Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Open Wide

Open Wide and Say "Duh!"
© 2007 – Ross Williams

I was reading online news last week when I came across an article by the junk science guy: Steven Milloy. If you're a liberal you hate him; if you're a conservative you love him.

Personally, I like him in small doses.

Last week he was lauding "The Great Global Warming Swindle", which is a BBC film, ostensibly as retort to Al "Internet" Gore's cautionary fairy tale "An Inconvenient Truth". Having seen neither film, but having seen what passes for documentary in our shock-n-awe age – last night I watched an eye-rolling piece on The History Channel about how the Bermuda Triangle is really the result of a small black hole somewhere inside our planet – I do have a bias.

My bias is this: documentarians are not uncommonly idiots.

Milloy described the Swindle thus: "Global Warming", as an anthropogenic event[1] is hyperbolized, which the wisdom of the 23rd century, inhabited by Star Trek, The Original Series, will realize.

Whoda guessed, eh?

Indeed, the term "global warming" appears to have been invented in 1979 by the arch-conservative British politician, Margaret Thatcher, herself. Remember, in 1979 the planet was still in the middle of "new ice age" hysteria; winters were colder and longer-lasting, summers cooler and wetter, and Paul Ehrlich was still convincing millions of college kids and other dingbats that the draft on the back of their necks was the first sign of a major human die-off that would kill hundreds of millions within the decade.

Ol' Maggie had no time for such nonsense. She had a nation to run, and getting energy for that nation was the first order of business[2]. But she was a conservative and thus didn't like labor unions ... particularly the labor unions that dug coal out of the Welsh countryside. And she was a conservative and thus a xenophobe [as we are expected to believe] ... so she didn't like buying oil from those pesky Arabs. What she wanted to do instead was make electricity by splitting atoms into bits. This would keep British Pounds in Britain, but keep them from union laborers; instead they’d go to rich British industrialists and their atomic engineers.

So she claimed that there was more CO2 in the atmosphere than ever before – which is correct, of course. And this “more CO2” was mostly from burning fossil fuels – which is also largely correct. But to scare her Parliament into going along with her anti-coal union, anti-Arab oil move, she claimed this new CO2 would end up causing the planet to heat up to disastrous consequences.

Thatcher invented a whole new crisis called "global warming". Climate cycles being what they are[3], it would only be a short while before the colder, wetter Earth was replaced by a warmer, drier Earth and she would be considered correct. Indeed, by the mid 80s, Gaia had kicked up the thermostat. "Global warming" was cut out of whole cloth by Thatcher's self-serving political cynicism. Her legacy has been to place a "Kick me; no, really, I mean it" sign on the backs of first-world conservatism for decades to come.

How ironic.

Now, of course, the UN has jumped onto the Global Warming bandwagon[4] with both feet, and those feet would seem to be taking root. Thus it was jarring for me to read this morning that one of the many, many bureaucratic arms of the UN – the FAO[5] – is reporting that one of the crucial pieces of eco-alarmism is reversing itself … albeit slowly.

This isn’t mere alarmism, though; it is also a crucial piece of the “global warming” alarmism. We’re cutting down fewer trees across the planet today than we have been in the past[6].

The tree-huggers are winning. I like trees, so … yay!

The findings are that, by region, more equatorial clear-cutting is being offset by deliberate reforestation in the temperate zones. Such reforestation is directly tied to the growing prosperity and wealth of nations in those regions.

It was a short article, so that about covers the stated findings.

But that’s not all this one article says; some people paid attention in school and know how to determine what seemingly random facts actually mean. India and China are reforesting, and offsetting the massive deforestation in Indonesia. India and China are industrial, profit-making nations; Indonesia is not. Do the math.

The US has long-ago reforested, old-growth forest giving way to managed-forest notwithstanding; Japan, for being so small and well-peopled, has vast forests as well. Across the globe, the capitalist nations – or, with the example of China, quasi-capitalist – know the benefits of trees and also have the money to plant them. Backward nations, full of socialism or other forms of grand economic incompetence, use trees for fuel or the land under trees for farming, and … goodbye trees.

What does this mean? It means that socialism is a failure, not only in terms of pure profit, but in terms of the ecological, environmental benefit that can be purchased with the profits generated – socialism doesn’t make money. It can’t. Socialism is profit-neutral in theory, but many of the ideological freaks who insist on choreographing modern socialism are actually profit-hostile. Ask any anti-globalization zealot how he thinks his dream world would be underwritten if not by the corporate profits dependant upon globalized commerce? Even Chavez is paying for Venezuela’s unskilled worker’s paradise with globalized oil revenue.

What else does this trend toward reforestation mean? You only need to have paid attention in high school and college [and retained what you learned], and further paid attention to what the “global warmers” have been hypothesizing in order to hoist them on their own petard.

As the article on the FAO report says: deforestation directly contributes 18% of the anthropogenic carbon to the atmosphere annually. Yet the Kyoto treaty would have us reduce our carbon output by only 5 to 7% – to 1990 levels – by 10% if we’re going to go back to a pre-9/11 economic output. We could do that in a trice, and then some, by reforesting. And that’s one of the many things the US pointed out in the early Kyoto talks: deforesting nations are putting out a disproportionate amount of carbon relative to their economic output[7], and while many industrialized nations put out more carbon per capita, they put out less carbon per dollar GDP, and are – with respect to the US, Australia, Canuckia and Japan, specifically – close to carbon-neutral or are actually net carbon sinks. Some of the world’s biggest CO2 makers are also the worlds biggest CO2 absorbers. These countries have been making profits for so long that they can afford to replant all the trees they cut down [or, in Canuckia’s case, never got around to cutting down since it was too much trouble and too cold anyway].

