Libertarian Leanings

Libertarian Leanings is a new column by by Peter Burrows, who blogs at silvercityburro.com and can be reached at elburropete@gmail.com.

It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Grant County Beat.

ATTENTION EARTHLINGS: BURN COAL OR DIE!!! By Peter Burrows 2/11/17 elburropete@gmail.com silvercityburro.com

Occasionally in life, circumstances align in such a way as to make even an atheist say, GǣHmmmm. Looks like the Hand of God at work.Gǥ

Such an epiphany will bless any disinterested soul who views Patrick Moore's 40 minute speech, GǣShould We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?Gǥ available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Z5FdwWw_c. The speech was delivered October 14, 2015, to a meeting of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a London-based think tank. You can also find a transcript at http://www.thegwpf.org/patrick-moore-should-we-celebrate-carbon-dioxide/.

It's a remarkable speech with an absolutely stunning, irrefutable conclusion: We shouldn't be limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, WE SHOULD BE INCREASING THEM. In fact, had not humans begun adding CO2 to the atmosphere by burning hydrocarbon fuels, all life on earth could have ended in less than two million years, which geologically speaking, is damn near right now. As Moore says, Gǣ-- if the Earth were 24 hours old we were at 38 seconds to midnight when we reversed the trend toward the End Times.Gǥ

As I will explain, this was the second time in the history of the world that something stepped in to reverse a cataclysmic decline in atmospheric CO2. First, a little bit about Moore. While getting his PhD in ecology in 1971, he joined a group of environmental activists that became Greenpeace, now one of the largest environmental organizations in the world. In the mid 1980s he found himself the only Greenpeace director with a formal science education, and being a man of principle, he resigned when the organization began to ignore science in favor of whatever the emotional Gǣcause du jourGǥ was. (My interpretation, accurate though.)

Moore's comments on CO2 and climate reveal that over the past 540 million years there has been no positive correlation of temperatures to CO2 levels and a couple of glaring examples of inverse correlation. A similar conclusion can be reached looking at only the last 120 years. The importance of CO2 is not in its influence on climate, which is negligible, but its importance to life itself.

The accepted estimate of CO2 levels in the atmosphere at the beginning of the industrial revolution some 200 years ago is 280 parts per million, ppm, or about one-quarter of one percent of the atmosphere. This was not much above the 180 ppm that occurred during the peak of the last ice age about 18,000 years ago, which Moore says was, Gǣ --extremely likely the lowest level CO2 has been in the history of the earth. This is only 30 ppm above the level that plants begin to die.Gǥ

Plants begin to DIE? Yep. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is an essential plant food. No CO2 equals no plants equals no life. Period. Even at today's 400 ppm, plants are relatively starved for CO2 and need, Moore says, an optimum level of 2000 ppm.

Moore shows that the last 150 million years have seen a steady drawdown of CO2 in the atmosphere, on average 37,000 tons per year, as declining volcanic activity has meant volcanic emissions of CO2 have not been enough to replace the CO2 consumed by, and removed forever from the atmosphere by'shellfish!

About 500 million years ago, soft-bodied sea creatures began to evolve the ability to capture CO2, combine it with calcium, and form a shell. As trillions of these creatures of many, many forms would die and settle, they formed huge deposits of carbonaceous sediments. The white cliffs of Dover are perhaps the best-known example.

The carbon that has been removed from the atmosphere by these critters is astounding. The amount of carbon on the surface of the earth is estimated as follows: 850 billion tons in the atmosphere, 2,000 billion tons in plants and soil, 5,000 to 10,000 billion tons in fossil fuels, and 38,000 billion tons dissolved in the oceans. The total, rounded up to the max, is about 50,000 billion tons. The amount tied up in fossilized sea shells, a.k.a. carbonaceous rock? 100,000,000 billion tons, or about 2000 times the rest of the earth's surface combined.

Carbonaceous sedimentation and rock formation is ongoing today, and only the introduction of man-made CO2 has reversed the inevitable extinction of life on earth. As Moore, says, GǣIt is ironic that life itself, by devising a protective suit of armour, determined its own eventual demise by continuously removing CO2 from the atmosphere.Gǥ But, GǣThank God,Gǥ as even an atheist might say, along came coal-burning man to save the day.

Coal itself is the second great irony in the history of CO2 on earth. The formation of coal, like carbonaceous rock, could have wiped out life on earth as it sucked up CO2 by the billions of tons with no end in sight. The coal story begins some 400 million years ago when plants evolved to produce lignin, which combined with cellulose equals'Voila!'TREES. There was a problem though. As Moore puts it:

GǣAs vast forests spread across the land, living biomass increased by orders of magnitude, pulling down carbon as CO2 from the atmosphere to make wood. Lignin is very difficult to break down and no decomposer species possessed the enzymes to digest it. Trees died atop one another until they were 100 meters or more in depth. This was the making of the great coal beds around the world as this huge store of sequestered carbon continued to build for 90 million years. Then, fortunately for the future of life, white rot fungi evolved to produce the enzymes that can digest lignin and coincident with that, the coal-making era came to an end.

GǣThere was no guarantee that fungi or any other decomposer species would develop the complex of enzymes required to digest lignin. If they had not, CO2, which had already been drawn down for the first time in Earth's history to levels similar to todayG

By Peter Burrows, elburropete@gmail.com , silvercityburro.com 

Everybody is against crony capitalism but crony socialism doesn't get much attention, probably because it's a relatively new term or maybe because itG

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