It is amazing, appalling, and mystifying to describe the pitiful tale of how carbon dioxide – an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas – which is essential for the production of oxygen, and therefore essential for life on Earth – has been demonized into a harmful, evil “pollutant” – a toxic “emission.”
This tiny, trace gas, which comprises only 400 parts per million of the Earth’s atmosphere, is essential for the proper operation of not only the lungs of humans, but also the breathing apparatus of nearly every living thing on Earth. The amount of CO2 produced by human beings from the burning of fossil fuels (as opposed to the natural outgassing of CO2 from phytoplankton, volcanoes, fires, decaying vegetation, etc,) is even smaller, constituting less than a one fifth of all atmospheric CO2.
Atmospheric CO2 is the critical ingredient in photosynthesis – the chemical process plants use for producing oxygen. At its birth, the Earth’s atmosphere did not contain any significant amounts of oxygen. But CO2 was in abundance. Over billions of years, single celled algae evolved into plants, which then turned the combination of water, sunlight, and CO2 into the oxygen rich atmosphere we have today. The critical ingredient was CO2. No CO2 – no oxygen – no life as we know it. This is simple chemistry – an undeniable fact.
To obtain perspective on how minuscule a component of the atmosphere CO2 actually is, imagine that a slice of the Earth’s atmosphere containing 10,000 molecules of air were placed in a medium-sized basketball stadium, consisting of 10,000 seats. The total number of CO2 fans sitting in that stadium – encompassing all known sources, – would be just four.
That’s it. Four out of 10,000. And of those four CO2 fans, the number of them which were created by the burning of fossil fuels would be less than one.
Climate Alarmists claim that the addition of that one, single fossil fuel CO2 molecule by the year 2050 – a single “magjc malignant molecule” – will be responsible for bringing about catastrophic warming of the planet.
One single fan, sitting in a stadium of 10,000 people, will dictate the tragic outcome of the climate and the ruination of the Earth. Many educated, rational people – overwhelmed by massive amounts of propaganda and misinformation regarding the purported evils of CO2 – now believe in this kind of thinking, even though it flies in the face of the historical record, sound science, and the most basic common sense.
I can provide a recent, personal example.
Several months ago, the Yale Alumni Association of Washington DC sponsored a lecture called “Climate Change: What You Need to Know.” I attended with about 100 fellow alumni(ae) of all ages, almost all of whom appeared to be fervent believers of the current climate orthodoxy. At the end of the lecture, I posed the “CO2 in the basketball court“ scenario to the lecturer, and asked why we should abandon common sense regarding the nature and power of CO2. His response meandered around the notions of “scientific consensus”, “peer reviewed literature”, “precautionary principle”, and other familiar talking points often offered by proponents of man-made global warming (AGW). In other words, he couldn’t answer the question.
After the lecture ended, several people from the audience rapidly approached me to explain what they ”knew” to be the obvious answer to the question. They explained that a single molecule of CO2 derived from the burning of fossil fuels was like a cancer cell, a poison pill, or a cyanide capsule buried in the human body, even a tiny portion of which would cause the host to die.
There it was: the demonization of CO2 – the sincere belief by a group of well educated, rational people that man-made CO2 molecules produced by burning fossil fuels are malignant, cancerous, and toxic.
I was somewhat surprised, but perhaps shouldn’t have been. For years the mainstream media, the academic/consultant industrial complex, and “progressive” thinkers have been spreading, supporting, and promulgating the fiction that CO2 molecules derived from the combustion of fossil fuels are an evil, toxic material that must be removed, or at least radically reduced, from the face of the Earth if the planet hopes to survive. The finding by the Obama Environmental Protection Agency that CO2 is a “pollutant” is Exhibit A of this irrational group think.
Once again, how could such a spectacular fantasy consume the thinking of otherwise rational people?
Sadly, history tells us this kind of mass hysteria and invidious group-think has happened before in our country. It was called Prohibition, and the demonized substance was ethyl alcohol.
The Prohibition movement was so powerful and compelling that it succeeded in causing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution to be ratified in 1920 by 46 of the 48 States. Fully 68% of the House of Representatives, and 76% of the US Senate voted in favor of the Amendment.
It was a masterpiece of Progressive social engineering. First demonize the substance, then criminalize it.
For over a decade Prohibition gripped the country, with many woeful consequences – crime, corruption, and the destruction of many legitimate businesses. It took almost a generation before reason came to bear and the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1933, effectively abolishing Prohibition.
Why is the bogus theory of man-made global warming, like Prohibition, so appealing? For one, it gives the social moralist the opportunity to exhibit personal virtue, as well as intellectual superiority. During Prohibition, virtue signaling was embodied by the “T-Totaller” proudly wearing signs demonstrating abstinence and adherence to this fashionable orthodoxy. The AGW believer buys an electric car, eschews plastic straws, loudly denounces fossil fuels, and applauds industrial strength solar and wind farms. The more opportunistic ones ride the great green gravy train of cash which fuels the Climate Alarmist movement. Alarmism is also catnip for politicians of all stripes.
But what really engages modern day social moralists, and the crown jewel of virtue signaling, is the figment that they are “saving the planet.”
What a noble cause! Who doesn’t want to save the planet?
It is a grand and fatuous exercise in self-deception.