Carbon dioxide is a non-toxic and invisible gas in our atmosphere. It is a very weak greenhouse gas, thus it is a trace gas as it only makes up 0.004% (400 ppm) of the atmosphere, though it fluctuates from time to time. In addition, of all of the greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere, CO2 is only 4% of them. Water vapor is the most commonly found greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and it is by far (in my opinion) the most important in terms of climate feedbacks and natural global warming or cooling. Despite CO2 being only 4% of all greenhouse gases, and only 0.1% of that CO2 being man-made, it is the second most common greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, which is why it is on the “radar” of climate activists. The rest, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases make up the final 1%. See Figure 1.
For every 100,000 molecules of air, only 40 are carbon dioxide, which translates to a 10,000:4 ratio.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
It is hard to believe, but it has been theorized that the Earth’s CO2 concentration was an upward of 1,000,000 parts per million some 4.5 billion years ago.
Ever since Earth’s formation, CO2 levels have been falling with natural variation from time to time (Figure 2). By 500 million years ago, it is estimated that CO2 was only 18 times higher than it is currently, which would put the CO2 concentration somewhere around 7,000 ppm (parts per million).
Around 300 million years ago, it is believed that CO2 levels were at 370 ppm, about 40 ppm less than it is currently. From there, it rose to levels four or five times higher than they are now, which is somewhere around 1,700 and 1,850 ppm by 220 million years ago (Berner 1990, 1992, 1993, 1997; Kasting 1993).
By 43 million years before the present, CO2 levels are estimated to have dropped to about 385 ppm (Pearson and Palmer, 1999), and by 25 to 9 million years ago, somewhere between 180 and 290 ppm (Pagani et al., 1999).
For the past 500,000 years, CO2 levels have been historically low, as they have generally ranged from about 180 ppm to 300 ppm (Fischer et al., 1999; Petit et al., 1999) (Figure 3). Since the industrial revolution, however, CO2 levels have skyrocketed to 410 parts per million in about 200 years time. Generally, a transition in 100 ppm of CO2, whether it rises or falls, takes about 5,000 to 20,000 years, rather than 100.
It should also be noted that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere varies from season to season. As we know, plants absorb CO2 and turn it into oxygen through the process of photosynthesis (we will talk about that later). When winter transitions into spring and summer, CO2 levels decline as vegetation grows, whereas CO2 levels rise during the autumn and winter months as vegetation dies off. NOAA’s monitoring of CO2 levels over the past 40 years shows this annual cycle, despite substantial increase over time, which is both due to natural and man-made factors (referring to CO2, not temperature folks).
CO2 IS BENEFICIAL!
If you ask any botanist, or even any geologist or biologist that has a clue what they are doing, they will tell you that any large or small increase in CO2 is a very beneficial thing to the Earth’s vegetation. Studies have shown that the more CO2 exposed to plants, the faster and better they will grow, thus causing healthier plants, which is why farmers pump CO2 into their greenhouses.
Studies, both independent and government studies, including NASA, have shown that the increase in CO2 over the last 200 years has caused Earth to get greener despite deforestation in parts of Alaska, Canada, the United States, and South America. The map below was created and developed, which shows you just how much Earth has greened over the past 100 years or so (Figure 4).
WHY IS CO2 BENEFICIAL?
The reason that carbon dioxide is a beneficial thing because of its vital role in photosynthesis. If you passed third grade science class, then you will understand the basic process.
The majority of the world’s oxygen supply comes from plants. This is due to photosynthesis (Figure 5). The main ingredients for this to occur are water, sunlight, and CO2.
Carbon dioxide from the air enters the stomata in the leaves. Then, water is absorbed by the roots and passes through the vessels in the stems and leaves, this is known as capillary action. After that, the chlorophyll within the leaves absorb the Sun’s chemical energy. From there, the chemical energy is then used to split water molecules into separate hydrogen and oxygen atoms, in which the oxygen is released into the air through the leaves of the plant. And of course, we know that all life forms need oxygen to survive. Meanwhile, the carbon dioxide and the hydrogen are used to form glucose for food for plants.
WHY IS CO2 THE SCAPEGOAT OF TEMPERATURE PROFILE? IS IT REALLY OR IS IT SUPERSTITION?
There is this concern (in case it wasn’t obvious) that our continuous increase in CO2 is going to result in catastrophic global warming and cause a runaway greenhouse effect. This mainly comes from politicians and scientists riding on the political train, who are wanting something out of this, or they have an agenda of some kind, whatever that is, I have no clue (probably money, but we will leave that open for discussion).
When we look at the past 600 million years of CO2 and temperature, we see no linkage between the two. We have had colder times with more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and warmer times with less.
