Forests Thrive on CO2

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One of the big questions in the ongoing debate over the effects of man-made global warming is what will happen to forests? Burning fossil fuels pumps extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which, all other things being equal, plants treat as a fertilizer that boosts their growth. A new study by Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory finds that the net primary productivity (the amount of organic matter produced) in forests grown in atmosphere of heightened CO2 grew by 23 percent. Such a response will not halt the increasing level of CO2 in the atmosphere, but it will slow it down. In fact, under the Kyoto Protocol climate change treaty, countries are trying to get credits for not cutting down their forests or for replanting forests.

The DOE result contradicts earlier research that found that extra CO2 actually retarded plant growth. Who knew? There may still be some important uncertainties about aspects of future climate change.

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  1. One of the big questions in the ongoing debate over the effects of man-made global warming is what will happen to forests?

    Does this mean y’all have stopped debating whether climate change is man-made?

  2. Jennifer: See my article “We’re All Global Warmers Now.”

    The question is whether it’s likely to be a catastrophe or not? Answer on that one very hazy.

  3. And if we all shit outside more grass will grow.

    Since change = destruction in the eyes of environmentalists, I support reverting the earth to its original pristine state: a spinning flaming blob of magnetic plasma.

  4. Ron Bailey–

    Having skimmed through your article, I see where you agree we’re getting warmer, but my question is: do you think this has anything to do with all the stuff we’ve dumped into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution, or is this simply another natural change in the Earth’s climate cycle, and the fact that it happens after the IR is purely a coincidence?

    Another question: if it IS man-made, then what, if anything, do you think men should do about it?

  5. My God, they’ve gotten to Bailey, too!

  6. Jennifer,

    If its man-made then why was there a cooling period mid-twentieth century when we were belching out far more carbon than we did in the 19th century?

  7. Ron Bailey,
    Just having read that article, I didn’t notice where it concluded that global warming is man-made.

  8. Another question: if it IS man-made, then what, if anything, do you think men should do about it?

    That assumes we CAN do anything about it. When one actually considers the scale of the problem, stopping global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions becomes somewhat like interstellar travel: Interesting on paper, but virtually impossible in real life.

    Or to put it more simply: The United States could shut off every internal combustion engine tomorrow, and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere would still increase by an average of 3% per year.

    In the meantime, the world’s economy would collapse.

  9. Captain Holly, I agree we’ve painted ourselves into a corner here. I am just wondering when the standard orthodoxy changed; I could have sworn that just a few months ago the Boilerplate Libertarian Dogma was that global warming probably isn’t happening, but if it IS happening humanity had absolutely nothing to do with it. I am just curious, now that this seems to have changed.

  10. Since young trees consume more CO2 than old trees, and since global warming is supposedly the greatest environmental threat the planet faces, I await the proposal to clear cut all the old-growth forests of the world and to dump them into the ocean.

  11. I am just wondering when the standard orthodoxy changed

    Changed? What are you talking about? We’ve always said that anthropogenic climate change is real. Of course, most of it is caused by Eurasia, which is why it’s important that we and our Eastasian allies finally win our eternal war against them.

    And Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I’ve ever known in my life.

  12. When one actually considers the scale of the problem, stopping global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions becomes somewhat like interstellar travel: Interesting on paper, but virtually impossible in real life.

    So we’re DOOMED! DOOM-ED! We’re all going to die as we either cook to death or freeze after the “oceanic conveyer” in the Atlantic shuts down! DOOMED I TELL YOU!

  13. Jennifer,

    Frank Luntz’s famous window finally closed.

    “Frank Luntz, a Republican Party strategist. In a leaked 2002 memo, Luntz said: ‘The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science.'”

    Great way to look at science, huh? “The entire scientific community tells us we’re wrong on the facts, but we can manage to look convincing when we lie for another election cycle. Gentlemen, get out there and bullshit!”

  14. Jennifer: There are still big questions as to how much of a contribution man-made greenhouse gases are making to global warming. When you’re talking about differences in average temperature of tenths of a degree summed over the whole globe, picking out natural from man-made forcings is very difficult.

    Despite what some of my critics may say about my motivations, I have tended to rely on the satellite data set by Christy because it matched the weather balloon data and it measured the bulk of the atmosphere every day. Furthermore, I felt that its accuracy was enhanced because Christy’s data had been carefully scrutinized by global warming proponents who could not find convincing flaws in them. Of course,as I point out in “We’re All Global Warmers Now” other researchers have now found flaws and there is a debate over how to correct for them.

    In any case, all of the temperature datasets show a rate of warming that lies toward the low end of the climate model projections. This undercuts the notion of future catastrophic warming.

  15. OK, I’m willing to conceede that Global Warming is real, and we foul, evil, humans are at fault for this rape of the Earth Mother.

    Can we do anything about it?

    If so, Can we repair the damage without destroying western capitalism and our level of technological progress?

  16. When one actually considers the scale of the problem, stopping global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions becomes somewhat like interstellar travel: Interesting on paper, but virtually impossible in real life.

    The beauty of this is that even if global warming IS our fault, we STILL don’t have to do anything about it!

  17. Great way to look at science, huh?

    Okay, joe. Let’s discuss the science of economics…

  18. This will give me comfort tonight as I sleep through another 10 degree night two fucking weeks before winter starts.

  19. I could have sworn that just a few months ago the Boilerplate Libertarian Dogma was that global warming probably isn’t happening, but if it IS happening humanity had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Most(*) skeptical commentors on this site (including myself) have not claimed that. Skeptics tend to believe that the links between Human activity and GW are ill defined (if they exist at all) and require further research before any economically significant policy action should commence. Most skeptics also tend to doubt the dire predictions of the GW alarmists.

