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95 responses to “Hysterical nonsense from Christopher Booker in the Daily Mail”

    • Sam

      I agree,

      Absolute madness! if it wasn’t so worrying, just how many people that ‘article’ might deceive, it would be more amusing.

    • Martin

      Madness yes, but at least it is Christopher Booker’s madness and that doesn’t give it much power….

    • nommo

      “Wingnut Science” is a term I wasn’t familiar with until I googled for Christopher Booker…

    • Paul F

      Don’t worry too much about that article or paper and or readers.

      The people that read said paper will only ever want their points of view reaffirmed and not questioned.

      The truth is they already have and will continue to have the false concerns and propaganda, regardless of what ever logic you wish to show them.

      Our/your job is to reach the reachable and convince them, Daily Mail readers are lost to us. Time to move on.

    • Dave Angel

      Love your attitude Paul F. Spot on ;)

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      I did submit a question asking whether he’d passed any maths, physics or logical reasoning exams on his home planet, but I’ve not seen any response yet.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • doobz

      well, it was in the daily mail! is it only myself and my husband (and dale) that realise the daily mail is a pile of ***t.
      it is our duty to educate the millions of people in the uk who take the daily mail as gospel purely because it is a well read newspaper..if they did a small amount of research themselves about *any* story published in it, they would soon realise what a waste of time and paper the daily mail is!!!
      ok, rant over :)

    • zed

      I think that we should try and sign him up as a customer. Probably the ultimate target for the sales team.

    • Paul F

      A better idea would be to ban him from being a customer, refuse to trade with him. That would get the message across much more than turning him around to your way of thinking, which by the way is not going to happen, if it did he would be out of a job, as I have said before, people reading that newspaper only want to hear what they believe, they cant compute any new information…………….lets leave them behind.

    • God

      Ladies and gentlemen, I really must protest at your indignant portrayals of the daily mail and its readers – of which I am One. While I must agree that 99.99% of its contents is utter fear-factory tripe, their astrologer Johnathan Cainer is a decent chap who seems to have a feel of how I like to play things.

      Love
      God
      xxx

      PS: Yes, Christopher Booker is a git. I will be striking him down with lightning shortly and he will be spending eternity agonising in the fiery pits of hell.

      PPS: Mwaaa ha ha ha ha

    • Harridan

      Think this says everything we need to know about the daily mail :)

      http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail

      As for Christopher, probably the worst thing for him would be if a situation arose that forced him to let go of his dearly cherished predjudices. Lets hope for all our sakes it doesn’t get that far…

    • MoebiusDick

      A few points:

      This is directed more at the people who have commented, although also partly at the vehemence that Dale uses in his article, which is counter-productive at best.

      Whilst I am in no way a Daily Mail reader, nor do I subscribe to the majority of political opinion it contains, I cannot condone dismissing a complete swathe of society simply because the views typically expressed on this blog are not compatible with the Mail’s. To do so is to become as narrow minded as you consider the Daily Mail reader.

      Over 2 million copies of the Daily Mail are sold each day which if we assume that this is 1 copy per household is roughly 6600 GWh of electricity demand which is approximately 825MW of generation, not a proportion to be simply dismissed as Paul F suggests.

      What you say, Dale, about the need for new conventional generators is correct from one point of view. However, what Chrisopher Booker says is also true in that for every MW of WEC generation capacity you also a MW of backup generation capacity. It may be that this is where pumped storage hydro comes in if we are to create a zero carbon economy, otherwise until we can store solar/ wave/ tidal/ wind genarated energy then conventional generation remains, by default, the only option since coal and gas stations can be brought online and taken off line at the virtual drop of a hat. Since electricity demand in the UK is rising while generation capacity is falling we are left with a “generation gap”, which must be filled. It could be filled by wind generation, but as I said earlier, to ensure continuous supply to meet demand you need 1MW of alternative, reliable generation for every 1MW of unreliable wind generation that exists, which means that, given the current lack of alternatives, new conventional power stations will have to be built as backups, but not until wind generation capacity equals conventional generation capacity.

      There will also be a need for new conventional generation if we want to replace some of the ageing power stations with newer, cleaner backup stations.

      The problem with all of this is that keeping a station on standby just in case the wind stops blowing is financially unviable. It costs huge amounts of money to start and stop a gas station, and only slightly less with a coal station. This pushes the potential cost/MW of a wind based generation infrastructure up to the point where it is uneconomical. This is why developing storage technologies should be first and foremost on peoples’ minds.

      Additionally Christopher Booker is right about the sheer scale of the task ahead in achieving the RO targets on time, given that these calculations use current <2MW WECs rather than assuming the majority of WECs may be E-126 6MW machines. Still, however, a garagntuan task.

      As to the 90% figure being rubbish I think that if you really, really thought it through you would see that the figure is closer to 100% as the aforementioned arguments demonstrate. If they have not then consider this:

      If you have a 2 MW WEC that supplies a few thousand homes then when the wind stops blowing you need to have 2 MW of generation coming from somewhere else. To think otherwise is just ridiculous.

      You may counter that by saying that it is unlikely that the wind will stop blowing all over the country at the same time and, therefore, this problem can be overcome by locational diversity….but nonetheless to assume that this will NEVER happen is inviting disaster and therefore 90% is quite a realistic, if not conservative figure.

      I fully believe in the vision of a zero carbon future but I also believe in practicality and understand that some transition period will be necessary until we have the technology to have an economically viable solution, if we are to continue in a society based around economic gain.

      So, let’s respect one another’s views and even accept that some of what Christopher Booker says might actually be right rather than engage in puerile mud slinging.

    • Jeff

      Dale,
      I was just thinking: when you say the Daily Mail didn’t publish your response in a “timely fashion”, did they publish your response at all?
      Just wondering

    • MoebiusDick

      @Dale – Thank you for the reply, however:

      The majority of comments on this topic have been from people patting one another on the back about how ridiculous Daily Mail readers are, or how stupid they must be to accept any piece of journalism like this and it is this that I find puerile and I do not feel I have let myself or anyone else down by making this comment.

      For example “I did submit a question asking whether he’d passed any maths, physics or logical reasoning exams on his home planet, but I’ve not seen any response yet.” By Damon- this comment is petty and rude and has no place in adult conversation, and is similar to many of the other comments. If you condone this and the like then I’m afraid your arguments become diluted and lose meaning.

      If you will also note that nowhere in my comment do I agree with Christopher Booker’s claim that we need to build scores of new power stations at this time or even that we need to build 1MW of new back up generation for every 1MW of new wind built (which as you correctly say is an erroneous statement) – I do not proclaim to be supporting anything specific within his piece, however, there are some general ideas that, if developed, are correct, whether you or anyone else agrees or not.

      You cannot deny that for every MW of wind capacity you must have 1MW of alternative generation capacity as backup- be that fossil fueled or some variation of current renewable technology- that is a fact, not a debate.

      There WIL be a need to build new alternative generation (to clarify by alternative I mean anything other than wind that can provide reliable, consistent generation) IF we wish to replace some of the older, dirtier plants with cleaner forms of generation. Also as national demand rises so must the capacity of alternative back up as well as (but at a much slower rate) than renewable generation capacity.

      In figures:

      Assuming that all renewable generation is from wind for the purpose of this debate.

      If national demand this year is 100MW then the country needs at least 100MW of wind capacity AND 100MW of alternative back up capacity. If next year national demand rises to 105MW then, logically and actually, the country would need to build 5MW of new wind capacity (to maintain total supply from wind rather than just upping the amount of alternative generation used) AND also 5MW of alternative back up generation to ensure complete energy security.

      Currently lets assume we have 1MW of wind capacity compared to a national demand of 100MW- of which, on a windy day 99MW is from alternative generation. However, on a non-windy day 100MW must be from alternative generation.
      If we factor into this that currently about 20% of the country’s generation is from ageing nuclear reactors. Translating this to the example this equates to 20MW of alternative generation. Therefore, this leaves 1MW of wind generation and 80MW of alternative generation- on a windy day a maximum of 81MW of capacity, 80MW on a non-windy day, or 19-20MW short of national demand. If we build another 20MW of wind capacity then on a windy day we would have 101MW of capacity but on a non-windy day we would still only have 80MW of alternative capacity. Therefore, in order to mitigate the risk of it not being windy it is necessary to build an additional 20MW of alternative capacity to maintain the ability to match the 100MW national demand even when it isn’t windy.

      This is indisputable- but as you rightly say, this is not specifically what Booker says.

      Your assumption, however, has been that there will be no need to replace the current alternative capacity, which I believe is a flawed one, particularly given the increasing frequency that British Energy suffers reactor outages these days.

      Statistically it is unlikely that the wind wouldn’t be blowing all over the country at any one time, and I suspect that it is in these statistics that you refute the 90% figure. But then again sometimes against all probability the 100-1 shot comes in, so to ignore the possibility of having to rely solely on alternative back ups would be perilous.

      Additionally you say that Booker is 100% wrong despite having acknowledged that we DO need alternative back up generation for wind generation. These two statements are mutually incompatible.

      However, I agree that Booker does not say what I say nor did I ever intend what I said to mirror what he said. I merely intended to point out that to blindly and by that fact alone it is clear that I have not been “sucked in” by anything he says, merely that I present a more practical and balanced view that incorporates both sides of this argument in which neither side is 100% right.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      “You cannot deny that for every MW of wind capacity you must have 1MW of alternative generation capacity as backup- be that fossil fueled or some variation of current renewable technology- that is a fact, not a debate.”

      Unfortunately that is NOT a fact, and I can deny it.

      It would only be a fact if at least both of the below were both true, to pluck two from the air as it were:

      * IF (peak) demand arrives when there is no wind power at all. In fact dispersed wind generation can be counted on as baseload for a good percentage of its average output (which in turn is typically a third of its maximum/nameplate capacity). You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of half hours per decade where all UK wind sites would have no power at all; decades of past data have been thoroughly analysed. This is the opinion of the National Grid (go and look at their SYS reports Chapter 5 IIRC) who would have to manage the balancing and stability of the system. They do this stuff every second of every day and know a fact when they see it.

      * IF there is no way of controlling/reducing demand when wind drops. Actually industrial customers already can get nice fat discounts for being prepared to have their power turned off at short or no notice (or automatically) for example. So in the extreme case as you don’t need backup generation for any load that you can shed, for example. And never mind technologies such as dynamic demand which by my analysis so far mean that for short to medium outages simply giving all wet/white domestic appliances some simple smarts could probably suppress demand enough to eliminate the need for much of that excess backup over ‘normal’ thermal plant such as Sizewell. I’m still checking figures with various bits of government, etc, but that’s how it seems so far.

