From Russell Seitz:
(with apologies to Jen Sorensen at Slowpoke comics).
Well this video will be of interest as well:
[Response: Indeed. I love it that it is ‘news’ when a journalist actually asks someone to back up their claims with evidence, for instance…. – gavin]
To be fair, this does somewhat perpetuate that whole somewhat-silly CO2-as-toxic meme. I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution, since it tends to engender misconceptions among the general public.
2010/11/15: uComics: (cartoon – Toles) In the middle
hat tip to MT for the button to get
CO2 is toxic. A little alcohol – good times – too much alcohol – vomiting. Surely if we all understand alcohol, we can understand that a little CO2 = good and a lot = bad.
CO2 is indeed toxic in large concentrations. However, unless you are in a closed space when CO2 is being emitted, anthropogenic CO2 emissions have little to do with toxicity.
All animal anesthetics guaranteed real:, I’m afraid:
web.research.colostate.edu/…/DirectionsforCO2EuthanasiaofRodents081409. doc –
This is supposed to be funny? Surely we should all be trying to encourage rational discussion, not demonising our opponents. This can play both ways.
Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution ;-) To me, this is a much clearer case than asphixiation of rats (or any other animals). With an increase in atmospheric CO2 that isn’t even approaching problematic for respiration of most land animals, you’re looking at a mass extinction of marine species. No matter how much some folks hate the idea, anthropogenic CO2 is, in any meaningful sense of the word, pollution.
CO2 is kind of like ozone in that way too. Small doses of O3 are bothersome. Heavy doses, toxic to humans and plants. In the troposphere it is harmful, up in the stratosphere it is helpful. And O3 is a byproduct of combustion.
Amateur scientist at WitsEnd – Gail has a nice collection of links on ozone and her blog hosts personal collection of photos and tales of plant destruction from ozone. http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html
Atmospheric chemistry is fascinating and complicated.
Re 2 Zeke Hausfather – that’s understandable, but ‘heat pollution’, ‘sound(noise?) pollution’, and ‘light pollution’ are all real things (that I would imagine some people have heard of); perhaps pollution could be generally defined as anthropogenic fluxes of anything in sufficient amounts to significantly perturb the ecosystem or act as a negative externality to human affairs – although that might be too wide a net (? certain pundits pollute the airwaves with misinformation – debatable if that is covered in the definition just suggested), but certainly anthropogentic C emissions have become an important pollutant.
Zeke, if people can’t grasp CO2 toxicity, what hope do they have with complicated subjects such as climate?
I have a simple definition of pollution
If it causes direct harm
builds up in the environment
Annabelle: “opponents”? “rational”?
I would contend that anyone capable of actual science doesn’t count as an opponent, and most of those political pundits who do fall in the opponent category really aren’t rational.
“I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution”
You need to look up the word pollution in a dictionary.
Pollution doesn’t mean something is toxic.
Which is why light pollution won’t kill you, but it will stop you seeing the stars.
Chris says, “To me, this is a much clearer case than asphixiation of rats…”
Very true, and so also funny. The gentle “I’m sorry we said” getting torn asunder stirs a debate about the toxicity of CO2. Meanwhile the NY Times reports the China has gone from coal exporter to coal importer (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/world/asia/22fossil.html?hp). I am out of answers. Somehow we have to get past the debate of whether AGW is real and anything that gives credibility to the denailists hurts us. Zeke H is correct. Breathing an atmostphere of 500 ppm CO2 won’t poison you, and calling it “toxic” instead of focusing on its REAL harm (AGW and ocean acidification) just leaves an opening for attack.
The Ville #14 – you need to read the whole sentence of Zeke’s, not stop at the comma.
\I’ve always been somewhat leery of framing GHGs as pollution, since it tends to engender misconceptions among the general public.\
Mark #16 – I think China went to being a net importer in 2008. Asia and Africa coal use doubled from 2000 to 2008, and I’ve lost track of the rise since then and projected. It’s their cheapest source of energy – what do you recommend they do, and why? (A more important question imho than the USA emissions path).
