We hear two warring parties…
Party 1: Humans are evil, we are killing the planet, technology is bad, population is bad, we should all die and barring that we should all become Amish.
Party 2: Global warming? What global warming? Co2 is good for you, it’s good for the economy, energy drives the economy. Coal and oil is the economy.
I don’t buy either camps story. Global warming is real, it isn’t caused by humans but it is exacerbated by humans.
The planet recovered from a seven mile asteroid strike 65 million years ago, it will recover from us. The planet isn’t the same as it was prior to the asteroid strike 65 million years ago, it won’t be the same as it was after us.
The planet started out life with a primarily carbon dioxide atmosphere. 99.5% of that carbon dioxide has been sequestered and is now buried as limestone and hydrocarbons.
Plants need carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and water form the raw ingredients for synthesizing all the carbohydrates we love to eat. Plants also need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and in very small amounts, sulphur, boron, copper, manganese, molybdenum, iron, zinc, and chloride.
Up to three or four times the current atmospheric level, most plants grow much faster with increased carbon dioxide levels. That’s good news and it’s bad news. It’s good news because as the rate of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere increases, so will the rate of carbon dioxide sequestration by plants.
The bad news? Faster growing plants absorb fewer minerals from the soil, many of which the plants don’t need and just absorb as a by-product of osmosis which carries minerals they do need and water up their roots. That’s not real bad news from the plants, but it is for animals which depend upon these nutrients the plants absorb.
So do I think putting more carbon dioxide into the air is a good thing? In the short term no. In 500 million years or so it might be a good thing because as the planet warms and it’s natural response is to decrease carbon dioxide, at least it has been over the last 3-1/2 billion years, it will reach a point in about half a billion years where the carbon dioxide level is too low for plants to survive. If we’re still around in half a billion years and we help by adding carbon dioxide, then it’s going to become very hot.
All that said, the Bible makes it clear that Earth was made for us humans. And… it tells us to be fruitful and multiply. It seems like we got the latter part of that command but not the former so much.
So I don’t buy the whole humans are evil and killing the planet bit. I do believe that being more fruitful involves among other things, getting along with each other and using technologies in ways that are in harmony with the planet and not opposed to it.
With respect to the run-away greenhouse theory, I would ask this simple question, if this were possible, since the Earth started with an atmosphere almost entirely of carbon dioxide, why didn’t it stay this way?
Because the theory is bunk. The reason Venus has such a huge amount of carbon dioxide isn’t because of a run-away, it’s because Venus being closer to the Sun lost most of it’s hydrogen to interstellar space and probably had less of it to begin with as volatiles tend to be in short supply nearer the sun, and thus ability to make water in large quantities.
Water, which is necessary to both life and plate tectonics (it acts as a lubricant), being largely absent on Venus, resulted in no life to sequester carbon dioxide in the oceans that didn’t exist, and no plate tectonics to sub-duct calcium carbonate from the non-existent oceans under the non-existent plates to be transformed in to hydrocarbons.
As the sun continues to heat up, in a billion years or so we will lose most of our hydrogen into space, and the Earth will become like Venus.
What is going to happen if we put too much carbon dioxide into the air is that it’s going to become uncomfortable for us and more cold climate species will die. Maybe we will make it hot enough for our own survival to become difficult to impossible. But once we are gone, the Earth will eventually re-establish equilibrium and new species will evolve to fill the niches created by the current extinctions.
So I do believe that continued transformation from an economy based upon burning hydrocarbons is in our best interest as well as the interests of many species with which we share the planet.
That said, I see a lot of good things happening in this regard. Denmark recently generated more than it’s entire national consumption in wind energy and actually sold surplus to Germany and some other neighboring countries. This proves that what utilities keep saying, that the grid can’t withstand more than 20% or so renewables, is just bunk. This level has been exceeded in Germany and the Netherlands as well. They key in those countries has been geographical diversity, and we have much more geography to diversify over than any of them.
Some downer news, Lockheed Martin has pushed out the date for their fusion prototype to be ready from 2017 to 2025, guess they must have got the funding they were looking for. Sad to see this as I was not only looking forward to a new energy source but also for a big part of the military-industrial complex to have something productive and good to do rather than their usual destructive and evil doings.