There is no logical reason to think that CO2 is going to cause a global warming apocalypse any time soon or any time at all. Scientific evidence has shown that climate may control the levels of CO2, whereas the “hysterians” think that CO2 controls the temperature. Just because there might be some sort of correlation between temperature and CO2 doesn’t mean that CO2 is causation; never assume correlation means causation.
If we look at the past 500,000 years or so, we will see the correlation a little clearer. Despite there being a correlation, evidence has shown (or you could just look at the graph above) that temperature rises first, THEN carbon dioxide will follow and when the temperature falls, the CO2 will eventually follow (Fischer et al., 1999) (Figure 3). The CO2 will follow the temperature about 400 to 1,000 years after the temperature rises or falls due to the lag time.
It is well understood by climatologists that a doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere causes less than a 1°C (1.44°F or 0.8°K) rise in global temperatures. It is also known that a runaway greenhouse effect is impossible because the CO2 absorption spectrum is nearly 100% saturated. The more CO2 that is added to the atmosphere means that the rate of temperature increase becomes less and less eventually to the point where it levels off. Even if CO2 levels were to increase to ten times the current levels, or more, the temperature change would be less than 2.35°C (4.5°F or 2.5°K).
But why is CO2 on the “radar” so to speak?
Well, that is because it is the second most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere (not even close to the most abundant gas).
The only greenhouse gas that should be on the radar in my opinion, is water vapor, since its effects on the climate are much greater than an increase in CO2 (even IF has effect at all).
The main reason CO2 can NOT cause catastrophic or even minor warming was stated well by “Corchem,” a well-respected chemistry teacher.
“…the CO2 molecule is very rigid due to its double bond structure and very low polarity due to symmetry. CO2 is a lousy greenhouse gas. Nitrogen and oxygen are NOT greenhouse gases due to their double and triple bond structures, and even lower polarity. CO2, unlike O2 and N2, does have some greenhouse [gas] characteristics [which makes it a greenhouse gas], but as a greenhouse gas, it is very weak. It just happens to be the second most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. The only reason [that] CO2 is on the radar is due to its abundance in the atmosphere. If CO2 was a major contributor [to global warming], we would see the results quite vividly. The fact that we don’t proves it is not.”
So does CO2 have any effect? This is a hard question to answer, I will be quite honest with you.
Proxy data shows that there is NO linkage for CO2 being the climate control knob, but there is a lot of evidence showing that the opposite is true, that CLIMATE is the control knob for carbon dioxide, which is the opposite of what climate doomsayers say. In addition, there is no way of measuring CO2’s effect on climate change (IF and only IF it has effect).
CO2 is a greenhouse gas, as I have previously stated, however, as I also said, it is the weakest greenhouse gas. It does absorb SOME infrared solar radiation that the Earth radiates back toward outer space, in which the IR energy gets reflected back to the Earth’s surface and heats it again. This has been theorized to cause Earth’s natural “greenhouse effect” to strengthen slightly, though we haven’t seen the increase in temperature that was “forecasted,” which tells me that the climate is insensitive to increases in carbon dioxide concentration.
As of 2008, it is “believed” that we have “enhanced” the Earth’s greenhouse effect by 1% or less, which is trash when climate prophets get all hyped up and think a global warming apocalypse is going to happen. It is well understood by climatologists, that a doubling in CO2 concentration causes a global warming less than one degree Celsius (which I disagree with since I feel that CO2 has really NO effect on the climate, but I will be open to the idea).
The increase in CO2 MIGHT (has not been proven or disproved) cause other things to change, such as clouds, water vapor concentration, or precipitation. These changes may result in amplified or reduced warming depending upon whether they are positive or negative feedbacks. Negative feedbacks mean that warming gets reduced due to those changes, and positive feedback means that warming could get amplified.
As I stated earlier, for every 100,000 molecules of air, only 40 are carbon dioxide, which translates to a 10,000:4 ratio. So, you got to ask yourself, do 4 molecules of CO2, out of 10,000 molecules of air, over a span of 200 years, outdo the natural climate system, which includes the Sun, the oceans, volcanoes, cosmic rays, and orbital and axial tilt changes, as the Earth rotates on an inconsistent axis as it revolves around the Sun with more land in the Northern Hemisphere and more water in the Southern Hemisphere? The increase in CO2 simply can not outdo those natural mechanisms nor can its effect, if any, be noticeable or distinguishable. It should also be noted that it takes five years to increase one CO2 molecule, from 40 to 41.
Therefore I can only conclude that CO2’s forcing on the climate must be very little or even ineffective at all. Carbon dioxide in my opinion, can simply not be the climate control knob. There is only some correlation and very little linkage in the geological record between temperature and CO2, and there is little linkage now. Climate activists seem to forget that Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and that time didn’t begin in 1800, so, if you want to know the truth, then think like a geologist, not like a climate scientist.
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