It’s a “laugh or you’re gonna cry” sort of thing.
Best Tom Toles climate cartoon – on “adaptation” through technology
I like it but I don’t think this belongs on RealClimate.
A few disconnected points
1. China has been importing metallurgical coal for some time from Australia (used for refining ores)
2. Zeke might use the old chemists saw, it’s the dose that makes the poison
3. The comic is a better way of putting Eli’s take on Climategate, thatthat the primary legacy will be to drive home the lesson to scientists that they cannot sit out the attacks on Mann, Santer, Jones and others because the denial lobby will come for them soon enough. The lesson that still has to be learned is that someone who attacks you in the Wall Street Journal is not your friend at AGU.
Surely we should all be trying to encourage rational discussion, not demonizing our opponents
Can you give me some pointers on how to have a rational discussion with angry tea partiers, science denialists and young Earth creationist? Thanks in advance.
One difficulty with partisan news is the crackpot factor, certainly. Another is in what they don’t say and don’t cover. Compare mentions of significant words or phrases in a google search. E.g., “Copenhagen” in the last year:
What’s not being said is just as damaging as what’s being said, or perhaps more so, as it’s more insidious.
We are all straying well beyond “topic”, but I’m assuming this is an open thread of sorts.
I certainly agree that you could easily define CO2 as pollution. My point was not that it -cannot- be classified as pollution, rather that framing it as pollution in the context of public education risks creating a misconception that its the toxicity rather than secondary effects of CO2 (and other GHGs) that is significant for humans (as a commenter pointed out, in the case of ocean acidification a discussion of CO2 toxicity is a bit more appropriate, though it is in the somewhat-different form of carbonic acid at that point).
I second Zeke’s reservation.
Some comments don’t adress his point (that the example is poorly chosen from a PR/effective communication perspective) but rather try to belittle him as not understanding something that I’m sure he does. That’s not helpful, and it’s exactly the style of overly defensive commenting that we have to move away from.
It might be noted that were one denialist argument true, then CO-2 would in fact be toxic to humans at the surface. Namely, the argument has been made that CO_2 can’t cause global warming because it is heavier than air and hence concentrated near the surface. In fact, CO_2 is well mixed in the atmosphere within a relatively short time. But there have been occasions in Africa where CO_2 emitted from a lake did produce ground level concentrations sufficient to kill people. The fact that this doesn’t happen routinely indicates that emitted CO_2 in the atmosphere is well mixed.
I’d like some pointers too please, on how to critique mitigation policy responses such as the EU cap/trade, the German solar f-i-ts, the UK Climate Change Act, the US ethanol blend – in fact every policy response I’ve ever seen really – as wholly ineffective in having any material impact on the global CO2 ppm concentrations upward trend, while being very costly, and hence worthy of abandonment.
How should I do that without being caricatured like the fire-breathing merchant in the cartoon above, as a denier, flat-earther, white middle-class middle-aged, dismisser, obstructionist, creationist?
Thank you for that!
Hank, spot on.
Generally, too much CO2 is a bad thing. I enjoy fussing over terminology as much as the next guy, but really there’s arguing the finer points and then there’s just knee-jerking because something doesn’t jibe with your unexamined, stock response to things. As my old, exasperated calculus teacher used to exhort some of the more feint hearted students, “Push it through!” (i.e., make the effort and force your brain to think it out, you G.D. lazy bastards.)
Oh, geeze. CO2 is like everything else. Too much can be good or bad, and too little can be bad or good, and somewhere in between things may change one or more times in either or both directions.
Inhale anhydrous lime or tie your to a large rock and throw it in a pond. Death at both extremes, but in the middle, good old H2O is great stuff.
This “CO2 is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing” is one of the reasons people don’t take climate science seriously. TOO MUCH is a bad thing, and the message needs to be “TOO MUCH is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing”, not just the unqualified statements that all too often get made.
And to be clear, there is already TOO MUCH.
