Skip to comments.Carbon Emissions Are Good
Posted on 04/04/2012 11:02:49 PM PDT by Delacon
Carbon Emissions Are Good
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intention to enforce regulations that would effectively ban new coal-fired power plants in the United States. As coal is by far America’s cheapest and most plentiful fossil fuel, and coal-fired power stations account for 45 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S., the destructive economic effects of this edict can hardly be overstated. It is therefore imperative to subject the EPA’s logic to a searching examination.
According to the EPA, despite their disastrous economic effects, regulations to prevent the U.S. from making use of its coal resources are necessary, because coal combustion produces carbon dioxide, which allegedly will cause global warming, which would allegedly be harmful to the Earth’s biosphere and human society. Others, wishing to avoid an environmentalist-created economic catastrophe, have challenged this argument’s first premise, to wit, that global warming is really occurring. Since there is no actual global temperature, but only an average of many different constantly changing local temperatures, this approach has led to convoluted debates revolving around data sets that can easily be based upon an unrepresentative mix of measurements.
This has left the EPA’s second premise — that global warming would be a harmful development — largely unchallenged. This is unfortunate, because while it is entirely possible that the earth may be warming — as it has done so many times in the past — there is no rational basis whatsoever to support the contention that carbon-dioxide-driven global warming would be on the whole harmful to life and civilization. Quite the contrary: All available evidence supports the contention that human CO2 emissions offer great benefits to the earth’s community of life.
Putting aside for the moment the question of whether human industrial CO2 emissions are having an effect on climate, it is quite clear that they are raising atmospheric CO2 levels. As a result, they are having a strong and markedly positive effect on plant growth worldwide. There is no doubt about this. NASA satellite observations taken from orbit since 1958 show that, concurrent with the 19 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past half century, the rate of plant growth in the continental United States has increased by 14 percent. Studies done at Oak Ridge National Lab on forest trees have shown that increasing the carbon dioxide level 50 percent, to the 550 parts per million level projected to prevail at the end of the 21 century, will likely increase photosynthetic productivity by a further 24 percent. This is readily reproducible laboratory science. If CO2 levels are increased, the rate of plant growth will accelerate.
Now let us consider the question of warming: If it is occurring — and I believe it is, based not on disputable temperature measurements but on sea levels, which have risen two inches in two decades — is it a good thing or a bad thing? Answer: It is a very good thing. Global warming would increase the rate of evaporation from the oceans. This would increase rainfall worldwide. In addition, global warming would lengthen the growing season, thereby increasing still further the bounty of both agriculture and nature.
In other words, from any rational point of view, global warming would be a very good thing. By enriching the carbon-dioxide content of the atmosphere from its impoverished pre-industrial levels, human beings have increased the productivity of the entire biosphere — so much so that roughly one out of every seven living things on the planet owes its existence to the marvelous improvement in nature that humans have effected. Through our CO2 emissions we are making the earth a more fertile world.
There is no reason to fear a more clement climate. A thousand years ago, the world was significantly warmer than it is today. A thousand years ago, the snow line in the Rockies was a thousand feet higher than it is now, and Canadian forests flourished tens of kilometers farther north. A thousand years ago, oats and barley were grown in Iceland, wheat in Norway, hay in Greenland, and the vineyards of England produced fine wines as far north as York. These warm temperatures were no disaster. On the contrary, persisting through the twelfth century, they are believed by historians to have contributed materially to the significant growth of population and prosperity in Europe during the High Middle Ages (roughly the years 1000 to 1300).
If we wish to look at a longer span of the earth’s history, average global temperatures can be estimated by examining sea-floor material. Looking at the data, we see significant global cooling since the time of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years ago. The atmosphere contained 2,000 parts per million carbon dioxide, more than five times the 380 parts per million that is does today. New species of plants evolved that were capable of using carbon dioxide more efficiently. The most important of these were the grasses, which, originating at the end of the Paleocene about 58 million years ago, drove temperatures sharply down. Things then stabilized in the Oligocene, until the mid-Miocene, about 15 million years ago, when additional types of grasses appeared. These more advanced grasses were much more efficient at carbon-dioxide utilization, and as they replaced their predecessors, they drove atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels below 300 parts per million for the first time in the earth’s history. In the process, they sent the planet’s climate plunging into a glacial age that has continued to the present day.
Twenty million years ago, vast regions of what are today frozen polar deserts in the Arctic and Antarctic were forests, inhabited by vibrant communities of animal life. Today these regions are close to dead, made uninhabitable by the failure of the wild biosphere to maintain sufficient levels of atmospheric CO2.
The fact that the earth’s atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration was about 280 parts per million shortly before the industrial revolution implies that this value is close to the minimum acceptable equilibrium level for the modern biosphere. As human industrial activity pushes carbon-dioxide levels above this impoverished state, we increase plant productivity, causing the biosphere to push back like a spring, with the force of its push becoming ever stronger the further the system is displaced from equilibrium. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more carbon resources we make available for plant growth, and the more productive the biosphere becomes.
During the 1970s, the earth experienced a short-term cooling trend, and as a result many of the current cast of global-warming alarmists then predicted an icy doom unless human industrial and population expansion (which they blamed for the phenomenon) could be brought under strict control. This history has exposed them to some mockery, but in fact their previous stand was more to their credit. The global-cooling doomsayers of the 1970s may have been wrong, but at least they were yelling about something that, had it been real, would have been bad. Global cooling would indeed have been a disaster, leading to a drier, more sterile planet. Had the threat of another ice age actually been valid, a forceful government effort to avert such a catastrophe might well have been justified. But as the blame for global cooling could not be conclusively assigned to humanity, the case held little of enduring interest to humanity’s prosecutors.
