Climate Change, and greenhouse gasses

I am going to try to avoid any controversy in this post, although on such a “hot button” issue that will be impossible.

Global climate change is occuring, that is not news. It would be news if the global climate were stable. I intend to address the current claims of anthropogenic (wow, a word for man-made) disaster as regards climate change.

Before getting into the history of the earth and climate let me first speak of “greenhouse gasses”. All atmospheric gasses are greenhouse gasses, although some to a greater extent than others. The planet Mercury, and our moon, have no atmospheric gasses – and therefore no “climate”. The sunward side is baked and the other side is frozen. The existence of an atmosphere creates a climate, the circulation of the atmospheric gasses – both vertically and horizontally – provides a balance. In a thick atmosphere like Venus this involves considerable retention of heat – and in a thin one like Mars the climate is less dispersed. Earth has a reasonably optimum atmospheric density for a relatively uniform climate.

The great guru of Al Gore, James Hansen, is a qualified scientist – but so was the Nobelist in Chemistry who advocated massive doses of Vitamin C as a cure for the common cold. Hansen started in planetary studies, and  concentrated on Venus. It was a great surprise to the world when the first probes found Venus, which we had thought to be a good prospect for Earthlike life, to have a temperature of around 800 dgs. F. The Venutian atmosphere is somewhere around 80% CO2. Hansen extrapolated that as a cause.

I think Hansen is right, at such a high concentration the CO2 would entrap the heat. But let us look at the atmosphere of our Earth. About 3 billion years ago we had similar high concentrations of CO2, and it was very hot here. But that doesn’t mean that it was a greenhouse effect involving incoming sunlight and entrapment of that energy. There was also a very active volcanic core, the energy entrapped could easily have been the internally generated energy, with the radient energy of the sun being a minor factor.

So let us look at the current situation, disregarding other planets in other stages of development – and our own planet in other stages of development. There is good argument that there is a greenhouse effect, the direct radiation of the sun could pass through the atmosphere while the lower energy radiant heat reflected or emitted from the Earth might be entrapped. But that begs the question as to the nature of greenhouse gasses.

There has been a massive increase in atmospheric CO2 in recent years, if you use the measures provided by the alarmists. In a hundred years it has jumped from under 250 ppm to about 350 ppm. Let’s put that in perspective. The Earth’s atmosphere has been stable for millenia at 99% oxygen and nitrogen (in a ratio of 20%/ 80% respectively). The remaining 1% is about 80% argon, an inert gas of light molecular weight.  That leaves us 0.2% for everything else. The advocates use PPM as it makes a nice big number, but 10,000 ppm is 1%. The increase in atmospheric CO2 in the industrial era has been over 30% if you use @220ppm to @350ppm, a significant increase. But if put in percentage terms it is from 0.022% to 0.035%, not a large percentage of the overall.

Now to the pollutant aspect. The “Greens” would have you believe that CO2 is a pollutant, as well as a greenhouse gas. My first question for any of them is “what is the appropriate level of CO2 in the atmosphere”. I confess that I haven’t yet found an idiot who would say “zero”, but I hope to find one so I can ask him “what will you eat?”. The complicated process of the symbiosis between plant life and animals involves a food chain that started in the pre-Cambrian period somewhere between 1 and 2 billion years ago. I’ll not be definitive here, as no one is quite sure of the when and where – I could be a half billion years off. Early life seems to have been similar to photo-plankton, life forms that used photo-synthesis to absorb energy and grow. The Earth went through cycles of extreme heat, and less extreme heat, but the primitive forms developed.

Now to more modern times, the explosion of life about 700 million years ago. Climate had settled a bit, the atmosphere was gaining oxygen from the excretions of the photo-synthetic organisms that took in CO2 and hydrocarbons and water to convert energy (from the sun) into growth. The nature of the organic hydrocarbon, that is the basis of all our living forms, is a combination of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon – along with a lot of other elements and molecules. The nature of the sugars (hydrocarbons) that are the nutrients of plants allows the release of oxygen as the H, the O, and the C bond. CO2 has an extra oxygen atom for the normal combination – and now we get the oxygen we breathe.

What is the right level of CO2? The more the CO2 the faster the plants grow, and therefore the more O2 released. Without the plants we would have no vegetarian meals, but then again we would have no meat meals either as the ruminants we use as meat wouldn’t have anything to eat.

At zero CO2 we have no life, at 80% (like Venus) we probably have no life. Somewhere in between lies an optimum, and I doubt that we can judge between 0.05 % and 0.01% – and we are ranging between 0.025% and 0.035% now.

Deepak Chakur, and Dorothy Rabinowitz

Deepak Chakur, on Hannity and Colmes tonight, decried Dorothy Rabinowitz’s knowledge of history when asked about her WSJ column regarding his statements. I’m afraid that Mr. Chakur is the one who needs to do a bit of research.

His thesis is that the proper response to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is to treat it as a negotiable difficulty in social relations – a view that can be supported, although I disagree with it. In advancing that view he suggested that Ms. Rabinowitz should understand the history of the Taliban, the former Mujahadin of Afghanistan that was supported in their war against the USSR by the US.

Perhaps Mr. Chakur should review the history, and I would have thought that with his own background in the Indian sub-continent he might have known it. The Tailiban are not the product of the Muhahadin of the Afghan/Soviet war. The Muhahadin, by definition, were the fighters defending their Islamic culture against the Sovietized central government. The Taliban wer not involved in that long battle, in fact I think the name Tailiban comes from an Afghan word for “student” (my linguistic skills aren’t that great, but I seem to remember that from somewhere). The Taliban were in the ideological schools while the Muhahadin were fighting the war. In the vacuum of victory the Taliban came out of hiding and snatched the nation, creating a theocracy that the Mujahadin didn’t envision in their quest to displace the Soviet style communist government.

I am not an historian, nor an expert on the nature of the Afghani culture. But what little I know of that country suggests that it is more a collection of tribes than a nation, and that they will resist any outside influence. And this is not a denigration of that, the entire history of mankind as a social animal has been a record of transition from family to clan, from clan to tribe, and from tribe to nation. The idealists among us would say that it is time to go from nation to world – and I’d agree with them, except that in many places we have barely gotten beyond clan.

This latter is not an indictment of any peoples, it is a recognition of differences that I think are geographically based. Can one expect that the peoples of a mountainous area like Afghanistan, where for centuries subsistance has been a problem, would form the same social thinking as a relatively uniform Europe? Hell, it took many centuries for Europe to develop from tribal communities into nations, and that on relatively uniform geography – and those nations were fighting bloody wars among each other until very recently.

My late father was a World Federalist as a Canadian in the thirties, a fond hope and a fine goal – but first the peoples of the world have to change their attitude. When some are religious fundamentalists, and others are clan or tribe based, there is no common ground.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Saturnalia, or my best for a winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrate at the time when the days start to lengthen and you can anticipate the advent of Spring and the budding of the flowers. My wife and I are a bit pagan as we aren’t docrinaire in any religion, but she has been keeping me busy in setting up the Christmas tree. A celebration of a season, and of memories – a time when we elderly reflect on the past, and plan for the future.

Deepak Chakur was wrong in his history of the Afghan conflict, and wrong in his view that good will can mitigate the problems of nations and/or tribes. I commend him for his views, and I wish he were right. This Conservative would prefer a world where the nations came together.

Best. Jon