Opinion / Politics / Technology

Common Sense on Atmospheric Carbon – Stop the Hysteria


Speaking intelligently about changes in global atmospheric temperature over time – whether looking backwards or forwards – is a dangerous business.  Those on left and right are coiled to pounce.  Still, in the spirit of scholarship, education, and optimism, a few thoughts.

First, everything related to climate is now politicized, which means if you support President Trump’s insistence on enforceable treaties, hard science, and a balance of public and private sector solutions, including absorption, sequestration, and carbon capture, you are a troglodyte, dense, depraved, a denier.  Discussion ceases.

On the other hand, if you think that centralized governments are the answer, that histrionics work, that terrifying little children into speaking before the UN is appropriate,  and that suppressing the private sector is the price of reducing carbon levels, you are on the right team, worthy, politically acceptable.  You have religion.  We can talk. 

This divide must stop.  Clearly, there are timeless oscillations in global climate, and core samples prove this as far back as we can measure.  These have historically occurred without human carbon emissions, even if the past 150 years track increased human carbon emissions. 

Let’s go further.  Increased atmospheric carbon – sourced to both natural (e.g. solar, volcanic, and recurring cyclic causes) and human carbon production – elevate overall global temperatures.  While other factors periodically accelerate, offset, maximize and minimize this process, temperatures have recently been rising. 

Now comes the big question:  Are we better off using gaps in data to delegitimize each other’s broad prejudices – the inveterate optimists and apocalyptic pessimists – or are we better off working together to distill a thoughtful analysis of recently rising temperatures, in part tied to elevated carbon levels? 

Let’s assume the unlikely, that we can work together. What is the answer?  Here is one.  President Trump could roll out a comprehensive – but workable – invitation to the private sector, as well as countries interested in a genuine carbon reduction, which includes three factors.

The first is carbon absorption or sequestration, which involves reduced deforestation, increased intergenerational reforestation, and a clear understanding that one meaningful way to reduce carbon is trees. 

If this sounds too good to be true, it is not.  While it undercuts the need for centralizing governments, redistributing of western wealth and the political advantages of stirring mass hysteria, it is part of the solution – a real part.

A 2019 Zurich study noted that extensive reforestation, especially by China, Russia, the US and Brazil, could potentially absorb up to two-thirds of the carbon created by humans over the past 150 years. 

Likewise, another 2019 study – based on supercomputer modeling and published in the journal Biogeosciences – offered that southern forests are absorbing carbon at a rate that neutralizes carbon production by southern hemisphere countries.  More, the rate at which these southern forests are growing, is accelerating with increased carbon absorption. 

On the other hand, the study warned that clearing, burning and otherwise deforesting these southern forests would reduce their ability to serve this carbon absorbing role. While “forests around the world are absorbing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” the need is high to elevate, not reduce overall forestation.  Trees, it turns out, are central to carbon absorption – and restoring balance to the atmosphere. 

As a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research pointed out, we are missing a fundamental truth:  “Global forests are helping to mitigate climate change or at least helping to mitigate the impacts of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.”  We need more of them and need to preserve what we have.

Second, carbon is produced, in part, by fossil fuel extraction.  Thus, a big part of reducing carbon emissions does not involve halting air, land and sea traffic, but promoting within the private sector the sequestration or “capture and storage” of carbon during extraction and processing.

This is one reason that, in September, a group of 13 top oil companies have launched investments in “carbon capture” technology.  They know that reducing this element of carbon production falls to the private sector, and they are promoting this solution. 

Could governments agree to incentivize, offer tax breaks, and otherwise encourage growth of carbon capture, thus voluntarily – and profitably – reducing the overall emissions that occur in the fossil fuel industry?  Yes, of course. 

In a nutshell, while production aims for carbon neutral, “carbon sequestration technology works by trapping carbon in caverns or porous spaces underground,” often in liquid form.  This prevents intrusion on the atmosphere.  The industry aspires to “double the amount of carbon dioxide that is currently stored globally by 2030.”

Last, there are untapped ways of incentivizing higher levels of efficiency, alternative energy sources, and wider production and use synergies.  These again do not require hysteria, socialist or centralizing government policies. 

The broad range of scientific studies publicly available, while often wildly divergent in their assumptions, levels of editorial content, and predictions, offer support for all three methods of managing the current oscillation upward of atmospheric temperature, incidentally against a long-term trend of downward historic global temperatures. 

