CO2 is not a pollutant it is essential for life
By Art Gopalan
The main goal of the climate alarmists and the deep-pocketed forces backing them is to destroy the middle class and the high standard of living enjoyed by them with the development of inexpensive and highly usable energy derived from fossil fuels. They found a wedge to mount that campaign by linking the carbon dioxide gas emissions due to combustion of fossil fuels to warming trend of earth’s surface. They are constantly extolling: 1. Science or facts do not matter. 2. Opposition must be silenced. 3. Keep pounding the drum that the apocalypse due to global warming is here and we only have a few years to correct it before we become another extinct species.
Carbon dioxide is one of the essential molecules for life on our Earth. Every school child learns that plants need carbon dioxide to exist. Prolific plant life is essential to the development of other forms of lives on earth, including the human species. Mammals with lung capacities exhale carbon dioxide. It is a beautifully designed life system.
Why does the EPA want to designate that life-essential gas as a pollutant? EPA, like every government organ, is a police power. It wants to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and consign the use of fossil fuels for power generation to extinction. The availability of reliable and inexpensive energy derived from the use of the fossil fuels enables abundance of food, independence through mobility, ownership of private property, creation of majority of the population living comfortably in the middle economic class and voluntary exchange of goods and services, that is capitalism. A population that is economically well off will not depend on the government and will think and act independently. Any political party whose aim is to gain governmental powers does not want independent thinking and acting majority in the population. They want the majority of their constituents depend on them for their living conditions. To get there, the political party, (in the US now, it is the Democratic party) must generate an existential fear to force people into their fold just like a cattle drive into the pens. The Democratic party playbook is to drive the narrative that the carbon dioxide emitted by the fossil fuels is the reason for the climate change and that puts us on the path of extinction of life on earth, if the emissions are not stopped within a short period of time. Therefore, it is essential that we control the runaway killer of a gas, carbon dioxide. If that narrative is constantly pushed to the front with the help of the media apparatus and linked to every act of nature, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, unusual heat waves, unusual cold temperatures and snow storms the general populations will begin to believe and invite the government to act. The government with the Democratic party in charge actively promotes through legislation and Executive actions to end the fossil fuel electric generating power plants and to end production of gasoline fueled automobiles. They promote the backward technology of solar and wind power electric energy generation as modern and “renewables”. The net result of this transition is the destruction of the middle class, independence, and the destruction of property rights.
CO2 is a trace gas that causes, they tell us through their faulty models, heating of the earth surface temperature to raise it by as much as 3 to 6 oC!!!
Let us understand what we are talking about is, a trace gas in our atmosphere whose concentration is 0.04 percent (400 parts per million). The fear-mongering narrative is that it means existential threat to life on earth when it reaches 0.05 percent (500 parts per million). On the face of it, it is just preposterous. How do they do it? They cleverly tack on the warming trend of the earth and the rise of the concentration of carbon dioxide (from 300 PPM to 400 PPM in the last 125 years) as the effect and cause respectively. They do that by developing a computer model (an analytical model) that is stochastic. A stochastic model uses the temperature data available (in some cases by studying the tree rings of some specific trees) and establishes a correlation to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Moreover, they make the leap to conclude that the increasing levels of CO2 from the late 1800s to today is due to industrial activities of man. In science, a hypothesis does not become an established fact unless it is proven. There is no way to prove their hypothesis as the natural release mechanism of CO2 is not understood. Data that exists shows that the atmospheric CO2 levels lag the surface temperatures, meaning that earth’s surface temperature increases before the level of CO2 in the atmosphere starts to increase.
A correlation model (all of them are) can never be a predictive tool. For example, I can construct a model using the Dow Jones stock market data of the past but that model can never be used to predict what the Dow Jones data will be the next day, or next month or next year much less at the end of the 21st century. A fundamental tenet is science is correlation is not causation. You need to establish causation in order to predict the future values in a well-behaved system. Earth’s atmosphere is just one element of a thermodynamic model of the planet earth in its solar system. It is an extremely complex system and our knowledge of the behavior of all the sub-systems in it is very meagre. Freeman Dyson, one of the premier physicists in the world thought trying to predict earth’s surface temperature is a fool’s errand as our fundamental knowledge of the various subsystems such as for example the negative feedback of carbon dioxide absorption is rudimentary or non-existent. Another strike against the models is the none of them are validated. They cannot for example be run to show the cold temperatures of the Maunder Minimum during the mini-ice age of 1650 to 1720.
