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The groupthink on CO2 levels ignores some basic science

Views will change as atmospheric CO2 continues to rise with little or no significant change in global temperatures

As an agricultural producer, a former science teacher, and someone who is involved in the delivery of agricultural extension, I would like to submit some comments in relation to Daniel Bezte’s article in the Feb. 13 edition, “Articles on climate change provoke some readers“.

The article’s title is entirely fitting because articles on climate change do indeed provoke some readers — because of their one-sided nature in favour of a belief in anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change.

I also agree with the author that this is an important issue, though for economic and political reasons rather than any dire natural or scientific implications.

“Believe” is a word that appears several times in this article and in similar articles about climate change. I do not wish to antagonize, but the use of these or similar words reflect a lack of understanding of the nature of science.

Science is based on testing and evidence rather than consensus and groupthink. An overwhelming majority of the plethora of climate models that have been put forth over the past 30 years overestimate the influence of changing CO2 levels on global temperature. The truth is that the globe has only experienced a warming of 0.7 C since the late 1970s when ‘scientific consensus’ was focused on concern about global cooling and a coming ice age.

When examining evidence from the distant and more recent past, it is easy to see that climate has always been changing and that those changes often occurred in opposition to the ‘CO2 drives global temperature’ hypothesis. Regarding scientific consensus and groupthink, there are many historical instances where such consensus and belief was wrong. As time goes by and atmospheric CO2 continues to rise with little or no significant change in global temperatures, the current societal paradigm on atmospheric CO2 is bound to change.

The other main point that I would like to address is the bold claim in the article that “the key point of those who believe (there’s that word again) in man-made climate change is that we are putting extreme amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and we need to reduce them.” Again, I disagree with the author: It is anything but extreme.

I call CO2 “the Rodney Dangerfield of Gases,” because it gets no respect. CO2 was at 278 parts per million (ppm) at the beginning of the industrial revolution and it is currently at 400 ppm. Historically, when vascular plants evolved approximately 400 million years ago, the CO2 concentration was between 3,000 and 4,000 ppm. That is over 12 times pre-industrial levels and close to 10 times current levels!

If you look at the photosynthesis reaction in plants as a biochemical reaction, you will notice that CO2 is a reactant and according to Le Chatelier’s principle, if you increase the concentration of a reactant (CO2 or water), you will get more product (oxygen and sugar). This proves true in plant physiology in the real world, as evidenced by the fact that greenhouses actively add CO2 to increase plant growth and crop yield.

Think about this: If we could turn the clock back and instantly dial CO2 levels back to pre-industrial levels, global biomass growth and crop yields would instantly drop by about 25 per cent. On the flip side, if we could instantly increase CO2 to about 1,000 ppm (still only one-quarter or one-third of ancient levels), global biomass growth and crop yields would instantly increase by about 25 per cent.

This will sound sacrilegious to anthropogenic climate change advocates, but maybe it is time for a paradigm shift regarding current thought on atmospheric CO2 levels. If soil carbon is so wonderful (and it is!), why is atmospheric CO2 so terrible?

Maybe it is time to rethink shutting down the coal-fired power plants in Alberta if we can ensure that all NO2 and SO2 are scrubbed out. I am also weary with concern and obsession over CO2 emissions eclipsing real environmental issues such as surface and groundwater contamination, habitat destruction, and soil degradation.

In summary, I find it ironic that the author invokes and relates the idea of not talking about politics and religion to anthropogenic climate change. It is totally true!

The pressure for all of us to fall in line and attempts at propping up the failing anthropogenic climate change hypothesis have essentially created a new religion. Though climatology is a young field historically, proponents have been persistent and very successful in securing the ear of the political and cultural elite of the world. When you look at the Brexit vote results and the recent election to the south along with current events in European countries such as France, Britain, and even Germany, there is an increasingly larger percentage of the public that is no longer buying what they are selling.

Eric Neilson farms near Castor.


