I don't know how much it will affect opinions, but I see a major gap what the climate change deniers know about carbon dioxide, aka CO2, and would like to try to explain its importance. (Please keep in mind that the following isn't disputed by any scientists other than 'Biblical Literalists'. I may have made a few unintended factual errors, which I would like corrected as needed.)
* The Earth's atmosphere was, when life on Earth was entirely microbial, originally very high in CO2. It was also very hot then, because of the Greenhouse Effect, and from residual heat from the formation of the planet. Microbes ingested nutrients like sulfur, and gave off carbon dioxide and methane.
* As plants evolved into existence from bacteria with masses of chlorophyl, taking in CO2 when exposed to sunlight, and producing oxygen as a waste product, two major things happened, according to the geologic and bacterial fossil records:
1. Most of the then-existing life on Earth died off, because it was not able to tolerate oxygen (aka "anaerobic life"). Oxygen, being highly reactive (think "rust") was toxic to organisms that didn't evolve to use it in their metabolisms.
2. The atmosphere cooled, because oxygen lets heat escape into space much more readily than does CO2 or methane. This began the first of many cycles in which atmospheric CO2 rose and fell, with the global temperatures, most easily measured by sea levels, rising and falling along with or slightly behind CO2 levels.
* During periods of higher oxygen levels, plants were large, densely populated, and were found everywhere on the planet - including the poles. As they 'sucked up' CO2 from the atmosphere, the temperatures gradually cooled, many of the plants died, and their dead "bodies" trapped carbon taken from the atmosphere below the surface of the ground and the floors of the oceans. This dead plant matter (not, for the most part, dead animals like dinosaurs as commonly imagined) was changed, by heat, pressure and time, into fossil fuels, most commonly coal near the surface and oil deeper down, with natural gas mixed in. As this happened, the atmosphere cooled because CO2 levels fell.
* As a result of the explosion in plant life, and the accumulation of dead plant matter below the surface, a substantial portion of the CO2 became locked into subsurface carbon deposits (coal, oil, natural gas) and the wild swings in atmospheric temperatures stabilized somewhat, because they no longer had such large amounts of easily-released carbon to produce carbon dioxide.
* Enter humanity. Actually, nothing much happened as a result of our hunter-gatherer phase. When we started engaging in large-scale agriculture we had modest effects on the climate, but they tended to somewhat cancel out, as we both trapped carbon in fields of plants and released it by burning plants and clearing trees.
* The Industrial Age arrives. Now we are beginning to mine and drill for that trapped carbon, and are beginning to burn it in large amounts. Even now, at this stage, there is a certain mitigating effect on atmospheric temperatures, as our burning of coal tends to block some solar radiation from reaching Earth's surface even as we are releasing carbon dioxide. The atmosphere does start to warm, but it's gradual and uneven.
* The Twentieth Century arrives. The industrialization of the Western world goes into high gear, the deforestation of the surface accelerates, and with the widespread adoption of petroleum as fuel for both vehicles and homes, the production of sun-blocking soot begins to fall well behind the release of carbon dioxide into the air. Still, there are some planetary processes and systems that tend to slow the speed of changes in atmospheric temps. One very big one is the oceans, which can absorb huge amounts of CO2. The changes are still happening, but they seem to be centuries-slow, and not an immediate threat.
* The Twenty-First Century dawns. Fossil fuel consumption is enormous and still growing. The modest air pollution control measures adopted at the end of the Twentieth Century have made the air relatively clear, allowing in more sunlight from space. The oceans are still absorbing CO2, but the process is making them increasingly acidic, resulting in dying coral reefs and an increasing threat to the vast number of sea creatures that rely on shells, which are made from calcium in sea water and don't fare well in acidic water. Humanity is both destroying large areas of forest and making large areas of the oceans nearly empty of life. Storms, which are fueled by heat, become more intense on average...
Speaking of averages, the best way to understand global climate change (and the actual reason it is no longer called "global warming") is to picture a pair of dice. Better yet, make it one large "die" (the singular of dice) with, say, ten sides. In the early Twentieth Century, six of those sides would read "NORMAL WEATHER". Two would read "HOTTER WEATHER" and two would read "COLDER WEATHER". Cast that die in 1900 and the odds would be very much in favor of a normal/average year. In the year 2000, though, picture the same die having four "NORMAL" sides, four 'HOT" sides and two "COLD" sides. As you roll it now, the most likely outcome is a hot year. It's important to note, though, that cold years are still possible, just less likely than in the past. And as more years are Hot and fewer are Cold, the average temperature increases, even with the occasional colder year. By the mid Twenty-First Century, the Die will have 8 HOT sides, one NORMAL and one COLD. Even in otherwise "normal" years, storms will continue to increase in strength and in some cases duration. Disruption of the polar (especially the North polar) wind patterns will result in more frequent "polar vortexes" that bring down cold weather farther South than in centuries past, even as the overall climate continues to warm.
OK, I quit. My fingers are killing me.
Last edited by LeftieBiker
on Sat Dec 10, 2016 12:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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