August 15, 2011
How far will some go to present a half truth as something more than it is?
Today’s lesson children is about the pros and cons of CO2. The Oil, Coal and Natural Gas industries are here to prevent the bogey men in the climate science field from frightening you about it. We have put together this colorful children’s book – and parents need not be reluctant to enlighten their own misunderstanding of CO2 – to convince you that there is no need to fear CO2 from our waste product gathering abundantly in the atmosphere. CO2 is a vital life form and important for our survival
One of the great benefits of CO2 is that it is transformed into oxygen through the photosynthesis process that plants are associated with. Oxygen is of course essential to all living beings so this transformation process is a good thing about CO2.
I have taken the liberty here to present to you as I think the authors intended regarding a recent publication that was printed for attendees at the recent meeting of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). The publication is entitled “The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment” or “How humanity and the rest of the Biosphere will prosper from this amazing trace gas that so many have wrongfully characterized as a dangerous pollutant.” The authors of the piece are C. D. and S. B. Idso. S.B Idso, or Sherman to his father, C.D. Idso, is president of his father’s Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. More about this later.
The Idsos are some of those out there that think that all we need to know about CO2 is the brief positive side I presented at the beginning of this article. There really is another side to the production of CO2 that doesn’t paint as pretty a picture, but it’s more scary stuff and there are those like Sherwood and C.D. who want to shield you from this. This may seem a good thing because as children we don’t want to be afraid of our world, even if the danger is real and the failure to know about it will only make the threat worse.
A couple of the things you will not find in the Idso’s literature is that all things in excess are harmful and unless there are sufficient plants to convert this CO2 into oxygen it has no real value to life. Mowing down forests to build another mall or housing developments could have a negative affect on this vital process.
People like the Idsos that fail to present a complete picture which includes the scary side of CO2, are also closely tied to those who make lots and lots of money from producing tons and tons of CO2. So much in fact that the excess it creates throws the natural balance of CO2 out of whack on our planet and is having serious ill effects on all living creatures. Who are these people you may ask? They are of course the very people who provide the dirty, finite energy sources that fuel your SUVS and heat your homes and businesses.
These energy sources are referred to as fossil fuels because they are “formed by natural processes such as anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms,” like dinosaurs and old trees. When this fuel is extracted from its source under the ground and is spent as energy it returns the CO2 NOT to its original inert state but primarily into the atmosphere, mingling with other CO2 molecules that have been there for millennium. This is where it can be a threat to all of us.
As the CO2 gathers in the atmosphere it adds to that natural contingent of CO2 along with the other green house gases of water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. These green house gases in the atmosphere provide a barrier for our planet from receiving too much direct radiant heat from the sun while also capturing some of that heat to prevent the planet from totally freezing over. Read all about it here. It is this natural balance of chemicals thus that sustain the planet and once this balance is lost, life as we know it is altered significantly, even to the point of ours and the demise of all other life forms.
We were not aware of this reality until scientific methods and tools were able to measure such things as early as the late 19th century. Scientists who specialize in this field are called “climatologist” and they have discovered that our planet has lost this natural balance a few times over the millions and millions of years that Earth has been around. I know the Bible says that Earth has only been around for a little over 5000 years but the gentlemen who wrote this also thought the earth was flat. We now know better thanks to scientists.
But I digress. What does all of this have to do with scary stories of CO2 and the people who sell and support the use of fossil fuels. Well, it seems they have become concerned about the prospects that this knowledge will have some adverse affects on their business and thus their ability to make money. By making the public aware that the use of fossil fuels is adding to the greenhouse effect which is heating up the planet at higher than natural rates, they have become fearful that you may stop buying their products and convert to cleaner, renewable energy sources out of concern for your health and the health of your family.
Science is a tool for all mankind. It is no different for those who run the fossil fuel industry. It’s been utilized to make the fuel sources we use in a variety of ways. So it is difficult for the fossil fuel industries to lash out at science as the bogey man, much like religion has done for centuries since Galileo pointed out the biblical error of the Earth being the center of the universe.