    (*) Thus, my butt has spoken.

  20. In any case, all of the temperature datasets show a rate of warming that lies toward the low end of the climate model projections. This undercuts the notion of future catastrophic warming.

    The problem is that a lot of people think, or pretend to think, that “an average temperature increase of four degrees” means the world will be exactly like it is now, except every day will be four degrees warmer. That is not the case. Just recently, for example, BBC had some articles talking about how Northern Europe will paradixically get colder, because all of the melting Arctic ice is screwing up the warm ocean currents that make places like England surprisingly clement, considering that they’re about the same latitude as Newfoundland.

    And let’s face it–the Earth is a super-complex place, and we don’t know all the ways the climate will change. We don’t know all that will happen when a particular variable changes. We can’t know. So why are you making the default assumption “We don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure it won’t be too bad”?

    Seriously, guys–when the crazy tree-huggin’ hippies who work for the Pentagon put out reports saying climate change will be a big national security issue in this century, I start to think there’s something to it. The Pentagon agreeing with Greenpeace about ANYTHING is some serious shit indeed.

  21. when the crazy tree-huggin’ hippies who work for the Pentagon put out reports saying climate change will be a big national security issue in this century

    Are these the hippies at the Pentagon who write papers describing possible or not possible future security threats so that billions of dollars will be given to them to study these threats further while they build their little bureaucratic empires? Those guys?

    Grrrr. I told them to stop doing that!

  22. Most(*) skeptical commentors on this site (including myself) have not claimed that. Skeptics tend to believe that the links between Human activity and GW are ill defined (if they exist at all) and require further research before any economically significant policy action should commence. Most skeptics also tend to doubt the dire predictions of the GW alarmists.

    well put. I fall into this camp. Of course, in some people’s eyes, that’s tantamount to holocaust denying. which reminds me, is it worth telling joe to just shut up here? he isn’t contributing to the global warming phenomenon here. that is, of course, assuming he’s not mouthing his words as he types.

    (*) Thus, my butt has spoken.

    Yeah, me too. hot wings and beer give me that problem. maybe we should close down taco stands for contributing to global warming.

  23. four degrees warmer

    Don’t believe the hype.

    Northern Europe will paradixically get colder

    Are you familiar with the little ice age?

  24. Both Greenpeace and The Pentagon have a shitty track record when it comes to facts.
    I don’t think we’ve won a war since the Pentagon was completed.

  25. The beauty of this is that even if global warming IS our fault, we STILL don’t have to do anything about it!

    Jennifer, you’re missing the point. The climate is so complex, the scale so vast, that doing anything to stop Global Warming is roughly akin to island natives throwing virgins into volcanoes to stop an eruption: It might make you feel better, but it won’t change a thing.

    I’m not a card-carrying Libertarian, so I’m not completely up to speed as to their orthodoxy. However, I think most Libertarians would agree that an expensive, government-mandated program to reduce the world’s temperature by less than 1 degree C by 2100 is a colossal waste of money and effort.

    Far better (and cheaper) to let the market and economy run unfettered and produce the solution (if a solution is even possible) on its own.

  26. Akira, “If so, Can we repair the damage without destroying western capitalism and our level of technological progress?”

    Keep in mind that the prediction of economic catastrophe that industry always assures us will result from environmental regulation never come to pass. Lee Iacocca, of all people, testified to the United States Congress that mandating seat belts would result in there being no automobile manufacturing in the United States by 1975. It’s like driving in snow – just don’t make any sudden, violent movements, and everyting will be fine. Capitalist industry is extremely good and innovating and adapting to challenges.

    Mike P, what would you like to know about economics?

  27. “Seriously, guys–when the crazy tree-huggin’ hippies who work for the Pentagon put out reports saying climate change will be a big national security issue in this century, I start to think there’s something to it. The Pentagon agreeing with Greenpeace about ANYTHING is some serious shit indeed.”

    Are you being serious? That they are both groups who’s best interest is served by expanding the government escapes you? What a surprise that they agree! Feminists and Christian fundies hate porn, therefore there must be some truth to the claim that porn is evil…

  28. And the university researchers – they depend on government grants for the their funding. It’s all a conspiracy, man.

  29. Mike P, what would you like to know about economics?

    For example, I would like to know whether political candidates actually believe that free trade is better than protectionism but ignore that fact as they ply their demagogic political strategy. Or do they simply ignore the scientific consensus on the matter.

  30. gee joe, good thing you left out every world ending prediction of over population, genetically modified foods, global cooling, tilling the earth, cutting down trees, or any other touchy subject with wild predictions that have never played out. but thanks for the one from Lee though, it changed my opinion.

  31. Economic catastrophe could result from radical reductions in CO2 emmissions (such as the aforementioned shutting off of all internal combustion engines), but that’s not likely to happen.

    Once again, I float the idea balloon (very similar in concept to pollution credits) of taxing pollution emmitting activities based on their perceived amount of harm to others’ person and property and lowering other taxes by an approximately equivalent amount.

    Inevitably more complicated than you or I or they would like, I admit, but still the best way to address harm being done in the most efficient way possible. Would it stop global warming in its tracks? Most likely not. But it would be the best way of balancing what harm is being done (as best as can be ascertained) with the value of the economic activities causing that harm.