      So, please don’t confuse fact with appealing intuition. The difference is important IMHO.

      I think that I’m allowed to get annoyed with someone who airily dismisses the actual science and maths and engineering involved because though he wants his lights to stay on he’s not even prepared to *think* carefully, never mind tolerate anything at all in his back yard to contribute (BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything).

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Northerner

      Christopher Booker has been at it again in the Telegraph. He says:-
      “The best-kept secret of the wind industry, however, which continues to fool both politicians and the media, is its trick of referring only to the contribution of windmills in terms of their “installed capacity”, as if that is what they will actually deliver. They talk about a “16 megawatt” wind farm “powering x thousand homes” as if that is the contribution it will make to our electricity needs. Yet in reality, thanks to the intermittency of the wind, a turbine will on average produce through the year only a quarter of its capacity. ”

      Wrong wrong wrong, claims of ‘homes provided with electricity’ actually take into account the load factors which are expected for windfarms.

    • Kelland

      Erm… As the world’s temperature is not increasing, despite CO2 rising, why are you all wasting your time discussing this when the lights will be going out in the UK in the next few years? Anyone who cares to actually look at the factual data will see that this whole CO2 scare is no more than a massive hoax perpetuated by the burgeoning CO2 scare industry which has to spread fear and shock more and more to maintain its existence. Booker may not be completely correct, but he still makes a lot of sense!

    • John King

      I had not previously come across this web site. My, what a bad tempered bunch most of you are. Most of you appear not to like the right of free speech particularly when the writer puts forward a point of view that does not agree with your own.

      Christopher Booker, it seems to me, has only been voicing what many ‘ordinary’ people in England have been quietly wondering to themselves. As a frequent visitor to europe I have witnessed at first hand the installation of hundreds of wind turbines in some of the most beautiful areas of France. Perhaps the worst despoilation has taken place in the Languedoc-Rousillon region where wind turbines have been sited over hundreds of hill tops and ruin what had been wonderful natural scenery. Why the French should have indulged in this virtual rape of their beautiful country is beyond me. They certainly do not need the power, generating, as they do, over 80% of their needs from nuclear energy. But then I realised the value of the subsidies they receive from the EU for doing so and it all fell into place.

      Many writers on this site obviously want our own landscapes to be destroyed in the same way as the French are doing. Never mind that France is four times the size of our own country.

      For forty years politicians of all parties have failed to bite the bullet on protecting energy supplies for England. For this reason we now find ourselves at the mercy of every crackpot ruler in the middle east and particularly Vladimir Putin’s increasingly dictatorial Russia. When English leaders are required to make decisions about our future power generation (Kent coal fired station being but one current example) they run for cover as a rabble of law breaking indolent layabouts threaten to bring the garden of England to a halt.

      Other writers on this site have eloquently decribed the very real danger we are in as we face the threat of breaks in our energy supplies. And what do the ministers of the Crown come up with by way of a solution? Wind farms and tidal barriers.

      To all those proponents of these blots on the landscape let me pose this question: The average temperature over England through December 2008 was 3.63 degrees whilst the average windspeed was 4.12mph. My research reveals that wind turbines are next to useless below wind speeds of 5mph. If we had the numbers of turbines raping our countryside as are proposed by the majority of the contributors to this site just where do all these idealistic fools think our electricity would have come from?

      John King

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      ‘We’ as a lumpen mass are ‘bad tempered’ but you use the term ‘raping’ amongst others?

      Nice.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Matt

      Im just wondering where in the country these averages are based? Are we to believe (from this information provided by Mr King), that everywhere in the UK experiences such an average windspeeds or is it reasonable to believe that different places have varying ranges of speed?

      There is a good reason there are planning teams who collate information prior to contsructing a wind turbine and im sure developers take into account the minimum wind speed and locate turbines appropriately.

    • Matt

      And besides i’d like to point out that all us “idealistic fools” dont claim that wind energy is the ONLY remedy for our looming energy crisis. It only part of a larger puzzle that needs completing before we lack the energy to develop the means to generate electricity.

    • Jonny Holt

      Dale, just to nail this one for good please can you confirm for those of us who are unsure, just how much – if any – subsidy has been received by Ecotricity for building wind turbines? I often hear disciples of the likes of Christopher Booker claim that “literally billions” are shovelled in the direction of those that would rape the English (it is usually rape and it is usually English) countryside by building wind turbines. Please can you also confirm what you know about the amount of subsidy that is recieved by any other part of the power generation industry?

      Another thing that Bookerists claim is that they are guardians of our landscape. I find this odd given that they are generally heavily in favour of nuclear power stations being built to provide the electricity they wish to consume. But rather conveniently these invariably need to be sited some distance from where the individual Bookerist lives.

      One of the beautiful facts about wind turbines is the degree to which they can connect us, as communities and individuals, with our appetite for electricity. We consume, so we have to take responsibility for our appetites – not selfishly offload that obligation somewhere over the horizon where we could pretend it has no effect on the view, the wildlife or the climate.

    • Neil Law

      John King,

      I’m not a part of Ecotricity, and only came here, like yourself, because I saw an issue (not this one) which I am passionate about, and which Dale had voiced an opinion about..which obviously I disagreed with.

      But if the worst anyone can say about wind generators is that they are a “blot on the landscape”..keep building them ecotricity, and more power to you (!) for doing so. I just don’t get this idea that the way they look is a reason not to build them. Personally I find them aesthetically pleasing. Tidal power too…ok, not a barrage, but that’s a different issue. My point is, that if there’s a way of doing it and generating renewable energy,it’s mad not to.

      As for the daily mail, it’s the daily mail, isn’t it! It doesn’t have a use outside of the toilet.

      Neil

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Google “average wind speed uk”. The first thing I learn from windsurvey.co.uk is that if on one day you have a constant wind speed of 8mph, and on the second day you have 16mph for 12 hours and no wind at all for the rest of the day, the second day gives more electrical output, but the average wind speed for both days is 8mph.
      And obviously the turbines are only put up where there is enough wind. I trust ecotricity will do that, and besides I don’t know why they would waste time and money building a turbine somewhere where it would be useless.
      So really a wind speed figure averaged for the whole UK, over the whole year, is probably about as useful as a chocolate teapot.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Similarly, anyone wondering whether there is any truth to Kelland’s statement that world temperatures are not increasing (I’ve heard this said a few times), google “global temperature record”. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/ushcn/hcntmptrends.php for example, shows that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the US.
      http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/ shows that 2007 was the eigth warmest year on record (between 1850 and 2007). The other seven being 1998, 2005, 2004, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2001.
      The evidence is pretty compelling that the current temperature trend is upwards.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Cube law Dale, not square.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Jonny Holt

      Dale,

      Thanks for the confirmation about non-existent subsidies for wind. I was fairly sure that was the case, but it is good to have it from the horses mouth.

      How about painting the words “Look! No subsidy!” on your turbines?

      Obviously it is not your field, but do you happen to know – or know anyone else who might know – what level of subsidy is provided to the other power generation industries?

      Regards,

      Jonny.

    • Justin Gudgeon

      Occam’s Razor states that, “The hypothesis which employs the fewest assumptions when explaining any phenomena is the most likely to be right.”
      With this in mind, consider the number of assumptions made in explaining climate change is caused by Humans burning fossil fuels.

      In the first instance, there is an assumption that computer modelling is proof of rising levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. It is also assumed that all scientists agree with this computer evidence. Following these assumptions, there is an assumption that this rise in CO2 is caused by humans burning fossil fuels. This leads to a further assumption that this rise in atmospheric CO2 produces a ‘green-house’ effect which, it is assumed, means our atmosphere retains more of the sun’s radiation which, it is assumed, makes the world hotter which proves humans are responsible for global warming.

      Now consider a hypothesis that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is falling. This equally valid hypothesis makes no assumptions and is therefore far more likely to be true than the theory of man-made global warming which makes an absurd number of assumptions.

      Whatever the amount of crude-oil, coal or gas is burnt, twice the amount of atmospheric Oxygen is required for the combustion reaction to take place; (basic maths: C+O2) This means any variation in atmospheric CO2 must result in a variation of atmospheric Oxygen. In order for the levels of CO2 to rise, Oxygen levels would have to fall in direct ratio. Oxygen levels are not falling. This is not an assumption as we would really know about it if they were. Since Oxygen levels are not falling, CO2 levels can’t be rising unless the total mass of the atmosphere was increasing ie, getting denser and heavier. This is basic physics. Since the Standard Air Pressure is not rising and the level of Oxygen isn’t falling, levels of CO2 absolutely cannot increase.

      The view that atmospheric CO2 is falling also corresponds with common sense. Planets with thin atmospheres experience greater temperature extremes. Falling levels of CO2 (atmospheric thinning) would more easily explain our current unstable weather patterns.

      By way of final corroboration, before plant life began on Earth 4.2 billion years ago, the atmosphere was composed almost entirely of Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide with no free Oxygen at all. Once plant-life got going, it started extracting the CO2 from the atmosphere and turning it into bio-mass plus Oxygen. Today, 4.2 billion years later, this same biological process continues unabated, but now there is a huge amount of Oxygen and hardly any CO2. It’s obvious therefore that the very small amount of CO2 we have left in the atmosphere is likely to be diminishing rather than increasing. If it drops any further, plans stop growing and we die.

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Goodness!

      Are you suggesting that we go back to the N/CO2 non-Oxygen atmosphere? You try it for a bit and if you like it you let us know, maybe?

      Have you heard of rocks? And in particular the fact that they hold elements of all types that render your argument specious at best?

      Is this just an attempt to stir the sh*t or do you actually believe it?

      Do you have *any* science qualifications?

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Well, a bit of Googling suggests that there is someone with your name (in the automotive industry) who does believe what you just wrote, and who writes off ‘Global Warming’ as equivalent to astrology while simultaneously listing his star sign on his blog… Curious dissonance there…

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Jeffrey Lam

      “In the first instance, there is an assumption that computer modelling is proof of rising levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.”
      No, computer modelling is NOT proof of rising levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. The measurement of CO2 made by scientists sending up balloons with measuring equipment all over the world, year after year, is proof of rising levels of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.
      Where has your data on which your statements are based come from Justin Gudgeon?