CO2 molecules have characteristic photon absorption frequencies at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns (which is one millionth of a meter). They are all in the long wave infrared region of the sun’s rays. The energy carried by a photon or sun’s rays is inversely proportional to the frequency of the wave. The longer the wavelengths the lower the energy content. Ultraviolet region of the sun’s spectrum carries far greater energy levels. The absorption by the CO2 is all fingerprint absorption. It does not mean they emit radiation. Molecules by themselves cannot radiate; only a blackbody can emit radiation. Based on Wien’s law (defines wavelength-temperature relationship of a body), the 2.7 and 4.3 microns cannot exist in the atmosphere because the corresponding temperatures are too high. For the 15 microns, the temperature will correspond to -80 C and that temperature occurs about 90 Kilometers (56 miles) above the earth’s surface. On top of that, presence of water vapor within the troposphere (0 to 40,000 feet) which has a much wider absorption characteristics throughout the infrared region would dwarf any absorption effects of CO2. The models do not have any means to model the clouds, their formation, and their ability to reflect the radiation back into space. Consider this: A trace gas with very limited absorption characteristics, overwhelmed by the presence of water vapor and its phase changes, we are told, will kill us all if we don’t shut down the fossil fuel-based civilization.
According to their theory, the CO2 gas upwells into the stratosphere inducing cooling there while increasing the temperature of the troposphere. There has been no indication of any of the temperature changes due to CO2 levels increasing in the atmosphere. With the earth surface temperature at sea level static at 59oF, the blackbody radiation frequency can be calculated using Wien’s law. It places it at 10 microns. Carbon Dioxide molecules will not react to that frequency as their fingerprint frequency is at 15 microns. Water vapor on the other hand could react to that frequency and trap the heat. Cloud formation, its water vapor content can and does affect the maintenance of the surface temperature. Considering more than 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, changes in the surface temperature will result in adjustment to the water vapor distribution in the atmosphere. Magnitude of thermodynamic interchange involved with the water vapor is vast and significant compared to the trace gas activity of the CO2 in that interchange.
CO2 level is low in the atmosphere, higher that level, better the plant yield and greater the tolerance to drought. We need more CO2 to feed the world.
Carbon dioxide is essential for plant life which is at the low end of the food chain. Plants convert carbon dioxide molecules and water molecules into carbohydrates using the sunlight. I am quoting here Willian Happer (Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics, Emeritus, in the Department of Physics at Princeton University) on the essential nature of CO2 for plants in more than one way.
“Land plants get the carbon they need from CO2 in the air. Most plants draw other essential nutrients- water, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, etc- from the soil. Just as plants grow better in fertilized, well-watered soils, they also grow better in air with CO2 concentration several times higher than the present value in the atmosphere.” We know this to be true when we consider the farmers that grow plants in hot houses generally pump CO2 levels to 1200 to 1500 PPM (3 to 4 times the current atmospheric levels). They do that to increase the yield of those plants, either vegetables or flowers to optimum yield. CO2 in the presence of sunlight and water enables plants to thrive and create abundance.
Let us look at some basic botanical facts. Quoting Dr. Happer again: “Ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase, or “RuBisCO” for short, is the most abundant protein in the world, and the foundation of all life. Using the energetic molecules, mainly adenosine triphosphate (ATP), produced with the aid of sunlight, RuBisCO, converts CO2 to the simple carbohydrate molecule, 3-phosphoglyceraldihyde (3-PGA). The biochemical machinery of the plant subsequently reworks the 3-PGA molecules into sugar, starch, amino acids, and all other chemicals of life. The letter “C” in the nickname RuBisCO stands for “carboxylase” in the full name, which reminds us of the RuBisCO’s design target: CO2.”