Nations like the former Soviet Bloc, nearly all nations in sub-saharan Africa and Latin America, on the other hand, have never made a profit, and most are treeless or becoming that way. In Africa and Latin America especially, the nations are so profitless that they tend to be on World Wide Welfare. They’re deforesting a Paris on a daily basis, a Great Britain annually. And it ends up mostly as smoke.

Which means atmospheric carbon.

Wanna meet the goals of Kyoto tomorrow? Stop Indonesian, African and Brazilian rain forest obliteration today.

But wait! That’s not all.

Think about the answers to these questions: Where is virtually all of the world’s net deforestation taking place? Where does the sun spend most of it’s time? What happens when you stand under a tree? and then what happens when you step out from under the tree and stand in the sunlight? …while on the equator?

What do you think happens to the earth when it steps out from under that same tree? and what do you think happens to the air just above the surface of the earth when all this is going on?

As the global warmers have been telling us, it’s not only the heat-absorbing properties of atmospheric carbon dioxide which is heating the planet, but the radiative heating of the planet’s midsection – the equatorial region. The place where most deforestation is now occurring.

If we are to believe the global warmers – and they desperately want us to – then we have to accept some of the underlying scientific realities they are constructing their globally warm house of cards from. …and so do they. The Laws of Thermodynamics cannot be broken. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed; merely altered. And if we are to believe Einstein, matter and energy are interchangeable, so energy can neither be created nor destroyed, merely changed.

So when sunlight strikes the earth, the light energy is transformed into heat energy, and it warms the earth which radiates that heat to the air above it. Every cat napping in a patch of sunlight knows this.

And every 4th grader knows this: when sunlight strikes the leaves of a tree, the light energy is changed, by the process of photosynthesis, from light into sugar. C6H12O6. Many 4th graders can even recite the chemical equation. Six CO2 molecules combines with twelve H2O molecules to create one sugar molecule and six oxygen [O2] and six water [H2O] molecules.[8]

Every 4th grader can tell you that plants eat CO2 and poop O2 and water. If we want less CO2 we want more plants. We’ll all breathe easier.

So what happens when the sunniest part of the planet – the equator – cuts down its trees in orgiastic glee and goes from being a plant sugar factory to being a radiative heat factory because the incompetent governments of equatorial nations are clinging to outdated economic despotism? All that sunlight which used to be converted into sugar is now being converted into radiative heat.

Who thinks the planet will warm up as a result? Raise your hands…

We haven’t even gotten to my gluttonous SUV or America’s petro-rapacity, either.

Nor have we gotten to the fundamental fallacy of reforesting in the temperate zone to make up for deforesting in the tropics. The planet is round like a ball, not round like a cylinder. Sunlight strikes the temperate zone at an angle and it needs, by definition, many more trees in the temperates to convert the same amount of sunlight into CO2-munching sugar as opposed to radiative heat. When China plants trees, it helps their soil erosion problems and their timber industry and slows the encroaching Gobi Desert, to be sure, but it means bupkus to the planetary damage done by Indonesia’s massive jungle-clearing. “All of Asia” is not a unitary environment.

Nor have we gotten to the lack of correlation between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature, either in the geologic record or in modern meteorology – CO2 levels increase after the temperature does. Nor to the nearly direct correlation between tropic-zone deforestation which began in earnest in the mid-seventies and the phenomenon of “anthropogenic global warming” which began around a decade later.

Rarely in any collision of human desires – be they social, cultural, political or scientific – are any of the participants completely bereft of sense, value or validity. And that’s pretty much my position on this monumental Clash of Titans.

Is the planet warmer now than 40 years ago? Almost certainly.

Is it partly because of mankind? Mankind affects everything it touches, so very, very likely.

Is it only because of mankind, as proposed by many of the global warmers? Mankind is trivial in power to cosmic and geological forces, and there are many periods of global warming concurrent with human history, largely unexplained, and preceding human industry, so almost certainly not.

Is it because of the increased CO2? Probably in part.

Is it only because of increased CO2, as stated by many, many, many? Almost certainly not.

Are there factors which have been glossed over, or ignored, or trivialized for reasons ranging from lack of research funding, to lack of knowledge, to lack of political will? Absolutely.

Are there other factors which have been expanded, and magnified, and hyperbolized for reasons ranging from single-minded devotion to a specialty, to overwrought crepe-hanging, to ox-goring political demagoguery? Open wide and say “duh”.

These are manifestations of standard human behavior across time. But the solution has been hinted at:

Global warming, along with all other major forms of environmental armageddon from which we’ve been hiding in the broom closet for the past two generations, will go away once we all start turning a profit. The FAO understands this, though I doubt they realize they do.

[1] i.e., manmade
[2] besides taking back the Falklands, naturally
[3] i.e., cyclic
[4] gravy train, whatever
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_and_Agriculture_Organisation
[6] http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/science/03/19/environment.forests.reut/index.html
[7] i.e., profit
[8] For the pedants in the audience who are going to say that this explanation is overly simplistic – as if modern global warming theory isn’t drawn in crayolas itself – a part of the solar radiation is absorbed by atmospheric components [mostly water vapor and carbon dioxide – and mostly water vapor], a part of the solar radiation is absorbed by plants as heat [you stick a plant in the sunlight, it will warm up just as surely as the napping cat], and only a portion of the solar radiation is transformed into sugar. But the point they are desperately attempting to dodge here is that in the absence of the huge canopy of tropical rainforest, NONE of the solar radiation is transformed into sugar, and it’s all left to turn into heat. Nice try, guys.


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