Letter: Politics disguised as science

“What historians will definitely wonder about in future centuries is how deeply flawed logic, obscured by shrewd and unrelenting propaganda, actually enabled a coalition of powerful special interests to convince nearly everyone in the world that carbon dioxide from human industry was a dangerous, planet-destroying toxin.”

“It will be remembered as the greatest mass delusion in the history of the world; that carbon dioxide, the life of plants, was considered for a time to be a deadly poison.” (Ed Ring, EcoWorld, 2008)

The carbon dioxide molecule, which has been more recently defined by radical environmental groups as a pollutant or poison, is absolutely essential to sustain plant and animal life here on Earth. To corrupt the English language in this way is simply a sleazy tactic to demonize this life-giving gaseous molecule.

Recent preindustrial carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere were about 280 parts per million. Today they are approaching 400 parts per million. If carbon dioxide levels were to ever decline to 150 parts per million, plant life would die and life on Earth would die with it. The geological record as far back as 500 million years has shown carbon dioxide levels as high as 4,000 parts per million, or 10 times what they are today. So, it is easy to argue that our atmosphere today is “carbon dioxide starved” and increasing the carbon dioxide levels would actually be beneficial to life on Earth.

Is carbon dioxide a poison? Well, you and I exhale carbon dioxide at a level of about 40,000 parts per million. And if we were to exhale too much of it, we would become unconscious (hyperventilation). Greenhouse nursery operators often add carbon dioxide to a level of 1,000 parts per million to increase plant growth. Plant life flourishes at 2,000 parts per million. Carbon dioxide concentrations on Navy submarines and NASA-manned space vehicles often exceed 5,000 parts per million, with no ill effects to their occupants. So to label carbon dioxide a poison or pollutant is simply misleading hype. (Do not confuse carbon dioxide with carbon monoxide, which is very poisonous.)

I have just explained to you that this “pollutant” is vital to your good health, so why is carbon dioxide the villain? It is believed by most to cause the Earth’s temperature to rise. Yes, it is a greenhouse gas, but of the many greenhouse gases it is, by far, the weakest. If we were to double the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, physicists, such as Dr. Will Happer, of Princeton, argue that the temperature of Earth would rise about one degree Celsius, which is not a danger to man or to plant life. In the past one billion years, the Earth’s average temperature has been as high as 22 degrees Celsius (warm and tropical) to as cold as 12 degrees Celsius (ice ages). Today, the Earth’s average temperature is 14.5 degrees Celsius, which is well below the 17 degrees Celsius average temperature over the geological record. So, the Earth is actually colder than normal. Addition of more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere above a doubling (760 to 800 parts per million) would have very little temperature effect.

So, why are we spending billions of dollars trying to reduce or sequester carbon dioxide molecules when higher levels in our atmosphere would actually be beneficial to plant and animal life on Earth? I can’t tell you why. It makes no sense to me. It is just hype, propaganda and political nonsense. It is politics disguised as science.

Dick Piland