While nothing earthly will alter solar activities, volcanic eruptions, and other sources of carbon in the atmosphere, these three offer a shot at changing inputs, and reducing the level of carbon in the existing atmosphere, which scientists tell us may assist in stabilizing temperatures – or may not.

In the end, a more constructive approach to discussing global atmospheric temperatures over time is to stop politicizing the topic.  Rather than endless, often overly emotional diatribes, and the default to blame, a simple step forward would be combining the opportunities found in a public-private partnership dedicated to reforestation to promote carbon absorption, private sector carbon sequestration or capture in production, alternative options for energy generation, and higher levels of efficiency in energy use. 

Notably, none of these require socialism, centralized government, forced redistribution of wealth, or mass hysteria.  Perhaps a draft Trump treaty encouraging what the private sector and thoughtful academics are doing already would find support.  Or maybe not – since some will always prefer stomping, shouting and stirring the pot.  Just a thought.  

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Audrey Pollock
2 years ago

Rule one: Assume nothing, including the dangers of CO2.
Planet Earth is not threatened by climate change. With or without humans, the earth will survive. The real threat is the impact global warming might have on humankind, not what impact humankind might have on planet earth.
2. Few people really understand the physics or science of climate change.
3. There is a difference between facts, arguments, opinions, and beliefs.

The Science of Global warming
Carbon is the building block of life; without it you die.
In our atmosphere Nitrogen is the most common element at 78%, Oxygen is second at 21%, Argon is third at .93%. If 78+21+.93 = 99.93%. Then Carbon is less than 1% of our atmosphere. To be exact it is 0.039% of our atmosphere.
Basic FACT: you can not accurately measure or analyze anything that is smaller than your overall level of accuracy, i.e. you cannot measure a millimeter (0.039 inch) with a yard stick. At this point in time we do NOT have a computer model that can measure the effect CO2 might have on any fluctuation in the climate.
There are 730 (GT) billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. Humans release 29 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year. The amount of CO2 that is increasing in the atmosphere is 12 billion tons per year. Seventeen billion tons of CO2 is offset by natural forces. (plant life via photosynthesis) which leaves us with needed to still reduce our CO2 output by 41% to have CO2 stabilization.
The total human output of CO2 compared to the total CO2 in the atmosphere is 29/730 or 4%. Ninety Six (96%) percent of all the CO2 in the atmosphere is going to be there no matter what humans do. Keep in mind, CO2 is 0.039% of the atmosphere and 4% of .0039 = 0.0015% of the atmosphere.
Green House Effect
The most abundant greenhouse gas is not CO2, it is H2O. Water!
Every gas has HEAT CAPACITY; Air (combined)=.0718, Nitrogen=.0743, Oxygen=0.659,Carbon Dioxide=.0655, Water vapor=1.46. Please note: the heat capacity of CO2 is almost the same as Oxygen although there is 500X more oxygen than carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Also note that water vapor has twice the heat capacity of air. A conservative estimate (Wikipedia) of water vapor at high altitudes is 1% which is 25 times the amount of CO2. The proportional heat capacity of water vapor is 2.2 time greater than CO2. There is 25.6 more water vapor than CO2 at high altitudes; therefore water vapor is 2.2 x 25.6 = 57 times more influential on the green house effect than carbon dioxide
Reality check: You cannot see CO2 in our atmosphere but you can see water vapor. Look up….every cloud you see is water vapor and clouds have a huge impact on global energy. A satellite with MODIS was launched in 1999 to measure the cloud cover of the planet. It is 67%.

In Conclusion
Do I think the climate is changing? Yes, I do but I need more scientific information before I develop an argument for the seriousness of the change or exactly how it should be addressed or if, indeed, it should be addressed. At this moment I tend to think climate change has more to do with the earths 22,000 year elliptical Aphelion/Perihelion cycle than any human activity. I am of the conviction that we need to concentrate on clean water, clean air, a clean environment, and protecting our natural wild lands. I believe we need more trees and less asphalt. I firmly believe that any person that wants to control my life must first have in practice in his own life everything he asks of me . Above all I believe that the issue of Climate Change is NOT a political issue. The climate has been changing for the past 4.543 billion years and will continue to change for several billion more until the supernova. The question is; am I arrogant enough to think that there is anything I can do to change the laws of physics?

2 years ago
Reply to  Audrey Pollock

What can I say but we need more people like you who can explain complicated emotional issues like this in a way that are understandable. Thanks

2 years ago
Reply to  Audrey Pollock

You said it much more eloquently than I could but, my first thought on reading this article was that it just assumes that carbon is a problem.

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