Posted by: Cortillaen | 06/16/2009

Why Is Releasing Trapped Carbon Bad?

Even if one accepts as word-of-god that more CO2 causes higher temperatures, is there actually a rational reason to demonize the release of carbon?  All the rantings and ravings about how CO2 is destroying the planet seem to ignore something. Where did that carbon come from?  “We pulled it out of the earth.”  Oookay… and I suppose the planet formed with these evil pockets of carbon lurking beneath the surface, just yearning to be free to destroy everything, hm?  A basic science lesson:   Fossil fuels are the remnants of living things from ages past.  That means all this evil carbon was topside a very long time ago, a time when life was, to the best of our knowledge, thriving.

Things lived, took in carbon, died, and were ever-so-slowly buried, turning into the fossil fuels people seem so concerned about now.  If all the carbon in the coal, oil, and natural gas we use today was already up here without turning the planet into a Venusian hell devoid of life, what, pray tell, is the big deal over bringing it back out?  “But things are different now!   CO2 might not have destroyed the planet back then, but things have changed too much!”  Even if we assume that argument can be substantiated, the basic premise of the natural system is that life adapts.  If “things” have changed so drastically, they can change back or change into something new, and I have yet to see any actual evidence that higher temperatures are going to cause some catastrophic chain-reaction rendering the planet incapable of supporting life.   “Models”, you say?   The same models that have yet to accurately reproduce past and present data, much less the future?  Ask any honest meteorologist why weather forecasts become unreliable only a week or two into the future and you’ll probably be told that it’s the result of unaccounted-for variables and/or variables being incorrectly factored in.  Further, they’ll likely note that the sheer magnitude and complexity of the system still defies attempts to fully understand all of the interactions, leading to small errors having an ever-growing cascade effect as one tries to predict further into the future.

Put more simply, imagine working on a very complex algebra problem.   The issue is that you copied one little part of the problem wrong.   In your first pass, simplifying, substituting, and performing other operations, that wrong bit interacts with another element of the problem, the result of which is corrupt.  Each subsequent pass through the problem causes the erroneous segment to corrupt more of the total problem as it is combined with other elements, and, by the end, your final answer is utterly wrong.  This is very much what inhibits long-term forecasting on even a local scale and short time spans.  Taking this up to the global scale allows vastly more chances for error, and projection years into the future gives any errors much more time to cascade to the point of rendering the entire model useless.  The calculations may be perfect, but a faulty starting point ruins the entire process.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the greatest difficulty.  Back to the hypothetical problem, imagine that you don’t even get copies of any of the formulae you need, nor even the base problem.   Instead, all you have are the base values to use and thousands, millions of answers, each coming from different base values (you don’t get told what any of them are), from which to figure out the starting equation.  It gets worse.  Some of those answers are wrong, and you don’t know which ones.  It gets worse still.  The answers are divided up into hundreds of groups, each group containing answers to certain combinations of formulae and base values, and you aren’t told what formulae or values are used or how they are combined.  Nope, not done getting worse, yet.  In fact, you are told that none of the groups contain answers to the actual problem you need to solve.   Instead, example answers for the overall problem are supposed to be composites, somewhat like the mean, of all of one answer (the tenth, for example) from each group, but you also have to figure out how those subordinate answers get combined into the big one.  In the end, you have mountains of data, an unknown amount of which is faulty, from which to determine all of the formulae, how the formulae are used to produce the subordinate answers, and how those are combined to get the main answer before you can even start working on the problem with the given starting values.  Guess what?  This isn’t even accounting for time lapse yet.

Someone may read that last paragraph and think, “Models on the global scale don’t have to be that precise, though; they can be more general and still get the broad picture.”   Well, let’s run with the picture metaphor, shall we?  I would roughly equate simplifying components of a model to reducing the number of pixels in an image.   Sure, you can do it, but you loose definition.  Do it with a complex, intricate picture, and you will very quickly end up with an image people misinterpret, or one from which it is impossible to discern anything at all.  Sure, you can dumb down the models by making them less complex with estimations of values instead of solid formulae, but you have to admit that doing so destroys the accuracy of that broad picture.  A more direct example comes from graphing a curve to fit plotted points.  Reducing complexity could be seen as using fewer data points from which to extrapolate a curve.  The problem with this is that, as the data points are made fewer (thereby spreading out on the graph), you may end up missing movement in the actual curve occurring between points and graphing a curve that is completely wrong.   When it comes to scientific (quasi-scientific in this case, really, but that’s a topic for another day) analysis of data, generalization is bad, and detail is good.

We end up with a group of people, most, if not all, of whom get something out of pushing AGW (money for those who own carbon-credit firms, alternative energy companies, and consulting firms; power over plebeian lives for politicians; grants and recognition for alleged scientists; the destruction of energy-dependent, capitalist societies for the watermelons [communists/socialists masquerading as environmentalists; green on the outside but red to the core]; and that self-satisfied, holier-than-thou feeling for the useful idiots).  They tell us that CO2 will turn the planet into an inferno and support their claims with demonstrably faulty models (and I haven’t even gotten into people “cooking” the data to fit preconceived models or simply look better for AGW).  On the other side, we have a little bit of reason and history telling us that said CO2, and considerably more given that there are tremendous amounts of fossil fuels currently untapped (much less consumed) and likely some amounts undiscovered, already failed to kill off life.  I’m more inclined to trust in reason and history.

Now that paradox makes me wonder about so-called “environmentalists”:  Do they really care about the environment/planet at all?   Life adapts and goes on, so why would someone be so concerned about reverting the environment to conditions similar to those of eons passed?  All it should do is necessitate further evolution and the creation of new species; life adapts, life goes on, survival of the fittest, and all that.  If the oceans actually do rise and flood cities around the world, why should they care?  Life would keep on going even if all the planet’s land were to be submerged.   Besides, aren’t humans an all-consuming disease on the planet?   You can probably see where this is going.  Though most of them will never admit it, they actually end up arguing for maintaining the global environment to which humans have grown accustomed.

Maybe the intent is to preserve current species, but even that is contradictory to natural law.  If a life-form is incapable of survival, it is supposed to be pushed out of existence by those that are better adapted.  If the environment changes, organisms must adapt or die.  It seems somewhat ironic that people would claim dedication to nature but work specifically to subvert it.  Either the environuts (a substantial portion of whom are avowed atheists or followers of naturalistic animist religions) are admitting that humanity is something supernatural, unbound by natural law, or their concerns are not for the environment at all but for humanity.  The former is a fun idea to roll around (hmm… I may have to dedicate a post to it later), but the latter is just rather sad considering how insistence on the cessation of fossil fuel usage and other measures intended to prevent AGW would likely lead to mass starvation, global economic collapse (the kind that makes this slump look like the slightest of dips), and the total destruction of modern society.  Neither option really seems to get everything, does it?   That’s probably because there is a third option:   Those seeking the destruction of the capitalist society have latched on to the environmentalist movement of the “people bad, trees good” crowd and built it up while pulling in the politicians and the greedy looking to increase their power and make a fortune, respectively (both, in the cases of a number of people *coughAlGorecough*).  In the end, this also answers the original question:  Why is releasing trapped carbon bad?  It isn’t.   Convincing enough people to the contrary is just the best way the watermelons have found to undermine capitalism.  See?  Simple.

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