Tags: Climate Change | Global Warming | cement | co2 | dioxide | limestone

Unending Life Cycle Owes Thanks to Carbon Atom

Unending Life Cycle Owes Thanks to Carbon Atom
(Mark Lorch/Dreamstime)

By Wednesday, 03 January 2018 01:39 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Fred Hoyle, the esteemed scientist who coined the term "Big Bang," was so astounded by the attributes of carbon once wrote half-jokingly, "some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly miniscule."

It won’t do to expound here on all the stunning qualities of carbon. Suffice to say that there’s a reason we’re called "carbon-based" life forms. If this element were expunged from the planet, or even slightly fine-tuned in any way other than precisely what it is and does, all living things would be erased from Earth.

It is therefore perhaps one of the most ludicrous parodies of language to assign the term "pollutant" to this font of life, and inexplicable that alarmism has managed to foist that expression upon the public and the civil and scientific authorities.

For billions of years carbon dioxide (CO2) has been a trace gas in Earth’s atmosphere. Concerning modern times, there were 280 parts per million (ppm) in 1850 at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. The amount has risen presently to 400 ppm. That a scant 1/25 of 1 percent of our atmosphere is composed of carbon dioxide should hardly cause the great gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair emanating from the Paris Climate Accords to the soirees of Hollywood.

During the Jurassic Period, the age of dinosaurs some 250 million years ago, the CO2 levels were five times higher than today, and yet strangely not an impediment at all to one of the most prolific epochs in Earth’s history.

After a decades-long, non-stop demonization of carbon there are a few salient facts which might be highlighted to cause the sober-minded to pause and rethink. For those who appreciate the act of eating, for example, and wish to continue in that activity, every spoonful of food that has ever graced every table, and ever will, was produced by photosynthesis; the billions-year old great engine of life, using the power of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into basic sugars and starches upon which the entire food chain rests.

Each year a mind-boggling 260 billion tons of CO2 are transformed into the sustenance feeding everything that lives — excepting extremophiles and lithoautotrophes (types of micro-organisms/microbes) existing at depth beneath the ground and sea.

Fashioning the forks with which to eat that food requires carbon too. The only way in which raw ores can be smelted into iron and/or steel is by forcing drafts of carbon monoxide through blast furnaces. Likewise, civilization’s other indispensable foundation — cement — is obtained by mining the immense deposits of yet another essential carbon compound: limestone.

To imagine the world bereft of steel (1.6 billion tons forged worldwide annually) and concrete (86 million tons of cement produced each year) is almost as frightening as one without food, and yet one ton of coal is required to produce every two tons of steel and another for every four tons of cement.

As to the calamities supposedly taking place in our seas, it’s possible that those apt to put politics before science may have muddied the carbonic acid tainted waters as well.

Purportedly marine creatures that create shells are failing to fabricate their exoskeletons due to an increase in the acidity of ocean water, the result of intensified acid rain — all brought about by augmented carbon dioxide levels in the air through which precipitation falls.

That may be half the story, since yet again relevant facts are missing, the most telling being that sea shells are constructed of the same material as mankind’s concrete source: calcium carbonate. Indeed, without eroded limestone washed into the oceans by acid rain there would be no building materials for any shells, of any creature, at all.

In a little-publicized reversal of groupthink, researchers at the world-renowned Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found long ago some shelled species are building more and stronger shells due to the increase of dissolved carbonates in the water, "We were surprised that some species didn’t behave as we expected under elevated CO2." The study appeared in the December 2009 issue of the prestigious scientific journal, Geology.

Over the last 100 years the doomsayers have lurched from one end-days scenario to the next. Whether it was supposed to be Haley’s Comet’s tail, the coming ice age, the population bomb, the end of oil, Y2K or any of the other chapters of scaremongering, the only thing they’ve all produced is whiplash in the collective necks of those who deigned to give them credence.

There is no end of the world scheduled, and if ever such an event were in the offing, it would quite plausibly be carbon that might save us. It always has.

David Nabhan is a science writer, the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three previous books on earthquakes. Nabhan is also a science fiction writer ("Pilots of Borealis," 2015) and the author of many scores of newspaper and magazine op-eds. Nabhan has been featured on television and talk radio all over the world. His website is www.earthquakepredictors.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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There is no end of the world scheduled, and if ever such an event were in the offing, it would quite plausibly be carbon that might save us. It always has.
cement, co2, dioxide, limestone
Wednesday, 03 January 2018 01:39 PM
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