Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two News Reports on Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere -

The Wall Street Journal Opinion Page and the New York Times  Hard News Page

One With a Political Bias, One With a Truth Bias

The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a level not seen for millions of years.  This is apparently undisputed fact.  From the New York Times

The new measurement came from analyzers high atop Mauna Loa, the volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has long been ground zero for monitoring the worldwide carbon dioxide trend.

Devices there sample clean, crisp air that has blown thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean, producing a record of rising carbon dioxide levels that has been closely tracked for half a century.

So what does that mean?  Well if one is driven to scientific conclusions by ideology, this is a good thing, as the Wall Street Journal trumpets on its opinion page in an article by former Astronaut Harrison Schmidt and William Happer, a physicist and former director of the research office of the Department of Energy.  The piece is not but might be entitled Our Friend The Carbon Dioxide Molecule,

Of all of the world's chemical compounds, none has a worse reputation than carbon dioxide. Thanks to the single-minded demonization of this natural and essential atmospheric gas by advocates of government control of energy production, the conventional wisdom about carbon dioxide is that it is a dangerous pollutant. That's simply not the case. Contrary to what some would have us believe, increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will benefit the increasing population on the planet by increasing agricultural productivity.

As for global warming, well according to these two, don’t worry, not happening.

The cessation of observed global warming for the past decade or so has shown how exaggerated NASA's and most other computer predictions of human-caused warming have been—and how little correlation warming has with concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide. As many scientists have pointed out, variations in global temperature correlate much better with solar activity and with complicated cycles of the oceans and atmosphere. There isn't the slightest evidence that more carbon dioxide has caused more extreme weather.

But in the New York Times report, an actual news report, there is a different view,

Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.

Experts fear that humanity may be precipitating a return to such conditions — except this time, billions of people are in harm’s way.

“It takes a long time to melt ice, but we’re doing it,” Dr. Keeling said. “It’s scary.”

Of course, the Wall Street Journal editors hate the political implications of global warming, because it means that to confront it requires global government regulation, something they also despise.  And since any type of global government regulation is wrong, anything that requires it must also be wrong.  Hence their publication of commentary that supports their opinion.

But an overwhelming number of the scientific community, the ones who actually know this stuff are concerned.  But with people who don't know what they are talking about there is this problem.

Climate-change contrarians, who have little scientific credibility but are politically influential in Washington, point out that carbon dioxide represents only a tiny fraction of the air — as of Thursday’s reading, exactly .04 percent. “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic,” a Republican congressman from California, Dana Rohrabacher, said in a Congressional hearing several years ago.

Of course the credibility of any member of Congress is unimpeachable, right.

But let’s say the question is open.  Does that mean no action should be taken?  Well if the results of taking no action are a possible rise in sea levels high enough to wipe out most coastal regions, the answer is probably no.  Unless of course one values political philosophy over the lives of tens of millions of people, or like the Republicans in North Carolina, you believe passing a law preventing the sea level from rising will fix things very nicely.

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