  32. joe,

    Seat belts weren’t free. Of course, this is probably good news to M1EK, our resident public transportation booster. So what if cars become less afordable to poor people, thus trapping them in below sea-level cities, waiting to be washed away by the next levee break.

  33. There is no free lunch, MP. Everything has its costs, which need to be weighed against its benefits. For example, when you suggest that no one would have been unablel to flee Katrina if seat belts were a luxury item, the cost is that you look like a fool, and you can weigh that against whatever benefit you thought you were going to achieve by undermining your point like that.

  34. > I agree we’ve painted ourselves into
    > a corner here.

    This is hateful rhetoric. The oil economy has solved a quadrillion problems for billions of people. It developed over centuries because it could feed, clothe, shelter and medicate people like nothing else… Night after night, year after year, generation after generation. It’s the product of innovation from dozens of cultures.

    The oil economy is the product of human ingenuity to solve human problems. As better solutions are found, they’ll be adopted.

    > The beauty of this is that even if global
    > warming IS our fault, we STILL don’t
    > have to do anything about it!

    The snark of this passage is its only purpose. Who you callin’ “we”? What do you mean “do” anything? Is it even POSSIBLE that you don’t mean something authoritarian?

    Fossil fuels have problems. That doesn’t mean they can be managed monolithically.

  35. For example, when you suggest that no one would have been unablel to flee Katrina if seat belts were a luxury item, the cost is that you look like a fool, and you can weigh that against whatever benefit you thought you were going to achieve by undermining your point like that.

    I wrote that ridiculous example simply to get your goat. heh

  36. Jennifer, you’re missing the point. The climate is so complex, the scale so vast, that doing anything to stop Global Warming is roughly akin to island natives throwing virgins into volcanoes to stop an eruption

    False analogy, unless it turns out that volcanoes erupt due to the number of virgins overhead. I’m just trying to understand the idea “Yes, man’s behaviors have caused global warming, but that STILL doesn’t mean man’s behaviors have to change because of it.”

    Both Greenpeace and The Pentagon have a shitty track record when it comes to facts.

    So let’s just ignore anything the Pentagon says? The point I was trying to make is that despite the stereotype, it’s not just anti-capitalist hippies who think there’s something to this climate-change business.

    So what if cars become less afordable to poor people, thus trapping them in below sea-level cities, waiting to be washed away by the next levee break.

    So seat belts are the reason all those people were stuck in New Orleans?

  37. Jennifer, when you wrote “We’ve painted ourselves into a corner,” you meant the sum of all of the activity that’s occured since humans started burning pertroleum was evil, right?

  38. This is hateful rhetoric. The oil economy has solved a quadrillion problems for billions of people. It developed over centuries because it could feed, clothe, shelter and medicate people like nothing else… Night after night, year after year, generation after generation. It’s the product of innovation from dozens of cultures.

    Fine, Crid. How can I say “global warming might be a big problem” without you accusing me of hating capitalism?

    The beauty of this is that even if global
    > warming IS our fault, we STILL don’t
    > have to do anything about it! The snark of this passage is its only purpose. Who you callin’ “we”? What do you mean “do” anything?

    I’m callin’ humanity “we,” specifically the “man” implied by the phrase “man-made global warming.” Is this a problem?

  39. Once again, I float the idea balloon (very similar in concept to pollution credits) of taxing pollution emmitting activities based on their perceived amount of harm to others’ person and property and lowering other taxes by an approximately equivalent amount.

    First, you know good and well that other taxes won’t be lowered, so this should be evaluated as a new, incremental, additional tax.

    Second, tying a tax to the harm to others only makes sense of the tax proceeds will be used to make the victims whole. Kinda like the tobacco settlement proceeds were going to be used to pay for the care of sick smokers, remember? The underlying rationale for the tax will evaporate on contact with the real world.

    Third, even if you solve, for the first time in human history, the first two problems, taxing an activity based solely on its alleged harm to others overlooks the fact that these same activities also generate benefits for others. The apparent fundamental fairness of the tax turns out to be illusory, because you are focussing on only one side of the social ledger.

    Cars kill tens of thousands of people each year, right? That’s the externality/harm side of the ledger, and would seem to justify banning them altogether. It’ll never happen, though, because everyone thinks that the positive externalities of the automotive economy/culture outweigh the negative externalities. You shouldn’t make policy based solely on the downside, in other words, but that is just what your pollution tax is.

  40. joe:

    Keep in mind that the prediction of economic catastrophe that industry always assures us will result from environmental regulation never come to pass.

    Of course, we can’t tell what those costs will be, which makes this entire debate all the more fugly. Keep in mind, I grew up in the GW-denier’s camp; raised on a steady diet of Rush Limbaugh and Dixie Lee Rae who would cherry-pick some of the more extreme “BACK TO THE PLEIOSTINE” comments from militant ecos. All it took to keep me from considering what mainstream environmentalists were saying was seeing those college “eco-nuts” protesting in the streets with their big puppets and waving their anti-capitalist placards in front of the TV cameras.

    (It’s sort of like the anti-war movement. I think a lot more centrist-to-conservative folks would openly oppose the War In Iraq/War On Terror if they didn’t think they were getting into bed with the far left.)

    The truth is, I don’t know what to think anymore about this issue. Whatever we do, I just don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease.

  41. fyodor,

    Would you prefer that the US had set up a special lead-release tax, rather than banning leaded gasoline?

  42. This is hateful rhetoric.

    It is? Personally, I could imagine saying something far, far worse.

  43. “And the university researchers – they depend on government grants for the their funding. It’s all a conspiracy, man.”