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Comments

  • BillD314

    The reason why the phrases “Anti-science”, “Evidence-deniers”, and ”Global Warming Deniers” are used is that the “Anti-science Deniers” ignore demonstrable evidence, and fabricate stories and “facts” that are not true.
    .
    The claim
    “the late 1970s when ‘scientific consensus’ was focused on concern about global cooling and a coming ice age.”
    is absurd and illustrates the mindless parroting of denier falsehoods.

    If the “scientific consensus” in “the late 1970’s” was focused about global cooling, why did the late Walter Cronkite feature a news story that scientific consensus was warning of global warming?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU9s0XyEctI

  • macqus

    It’s not “group think,” it’s the scientific consensus. The scientists aren’t ignoring “this one simple fact!” like science is a buzzfeed article or something.

    From the article: “Historically, when vascular plants evolved approximately 400 million years ago, the CO2 concentration was between 3,000 and 4,000 ppm. That is over 12 times pre-industrial levels and close to 10 times current levels!”

    And what was the temperature at that time? It was 5 to 10 degrees C hotter than it is now! Vertebrate land animals (That’s us!) didn’t exist yet! Sea level was 200 m higher than it is now! These seem like important facts to include but the article’s author doesn’t care!

    The idea that plants will absorb all the extra CO2 is ridiculous. If that were the case, the levels would not be going up in the first place. Plants do absorb more co2 when more is available, but only up to a point, and sometimes they are also limited by other factors (they don’t live purely on co2 – good luck taking advantage of that increased plant growth in the new drought stricken regions).

    This article is just stupid. Completely a distraction from the simple basic fact: co2 is a strong greenhouse gas.

    Concentrating on the “benefits” of co2 is just the latest oil industry smoke screen, brought to you by exxon, et al. It doesn’t matter if there is “a” benefit if the downsides are worse (rising sea levels, increasing droughts and hunger for hundreds of millions of people)

    Here is the same argument, but for oxygen: Oxygen is good right? We breath it! Think of how well we will breath if oxygen concentration rises. It’s currently 21% of the atmosphere. If it were 25%, you could grow stronger, run faster, etc! (Completely ignoring the fact that above 23%, many materials that normally don’t burn, become very flammable, and basically things would always be on fire everywhere)

  • Liam

    OMG this is utter garbage. No one says “CO2 drives global temperature” At least not exclusively. Yes, if we get hit by a giant rock from space that will change the climate. And did change the climate. But that is not what is happening now. What is changing the climate now is CO2. We know this because we can measure it directly with satellites. As Co2 levels rise less IR radiation (heat) leaves the planet in CO2’s absorption bands. I mean holy ffffnnn nutballs. This is basic. And yes plants evolved in high CO2 environments. But guess what? as they pulled CO2 out of the atmosphere they allowed animals to evolve. Now which are we we? plants or animals? I am sorry but this sort of grade 2 musings without even junior high levels of basic science does not deserve to see the light of day, Where was the editor?

    • Eric Neilson

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4038e592a68b36e8cab27e562643b057b58a063ec297d21ac0c35460dd895d78.jpg

      Part 1 – Where to start? I guess at this particular invective since it is contains the most personal and insulting wording.

      Yes, I am the “idiot” that wrote this article. Before I address what you have written, I should tell you a bit about myself. I grew up on a farm in East-Central Alberta and remember being afraid as a child in the 1970’s of the coming ice age that everyone was talking about. I have a BSc Ag from the U of A and a BEd from the U of A. My Education major was biology and my minor was chemistry. Besides courses in biology, chemistry and biochemistry, I have taken courses and am very interested in astronomy and geology. As well, the course about teaching sciences to secondary students spent a great deal on of time on teaching the nature of science and scientific theory. I have taught all of the Alberta Science curriculum from grades 1-9 and my favorite parts of those years included teaching children about the nature of science and sewing the seeds of critical thinking.

