Why CO2 Cannot be a Pollutant


Imagine I had a cup of pure water. In that cup of water, there are impurities, chemicals that are not water but are present nonetheless. Some of those impurities are natural to one degree or another. Meaning, you’d find them in the purest river running out of a pure glacier down a pure mossy mountain slope. Others are unnatural, or when they occur naturally, are poisonous to humans if ingested.

On the long list of impurities, others cannot be considered impurities at all but are necessary for safe drinking water. After all, water in its purest form is dangerous. I recall a story at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory where a massive tank of highly pure water was stored. Someone dropped a hammer or some kind of tool in the water on accident. Days later, it was found to be completely disintegrated. Yes, pure water can break down metals and other compounds.

I am sure no one would disagree that various natural gasses trapped in water is dangerous. Nor can various salts that are plentiful in nature. Even trace amounts of certain metals and other elements can hardly be considered an impurity. These are all part of water.

In our atmosphere, there is mostly nitrogen gas (N2). Oxygen gas (O2) is abundant, but not nearly as much as nitrogen gas is. After oxygen, you’re going to find trace amounts of Argon, a noble gas. Then there is carbon dioxide (CO2). After this, there are other chemicals, some of them harmless but others that would kill anyone in concentration.

To put it all in perspective, let’s go visit Qwest field in our imagination. Qwest field seats about 67,000 people. On game day, let’s suppose at each seat, an air molecule sits in proportion to the air in our atmosphere.

Of the 67,000 seats:

  • 52,316 are for nitrogen gas (N2).
  • 14,034 are for oxygen gas (O2).
  • 625 are for argon gas (Ar).
  • 67, plus or minus a lot, are for water vapor (H2O)
  • 22 are for carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • 1 is for neon gas (Ne).
  • No other gasses will take up a whole seat.

(Proportions taken from NASA: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/earthfact.html)

Carbon dioxide is, indeed, a very minor player in our atmosphere. Even in the air we exhale, only about 100 times more carbon dioxide is present. (2,200 seats.) It still takes a back seat to the big players, oxygen and nitrogen.

Consider the possibility that CO2 is really a pollutant that doesn’t belong in the air. Forget for a moment that we exhale carbon dioxide, along with every other living animal. If we scrubbed the atmosphere clean of carbon dioxide, what would be the effect?

There would be two effects. One, our planet would be colder. By how much, no one can fathom. This is because the effect of CO2 on our climate is not linear, and there are many components to our temperature that would react to a drop in CO2.

Two, all plant life on our planet would die, and all animal life would die shortly thereafter. See, just like we need oxygen to breath, plants need carbon dioxide to grow the food we eat and the food that feeds the animals we eat.

If I were to tell you that Chemical X is vital to all life on the planet, and if we removed it from the atmosphere, all life would die, would you consider Chemical X to be a pollutant? Just like nitrogen and oxygen are not pollutants, neither can CO2 be considered a pollutant.

Yet, here we are today, with the Supreme Court ruling as the pope did many years ago against the laws of nature. The Catholic Church, long ago, ruled that the world did not revolve around the sun. And so today, the Supreme Court rules that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. And just like the inquisition would happily execute the infidels for the Catholic Church, now Barack Obama’s EPA is going to regulate carbon dioxide, a chemical critical to all life on earth.

Let’s suppose we, as a country, decided that carbon dioxide was so good we would go out of our way to manufacture it and pump it into our atmosphere. Even if we tried to bring up the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere, we would quickly run out of carbon and oxygen to put into the atmosphere. Regardless, these are the likely effects of a boosted CO2 level.

One, the oceans would absorb a whole lot of it, eventually depositing it on the sea floor. This carbon dioxide dissolves in the water making the ocean more carbonated. Then various life forms would consume the CO2 and produce sugars and proteins that other animals in the ocean would eat. Eventually, it would float to the bottom of the ocean and get locked away in the dark, cold waters of the abyss.