Hot Rod@27, How about proposing alternative mitigation schemes that are demonstrably effective and consistent with your values? There has been near absolute silence from the political right on this front. Start by acknowledging the problem exists. Learn about the problem sufficiently to propose intelligent strategies.
If you want to influence the solution, be part of the solution.
CO2 is a pollutant?
Well, sure, it can be.
Nitrogen, too, and it’s normally 80% or so of the atmosphere.
Ray Ladbury – ‘How about proposing alternative mitigation schemes that are demonstrably effective’.
I’ve not found any that are, regardless of values, that’s my problem. I thought I’d first look at all the plans that have been proposed, like the ones I mentioned above, since they were likely to be the best, and most likely to be capable of implementation. But I couldn’t see how they made any difference to any IPCC projections, the effects were tiny.
There’s no real need to ‘acknowledge’ anything – it’s like an exam question, ‘how would you set about stabilising CO2 at X (choose your number) given a set BAU scenario that has it going much higher than that’.
I didn’t want to debate the policies themselves, just how to be free to discuss and debate the (im)plausibility of those we have been offered without being called names.
You mention the political right – it’s the automatic politicisation of the policy discussion that I am talking about; I find it attracts damaging labels like the ones I listed. It shouldn’t.
Patrick 027, and (mostly…) others, the problem IMO is that when criminal or civil wrongs are involved, and in fact when science is involved, things need to have precise definitions. Common popular understanding and definition of stuff is generally not helpful in legal or scientific circles. Though it can be expedient to dumb down precise legal and scientific meanings for those that wish to apply well-defined bad stuff to other stuff they want to taint and demonize. “Pollution,” “addiction,” “radiation,” and others are current classic examples.
From some comments here, thunderstorms are pollution. Now this might be acceptable for a general broad commoner expression of dislike, but it is of no help in scientific and legal circles, for instance.
In my #82 of the previous ‘One Year Later’ post I noted, “From this post and comments, it would appear that nobody noticed the election results of Nov 2.”
I guess this cartoon is the reaction.
Science was doing ok until it started activating moronic zealotry.
This moronic zealotry led to the absurdity that CO2 is toxic. Lumber is also toxic, if a truck load of it runs over you.
And of course there can be slight ocean acidification but further moronic zealotry has translated into Secy. Lubchenko showing Congress that ascetic acid in vinegar can dissolve chalk. And more moderately, use of the terminology, “ocean acidification”, is using a scientific technical truth in a way that tries to misguide the vast herd of gullible folks that we are.
As I say, it did not work, and I suspect it had something to do with enabling the huge setback of Nov. 2.
We also hear the moronic pointing to every viscisitude of weather as evidence of global warming. And this repeatedly backfires. Even if it is true in part.
And also trying to explain the problem, our Furry Friend #29 here says, ” This “CO2 is a pollutant / poison / toxin / bad thing” is one of the reasons people don’t take climate science seriously.”
But as the cartoon says, “clearly this needs attention”.
Now along comes Hot Rod #27, “- – – in fact every policy response I’ve ever seen really – as wholly ineffective in having any material impact on the global CO2 ppm concentrations upward trend, while being very costly, and hence worthy of abandonment.
So what would be worthy of pursuing and even possible in the present political climate? I thought you would never ask!
For those who are averse to repetition, I would add that the following might well benefit from new kinds of trees such as might be possible with genetic modification. I am looking to enlist Craig Ventner in this after seeing his work on 60 Minutes last night. He also know how to think big.
So try reading this again in light of the cartoon above:
The game winning answer to global warming is to create standing forests, where every ton of newly existing forest mass, on a sustaining basis, compensates by CO2 capture for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. Key to this solution is distribution of water in North America on a continental basis.
I have been dismayed by promotion of electric vehicles with implicit increased use of electricity and the associated increase in CO2. Viable, large scale solutions to this problem have been absent. But I have been shocked by the planning put forward by the US EPA ** regarding ‘carbon’ capture and sequestration (CCS), where the capture cost burden per ton of coal used would be up to $180-$320. This would be for capture of CO2 only, with additional costs for transportation and pumping it into caverns being not addressed, but acknowledged as additional expense.