    • Justin Gudgeon

      It is very important, before entering into any debate which relies heavily on scientific evidence, to avoid allowing emotion or sentiment of any kind to interfere with keeping a clear head. This includes avoiding the use of invective or personal attacks. With this in mind, people reading and writing for this blog need to sweep away all prejudice and concentrate solely on empirical evidence, whatever the conclusion, even if the conclusions are unpalatable.

      The debate over Climate Change or Global Warming hinges over whether or not CO2 is increasing in the atmosphere, regardless of the cause. Trying to measure the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is difficult because concentrations vary from hour to hour all over the world. The same difficulty would arise if anyone were to try and measure the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere. Yes, averages play a part in determining the answer but these averages , given the size of the world and the number of samples, (half a million samples across 7000 sites over 25 years for instance), produces such gigantic mathematical equations, computer models have to be employed to make any sense of them. However, I wouldn’t for an instant, use this as a reason to rubbish the belief that CO2 levels may, indeed, be rising. I accept them for what they are. The models may be right but they remain only models. So the question remains: Are levels of CO2 in the atmosphere rising? The answer for me is; I have no idea but I can make intelligent guesses. This, of course, would be a highly unsatisfactory (and boring) end to a debate so, like any other scientist before me, a conclusion may be approached by introducing a antithesis, namely, that levels of CO2 are falling.

      Does anyone here know the effect this would have on the global climate? I certainly don’t. This is odd because, as rational beings, we all know that 2+2=4 and therefore 4 minus 2 must equal 2. It would be very odd if we knew that 2+2=4 but didn’t know 4-2=2. And yet with something so vitally important as the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, many of you here claim to know the effects of a rise in CO2 but have no idea of the effects of a fall in CO2. Would you find it odd if someone knew the effects of too much Oxygen but not the effects of too little?

      In the absence of conclusive evidence either way, the only way forward is to employ ones own empirical knowledge. To this end, please consider this simple experiment.

      Take one vigorously-growing potted tomato plant. Isolate it from the atmosphere in a very large bell-jar. Make sure it is in sunlight and has plenty of water. Place the whole apparatus on a set of accurate scales and note the exact weight. Before long you’ll notice the plant has stopped growing. After a few days the plant will show signs of distress. After a week the plant will start to die. In two weeks the plant will be dead and shrivelled.

      Of course you know why the poor tomato plant died – it had no food – it had consumed all the CO2 in the jar. You also know why the scales will indicate the weight of the apparatus containing the shrivelled up plant is exactly the same as the first reading. Analysing the air inside the bell-jar would reveal the complete absence of CO2 and a proportionate, (to the atmosphere) increase in Oxygen.

      I’m sure none of you has learnt anything you didn’t already know. However, you might take time to remember that the mass/volume of gas in the bell-jar remained the same, ie, the jar was neither over or under atmospheric pressure.

      Repeat the experiment from the beginning only this time place a lighted candle next to the plant inside the bell-jar. Within a short time, the candle will go out, indicating that there’s no more oxygen left in the jar. However, the most notable observation is that the plant continues to grow rapidly and even after several days it continues to grow with no signs of distress. Eventually, the growth of the plant begins to slow down and at that point, (using some sort of mechanism) you manage to relight the candle. Immediately, the plant revives and starts growing rapidly once again. This process can be repeated until there is nothing left of the candle. By that time, of course, the plant has grown much bigger and possibly produced a few tomatoes. A final check of the scales confirms there has been no change in the weight of the apparatus.

      Setting aside all other preconceived ideas, what do these experiments tell you? Here are a few suggestions but please, try and clear your mind by using only the empirical knowledge of observation.

      That the first plant quickly stopped growing and died. This is because there was only a tiny amount of CO2 in the bell jar when the experiment started. (0.03%) which it rapidly used up.
      That the burning candle kept the plant alive and growing rapidly. You know why this is because the combustion reaction between the burning wax and oxygen produced CO2 which is the main food-nutrient for the plant.
      Without the candle being re-lit, the plant stopped growing.
      That the candle could be re-lit after a few days because the plant , using sunlight, synthesised the CO2 and water into complex sugars to add bulk to the growing plant. The by-product, pure oxygen was expelled back into the bell-jar allowing the candle to be re-lit.
      No change of weight of the apparatus by the end of the second experiment, even though the whole candle had burnt away and disappeared. It can conclude that the refined fossil fuel in the candle wax had been converted directly into the plant’s biomass.

      Trying to deduce some significance from theses experiments led me to conclude that without an ongoing carbon/oxygen combustion process taking place or regular out-gassing of CO2 from within the Earth’s crust, plant growth will continue to sequester CO2 at a far greater rate than can be produced by plant decomposition. Put another way, if all fossil-fuel burning ceased, plants would continue to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere until a critically low level of CO2 was reached and plants could no longer grow. Just like the bell-jar in fact.

      Can anyone think of an empirical way of demonstrating what happens with high levels of CO2?

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      Justin: please stop spewing SPAM unless you are prepared to read and answer questions.

      Rgds

      Damon

    • Justin Gudgeon

      Damon: What’s the problem? You sound a little over-wrought. I
      thought I had answered your questions. If not then:

      You mentioned the N/CO2. This was before life began on the planet.
      Plant-growth started breaking up the CO2 and now we only have a trace
      left. No, I don’t want to go back 4.2 billion years.

      Yes, I have heard of ‘rocks’ but what was your question? That ‘rocks’
      are providing something I don’t know about or that ‘rocks’ contribute to
      Global Warming?

      No, I don’t believe levels of CO2 are dropping or rising
      and I certainly don’t believe the scientific establishment because they
      are (historically) always wrong. eg, WMD.
      Yes, I do have science qualifications.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      My understanding of (recent) CO2 levels is this: pre-industrial revolution – 250 parts-per-million (ppm), also expressed as 0.000250%, now – approx 350 ppm or 0.000350%, and there is some debate over how CO2 in the atmosphere might cause a 1 or 2 C rise in average temperatures, but we want to keep below 450-550 ppm or 0.000450-0.000550%.

      What I remember from science at school is a figure of 0.0004% for the proportion of CO2 in air, and this agrees roughly with the figures above. What I also remember is Nitrogen makes 79%, and Oxygen 21%.

      Now Oxygen I believe naturally exists as Oxygen molecules (O2) i.e. two Oxygen atoms make one Oxygen molecule. Carbon dioxide contains two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom, hence CO2. Therefore one CO2 molecule replaces one O2 molecule, or vice-versa.

      So if CO2 levels rise, O2 levels should fall be the same amount. Therefore if CO2 rises from 250ppm to 350ppm, then O2 levels should fall from 210,000ppm (21%) to 209,900ppm (20.99%). I imagine this drop in Oxygen levels is too small to reliably measure, given the amount of Oxygen in the atmosphere.

      Therefore, the fall in Oxygen levels should be almost imperceptible in relation to the amount of Oxygen already in the atmosphere.

    • Justin Gudgeon

      Excellent stuff from Jeffrey Lam. Everything he says is correct.

      The most important understanding being the ratio of atmospheric gasses in relation to the total mass of the atmosphere. This has important implications for those who believe the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing, namely, that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can only rise or fall if there is a corresponding rise or fall of Oxygen.

      Although Mr Lam is correct in stating that the 100ppm drop in atmospheric Oxygen would be very difficult to measure, the same would have to be said regarding the even more minute shift of 50ppm in CO2. Ironically, if I claimed I had ‘reliable’ evidence that world Oxygen levels in 1460 were in fact 210,100ppm, people would rightly dismiss my claim as ridiculous. Anyone who claims to ‘know’ what levels of Oxygen or Carbon Dioxide existed in the atmosphere during the 15th century is either a charlatan or a fool. Ice-cores cannot be regarded as hard evidence. Realistically, the only evidence we have therefore, is the evidence of our own scientific experience as described in my last post.

      Like the Bell-jar, we know from observation that our world exists in a vacuum and can be effectively regarded as a closed system with no mass being added or taken away except by way of a few thousand tonnes of meteoric debris and the egress of a few rocket parts. Since we all seem to agree that our atmosphere is getting neither bigger nor smaller, it should be easy to make a few deductions without making any assumptions.

      In the first instance, we can deduce from observation that plant-life is providing enough Oxygen for all air-breathing organisms to function properly. This observation must also extend to the world’s air-breathing engines and power-stations. Since the levels of Oxygen in the atmosphere are high and don’t seem to be falling, we can deduce that plants are producing enough Oxygen to satisfy the entire Oxygen consumption across the whole world including all organic growth, decomposition, oxidations plus other contingencies like forest fires and volcanoes. No-one has yet calculated the mass of this colossal Oxygen consumption but at a guess it must involve many gigatonnes of the stuff.

      Where does it all come from? Outer-space? In fact it’s photosynthesis which provides 98% of the world’s oxygen while the break up of water molecules by the sun’s rays composes the other 1-2%. Without plants, there are no processes which would keep the atmosphere full of oxygen. So where do plants get the oxygen from? Here lies the difficulty for those who believe that CO2 levels are rising. It comes from the Oxygen in CO2 and H2O.

      Given the absolutely colossal amount of Oxygen produced by plant activity, it is not difficult to deduce, empirically, that the oxygen sequestered from CO2 means this is the gas most likely to be decreasing, not Oxygen.

        • Jeffrey Lam

          Couple of things wrong with your numbers.

          100ppm (not 50ppm) of CO2 increase should (approximately) correspond with 100ppm of O2 decrease. The relationship should be roughly 1:1.

          I think measuring a CO2 increase of 100ppm should be much more reliable than measuring an O2 decrease of 100ppm. This is because if there are only 350ppm of CO2 to start with, than the 100ppm change is just under a third of CO2 level. But for O2, which makes up 21% of the air, a change in 100ppm is a minute fraction of the O2 level.

          Whether you want to regard ice cores as hard evidence, soft evidence or no evidence is up to you, but you should stop using your irrelevant bell-jar illustration.

          This is not an issue about running out of oxygen. This is an issue about climate change. A small increase in CO2 (of the order of hundreds of ppm) can cause a significant impact on global average temperatures and weather patterns (and ocean acidification and sea levels). The reduction in O2 levels is insignificant in that quantity (i.e. hundreds of ppm). Animals will continue to breathe, engines will continue to function, fires will continue to burn. CO2 (along with other gases such as NOx, Methane and CFCs) is a greenhouse gas (it reflects some infra-red, like a panel of glass on a greenhouse would), O2 is not.