“Geological evidence suggests that RuBisCO began to play its key role in photosynthesis some three billion years ago, when there was a lot of CO2s and very little O2 in the atmosphere. At current levels of CO2, plants can use up much of the available CO2 in full sunlight. This CO2 depletion spells trouble for the plant. The letter “O” in the nickname RuBisCO stands for “oxygenase” in the full name, which reminds us that an alternate target of the RuBisCO is the oxygen molecule: O2. If RuBisCO charged with chemical energy from ATP does not quickly find a CO2 molecule. It will settle for an O2 molecule and produce toxic byproducts-for example, hydrogen peroxide- instead of useful carbohydrates. This photooxidation is a serious problem. At current low CO2 levels and high O2 levels, it leads to a reduction of photosynthetic efficiency by about 25 percent in C3 plants, which include major crops, wheat, rice, soybeans, cotton, and many others. Since 3-PGA, the first molecule synthesized from CO2 has three carbons, such plants are said to have the “C3” photosynthetic pathway.”
“The low CO2 levels of the past tens of millions of years have driven the development of the C4 plants (corn and sugar cane for example) that cope with oxygen by protecting RuBisCO inside of “bundle sheaths”. CO2 molecules are ferried into the bundle sheath by 4-carcom molecules which give the C4 pathway its name. O2 cannot get into the bundle sheath, so RuBisCO need not waste efficiency by mistakenly working on the abundant O2 molecules instead of the scarce CO2 molecules.” Regardless of C3 or C4, thousands of experiments conducted point to higher growth with more CO2 in the atmosphere. (See: M.B. Kirkham, Elevated Carbon Dioxide: Impacts on Soil and Plant Water Relations. CRC Press, 2011)”
Apart from the nutritional efficiency with higher amounts of CO2, of equal importance is the greater ability of the plants to tolerate drought conditions with higher levels of it. What does this mean? It means that plants exposed to higher levels of CO2 will need lesser amount of water to reach optimum yields. Here is how Dr. Happer explains it: “In the course of evolution, land plants allow them to grow leaves with more stomata in air that is poor in CO2, like today, or with fewer stomata for air that is richer in CO2, as has been the case for most of the geological history of land plants. If the amount of CO2 doubles in the atmosphere, the plants reduce the number of stomata in the newly grown leaves by a factor of two. With half as many stomata to leak water vapor, plants need about half as much water and will grow better in arid regions of the earth.”
Simple question: Go to the local grocery supermarket at the produce section. How many vegetables and fruits come from colder climates of Artic and Antarctic regions? Answer: None. How many come from warmer regions such as the Southern United States and California? Most of them. Warmer temperatures mean abundance of life, colder temperatures, hostile to life.
Instead of shutting down the coal and gas-fired thermal electric generating plants, we should be building more. The output of CO2 in the atmosphere should be allowed to increase so that more arid areas will become greener and will sustain life. The only reason one would promote to shut down those types of electric generating plants and the availability of abundance of inexpensive electric energy is to downgrade the standard of living. China and India are building several coal-fired power plants annually to lift their poor masses into a middle class, raising their standard of living. The only objection I would raise about the proliferation of coal fired power plants is that China and India are not diligent about installing scrubbers to eliminate emission of particulate soot. In the US, scrubbers have been in operation since about mid-70s and the air is cleaner as a result. As a matter of fact, the US air quality exceeds the national and global standards with the coal fired power plants in operation. The US has coal reserve that can last for several hundred years, and it is downright stupid not to use it to maintain the high standards of living. The demand for electricity is bound to go up with all the electronic devices proliferating and needing charging. The federal government knows this. They are not clueless. They are driven by the collectivist ideology that cannot accept growth of prosperity among the majority of the population. In their model, it is a zero-sum game.
Another Simple Question: What is the right level of CO2?
There is no answer to that question at all. Let me show you the plot of CO2 levels going back to millions of years. The earth is estimated to be in existence for about 4 billion years. The last hundred years or two hundred years is a miniscule and won’t even garner a “dot” on that kind of scale. Yet, the climate change alarmist wanting to destroy comfortable living style for a vast section of the world’s population, cite just the last hundred years. As a matter of fact, they try to elevate their fearmongering by claiming that our current level of atmospheric CO2 is higher than a million years ago.