Thus motivated, I looked for a better solution, and found that China seems to have taken the lead over our environmentalists in this very practical matter. A year ago, in a speech about how China was planning to react to the global warming problem, President Hu spoke of “forest carbon”. ***
It is not a big step to think that this kind of solution would be possible in North America, Brazil perhaps, and other places yet to be identified. It is a big step to think big about water distribution that would be needed to accomplish CCS on the needed scale, but in North America this is within reach, with the action of wise government assumed. Of course there would be a need for due diligence in protecting Northern ecosystems, as well as due deference to rights of others. The goal of CO2 mitigation is not just our concern, so there would seem to be motivation for Canada to lend their essential support to such a project.
Every ton of forest mass, that exists on a sustaining basis, sequesters CO2 sufficiently to compensate for the burning of a ton of coal, approximately. As it grows, it captures that CO2 from the atmosphere. Mature forests must be maintained and harvested wisely, and new forests must continue to grow.
Using minimally productive land in selected regions, a fifty year project should be possible, where fifty years of coal fired power plant operation would be supported. In this time we would need to solve the problems of nuclear waste, so that there could be an eventual transition to that form of energy. During this fifty years, we would also need to work toward minimizing the amount of energy needed for our vehicles.
This forest project, along with ancillary agricultural development, would be quickly self supporting. We know about the agricultural results from the latest California Aquaduct project implemented in 1963 through the California Central Valley. The forest part would be something new.
The immediate benefit of such a project would be high quantity job creation, but up front investment in the permanent forest infrastructure would be repaid over the long term of highly productive operation. A large cadre of trained workers for forest management, a large expansion of agricultural operations, and a long term flow of export products would lift us from our current employment debacle.
We see this as a public project that should appeal to all political strains, since it would create a backbone infrastructure that would set the stage for use of energy to continue functioning of our developed world without damage to the global environment.
Implementing such a concept would require much detail in its actual design, but feasibility in general is not in question. This would be a massive federal project that must be handled by government, both in regard to international water negotiations and financial arrangements.
Is there a political force that can handle such a project?
** The announced plan by the EPA is to require ‘best available technology’ and the recent report by them (Sept 2010) said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2. Working this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal shows that the burden for use of a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) will be about $180 per ton of that coal, and higher carbon coal would incur proportionately higher burden, up to around $320 per ton.
*** President Hu said, “— we will energetically increase forest carbon — we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels.” ( This was reported by Joe Romm at his ‘climateprogress’ web site. See – http://climateprogress.org/2009/09/23/are-chinese-emissions-pledges-a-game-changer-for-senate-action-president-hu-un-speech/ )
Hot Rod, It has been–if you don’t want to politicize the discussion, shall we say, those who favor strong government–who have proposed most of the solutions for dealing with CO2, while the small government types have been in denial of the problem. It is no good to decry politicization of an issue when political apointees and representatives have already launched witchhunts against the scientific community.
Acknowledging that there is a threat is actually quite important, as it discredits those advocating inaction. We can then talk about what actions are appropriate.
An understanding of the nature of CO2 should be quite obvious. An animal body takes in food, extracts useful nutrients and eliminates what is not metabolized as poop. Part of metabolism is the use of oxygen. An animal breathes in air and uses the oxygen as part of its metabolism. Another waste product of metabolism is CO2. The body oxidizes carbon in the blood and eliminates it with every exhaling breath. CO2 is a waste product. Plants love it. They couldn’t exist without it.
Anthropogenic CO2 is quite poisonous even in low concentrations. Trapped in a mine, miners will perish from CO2 poisoning long before enough oxygen to breath has been exhausted. A plastic sack closed over one’s head can demonstrate how quickly this can happen.
Volcanic CO2 from Lake Nyos, in Cameroon and other places has been clearly reported to poison animals and people to death in their sleep as it wafted out across the land in open air.
