The Wonders of CO2

By Ray Winn   |   November 23, 2017

What I wrote a couple issues ago deserves another go-round, so here goes: There are about 1,100 terawatts (TW) combined from internal earth, solar, and adding in some from charged particle heating from the sun captured by the magnetosphere of the earth. Man uses about 14 terawatts of energy. About one third of this is already in Earth’s energy budget of 1,100 TW because some 4.3 TW is non-additive – being derived from water, wind, and solar – leaving about 9.7 TW man-additive from coal, petroleum, nuclear, gas, et cetera. Thus, man-created heating of Earth of 9.7 TW is less than 0.9% of the total heat budget of the planet.

Carbon dioxide, C02, is an inert and colorless gas making up about 0.038% (380 parts per million [PPM]) of our atmosphere. The range is 320 to 408 PPM, depending on where in the world and at what altitude the measurement is taken… and almost as importantly, by whom. Some have suggested that the “normal” range for the last 50,000-100,000 years is 331 PPM, based on ice cores and plant studies. The ice studies had been the most accepted.

However, recent information suggests that the measurements are low due to an effect of liquid water in ice absorbing some of the C02, then leaking out, yielding a lower reading of C02 concentration. The jury is still out on this issue, but the side taken is usually related to political party affiliation. 

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the EIA (Energy Information Agency), about 3% of the low-altitude C02 is caused by the burning and processing of fossil fuels, with lesser contribution at higher altitudes. This results in the contribution of C02 from fossil fuel burning and processing at 11 to 12 PPM out of the 380 PPM total C02. The other “natural sources” of 368 PPM comes from bubbling gasses from the deep ocean, decaying ocean plants and animals, decay of land-based plants and animals, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and a variety of other natural causes. 

A fun way to put this is that 97% of C02 molecules agree that they come from natural sources.

C02 is plant food! Without it, there would be virtually nothing green or edible on the planet. Go back to your high school science book and review the C02/O2/photosynthesis cycle. This magic comes from the component that is only 0.035% or so of the total Earth atmosphere. The magic results in the production of oxygen, which is 21% of the atmosphere and the life-blood of existence of all animals on Earth, including you. Without it, you could barely live for more than five minutes. The makeup of the atmosphere is: nitrogen: 78%; oxygen: 21%; argon: 0.9%; trace: 0.1% trace gases include neon, helium, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and C02.

Before the western United States was settled, lightning-induced forest fires raged throughout the West; sometimes burning for several years on end until the fuel was gone or rains came to the rescue. God created forest fires, but forgot to put them out. In modern times, those fires are extinguished quickly by man, reducing the “natural” contribution from that source.

Greenhouse Gasses

Coincidently, according to NASA, water vapor is categorized as a greenhouse gas, and represents 43% of all greenhouse gases. Water vapor is conveniently left out of nearly all the data reported. How can one believe data when 43% of the climate and/or temperature-related gas is ignored, while a few parts per million of other species are dutifully accounted for?

All the issues of weather and climate change are extremely complicated and turn quickly on the most minor of natural world events. In spite of our super computers and algorithms, we are barely able to predict the weather with any degree of certainty more than a week or so in advance, and we are sometimes surprised more often than that. 

Prognosticators are routinely embarrassed by their announcements and forecasts. They needn’t be.

The subject is wrought with the ever-changing events hurled at us by Mother Nature. Winds shift, electrostatic storms rage, volcanoes erupt, ocean currents rise/fall/shift, El Niño occurs, temperature inversions come and go… and a whole plethora of unpredictable events befall us. Rather than embroil ourselves in diatribes and invectives hurled at one another at close range, maybe it is time to step back, look at the past, carefully analyze the best data we have, and rationally draw the best conclusions we can for the future, from a purely scientific and non-political plane. Then to try and understand one of the major phenomena that impacts our daily lives, our security, our well-being, and our futures: the weather.

May your day be full of sunshine, some rain, and the bountiful harvest and happiness that is brought forth by both.

If you are so inclined, please pick up your copy of Heaven and Earth, by Ian Plimer, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Adelaide. There are a number of Mr. Plimer’s books available to MJ readers absolutely free at Tecolote Book Shop. I purchased them for your edification, if not enjoyment. I only ask that after reading the book you bring it back to Tecolote, so that someone else may read it free as well.


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