Here is a photo of the figure from the American Journal of Science that shows the level of the atmospheric CO2 stretching back to 600 million years, the last one-sixth of the age of the earth. The years are plotted on the horizontal axis and the ratio of past CO2 concentrations to those of about 300 ppm of the past few million years is plotted on the vertical axis. “This particular proxy record comes from the fraction of the rare stable isotope 13C to the dominant isotope 12C in carbonate sediments and paleosols. Other proxies give similar results” – Source: American Journal of Science.
It clearly shows that the atmospheric CO2 levels have been as high as twenty-five times greater than the current levels. There is no record of the earth melting away due to those high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
What is the lowest level of atmospheric CO2 a must for life to exist?
Answer: Our current levels are really close to damaging life on earth. We need more CO2 and not less!
Here is the question whose answer will clarify to you how precarious we are with the level of CO2 that we have. Quoting Mr. Happer on that subject: “Only once in the Phanerozoic, about 300 million years ago, has the CO2 level been as low as in the recent geological past. Today’s 400 ppm is still a CO2 famine as far as most plants are concerned. During the coldest parts of the continental glaciations of the past 5 million years, CO2 levels dropped to 200 ppm or less. (J.K. Ward et.al., “Carbon Starvation in glacial trees recovered from the La Brea tar pits, Southern California”. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2005, 102:690-694) not much above the 150 ppm or so when many plants die of CO2 starvation. (J.K. Dippery, et.al., “Effects of low and elevated CO2 on C3 and C4 annuals: Growth and biomass allocation,” Oecologia. 1995, 101:13-20)”
“Life begins to fade at half of today’s CO2 levels and dies almost completely at one quarter of today’s values. Geological history has demonstrated that life flourishes abundantly at double or quadruple the CO2 levels of today.”
What is the correct surface temperature of the earth?
The fearmongers have no answer.
Here is a photograph of a figure published illustrating the global temperature in the last 2000 years.
This figure reproduced by photographing it from Energy and Environment. It is a 2000-year record of temperatures using non-tree-ring proxies. If you look at the mean values, from about year 500 to year 1100 the estimated temperatures had been warmer than the current levels. The Medieval years had been warmer than the current levels and the Greenland which is covered with ice today was farmed by the Vikings then. Fearmongering crowd falsely produced a temperature relationship that showed the temperature shooting off from the 1800s by ignoring (perhaps deliberately) the Medieval warming temperatures. That is the infamous “Hockey Stick” that I am referring to and has been ridiculed since the facts came out.
The earth is far greener today than in 1982 due to CO2 increase.
Here is a photograph of the published figure showing the greening of the earth since 1982. As noted, that increase has been noted as 11 percent. That is in spite of the increase in population of the earth when we are being constantly demonized for destroying the rain forests.
The present CO2 levels are near the plant starvation danger.
Higher levels of CO2 will mean greater productivity (tons per acre) of crop production which the translates into nutritional sufficiency for all the people of the earth. Higher levels of CO2 also means less use of water to maximize plant productivity.
Multiple times the current levels of the atmospheric CO2 had not recorded temperature spikes. However, near 200 ppm levels of it in the past had resulted in disappearance of plant life with a corresponding increase in the dust in the atmosphere, as recorded in the core ice samples, which then resulted in glaciation.
Higher levels of CO2 have been demonstrated to increase the greening of the earth not creation of death and destruction as the fearmongers would have it.
The current global temperature is not at all near the Medieval warming period when Greenland was lush with vegetation, now covered with ice. Warm temperatures and rich CO2 are necessary for plant life, and we depend on them for our own.
The computer models trotted out to convince us of a non-existent catastrophe are not predictive tools as they are merely correlation models constructed with assumed fudge factors for the numerous unknowns going into the thermodynamic system of the Sun and Earth.
We need more CO2 and not less for our survival.
Art Gopalan is a retired engineering manager at General Electric Aircraft Engines.
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