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The balancing act: A non-milestone milestone

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From page A4 | July 05, 2013 |

Mauna Loa, Hawaii. Last month it was reported that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400 parts per million at the official measuring station at the Mauna Loa Observatory, effectively a milestone without meaning. Who is to say that 399 ppm or 401 ppm is more significant than 400 ppm, whose square root is an even 20?  Climate alarmist scientists were saying as a result we passed the point of no return or that Greenland will melt with dire consequences, or more utter nonsense.

The fact is that co2 has been climbing at about 1.5 ppm annually for several decades and while the climate has warmed a couple of tenths of a degree, during that period it has, in fact, both warmed and cooled and, in fact, has not warmed at all during the last 15 years while co2 has risen about 10-11 percent. Carbon dioxide measurements seem to peak in May and usually fall, so the rise is a peak reading. Climate activist scientists claim that the reason temperatures have not risen more is that much of the co2 is being absorbed in the oceans. Some botany textbooks will tell you that most of the Earth’s oxygen (65-80 percent) comes from the oceans, not the rain or other forests. But is co2 a bad thing?

A recent article by Harrison Schmitt, a professor of engineering and former Apollo 17 astronaut, and William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University, made a strong case for the benefits of carbon dioxide. They claim by historical standards, co2 of 400 ppm are low, as levels of 3,000 ppm or more were evident before the Paleogene era, which started about 65 miilion years ago. Greenhouse operators add co2 to their atmosphere to levels of 1,000 ppm or more to promote plant growth.

As we know plant life converts co2 into carbohydrates and releases oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. Plants take sunlight and convert it into carbohydrates and oxygen. That is how they live and survive. Schmitt and Happer say that when plant staples such as wheat, soybeans and rice developed it was in a more carbon rich environment and used a process called C3 via a catalyzer called rubisco, an enzyme and the most abundant protein on earth.

Schmitt and Happer say when co2 levels get low, some plants go to a C4 process and this reduces the efficiency of the photosynthesis process. Sugar cane and corn use this process. But herein lies a problem. At low levels of co2 plants use and need more water.  Schmitt and Happer say it currently takes hundreds of grams of water to make one gram of plant life.

When there is more co2 in the air plants need and use less water in their photosynthesis process. Can you say more co2 means more drought resistant plants with more plant growth?

As an example, co2 levels were much lower during the 1930s (when the largest temperature rise of the 20th century occurred) and the Dust Bowl took place. And crops had terrible yields. There have also been recent almost dust-bowl like conditions and yet crop yields were much higher with more atmospheric co2. More co2 in the atmosphere and you get, as a result, more plant growth with less water required. Sounds like a win-win. The world population is supposed to reach 10 billion people sometime in the mid-century and it will have to eat. Since the data are growing that co2’s effect on the climate is insignificant, we should be praising China as the world’s  current biggest producer of co2 (building a new power plant every two weeks), a hero nation.

News bullietin; Detroit, Mich. General Motors has announced a $4,000 spiff (incentive) on the highly touted gov’t pushed Chevy Volt. As in my previous pieces, you can’t make the free market do things against the grain of the market. That means there is now at least $11,500 in money on the Volt and in some states like California it is now $14,000. At list price the car loses money for GM. How do you think GM feels now?

Larry Weitzman is a resident of Rescue.

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