          The amount of oxygen produced by plant activity is colossal, but so is the amount of carbon dioxide produced by animal respiration, plus that produced by burning fuels the world over, cement production, making fertiliser etc. You can’t just say plant activity produces a colossal amount of oxygen therefore oxygen levels are likely to be increasing.

    • subterranean

      Doesnt Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage take two good oxygen atoms out of the atmosphere to every one bad subterranean carbon atom? Doesnt this actually increase the proportion of bad carbon atoms to good oxygen in the atmosphere?

        • Justin Gudgeon

          I am intrigued; why would anyone consider Carbon dioxide a ‘bad atom’ ? (subterranean April 24, 2009 )

          Carbon dioxide is the friendly gas. It’s the gas that gives life to all green plants. We carry it in our lungs, we love it in our drinks, especially Champagne. It’s totally non-toxic in any concentration and has a natural affinity with water. Sadly, it’s rather a rare gas in cosmic terms and even here, on Earth, has only tiny presence in the atmosphere.

          Oxygen, by contrast, is a dangerous gas which reacts violently with just about everything it comes in contact with. It is lethal to the majority of living things on this planet and is poisonous and destructive even to humans in too higher concentrations. Unlike Carbon Dioxide, there’s plenty of Oxygen in the Universe and a huge amount in our atmosphere.

          I didn’t quite understand subterranean’s question; “Doesn’t Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS) take two good oxygen atoms out of the atmosphere to every one bad subterranean carbon atom?”

          CCS doesn’t create CO2 so it is not removing anything from the atmosphere which wasn’t there already. 99.999% of CCS is carried out by biological activity on land and sea, the largest proportion being in the sea which creates carboniferous deposits over the entire sea bed. Once again, it must be pointed out that the carbon making up the colossal mass of carbonates throughout the world, (limestone, Chalk, Marble etc) originally came from the atmosphere.

          To reassure ‘subterranean’ once more: Everything organic on this planet gained its carbon from the atmosphere. All the coal, oil, natural gas, sediments, carboniferous rocks, forests, all living things, top-soils and everything that is currently growing, got its carbon from the atmosphere. The carbon is still being sequestered from the CO2 in the atmosphere by biological organisms and in my view, at a faster rate than is being put back via oxidation, (combustion, respiration and decomposition). That is why I believe that CO2 levels are probably falling. I do the maths and just can’t make the equation work for an increasing level of CO2. I just can’t!

          Just a quick answer to ‘MW’ on April 24th. I am supprised that you or anyone else believes what OPEC says about oil stocks. OPEC members are the last people on earth to tell the truth about oil reserves. They are constantly trying to create oil shortages by cutting production and pushing oil prices up. Mexico is part of OPEC and would be expected to say that its oil reserves are coming to an end.

            • Damon Hart-Davis

              You talk arrant meretricious nonsense.

              “Friendly gas”? “Dangerous gas”? Why anthopomorphise these things: as a smokescreen?

              Besides, though it’s not relevant to the AGW/CC debate at all, CO2 is poisonous to humans in much lower concentrations than O2 (eg 5% CO2 vs the ability to breathe pure O2 if necessary). So even your allusions are defective.

              Please stop your diversionary, polluting, toxic SPAM.

              Rgds

              Damon

        • justin Gudgeon

          The problem with Jeffrey Lam’s rebuttal is his continuous use of assumptions. It’s just not good enough to say , “I think measuring a CO2 increase of 100ppm should be much more reliable than measuring an O2 decrease of 100ppm.” or “A small increase in CO2 (of the order of hundreds of ppm) can cause a significant impact on global average temperatures and weather patterns.” Or again, “CO2 (along with other gases such as NOx, Methane and CFCs) is a greenhouse gas…….” All these statements are assumptions, quite wild assumptions which should not be confused with the issue of Climate Change because there is nobody on Earth who knows what a change in atmospheric CO2 might do. The idea that a fractional variation equalling no more than a thousandth part of the atmosphere over a period of a hundred years could seriously effect world climate, comes from a computer model. Anyone who uses computer models can see that. The trick is not to be gullible.

          It is clear Mr Lam is misunderstanding my point regarding the carbon dioxide/oxygen balance. Atmospheric oxygen is derived from atmospheric carbon dioxide via photosynthesis while carbon dioxide is derived from the oxygen in the atmosphere, (via combustion, respiration and decomposition). It’s a circular reaction which is kept in motion by the energy of sunlight.

          In order for you, Jeffrey, to hold on to your firm belief that humans are responsible for adding extra CO2 to the atmosphere, you must first explain where that extra CO2 comes from. Its no good saying, it comes from fossil fuels, because fossil fuel doesn’t actually contain carbon dioxide; it has to react first with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide. There is no way to add extra CO2 to the atmosphere without subtracting the required amount of oxygen at the same time.

            • Jeffrey Lam

              No Justin. My statements are not assumptions. And I have not used computer models.

              The C comes from fossil fuels, the O2 comes from the atmosphere.

              To add an extra 100ppm of CO2 to the atmosphere would only remove O2 amounting to the order of 100ppm. We could argue about whether or not it is in fact 50ppm or 200ppm, but in all cases the change in O2 levels is insignificant, when compared to the amount of O2 in the atmosphere to begin with.

              However, to add 100ppm of CO2 when there is only 300-400ppm of CO2 is to increase CO2 levels by 25-33%.

              As to the issue of my “assumptions”, I will come to these another time, but this one I will answer now. Is it easier to measure a 100ppm increase in CO2 when there is 300ppm, or is it easier to measure a 100ppm decrease in O2 when there is 210,000ppm already in the air being measured? Is it easier to measure a 33% increase in a quantity, or a 0.048% decrease in a quantity? How would you answer these questions?

            • Jeffrey Lam

              as promised (sorry for the delay). I will address one of my “assumptions”: that CO2, NOx, methane and CFCs are greenhouse gases.

              I’m going to have to quote from “The Hot Topic” by Gabrielle Walker and Sir David King:

              “Clearly something else is keeping us warmer than we deserve. Fourier realised that the atmosphere was the key. However, he didn’t know which part of the air was acting as a warming blanket. This missing ingredient was discovered by a flamboyant Irishman named John Tyndall… He was fascinated with Fourier’s calculations, and wondered if something was blocking part of the invisible infrared glow, preventing it from escaping back to space.
              To find out, Tyndall set up an artificial sky in a tube and started shining infrared light through it. He wanted his sky to be as clean as possible, so he took out all ‘impurities’ from the air. This left the gases that make up more than 99 per cent of our atmosphere: oxygen and nitrogen. But to his bafflement, infrared light slipped through the air unhindered. In other words, the gases that make up most of our atmosphere – nitrogen and oxygen – make no difference at all to its temperature.
              On a slightly desparate hunch, Tyndall slipped a few of the ‘impurities’ back into his air. He added a whiff of methane, some water vapour and a soupcon of carbon dioxide, all of which exist in tiny amounts in the real atmosphere. And suddenly, everything changed. As far as infrared was concerned, Tyndall’s artificial sky went black. These so-called impurities did indeed trap infrared and prevent at least some of it from escaping back to space. They were Fourier’s mysterious warming ingredients.”

              In conclusion, water vapour (which I haven’t previously mentioned), methane and carbon dioxide are greenhouse gases, i.e. they block infrared.

                • Justin Gudgeon

                  Mr Lam,

                  Although this is interesting, it is more anecdotal than scientific. This simple experiment cannot be regarded as the factual basis upon which the Greenhouse theory exists. Difficulties will always arise if we accept, without question, anecdotal evidence. I know, for instance, water vapour is the most abundant of the ‘Greenhouse’ gases and must have the greatest influence over the Earth’s climate. Without water vapour in the air, the temperatures at ground level would be constantly below freezing. I know because I can see for myself the clouds forming and chucking down large quantities of water.

                  In your example Fourier states, “Clearly something else is keeping us warmer than we deserve……..the atmosphere was the key”. That’s fine – I have no problem with that except Fourier doesn’t mention the sun. What dictates climate is the sun in combination with the atmosphere. Since the atmosphere is known to be an incredibly stable media and the sun’s radiation is known to be quite unstable, why would you choose to believe, not the water; not the solar radiation but the minute quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere is causing the slight change in the climate?

                  The reason, I’m sure, is because you are temperamentally drawn to that side if society which relishes the idea that humans are horrible beings which need strong State control.

                    • Beaker

                      Dear Justin,
                      I know what you mean about anecdotal evidence, the web is full of ridiculous, unsupported and incorrect nonsense such as Terradactyl (sic) flying in the Precambrian air, and “burning a ton of oil, uses up two tones of oxygen resulting in the creation of three tons of CO2.”
                      Before you responded to Jeffrey Lam’s post, it may have worth while reading up on some of your talking points. Yes water vapour is a potent green house gas, but is there much water vapour in the upper atmosphere (no), and what happens when water vapour builds up in the atmosphere (believe it or not it condenses and falls out of the sky as something human hating, state control loving scientists call rain.)
                      “Since the atmosphere is known to be an incredibly stable media…” CO2 has gone up by a third.
                      “… and the sun’s radiation is known to be quite unstable…” there is no correlation between solar activity and the warming trend we are observing.
                      I am starting to look forward to your little essays. They are better than denialdepot.blogspot.com
                      Yours in excited expectation, Beaker

                    • Jeffrey Lam

                      “The reason, I’m sure, is because you are temperamentally drawn to that side if society which relishes the idea that humans are horrible beings which need strong State control.”

                      Well, actually no. I’ve not mentioned anything about humans being horrible beings, and I’ve said nothing so far about State control. I’m more concerned about how we can avoid dangerous climate change. In a sense we are already there, when nomads in the Sahara desert have been surviving for centuries in harsh conditions are finding increasingly difficult to survive from about 20-30 years ago, when low-lying islands where people have been living for centuries are being abandoned because of rising sea levels and continual floods.

                      What’s changed recently (in the last few decades)? Industrialisation.

                      The changes in temperature are too fast to put down to natural causes.