    Yeah, I guess your right, what was I thinking? That they are both motivated by the same thing and that they reach a similar conclusion could be nothing other than evidence of a conspiracy. Now, nowhere did I claim they conspired, but that doesn’t matter, does it? Conspiracy is such a scary and crazy word, the relevance of it’s application is unimportant, once you say it, argument over!

  44. .. every time a discussion on Global Warming comes up I ask these three questions .. I haven’t gotten anyone to respond, yet .. question 2-b seems to be the heart of the matter ..

    1. The history of climate on Earth has shown cyclic variations for as far back as can be measured. Considering that we are currently coming out of an Ice Age, which way would the temperature be expected to go?
    a) Up
    b) Down

    2. This is a two-part question. a) Environmental extremists claim that CO2 emissions from humans are the primary cause of global warming. Considering that natural sources can overwhelm human sources (for example, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines pumped three years worth of human CO2 emissions into the atmosphere in one eruption), how do the environmentalists separate human CO2 sources from natural ones? b) The Earth has been regulating CO2 levels in the atmosphere without the help of humans for hundreds of millions of years. What is it about the current conditions that would prevent this regulation at this time?

    3. Suppose for a moment that the environmental extremists get their way and all humans were instantly removed from the Earth and all of their CO2 with them. Which scenario would they expect?
    a) The global temperature falls to what it was before the Industrial Revolution and stays there forever.
    b) The Earth continues on its cyclic variation, continuing to rise until the start of the next Ice Age.

  45. “and stays there forever”

    LOL, that’s exactly it! The climate can only get:
    a)warmer
    b)stay the same
    c)colder

    If not ‘a’, then ‘b or c’. Which is the best outcome? Stay the same? How does one acheive that?

  46. “The Earth has been regulating CO2 levels in the atmosphere without the help of humans for hundreds of millions of years. What is it about the current conditions that would prevent this regulation at this time?”

    Isn’t that begging the quesiton? You’re assuming the Earth has succesfully “regulated” CO2 emmissions. What evidence do you have for that?

  47. edit: …question…

  48. Isn’t that begging the question? You’re assuming the Earth has succesfully “regulated” CO2 emmissions. What evidence do you have for that?

    It all depends on how you define “successful”.

  49. We can solve the whole problem with more pirates. Geeze, weren’t y’all paying attention?

  50. Hobbit, maybe if asked questions that didn’t rely on false premises, somebody might be interested in replying.

    Don’t you know? We’re all “environmental extremists” now.

  51. Where are the false premises, joe? Are you saying that global temperatures haven’t varied in the past? That C02 levels haven’t varied in the past? What?

  52. I wonder, since we can only plant so many trees on land, would an increase in plankton help?

  53. “For example, I would like to know whether political candidates actually believe that free trade is better than protectionism but ignore that fact as they ply their demagogic political strategy. Or do they simply ignore the scientific consensus on the matter.” – MikeP

    better for who? There is no reputable economist that thought, for example, that NAFTA would be better for everyone, or even almost everyone covered by the agreement.

    Ron Bailey’s point, to me, reinforces the Global Warming danger. There are a lot of variables, and those variables can impact other variables causing potential exponential effects. The whole thing is complicated, but the rapid rate of change that we have seen, should make this a serious topic, rather than a chance to bash silly protesters with practically zero political power, or a chance to shift blame to political enemies.

    Another thing I do not get, at all, is the debate about whether it is man-made or not. How does that matter at all?
    Either we can effect the climate or we cannot, and I will assume for these purposes that we most certainly can if we care to (Diverting 50% of GDP to thermonuclear warheads over the next 20 years and then exploding them would have to have an affect, no?)

    The next question is whether anything we can come up with will have risk/benefit/cost/benefit, etc. ratio that is worthwhile. Assuming for the moment that our best guess is that we can come up with a beneficial plan, and that there is a problem, should we not implement that plan simply because the globabl warming is the result of a natural cycle?
    It makes absolutely zero sense to me, except in the rather small consideration that it would be helpful to our understanding of whether or not a fix was viable.

    I am uncommitted on whether or not any politically implemented plan’s benefits would outweigh the costs, but when that argument is wedded to, or stitched together with other arguments regarding skepticism about the causes, I immediately sense bamboozlement.

  54. Akira: Depends on the kind of plankton. The algea, photosynthetic buggers yeah, but any of the zooplankton varieties probably not.

  55. I can’t decide where I stand on this issue UNTIL I SEE SOME MORE CAPITAL LETTERS.

  56. If the earth were cooling “naturally,” how many would advocate spending trillions to create CO2 or train porpoises to swim circles around the Atlantic in the appropriate direction enough to warm it back up?

  57. Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines pumped three years worth of human CO2 emissions into the atmosphere in one eruption), how do the environmentalists separate human CO2 sources from natural ones?

    Volcanoes also emit sulfur aerosols that enter the higher regions of the atmosphere and block out some sunlight, resulting in cooler temperatures which in turn offset any greenhouse effect from the volcanic CO2.

    Still, though, I wish someone would answer the straightforward question I posted here at the outset: when exactly did the dogma change from “Humans have nothing to do with climate chance” to “okay, humans HAVE had an effect”?

  58. RC, “Environmental extremists claim that…”

    “The Earth has been regulating CO2 levels in the atmosphere without the help of humans for hundreds of millions of years.”