      I started paying attention the the climate change (then global warming) issue in the early 1990’s and at first I was totally on board with the cause. It was a beautiful hypothesis: Humans were causing temperatures to rise at an unprecedented rate and we could “fix” the problem and “save the earth” by reducing our carbon footprint. Very virtuous and empowering. As I read several books, peer reviewed papers, visited many websites and did my own investigation into fields like paleo-climatology I began to have doubts. This has all happened before in both the distant and recent past and it will happen again, and it’s definitely not unprecendented. By the early 2000’s I “switched teams” from AGW proponent to AGW skeptic. If you want to label me now (I know the “denier” term will come to mind for those who want to throw stones), I would prefer to be called a “luke-warmer” because I acknowledge that CO2 does have an affect on the climate by helping to trap solar radiation (it’s not linear), but I believe that the climate alarmists are exaggerating that effect by a factor of 3-5 and we would be much wiser as a society to invest our tax money and research into preparing to adapt to a changing climate (warmer or colder) rather than the suffering the economic consequences of shutting down our carbon based economy.

      I also must mention that as a agricultural producer, I am very enthusiastic about carbon in both the soil and the air. CO2 is so important because it is a reactant in the photosynthesis bio-chemical reaction. As AF specialist Murray Hartman recently told us at an extension event: “From a plant nutrition viewpoint, CO2 can be regarded as a “mega-nutrient””. As a grazier and a beginning holistic management practitioner, I acknowledge that more CO2 in the air means more biomass production, more sugar in the plants that my cows are eating and more carbon being tramped into my soil for better soil health.

      Lastly, this so-called “idiot” believes that the best way to have a healthy scientific community and overall society is to teach our children how to look at issues from both sides (critical thinking), to question what the media and politicians are selling them and to make choices based on what is evidence rather than hyperbole.

      Hopefully a second post tomorrow in reply to the content of your post 🙂

  • Bart_R

    It doesn’t matter, clearly, to Eric Neilson what the facts are, what the science says, what ethics or morality, economics or common sense tell us. Those things when they arrive feel to him like personal attacks on the very core of himself and all he holds dear, and he cannot escape that sense of dread no matter how friendly or understanding the source.

    The nature of science is to hold exact fit inferred from all observation with fewest assumptions, exceptions or omissions possible, but no further than possible, regardless of belief or feeling, until new observation leads to amended or new fit.

    Eric Neilson has produced no new observation, and so to science, has said nothing to alter the conclusion that we must hold to be exact truth, that fossil wastes dumped by people invade the power of private lands to weather and sequester carbon back to mineral form, that the bottleneck of fossil waste dumping has caused an increase of more than 44% above natural CO2 levels in the blink of a geological eye — less than 300 years and most of it in less than 100 years — that this spike has had significant global impacts on acidification, climate change, crop nutrient density loss and soil fertility decay.

    Eric tells us, “the globe has only experienced a warming of 0.7 C since the late 1970s”. Forty years. 0.7 degrees. An average warming of 1.8 C per century, (less earlier, and now over 2.0 C per century). That lagged warming will keep going, even if fossil waste dumping were to stop today, and not stop until more than 3.0 C of warming has happened, within seven decades. And that will be that for Alberta farming, as floods, heatwaves, droughts and disrupted winters wipe out farm livelihoods.

    We do know climate has always changed. We’ve known it only for six decades, when H. H. Lamb proved climate change in the same paper that proved human caused climate change. If you know climate has always changed, you only know it from the proof that humans affect climate, and that proof has been shown to mean humans are now causing global climate change fifteen to two hundred times faster than nature has in the lifespan of our species.

    Why would Eric Neilson mislead people like this?

    He cannot help himself. Something in his makeup causes him to identify more strongly with the lies in his head than the truth in front of him, and he can’t even see the difference.

    There is a cure. Free Eric Neilson of the fear he has, and he will be able, maybe, someday, to see what science is telling us. That fear is the fear he’ll have to open his wallet and pay when he dumps fossil. It’s like a stake in his heart, the thought of paying what he owes. And paying what he owes is his only hope.

    It’s also ours.

    Because the plants that evolved at 3,000-4,000 ppmv had a small fraction of the key amino acids and minerals we and our domesticated animals need for health.

    Because Rodney Dangerfield is a red herring.