CO2 is a powerful gas. Even in low concentrations it can be poisonous to animals. At incredibly low concentrations it acts as a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Ridiculing these effects simply means one is uninformed at the most basic levels of understanding of the natural world.
Dear Hot Rod,
Don’t mind the trolls who call you names because they’re politically bigoted.
If you want to be taken seriously, I think your best best (unless you happen to have a lot of money to spend on PR) is to be serious. Like, you know, show your numbers. Instead of simply asserting that such and such policy isn’t having a significant effect, you could state your estimate of effect you figure it’s having and how you arrived at that estimate. Then there could possibly maybe be some productive discussion. RC isn’t the place for it of course but you could post a link to some place where you want to have it. I for one don’t care about your political background as long as it doesn’t manifest in some kind of irrationality.
We have an alternative mitigation scheme by the way. It’s called Fee & Dividend: http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/economics
– Be upfront and honest about the reasons for your objections.
– Don’t challenge the science as a proxy for really challenging the policies.
– Suggest alternatives that are more effective (even if they don’t meet all your criteria of desirability)
Now I understand why you are so intransigent about a solution that could keep our supply of energy and our industrial system clicking along sort of.
Fee and Dividend kicks heck out of power producers, and the ‘dividend’ is used to alleviate the cost burden to the poor that the fee would obviously cause. It will work to reduce production of electricity from the lower cost fuels. Sounds good? Sure. But the enterprising part of our economy also gets heck kicked out of it. And there is no dividend going there.
I read somewhere that climate scientists have a Luddite agenda. This kind of thing is appropriately called that. (According to Wikipedia, perish the thought, the Luddites tried to stop the industrial revolution by breaking the mechanized weaving machines being introduced.)
Climate scientists should take care to not let such thinking rub off on them. But since climate scientists are needed in working out real solutions, that taking care should not block such activities. However, they need to check whatever lingering Ludditisms they carry, at the door. Otherwise the next election will be an even worse trouncing.
Was it you that wanted everyone to live on potatoes from their backyard?
As in illustration of the lack of seriousness invovled in not showing your numbers, Jim Bullis posts his super-forest on every other RC thread but has so far not shown that its “feasibility in general is not in question”. When he posted some numbers, they were more than an order of magnitude off as compared to all the published research in forest productivity linked in the thread (as well as all I could Google).
Forests are potentially a good mitigation wedge (good enough that it would be criminally negligent not to pursue it IMHO) but they can not replace emission reductions. Current emissions are so high that the numbers simply don’t work with current tree species and forestry practices (as far as I know).
Forests are also a liability in that they are vulnerable to climate change and can release their carbon by fire or decomposition. Strategically, relying mainly on standing forests when we face potentially catastrophic climate change would be outrageously reckless.
Neither of us has been able to find relevant published research on forest productivity. Nobody talks about standing forests. Everybody wants to harvest wood early. I insist on minimal harvesting and only late in forest life.
It is your assertion that my productivity estimates are off by an order of magnitude, and it is my assertion that there is uncertainty in my estimates. By the way, I did not count root structure mass, which could more than double the estimate I provided. But 40 tons per ha, per year, is a challenge to be sure. Curiously, those best equipped to work on this are hiding behind their existing trees and throwing rocks at the idea of new forests.
And the ultimate sacrosanct territory is water, and the defenders of the status quo there are entirely forgetting of their concern about global warming when the idea of redistributing water is broached.
But in the past, one of the favorite ways to tar the new forest idea has been to accuse it of requiring geo-engineering of trees. Genetically engineered trees may well bring us the kind of trees that would thrive in areas not already forested. I would prefer to find the right tree from the existing species, but maybe Craig Ventner could bring us fast growing, useful wood producers, like a variation on the Lebanon Cedars. Will that get the tree people out?
The relevant question on this page is which has the better chance of winning in Congress: Superforesters or Luddites?