    “environmental extremists get their way and all humans were instantly removed from the Earth”

  59. Well… I suppose I would define success as keeping an atmosphere capable of maintaining life (I’m a pro-lifer that way). There is life. Ergo, it has been succesful for a few billion years or so. Not to mention that Krakatoa dumped a whole hell of a lot of C02 into the atmo… things were weird for a while, but no global warming catastrophe.

    I think a lot of the problem I have with is this:

    Say you are the first person to ever document an ecosystem. You look at all the animals and plants and write them up in a report. This then becomes THE ecosystem, and enviromentalists and everyone else thinks that any change from what was written is unnatural and to be avoided. But what is so special about your report? Why is any variation from that a catastrophe? In short, why does the snapshot you took need to be protected? Why is change to be avoided? How do you know you didn’t show up a year after some new animal came in, wiped out its niche predecessor and settled in? The idea that change is bad denies the basic fact that the earth isn’t a museum.

    So what I want answered is this: why should we even attempt to keep global temperatures at some arbitrary level? Hurculean efforts to make small reductions in human C02 emissions, when any good sized volcano can dwarf human output, seems pint sized and futile. Trying to maintain the status quo seems like that is more likely to cause really nasty stuff than global warming that is well within the normal climate changes…

    Not to say that we shouldn’t make a good effort (and I think technology is coming along nicely) to reduce this sort of thing. But stuff like the Kyoto treaty is an example of what I find dangerous in the snapshot approach— there’s a panic to get back to that snapshot, damn the price, and screw sort of cost/benefit analysis. Kyoto might be ridculously expensive and accomplish virtually nothing… but damn it, something must be done! Nevermind the economic costs, and the loss and/or retardation of the 6 billon peoples standard of living that would result from that price…

  60. Coach, careful. If you go too far beyond the demand curve and the most broad aggregate number with posters who hang their hat on economics as proof that they’re right about everything, you’re going to confuse. Right now, Mike P is muttering, “Look, if something costs more…”

    Jennifer, you’re question assumes that 1) the claims of global warming deniers were made in good faith, and 2) that the change was the result of an intellectual change.

    Global Warming deniers like Bailey have moved onto Step Four (Global Warming is real and manmade, but we don’t know if it’s serious or what to do about it) because Steps One through Three are not longer politically viable.

  61. Jennifer, but does the ash stay up there forever? If the C02 stays on, and the ash falls… there would be short term cooling and long term heating.

    In any case, libertarians don’t do dogma. Or, at least, we don’t have the Pontifex Libertorum issuing bulls, so I can’t give you a date. I’m sure there are still deniers here and there. I’m sure there were always guys who expressed the general opinion of this thread.

  62. I think one of the biggest problems that many Global Warming apologists have is they simply cannot comprehend just how big things like the global carbon budget and yearly carbon dioxide emissions are. They seem to think that it’s a relatively small issue that can easily be corrected by a new treaty here, a government program there.

    It’s not. Roughly speaking, of the trillions of tons of carbon dioxide emitted each year, only 4% or so is due to human activity. The rest is part of the natural “baseline”. So in other words, there’s a small surplus of carbon dioxide that is being emitted by humans. Of that surplus, the US economy accounts for about one-fourth.

    Now, consider that Kyoto mandated only small cuts to reduce, not eliminate, emissions of industrialized countries by a mere 15% or so. Consider also that two of the world’s most rapidly growing economies — China and India — aren’t even required to cut emissions under Kyoto. And consider that even under the most optimistic Kyoto scenario — one where even the Eeeevil United States complies fully — the yearly average temperature will still increase by at least 2 degrees C.

    It’s no wonder then that even Bill Clinton, Most Environmentally-Sensitive President Ever, didn’t even submit the treaty to the Senate for ratification, because he knew it was dead on arrival. It’s also no wonder that virtually every Kyoto signatory — including those enlightened Europeans — have failed to even come close to implementing the mandated cuts.

    It’s because when push comes to shove, the Global Warming Crowd realizes that they don’t have the money to back up their intentions.

  63. b) The Earth has been regulating CO2 levels in the atmosphere without the help of humans for hundreds of millions of years. What is it about the current conditions that would prevent this regulation at this time?

    Actually, assuming the worst predictions of the climate change crowd are true, CO2 would be regulated. Eventually. In a few hundred years. The problem isn’t that natural mechanisms can’t handle this; it’s that they can’t handle it quickly enough to help us, should the climate change be catastrophic. I don’t personally think that it will be, but this isn’t an argument against global warming.

    1. The history of climate on Earth has shown cyclic variations for as far back as can be measured. Considering that we are currently coming out of an Ice Age, which way would the temperature be expected to go?
    a) Up
    b) Down

    We’re not coming out of an ice age. We’re still in one; we’re just in an interglacial period. We’ve been out of the last glaciation for about 10 000 years; there shouldn’t be any expectation of which way the temperature will go based on that. Temperature went down during the Little Ice Age; it went up afterwards. Neither was because of glaciation or the rebound from it.

    Note that I don’t think that global warming is a big deal. I don’t expect the earth to be any warmer in 2100 than it was during the Medieval Warm Period, and there was no catastrophe from that.

    Interestingly, I just looked up the Younger Dryas (a global cooling that occurred about 9600 BCE), and it appears that a large part of the cooling (Britain’s average temperature was about -5 ?C) was due to the Gulf Stream being shut down by meltwater from glaciers. Amazingly, it started back up on its own; the predictions of destroying the Gulf Stream seem to be nonsense. It did take thirteen hundred years to restart, though, so it’s nothing to sneeze at should it happen.

