Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Distinguished physicist Dr. William Happer: 'The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science'

Harrison H. Schmitt and William Happer: In Defense of Carbon Dioxide

The demonized chemical compound is a boon to plant life and has little correlation with global temperature.

By HARRISON H. SCHMITT AND WILLIAM HAPPER

WSJ.COM 5/8/13: Of all of the world's chemical compounds, none has a worse reputation than carbon dioxide. Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That's simply not the case. Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.

The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA's and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been—and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather.

The current levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere, approaching 400 parts per million, are low by the standards of geological and plant evolutionary history. Levels were 3,000 ppm, or more, until the Paleogene period (beginning about 65 million years ago). For most plants, and for the animals and humans that use them, more carbon dioxide, far from being a "pollutant" in need of reduction, would be a benefit. This is already widely recognized by operators of commercial greenhouses, who artificially increase the carbon dioxide levels to 1,000 ppm or more to improve the growth and quality of their plants.

Using energy from sunlight—together with the catalytic action of an ancient enzyme called rubisco, the most abundant protein on earth—plants convert carbon dioxide from the air into carbohydrates and other useful molecules. Rubisco catalyzes the attachment of a carbon-dioxide molecule to another five-carbon molecule to make two three-carbon molecules, which are subsequently converted into carbohydrates. (Since the useful product from the carbon dioxide capture consists of three-carbon molecules, plants that use this simple process are called C3 plants.) C3 plants, such as wheat, rice, soybeans, cotton and many forage crops, evolved when there was much more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than today. So these agricultural staples are actually undernourished in carbon dioxide relative to their original design.


At the current low levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, rubisco in C3 plants can be fooled into substituting oxygen molecules for carbon-dioxide molecules. But this substitution reduces the efficiency of photosynthesis, especially at high temperatures. To get around the problem, a small number of plants have evolved a way to enrich the carbon-dioxide concentration around the rubisco enzyme, and to suppress the oxygen concentration. Called C4 plants because they utilize a molecule with four carbons, plants that use this evolutionary trick include sugar cane, corn and other tropical plants.

Although C4 plants evolved to cope with low levels of carbon dioxide, the workaround comes at a price, since it takes additional chemical energy. With high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, C4 plants are not as productive as C3 plants, which do not have the overhead costs of the carbon-dioxide enrichment system.

That's hardly all that goes into making the case for the benefits of carbon dioxide. Right now, at our current low levels of carbon dioxide, plants are paying a heavy price in water usage. Whether plants are C3 or C4, the way they get carbon dioxide from the air is the same: The plant leaves have little holes, or stomata, through which carbon dioxide molecules can diffuse into the moist interior for use in the plant's photosynthetic cycles.

The density of water molecules within the leaf is typically 60 times greater than the density of carbon dioxide in the air, and the diffusion rate of the water molecule is greater than that of the carbon-dioxide molecule.

So depending on the relative humidity and temperature, 100 or more water molecules diffuse out of the leaf for every molecule of carbon dioxide that diffuses in. And not every carbon-dioxide molecule that diffuses into a leaf gets incorporated into a carbohydrate. As a result, plants require many hundreds of grams of water to produce one gram of plant biomass, largely carbohydrate.

Driven by the need to conserve water, plants produce fewer stomata openings in their leaves when there is more carbon dioxide in the air. This decreases the amount of water that the plant is forced to transpire and allows the plant to withstand dry conditions better.

Crop yields in recent dry years were less affected by drought than crops of the dust-bowl droughts of the 1930s, when there was less carbon dioxide. Nowadays, in an age of rising population and scarcities of food and water in some regions, it's a wonder that humanitarians aren't clamoring for more atmospheric carbon dioxide. Instead, some are denouncing it.

We know that carbon dioxide has been a much larger fraction of the earth's atmosphere than it is today, and the geological record shows that life flourished on land and in the oceans during those times. The incredible list of supposed horrors that increasing carbon dioxide will bring the world is pure belief disguised as science.

Mr. Schmitt, an adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was an Apollo 17 astronaut and a former U.S. senator from New Mexico. Mr. Happer is a professor of physics at Princeton University and a former director of the office of energy research at the U.S. Department of Energy.

12 comments:

  1. Very convincing argument. The truth will set us free! These types of simple arguments are very easy for the laymen among us to understand. More people need to be made aware of the benefits of carbon dioxide as opposed to the made up scenarios of CO2 as a pollutant.

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  2. Very convincing argument. The truth will set us free! These types of simple arguments are very easy for the laymen among us to understand. More people need to be made aware of the benefits of carbon dioxide as opposed to the made up scenarios of CO2 as a pollutant.

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  3. Very good article. Information like this should be spread around the media. Get it into the public school system where they are brainwashing our kids about nonexistent global warming.

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  4. science, as opposed to building computer models.

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  5. As a teacher, I can confirm that the public schools are teaching this.

