Nature knows best? Then why does it get trapped in dead ends?
(Note: The material below rejects the claim that more CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to catastrophic warming. Respected atmospheric physicists like Richard Lindzen and William Happer have shown that the warming influence of CO2 decreases logarithmically with increasing levels in the atmosphere. The CO2 warming influence is already “saturated” (in terms of its “warming influence”) and more CO2 will add very little to any further warming as other natural factors have a much greater influence on any climate change. Lindzen says that a doubling of CO2 levels from 400 to 800 ppm might contribute to another degree or two of warming. Might. We don’t know for certain because correlations with climate change show that other natural factors overwhelm the influence of CO2.)
In his 1971 book ‘The Closing Circle’, Barry Commoner stated his Third Law of Ecology as “Nature Knows Best”. That became an unquestioned maxim of environmentalism.
In his book on environmental optimism ‘A Moment On The Earth’, Greg Easterbrook disagreed. He argued that nature as a random, mindless, and chaotic reality gets blindly stuck in harmful dead ends.
CO2 levels declining over long-term history offer a prominent illustration of a process in nature leading to a destructive dead end. Over the past hundreds of millions of years, nature has been sequestering carbon into carbonaceous rock where most carbon is now trapped.
This dead-end process of sequestering carbon in rocks has resulted in the 150 million year decline of CO2 levels to just 185 ppm some 20,000 years ago (actually the lowest level of the past 570 million years, according to Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore). That was perilously close to the point at where all plant life dies around 150 ppm. Previous healthy levels of CO2, when most life emerged and developed, averaged in the multiple thousands of ppm (i.e. 6000 ppm during the Cambrian Explosion). And life thrived during such times. As Moore says “Even at 415 ppm carbon dioxide is still much lower than it has been during the majority of the existence of modern life… It is preposterous to suggest that 415 (now 420 ppm) is somehow dangerous when all animal life, including our mammalian ancestors, lived through millions of years where carbon dioxide levels were at 2000 ppm and higher” (p.37 in ‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom’).
Plants prefer levels of CO2 around 1000-1500 ppm and flourish at such levels. We are still in a “CO2 starvation era” but with our small increase in CO2 levels, from the 285 ppm of pre-industrial times to 420 ppm today, plant life is responding to more of its basic food with a massive greening of the Earth over the past 50 years. The Earth has added 14% more green vegetation over just the past 40 years. That is an area of green vegetation twice the size of the continental US.
The reason for the decline of atmospheric CO2 over past millions of years is due to “biomineralization” where diverse marine species like clams, corals, crabs, and microscopic plankton “developed the ability to make calcareous shells for themselves… These species consumed millions of billions of tons of CO2 out of the ocean that resulted in the production of (carbonaceous) rocks… the shells of calcifying marine species sank to the ocean floor when they died” (p. 44-45). The buildup of carbonaceous rocks has occurred on both current ocean floors and on the floors of the ancient oceans that once covered continents like North America, hence the large areas of limestone deposits found there. Along with marble and chalk these deposits contain 100 million billion tons of carbon, “118,000 times as much carbon as there is in the Earth’s atmosphere and 2400 times as much carbon as in the atmosphere, oceans, plants, and soils combined” (p. 44).
Humanity has contributed to the current restoration of basic plant food (CO2) by using fossil fuels and releasing carbon that is not trapped in rocks. And we should be celebrated for helping to save life from the long-term decline in CO2 that was posing a serious threat to life. Our adding CO2 to the atmosphere has saved life from the dead end of all dead ends.
With their irrational, anti-science apocalyptic narrative, alarmists have turned the story upside down to claim that our contribution to CO2 levels is now destroying life. This is irrational anti-science madness gone insane.
Climate apocalyptics continue to claim that the food of all life, still at starvation levels, is a “pollutant” and even a “poison” (Bill Maher) that must be purged. This is nonsense as CO2 has not yet returned to normal, healthy levels for life.
And ask yourself- Why are the Greens crusading against the basic food of life and trying to prevent the further healthy greening of our planet?
The conclusion as often stated before: Evidence continues to affirm that there is no need to tax carbon or to decarbonize our societies.
Alston Chase (in his excellent history of American environmentalism- In A Dark Wood) says that “The pantheistic idea of nature as God, with people as the enemy of nature, morphed into ecological concepts of nature as composed of closed-circuit feedback systems… that maintain their equilibrium”. He further comments on Barry Commoner’s maxim to “not meddle in nature that knows best”. (Commoner is saying) “Left alone, ecosystems remain stable. When people meddle, systems collapse. Preservation thus requires isolating ecosystems from humanity.” Chase argues against Commoner’s maxim, showing that all kinds of profound disturbance have been critical to the advance and progress of nature. Nature does not prefer stability but rather disturbance for its growth.
Chase goes into dense detail on ecological concepts, where they went wrong, and our responsibility to properly understand the natural world in order to properly fulfill our role as the guardians/caretakers of nature.
Further, I would affirm with Easterbrook that human mind is the best thing that has emerged in the natural world. Our ability to foresee the future trajectory of trends in nature, along with our creative ability to intervene and correct problems, is the best thing that has ever happened to nature. Yes Greg, nature has been waiting for us for hundreds of millions of years.
Another climate summary: Overturn the alarmist narrative
Carbon/CO2 is not a pollutant and does not threaten life. CO2 is the basic food of all life and benefits life immensely as is evident in the massive greening of Earth (a 14% increase in green vegetation across the planet over the past half century, a 30 increase over the past century).
CO2 is only a “bit player” in climate change. Other natural factors (water vapor, sun, ocean multi-decadal shifts, etc.) are the dominant players in climate change and we must adapt to that natural change as people have adapted across history.
