Saturday, 25 April 2009

In Which I Listen To My Commentators Once Again

After the furore the last time round (furore is a fun word to type), I shall not cast any ethical aspersions upon Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, but I figured this was an opportune moment to point out that Boehner's approach is part of a wider "strategy".

Well, that, or there are simply multiple members of the GOP who really are too ignorant to be allowed to speak in public. Draw your own conclusions.
But people talk about cap and tax and they aren’t sure exactly what we’re talking about. Let’s get back to step one. What is the problem? Why do we have to have this tax in the first place?

It’s about carbon dioxide.

Well, what is carbon dioxide? Let’s just go to a fundamental question.

Carbon dioxide, Mister Speaker, is a natural byproduct of nature. Carbon dioxide is natural. It occurs in Earth. It is a part of the regular lifecycle of Earth. In fact, life on planet Earth can’t even exist without carbon dioxide. So necessary is it to human life, to animal life, to plant life, to the oceans, to the vegetation that’s on the Earth, to the, to the fowl that — that flies in the air, we need to have carbon dioxide as part of the fundamental lifecycle of Earth.

As a matter of fact, carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful!

But there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows carbon dioxide is a harmful gas. There isn’t one such study because carbon dioxide is not a harmful gas, it is a harmless gas. Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is part of Earth’s life cycle.

Read the rest, if you're so far inclined, though I warn you she adds maths and the English language to the list of things she shouldn't be allowed to play with.

Actually, I should mention something else. Bachmann's last point, that we don't contribute all that much CO2 as a percentage of what's already there (or being created by other sources) is at least worthy of consideration. I don't have the figures (and I'm not going to trust those of a woman who thinks CO2 makes up three percent of our atmosphere), but it's at least not immediately dismissable, unlike the rest of her train-wreck. Senor Spielbergo suggested the other day I should be providing suggestions instead of just snark, so here it is. Those of us who believe global warming is both being accelerated by mankind and is something we have the ability to combat need to do a better job of explaining why our contributions to CO2 and methane levels make a big difference even for a comparatively small percentage.


Tom said...

Well it's roughly 25%, so actually quite a large proportion (and accelerating). But on the basis that big numbers sound more impressive than small numbers, perhaps the emphasis should be put on how many billions of tonnes of CO2 are emitted rather than the resultant ppm increase in the atmosphere.


SpaceSquid said...

Thanks for that figure, Tom, I hadn't been able to find it.

As to big numbers, I agree with you in theory, but I think there needs to be two parallel arguments, one on total emissions and the other on ppm. Otherwise the former is sometimes countered with big numbers the other way (total weight of atmosphere, for example). The two combined are harder to dismiss together than they are separately.

Tom said...

If you ever need climate change statistics to beat contrarians over the head with, the best source is the IPCC report (e.g. the summary of working group 1 available here).


SpaceSquid said...

Awesome. You are my new favourite reader.

Senior Spielbergo said...

Can either of you point me in the direction of data that shows a breakdown of where the extra Carbon Dioxide comes from as that’s probably the area that interests me.

To explain, as I understand it what we are talking about is that in the space of the last 150 years we have increased the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere by roughly a third (so from roughly 0.03% to 0.04%) which in turn has added roughly 1 degree Celsius to the average global temperature over that time period. Now I can’t imagine it’s a linear thing and that the rate of increase has remained the same over that period (so it would be another 150 years before we got 1 more degree increase) and I believe the numbers in the report support the fact that the increase has been increasing as time goes on (so it may only take 50 years say to gain that extra degree).

What I think would be interesting to know would be where specifically the extra Carbon Dioxide comes from? Power stations? Cars? Planes? Deforestation? Manufacturing processes? That sort of thing. If (by way of example only) 90% of the issue is caused by power stations, then clearly I should be supporting Nuclear and Alternative Energy rather than wasting time on Hybrid and Electric Cars. Likewise if it’s deforestation that’s the main culprit then planting trees should be my concern rather than cutting down on air travel. That sort of thing… Any ideas?

SpaceSquid said...

I haven't read Tom's link yet, Spielbergo, so I don't know if any of it is relevant to your question. I'll try and have a look at some point, maybe turn it into a post.

In the meantime, however, it's worth noting that whilst CO2 is bad and nasty and we don't want it, there's some suggestion that methane is an even bigger problem.

Tom said...

Spielbergo -

CO2 emissions breakdown for the UK can be found here. They're presumably typical of industrialised countries, although the decline in CO2 from manufacturing is probably less marked in countries that haven't suffered from 30 years of Thatcherite governments.

Power generation is the biggest culprit with road transport in total also very high. Home and industrial heating is the other big problem. Aviation emissions are quite a lot smaller than those of road vehicles but are also the only category getting rapidly worse. I don't think we can afford to neglect any of these. But on the bright side it looks like British lime producers are off the hook. Go lime!

SpaceSquid -

Without wishing to spoil your enjoyment of the report, methane is not a bigger problem than CO2. It is a more powerful greenhouse gas but the amounts in question are much smaller and emissions (mainly from agriculture) are relatively stable.


SpaceSquid said...

Fair enough, so. I deliberately used the phrase "some suggestion" because I hadn't gotten around to checking the claim out.