    Because plants are not simple systems, and the way they react to higher CO2 is to release more plant hormones the way cheating athletes respond to steroids — they’re growth hormones, but they’re not nutrient-building hormones. You get huge plants that may look healthy, but they’re leggy and have wasted their vigor on mass over quality, unless you’ve balanced the CO2 steroid effect with extra nitrates and phosphates, an expensive way to farm. If there isn’t a flood or drought or heatwave. Which are more common because of climate change.

    Because coal doesn’t make business sense, the third most expensive way to get electricity in the new modern era of electric generation from renewables, geothermal, solar, wind, biochar volatiles, hydroelectric..

    Because Eric can’t see it, and won’t stop on his own, until he pays what he owes every time he dumps fossil.

  • Agvocategirl
  • Liam

    The author of the author of the above article responded with some of the standard denier arguments. I go through them below:

    – “I grew up on a farm in East-Central Alberta and remember being afraid as a child in the 1970’s of the coming ice age that everyone was talking about.”

    Everyone may have been talking about it if they get their science from Time magazine. However, the science at the time was dominated by predictions of future warming. This is what happens when you get your science from pop culture and rumour.

    – ” This has all happened before in both the distant and recent past and it will happen again, and it’s definitely not unprecendented.”

    No it is not unprecedented, but for changes like this to happen at the current rate the planet had to be hit by a giant rock, or a volcano half the size of Asia would have to blow. The likelihood of the current changes being natural 1 in 1,000. The current rate of change in the earth’s temperature is 50 times the background trend for the last 10,000 years, the levels of C02 is at levels not seen for millions of years and far in excess of the amount of CO2 recorded in the entire 800,000 year record, and the rate of change in the CO2 levels is orders of magnitude in the entire ice core record. We also know the CO2 is ours because we trace its source with isotopes.

    – “I acknowledge that CO2 does have an affect on the climate by helping to trap solar radiation (it’s not linear), but I believe that the climate alarmists are exaggerating that effect by a factor of 3-5”

    The sensitivity number for CO2 can be derived by numerous methods including empirical studies such as paleoclimate studies, looking at the effects of known inputs such as the aftermath of a volcanic eruption and viewing the planet from space. All the methods converge on a fairly narrow range. The possiblity of the number being less than 1 C is virtually non-existent since we have alrrady warmed .8 C without even doubling CO2 levels and during a time when the Sun’s output fell slight, orbital variations suggest slight cooling, cosmic rays suggest cooling, and aerosols suggest cooling.

    – “From a plant nutrition viewpoint, CO2 can be regarded as a “mega-nutrient”

    No one denies Co2 fertilizing effect, as no one denies CO2 is human waste, and no one denies the fertilizing effect in no way reduces Co2’s warming effect, vahnge teh fact CO2 is also human waste, nor is Co2’s fertilizing effect strong enough to reduce CO2 levels (if it were CO2 levels would not be rising). CO2 levels are also not the only condition for plant growth. Increasing CO2 levels can increase plant growth in the plant is also receiving enough other nutrients and has a place to grow. If you a look at our planet from space you can clearly see the latter condition is increasingly at risk. If you look at the former condition and the experiments conducted, boosting CO2 levels could generate another 13 per cent growth for non-CO2 levels in crops which are sufficently supplied with other nutrients and in relatively cool environments. Notably, this only applies to plants not using C4. C4 Photosynthesis plants will not be affected by increased CO2 levels. This includes corn, most grasses and sugarcane. And whereas increased CO2 have a limited and complex fertilizing effect, even moderate increases in the temperature have a disastrous effect on plant growth in tropical regions. Notably I have yet to talk about changing Ph in the oceans. Over the past 300 million years, ocean pH has been slightly basic, averaging about 8.2. Today, it is around 8.1, a drop of 0.1 pH units, representing a 25 per cent increase in acidity over the past two centuries.

    “to question what the media and politicians are selling them and to make choices based on what is evidence rather than hyperbole.”

    If you make choices on the evidence, it is undeniable CO2 is warming the planet, the effect is large, and it is not something we should avoid exasperating. It ceases to be evidence-based and becomes merely stubborn when you ignore direct empirical proof in favour of a pet theory.