    The point is, though, that sudden climate change isn’t something new; it happened less than twelve thousand years ago. And it was of a magnitude and speed greater than that happening now, even under the worst predictions. Apparently the newest models require a warming of 7 ?C in just a few years, but no matter what the warming happened in forty or fifty years. So even if the earth is 5 ?C warmer in 2100, I don’t think it’ll be catastrophic. It’ll require major adjustments, but it won’t destroy the ability of earth to support human life.

  64. RC Dean,

    First, you know good and well that other taxes won’t be lowered, so this should be evaluated as a new, incremental, additional tax.

    I know (or at least am reasonably sure) that there are plenty of people who would advocate that. I’m not advocating that. I recognize there are political obstacles to such a program. Well, every long journey starts with a single step. And if immediate political infeasibility made discussing an idea useless, I’d say that would apply to most of the discussion here.

    tying a tax to the harm to others only makes sense of the tax proceeds will be used to make the victims whole.

    Thus you assert. But I disagree entirely. Such taxes are an incremental way of adjudicating harm from activities whose harm is…incremental and the result of otherwise legitimate activity. The point of the tax is not to make the victims whole, but simply to punish (incrementally) the perpetrators, just as throwing someone in prison for theft or violence is meant to punish the activity, not make the victim whole.

    taxing an activity based solely on its alleged harm to others overlooks the fact that these same activities also generate benefits for others. The apparent fundamental fairness of the tax turns out to be illusory, because you are focussing on only one side of the social ledger.

    Sure, and laws against theft are bad for thieves. The fact that the tax is incremental based on the actual harm done allows for the economic value of the activity to still be reflected in the market place. Compare that to what will take place if we get arbitrary top-down do-this don’t-do-that rules from the government, which you may want to consider if you really want the scope of the debate to reflect what is likely in today’s political climate.

  65. Cars kill tens of thousands of people each year, right?

    Only certain cars kill others, not all do. Those who operate them irresponsibly are held accountable. Polluting an inevitable commons raises an entirely different issue.

  66. Would you prefer that the US had set up a special lead-release tax, rather than banning leaded gasoline?

    Probably. But then, I don’t know much about the science and economics involved. It could possibly be the case that the tax needed to reflect the externalities of leaded gas compared to its benefits in relation to alternatives would have been such that making it illegal would have just been simpler. Note that the one aspect of my plan that I don’t like is its complication. But then, since no one is seriously proposing shutting down all internal combustion engines immediately, it seems we don’t have the equivalent option anyway.

  67. “And let’s face it–the Earth is a super-complex place, and we don’t know all the ways the climate will change. We don’t know all that will happen when a particular variable changes. We can’t know.”

    You just made the argument for not freaking out over warming climates. Our race has yet to figure out what creates, controls and changes climate, let alone to what degree individual variables influence that climate. To quote you “the Earth is a super-complex place, and we don’t know all the ways the climate will change. We don’t know all that will happen when a particular variable changes. We can’t know.” No one really has any idea of the specific effect of CO2 on the climate. It’s not quantifiable.

    Me

  68. theCoach,

    better for who? There is no reputable economist that thought, for example, that NAFTA would be better for everyone, or even almost everyone covered by the agreement.

    Better for society as a whole. Better in terms of greater wealth for the large majority when all the costs and benefits are taken into account. Better in the public choice sense because the ability of special interests to advantage of protectionist sentiment is dampened. Better in terms of a statement like “ten years from now, 90% of the people will be better off because this trade was freed.”

    Or are you saying that if it’s proven that anthropogenic global warming will do great harm to most people on the planet, the 10% or so who will on net benefit from continuing high CO2 emissions get to make the policy?

    Oh, almost forgot… Look, if something costs more…

  69. > How can I say “global warming might be a big
    > problem” without you accusing me of hating
    > capitalism?

    By acknowledging that it ‘might not’ with sincerity.

    > I’m callin’ humanity “we,” specifically the
    > “man” implied by the phrase “man-made global
    > warming.” Is this a problem?

    Yes, because it further implies a fundamentally directed response. IF this is a problem, it will be solved by same kind of diverse actions of people that created it.

  70. One of the issues with discussing the problem of global warming is that fossil fuels have remained artificially cheap and invisibly subsidized by our government through military intervention, environmental damage and health problems due to smog, which there is plenty of evidence to support.

    This has stifled innovation for developing cleaner fuel sources.

  71. Anyone who bitches about global warming needs to come to Michigan right now. 😛

  72. Mr. Darkly:

    AGAIN I SAY: WE NEED MORE PIRATES!

  73. Still, though, I wish someone would answer the straightforward question I posted here at the outset: when exactly did the dogma change from “Humans have nothing to do with climate chance” to “okay, humans HAVE had an effect”?

    I’ve seen both for a while. I’ve been in the “It’s more likely than not, but the data don’t allow for clear predictions of what the effects will be,” camp for some time. Which, of course, makes it *cough* fun to interact with those running under the “global warming IS happening and it WILL cause the oceans to go up 20 feet and it WILL cause a new Ice Age to boot – simultaneously!” dogma.

  74. Global Warming deniers like Bailey have moved onto Step Four (Global Warming is real and manmade, but we don’t know if it’s serious or what to do about it) because Steps One through Three are not longer politically viable.

    joe,

    Weren’t you the one complaining about Inhofe saying that Global Warming? is a conspiracy? So why is it okay to claim that No Global Warming is a conspiracy?

    Still, though, I wish someone would answer the straightforward question I posted here at the outset: when exactly did the dogma change from “Humans have nothing to do with climate chance” to “okay, humans HAVE had an effect”?