The climate change that we have experienced has been very mild (1 degree C over the past century) and this has benefitted our world during this abnormally cold ice-age era. Several degrees more warming will further benefit life with extended habitats and more diversity of life in those extended habitats. Today, the warmest places on earth have the most diversity of life forms. Warm periods during our interglacial have also resulted in the flourishing of human civilizations.
Cold devastates life with more extinctions, restricted habitats for life, more droughts (less evaporation), collapse of civilizations, and other destructive outcomes. 15-20 times more people die from cold every year, than die from warmth.
Further, additional heat is distributed via ocean and atmosphere convection currents to the colder areas of the planet (polar regions), to colder seasons (winter), and to colder times of day (night). Remember also that for over 90% of Earth’s history there has been no ice at the poles. The polar regions were populated by tropical trees and animals. That extended habitat for diverse life was a huge benefit to the world.
Again, there is no need to tax carbon or decarbonize our societies. That only increases human misery, harming the poorest people the most.
Alarmism: The tendency to exaggerate some problem/threat to apocalyptic scale thereby terrorizing populations. Alarmist exaggeration distorts the true state of a problem. It does not help us to understand the real nature of a problem and how to rationally respond to it. Alarmism incites irrationality and the embrace of damaging salvation schemes like decarbonization.
Main points of the climate debate- evidence versus alarm
The following points are taken mainly from the “alarmist claim rebuttal update” posted at Wattsupwiththat.com Jan.14, 2021 https://thsresearch.files.wordpress.com/2018/02/ef-cpp-alarmist-claim-rebuttal-overview-021118.pdf. Other data are from ‘Everythingclimate.org’ and other sites.
1. Alarmist claim: We have just experienced the hottest years on record.
Fact: For most of the past 10,000 years it has been hotter than today (i.e. Holocene Optimum, Roman Warm Period, Medieval Warm Period). The hottest years of the past century were in the 1920s and 1930s.
2. Alarmist claim: The rate of warming is becoming catastrophic.
Fact: The recent (1970s to 1990s) warming was mild and natural. There has been only 1 degree Centigrade of warming over the past century. There may or may not be another degree or two of warming. That will be beneficial in the abnormal cold of today’s world.
3. Alarmist claim: Global warming is causing more severe storms.
Fact: The long-term trend in severe storms has not been increasing.
4. Alarmist claim: Global warming is causing more and stronger tornadoes.
Fact: “Strong tornadoes have seen a drop in frequency since the 1950s.”
5. Alarmist claim: Global warming is increasing the magnitude and frequency of droughts and floods.
Fact: “Our use of fossil fuels to power our civilization is not causing droughts or floods. NOAA found there is no evidence that floods and droughts are increasing because of climate change.”
6. Alarmist claim: Droughts are getting worse.
Fact: Droughts are not getting worse. The worst droughts have occurred over the distant past.
7. Alarmist claim: Global Warming has increased U.S. wildfires.
Fact: “These data show that the trend in the number of fires is actually down while the trend in the acreage burned has increased.” Globally wildfires have declined.
8. Alarmist claim: Global warming is causing snow to disappear.
Fact: The opposite is occurring with unprecedented snowfalls.
9. Alarmist claim: There is a 97% consensus that carbon dioxide from human activity is driving runaway climate changes.
Fact: “The 97% consensus claim is shown here to be simply a convenient fiction to bypass the scientific method and any inconvenient facts that arise to drive policies.” Note also that almost 32,000 scientists signed the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine ‘Protest Petition’ stating “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”
10. Alarmist claim: Carbon pollution is a health hazard.
Fact: “The term “carbon pollution” is a deliberate, ambiguous, disingenuous term, designed to mislead people into thinking carbon dioxide is pollution.” CO2 is the basic food of life and has been at dangerously low levels over the past millions of years. See Patrick Moore’s new book ‘Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom’.
11. Alarmist claim: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels.
Fact: “All data from tide gauges in areas where land is not rising or sinking show instead a steady linear and unchanging sea level rate of rise around 4 inches/century (1.5- 3.6 mm per year), with variations due to gravitational factors.”
12. Alarmist claim: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland ice loss is accelerating due to global warming.
Fact: “Satellite and surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming and glacial ice is increasing, not melting.” Arctic ice extent has been measured from the end of the 1940-79 cold period which gave a misleadingly large baseline from which to evaluate Arctic sea ice extent. The extent of Arctic ice was previously smaller during earlier warm periods.
13. Alarmist claim: Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification, which is catastrophically harming marine life.
Fact: The ocean acidification alarm is false.
14. Alarmist claim: Coral reefs are dying.
Fact: Coral reefs are thriving. More detail in Moore’s Fake Invisible Catastrophes and Threats of Doom.
15. Alarmist claim: CO2-induced climate change is threatening global food production and harming natural ecosystems.
Fact: “Far from being in danger, the vitality of global vegetation in both managed and unmanaged ecosystems is better off now than it was a hundred years ago, 50 years ago, or even a mere two-to-three decades ago.” Earth is greener today (a worldwide 15% increase in green vegetation since 1980) because of more basic plant food- i.e. CO2- in the atmosphere. Over recent years we have broken crop production records and now produce enough food to feed 10 billion people (25% more than humanity needs).
16. Alarmist claim: Humanity faces increasing threat from extreme weather.
Fact: Long-term data indicate that global death rates from all extreme weather events have declined by 95% since the 1920s.
17. Alarmist claim: The warming influence of CO2 on climate increases exponentially with rising levels of CO2.
Fact: The warming influence of CO2 decreases dramatically- i.e. logarithmically- with rising levels of CO2. Conclusion? There is no “climate crisis”- no reason to fear or to halt rising CO2 in the atmosphere.