No, instead of making that mistake the fossil fuel industry simply claimed that the scientists that study climate change (remember what we called them – CLIMATOLOGISTS) were wrong in their findings. But to help them do this they had to have other scientists refute that. No one stepped forward immediately when originally asked so they told them that they would pay anyone who could find fault with the science of climate change to create the illusion that there was no real threat in using their product.
ZME Science blog puts it more succinctly:
“The thing is, you don’t have to convince people that climate change isn’t happening – all you have to do is cast some doubt on that, and people will no longer be certain, and this is a strategy that has been successfully tested by tobacco companies, almost at the same level, and coffee companies, at a much lower level. Basically, you keep the public confused about the idea, and a confused public is much, much better than a public who is against you. SOURCE
Now, man being the self-interested slug that Ayn Rand says we are in her writings like Atlas Shrugged, provided the means to influence a few scientist like the Idsos (who by the way are not climatologists) to suggest that maybe global warming was not a threat or at least that man-made global warming through increased usage of fossil fuels was not a valid scientific concept. However, there were only a handful of climatologists who were willing to sell their souls to the industry while the consensus of climate scientists refused to break from their discipline that held peer-reviewed documents strongly favored the effects of CO2 from fossil fuels on global warming.
So to counter this the fossil fuel owners convinced other scientists whose specialty was not in the climate science arena (the Idsos work in the field of geology, or what most of us know as rocks) to get on board with them to refute the consensus and the preponderance of evidence that supports the climate science on man-made global warming. Along with this endeavor they also started contributing to the coffers of some conservative politicians to go on the offensive with them, like Oklahoma’s Senator James Inhofe and Texas Congressman Joe Barton; those whose states had abundance resources of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.
Conservatives are natural enemies of liberals so they employed the straw man argument that all climate scientists and their lay supporters were liberals and were in on some sort of conspiracy with Al Gore to end the use of cheap, dirty fossil fuels so they could jack up energy prices and make a killing in the market. They never really clearly explained this but most people are easily duped anyway, thinking that if rich people and their politicians are claiming this then it must be true.
If Lucy is Big Oil then we must be Charlie Brown
But even this didn’t seem to be having the overwhelming affect on the public as they intended so they have tried to take the positive aspects of CO2 that I mentioned at the outset of this article and are now trying to convince that CO2 is our friend, not our enemy. This is where the Idsos and their literature come in. The fossil fuel-friendly industries like Koch Industries and Exxon/Mobil were handing this literature out to its political minions in New Orleans last week at the 38th annual meeting of the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC). ALEC is where big industries get together with your elected officials and create model legislation for them that helps their corporate interest while being passed off as legislation your elected officials created for the good of their constituents.
Now it is important to note two misconceptions on the front page of the Idsos’ literature. First, CO2 enhancement is not an argument that has arisen within the climate science studies of man-made global warming. This is another straw man argument that some in the climate deniers camp have been paid by fossil fuel producers to generate. CO2, as was mentioned above is necessary to the vitality of all life and when present in proper amounts, does indeed enhance the biosphere.
Secondly, no one on the climate science side has “wrongfully characterized this ‘trace gas’ as a dangerous pollutant.” This is another facade generated by climate deniers to throw poorly informed people off the track as to the core concern on this issue. The front page of the Idsos literature is therefore gravely misleading.
So, don’t be deceived. CO2 is good in proper amounts. But like anything in abundance it can prove harmful. Merely ask any surviving suicide case (if you can find them) who used a plastic bag or an enclosed garage with the car engine running in their attempt to kill themselves. And don’t be fooled with the argument that tropical fruit being grown and produced in northern Canada is a boon for society. Those who will experience the extreme heats and desertification of this climate change south of Canada will find little to cheer about on Canada’s new crop growing ability.
Wikipedia on Fossil Fuels