Two, the plant life on the surface would grow in vast abundance. Already, today, farmers know that if you boost the CO2 levels in a greenhouse, the plants you grow would grow more quickly. It’s a great way to increase yields of crops. So we would have much more food available to us than we do today if we boosted the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere.

A third effect is global warming. How much, we can tell. We have recorded a steady rise in CO2 levels and we have seen the accompanying warming effect. The correlation is negligible, hinting that far more powerful forces are at work that affect our climate. Perhaps if we could identify and eliminate the effects of these forces, we could see the relatively minor effect that carbon dioxide has. Even if doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere increases the global temperatures by 1 degree, that would be of benefit to the entire world. The amount of farm land would increase, crop yields would increase, and flus would be cut shorter due to a a shorter winter.

The bottom line is that increasing the levels of CO2 is not harmful for us or the environment. It is absurd that the Supreme Court would find such and even more absurd that the EPA would pretend to act on this as if it were truth.


10 Responses to “Why CO2 Cannot be a Pollutant”

  1. The BookGuy Says:

    That’s like saying glass isn’t a pollutant.

    But if you cover a garden with glass you build what is called a Green House. Heat gets in, heat stays, and the green house gets hot.

    C02 works much like the glass. It’s not that C02 is polluting the air, it’s that the C02 is trapping in the heat.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      Water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Is it also a pollutant?

      Can you point me to a study, somewhere, that shows how the global temperature is connected to CO2 emissions? Perhaps you can cite the equation that will give us the global temperature given a concentration of CO2?

      I know the ice core data has shown that global temperatures affect the CO2 level in the atmosphere, but we don’t have any evidence of CO2 causing a fluctuation in global temperature.

      Please, I am more than willing to read papers and studies and do my own research, but so far all the research has shown the Supreme Court’s decision incorrect and Al Gore as a liar.

  2. The BookGuy Says:

    Anything out of proportion is bad. Water is good. Too much is a flood, I wouldn’t call a flood a polluntant, but its still bad. C02 is good. Too much is bad.

    As for a study, try any standard highschool textbook on chemistry. It’s established fact that C02 along with water and nitrogen (and perhaps a few others too) create a green house for the planet. Hell, it’s even in the dictionary.

    There is room for debate about how much C02 is man made, and what the impact is, and whether or not the planet is perfectly capable of handling the excess C02 from humans, and what to do if it can’t. But arguing that C02 is good because it’s natural is like saying you can’t drown under water because water is good for plants.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      That kind of misses the point. The EPA doesn’t regulate floods and acts of nature. It does regulate pollution. CO2 is not anything like any of the other pollutants it regulates.

      By the way, of all the global warming gasses, which is the most important? Water vapor, of course. In fact, it is so important that 95% of the global warming is caused by it. If we doubled, tripled, or multiplied the global warming effect of CO2, we wouldn’t be able to tell. And we know, for a fact, that the amount of global warming due to carbon dioxide is not linear in proportion to it.

      Thus, we can’t say how much warming more CO2 will cause, only that it will be negligible. The remaining question is how negligible, and the answer is, “Apparently a lot less than we thought.” The studies I have seen seem to indicate that CO2 isn’t even important enough to be concerned about compared to the effects of water vapor and the source of warming—the sun.

      Even if we left CO2 completely unregulated, or even if we encouraged CO2 production by government mandate, we would suffer no ill effects due to it.

  3. The BookGuy Says:

    I’m not going to argue science because I’m not a scientist. Clearly, as you point out, there is an appropiate proportion of gasses, which means there is an inappropriate amount of gasses. Its the EPA’s job is to make sure the air we breathe is good.

    Until I get a doctorate in climate science, I’ll trust the Supreme Court to judge the merits of the science.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      So the Supreme Court, which is most definitely not composed of climate scientists, are to be trusted over your own lay opinion on the matter? Since when has a court ever been the appropriate place to determine science?

