The Truth About Carbon Dioxide

Thursday, 28 Jan 2010 04:41 PM

By Ralph Hostetter

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Carbon dioxide (CO2) in its present concentrations has never been proved to be hazardous to either human beings or the environment. Research done at the U.S. submarine base at New London, Ct., indicates that increases in CO2 within reason would pose no health hazard.

Global warming fears that increases in CO2 will cause temperatures to increase are found mainly in the hard drives of computers of scientists on the left.

CO2 and its percentage as a substance in the planet's atmosphere has been debated intensely for at least the past 40 years, since Earth Day was begun by Senator Gaylord Nelson on April 22, 1970.

CO2 represents 387 parts per million of the earth's atmosphere or approximately four hundredths of one percent (0.04 percent). Scientists describe carbon dioxide as a trace in relation to the five million giggatonnes of gas and aerosols in the earth's atmosphere.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency declared CO2 a health hazard on Dec. 7, 2009. This declaration paves the way for new regulations of CO2 emissions by big emitters.

Julie Schmit, wrote in USA Today on Dec. 8, 2009: “The latest step by the government to regulate carbon dioxide emissions saddles industry with uncertainty and potentially higher costs, industry groups said Monday after the Environmental Protection Agency declared carbon dioxide a health hazard.”

She continued, “The EPA's decision paves the way for new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and factories even if Congress doesn't pass legislation to do so. If nothing changes, the EPA, sometime next year, could require big carbon emitters — such as power plants, steel mills, cement makers and others — to put the best available equipment on new and modified plants to curb emissions.”

Industry groups say EPA regulation would eventually drive up energy costs, lead to lost jobs and delays in project permits and construction. For the immediate future, Keith McCoy, vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said, "This adds more uncertainty and could impact how companies make decisions."

Before we throw the baby out with the bathwater, we should examine more closely CO2 and its importance to mankind.

Carbon dioxide comes from both natural and human induced sources.

Of the 7.1 billion tons that are emitted by humans worldwide, America contributes some 1.44 billion tons, of which 0.280 billion tons are attributed to gasoline-driven vehicles.

James D. Johnson, in his book Driving America (1997) states, “Eliminating all U.S. gasoline-powered vehicles would reduce total worldwide carbon dioxide emissions by eighteen hundredths of one percent (0.18 percent) per year. Hardly a significant step in rolling back carbon dioxide.”

Global warming is related to so-called greenhouse gases. We are told that carbon dioxide is the major cause of the greenhouse effect.

The most influential agent in the greenhouse effect is water vapor. Water vapor ranges in concentration in the atmosphere from 1 percent to a high of 4 percent.

Dr. Walter A. Lyons, a fellow with the American Meteorological Society, in his publication The Weather Answer Book (1997) writes on page 340, “Contrary to popular belief the most potent greenhouse agent in the atmosphere is not carbon dioxide but water vapor. Water vapor along with clouds, accounts for over 90 percent of the natural greenhouse impact of the earth’s atmosphere.”

We experience the greenhouse effect at its height every summer. Who hasn’t been in a city such as Washington, D.C., in 100-plus degree weather in August? You’ve heard people say, “It's like a hot house (greenhouse).”
The reason the atmosphere is so unpleasant is “relative humidity” (water vapor).

For example, an actual air temperature of 85 degrees Fahrenheit (not uncomfortable normally) feels like 102 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 90 percent. Even if the real temperature were 100 degrees Fahrenheit and the relative humidity was only 50 percent, the temperature would feel like 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Any amount of moisture, when coupled with rising temperatures, dramatically increases what we call the “temperature humidity index”, that is, how ‘hot’ we feel.

We must realize that, without the greenhouse effect, temperatures at the earth’s surface would be about zero degrees Fahrenheit or less.

And herein lies the miracle of carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is the only — and we repeat only — substance on earth that can harvest the sun's energy through a process of photosynthesis and thereby create matter in the form of vegetation. CO2 is the major building block of all vegetation.

The food chain on which all animal life depends and survives is based on vegetation.

It is the browsers and the grazers among the animals that provide the meat for the predators — other animals and humans.

The fish and other sea creatures feed on plankton grown in the sea with the help of carbon dioxide.

As in eons past, increases in carbon dioxide bring increases in production of vegetation and plankton, thus increasing crops and sea life in the world.

Since carbon dioxide is the major building block of all vegetation, farm production over the last 50 years has increased some 30 percent on average.

Although many factors have played a part — fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides — increased carbon dioxide has been a major contributing factor.

Agricultural scientists predict that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause a “greening” of the planet unknown in modern times.


E. Ralph Hostetter, a prominent businessman and agricultural publisher, also is a national and local award-winning columnist. He welcomes comments by email sent to eralphhostetter@yahoo.com.

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