                      Unfortunately I don’t have CO2 measuring equipment, and I haven’t been recording CO2 levels for the last century. So no, I can’t definitively prove to you with my own data that CO2 levels have been rising. But Professor Revelle and Charles David Keeling have been taking CO2 measurements daily over the middle of the Pacific Ocean (Hawaii) since 1958. The graph shows CO2 levels at 315ppm in 1958, and at 381ppm in 2005. It shows the levels sharply rising and dropping once every year, but the general trend is upwards. In fact if you go here you can see that CO2 has still been rising, year on year, reaching about 386ppm.

    • MW

      CCS is a bit of a red herring, since you need more energy to compress, transport and store the CO2, hence you actually have to mine more coal to deliver the same amount of energy.
      The UK should build a couple of supercritical coal plants, in exchange for closing the oldest, least efficient most polluting old ones. This would decrease emissions as we would be delivering the same amount of electricity but using less coal.

      Rather than being used to pump more oil out of the North Sea, the CO2 (+ heat)could be pumped into huge green houses for year round food production (The UK imports ~1/3rd of its food) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1025689/Welcome-Thanet-Earth-the-biggest-greenhouse-britain-unveiled.html

      UK Coal production has been in decline since 1913, anyone who uses numbers like “we have 300 years worth of coal” is talking nonsense. It all depends on the production rate, we might have enough coal to supply 10% of our energy needs for the next 300 years, which is a completely different meaning to the original statement.

      In fact the real elephant in the room is that there is a lot of evidence that global coal reserves and OPEC oil reserves are overstated. We have been using more oil than has been discovered since the 70′s at a ratio of about 4:1

      http://rutledge.caltech.edu/
      http://www.hubbertpeak.com/laherrere/opec95.htm

      Half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production & 6 % of global production comes from one field which has been producing since the 1950′s
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghawar

      Mexico’s largest oil field (third largest in the world) peaked in 2004 and production has fallen to about 1/3 of its peak in just 5 years.

      Even the usually optimistic IEA who’s previous methodology for working out future oil production was “See what demand would be, see what non-OPEC production would be then assume OPEC will make up the difference” has changed its tune.

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/dec/15/oil-peak-energy-iea

      From previous forecasts of 120 MB/day production by 2030 to a recent dramatic change that we will be lucky to reach 100Mb/ day by 2030. Some independent analysis think we will be lucky to be producing 60Mb/day at 2030.

      http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/files/IAEE%20Houston%20Chapter.pdf

      Presentation to a House of Commons All-Party Committee
      on July 7th 1999

      THE IMMINENT PEAK OF WORLD OIL PRODUCTION
      by
      C.J. Campbell
      http://www.energycrisis.co.uk/Campbell/commons.htm

        • Justin Gudgeon

          One tries to be civil in these debates but with jackasses like you, Damon Heart-Davis, it’s very difficult.

          CO2 is not a toxic gas you idiot. It’s in our blood and in our lungs. If it was a poisonous gas like CO we would all be dead wouldn’t we? (God, what a moron!)

          The fact is; you don’t have an answer to the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and O2 do you? You can’t face the fact that CO2 can’t increase without O2 decreasing. This is because you have never thought about it. You haven’t sat down and done the maths. You didn’t pay attention when studying chemistry at school. You just react emotionally, without thought. This leads to foolish superstitions. Superstitious people are irrational and when their irrationality is challenged, they are forced to start screaming and pulling their hair out in a futile effort to cover-up their culpable ignorance.

          It’s your turn to explain how CO2 can increase without O2 decreasing. Instead of whittering on about SPAM all the time, Damon, just answer the question.

            • Damon Hart-Davis

              Well, it’s the first time I’ve been called one of those!

              I react to your apparent repeated attempts to spread FUD and swamp the argument. George Monbiot had some recent harsh words in the Gruaniad recently on the practice.

              Now if you *really* do believe what you say then I’m sorry, but it doesn’t come across that way, and looks like smooth sophistry and snake oil.

              One answer to the imbalance comes back to my earlier ‘rocks’ point amongst others. There’s so much oxygen (and indeed carbon and other atmospheric constituents) tied up chemically and physically in surface rocks for a start for example, etc, that expecting a necessary relationship between atmospheric O2 and CO2 is lost cause basically, especially over any long time periods.

              And my chemistry and maths skills are just fine thanks.

              Rgds

              Damon

            • Damon Hart-Davis

              And on the factual point of CO2 toxicity, look at:

              http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

              Or indeed search in your favourite search engine for “CO2 toxicity”.

              Your body regulates breathing rate by the amount of CO2 detected in your lungs and blood, and you can fool the system by scrubbing CO2 from a person’s expelled air and returning it to them depleted of O2, and their breathing rate will not rise as it ought.

              CO2 is toxic, though the mechanisms are different to CO (which binds very strongly to haemoglobin in the blood, outcompeting oxygen and interfering with oxygen transport).

              Rgds

              Damon

            • Beaker

              Justin Gudgeon
              “The fact is; you don’t have an answer to the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and O2 do you?”
              Actually, I don’t think you have a question, or a clue.
              Jeffrey Lam has gone to some effort to explain why your CO2 – O2 ‘thought experiment’ is a dead end, in simple terms you should be able to understand. But you don’t seem willing or able to grasp the crucial point that IF it were a simple zero sum relationship between atmospheric CO2 and O2, a very significant increase in CO2 is still an insignificant decrease in O2. (cue egregious nonsense on ‘how can CO2 have any greenhouse gas effect if it is such a small part of the atmospheric mix.’)
              In retrospect, Damon’s contemptuous dismissal of your postings seems the better response than Jeffrey’s patient attempt to engage because you can not or will not understand.
              Kind Regards
              Beaker

        • Justin Gudgeon

          My Dear Mr Beaker,

          It seems you are determined to believe what you want to believe. I cannot understand why you or anybody else would willingly accept the word of ‘experts’ without some sort of empirical verification. Why would you? If humans in general and ’experts’ in particular had a long history of being right then you would be justified in accepting what they say without question. As it is, humans as a whole and experts in particular, are mostly wrong in what they put forward as being true so just about everything expressed by experts needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.

          If the consequences were not so serious, believing without doubting what you are told would be no more than a harmless foible. In reality however, accepting facts unquestioningly is rarely harmless or innocent especially when exercised by politicians. Why, for instance, would anyone accept the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq on the say-so of government paid experts? Why did Chamberlain tell the world, ‘Peace in our time’? Why is the whole world suffering the consequences of all those ‘experts’ who got their financial sums so completely wrong that many of the world‘s biggest banks and industries went bankrupt? The answer is obvious; it’s called the ‘clouding of reason’ or gullibility.

          You say quite confidently, “CO2 has gone up by a third.” Why would you accept that without question rather than, “CO2 has gone down by a third.”? What empirical source of information do you possess which would lead you to accept either of the two statements? I wouldn’t. Neither statement is empirically verifiable.

          Again, why would you accept something like, “…there is no correlation between solar activity and the warming trend we are observing…” when this is something you can clearly verify empirically. The sun’s radiation is all powerful and all-encompassing and we can all see and feel its immense power every day. To suppress your own experience of the sun’s intense radiation and deny it has any effect on climate is more than just a clouding of reason; it’s an ideological perversity.

          Remember, Dean Swift wrote Gulliver’s Travels as a parody of the insane behaviour of his intellectual contemporaries. He also wrote ‘A Modest Proposal’ which advocated ways of cooking poor children to make them more palatable for the table. He was poking fun at the ridiculous solutions the experts of the day were recommending for poor people. The joke was; the experts thought he was serious!

          By the way, what is wrong with, ‘One part carbon uses two parts oxygen when burning, which then produces three parts CO2’ ?

          Pip pip!

          Justin Gudgeon

            • Beaker

              Ah Justin, I knew you would not disappoint.
              Lets look at your last question first as it is at the heart of a point you just do not grasp.
              “By the way, what is wrong with, ‘One part carbon uses two parts oxygen when burning, which then produces three parts CO2’ ?” JG 19/5/09
              Now you have changed this from your 14/5/09 post of “burning a ton of oil, uses up two tones of oxygen resulting in the creation of three tons of CO2.” which is even worse, but this new equation of yours is bad enough.
              What I think you should do is get a school chemistry text book aimed at 13 to 14 year olds, perhaps younger these days, and look up the differences between atoms and molecules. That alone shreds your ‘balanced equations’. Then, if you are feeling brave, go for the section on molecular weight. Apply this too to your ‘burning a ton of oil, uses up two tones of oxygen resulting in the creation of three tons of CO2′ and ‘One part carbon uses two parts oxygen when burning, which then produces three parts CO2’ then ask me again what is wrong with them.
              As for gullibility, I realise that with the grasp of chemistry, physics and biology you have demonstrated, it must be difficult to compare competing claims from scientists on one hand, and swivel eyed neocon nut jobs on the other.
              I look at the work of projects like Fluxnet, and then your output here such as the post above or “I sincerely believe that atmospheric CO2 is being depleted.” on 5/5/09 – so I have ample justification to say that the expert opinion you deride is right, and your random musings posted here (at length) are wrong.
              Regards
              Beaker

        • Justin Gudgeon

          Mr Beaker,

          I can’t believe what I’m reading! I’m sure you must be taking the Mick.

          C02 weighs 3.66 times the weight of carbon. This is derived from the atomic weights of carbon, 12, and oxygen, 16. The molecular weight (MW) of C02 is therefore 12 + (2 x 16) = 44. Since the MW of carbon is 12 C02 must be 44/12ths or 3.67 times heavier than carbon per molecule.

          Therefore burning one billion tons of carbon produces 3.67 billion tons of C02 and burning 7 billion tons of carbon (annual fossil fuel consumption) will produce 26.7 billion tons of C02. Conversely, as the MW of CO2 is 44 and the MW of O2 is 16 then CO2 must contain 44/16ths of oxygen which is 2.75 heavier than the Carbon molecule. In other words, burning 7 billion tons of fossil fuel not only produces 26.7 billion tons of CO2 but also consumes 19.25 billion tons of Oxygen. What do you think the formula should be?

          If you don’t understand chemical formulae, ask Dr James Wilton at Imperial College London to enlighten you. The sneering arrogance you display while trying to be supercilious concerning my subject (chemical engineering) is extremely irritating.

          The oceans absorb more CO2 than all the vegetation in the world put together. A proportion of this dissolved CO2 is converted into various carbonates, a proportion of which precipitates and sinks to the bottom of the sea bed and passes out of the Carbon Cycle forever. Chemical engineers the world over know this fact produces a conundrum, namely, atmospheric CO2 should have disappeared thousands of years ago.