(Go read at Wikipedia what happened to the Luddites.)
What CO2 toxic? A couple of years ago on UK television, chef Jamie Oliver presented a demonstration of unwanted male chicks of mass-market egg-laying hens being gassed with CO2, gasping for breath and passing out, while an industry representative explained that CO2 was “non-toxic”, and so, we were supposed to understand, it was suitable for the purpose.
How very “Climate science from climate scientists”.
Did you forget that I have other bizarre ways of reducing emissions? (I call them plans.)
Yes, new forests will not do everything. They would just be a rational way to keep the US economy going as transitions in other areas were implemented.
Jim Bullis wrote: “I read somewhere that climate scientists have a Luddite agenda. This kind of thing is appropriately called that.”
On the contrary, the “Luddites” are those who seek to delay and obstruct the transition to a 21st century energy economy based on harvesting an endless supply of abundant, ubiquitous wind, solar, geothermal and hydro energy, in order to perpetuate a 19th century energy economy based on mining and burning a limited supply of toxic fossil fuels.
Which, as I understand it, is in fact the purpose of the geoengineering scheme that you write about on every comment thread on this site.
The charge of Luddism is unwarranted. There are countries which have productive capital-intensive economies and relatively low per capita emissions. Bringing emissions down to zero is another matter entierly and may not be feasible but we’re only talking about deep cuts (we will rely on the oceans and vegetation to absorb a substantial amount of carbon from the atmpsphere).
Deep cuts make emissions offsetting more feasible by the way since they substatially lower the amount of carbon which needs to be sequestered.
Fee & Dividend gives businesses a dividend if they do not consume much fossil fuels and do not cater mostly to the well-off. The dividend takes the form of an increase in the disposable income of their customers and lower real labor costs. There is no direct dividend because businesses are only useful to the extent that they provide affordable products people want to buy. Businesses which lose customers may die. That’s how our economy works and Fee & Dividend would not interfere with that.
Small business owners would get a check which may allow them to make it if their business becomes less profitable by the way.
But that’s way off-topic. Let’s have this discussion elsewhere (if you want to have a discussion).
“moronic zealotry has translated into Secy. Lubchenko showing Congress that ascetic acid in vinegar can dissolve chalk. ”
Ascetic acid may add a kick to Ways and Means committee discussions of fiscal austerity, but for instant testimony, nothing beats moronic anhydride– Just add water and enter the results without objection.
JB 34: I have been dismayed by promotion of electric vehicles with implicit increased use of electricity and the associated increase in CO2.
BPL: So let’s ban any new coal plants and get electricity from other sources.
JB 39: Fee and Dividend kicks heck out of power producers, and the ‘dividend’ is used to alleviate the cost burden to the poor that the fee would obviously cause. It will work to reduce production of electricity from the lower cost fuels. Sounds good? Sure. But the enterprising part of our economy also gets heck kicked out of it.
BPL: Hello? If coal gets more expensive, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal, wave, and advanced nuclear get comparatively more attractive. People have incentive to develop that.
The fossil fuel and utility industries are hardly exemplars of cutting-edge research and innovation. Innovation is what they’re trying their damnedest to sabotage.
Comment by Chris on 22 November 2010 @ 12:07 AM:
“Consider ocean acidification and tell me that CO2 is not pollution”
This is absolute nonsense!
The ocean can never become acidic (i.e., pH H2CO3
Carbonic acid reacts with solid CaCO3 and MgCO3 to form bicarbonate salts:
H2CO3+ CaCO3 —–> Ca2(HCO3)
H2CO3+ MgCO3 —–> Mg2(HCO3)
A freshly-prepared solution of NaHCO3 has pH of 8.3 at 20 deg C.
I have seen articles on some blogs that show pH mesurements of sea water to +/- 0.001 units. This is nuts. It is difficukt to measure pH to +/- 0.01 units with good accuracy in the lab where there is constant temperature and pressure.
The large and prevelant deposits of limestone indicates the earth’s atmosphere once had large amounts of CO2.
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