“Heat” is not “Pollution”
Written by Carl Brehmer
It seems that everywhere you look someone talking about “carbon pollution” by which is meant “carbon dioxide pollution”.
“Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas pollutant . . .” EPA
“Carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is the main pollutant that is warming Earth.” National Geographic
“Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption, making extreme weather worse — including more severe floods, widespread wildfires and record drought.” The Sierra Club
“In the United States, power plants represent the single-largest source of carbon pollution, spewing two billion tons into the air each year.” Natural Resources Defense Council
“We know that the most important thing we can do to reduce the future impacts of climate change is to reduce our carbon pollution . . .” Washington Environmental Council
When you look into the scientific hypothesis upon which this claim is based you find that it is not really the carbon dioxide that is the problem; rather it is the extra “heat” that carbon dioxide is said to “trap” in the atmosphere that is the problem. The fact is carbon dioxide by itself fails on all counts the criteria by which “pollution” is defined.
“the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.”
Carbon dioxide 1) has not been “introduced” into the environment by human beings, rather it is a naturally occurring gas that is essential for plant grown, 2) natural levels of carbon dioxide have been orders of magnitude greater than they are today without any toxic effects and 3) even a doubling of carbon dioxide levels from pre-industrial levels up to 600-700 ppm will leave the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide well below the level for optimum plant growth, which is >1000 ppm.
Thus no one believes that carbon dioxide itself has anything but a beneficial effect on biological life. The real problem—the real “pollutant”—they say is extra thermal energy. Here is the hypothesis. The amount of thermal energy that exists within air is controlled by the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Therefore, as the concentration of carbon dioxide goes up so too does the thermal energy content of air go up and it is this extra thermal energy that is the real culprit; it is this extra thermal energy that is causing catastrophic changes in the climate.
How much “extra” thermal energy are we talking about? From 1898 – 1998 the average global temperature is said to have increased from ~15 °C to ~15.8 °C.
At sea level dry air at 15.8 °C contains 206.5 kJ/kg of internal energy
Thus from 1898 – 1998 the internal energy content of sea level air increased 0.5 kJ/kg. This is the thermal energy that has them worried. It is not the 206 kJ/kg of internal energy that was already in the air a century ago. No, it is the 0.5 kJ/kg that was added since then that is said to be causing massive disruptions in the climate as we speak.
“Global warming‘s fingerprint on coastal flooding isn’t something that’s projected to happen in 2100 or beyond – it’s already happening along the East Coast, scientists say.” The Weather Channel
“The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Already Here” Rolling Stone
“Climate change is already happening: it’s changing the seasons and that’s a big deal for plants that need pollinators, migratory animals and, ultimately, people.” Cool Green Science
Let’s take a look at the rise of CO2 over the same period. From 1898 to 1998 CO2 levels rose from 295 ppm to 367 ppm which is a 72 ppm increase in carbon dioxide concentration. It is well known that when ocean water warms it de-gasses carbon dioxide, which will naturally cause an increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. If today’s scientists acknowledged this fact they would view the 0.5 kJ/kg increase in the thermal content of sea level air as completely natural, even beneficial. They would recall from their studies in genetics that biological organisms have the ability to adapt to changes in the thermal energy content of the atmosphere and all would be well.
But alas, 1) this 72 ppm increase in carbon dioxide levels was attributed 100% to the 20th century practice of burning hydrocarbons for energy and then 2) they reversed cause and effect. That is, instead of acknowledging that the carbon dioxide levels have risen because of the natural de-gassing of CO2 that occurs when oceans warm, they assert that the 20th century warming was caused by the rise in carbon dioxide levels. Here is what’s odd. Because it is believed to be caused by human behavior rather than naturally occurring, that extra 0.5 kJ/kg of internal energy is being called a “pollutant” and the resulting climate change is being called “catastrophic”. Why is climate change now “catastrophic” you ask? Because apparently all biological organisms on Earth have for some unexplained reason lost their ability to adapt to minute changes in the climate—they have lost their long-lived ability to evolve.
Just for the record. I do not dispute the fact that various climates around the world are changing nor the fact that human activity has contributed regionally to some of those changes. Take the Great Plains in the United States for example. There has been a profound change in the “climate” of the Great Plains because human beings killed off most of the buffalo and turned the prairieland into farmland. Human beings can’t eat grass so we ploughed it up and planted grain crops instead. People living within flood plains got tired of being flooded out so they built dams to control the flooding. As an added bonus, those dams produce electricity and provide a water source for drinking and irrigation. Dams do indeed cause a profound change in the “climate” of a flood plain. Neither of these regional land-use, caused changes in the climate have anything to do with increasing atmospheric levels of CO2.
Here is the natural order of things. Climate change has been going on for hundreds of millions of years and will continue hundreds of millions of years into the future. Biological organisms survive on planet Earth by adapting to climate change, not by stopping it and their ability to adapt is built into their DNA. It is true that some biological organisms cannot adapt to changes in climate—whether those changes are natural or human caused—and they go extinct. That is the natural order of things. On the bright side, natural history also reveals that new species evolve to replace them. If certain biological species cannot adapt to the changes in the various climates around the globe that are caused by human beings seeking to survive and otherwise improve their lot in life, then they will go extinct. That is the natural order of things. Certainly we can debate giving the Great Plains back to the buffalo and just letting people starve to death or tearing down all dams and letting human beings die of thirst, be periodically flooded out and letting their crops die off, but these things have nothing to do with the thermal energy content of air so let’s get back to it.
Here is the great puzzle. If a 0.5 kJ/kg increase in atmospheric internal energy over a hundred years were seen to be naturally occurring, it wouldn’t be “pollution”, but when that same increase is attributed to human behavior then it becomes “pollution”. How can something that is not a pollutant if it occurs naturally become a pollutant just because it is attributed to human behavior? In both cases it’s the same 0.5 kJ/kg of energy that has the same effect on the climate.
Naturally occurring = not pollution
Human caused = pollution
Beyond that, there are two more issues. From 1998 to 2015 the concentration of CO2 in the air increased an additional 36 ppm without any further increase in the average global temperature, thus falsifying the entire hypothesis that increases in CO2 levels cause an increase in surface level air temperatures in the first place. Plus, internal energy, far from being a “pollutant” is actually necessary for life—life that is more abundant on Earth during warm periods than during cool periods. If thermal energy were a “pollutant” wouldn’t the Sun be the Earth’s primary “polluter” considering the massive amount of sunlight that bombards the Earth every day?
At any rate, based on the above convoluted, irrational thinking the UN has spent millions of man hours and billions of dollars working on a global plan to save humanity from sunlight, i.e., thermal energy “pollution”.
But it gets worse. Their plan requires that you give up modern living: give up air conditioning; give up central heating; give up cars powered by combustion engines; give up air travel; give up modern hospital facilities; give up running water; give up microwave cooking; give up stove top cooking; give up having dependable lighting at night; give up shipping food into your area; give up modern communications; give up modern sewage treatment; give up . . . because all of these necessities of modern living are powered primarily by the burning of hydrocarbons and their plan for cooling the Earth is to force you to stop burning hydrocarbons even though 1) doing so would have no effect on the average global temperature and 2) a warmer Earth would be a good thing.
But it gets worse. They cannot for the life of themselves understand why you do not support their plan to impoverish you—the Paris Agreement.