Supreme Court to agree with the notion that CO2 is a pollutant.
How can that be? They argued that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, which is true. It is second only to water vapor. It is responsible for about 9 degree Celsius rise in global temperature, and if CO2 increases, so does the greenhouse effect and the temperature increases. This in turn leads to more water vapor in the air, and water vapor is the strongest greenhouse gas, so there is a risk of reaching a “tipping point” when we could experience a thermal runaway of the planet. All of this is true, so U.N. and many governments around the world have sponsored studies to model climate change, over a hundred models have been constructed, and they all come up with rather gloomy forecasts. The research is so intense that over 3 billion dollars of government monies are spent yearly on climate change research.
All models show a similar pattern, a fairly steep and more or less linear rise in temperature as CO2 increases. There is only one major thing wrong with them. They do not agree with what is happening to the global temperature. We have now had 200 months without any global warming, in fact, the trend is down. (5)
What is wrong with the models? They all assume a passive earth, where there is no negative feedback to the changing environment. It turns out, the earth has a “governor”, and it can be expressed in one word, albedo, which means “whiteness” or how much of the incoming sunlight that gets reflected back into space.
The major albedo changers are the amount of ice around the poles and clouds, but even land use changes such as forests cut down and replaced by agriculture and urbanization.
When there is snow or ice on the ground, more sunlight gets reflected and it gets colder still. Urban heat islands are warmer than the surroundings, airports are warmer than its surroundings. Interestingly, that is where we are placing our new weather stations. (This is great for pilots that have to evaluate take-off and landing conditions, but is less than ideal for climate research. But then again, climate research has moved from the realm of physical science to political science, where different rules do apply.)
The most important albedo changers of the earth are clouds. Without them no land based life would be possible since clouds serve both as rainmakers and temperature stabilizers. If there were no clouds the equilibrium temperature at the equator would be around 140 degrees F.
Over the oceans, in the so called “doldrums” where there are no trade winds, the mornings start with a warm-up, and when the conditions are right a shower or thunderstorm occurs. The ambient temperature is usually between 84 and 88 degrees when this happens. As CO2 concentrations increase thunderstorms occur a few minutes earlier and last a little bit longer, but they are no more severe and as a result the average temperature stays the same. (5)
In desert areas of the world this temperature regulator doesn’t work well, so deserts will receive the full force of temperature increase which is 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit per doubling of CO2 levels.
In the temperate region the temperature increase will be somewhere in between. Dry days will be warmer, cloudy and rainy days will have the same temperature as before, since the regulator starts to function.
The polar region is a special case. None of the models have done a good job at modeling the clouds at the poles, especially the South Pole. (6) They will warm up more than 2 degrees F, how much is a question. In the South average temperatures will rise from – 70 degrees F in the interior all the way to maybe – 63 degrees F, and come closer to freezing in the summer at the northern edges. There may be added snowfall that will expand the ice sheet. The Antarctic ice sheet has set new records since record keeping began, and is at the moment bottoming out at 30% more ice than the 30 year average. (7)
The North Pole region is even more complicated since it is partially land, partially ocean. The oceanic ice cap has been shrinking at a fairly constant rate the last 30 years, but last year it broke the trend and grew back to break the trend line. The winter snow cap has remained at about the same level year to year with a slightly positive trend line, this year being no exception. So, why is the snow cover growing slightly, but ice cover shrinking? The common explanation has been global warming, but the ice cover kept shrinking even as the temperature increase leveled off. There are two possible explanations: Warming oceans and changes in pollution. The North Atlantic Oscillation has been mostly positive (warmer) since 1970 and has only recently turned negative, so that is certainly part of the cause of the shrinking of the icecap, but another candidate is even more likely: Carbon Pollution. With that I do not mean CO2, but good old soot, spewing out from the smokestacks of power plants in China. 45% of all coal burned is burned in China, often low grade lignite with no scrubbers. The air in Beijing is toxic to humans more days than not. Some of that soot finds its way to the arctic and settles on the ice, changing its albedo, and the sun has a chance to melt the ice more efficiently. This occurs mostly in the months of August and September when the Sun is at a low angle anyway, so the changing of the albedo has very little effect on temperature. The net result of all this is that the temperature in the North Pole region will rise about 3 degrees Fahrenheit for a doubling of the CO2. This will have a very minor effect on the Greenland ice cap since they are nearly always way below freezing anyway (-28 degree C average). The largest effect will happen in August and September in the years when all new snow has melted and the soot from years past is exposed. This happened two years ago with a sudden drop in albedo for the Greenland ice. It will also lead to an increase in the precipitation in the form of snow, so the net result is the glaciers may start growing again if the amount of soot can be reduced.