          The evidence is there to see:- The White cliffs of Dover are about 600 feet high (or deep) of chalk/limestone. The ocean beds have an average depth of chalk/limestone (CaCO3) of about three thousand feet. The ocean water itself contains 50 times the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Why hasn’t all the CO2 ended up as sedimentary rock? Maybe you can explain it Mr Beaker.

            • Beaker

              Hurrah, you have a scientific training! C and O atomic weights are in the same order of magnitude I grant you but as one is 3/4 of the other, not the same, and you substituted oil and carbon more than once.

              Your conundrum on sequestering carbon in limestone and chalk is kids stuff. Look up a carbon cycle in a school science textbook and you will see (once again) that is a little more complicated than your posts suggest. For starters, volcanos release CO2 – lots (but man made emissions are 100 times more – lots and lots and lots!), plus there is the weathering of carboniferous rocks. So yes I can explain why all the CO2 hasn’t ended up as sedimentary rock – but fail to see the relevance of your question to me.

              A recurring theme in your posts here is that contrary to what we are able to observe CO2 in the atmosphere is not rising, and were we to cut fossil fuel CO2 emissions, atmospheric CO2 may fall to our detriment. You offer no evidence (unless you count analogies to weapons of mass destruction and the works of Swift). You also deride the collected expertise you disagree with as being motivated to lie by some sort of loathing for human kind. And of course, despite frequent efforts of several others here to point out that even if it were a simple zero sum relationship between atmospheric CO2 and O2, a very significant increase in CO2 is still an insignificant decrease in O2, you continue to cling to a nonsensical argument.

              Instead you accuse others of being gullible, and throw out gems such as pterodactyls flying in Precambrian air (taken there by Dr Who?) and my fave, “I sincerely believe that atmospheric CO2 is being depleted.”
              Tell me, are you by any chance a fan of Christopher Booker’s work?

              Kind Regards
              Beaker

                • Justin Gudgeon

                  If you think converting carbon-dioxide to limestone is kids stuff, maybe you would be good enough to explain to the assembled readers exactly how this is done and how carbonates then return to the atmosphere.

                  If you can explain why all the CO2 hasn’t already ended up as one sort of carbonate or another, please do. I would be fascinated. Unfortunately, you say you fail to see the relevance to the debate. I’m surprised:

                  The significance is that if CO2 dissolves in seawater after which a fair proportion precipitates out and leaves the Carbon Cycle for ever, then, given the area occupied by seawater on this watery planet, and the almost incalculable mass of carboniferous sediments which has already accumulated across the surface of the Earth, suggests that the only source of Carbon, (the atmosphere) maybe diminishing. After all, the process has been taking place for the last four billion years.

                    • Beaker

                      Dear Justin
                      “If you think converting carbon-dioxide to limestone is kids stuff, maybe you would be good enough to explain to the assembled readers exactly how this is done and how carbonates then return to the atmosphere.”
                      Actually Justin, I think the assembled readers here now amount to you and me, and I don’t have the time or inclination to provide the remedial science education your posts suggest you need.
                      I had already given you cues with weathering of carboniferous rocks and volcanos. To these natural processes you can add anthropogenic factors such as industrial use of carbonates. My advice to you remains do some reading, actually look at the Carbon cycle you reference. You may or may not be fascinated, but at least you will see that carboniferous sediment does not exit the carbon cycle forever.
                      “…suggests that the only source of Carbon, (the atmosphere) maybe diminishing.” Rubbish, the atmosphere has received CO2 from volcanic activity as long as there has been an atmosphere. And despite what your theory suggests to you, CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing. We know this because we can measure it. We can even detect the change in the C isotope composition which is changing in line with the input from fossil fuels (the isotopic smoking gun).
                      Somehow I am not confident that you will have any sort of epiphany, but please spare us both any more of your ‘motivated by a hatred of humanity’ tripe, or howlers such as your diatribes against climate models alongside announcing your own thirty years of study on theoretical effects of near zero CO2 on world ecology.

                    • Justin Gudgeon

                      The fact is, Mr Beaker, you don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Whilst I am a lecturer in Chemical Engineering, you are little more than a fortune-teller or soothsayer who meekly accepts being a know-nothing supporter of a money-making ideology.

                      I just don’t understand why someone like you, who can at least spell, swallows all this nonsense about rising levels of CO2. Why don’t you try and be original? At least my ideas are mine, not someone else’s. I might not be right but by slavishly following the Establishment, you will certainly be wrong. Throughout history, on all matters scientific, the Establishment has a 100% record of being wrong.

                      What did the Establishment do in response to the Black Death? They paid to have all the cats killed, (5 million at the time), because they thought that cats carried the disease. Typical. 100% wrong – making matters much worse.

                      Here’s an idea: Use your devotion to the Establishment and help reduce congestion in London by doubling the length of the buses; or reduce drug addiction by downgrading Cannabis; or improve the education system by increasing the size of schools; or help third-world countries by banning food imports into the EU; or promote world peace by invading other people’s countries; or fight AIDS by encouraging promiscuity; or help the Labour Party by banning smoking in working-men’s clubs; or beautify the countryside by subsidising factory farming; or reduce people’s personal debt by printing more money; or support sound money by encouraging property speculation? Best of all, be part of the world’s financial Establishment and tell everyone that you have scientific proof that money generates money.

                      The truth is, Mr Beaker, you believe anything the Establishment wants you to believe. That’s the basis of true ignorance.

                    • Jeffrey Lam

                      was the establishment also wrong in upgrading cannabis again?

                    • Beaker

                      Dear Justin
                      “At least my ideas are mine, not someone else’s. I might not be right but by slavishly following the Establishment, you will certainly be wrong.”
                      Not the most gracious way of conceding an argument, but conceded non the less.
                      Strange that you consider peer reviewed academic research to be “the Establishment”, particularly when you claim to be a lecturer in Chemical Engineering.
                      Regards
                      Beaker

    • paul

      Come on folks… let’s at least try to be civil!

      On the toxicity of CO2

        • Justin

          You ask, Mr Lam, was the establishment also wrong in upgrading cannabis again? It doesn’t matter. They got it wrong first time and that’s what matters. There is no virtue in getting things right at the second attempt. Chamberlin was wrong when he told the World, “Peace in our time!” His Government’s disasterous error wasn’t t redressed by the subsequent winning of the ensuing war.

        • Justin Gudgeon

          That’s a very silly answer.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Paul,

      You are absolutely right! Whether climate change is anthropogenic or not, whether CO2 in any given quantity is toxic (or otherwise harmful) or not, we should err on the side of sensitivity and civility not only towards each other but also, most importantly, our planet.

      Science shows climate change to have certain causes. Bad science attempts to show other causes. Whatever the truth of the matter, our response to the issue should be one of polite deference to the obvious needs of nature and the environment that sustains us. There is too much at stake.

      However climate change deniers, in my experience, are rarely deferential. Deference is seen as weakness by the impatient, the acquisitive and the loud libertarian. The Achilles heel of their argument is the self-serving underlying imperative that their comfort should not be inconvenienced; their pleasures should not be curtailed. All talk of solar wind cycles and other alternative theories (such as the suggested harmless nature of increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations) cannot mask the abiding impoliteness of their position in claiming their right to continue fouling the nest.

      Best regards,

      Jonny.

    • Justin Gudgeon

      My reply to Damon Hart-Davis was lamentable. My sincere apologies to readers and contributors alike.

      It is very peculiar how the weather could possibly become a bone of contention when, throughout history, it has always been the gentle preamble to polite social intercourse. The reason, of course, is that the weather has become politicised. It seems impossible but that’s what’s happened.

      Forty years ago it was a political joke to blame the weather on the government, now it has become a reality. It is very, very sad. It has arisen, not from an empirical view of our beautiful environment but from an ideological predisposition towards hating the human race. When I was a kid in London, it was a regular occurrence to have the sun blotted out by smog; clean clothes coming off the washing-line was often more dirty that when they went on, beautiful old buildings rendered as black as coal by the filth in the air and most of all, many people actually dying due to the choking atmosphere but no-one blamed the human race; no-one labelled Mankind as the evil destroyer of the planet.

      Climate change is a reality. I know this empirically. I know the climate has changed a bit over the last fifty years because I can remember what is was like and can see the changes. The difference is that I do not castigate the human race like the Albigenses did 500 years ago. They believed the human species was essentially evil and therefore marriage and childbirth was vile and suicide and death was good. This view still persists among a sizable percentage of those who believe the end of the world is going to be brought about by evil Mankind.

      My beliefs are not motivated by hatred of Mankind but by a hatred of ideology, particularly ideologies exercised by those who also seek and exercise power. My view concerning climate change is therefore dictated by this practical aversion to ideology rather than mere chemical formulae. In so far as any aversion can be practical, it is this:

      The only way Western governments and business interests were ever going to overcome the Left/Green opposition to nuclear power in the 1970-80’s was to make fossil fuel appear more dangerous than enriched Uranium. The building of nuclear power stations involves far more money than oceans of crude oil.
      Whenever Governments and big business adopt a scientific consensus, they’re wrong. This has been true throughout history. I would be glad if anyone can tell me of an exception.
      When Governments act unilaterally, they get it wrong. Like the example of WMD’s in Iraq they have always got it wrong. Again, I would be glad if anyone can tell me of an exception.
      All organic matter; oil, gas, coal, sedimentary rock, and everything that lives or once lived, had its Carbon from the atmosphere.
      I sincerely believe that atmospheric CO2 is being depleted. The greatest proportion of living matter on Earth consumes CO2 not Oxygen. If everyone knows there’s only a minute amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and everyone knows that all plant life would die without CO2, it seems more than perverse to seek to reduce it. However, this is entirely consistent with the way people so often run to the side of the boat that’s already under water.
      Toxicity is not the same as toxic. Salt is a prime example. Salt is not toxic but can easily produce toxicity.

      Best wishes

      Again, my apologies

      Justin Gudgeon

        • Beaker

          Justin Gudgeon,
          I think your evidence free faith in bizarre-o world climate science and belief in global conspiracies speaks volumes.
          Just one thing regarding your ground-shaking theories, why didn’t the CO2 run out before the industrial revolution, or for that matter before the opposable thumb?

    • Damon Hart-Davis

      “Whenever Governments and big business adopt a scientific consensus, they’re wrong. This has been true throughout history. I would be glad if anyone can tell me of an exception.”

      Primary health care extending life?