    • Eric Neilson

      “If you look at the former condition and the experiments conducted,
      boosting CO2 levels could generate another 13 per cent growth for
      non-CO2 levels in crops which are sufficently supplied with other
      nutrients and in relatively cool environments.” What does that even mean? Boosting CO2 by how much? Where did you get the 13% from? Have a look at these two papers (the second one is pay-walled)
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fes3.44/full
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0098847215300253
      (You might have to copy and paste – I don’t know if you can put the html code for a link in this format)
      Anyways, its much more than 13% if you were to increase it by several hundred ppm.

      Your comments on ocean pH are interesting. Remember that carbonic acid is a weak acid and Calcium Carbonate will precipitate out (organically or inorganically) if dissolved CO2 gets very high. Where do you think all the limestone came from? Also, the ocean is basic, not acidic. Basic is an excess of OH- ions. Going from 8.2 to 8.1 is not an increase in acidity, it is a reduction in basicity. If the historic pH has been 8.2, then 8.1 is not much of a departure.

      “it is undeniable CO2 is warming the planet, the effect is large, and it is not something we should avoid exasperating.” If the effect is large, where is your evidence over the last 18+ years? CO2 levels have been rising dramatically, but there has been no statistical warming!

      I wish I had more time to respond to more of the other things you have said…

      From your first post: “Where was the editor?” Are you saying that anyone who has a legitimate disagreement with you should be censored? Maybe you should read George Orwell’s 1984 and realize that it it a warning, not an instruction manual.

      And your claim that “However, the science at the time was dominated by predictions of future warming.” is just nonsense.

      • Eric Neilson
        • Liam

          Not sure what point you are making with the first graph. Conditions 600 million years ago were nothing like they are now. The sun for one, was dimmer, which means you had to have much more Co in the atmosphere to achieve the same warming effect. The second is interesting because, we are now much warmer than at any point on that graph. We are much warmer than the MWP for example.

      • Liam

        I am perfectly fine with your references! particularly the one that says “The increase in atmospheric [CO2] is the major contributing factor to global warming (Forster et al. 2007)” Keep them coming!

        Both references argue my point that the Co2 fertilization effect is highly variable depending on other factors such as water supply, the plant involved and temperature, even explicitly arguing that the effects predicted by AGW will have a greater impact than CO2 fertilization during key growing periods. “Prolonged heat waves and drought stress drastically reduce ecosystem gross primary productivity (Ciais et al. 2005) and crop production (Boyer 1982; Chaves and Oliveira 2004; Lobell et al. 2012). Both droughts and heat waves will likely become more frequent with global change and are also projected to be more common in the future during the period of reproductive growth (Gourdji et al. 2013), which is the most critical period for economic yield. ”

        Are you certain you read these? because they make all my key points:
        – The co2 fertilization rate is highly variable and dependent on other factors
        – Key crops like potatoes, many grasses, and corn are barely touched by the effect
        – the adverse effects of AGW could easily outweigh the positive effects of fertilization.
        All told you seem to be accepting the bits from these papers you like then simply ignoring the bits you don’t like e.g., “”The increase in atmospheric [CO2] is the major contributing factor to global warming (Forster et al. 2007)”

        As for Ph levels in the ocean, I never mentioned the word “acidification.” that is a terminology you started, though it hardly matters what you call it, the effects are the same. Second, the dissolved CO2 is not precipitating out, otherwise the Ph level would not be heading lower. It is.

        Now for, the 18 year hiatus. It doesn’t exist. The heat content of the planet soared in that timeframe. Eve if you ignore the oceans where most of the heat resides, the air temperature increase in that timeframe, in spite of the fact you hoodwinked the data in a cherry pick by obscuring an overall trend by picking the high end of an internal oscillation with the low end of the oscillation. Amazingly, in spite of the cherry pick it STILL comes out as warming.

        ahh the 1970s… just go back and read the scientific journals rather than Time magazine.

  • Katie Slimmon

    High levels of atmospheric CO2 are terrible for the oceans amongst other Earth processes; hence the reason that atmospheric CO2 is so terrible