What Is Going on Here?

There are two major things plants need to survive and continue generating our life saving oxygen. The first is CO2, and the second is sunshine.
What Is Going on Here?
The Reader's Turn

A childhood memory reverberates today. In the barnyard, Goosey Lucy wanders under the old oak tree, when something hits her on the head. She looks up into the clear blue sky, between the oak leaves. “Oh my goodness, the sky is falling!” she says. Henny Penny comes running over, “What did you say?” “I said the sky is falling.” “Oh no,” shrieks Henny Penny, and soon all the barnyard friends are following, in line, crying at the top of their voices, “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”

Then along comes Foxy Loxy, “What is going on here?” The hysterical group rushes him over to the site where Goosey Lucy had been hit on the head, looking up, while Foxy Loxy points down and says, “It was only an acorn dropped off the tree.” Soon, all the barnyard friends are back scratching through the soil, looking for seeds, worms, and leaves as if nothing had happened.

I invite anyone interested to click on the NOAA site (gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends) to view the alarming graph showing upward trends of the carbon dioxide (CO2) content of our global atmosphere. A measuring station has been in place since about 1960, when CO2 was nearly 320 ppm, where today we are at 425 ppm. The graph, you will notice, shows seasonal swings of about 10 ppm in a constantly climbing curve that trends steeper with time. If this is all you look at, then you are understandably concerned about where this will end, with a constantly steeper increase; it looks like runaway concentration of carbon dioxide.

However, I invite anyone to put this in context. If we take a piece of paper, say 17 1/2 inches by 11 inches, and draw two perpendicular lines, 10 inches long, intersecting in a right angle in the bottom left hand corner, then mark off 10 inches along each side and let each inch mark 100 ppm, then 200 and 300 ppm, and so on, to the end of each line, 1,000 ppm—we will have a graphic area representing the gas content of the global atmosphere. If each inch is 100 ppm, then the full graph will represent 1,000 by 1,000 ppm, equaling 1,000,000 parts. If we go up to the 800 ppm mark on the vertical line, and draw a line parallel to the bottom line, that will show the 80 percent mark. This is about how much nitrogen there is in the atmosphere. Above that, there is about 20 percent composed of oxygen.

Now, where is the CO2? Current content is a little more than 400 ppm. So if we go down to the bottom left hand corner of our graph and find the 20 ppm mark, and draw a square there, 20 by 20, that will represent the 400 ppm, current CO2 content. Well now, for the purists among us, the square root of 425 is 20.62, so please draw your square at the 20.62 mark. That is the top right hand corner of the graphs shown on the NOAA site.

In context, the CO2 content of the atmosphere in the early 1960s was around 320 ppm. The square representing that amount of CO2 will have sides of about 17.61 on our graph. This is the bottom left hand corner of the second NOAA graph, and the alarming red line on that graph goes from the 17.61 corner to the 20.62 corner.

An observational comment would suggest that this is not quite as alarming a picture as the NOAA seems to want us to see.

What is alarming in all this, for me, is the upper part of this graph, the 20 percent, or 200,000 ppm oxygen. Where does all this oxygen come from? It comes from plants photosynthesizing the CO2, in that tiny little square, at the bottom of the graph, into the oxygen we need to breathe. In context, this looks pretty scary to me. One molecule of CO2 generates one molecule of oxygen. So that tiny little square needs to support the huge 20 percent at the top of the graph.

There are two major things plants need to survive and continue generating our life saving oxygen. The first is CO2, and the second is sunshine. There are movements afoot to limit CO2 and block sunshine to the earth in order to prevent or minimize “Climate Change.” Could we put a big umbrella out where the moon was, during the recent eclipse, to cool our atmosphere? We are already shading millions of acres of earth’s surface from direct sunlight by installing solar panels that generate intermittent and unreliable electricity, meanwhile robbing the plants below of their rights to natural sunshine and reducing the photosynthesis process. (And those black solar panels probably heat up during the day and radiate that heat back into the atmosphere at night. Are solar panels contributing to global warming?) Meanwhile, the IPCC is recommending that we minimize our “carbon footprint,” meaning the carbon dioxide exhaust from modern civilization. They are even suspicious of animal exhalation generating too much CO2.

I suggest the opposite. Carbon dioxide is good; it is a scarce and now endangered gas, necessary for plant and animal life on earth, and should be nurtured, enhanced. We should be helping investors to build more carbon-based power generators, for double benefits—more and cheaper electric power—and to enhance the oxygen production of our friendly plant populations. Apparently, plant life thrives at 6,000 to 8,000 ppm, and we are a long way from that. If CO2 increases at current rates, about 5 ppm per year, we are about 1,500 years from plant maximum efficiency. And the minor atmospheric heating that may occur is simply staving off the next global ice age, of which our expert climatologists seem to have no awareness. That is much more dangerous than warming. We invented air conditioning, didn’t we? And how are we to cope with the two-mile-thick continental glacier that only 10,000 years ago completely smothered Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia? Climatology will be heavily criticized for not having built more fossil-fueled generators to keep us warm.

Unfortunately, there is a controlling factor. Oxygen is an extremely reactive molecule, and at higher levels, it encourages, with arson and lightning strikes, the generation of forest fires (as we have seen during the last few summers in California, Australia, and Quebec), which in turn are huge sources of CO2, and ashes that fertilize surrounding soils and aid in springing forth new plant life.

This is definitely an idea in need of a post grad student’s PhD thesis. Is there a college brave enough, against current propaganda conditions, to encourage such a study?

I hope so.

Bernie Stannus​​​​ Arizona

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