Monday, February 12, 2007

Carbon, for Morons

I read an article over the weekend about how breathing did NOT account for any global warming. In this moronic article, the author indicated that "since you're breathing oxygen that plants have given off, and only putting in carbon that you have consumed, it's zero sum."

Next time you hear someone say something favorable about a "liberal arts education," laugh right at their face. Perhaps these people can tell you all about James Joyce, but they don't understand even High School chemistry.

Global Warming, we are told, is being caused by a spike in CO2, Methane, and quite a few other "greenhouse gasses." Obviously that's true. We're also being told that the planet is getting warmer because of measurable solar activity. This is also true, and documentable, although for some bizarre reason people want to believe one or the other, but not both.

Humans, unlike any other animal that has ever lived on this planet, build things. We farm, we build, we invent, etc. And these activities take carbon that is in the ground, and put it into the air.

What's not true, however, is that this human *activity* is the only human impact on the greenhouse gasses. Just our *being here* is moving a lot of carbon that would have stayed in the ground into the air. How this is passed off as "a closed cycle" is completely beyond me, and it should be beyond anyone with brains.

Let's talk about a closed system that consists of a tree a living human, and a human in a space suit. The tree breathes in CO2 and breathes out O2. The human does exactly the opposite. Let's presume perfect balance - the tree breathes in 100% of what the human breathes out, and vice versa. As for the human in the space suit, his carbon is 100% represented in this system, but he is breathing into a space suit so his breathing is not.

Now let's turn off the space suit, open the mask, and let the spaceman breathe into our closed system.

The human breathes in the O2. So does the spaceman. They both breathe out CO2. The tree breathes it in - but only to its capacity, which is 1 human's worth. We've added zero carbon to the equation, but suddenly there's twice as much CO2 being produced - more than the tree can handle, in fact.

There are six billion humans on the planet. If you map CO2 to human population growth, the slopes are virtually identical.

Part of this, of course, is because those humans take carbon from the ground (Oil, coal, etc.) and burn it into CO2. Part of it is because those humans eat chicken and beef and pigs, which also generate CO2. But a lot of it is simply because those humans breathe.

They take carbon that was in the ground, eat it, and breathe/burp/fart it out as CO2. Human CO2 is identical to automobile CO2, and coal burning to CO2, and natural gas burned to CO2. It's CO2, and it's in the atmosphere, and whatever trees and plankton are there to absorb it have to absorb it - or not.

To presume that humans don't *directly* contribute to global warming is simply asinine.

Moreover, do you know what the largest greenhouse "gas" is? Water vapor. That's right, steam (technically it's vapor, but it's very similar). As the planet gets warmer, even slightly, the amount of vapor coming off the oceans spikes and creates a massive layer of insulation. It's also a layer of potential energy, which is why we see things like Oswego's killer snowstorm today, but I digress.

Tell me, what other animal "mines" for water? Deer? Bears? Monkeys? Nope, only us. Only humans have the ability to drill deep into the Oglala aquifer and release water that has been there for millions of years, pulling it to the surface and releasing it into the environment. For every cup of carbon (oil, etc.) that a human uses in a day, how many gallons of water does that same human use? One or two showers a day, three cups of coffee, a big pot of pasta boiling, running the dishwasher, running the washing machine, washing the car, etc.

Those aquifers out in the dessert aren't replenishing. They can't. They are too deep and too ancient. Surface water can't percolate that deep. And to the degree that some water *is* getting in to them, it's hardly enough. Oglala, for example, is being drained 100X faster than it's replenishing.

Nationally it's like we're pulling a new Lake Erie out of the ground every year, and just flinging it into our lawns, showers, toilets, etc. - largely to evaporate.

Yes, people cause global warming, but it's not from where you think. Just being here and being civilized is all that it takes.



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