Another smidgen on climate:
I sometimes say that I am a greenhouse gas believer but not a greenhouse gas enthusiast.  I am a believer in that I accept that an opaque atmosphere will warm up at the altitude where opacity becomes significant.  From there down the normal lapse rate will warm every altitude below.  CO2 is opaque to infrared radiation.  So even though it is transparent to incoming light, which is a lucky good thing, it will not let infrared radiation escape readily.  Much of the light striking the earth is absorbed and reradiated as infrared.  Of course light striking the polar ice caps goes back out as light.  And most of the energy we get from the sun comes as light; that’s why we see by light. 

So elevating CO2 in the atmosphere raises the surface temperature.  I see no way around that. 

What gives me pause is that I am not convinced that the CO2 is the whole story.  If you remember the enormous graph presented by Al Gore in his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” it shows CO2 and temperature locked together over eons.  Clearly they are causally related.  But just which drives the other was not completely clear.  In fact, even though he spent a lot of time in front of the graph making it hard to examine it, I could not rule out the possibility, indeed suspected, that the temperature change was preceding the CO2 change. 

The moral of the story does not change.  Reducing CO2 emissions will reduce the amount of global warming we will have to live through.  Of all the plans to try to counteract warming, CO2 reduction seems the most nearly to be sane.  So we need at least to try. 

How hard can it be?  We produce prodigious amounts of energy, lots of it from fossil fuel.  So we really need to hurtle along at 80 miles an hour in private cars?  Do we really need to light up the night like the world was having a fiesta?  Do we really need our unparalleled standard of living?  I would say not.  Concrete is another enormous source of CO2.  Surely the entire population of the earth does not have to live in bunkers.  So I say go for it.  Just don’t promise yourself that doing so will return us to cool and refreshing times; it may only make things less bad. 

Well my skepticism has now actually had a boost from the scientific literature.  (Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009, Maosheng Zhao and Steven W. Running SCIENCE vol. 329 no. 5994 August 20, 2010 page 940)  As the title suggests the total amount of living material produced by the world in the past ten years has been falling while it had been rising previously.  The fall is attributed to droughts.  The droughts are attributed to warming.  That is a double whammy.  First it means that agriculture and any other way of making food is becoming more difficult.  Second it means that the rate of CO2 removal from the atmosphere is falling. 

Sometimes it is not good to be right.

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