The Carbon Dioxide Control Knob Discussion III

  • Wayne,

    Greg Tomlinson and I have been discussing in comments a blog post from last April:

    Global warming XIII – The Carbon Dioxide Control Knob . I think that his comments and my replies will be informative to our readers, who aren’t likely to notice items from six months ago. Therefore, I’m going to create new blog posts each of which contains a comment and a reply with titles The Carbon Dioxide Control Knob I, II, III, and so on.

    Here’s the third:

  • I’m afraid CO2 is not the best “insulation” for the atmosphere as indicated by the cooling trend that occurred between the early 1940s and 1970s. In fact the fear of global cooling persisted into the late 1970s. During this entire cooling period, however, CO2 levels continued to rise as they did throughout the entire 20th century. This indicates to me that, all else being equal, the earth may well be cooler without CO2, but there are other factors much more important in determining earth’s temperature. What worries me much more than the greenhouse warming resulting from anthropogenic CO2 emissions is how our government and others (including the UN) are going to react to this “crisis”. We simply cannot afford any more economy-crippling taxes and regulations that our last president tried to impose on us. Fortunately, it appears our current president and EPA director are working to undo the damage.

    Greg Tomlinson

September 30, 2017 at 4:08 pm Edit

Mr. Tomlinson,
No one claims that CO2 is the best insulation or the only one. Water vapor is a more important greenhouse gas, for example. It happens, however, that CO2 is the control knob that humans have rotated to the right and are continuing to turn.
Researchers believe, based on substantial evidence, that the cooling you cite was the result of increased atmospheric aerosols, which are one of the other factors that influence the extent to which incoming solar radiation reaches the surface. These aerosols increased as industrial production returned to normal and then grew after World War II, and they increased because of several major volcanic eruptions. World-wide efforts in the 1960s and 1970s to reduce poisonous pollution from coal burning led to a decrease in aerosols and an increase in solar energy reaching the Earth’s surface. Once these aerosols lessened, CO2 induced warming resumed.

As for your political and economic concerns, economists call costs that one economic actor imposes on others an externality. For example, a manufacturer who takes clean water from a river to use in production, and then returns the contaminated water to the river is imposing costs on downstream water users. They must spend to clean up the water before they use it. The water-polluting upstream manufacturer imposes costs upon downstream manufacturers who require clean water.Economists usually prescribe taxes on the polluter with revenues used to clean up the dirty river water or regulations to require that the polluter clean up the water. These government interventions are necessary because the polluter’s products do not reflect the actual costs of their production, a market failure.
President Obama, and presidents going back to Richard Nixon, who created the EPA, have been putting in place sensible regulations to protect Americans health.
EPA Administrator Pruitt, an industry shill and known enemy of the EPA’s mission, is systematically working to destroy the EPA. He is pushing out public-spirited knowledgeable scientists and replacing them with polluters.
Regulations that require coal mine owners to provide safe working conditions for their miners and to protect nearby streams and rivers, and regulations that power plants that burn coal not spew acid rain causing sulfur dioxide, low levels of mercury and radioactive uranium, and micro-particles of soot into the atmosphere have significant and measurable benefits to our health and the health of the environment. They are not the cause of the decline of employment in the coal industry, which economists tell us arises from increasing mechanization and competition from less expensive fuels such as natural gas.
Delusional Donald Trump, who has asserted that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to destroy American business, will cause great harm, not just to the citizens of the United States, but to all humans living today and to come.
Bernard

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