In contrast, the role of humanity in raising global CO2 levels is relatively clear, and power allegedly needed to suppress it is enormous. The problem may be the direct opposite of what was previously alleged, but the solution is the same — more control. The fact that increased CO2 is constructive and highly beneficial to both mankind and the natural world is ignored.
This is deeply irrational. Indeed, consider for a moment what the situation would be if not only temperatures, but atmospheric CO2 levels, were to resume falling. That would truly be a cause for alarm, as it would imperil all life on earth.
But for those seeking the power to oppress humanity, any change in nature effected by humans, no matter how beneficial, is criminal by assumption. Thus all anthropogenic CO2 releases must be harmful to nature, by definition. Furthermore, since all human activity must, perforce, release CO2, all human existence partakes of crime against nature. Therefore nothing we can do is right, and controllers must be empowered to make sure we do as little as possible. Such is the case for the EPA.
— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a member of the steering committee of Americans for Energy, and the author of Energy Victory. His next book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, has just been published by Encounter Books.
Thanks for posting this.
A friend wanted to know. Really.
So let's see now;
invent globull warming,
invent CO2 cause,
Destroy the coal industry,
to bolster the invented CO2,
because of the invented globull warming.
The efforts led by liberal David Lawrence and his DemonRAT toadies were a precursor to the business-crippling EPA. Sure, they cleaned up the air a tad but they utterly killed the vitality of the once-thriving steel industry and sent the Western Pennsylvania economy into the ditch for decade upon decade. The exodus from the region still continues because of the misguided actions of these early environmental extremists.
You are welcome. I think though that Zubrin should have devoted, at least, a chapter on liberal/greenie hubris. The mindset that we disgusting capitalist consumerist are somehow a blight on the world and must be destroyed as we cause change in the environment. We are part of the environment and effect change on the environment just like those grasses did. What we do isn’t negative, its normal. And if we push too hard in one direction, well ole mother nature don’t need no carbon trading scam. She’ll find a way to push back on her own. Being the constantly adaptable creatures we are, I am sure we will be just fine. Besides I live in Delaware which has the lowest mean elevation in the country. I live on some of its highest ground far back from the shore. I want beach front property without having to move. Come on ocean! Rise!
Methane is 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than c02. The thing about methane is that its naturally occurring. In other words, we humans don’t cause it much. Except when we fart. No, the libs will whine that if we just wiped out all those gassy cows we raise for meat and dairy, the earth would be better off. But their contribution is negligible. Thats why libs don’t take that angle very hard. They sound ridiculous. Fact is we actually are helping in that area. We go around trapping methane(natural gas) and turn it into CO2 as we combust it. If you read Zubrin’s book “The Methanol economy” we should be trapping methane more and turning it into methanol and running our cars on the stuff. Search methanol and look for my username. I posted one of Zubrins articles on the subject a few years ago.
Warmth is were we live, oetzi’s don’t just fall out of mountains.
I totally agree just so long as we don’t confuse smog with CO2 which is an odorless, invisible gas. I am not opposed to reasonable efforts to reduce smog. I lived outside Denver for a time. The brown cloud(2nd only to LA’s) there didn’t help people keep their jobs(denver not being a big manufacturing city). It puts a dent Denvers tourist industry.
Of course, they can't gritch about dihydrogen monoxide. They fell for that a few years ago....
Water vapor is the most predominant greenhouse gas.
Get a greenie to admit that.
Its also the least understood in its effects and makes all those scientists’ computer models not worth the code of an android market app. Isn’t dihydrous monoxide? ;)
I hate to rain on this guy's parade but that's baloney.
Sea levels began to rise 18k years ago at the end of the last glacial period. They have risen about 135 meters since then which is an average of 7.5 millimeters per year. That is an average of 750 mm per century (29.5 inches) which is far more than the average over the last century.
From 1880 to 2000 sea level rose about 20 cm or just under 8 inches. Far far less than the nearly 30 inches per century average over the last 18,000 years.
That is less than 3/4" per decade over the last century. More importantly that is a significantly slower rate of rise than the average for the last 18 millennium.
TE I really like it when people more knowlegeable than I contribute to threads I start. Pretty much everyone. So let us assume that we aren’t getting warmer. That means, excluding Zubrins “earth is warming” opinion, we still enjoy the benefits of more CO2. I don’t get my beachfront property though dammit.
I know couple from Pittsburgh who are very proud of the improvements in air quality in their home town. They've lived in Massachusetts for the last 50 years, of course. (BTW, my late father-in-law grew up in Johnstown, his wife in Marion, OH. They spent the last 55 years of their lives in Massachusetts as well.)
Let me add a factoid. Often the other side will tell you
that sea level is accelerating, you know, it's rising faster
and faster every year. And then they run the home page for
Colorado University's Sea Level Research Group as proof
with this graph:
And if you follow the link CU gives you for the data, you
can plot it out for yourself in Excel, but if you use a
polynomial trend line instead of the linear trend supplied
it looks like this:
As you can see, sea level is not accelerating. In fact
there's a little bit of deceleration going on. The other
side doesn't want to talk about that very much.
Well, that isn't me but I have been following this glowbull warming scam for a while and have collected a little info that contradicts the Warmers. IMO if we are warming human activity has absolutely nothing to do with it. I will agree that more CO2 is a good thing. When flowering plants first evolved CO2 levels were way higher than they are now. That tells me that higher CO2 is ideal for plants and abundant vibrant plant life can't be anything but good for animal life.
I didn't mean to imply that I was contradicting the author's entire thesis but the statement about rising sea levels needed to be put into perspective. The actual rate over the last century was about 1 1/2"s per decade but even 2"s per decade is rather slow compared to the average over the last 18,000 years.