6.2.09

Hoax-Watch: What is this Carbon Dioxide nonsense anyway?

My first choice for Hoax-Watch is a short, straight-forward video on the wonderfulness of carbon dioxide. "The Myth of Global Warming"

This video has a few things going for it:

1: An expert waxing over how great CO2 is for plants and therefore there's nothing to worry about.

2: The power of graphs on computer screens! It's science! Also: the University of Ottawa?

3: A "An Inconvenient Truth" reference in the youtube description - from now on the mark of a serious contender for Hoax-Watch.

4: Youtube comments. Hilarious!

First, I don't think anyone has ever said that carbon dioxide isn't consumed by plants. I know that I got a pretty negative reaction from some people for claiming that carbon dioxide is a pollutant - and it's true, my language was a little vague. The real point I was trying to get at was that carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere at a rate far exceeding any natural events has a polluting effect.

I think the same thing applies here. Plants need carbon dioxide, sure - but is more of it a good thing in that respect? While I don't have an answer, I hope that the article I posted a while back about trees dying because of climate change might indicate something.

But really, this unidentified woman talking about how wonderful its been for farmers to get a little bit more out of their harvests is missing the point entirely. Personally, I am not worried about plants, specifically - more about rising temperatures, storms, and droughts. But hey, it sounds really nice when you say that climate change has been giving little gifts to the working Joes on the farm.

And then we move into, apparently, the entire department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa. First, Jan Veizer tells us that carbon dioxide has varied a lot and that that hasn't always been connected to temperature. Cool!

Jan Veizer is, without a doubt, a scientist - I checked out his page at the Unversity of Ottawa and read a short paper he wrote about the climate. And more than that, he speaks like a scientist. Here's the quote from the video:

"Changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide has had little effect on Earth's long term temperature, in comparison with natural causes."

Veizer's papers are so scientific this spin video can't even get rid of the science. First, the natural causes Veizer mentions essentially boil down to the sun - a common thing for deniers to say. It's true that changes in solar output drive a lot of climate change. Unfortunately, a recent study has said that there is no doubt that the sun has nothing to do with recent increases in temperature - so there goes Veizer's natural causes.

Second, and more important, we are not talking about Earth's long-term temperature. Long-term, in this case, is geologic time. Veizer's graph? It's time scale is in hundreds of millions of years. I, honestly, don't give a shit about what happens in the smallest of increments on Veizer's graph - I care about the next 41 years, maybe the next 100 at the outside. Veizer (and the next guy, as we'll see) is missing the big point - historical records are just a clue, not the answer. More on that in a second.

Along similar lines, the next University of Ottawa professor (seriously, why Ottawa?) in line makes a big point of blowing up a section of the well-known double graph of temperature and CO2 levels found from studying ice cores. Apparently, the temperature changes and then the CO2 changes. Fascinating! Apparently, global warming is a hoax and CO2 levels are increasing because the temperature is magically rising!

Well, I have two problems with that. First, again, look at the time scale. Hundreds of thousands of years - with a carbon dioxide level of 100-300 ppm through-out. It took us 200 years alone to get way above that, to 380ppm.

In the end, The Point is not whether, in the planet's past, CO2 levels and temperature have shared a relationship or not. That's extremely interesting - and might influence the decisions we make today - but it's totally different.

A hundred thousand years ago, there were no factories, cars, or coal-burning power plants. We have departed from historical methods of climate change - history cannot predict anything. It can suggest possible results, but here's the key - we have very little idea how kicking the climate in the butt like this will change things. It's a shock to the Earth's system - and no talking about temperature changing CO2 levels three hundred thousand years ago denies that.

The first and last thing to remember when confronting deniers trying to use wishy-washy scientists as evidence is this. Every single nationally and internationally recognized organization that has been created to determine whether climate change is a problem or not thinks that it is. These are organizations who employ scientists to read every paper they can find and figure out what the big picture is - and they believe climate change is coming, humans are bringing it, and that it's gonna change the world.

And finally, ' "Carbon dioxide is a "convenient myth" rather than an "Inconvenient Truth" '. Seriously? That's the best you can do?

2 comments:

  1. Too bad trees produce methane. Oh shit.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I don't really understand where you're coming from with your comments?

    ReplyDelete