    When the evidence became sufficient. I don’t think that anyone’s argued for a while that humans have nothing to do with climate change; what’s been argued is the magnitude of the effect. In the last year or two, it’s become clear that the effect is significant. Now the question is, “How bad will it be and what should we do about it?” There’s still plenty of room for debate there.

    Of course, we Global Warming Deniers will just move on to Step Five when Step Four fails, because we’re cartoon bad guys and, although we realize that Global Warming? is real and dangerous, we don’t care so long as our oil profits still come through. Remember the bad guys in Ferngully who tore down the rainforest because they just liked being evil? That’s us.

  75. It seems to me that this thread has a lot of people talking past each other.

    Will the planet “fix” excess CO2? Of course it will, the question is whether we like the fix or not. If part of the fix is the thawing of Antartica and lots of trees growing there to soak up the excess CO2, that’s a good fix for the planet, maybe not so good for coastal dwelling humans.

    This issue, like most others, comes down to what responsibility do we want to take for people inconvenianced due to our technological civilization. Those folks who had to move to another island, are their property rights worth shutting down our global economy? What about China’s demand to use as much fossil fuel as needed for a set amount of years to catch up to the west. We know they’re messing up the biosphere, maybe they should not be allowed to use so much? Maybe they should be allowed to use more?

    Don’t worry about the planet, it’ll be fine. Worry about what people will do to people if they get really worried.

  76. Global Warming deniers like Bailey have moved onto Step Four (Global Warming is real and manmade, but we don’t know if it’s serious or what to do about it) because Steps One through Three are not longer politically viable.

    joe,

    Weren’t you the one complaining about Inhofe saying that Global Warming? is a conspiracy? So why is it okay to claim that No Global Warming is a conspiracy?

    Still, though, I wish someone would answer the straightforward question I posted here at the outset: when exactly did the dogma change from “Humans have nothing to do with climate chance” to “okay, humans HAVE had an effect”?

    When the evidence became sufficient. I don’t think that anyone’s argued for a while that humans have nothing to do with climate change; what’s been argued is the magnitude of the effect. In the last year or two, it’s become clear that the effect is significant. Now the question is, “How bad will it be and what should we do about it?” There’s still plenty of room for debate there.

    Of course, we Global Warming Deniers will just move on to Step Five when Step Four fails, because we’re cartoon bad guys and, although we realize that Global Warming? is real and dangerous, we don’t care so long as our oil profits still come through. Remember the bad guys in Ferngully who tore down the rainforest because they just liked being evil? That’s us.

  77. TIMOTHY:

    CAN THE PIRATES WEAR ASSLESS CHAPS?????

    YAR.

    (and it could be that the aforementioned dogma was thrust upon us by closed minded over reactionary patronizing little PUTZES.)

  78. I think the Reason store should stock up on mustache wax so we can all get a nice shiny twirl going like the Snydely Whiplashes that we are all!

  79. And it’s a small thing, but people? It’s CO2. Not C02. It’s an uppercase “O”, not a zero.

  80. Of course, we Global Warming Deniers will just move on to Step Five when Step Four fails, because we’re cartoon bad guys and, although we realize that Global Warming? is real and dangerous, we don’t care so long as our oil profits still come through. Remember the bad guys in Ferngully who tore down the rainforest because they just liked being evil? That’s us.

    …or even more sterotypically; the villians from Captain Planet.

  81. “I don’t think that anyone’s argued for a while that humans have nothing to do with climate change; what’s been argued is the magnitude of the effect. In the last year or two, it’s become clear that the effect is significant.”

    I disagree, the evidence has shown AN effect. No one has been able to quantify “significant” and all of the catastrophic predictions have been brushed aside as reactionary BS. We’re talking about a 1-1.5 degree increase in temperatures in 100 years. This has happened before in the normal course of climate change, long before we were pumping the air full of CO2.

    Jesus H, scientists still can’t figure out any statistically signficant operator to describe the effect of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    You want to help with global warming? Plant a tree. Instead of killing the global economy for some insignificant decrease in CO2, you’ll help drive the nations nursery economy and decrease CO2 levels at the same time.

  82. I though the comment by grylliade at at December 12, 2005 03:20 PM was especially informative and injected some data into the debate, although it would have been EVEN BETTER IF IT HAD INCLUDED MORE CAPITAL LETTERS.

    And it’s a small thing, but people? It’s CO2. Not C02. It’s an uppercase “O”, not a zero.

    Why does grylliade HATE uppercase letters? Are you in the pocket of the lowercase letter industry?

    Timothy: I’M WITH YE, MATEY.

  83. STEVO.

    THAT’S BECAUSE YOU’RE JEALOUS BECAUSE YOU MISSED THE PIGSKIN BUS AND THAT YOU’RE POORLY SOCIALIZED BECAUSE YOUR NOAM CHOMSKY BLOW UP DOLL IS PERPETUALLY SOILED. AND THAT THE SCHOOL UNIFORM AT YOUR SCHOOL DIDN’T CONSIST OF ASSLESS CHAPS.

    WHAT IS IT WITH YOU LIBERTOIDS? SO, TO PUT THIS AT ECON 099 LEVEL FOR YOU LIBERTOIDS, G=mvr^-2.

    TAKE BACK THE WHITE HOUSE

    WEA;RTKJHEA;RITHAE;ORG;DLFJGBSE;LTHJ;DLZFIJQ3

    YOWWWWW!