      Rgds

      Damon

        • Justin Gudgeon

          To reply to each comment in turn:

          Mr Beaker: Bizarre-o? A lovely word which, with your kind permission, I will use to insult my friends but it doesn’t describe my statements. You may not have been around at the time but it would have been absolutely impossible to start building nuclear power stations 20 years ago. The Green Movement came into being across Europe and America on the back of anti-nuclear arms and nuclear power. The various Green parties are not a conspiracy – they are a natural reaction to what was perceived as a dangerous technology. I invite you to explain how the Green movement has been persuaded to drop its opposition to nuclear power. False technology is not a conspiracy but if people are prepared to believe politicians, it will certainly look like a conspiracy. I do not believe in conspiracies because, generally speaking, politicians are far too stupid to pull off such a Sting. Industrialists on the other hand….

          You ask, “why didn’t the CO2 run out before the industrial revolution…?” The answer is simple. Before there was life on Earth, no Organic Carbon existed. That’s self-evident. We know there wasn’t any free oxygen in the atmosphere due not only to its reactivity but also because we know oxygen would have been toxic to the emerging anaerobic Protozoan life forms (as it is today), so when life eventually began, it was the Carbon in the atmosphere which was synthesised into living cells since no other forms of Carbon existed apart from diamond, graphite and other immutable inorganic substances.

          When they emerged, plant life-forms employed an amazing technology to use energy from the sun to split the CO2 in the atmosphere into its constituent parts and re-combined them with water to make really complex organic structures. Any surplus Oxygen was then left behind in the atmosphere. This bio-technology soon diversified and eventually spread across the entire surface of the planet giving rise to all the oil, coal, gas, forests, swamps, sediments; all the sedimentary rock, top-soils; all the dissolved carbon in the oceans and of course, everything now living – all this from the CO2 in the atmosphere.

          Bearing in mind there was no other source of free Carbon, this incalculably huge mass of carbon-based organic matter had to be derived entirely from the atmosphere. Logically, the atmosphere must have contained a very, very large amount of CO2, probably in the region of 60-80%, the rest being made up of Nitrogen making the atmosphere very much denser than it is today. So, Mr Beaker, CO2 levels measured at any point in history would always be higher. Now, four billion years after life first appeared on the planet, we have only a trace of CO2 left in the atmosphere. The huge mass of CO2 has disappeared. It’s been removed by the relentless growth of vegetation and turned into bio-mass, carbonated sediments and into a colossal amount of Oxygen.

          Although organic growth continues to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, most of it is returned to the atmosphere through various natural processes. However, a proportion of the gas is removed permanently and not returned to the atmosphere. This includes all the oceanic sediments, river sediments, wetlands, peat- bogs and accumulating top-soils. The mass of carbon being permanently taken out of circulation in this way is vastly more than the small amount of fossil fuel being burnt by humans. The small contribution humans make amounts to just a few billion tons every year while the carboniferous sedimentary deposits alone, are measured in tens of billions of tons.

            • Justin Gudgeon

              Mr Hart-Davis:

              Governments did not start primary health care: Every advance in medicine has been made either by individuals acting alone or by charitable organiasions. 100% of the hospitals and clinics up to 1972 were founded and paid for by private charities including the four big London teaching hospitals. I don’t think any hospitals are built by the government in the US.

    • Jeffrey Lam

      Justin,
      we should all know that without industrialisation there is an approximate balance between photosynthesis (resulting in changing atmospheric CO2 into O2) and animal respiration (resulting in changing atmospheric O2 into CO2). Nature takes care of the rest. If CO2 levels were to fall low, than photosynthesis will slow, bringing everything back into equilibrium. When CO2 levels rise again, photosynthesis picks up. This has been happening since the beginning of plant life. (correct me if I’m wrong) CO2 running out just wouldn’t happen.

      But industrialisation, in particular the process of combustion (combining C with O and getting CO2), upsets this balance. Add in deforestation, cement manufacture etc. and this upset gets quite significant. (not forgetting to mention methane, NOx, CFC etc. as far as greenhouse gas is concerned)
      If humans grounded every flight, stopped every car, turned off every power station, left every remaining tree alone (and even replaced every tree cut down), they could only possibly succeed in restoring the balance that existed before. There is no widely-used, man-made process that I am aware of that reduces CO2 levels.

      As far as I’m aware, the main aim of most people in the climate change movement is to reduce the increase in CO2 levels, not to decrease them.

    • Justin Gudgeon

      Mr Lamb:

      As before, your comments are balanced. However, you misunderstand the Carbon cycle. There has never been a balance in atmospheric gasses. As explained above, ever since life began on the planet, CO2 has been sequestrated from the atmosphere and not replaced. It has been laid down in organic deposits such as coal,gas and oil. The biggest deposits of course, are the ocean sediments which, due to the movement of the Earth’s crust, now stick out of the ground and form large land-masses such as the southern part of England and Europe.

      Just as a note of interest, can you guess how deep the sediments/top-soil of the Congo wet-lands are, bearing in mind the area is half the size of Europe? Two miles deep.

      You are right; CO2 levels can’t theoretically drop to zero but it is important you realise that the majority of respiration taking place on this planet is anaerobic. (ie, non-oxygen breathing organisms).

      I have been studying the theoretical effects of near zero CO2 for over thirty years and still haven’t calculated what effect it would have on world ecology except that it would slow plant growth and reduce food production.

      I have to be honest and say, if all modern activities involving any form of combustion stopped, I don’t know what effect this would have on the atmosphere. I personally don’t think CO2 levels could drop because plant growth would slow and the take-up of CO2 would be proportionally less thus producing no change. Its a fascinating subject.

        • Beaker

          Justin
          You have accused Jeffrey Lam of misunderstanding the carbon cycle but it is apparent from your posts that you have at best a superficial and skewed knowledge. You state “I sincerely believe that atmospheric CO2 is being depleted.” – sincere or not your belief is a fantasy. What has been sequestered over a very long time, is being oxidised and released to the atmosphere in a very short time – anthropogenic CO2 emissions are currently two orders of magnitude greater than volcanic CO2 emissions, and rising. Plant uptake of CO2 is not keeping pace with our increasing CO2 emissions, so the atmosphere is being enriched with CO2. We can measure this (interestingly by the absorption of infrared), but you sincerely believe that atmospheric CO2 is being depleted.

          As for global warming being a ploy to overcome left/green opposition to nuclear power, a paranoid fantasy.
          “I invite you to explain how the Green movement has been persuaded to drop its opposition to nuclear power.”
          Assuming for moment the nonsense that there is or was such a thing as a unified Green Movement with a position on nuclear, where and when have they been in power? The most concerted efforts have not managed to stop a bypass (unless in your world, that is just what they want us to think…)

          Regards

    • Justin

      Ah, Mr Beaker, so my knowledge is superficial (at best) and my beliefs fantastical. Gosh, I wish that were true as I would then be able to accept all that you accept. Sadly, it is my accumulated knowledge which prevents me from doing this.

      You state that, “What has been sequestered over a very long time, is being oxidised and released to the atmosphere in a very short time -”

      It doesn’t really matter if the sequestering of CO2 from the atmosphere by plants took a very, very long time. What matters is that plants did, in fact, remove it from the atmosphere and laid it down in the form of sedimentary rock, oil, gas, coal and peat plus all existing top-soil and everything now living. Given the absolutely gigantic amount of bio-mass this represents, what do you think the CO2 levels must have been during the long period when you say this was all happening?

      Now, you say, this huge amount laid-down organic matter is being oxidised. Where exactly, is the oxygen coming from to supply the high rate of oxidation you speak of? The answer is; from plants; and from what do the plants produce this oxygen from? From CO2 + H2O.

      Your chemical equations do not balance. Chemical equations have to balance otherwise it would mean matter would have to magically appear and disappear into thin air. (pun not intended) When you state, “..rising Plant uptake of CO2 is not keeping pace with our increasing CO2 emissions, so the atmosphere is being enriched with CO2…” is a case in point. It is just not possible for plants to produce less oxygen than is required to oxidise the fossil fuels. If plants were not sequestering the CO2, they would not be producing the Oxygen and there would be a dramatic fall in the amount of oxygen available to burn the fossil fuel. Surely you must see this? If there was some cataclysmic fire which consumed the whole of the South American rain forest in the space of a single day then, yes, there would be a big rise in CO2 but there would HAVE to be a corresponding fall on oxygen. Since nine-tenths of living things on Earth, including most micro-organisms, don’t ‘breath’ oxygen as such, but take up organic carbon from the air or in solution from water, the extra CO2 in the air would be quickly taken into solution via the oceans and/or be sequestered by increased plant growth. A large commercial green-house growing tomatoes will routinely have CO2 blown through it to increase plant growth. Like every living organism, more food means more growth and more growth requires more food. CO2 is plant food.

      Your point about the Greens never being in power is not relevant. Stopping a by-pass is a local issue but the Greens represented a widespread national disquiet regarding Nuclear power and as such, were successful in persuading governments not to ‘go nuclear’. Maybe you don’t remember Chernobyl.

        • Beaker

          Justin
          I had hoped that you had at least grasped the manifest errors of your “dramatic fall in the amount of oxygen available” reasoning. I tried to show you the fatal problems with your reasoning as did Jeffrey Lam. But it appears that having concocted your own proof to demonstrate no anthropogenic global warming, you are damn well going to stick with it despite it being demonstrable nonsense.
          Just for my own amusement, are ‘the greens’ the “ideological predisposition towards hating the human race” (JG 5 May 09 10:34), or a “widespread national disquiet regarding Nuclear power” (JG 11 May 09 10:12), or a bit of both depending on what straw you are clutching for at the time?
          Regards
          Beaker

    • Justin

      Just in case you don’r believe me, look at this film. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3u_8frR0IpE

        • Justin Gudgeon

          Mr Beaker,

          Maybe we are experiencing a language barrier here but I cannot see where you have made clear my errors concerning the atmosphere. If you burn a ton of charcoal you get the formula O2+C = CO2 + heat. The equation is balanced which means for a given amount of carbon, you need twice as much oxygen to sustain the reaction. Under certain conditions the reaction can result in O2+C = CO. In this case the equation is not balanced so has to be adjusted thus: O2+2C = 2OC meaning that an equal amount of oxygen and carbon is required to make Carbon Monoxide.

