Sunday, January 4, 2015

NoTricksZone Review - Too Many Tricks in Denier Article

Someone left a comment and asked me to take a look at an article appearing on the NoTricksZone website - Why There Is Global Warming. I agreed and did a review this morning. Basically, it was light work over my morning hot tea. You would think a website named 'No tricks zone' would avoid using any tricks. Sadly, that was not the case.

This article starts out with one of the most tired of all denier claims – if manmade global warming is real, how can you explain periods in the past that experienced global warming? The false argument here is the assumption there is only one way to cause global warming. I’ve discussed this false argument many times and you can read a posting about it here. But, let me summarize the argument and illustrate how it is a false one:

There was global warming in the past;
There is global warming today;
Global warming in the past was a naturally occurring cycle;
Therefore, global warming today is a naturally occurring cycle.
Let’s put this same argument another way to see how false it is:

Pneumonia kills people;
Gun shot wounds kill people;
Pneumonia is a naturally occurring disease;
Therefore, gun shot wounds are a naturally occurring disease.
The fallacy is that the second does not follow from the first. There are more ways to kill someone than just naturally occurring diseases. The same way, there are more ways to cause global warming than naturally occurring cycles.

The biggest problem with this claim is that, yes, there are naturally occurring cycles and those cycles are continuing today (in addition to manmade effects), but today’s naturally occurring cycle is a cooling cycle. If it were not for this naturally occurring cooling cycle, we would be in even worse shape than we are. I find it very interesting that every time someone pulls this argument out, they never discuss even the possibility that the natural cycle right now might be a cooling one, they automatically assume it is a warming one without any science to back them up.

Also, the graphic showing the warming/cooling cycles is in error. Here is a more scientifically valid temperature plot for the last 11,000 years. The blue arrows get in the way, but you can still clearly see the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age and can compare them to today’s temperature trend. It is a really different story when the facts are presented correctly.

Source: Climate Snapshots

The author of the NoTrickZone article then makes the case that manmade global warming can’t be real because the world is too big for us to change the temperature. Really? We can’t change the world? Take a look here:
Source: SIO

This is the Keeling curve and shows atmospheric levels of CO2. The ziggy part to the right shows the measurements taken since the late-1950s on Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The line-graph prior to that shows the CO2 levels as they have been reconstructed from proxy data. Wow! I would say we have managed to change the world. What’s that you said? You’re not convinced? Then, try this one. This is the data for the last 800,000 years. We’re the spike on the far right.
Source: SIO
At no time in the last 800,000 years has the CO2level been anywhere near today’s level. The cause of that incredible spike? Manmade emissions.

So, yes, we can most certainly change the environment.

Also, the claim works against itself because we are not the ones warming the planet. The author claims the Sun and Earth are so large we cannot change the temperature. Well, it is the Sun that is heating the planet and causing it to warm, not us. We are merely causing it to cool down less rapidly. The Sun warms the planet’s surface and that heat is then radiated out into space. Greenhouse gases absorb this heat, in the form of infrared radiation, and slow the process down. As we add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, the cooling process gets slower. All the while, the Sun keeps warming the planet even more. So, you see, the author is actually making the case for manmade global warming.

Then, there is a bunch of false statements in the form of “Fun Facts about Carbon Dioxide.”

First false statement. “Of the 186 billion tons of carbon from CO2 that enter the Earth’s atmosphere each year from all sources, only 6 billion tons are from human activity.” Notice the author is trying to fool you by discussing the amount of carbon, instead of the carbon dioxide. This is an attempt to try and make it look less serious and is a deception. We are not concerned with carbon, per se. We are concerned with carbon dioxide. Why didn’t he address that issue? After all, this part of the article is titled, ‘fun fact about carbon dioxide.”

In addition, his numbers are still wrong. Try these numbers on for something more credible.
Source: Yale Climate Connections
Today, we are emitting in excess of 35 billion tons of CO2per year. That is a lot more significant than saying we are emitting 6 billion tons of carbon. But, do the math. The atomic weight of carbon dioxide is 44 units (16 units for each of two oxygen atoms and 12 units for one carbon atom). Therefore, carbon makes up 27.3% of the mass of carbon dioxide. Apply that percentage to 35 billion tons of emissions and you get over 9.5 billion tons of carbon – that is more than 50% larger than the number the author states. By the way, we have other products that have carbon in them that are not included in this figure. Incorrect figures and deceptive practices, that is not a good start.

Next false statement: “At 380 parts per million CO2is a minor constituent of the Earth’s atmosphere–less than 4/100ths of 1% of all gases present. Compared to former geologic times, the Earth’s current atmosphere is CO2-impoverished” See the Keeling curves above to see how today’s levels compare to historic levels. There is no comparison at all. Today’s levels have not been seen within the last 800,000 years, at least. Were there periods further back in history that had higher levels? Yes, there were. The Cambrian Period 500 million years ago had levels in the thousands of parts per million.  But, no one alive today would want to live during those times. Simply because some time hundreds of millions or billions of years ago had higher CO2levels does not mean it would be hospitable to modern human life. And, it is not relevant to the discussion of today’s climate.

And, please explain to me how he justifies saying today's levels are 'minor.' Is he saying they are minor because they are .04% of the atmosphere? If so, then he is being deceptive because that .04% has a very significant impact. Take a look at this one example of the impact from those levels. An over-the-counter pain killer is a lot smaller percentage of your body weight than .04%, but it also has a big effect. So does alcohol at levels far below .04% of body weight. The claim that it is minor simply because it is 'only' .04% of the atmosphere has no scientific validity. 

Another false argument: “Carbon dioxide is a nutrient, not a pollutant, and all life– plants and animals alike– benefit from more of it.” Raw sewage is a nutrient, also and has been used in some countries for thousands of years to fertilize farm fields. Do you want it in your drinking water and do you want to breathe fumes from it? So, why does this argument not apply to CO2? Once you get too much of something, it becomes a pollutant. We now have so much CO2 that the environment cannot deal with it. CO2 has become a pollutant.

Next false argument: “CO2 that goes into the atmosphere does not stay there, but continuously recycled by terrestrial plant life and earth’s oceans.” No. Again, take a look at the Keeling curve above. The vast majority of CO2 produced is produced by natural processes. The vast majority of CO2 produced, by both natural and manmade sources, is absorbed. But, about 50% of manmade CO2 remains in the air (see the Keeling curve again). By the way, that CO2 that is being absorbed by the oceans is causing them to become more acidic. And, that’s also bad news

Finishing up with one last false statement: “If we are in a global warming crisis today, even the most aggressive and costly proposals for limiting industrial carbon dioxide emissions and all other government proposals and taxes would have a negligible effect on global climate” 

So, this person’s argument is that manmade global warming isn’t real because it would take too much money to fix it. That is not a scientifically valid argument. And, it is incorrect, too. Also note that he makes this argument after saying, earlier in the article, we are too small to be changing the planet. Wait a minute! If our emissions are so small, why can’t we do something about them? And, if they are so big we are unable to do anything about them, how is it they are so small they can’t change the environment? He’s playing two sides of his own argument. And neither one of them is valid.

We can, in fact, do something about global warming. The first thing we need to do is get people to stop making false arguments like this article.

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