“All things in moderation, including moderation.”
– Mark Twain
When the issue of climate science arises in some circles there are those who deny that CO2 is a factor in rising global warming temperatures. In fact some say that not only are current levels of CO2 acceptable and healthy but that we need to increase them to make things better. In their paper, “Disputing the Skeptical Environmentalist”, the authors attack those they claim are “demonizing the gas of life” and attempt to point out that increased levels of CO2 actually enhance plant and animal life. Many deniers have used this paper to chastise climate hawks (those who support the climate science) about their claims that CO2 from fossil fuels is the leading culprit in warmer global temperatures. Sadly though this paper reveals the same flaws by climate deniers that every other piece out of the skeptic’s camp have put forth.
First and foremost, we need to determine the credibility of the authors. How willing is the rational person to accept information say between their doctor and their health insurance provider concerning a life-saving procedure. One is trained in medical science and has taken an oath to save lives; the other is skilled at a for-profit business that has obligations to their stockholders. Only a fool would choose the latter of these two.
Now this of course doesn’t say that the doctor is 100% right and the insurance company’s assessment of a health issue is always wrong as it regards treatment. This does suggest however that when it is your life on the line that the information that is more apt to serve your self-interests will align itself with the medical expert whose decision is not based on profits alone. In fact some doctors have been known to act against their own self interests and have availed themselves free of charge to help people who cannot afford their services. This rule of self-interests should apply in the case of claims made by those who deny the climate science by a consensus of climate scientists.
Two of the co-authors of this piece, Willie Soon and David Legates have been funded by G. Koch Charitable Foundation, American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation (to name a few) to report any information they can that raises doubt about the climate science. Raising doubt is a good thing in science but it becomes specious after it has been debunked by peer-review articles and fellow scientist while being linked to blood money from the very industry that fears its profits will diminish if the use of fossil fuels decreases.
The third author, Australian Bob Carter “appears to have little, if any, standing in the Australian climate science community. He is on the research committee at the Institute of Public Affairs, a think tank that has received funding from oil and tobacco companies, and whose directors sit on the boards of companies in the fossil fuel sector” according to a piece in his home country newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald (Minchin Denies Climate Change man-made, by Wendy Frew, 3/15/07)
The authors claim that “the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been unable to demonstrate a cause-and-effect scientific connection between rising human CO2 emissions and dangerous warming” is deceiving and misleading. The IPCC has demonstrated a relationship between a rise in CO2 levels and global warming. And though the authors are correct in saying that “carbon dioxide has decidedly beneficial impacts on plants, aquatic and terrestrial alike” they fail to point out, as all climate deniers do that CO2 in high concentrations turn from being inert friendly agents to the causal factor for acidifying the ocean water which in turn kills off marine plant and animal life. CO2 has also been the suicide method of choice by people who asphyxiate themselves either with a plastic bag over their head or in a confined garage with the car engine running. Clearly under certain conditions too much of a “good thing” is not healthy.
Perhaps the most telling flaw with this paper is that none of the authors’ charges aimed at those who would “demonize the gas of life” is supported by any data or links to sources that support their version of this issue. Bjorn Lomborg, the target of the authors’ piece, was once a climate denier himself. In an article of the British newspaper, The Telegraph, we find that “one of the world’s most prominent climate change sceptics has called for a $100bn fund to fight the effects of global warming, after rethinking his views on the severity of the threat.” (Climate ‘sceptic’ Bjørn Lomborg now believes global warming is one of world’s greatest threats, by Matthew Moore, 8/31/10). The authors go after one of their own who they feel have turned on them because of their fear perhaps that their weak credibility will be further diminished with such defections.
Yet the fact remains that their claims of plant and animal life are being enhanced with added concentrations of CO2 are not explained with peer-review reports. They fall short of credibility when they tell us that a “new study connects enhanced plant productivity to greater bird species diversity in China” then fail to link us to that study. The reader is left to conclude that the authors are being totaling revealing in their information when in fact no one is above the suspicion of cherry picking information to suit their view in this hotly debated issue. Any paper or author on this topic that fails to associate their claims with current data to support them is hardly working from a scientific base, where science itself is on the hot seat by many. You can’t attack the science and then turn around and try to use it as the authors do when they use the IPCC report to bolster their case.
“All things in moderation” Mark Twain said. Once extremes come into play a delicate balance can be turned on its head and life as we know can change unalterably. For those interested on both sides of the global warming issue the lesson we should take home is that though there may be no absolutes in the scientific knowledge we have on climate change and the roll CO2 plays in it, what we do have is more than sufficient to act on to serve our self-interests as a global community. Policy making is not the job of the scientist but is to provide information so intelligent leaders can act on it. No climate scientist is making or has ever made any “absolute” claims about anthropogenic global warming but the preponderance of them have demonstrated that the reality is closer to the truth than not and requires action now if we are to halt and hopefully reverse this condition.
CO2 is our friend as long as it remains at consistent levels that nature intended. Once we alter that consistency then it is no longer our friend but a threat to our existence. Abundant CO2 cannot enhance life if we are removing that element vital in transforming it to oxygen (trees and plants) by wiping out forests and blowing mountain tops off to meet commercial interests. Current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are at 387 ppm. This is less than in the average amount found in a ventilated but crowded room of people. It’s not that this level of CO2 is threatening to people as they breathe in the air around them but it is a rate of measurement that climate scientists use to show its increase in association with global temperature. Let me stress this fact: The threat is slow and is not related to the air we breathe but it does pose a threat to the climatic affects that increased global warming creates.
CO2 however is not in and of itself the demon of this threat. Carter, Legates and Willie Soon are correct when they proclaim this in their paper. But they are complicit with those that do pose a threat when they deny that living outside of moderation is non-threatening. CO2 can only enhance life when it remains a part of the ecosystem that is sustained by levels that nature sets. Once humans transform CO2 from one natural state as part of fossil fuels buried in the ground to CO2 gases that gather in the atmosphere, the balance of life also transforms; a transformation that no longer favors life as we know it.
Sources: Embedded in the article