  84. well, if Bailey says global warming is happening then somebody is soon gonna sign kyoto and the amount of CO2 is gonna fall, so I say

    Buy CO2 now, sell it later.

  85. Stevo: grylliade hates numbers not letters

    I hate people who don’t subscript the 2 in CO2

    Jemez Hobbit: humans are adding CO2 to the atmosphere steadily and at an increasing rate. simultaneously, there is much habitat destruction in which large areas of organisms that take up CO2 are destroyed, reducing the ability of the biosphere to counter additional CO2 at exactly the same moment when more CO2 is being added

    other research has also shown that increased CO2 does result in increased plant growth, up to a point, probably limited by the amount of usable nitrogen in the soil. the C:N ratio in the plants does change, resulting in increased herbivory by insects on the plants apparently in order to obtain enough N. (animals are mostly N, being made mostly of protein; plants are more C, being made mostly of carbohydrates). there is higher mortality of the insects intrinsically and due to higher predation rates. (hypothesis alert) higher insect mortality could result in decreases in populations of insect-eating birds, which could result in decreases of bird-eating animals, etc.

    why aren’t my subscript tags working?

  86. are their property rights worth shutting down our global economy?

    False dichotomy. See my earlier posts for the most economicly efficient means to both respect property rights of those harmed by global warming while minimizing obstruction on economicly valuable activities.

  87. thoreau,

    Boring and trite.

    joe,

    And the university researchers – they depend on government grants for the their funding. It’s all a conspiracy, man.

    That be interesting if there was a consensus view amongst climatologists re: the anthropogenic portion of the warming, its predicted increase, effects, etc. Like everything else you talk about, you make grand overarching claims which don’t measure up to the complexity found in reality.

  88. See my earlier posts for the most economicly efficient means to both respect property rights of those harmed by global warming while minimizing obstruction on economicly valuable activities.

    Actually, fyodor, there is a more economically efficient means to do these things.

    The most economically efficient would be to have CO2 producers produce no net atmospheric CO2. They could either (1) change their production techniques to avoid producing CO2, (2) capture and sequester the CO2 themselves, or (3) pay someone else to sequester the equivalent atmospheric CO2.

    As others have pointed out, taxes create costs but neither undo the harm nor benefit the harmed. Being carbon-neutral undoes the harm, and the precise cost of undoing the harm is exactly paid by the producers of the harm. It is therefore perfectly economically efficient — provided, of course, that the cost of undoing the harm is less than the cost of the harm itself.

  89. MikeP,

    …and the precise cost of undoing the harm is exactly paid by the producers of the harm.

    Those costs would be passed on to consumers of course.

    …provided, of course, that the cost of undoing the harm is less than the cost of the harm itself.

    Answer that question first before you start making plans to fix the “problem.”

  90. Answer that question first before you start making plans to fix the “problem.”

    No disagreement at all.

  91. Oops, I precisely misread grylliade’s correction on “CO2, not C02.”

    I hate being an idiot when I am merely acting like one.

  92. What kind of ass would even notice the difference between 0 and O, and would bother to mention it.

  93. well, the letter O stands for oxygen, while the numeral 0 does not

  94. Maybe someone here can straighten me out…

    What bugs me is that while I agree warming is taking place at the moment, I look at the Vostok ice core charts from a Nature article and get the impression that temperature is dragging CO2 around rather than the reverse. Contemporary climate modeling gurus contend that, “Well, yeah, it looks that way, but really, some minor heating for whatever reason leads to more CO2 which reinforces the heating, etc., etc., add SUV emissions, and pretty soon you have a Venusian climate like the one we’re headed for. Or is it an ice age? One of those.”

    If it is true that there is some kind of CO2 feedback mechanism which, of the gazillion climate forcing and feedback mechanisms at work, most significantly affects temperature, where’d that affect go when temperature was falling steeply while CO2 level was still climbing?

    Furthermore, past temperatures peaked then abruptly fell. The latest heating trend didn’t peak but instead seemed to stop short of historic highs 10,000 years ago. Temperatures thereafter oscillated about a mildly down-sloping line, even as CO2 continued to climb. No steep temperature rise to a peak! No steep temperature drop! Jeez, maybe SUV emissions interrupted our regularly-scheduled program: a short, hotter-than-now period followed by long, long, cold millennia.

    Until I hear something more convincing than, “Well, CO2 is THE critical feedback mechanism. We’ve knocked it out of kilter so now we’re doomed unless we sacrifice gold-laden virgins – Wait, we’re short of virgins, plus they sequester carbon. Just sacrifice the gold,” I’ll continue to suspect that computer program variables – the ones we know to include anyway – are inadvertantly being scaled to support a tail-wags-dog, carbon-centric climate model.

    But then, I also suspect that wearing your baseball hat backwards rots your brain…

  95. Forests Thrive on CO2

    And they laughed at Reagan for saying that….

  96. TWC:

    IIRC, (and I was only about 10-12 yo at the time, they laughed at Reagan for saying trees cause pollution, or words to that effect

  97. Reagan said, “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”

    But he also covered his bases by saying, “Facts are stupid things.”

  98. Another question: if it IS man-made, then what, if anything, do you think men should do about it?

    Geoengineering, specifically albedo modification. The cost optimization work at LLNL shows it can be far cheaper than control via emission reduction. The cost of ameliorating a doubling of CO2 via optimized stratospheric scatterers could be less than $1 B/year. A space-based scattering system (at the Earth-Sun L1 point) could have a mass as low as 3000 tons; even if launched from Earth, the cost would be small compared to the cost of limiting emissions enough to prevent warming.

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