Geoffrey Styles has summarized well how our activities have upset the balance of the carbon cycle, “overloading it through the rapid release of vast quantities of stored carbon that had accumulated over geological time in fossil fuels.” If we accept the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change, then the goal of climate policy is to cut that overloading by eliminating carbon-intensive energy sources, e.g. coal, and replacing them with much more efficiency and with lower-carbon energy.
“The coal industry destroy the land, pollute the air and water, impoverish communities, and sicken tens of thousands of people a year.”
“Yes, but it’s for the Greater Good.”
“What Greater Good?”
“Destruction of Life on the Planet as We know It.”
Some reject the idea of human-caused climate change out of principle; they have a God-given right to destroy life on the Planet as we know it. And, some reject the idea because of money; the idea threatens how and where their profits are made. (Or, it is profitable to support the denial.)
A tactic of those denying human-caused climate change is to use a basic understanding (which came about at the time of the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of a United States of America, see The Invention of Air) that we need oxygen and plants need carbon dioxide. How plants make use of CO2 is part of the carbon cycle.
GP Wayne explains how this fact is used to deceive. Since it is recycled, a key part of the deception is that the CO2 will go away. The extra CO2 is cumulative because natural processes have not and increasingly cannot absorb all the extra CO2. Because the excess CO2 chiefly comes from burning fossil fuels, the level of atmospheric CO2 is building up, and that build up is accelerating. “Man-made CO2 has increased the overall level of CO2 in the atmosphere by a third since the pre-industrial era”.
“Carbon is exchanged through natural processes among the land, ocean, atmosphere, and living things.” Our growing carbon footprint has upset the balance.
Consider what happens when more CO2 is released from outside of the natural carbon cycle – by burning fossil fuels. Although our output of 29 gigatons of CO2 is tiny compared to the 750 gigatons moving through the carbon cycle each year, it adds up because the land and ocean cannot absorb all of the extra CO2. About 40% of this additional CO2 is absorbed. The rest remains in the atmosphere, and as a consequence, atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 15 to 20 million years (Tripati 2009).
Editor’s note: Tripati, et al suggest that a natural change of 100ppm normally takes 5,000 to 20,000 years. The recent increase of 100ppm has taken just 120 years and 2.3ppm between 2007 and 2008. This blog has suggested before such increases show non-linear threshold behavior.
P.S. The title comes from Don Blankenship calling Washington and state politicians caring about coal miner safety “as silly as Global Warming.”
The Invention of Air: The Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America ASIN: 1594488525
Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right ASIN: 0525947647