          In other words, burning a ton of oil, uses up two tones of oxygen resulting in the creation of three tons of CO2. While there has indeed, been a net addition of three tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, there has also been a corresponding subtraction of two tons of oxygen from the atmosphere. Were this reaction to continue without the presence of plants, the level of oxygen would steadily decline. Since this is not happening, it must be the case that plants are photosynthesising the CO2 in line with the chemical formula: “Six molecules of water plus six molecules of carbon dioxide produce one molecule of sugar plus six molecules of oxygen”.

          The significance of this formula is that, over millions of years, there should be equal amounts of Oxygen and Carbon dioxide. There isn’t which can only mean CO2 is being synthesised back into oxygen faster than it is being produced. The fact there is sixty times more Oxygen in the atmosphere proves this.

          PS I don’t know the answer to your last question.

    • frugalista

      Interesting discussion, although I am not quite sure I grasp the argument. Justin – which bit of this is wrong in your opinion?:

      “Ice cores provide evidence for variation in greenhouse gas concentrations over the past 800,000 years. Both CO2 and CH4 vary between glacial and interglacial phases, and concentrations of these gases correlate strongly with temperature. Before the ice core record, direct data does not exist. However, various proxies and modelling suggests large variations; 500 Myr ago CO2 levels were likely 10 times higher than now. Indeed higher CO2 concentrations are thought to have prevailed throughout most of the Phanerozoic eon, with concentrations four to six times current concentrations during the Mesozoic era, and ten to fifteen times current concentrations during the early Palaeozoic era until the middle of the Devonian period, about 400 Mya. The spread of land plants is thought to have reduced CO2 concentrations during the late Devonian, and plant activities as both sources and sinks of CO2 have since been important in providing stabilising feedbacks. Earlier still, a 200-million year period of intermittent, widespread glaciation extending close to the equator (Snowball Earth) appears to have been ended suddenly, about 550 Mya, by a colossal volcanic outgassing which raised the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere abruptly to 12%, about 350 times modern levels, causing extreme greenhouse conditions and carbonate deposition as limestone at the rate of about 1 mm per day. This episode marked the close of the Precambrian eon, and was succeeded by the generally warmer conditions of the Phanerozoic, during which multicellular animal and plant life evolved. No volcanic carbon dioxide emission of comparable scale has occurred since. In the modern era, emissions to the atmosphere from volcanoes are only about 1% of emissions from human sources.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gases

        • Justin Gudgeon

          Frugalist – You presented a nice scenario, none of which seems wrong to me. Of course many such theoretical scenarios exist and they all at least acknowledges the pre-existing vast amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

          The problem with theories which have to make too many assumptions is that that they tend throw up too many inconsistencies. The huge volcanic out-gassing you describe would, by modern theories, blot out the sun and reduce global temperatures. Don’t forget, the reason it is called ‘the greenhouse effect’ is because the glass of a greenhouse allows solar radiation IN but not OUT, thereby raising the temperature inside. Whitewashing the glass prevents this effect. In the same way, a high level of CO2 in the atmosphere is only relevant (as far as the greenhouse effect is concerned) is if the atmosphere is completely clear which it wouldn’t be after a colossal volcanic eruption.

          The other major problem presenting theories regarding terrestrial evolution is that, due to the huge time periods involved, the sun itself undergoes considerable variations. When protozoan life first began on Earth 4.2 billion years ago, the sun might have been much hotter or much cooler. No-one knows. However, since we know empirically that the intensity of the sun’s radiation varies, it seems more likely that variations of much greater magnitude were responsible for the climate changes in past eons.

          My belief, as stated before, is that this known variation in solar radiation, combined with a slight fall in the level of CO2, has made the resultant climate changes sharper and more noticeable.

          Just as a matter of interest , the theory of a Precambrian atmosphere being much denser, (twice today’s) and containing over 60% CO2 explains both the huge amount of organic matter in existence as well as how the Terradactyl was able to fly. It certainly couldn’t fly in today’s thin atmosphere.

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Justin,

      I was not aware that pteradactyls were around in the Pre-cambrian.

      Surely we should not be distracted by the fact that aeons in the past, other climates supported species able to survive and thrive in those environments. It is our benign climate of today which supports us. We and all other living species have evolved for today’s environment and would be unlikely to survive a rapid return to the climate of the distant past. It would be the speed of that change that would be the problem and if the change has any chance of being anthropogenically driven we should do all we can to minimise it. This is both polite behaviour to our host planet and also self-interest.

      However, if you are right and our polluting ways are not the cause of global warming, we will still have done the right thing if we adopt a policy of minimising our emissions.

      It is all about treating our host with decency, good manners and deference.

      Best regards,

      Jonny.

    • Gary

      Justin

      I’ve never been much of a fossil fan but 20 years of studying geology tells me that the Precambrian came to an end 542 million years ago whilst the pterosaurs were around int eh Mesozoic (251my to 65my ago). That leaves a gap of nearly 300 million years during which life on the continents flourished and expanded.

      If you are really right and the atmosphere was 60% CO2 at the time of the pterosaurs then you may have solved the mystery as to why the dinosaurs died out – they asphyxiated (though why they didn’t take all the other animals, including mammals, with them will remain a mystery).

        • Justin Gudgeon

          I totally agree with your sentiments, Jonny Holt. Treating the world with respect is akin to treating each other with respect. Even though I generally loath anthropomorphism, (Walt Disney et all), regarding the Earth as our genial host is rather neat. It also explains why anthropomorphism holds such sway over the GW camp. In reality, however, the Earth as a non-sentient organism, doesn’t give a stuff whether we are alive or dead. For most humans and most animals, the Earth as ‘host’ is pretty much the worst kind of landlord you could get. Basically, he says, “You pay or you die.”

          Of course you and Gary are right about the Pterodactyl not being around during the pre-Cambrian period but I was making the general point about the atmosphere being very dense in the Earth’s early history. At the risk of being a bore, the Earth’s early atmosphere must have contained a mass of carbon (as CO2) equal to the mass of carbon now contained in the solid organic matter as now existing all over the World. This includes all the sedimentary rock in existence as well as all the oil, gas, coal, and everything that lives. This unimaginably large mass of organic matter was extracted from the atmosphere. Since Nitrogen has always been a major component of the atmosphere, it’s clear the vast amount of primordial CO2 must have been in addition to the Nitrogen, making the primordial atmosphere extremely dense. The plants, of course, loved it! Now, sadly, (all good things come to an end), poor plants have to make do with a really measly amount of CO2 and in response, take forever to grow.

          I sincerely agree with Jonny Holt but the good husbanding of our environment must not become an obsession like those strange Peoples who won’t till the land in case they kill the odd worm. But thank you, nonetheless for your open-minder comments.

          Incidentally, if your are interested, I do have a workable hypothesis concerning the composition of the atmosphere and the demise of the dinosaur.

          Best wishes to all

          Justin Gudgeon

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Everyone,

      Has he gone?

      Good. Now we can continue …

      These articles seem to be relevant to the problem – and suggest a partial resolution:

      http://www.windturbinesyndrome.com/

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8223048.stm

      While I believe that Ecotricity actively tries to work with communities, could these efforts be made even better?

      Has anyone got any thoughts on how engagement with communities by developers in general can be improved, to increase a sense of ownership and positive identification between local communities and the turbines?

      To what extent are apparently “local” Nimby campaigns manufactured by outside interests in a manner akin to 1970s style flying pickets? To what extent are scaremongering mythologies used on a suggestible and ill-informed public by those who have – for whatever reason – an anti-wind agenda?

      Best regards,

      Jonny.

    • Valerie Brown

      Iam a 73 yr old housewife who had to take maths O level 3 times to pass, so I’m certainly no scientist, Nevertheless I have followed these debates with great interest and the following occurs to me: If, as we know, there have been extreme climate changes in the past without any percptible intervention from man’s activities, how can we be so arrogant as to think that the minor changes that have taken place in my lifetime are anthropogenic?

      If irreversible climate change (it used to be global warming until the recent harsh winters in the Northern Hemisphere) really is taking place due to increased CO2 emissions, surely we should be concentrating on how to cope with the inevitable effects, not on destroying our evolved way of life.

      However, you first have to identify the causes of the disease before you can find a way of ameliorating its consequences, and it seems to me that there is enough conflicting scientific opinion on the reasons for climate change for this to be beyond us at present.

      Personally, after the last couple of weeks, roll on global warming!

    • Jonny Holt

      Hello Valerie,

      I am also not a scientist. My understanding of the current status of the debate is that past extreme changes (in global surface temperature, atmospheric carbon, ocean acidity and so on) have generally taken place over millennia if not even longer periods. On the rare occasions when these changes have been more rapid, it has invariably been due to unique events such as super-volcanic activity, asteroid impact and other catastrophic occurrences. It is only now – for the first time – that these changes are happening as the result of the activities of one species, and that at such a rate (in terms of geological time) as to be comparable with past catastrophic events.

      We live on a dynamic and constantly evolving planet and much is beyond our control. The climate warms and cools, calms down and becomes more violent. A warmer atmosphere is a more turbulent one, exhibiting extremes of weather as a result of the energy it contains. Nevertheless, we need – for the sake of our own survival as a species – to do what we can to shorten the odds in our favour. I maintain that our self-indulgent, wanton comforts and appetites have reached such an extreme level of unsustainability that they need to be curtailed. The sculptural dancing elegance of contemporary wind turbines is a small price to pay in comparison to the squat, lumpen, boorish, subsidy-gorged obesity of a nuclear power station lurking toxically somewhere over the horizon – in someone else’s back yard.

      To my knowledge there is no parity between the opposing camps of scientific opinion on this matter. Some people consider that there is equal weight of argument on many such matters; Darwinism and evolutionary theory versus creationism and intelligent design, the fabricated and fraudulent scare surrounding the MMR vaccine and its supposed role in causing autism. The mass of scientific authority sides with the theory of anthropogenic climate change. Only the terminally misanthropic, commercially self-interested and publicity hungry provide any degree of counterweight on the side of denial.

      If I travel by bus I would always give up my seat for a lady. I would thus treat you with deference, not because you need it, but on the precautionary principle that you might. Our host planet should be treated in a similarly polite and decent manner.

      Our recent winter weather in our small corner of the globe has been more than offset by the searing heat in other regions. The southern hemisphere has seen drought, heatwave and record high temperatures. Our northern European winter might have been colder than those of the past few years but it was still warmer than 1963 and 1947. If this is as cold as it gets we should be worried.

      Best regards,

      Jonny.