      The EPA’s job is not so broad as to make sure that the air we breath is good. Such a broad charter would mean they could do anything they like as long as the air gets cleaner. Their job is to regulate pollution among other things.

  4. The BookGuy Says:

    “So the Supreme Court, which is most definitely not composed of climate scientists, are to be trusted over your own lay opinion on the matter?”

    We have a 3-branch government. The Supreme Courts job is to judge. They’re only job is to sit down and listen to all the sides make their cases, and then they make a ruling. So yeah, I do trust them over my lay opinion. That’s not to say I won’t pay attention, but like I said, I’m not a scientist. The people at the EPA are scientists. The people that can be called by the Supreme Court are scientists.

    Look, I’m not saying I love the idea of the EPA getting involved in this. But yes, I trust them to undersand the science a lot better than you or I.

    • Jonathan Gardner Says:

      The Supreme Courts job is to judge.

      There is a limit to what they are allowed to judge on. I hope you agree with that. Just like a city court can’t try murderers, the supreme court can’t pronounce scientific fact any more than Al Gore can. We’ve never given the federal government that kind of power.

      In terms of the experts, there is a considerable conflict of interest. If Global Warming legislation is passed, there will be tons of money flowing from the private sector to the government and out to the friends of the regulators of the EPA and other members of government. We can’t trust them to be honest when so much money is passing through their hands. We know this from sad experience. And with unlimited power to shut down any business or entire sectors they disagree with, they will be that much more corrupted by their power.

      Our country’s founding is that we, the people, are superior to any government in our land. They are our servants. We cannot be bullied to do anything we don’t want to do by them. Instead, we should be the bullies, we should be the final arbiters, and we should treat them with the utmost of distrust. It is the sad history of humanity that where power is, there is also corruption. That means the average government bureaucrat is far more corrupt than the average American.

      I hope I’m convincing you, at least somewhat, to have a healthy distrust of government power. That is the American way.

  5. Andyj Says:

    I’ve read much about this whole affair and researched myself even more.

    Sure carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. But in this case it is the glass which warms up.
    Well over a half the atmosphere is well above the cloud layers where the atmosphere is sufficiently thin it radiates IR back out into space with no problems at all. The temperature at 35,000 feet varies by longitude but can be between -50 and -70 degrees Celsius. Black body temperature in space is 1 degree Celsius.

    Looking at the readings from this premise alone shows our levels of CO2 has just about a less than a measurable effect.

    To prove the lunacy and idiocy of our leaders we only have to hear the word “Carbon capture”. Its not that, its OXYGEN CAPTURE! Imagine the consequences if these lunatics start harvesting and locking up all the CO2!!!

  6. Andyj Says:

    While I’ve come a re-visiting let me add.
    All the Earths CO2 that we are “creating” used to live as CO2 in the atmosphere in earlier times.

    All that chalk, all that limestone (CaCO3) huge alpine mountains are made of. Massive edifices of chalk that provided in impenetrable barrier for so many invaders in the middle ages against the UK. In Fact is partly THE South of the UK! Was made from CO2.

    The depths of soil that archaeologists have to dig from a mere several hundred years. Has been produced from dead plants who gleaned their mass mainly from rain and CO2.

    All that coal. Guess where from.

    All that oil. Same again from underwater.

    Our atmosphere is now mainly land locked compared to its deep history. killing off the early horse-tail type fauna. Leaves are now the order of the day because a large leaf area can farm the smallest amounts of CO2.

    If anyone wishes to kill off any presumption of “global warming is bad”. Please look for the graphs of the Vostock ice cores. CO2 against Temperature.

    Then note why they do not superimpose the lines. You can see clearly temperature rises BEFORE CO2 rises. When the temperature drops, CO2 then follows suit – after an approximate 800 year wait! These 12k year cycles are completely outside of man’s influence of CO2. Then taking into account “peak oil” the CO2 number can only be doubled before the plants and sea can harvest it all back.

    What is worse. We are at a solar peak. God will not help us when it drops again and the worlds human population will be massive with little or no energy.

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