The conclusion is: The temperature regulator of the earth is working quite well, and the increase in temperature at the poles is welcome as it lessens the temperature gradient between the tropics and the polar regions, which in turn reduces the severity of storms, since they are mostly generated by temperature differences and the different density of warm, humid and dry, cold air. (8) The Polar Bears will do quite well, their numbers have more than doubled in the last 50 years.
What about ocean acidification? As CO2 increases, a lot of it will be absorbed in the oceans, thereby making the oceans more acid. This is true, but CO2 is a very mild acid and has a minor acidic influence. Of much more importance is acid rain. At one time in the 70’s some lakes in Norway had a Ph. of about 4.5, enough to kill most trout fishes. In Sweden it was said they fertilized their rivers and lakes four times as much as tilled soil, leading to significant acidification of both the Baltic and the North Sea. The Baltic Sea is still in danger of total oxygen depletion. By comparison to these dangers CO2 in the ocean is only a very minor disturbance. Clean the rivers and lakes first!
Oh, and one more thing. The sea level rise is a natural phenomenon of tectonic plate movements, the Atlantic Ridge is rising and the Eastern Seaboard is sinking. These movements will continue to occur regardless of the climate.
John Kerry said in Indonesia the other day: “The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand. We don’t have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society. And in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction. “
The opposite is true, increased levels of CO2 is a major vehicle of wealth distribution.
The increase in temperature is manageable and even desirable in most regions of the world, desert areas and areas prone to flooding being the exception.
CO2 is a clean gas, necessary for life, and an increase in the amount of CO2 is highly desirable.
The very minor increase in temperature is on balance beneficial, since it leads to a less violent climate, with fewer storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.
The increase in CO2 makes us able to feed another 2 billion people on earth, not to mention additional wildlife.
Ocean acidification is a problem, not so much from CO2, but from sulfuric acid, nitrates and other pollutants.
The increase in precipitation is beneficial, except in areas already prone to flooding. It is especially welcome in arid areas.
On the other hand the great conservationist SARAH PALIN once said: “We’ve got to remind Americans that the effort has got to be even greater today toward conservation because these finite resources that we’re dealing with obviously – once oil is gone it’s gone, once gas is gone, it’s gone. And I think our nation has really become kind of spoiled in that arena.”[Fox News, Hannity's America, 10/12/08]
Coal, oil, peat, wood and natural gas are our best raw material to sustain life as we know it, and are far to valuable to waste on electricity production, so let us switch electricity production to thorium based nuclear energy (8). Coal can be converted to jet fuel and gasoline, air planes have no alternative fuels.
I welcome constructive comments. Tell me where I am going wrong. I have done my very best to look at what is really happening to the earth and from there draw conclusions, rather than rely on climate models.
(1). This is a message from 1010global.org. Their aim was to reduce carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.
(2). The earth is getting greener! http://lenbilen.com/2013/03/19/co2-the-solution-to-climate-change/
Update Aug 27:
About Face! Why the World Needs More Carbon Dioxide is easy reading from two scientists and an economist. About Face! is the product of two scientists and an economist. The scientists are Madhav Khandekar in Canada and Cliff Ollier in Australia, plus economist Arthur Middleton Hughes in the USA.
It will change your understanding of climate science and explain how we can save millions of lives and billions of dollars per year.
Available on Amazon here