I was asked the other day where I thought our audience's opinion was on the question of global warming, climate change, and so forth. My unscientific response is that I believe that about 90% of our audience remains somewhat skeptical, down from 100% just a few years ago. I remain skeptical for several reasons. First, when people call me a "climate denier" all that does for me is tell me they have got nothing else. Thinking you are denigrating a person merely shows how small you are--you either don't understand the science yourself or you haven't spent the effort to understand it. Going along with the crowd proves nothing--crowd thinking has been proven wrong time and again on many different subjects down through history. Just ask Galileo.
Let me assure you, I want clean air, clean water and a stable environment as much as the next person. In my lifetime, I have seen unbelievably positive strides taken to get us there. The question is what is left to do, and what is the cost, measured by any metric, to accomplish what is left to do.
By the way, all comments are welcome here, as long as they are not just nasty name calling. If you have something solid to contribute, fill out the form at the bottom of this column and share your wisdom with all of us.
Several weeks ago, I put together the following. See what you think of this logic.
Although I have never been there, Wikipedia reports that Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio as of 2014, had 104,944 seats, but that a renovation started in 2017 to add more luxury suites will eventually reduce this capacity by 2,600 seats. For our purposes here today, with the permission of the reader, let's just round this off to 100,000 seats.
I read recently that if one visualizes a stadium, as the one we just have above, at 100,000 seats, one can begin to understand the makeup of our atmosphere. If we assign one seat for each molecule of gas in the atmosphere, goes this reasoning (and I have enhanced upon it here), 78,000 seats will be occupied by nitrogen. Another 21,000 seats will be occupied by oxygen and the balance, the other 1,000 seats, will be occupied by all the other components in the atmosphere (in other words, fewer seats than they are lopping off so the fat cats can enjoy their favorite sport in conditioned comfort).
Carbon dioxide, a necessary component in the cycle of life (animals exhale it, plants inhale it) has been as high as 4,000 part per million during the Cambrian period (about 500 million years ago) to as low as 180 parts per million during the Quaternary glaciation of the past two million years. The concentration of carbon dioxide since the mid-18th century; i.e., since the time of the American Revolution, has increased to a level of 410 parts per million today (source: you guessed it, Wikipedia).
Going back to OSU for a moment, this says that during the Cambrian period, carbon dioxide would have occupied 400 seats, during the Quaternary glaciation this would have dramatically dropped to 18 seats, and today it would still be only 41 seats in our stadium model.
Now, there are those who find today's number shocking, and further, often these same people want us to believe that todays' 41 seats out of 100,000 is a disaster. To further pile onto the worry and guilt they want to place on your poor head, they must make the arguments that (a) this much carbon dioxide will lead to a catastrophe on Earth and that (b) the cause of the rise from 18 seats to 41 seats has an anthropogenic (humankind) origin.
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Perhaps a visit to a tomato raising greenhouse would be in order here. Do you know that such greenhouses often inject additional carbon dioxide into their atmosphere to enhance plant growth? It is well known that additional carbon dioxide has a very positive effect on plant growth. NASA reported (April 26, 2016) "From a quarter to half of Earth's vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25."
This effect has even reached the Sahara Desert. As reported in the Santa Barbara Independent, January 10, 2019, among other factors credited for the "greening of the Sahara Desert" the article states "...that rising carbon levels in the atmosphere provide a kind of aerial fertilization that increases plant growth while utilizing water more efficiently. The more carbon dioxide there is in the air, the more plants grow."
Even though the rise to 41 seats from 18 seats seems to have some positive effects, naysayers still want to blame this rise, as if it is a problem, on humankind and in particular on the rise in human population as well as the activities of humans.
Folks, the Earth is still relatively unpopulated by humans. As I have stated in the past, every human being on Earth, if placed in Jacksonville, Florida, will each have a square approximately 22 inches on a side in which to stand. Although we would not want to leave them standing there for long, this visualization demonstrates how truly sparsely populated the earth really is.
Now, can we agree that two one hundred-pound human beings likely inhale as much oxygen and exhale as much carbon dioxide as one two-hundred-pound human being? After all, the needs of bodies at the cellular level is nearly constant, so whether those cells are in one body or two, the aggregate needs for oxygen and the exhalation of carbon dioxide will be nearly the same. How about insects? Would two hundred pounds of insects inhale roughly as much oxygen and exhale as much carbon dioxide as the same weight of larger animals? Seems reasonable, doesn't, it?
Well, several sources tell us the weight of all the humans on the earth is approximately 316 million tons. The venerable Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail, reported on February 21, 2018, that the weight of all insects in the world, not including spiders (classified as arachnids, not insects) is about 70 times the weight of the human population, or 22,120 million tons.
Back to the stadium. If we break the world into just humans and insects (ignoring spiders, cows, horses and all the other animals), and assume all carbon dioxide is the result of exhalation from living species, the human-caused carbon dioxide occupies just over ½ of one seat and the insect caused carbon dioxide occupies the other 40 ½ seats.
One half of one seat out of 100,000 seats. This is all of humankind's portion of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today using my logic. You, of course, may have other views and if so, as I stated before, please enlighten us. But please, at the same time, don't forget the insects.
Did I mention that, thus far, the insects have been impervious to our pleas for them to lighten up on their exhalations? Perhaps it is time to get out the DDT (that's a joke; don't get out the DDT).
For safety this week, we can sure agree on one thing--humans need oxygen. How many lives have been lost in pulp and paper mills in the last decade or so due to ineffective sniffing of confined spaces? I can think of about a dozen. Review your confined-space entry procedures.
Be safe and we will talk next week.