    Obama's Core Curriculum in science has this embedded. Your children will be tested on their knowledge of this topic. They will be taught to despise themselves and their sovereign nation as greedy self-serving barnacles on an otherwise perfect planet.

    This ideology replaces faith in God with faith in man. It reinforces the idea that we need government to make our choices for us. It feeds on natural guilt and is a perfectly logical religion for those who reject the notion of a Creator.

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  6. Even "We know that carbon dioxide has been a much larger fraction of the earth's atmosphere than it is today" understates the early level of the "green" gas . Until photosynthesis emerged , ALL O2 was locked up in CO2 . Free O2 would have oxidized the complex organic ( carbon based ) compounds "trying" to form .

    Here's a summary image from a slide show I'm putting together : http://cosy.com/Science/WaterWorldCoSyLIFE640.jpg .

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  7. During the late Ordovician period, CO2 concentration was 10 times current levels, and earth was in the midst of a major glaciation. There is no correlation between rising CO2 levels and "runaway global warming." The entire scare is a product of manipulated climate models. Those so-called scientist promoting this discredited theory should be charged with fraud. They are like heroin addicts. They need their next grant-money fix.

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    1. Let's talk about the Ordovician, then.

      For those who don't know, it was a geological time from 510 to 438 million years ago (MYA,) right after the famous Cambrian period. During most of the Ordovician, CO2 levels were at 5600 ppm (today, we have about 390 ppm, so it was actually more than ten times current levels.) In fact, at the beginning of the period, the oceans were hot enough to restrict the spread of the marine life.

      Climate isn't a simple matter of the CO2 level in the atmosphere. Other significant factors include solar activity; in the Ordovician, it was 4% lower than today. Models indicate that at such levels, CO2 levels only had to fall to around 3000ppm to initiate an ice age.

      Scientists are currently combing through the records to find more precise CO2 measures. Their current measurements are 10MY apart; however, the Ordovician only lasted 1MY. If the CO2/solar activity model for glaciation is right, then they expect to find levels around 3000ppm at the time of the Ice Age. We will see.

      What we can say for sure is that CO2 and temperature have increased side by side over the past 150 years. Solar activity, which would be the confounding variable in the Ordovician case, has not significantly increased (aside from 11-year sunspot cycles, irrelevant to geological time.)

      There is indeed a strong correlation between CO2 levels and global temperature. You're thinking of causation, and causation is harder to determine because of a statistical principle: any study can see a correlation, but it takes an experiment to find causation. It's pretty hard to experiment with the biosphere.

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    2. There's an over 500 million year record of ocean temperatures shown with CO2 and galactic cosmic ray flux in "Celestial driver of phanerozoic climate?" by astrophysicist Nir Shaviv and geochemist Jan Veizer (2003). Over virtually the entire age of visible life, temperatures have correlated very poorly with CO2, while the correlation between temperatures and GCR flux has been excellent.

      A difference is that an early researcher into GCR effects was denounced by the chair of the IPCC as "extremely naive and irresponsible" for publishing their inconvenient results. It doesn't fit the CO2 narrative.

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    3. Anonymous of May 12:
      "Climate isn't a simple matter of the CO2 level in the atmosphere. Other significant factors include solar activity; in the Ordovician, it was 4% lower than today. Models indicate that at such levels, CO2 levels only had to fall to around 3000ppm to initiate an ice age."

      Key sentence is "Models indicate...." Jump off the models bandwagon, in such a complex climate system and looking back 480 my is a ridiculous statement, as if we could "model" anything relevant....

      Next Paragraph:
      "Scientists are currently combing through the records to find more precise CO2 measures. Their current measurements are 10MY apart; however, the Ordovician only lasted 1MY"

      Wrong... Ordovician period is assigned approximately 70 my, with so many climate swings, transgressions, regressions etc., it is meaningless to try and correlate marine life "quality", again because WE DON"T KNOW, we are talking about 450 +/- my ago.....the fossil record indicates that many species flourished during this period, with elevated CO2 levels....

      What we can say for sure is that CO2 and temperature have increased side by side over the past 150 years. Solar activity, which would be the confounding variable in the Ordovician case, has not significantly increased (aside from 11-year sunspot cycles, irrelevant to geological time.)

      What we can also say is that CO2 levels and temperature DID NOT correlatae between 20 ky and 8 ky ago, with CO2 levels at 250-270 ppm at the glacial maximaum and increasing very little 12 ky later (290 ppm) and yet global temperature increased 5-6 degree C over that same period, again, no correlation to CO2 and temperature increases, at the Holocene temperature maximum (8k-6k) the CO2 levels were less than 300 ppm, no correlation....

      The earth has had thousands of climate swings prior to "human" existance and we must identify all the natural variations, but of course, that would lead to very little "tax funded climate modeling" and political power tripping...

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  8. There is no realation between CO2 and temperature. CO2 laks temperature so if there is an realition then it is tempertaure CO2 and not the other way.

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