Dishonest Language About Carbon Serves to Sully Climate Debate

September 12, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018

The Sierra Club proclaimed in an Aug. 23 press release that Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Monica “just announced their intent to join 15 other cities around the world and adopt a plan for zero-carbon buildings by 2050.”

The World Green Building Council (WGBC) defines a net zero-carbon building as “a highly energy-efficient building with all remaining operational energy use from renewable energy, preferably on-site but also off-site production, to achieve net zero-carbon emissions annually in operation.”

WGBC referenced the signing of the Paris agreement as “the start of the most important race in our existence—the race to curb global greenhouse gas emissions so that global temperature rise remains below 2 degrees Celsius and, ideally, below 1.5 degrees Celsius.”

But this makes no sense—we can’t control climate as if we had a global thermostat, and we aren’t really talking about controlling “carbon” anyway.

The person arguably most responsible for this confusion is former Vice President Al Gore. From the day that Gore released his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” the general population was told that carbon emissions were going to destroy our planet. Gore, more or less, coined the term “carbon footprint.”

He and his cohorts actually were never talking about carbon, of course. They were talking about carbon dioxide (CO2), but they understood that most people recognize that they exhale carbon dioxide and plants take it up in order to live. Not a dark thought.

So, in an unfortunately all-too-successful attempt to scare the populace, they seized on using the term carbon as a synonym for CO2, knowing it would conjure up visions of soot, lamp black, and coal dust, none of which are warm and fuzzy. Aside from the fact that CO2 contains a single atom of carbon, it bears no resemblance to elemental carbon. It has about as much in common with carbon as lightning does with a lightning bug.

Sierra cites Dr. Robert M. Gould, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, to illustrate just how distorted the language of the climate debate has become. While Gould referenced “the decarbonization of our planet that is imperative for human survival,” a decarbonized Earth would be a dead world, a world devoid of all life including ours. Surely, that isn’t the doctor’s goal.

The public has unwittingly accepted the “carbon” sleight of hand without realizing they are being manipulated toward negative thoughts about plant food. It’s possibly the best example of subliminal brainwashing ever.

Fears that CO2 increases can deleteriously impact temperatures should be scuttled as well. CO2 can only absorb a narrow waveband of the radiation returning to the atmosphere from the Earth, which initially absorbs it from the sun. That wavelength is 15 microns or millionths of a meter. It’s a fact that the atmosphere’s 410 parts per million of CO2 today has already absorbed essentially all of the heat’s wavelength the Earth has to give. Therefore, further additions of carbon dioxide can have no measurable impact on the Earth’s temperature or the greenhouse effect.

For many, the real goal of these deceptions is summed up well by journalist H. L. Mencken, known in the early 20th century as the Sage of Baltimore, who once said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” Global warming has been among the very best hobgoblins.

Misuse of the word carbon isn’t a laughing matter. This unsubstantiated fear is depriving the less fortunate among us of sorely needed inexpensive energy by eliminating life-giving fossil fuels and the miracle molecule of life: CO2. In so doing, society is subjected to further government control, thereby reducing individual freedom, moving our country closer to socialism and away from capitalism.

In the coming days and weeks, take note of how often you read the word carbon when CO2 is, in fact, the real subject. Capture the picture in your mind when you read it. Go back and reread it as CO2 and capture your thought again.

This isn’t like the difference between describing a flower as pretty or beautiful. It is an intentional distortion aimed at provoking fear. We must call out those who would advance the distortion every time.

Dr. Jay Lehr is the science director of The Heartland Institute, based in Arlington Heights, Ill. Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Tom Harris
Tom Harris is executive director of the non-partisan Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.